Friday, July 06, 2007

Marion V. Tracy (1936-2007)

My mother, Marion Victoria Tracy, died on June 28th, 2007. She was seventy-one years of age. She was born on June 25th, 1936 in Brooklyn. Her father, Harold J. Lohmuller, was a native of Maspeth, a neighborhood in the Borough of Queens in the City of New York, and her mother, the former Victoria Byrska, was from the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Two years after my mother was born, they had a son, whom they named Harold, but who was (and is) generally known as Harry or Butch.

My grandparents moved to an apartment on Flushing Avenue in Maspeth shortly after my mother was born. They lived in that building for the next thirty-five years.

My mother was graduated from P.S. 86 on 57th Street in Maspeth. She went on to attend Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, Queens for two years, and she finished high school at St. Nicholas High School in Brooklyn, where she was graduated in 1954.

My mother married Albert Richard Stark, of Brooklyn, in November 1954. She gave birth to twin daughters, Patricia and Barbara, a year later. They lived for several years in an apartment in the building where my mother had grown-up; her parents continued to live in one of the other apartments in the same building, and the remainder of the units in the building were occupied by various other relatives of hers.

My mother focused on raising her children during the first few years of her marriage. My sister Patricia had a heart condition that necessitated a great deal of care and my mother spent much of her time caring for her.

In 1962, both my parents and my grandparents moved to a house my grandparents bought on 54th Street in Maspeth, two blocks from the house where they had lived. My mother decided to become a foster parent shortly thereafter. She had one foster child, a baby girl named Claire, for a few weeks in 1963, but despite her wish to adopt Claire, she was not allowed to do so because the baby was under the guardianship of a Presbyterian adoption agency and the agency insisted that the baby be raised in a Presbyterian family.

In October 1963, my mother took-in a six-week-old foster child whom the family named Richard. I was a foundling, and per the policy of the Bureau of Child Welfare, I was assigned to an adoption agency on their list of approved agencies. The agency to which I was assigned, The New York Foundling Hospital, was a Roman Catholic agency, so there was no religious reason to prevent my mother from adopting me, and I was subsequently adopted by the Starks.

My mother and father separated in 1965, and divorced in 1969. My father took my sisters and me for weekly visits for the first several months after he moved out, but the visits were not continued past that initial period of separation. He paid child support for my sisters and myself until each of us reached majority, but we had no direct contact with him.

In 1966, my mother went to work as a telephone operator at Kew Gardens Hospital. She moved to the New York Telephone Company in 1968, where she continued working as an operator at their office in Astoria, Queens.

It was while she was working at New York Telephone that she met the man who became her second husband, John Tracy. John worked as a telephone repairman and he was based out of the same office. He was from the Springfield Gardens neighborhood of Queens. Although John was fifteen years older than my mother, he had never married, and had, in fact, with the exception of his service during the Second World War, lived with his mother until her death in 1961.

My mother married John in June 1970. He moved into our house in Maspeth. My mother’s parents continued to live in the upstairs apartment of the house, while my parents lived downstairs. I spent time on both floors.

My mother left her job as an operator at the time of her marriage and once again focused on raising her children. She also spent time on crafts, and, for one semester in the early 1970s, she attended the City University’s York College in Jamaica, Queens.

My grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1975. She had smoked her entire adult life, and in addition, she had worked in a glass factory for several years. My mother cared for her at home until my grandmother’s death in April 1976.

In 1984, John retired after over thirty-eight years with the phone company. My mother and John, along with my mother’s father, moved to Flemington, New Jersey that year. They lived in a ranch house on a one-and-a-half-acre lot two miles outside of Flemington. Their large backyard enabled them to keep a sizable garden for several years. My mother also had more space for her crafts. Among the many crafts she pursued were sewing, stained glass, beading, ceramics, painting, needlework, and making Christmas ornaments. We decorate our Christmas tree each year with many of her handmade ornaments. She won a blue ribbon at the local agricultural fair for her stained glass.

My grandfather remained healthy until a few months before his death from emphysema at the age of eighty-eight in March 1998. He had smoked for over fifty years before quitting in his early seventies. By the time of my grandfather's death, John’s health was declining and my mother devoted herself to his care. He suffered from Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, and for his last years, Alzheimer’s disease. John died in February 2004.

In 2005, my mother moved to a retirement community, Cedar Crest Village, in Pompton Plains, New Jersey, where she was residing at the time of her death. She surprised me by making a large number of friends at Cedar Crest. She had always been friendly, but at the same time she has always kept strangers at arm's length. It was interesting to see her change. People remain themselves as they age, but they can also change in important ways.

My mother smoked for over fifty years. She made many unsuccessful attempts to quit smoking over the years, but she didn’t finally quit until she received a diagnosis of lung cancer in 2004. Her cancer was successfully treated by surgery, but unfortunately, by then she also had emphysema. Her health gradually declined after she moved to Cedar Crest, and by the beginning of 2007 she was completely bedridden from the effects of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and congestive heart failure. Her final three months were spent under hospice care. She remained conscious until two days before her death.

In addition to myself and my wife, my mother is survived by her daughter Patricia Hans and son-in-law Jack, of Maspeth; her granddaughter Jaclyn Hans of Maspeth; her daughter Barbara Stark of Bayside, New York; her brother Harold Lohmuller of Brooksville, Florida; five nephews and nieces; several great-nieces and great-nephews; and two great-great nieces.


Jan Stegeman said...


I read your story....I was moved by it. I can't tell you why, I guess there are similarities with my own live.

Jan Stegeman
The Netherlands

Richard said...

Dank je. It's nice to know someone is reading this blog. And it's good to see that Jonatha Brooke has fans in The Netherlands.