Jim's Irish Genealogy Pages:

Christopher James and Adeline Kearney

Christopher James Kearney, son of Thomas Peter and Margaret McCluskey Kearney, was born November 8, 1892, in Calumet, Pennsylvania. As a boy he was known as Christy; later, his friends would call him Christ-- which rhymed with list, not with heist. He had beautiful pale blue eyes (like his daughter Marie's), reddish hair and a ruddy complexion. He grew to 5 foot 9 and a half, according to his Army discharge papers.

He spoke with a slight brogue, or perhaps the dialect of the Pennsylvania hills: He pronounced the word "early" as "airly," and said "hoy!" rather than "hey!" to get someone's attention.

As a boy, Christy often had to help his father at the coke works. His schooling stopped altogether at the eighth grade. But while Christopher did not have much formal education, he had a high regard for learning. (He always referred to schoolchildren as "scholars.") He made of point of knowing how to count and say hello in all the languages commonly spoken by the local miners--Polish, Italian, French and Hungarian. He could tell you the names of all the presidents in chronological order, he could recite all the counties of Pennsylvania in alphabetical order, and was very good at mental arithmetic.

He had two favorite poems, both by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, that he could recite by heart: "The Village Blacksmith" and "The Wreck of the Hesperus." "The Village Blacksmith," a portrait of a simple, hard-working man with a great love of family, seems to capture Christopher's self-image:

His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can.
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Christopher J. Kearney in his Army uniform.

Christopher Kearney was a veteran of World War I, having enlisted in the National Guard on April 22, 1917, about two weeks after the U.S. declared war on Germany. This seems to have been the central experience in Chris' life, reports his daughter Kathleen: He didn't talk much, but he liked to talk about the war. The September 11, 1917 edition of the Mount Pleasant Journal recorded the departure of Chris' unit:

Company E, 10th Pennsylvania Infantry of National Guardsmen, and the local members of this district called to serve in the National Army, have left for their southern training camps, the former at Camp Hancock, Augusta, Georgia...but the loyal people of Mount Pleasant did not allow them to depart until fitting tributes were paid both alike as becomes those who go forth to fight in defense of the Nation's honor.... Thousands of loyal people...looked with proud eyes on Captain Zundell and his 151 sturdy, sunburnt boys as they swung along with that step that told of faithful training both here and on the Mexican border.... There were both cheers and tears as the sturdy young soldiers swept down the long street and entrained at the station after a few farewell remarks were made them from the steps of the O.P. Shupe mill.

Chris' unit became the 110th Regiment, 28th Infantry Division, which gave its name to the 28th Infantry Division Highway in Pennsylvania. The unit was soon sent to France, a country that impressed Chris deeply: "I think he thought a country that served wine with meals was quite a country," his daughter Kathleen reports. He said he acquired a taste for marmalade from British soldiers that he met there, and once "infuriated Mother at the dinner table when he mixed some scrambled eggs together with his meat, recalling that he had done this in Europe," his son Patrick notes.

Very few of Chris' memories concerned the war itself. (He did recall once hearing the German gun known as Big Bertha firing at Paris.) He was attached to the Supply Company of the 110th--he liked to say that he was "the man behind the man behind the gun"--and so saw little if any actual combat, which is a blessing considering the horrible conditions of World War I trench warfare. Working as a quartermaster probably also taught him skills he would later use running his own business.

Chris' company did take part in some significant actions: They helped block the last major German offensive at the Second Battle of the Marne in July 1918, and participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in September and October, the biggest operation of the war for U.S. forces. They were praised as the "Iron Brigade" by Gen. John Pershing.

Christopher remained in France until May 11, 1919, being sent home just days after the Treaty of Versailles was completed. He received an honorable discharge as a private 1st class from Fort Dix, New Jersey, on May 23, in good physical condition and of "excellent" character, according to the U.S. Army. He was given $136.37 in discharge pay, including a $60 bonus.

Patrick Kearney tells the story of his father's homecoming: "When Chris returned to the United States after completing his service in France, he arrived at the family home in Calumet late at night. Rather than awaken the family, he simply went up to bed, and was about to get in bed with his brother when the family awoke."

ADELINE MURTHA

Adeline, the youngest daughter of John and Mary Ann Murtha, remembered her teenage years as being "rather uneventful." She recalled "much helping at home with cooking, etc." "Coming at the end of a big family, I never found it hard to put in time," she said. But she added, characteristically, that she had "no complaints, no regrets." Adeline Murtha

Adeline attended Mount Pleasant High, where she says she "learned easily but didn't study enough." Once when Adeline came home and told her mother proudly that she was sixth in her high school class, Mary Ann replied, disgustedly, "You could be first if you worked."

She started to date "on and off" at the age of 16. Once she scandalized her Catholic mother by dating a "preacher's son." Her uncle Felix told Adeline's mother not to be so hard on the girl.

She worked in a millinery store as a teenager, trimming hats. She often said that that had been her favorite job. Her first job, however, was playing piano during silent movies at the Grand Theater. This job seems to have lasted only one afternoon--until her parents found out about it. In those days, movie theaters were not places that respectable young ladies were seen in.

She graduated from high school in May 1917, at the age of 16. Her sister Nell--who by that point had become Sister Theodosia--encouraged her to go to college at Seton Hill, a nearby Catholic college. Mary Ann was reluctant to let her go because she was afraid that Adeline would become a nun as well. (She might have made a good nun, she once told her son Pat.)

But Adeline had to quit Seton Hill after two years "because it was too hard on my people financially." Like many second-generation Irish-American women, she took up education as a profession; she taught for one year in North Huntingdon Township, and seven years in Mount Pleasant Township. Catholics could not get jobs as teachers in the borough of Mount Pleasant in those days. (In later years, Adeline had a strong aversion to discussing anything political--including whom she voted for in elections--and this was thought to stem from the expectation that schoolteachers were to have no politics.)

Most of Adeline's teaching was done at a one-room schoolhouse called Oak Grove School. Teaching eight grades of kids in a rural mining community was not easy. Adeline recalled teaching the children of African-American strikebreakers whom the Frick Company had brought in from the South, many of whom had never been to school before.

Adeline made good use of her summers: Often she would take trips, sometimes with her grade school classmate and lifelong friend Mary Queer. One year she took a cruise on the St. Lawrence River through the Thousand Islands. Another summer she took classes at Columbia University in New York City.

THE COURTSHIP OF CHRISTOPHER AND ADELINE

By 1927, Christopher James Kearney was working at the Frick coal works at Calumet, working on the hoist engines for the mine elevators and repairing pumps. At 34, he was still living at his parents' house in Calumet. Known for his thriftiness, Chris had managed to accumulate savings and investments of some $10,000; he received stock in U.S. Steel through his job, and also bought some stock in General Motors.

Chris' courtship of Adeline began when he picked her up one day as she was walking home from teaching school and gave her a ride home. They soon began dating--going to movies, band concerts, and to visit friends. Often their dates simply consisted of a Sunday afternoon drive and a supper of barbecue sandwiches and orange soda. Adeline didn't seem to mind.

"He was kind and thoughtful," recalled Adeline, "which I needed so badly--it was shortly after my mother's death." Adeline said she had been told by Christopher that "I was what he had been hoping for. He was looking for a good person to be the mother of his children. I hope I didn't disappoint him or all of you."

That summer, Adeline went to Canada to vacation with her friend Mary Queer at a resort called Sparrow Lake. A musician in the band at the resort fell in love with her. When they danced, he sang "The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else" to her.

Chris proposed to Adeline in the front living room of the house on Main Street. 'I love you so much--I'd like to marry you," he told her. "Would you like to be the mother of my children?"

"I said yes at once," Adeline recalled, "before he had a chance to change his mind!" Christopher and Adeline on their wedding day.

Adeline broke the news to her family. "My father was pleased," she said. "He liked Grandpap--very much." She later said that her father and husband-to-be had much in common: Both were "easy-going, never complaining about work," and both "got along with everyone."

Chris' mother was not so happy about the match. She didn't want her son to get married; she had had a stroke and wanted Chris to stay home and take care of her. She ended up not attending the wedding, and never visited the couple at their home.

Christopher and Adeline were married on Wednesday, September 7, 1927, at a 7:30 A.M. mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Mount Pleasant. Christopher wasn't on time to pick her up at her house, because the man who was driving him was late. While Adeline sang "This Is My Lucky Day," her sister-in-law Maude fretted that Christopher was going to stand her up.

Adeline wore a garnet panne velvet dress, "in keeping with the style of that time"--meaning just below the knee and with a cloche hat. Her hair at the time was fashionably bobbed. Kathryn Donnely was Adeline's bridesmaid, while Thomas Logan served as Chris' best man. Rev. Philip Moore, St. Joseph's pastor, officiated.

The couple celebrated the wedding with a breakfast at the Harbaugh Farm, near Pennsville, "for family and a few close friends." Her most vivid memory of that day was "looking at Dad (Grandpap) and thinking how much I loved him."

EUROPEAN HONEYMOON

After the wedding, Chris and Adeline sailed on the Antonia for six weeks in Europe--"a perfect honeymoon!" Adeline wrote. They had been given some money by her father, in addition to Chris' savings--he was carrying $1,000 in a money belt. "Grandpap had some money," Adeline recalled, "but I was close to broke and didn’t like to admit it." (In fact, her bank account was overdrawn when she got back from the honeymoon.)

Their son Patrick tells a story about the trip over: "As soon as their ship passed beyond the three-mile limit, Chris excused himself. Prohibition was still the law of the land in 1927, of course; but Chris liked an occasional drink, and wanted to avail himself of the opportunity as soon as the ship was in international waters. Mother was greatly shocked--she did not realize that Chris drank at all. Offered a drink of peach brandy by a steward on the ship, Mother at first balked. 'Go ahead, drink it down. It'll be good for you,' he said. She did. It was."

Adeline and Chris spent a week in Paris, where they attended an American Legion convention celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Allied Expeditionary Force. In a parade in Paris, they saw Gen. "Black Jack" Pershing, the commander of U.S. forces during the war.

The coupled traveled to London for a few days, then took two weeks in Ireland, visiting the remaining Kearneys and Murtaghs in Shercock. In 1927, Ireland had been independent for only a few years, and Shercock was not far from the new frontier. Dolly Kearney, Chris’ cousin who went around in "mannish" clothing, reportedly had worked with the IRA during the Irish Civil War, perhaps as a bicycle courier.

Chris was more sentimental about Ireland than Adeline was. "She was struck and maybe a little embarrassed by the poverty of Ireland," Kathleen Naureckas says. Before the trip, Thomas Kearney had advised his son to stay at the Kearney house while in Cavan, because it had a slate roof, whereas the Murtha home place still had a thatched roof.

It was the last time that any of the American Kearneys visited Ireland for nearly half of century. The next one to make the trip was Chris and Adeline's son Tom, who took a trip there in 1968. Without being introduced, Dolly recognized him on sight as the son of her cousin whom she hadn't seen for 50 years.

THE KEARNEYS OF MAIN STREET

Chris had arranged to rent a house in Trauger, near Calumet where his parents lived, on their return from Europe. But fate--and Adeline's brother Jim--had other plans.

At the time, John Murtha was living in half of the house on Mount Pleasant's Main Street with his youngest son Joe, and Joe's young wife Dorothy. (John Murtha Jr. and his wife Maude lived in the other half.) When Adeline and Chris returned from their honeymoon, Jim Murtha invited them to breakfast at his home in Carpertown where he said to them, "You see how our father looks." John Murtha, his son felt, needed more care than his daughter-in-law could give him. He wanted Joe and Maude to move out and Adeline and Chris to move in. They did, and Chris lived in that house with Adeline for the rest of his life. Adeline Kearney

Adeline had fond memories of married life. "I enjoyed being a wife, housewife and then a mother," she wrote. "I grew up in a happy, pleasant, loving home and was lucky enough to have the same happiness as a wife and mother. Sure we worked hard, sure we got cranky sometimes; but the happiness and love far outweighed any misery." Her marriage seems to have been a passionate one--when Chris held her, she said, she didn't want him to let her go.

Chris and Adeline started their family quickly. Their first child, Marie, was born almost exactly nine months after their wedding, on June 29, 1928. (The family suspects that she was conceived in Paris.) She was named for her maternal grandmother, Mary Ann Murtha.

Marie was followed, on July 13, 1929, by Christopher James Jr., who was known as Jim (apparently to Chris' disappointment). Margaret Adele, always known as Adele, was born on April 7, 1931. In theory, the first three kids had been named for Adeline’s mother, for Christopher and for Christopher's mother; in practice, they were called for Adeline's mother, eldest brother and self.

At this time, there was plenty of family around to keep the Kearney kids company: Uncle John and Aunt Maude lived on the other side of the house, Uncle Felix and Uncle Harry lived across the street, Uncle Frank lived around the corner on Washington Street, and Uncle Jim lived one mile out of town in Carpentertown. All these relatives were constantly visiting John Murtha, Sr., who lived with the Kearneys on Main Street until his death.

"I didn't know there were other people in the world until I was 10 years old," Marie Kearney Zelenka says. She attended a Catholic grade school, and she remembers that once a visiting priest--Father O'Conner, himself a distant cousin, perhaps a nephew of Marie's great-grandfather James Murtha--asked her classroom (which included two grades) which students were related to Sister Theodosia. Some six students stood up.

Christopher Kearney continued to work for the Frick company after his marriage. "Daddy broke his leg while he was working in a mine near Uniontown, the one where he had to walk a mile underground to get to the coal face," Kathleen Naureckas recalls. "Mother would ride the streetcar to Uniontown to visit him. Ever the romantic, she carried notes from a man who lived in Mt. Pleasant to his fiancee who was a nurse at the hospital in Uniontown."

KEARNEY DISTRIBUTING

In 1934, a year after Prohibition ended, Father Gilbert Straub's family had a brewery in St. Mary's that made St. Mary's beer. Father Straub was looking for a distributor in Mount Pleasant, and asked Harry Murtha, Adeline's brother, if he was interested. Harry, who was known to be quite a talker, convinced Christopher to go into the beer business with him. Chris brought some money into the project, and also a knack for calculation: "He could add up the price of a load of beer while another man was looking for a pencil and a piece of paper," Adeline recalled. Christopher Kearney

Still, Christopher at first kept his job at the mines--at this point, Calumet had closed, and he now worked at Footdale, above Uniontown, doing timbering. He drove five or six men to work with him every day.

Meanwhile, the Kearney family kept growing. Thomas James Kearney, named for his paternal grandfather, was born on February 15, 1934. And when Harry Murtha's wife Phyllis died, the Kearneys took in both him and his son Jack. (Harry's two daughters went to live with another aunt in Pittsburgh.)

As the local mines closed, from the Great Depression, competition from works with cheaper costs, or simply from exhaustion of the deposits, much of Mount Pleasant's Irish community--including some of the Murthas--moved away to where mines were still operating, largely toward Uniontown in Fayette County.

Marie says that growing up she thought of herself more as a Murtha than as a Kearney, but that gradually the Kearneys became as well-known in Mt. Pleasant as the Murthas had been. Instead of saying to her, "Aren't you a Murtha?" as the storekeepers had before, they would say, "Aren't you a Kearney?" "The Kearney name--and face--was always good for credit if you ran short of money in Mt. Pleasant," Marie reports.

Chris' sister, Sister Agnes Catherine, would traditionally come to visit the Kearney family on New Year's Day, when everyone was preoccupied with football bowl games. (Notre Dame was the team Chris rooted for.) Agnes Catherine, who was mystified by football, once asked: "Which team do the men in the striped shirts play for?"

On October 12, 1936, the new baby was born. Adeline wanted to name her Christine after her father (and because she was born on Columbus Day). Chris grumbled, "You wouldn't call a son after me, why would you want to name a daughter after me?" So the baby was christened Kathleen, after Chris' sister Catherine, a name he had unsuccessfully suggested for both Marie and Adele. He used to sing "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" to her.

With Kathleen's arrival it was recognized that the Kearney family was too big for half a house. Uncle John and Aunt Maude moved out, and the two halves of the house were joined together.

Harry Murtha, Christopher's business partner, died on New Year's Day, 1937, of a bleeding ulcer. After five years, the beer distributorship that he had launched with Chris Kearney was not going well at all. There was a lot of thought that it was time to give up. Chris considered it, and then said, "I think I'll just give it one more year and see how it goes." Almost immediately, business improved, and soon became a thriving operation that continued for decades. In 1938, he quit his job with the coal mines that he had held for 29 years, to devote himself full time to the beer business. He used to drive around to the local taverns every Tuesday, taking weekly orders; many of the bars were "on the ridge" above Mount Pleasant.

Chris had a personal connection to a brewer that may have helped him get some business. He apparently knew "Stoney" Jones, owner of Jones Brewery and maker of Stoney's beer, from their mutual service in World War I. Stoney's was one of the more popular drinks in the Mount Pleasant area, and when there was beer in the Kearneys' own refrigerator, that was usually the brand. (Stoney Jones may be more noteworthy, however, as the father of Shirley Jones, star of Oklahoma, Carousel and The Partridge Family.)

Local beers seem to have been the main stock at Kearney Distributing, with such appropriately named brands as Iron City, Fort Pitt and Duquesne. Rolling Rock, which is now probably the most famous Pennsylvania beer, was a relatively small part of the shop's trade, at least in the early days; it apparently had a slightly snooty reputation among residents of Mount Pleasant.

In part for business reasons, Chris became quite a joiner. He belonged to the American Legion (the James E. Zundell Post, named for his World War I captain), the VFW, the Elks, the Moose, the Eagles, the Polish Falcons and the Kosciusko Club. He may have been a member of the Sons of Italy and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Chris wore a tailor-made three-piece suit to work--except in the summer, when he wore suit pants and a white shirt with no tie--and he shined his shoes every day. He took pleasure in his appearance, in his Marsh Wheeling cigars and in his meals: "Daddy loved to eat, and he had catholic tastes in food," Kathleen recalls. "He liked pickled pigs feet and sardines, Chinese food and Italian food, and the Pennsylvania Dutch dish scrapple." He liked to say "What's the damage?" when he asked for a bill.

After Harry's death, the Kearney family took on two new wards: Robert (known as Bud) and Ed Kearney, Chris’s nephews. (The boys also lived periodically with their Uncle Tom and Aunt Catherine Kearney.) Bud, who later became a doctor, credited Adeline with giving him the encouragement he needed to be a success in his studies. Adeline and Christopher c. 1942 with children John (held) 
and (left to right) Kathleen, Adele and Tom.

John Murtha Kearney, Chris and Adeline's sixth child, was born July 9, 1941--not long before the outbreak of World War II. None of Chris and Adeline's sons were old enough to fight in the war, though Marie remembers singing anti-Japanese songs like "You're a Sap, Mr. Jap."

Many in the Murtha and Kearney families took a more active part in the war, however. Five of the Cronin boys were in the military during World War II, and Helen Cronin was an Army nurse stationed in New Guinea. Bud Kearney was in the Army, and Edward Kearney was in the Navy. Two Jack Murthas--Jim's Jack and Harry's Jack--served in the Air Corps, both were shot down and both spent time in German POW camps. Of all the Murthas and Kearneys that were in the war, however, none were killed, and only one--George Cronin--was wounded.

The '40s were successful years for Kearney Distributing, with beer consumption up during the war. Later, beer was bought for big parties to welcome soldiers back from overseas. The profits were enough to finance the construction of a sizable office and warehouse behind the Kearney house in 1947, allowing the business to be moved out of the back wing of the residence. (The part of the house used for the business was torn down, expanding the back yard.) At its peak, the business had three employees, Mike Zoracki, John Treber and Johnny Crapcinski (known as "the drivers")--in addition to the Kearney boys, naturally. ("I'll send the boy" was Christopher's frequent promise.)

He was a generous employer, according to his son John; he recalls that one of the drivers called in sick on the Pittsburgh Pirates' opening day every year for 25 years. Chris never said a word.

He did save quite a bit of money, investing it wisely in AT&T stock. (He also had U.S. Steel stock that he bought while working for Frick.) The shop's prosperity also allowed Chris to buy his pride and joy: a 1950 Buick Roadmaster, a very long black car with a straight eight engine and Dynaflo transmission. He liked to quote the advertising slogan: "When better cars are built, Buick will build them."

Chris and Adeline's last child, Patrick Joseph Kearney, arrived January 27, 1946. "Every big family has one straggler, but we were really surprised when Pat came along," Adeline said. She recalled hearing her husband’s voice in the hallway of the hospital, exclaiming to a nurse who happened to be passing by: "Adeline says that the last baby is just as nice as the first one was!"

Patrick recalls his father as "a man with a strong, biological love for his children," who formed the "Palsey-Walsey Club" with his youngest son and suggested that the two of them should run away and join the circus. Kathleen, too, strongly remembers her father's love: "Daddy never tried to conceal his pride in our accomplishments, whatever they were," she says.

THE KEARNEY CHILDREN--AND BEYOND Christopher and Adeline on their 50th wedding 
anniversary.

Marie studied nursing at Columbia Hospital in Wilkinsburg, outside Pittsburgh, and worked as an operating room nurse in Mt. Pleasant's Frick Memorial Hospital. She married Bill Zelenka, a Mt. Pleasant boy who played in a jazz band. Billy, their first son, was Chris and Adeline's first grandchild; born July 23, 1952, he was only six years younger than his uncle Pat. He was followed by four other Zelenkas: Rick, Tim, Laurie and finally C.J., named for his grandfather. They lived for many years in Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania, and then moved to Irvine, California and later Henderson, Nevada, near Las Vegas.

Jim, like all the boys, worked at Kearney Distributing. He was given the pop distribution end to run after he graduated from high school, and took over the whole business after Chris Kearney's retirement in 1957. After serving as a sergeant in the Pennsylvania National Guard during the Korean War (he was stationed in Indiana and Germany), he married Dorothy Ferrell, his high school sweetheart, and settled in his hometown of Mt. Pleasant. He was for a time president of the Mt. Pleasant Chamber of Commerce. Jim and Dorothy raised five children: Peggy, Chris (C.J. Kearney III), Becky, Jane Ann and Lisa. Jim died in 1987, at the age of 58.

Adele did her undergraduate work at Seton Hill and George Washington University, then taught third grade for a year in Rockville, Md. Afterwards she studied English at Stanford University in California, where she met Hidemi Fumino, to whom she was briefly married. Their daughter Margaret was born in 1956. Adele lived most of her adult life in the San Francisco Bay Area, though she spent some time in Italy, on assignment for her long-time employer, IBM. She once ran for Congress under the Peace and Freedom Party ticket, and is the author of a novel set in 19th Century Ireland.

Tom attended Bucknell; then, after two years as a lieutenant in the Army, he studied urban planning at the Wharton School. He married Mary Jo Morrison, his high school sweetheart and a Ramsay High May Queen. Their children are Tommy, Kristen, Laurie and Karen. Tom and his family have lived for many years in Radburn, a landmark community in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, planned by Lewis Mumford. Through his work at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Tom was instrumental in promoting the idea of World Trade Centers around the globe, eventually becoming secretary general of the World Trade Centers Association. A photo of the Kearney family on 
Christopher and Adeline's 50th wedding 
anniversary.

Kathleen studied journalism at Northwestern University. (Later, she received a master's degree in English from the same school.) She married Edward Naureckas, and had four children: Karen, Ted, Jim and Barbara. They lived in Libertyville, Illinois, where Kathleen worked at the Herald chain of local weeklies. She rose to managing editor there before going to work for the Chicago Tribune. Kathleen and Ed later lived in Chicago, until Ed’s death in 1998, whereupon Kathleen moved to the suburb of Glenview, Illinois.

John went to school at St. Vincent's. He married Marge Simon, with whom he had four children: Tim, Beth, David and Kristen. John worked as a civilian at military bases around the country, a job that led to frequent moves: He and his family have lived in Pennsylvania, Colorado, California, Missouri, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.

Pat attended Duquesne, where he got a degree in law and met his future wife, Peggy Kleyle. He worked as a lawyer in the Air Force, stationed in Texas and Alaska. Afterwards Pat worked as a tax lawyer in Washington, D.C., both for the IRS and in private practice. Eventually he left the legal profession to become a homesteader in Loudon County, Virginia. Pat and Peggy now live on their farm in Shippenville, Pennsylvania.

THE LAST YEARS

Christopher suffered a series of strokes in his later years, so that he needed a walker to get around and talked only with difficulty. Adeline cared for him lovingly until the end. His bed was moved downstairs after one of his strokes, to spare him from walking up and down the long Kearney staircase; at that point, Adeline asked him if he would rather she slept upstairs to avoid troubling him. His response: "Get in here where you belong, woman!"

Adeline and Christopher celebrated 50 years of marriage in 1977, with a celebration attended by their children and most of their grandchildren. Two years later, on April 12, 1979, Christopher died in Mount Pleasant's hospital, aged 86.

After Chris' death, Adeline continued to live in the Main Street house for a time, but eventually, needing more care for herself, she lived successively in the homes of her children. Most of her time she spent in Henderson, Nevada, with her eldest daughter Marie and her husband Bill. There Adeline developed a taste for playing nickel slots after church on Sundays.

Adeline died on August 18, 1995, at the age of 94. (In her latter days, she was noted for responding, when anyone's age was mentioned--no matter how old--"That's young!") No doubt she would have said that her proudest accomplishment was a family that included seven children, 23 grandchildren and at that point 25 great-grandchildren; subsequently the number has grown to 31. In a sense she was the matriarch of a much larger clan; she was the last surviving child of John and Mary Ann Murtha and so could be said to preside over their ever-expanding progeny.

It was at Adeline's funeral that I realized that she had been a living bond that held so many people together, and that without her presence the extended family risked drifting apart into its constituent nuclear fragments. The idea of this family history was conceived then as a hopeful attempt to keep us as one family by reminding us of where we came from and thus who we are.

Back to Thomas and Margaret Kearney.

Back to John and Mary Ann Murtha.