Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fearless Females - {Birthday Edition}: Lydia Herr Roehm Murphy - Born March 20th - Part 2

Lydia's life, in retrospect, may have not had a lot of impact in the sense that she won an Academy Award or the Nobel Peace Prize, however, she did impact many people's lives who loved and adored her.

Moving to California after living 46 years of her life on the Great Plains must have had to have been a big transition. Interestingly, many of her children had already moved to California, presumably for more work. The only child of hers that remained in North Dakota was Doris, who stayed back with her husband and daughter, but would visit California occasionally. At one time, Doris did live out here and had a job working for the Kaiser shipyards as a secretary, but it appears she went back with her husband and child to live in Valley City, ND.

When they traveled to California, Lydia had all of their furniture and large items shipped by train. They then paid a friend $700 to drive them to California. Annette (my grandmother), said she had to leave many items behind when they moved, including one of her favorite dolls.

On their way to California, the car finally gave out in Idaho and they had to get it repaired. Their friend who was driving them, who had little money, looked to George and Lydia to help pay for the cost of repairs, and so they did. Finally, they got to California. They had to live with their daughter Izetta for a few months before their home in Richmond was completed. Once the home was completed, Lydia and George were amazed to have indoor plumbing, a true luxury for those who came from the Great Plains to a metropolitan city. It was a brand new home and Lydia wanted to keep it that way. Annette recalls her father used to get so dirty working in the shipyards, that when he'd take a bath, he'd leave rings in the bathtub and Annette would have to scrub them out.

Making the move more complicated, Lydia was pregnant with her last born. He was born in November 1942, sometime after they came out to California. When James Roehm was born, he had Down Syndrome. Back in those days, this was often misunderstood. Unfortunately many babies born with Down Syndrome were institutionalized. At the doctor's urging, George and Lydia were advised to do just this with their newborn. Lydia refused to put him into an institution and so they took their baby home.

(Grandma) Annette and (Great Grandma) Lydia with brother James Roehm, circa 1942-1943

George Sr with James Roehm, circa 1944-45

George Jr. with James "Jimmy" and (Grandma) Annette, circa 1944-1945

George Jr with James, circa 1944-45

George Sr with James Roehm, circa 1945

George Sr with James Roehm, circa 1945-46, at home in Richmond, CA

George Sr with James Roehm circa 1945-46, at home in Richmond, CA

George and Lydia continued to raise their family, which now only consisted of daughter Annette and James Roehm. Annette left home right after her high school graduation from Richmond Union High School in 1947 and married Frank Connors of El Cerrito, CA, son of Frank Sr and Annie (Bridget), a popular and fun-loving Irish-Catholic family in the El Cerrito/Berkeley/Albany area.

In 1948, George Roehm suffered a heart attack while working in Linden, CA, with his daughter's father in law, Bruce Purviance. His heart attack proved fatal and he died two days after his birthday on October 18th, 1948.

Lydia continued to live in Richmond, but I am sure there was a sense of loneliness inside of her, despite the fact that she was involved in many groups and clubs, especially the Rebekah lodge. Now that her youngest daughter was married and had children of her own, Lydia had to raise James alone.

(Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge - shortly after it's completion in 1936 -  San Francisco is in the forefront, Oakland is in the background, with Mt. Diablo seen hovering over the East Bay)

Sometime after, Lydia started going out again and living a little. She went to some dances in Richmond and Oakland. At these dances, she met a man named Bill Murphy, who was living in Oakland, with his mother, who also had passed on around this time, in 1949. Bill was likely helping take care of his mother, along with his siblings, whom some also lived in the area. Bill was a confirmed bachelor. He never had married (that we are aware of) and did not have any children.

By meeting Bill Murphy, Lydia's life would take on a whole new twist. Not only was Bill Murphy a nice and gentle man, but he also owned lots of land in the town of Brentwood, land that was very valuable to the area. Lydia and Bill were married in 1950. With this marriage, Lydia had to leave behind her home in Richmond and move to the country with Bill. However, Bill let her design her own home and let her have it built custom to her own specifications. The home was completed around the end of 1950 and 1951.

From now on, Lydia was not without want. She was going to be well taken care of, and the kindly Bill Murphy also took on in helping raise James.

With a new home and beautiful land to wake up to everyday, Lydia was not one to keep this to herself. She opened her home to all. She had a basement that was as large as the main house floor, which is where she'd often invite all her children and grandchildren, cousins and nieces and nephews, sisters and brothers - and of course, her lodge friends. Also, as she got more familiar with the area, she quickly became good friends with the locals. There were a few fun eccentrics living nearby her. One was Mrs. Edith Ordway. Mrs. Ordway was a wealthy San Franciscan who purchased land in the Los Vaqueros area (behind the Black Hills of where Lydia lived). However, Mrs. Ordway loved to play cowgirl and shoot off her rifle when she had the chance, you know, just for fun.

Edith Ordway in 1938 at Ordway Ranch

Another family she also befriended were the Cakebread family. The Cakebreads owned land near Lydia and became close to her as well.

The following photos demonstrate that parties were even happening before the house was finished, circa 1951 (note the plaster on the drywall and unfinished windows).

 Ross Sr, Ross Jr., Alberta Roehm, Bud Wolf, Diane Connors, Frank Connors, Penny Connors, Annette Connors. Front: Ronnie Wolf and Vernette.
 Bill Murphy, Lenora Roehm, Lydia Roehm, Hank Wolf, Alwin Roehm, Frank Connors (standing), Ross Sr (smoking) and Penny Connors with Vernette Roehm.
Hank Wolf with Ronnie Wolf, Bill Murphy, Doris Jean Wolf with Diane Connors, Joyce Wolf, Annette Roehm and Bud Wolf.

The Ranch almond trees, looking towards what is now Round Valley Regional Park, circa 1950's.

When Bill and Lydia lived on the ranch together, Bill took care of the Ranch, using the tractors and corralling cattle, keeping chickens in the coops, maintaining the old big Barn, the tack house, bunk house and various other duties of the land. Lydia settled into a somewhat retirement, taking up new and enjoyable hobbies - learning to cook and design complicated cakes and decorating them herself. Her wedding cakes were used in both my Aunt's and mother's weddings. They were some of the most elaborate wedding cakes I ever saw. Lydia also enjoyed selling greeting card sets that she mail ordered. She hung onto many of the sets that never got sold.

During this time, Lydia also started to travel outside of California more. She went back to North Dakota several times to visit with her family and her daughter, Doris, who had recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Doris would pass on in 1963, at the young age of 48.

Lydia is second from right (with Sister Sophie next to her). Sophie's family is pictured here in North Dakota. Christina Herr is standing with scarf on, circa 1959.
 Visiting Doris in Valley City, North Dakota, having a picnic, July 1959. Lydia is second from right.
Lydia is in the background, in white, with her oldest daughter Doris to the left of her. Annette Roehm (now Purviance), looking at camera in front. Daughter Penny is behind her. Valley City, North Dakota, 1959.

While on this trip, Lydia and the family stopped into Montana to visit some of the Roehms, who were living there at the time. When visiting with them, they were deciding if they should stay or leave, but Lydia was adamant they stayed, having some kind of premonition that the alternative would not be good. So, they stayed overnight with cousin Arlys [Roehm] Hunt to have a large earthquake wake them up at 12:30 am. It ended up being a very large earthquake in Hebgen Lake, MT which put homes underwater and killed over 20 people. Lydia and the others were very surprised, because they would have been traveling right through that route if they had not stayed the night. Many believed Lydia had a sixth sense due to this. This wasn't the only time she had such a premonition. There were to be more.

When not traveling, Lydia was highly involved with the Byron and Rio Vista Rebekah lodge orders. Even her children would get involved, but she was the most involved of them all - and she had a strong group of friends because of this.

Lydia is second from right. Lenora Roehm (her daughter in law) - Mrs. George Roehm is behind Lydia and Carol Roehm, was also her daughter in law - Mrs. Alwin Roehm, is first from front left)

George Roehm Jr., Lydia Roehm and Alwin Roehm.

Lydia is in the front, second from right, circa 1962.

Lydia, circa 1962, age 66.

Lydia is second from left on the top photo, circa 1962.

You'd think that by now, well into her 60's, Lydia would have slowed down a bit, but she was just revving up. The late 1960s and most of the 1970s, she'd spend more time on the road than at home. She went and saw many family members, most who'd she see for the last time. 

Part 3 of this installment on this incredible "Fearless Female" will look into Lydia's many travels with her youngest daughter Annette (my grandma) and Lydia's last days here on earth.

Source: Visit Lisa Alzo's great blog, which is the source for the Fearless Female blog prompt,