Monday, January 9, 2017

Notes From My Grandmother | Thomas Lineage and Genealogy, Part 4

Somehow, much of my grandmother's hand written and (badly) typed notes and research wound up in my possession. Traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles and back to Chicago again. It sat, in the dark of my mother's closet, until my dad passed and my mom decided to begin her great purge. Knowing I had picked up the torch, the next generation to pursue the Greatest Hobby on Earth, the papers came to live with me. Unsure for many years on just what to do with them, I have decided to bring them out and share them with you - transcribed, of course - no one can read my grandmother's handwriting! But in her own words; mistakes, rambling sentences, and all. I think she will be pleased her work and her writing are once again out in the light!

The fourth and final Thomas is Robert Willis. My grandfather. He died before I was born and before my grandmother caught the genealogy bug. My grandmother left scant information behind about him. Here's what I have been able to dig up.

Robert Willis was born May 3rd 1904 in Fort Dodge, IA to Zadoc Willis Thomas and Laura Alice Busby. He was the third son and fourth and final child born to this couple. Robert "Bob"'s father died in a tragic accident when he was just 10 years old.

Bob met and married his high school sweetheart, Betty in 1923. Both fresh faced kids, they felt the call to adventure and traveled to Wyoming to drill for oil, visions of wealth in their heads, I'm sure.

The pair returned to Iowa shortly, however, as Betty was pregnant with the first of five children born to them. They set up housekeeping in the home of Bob's mother-in-law in Des Moines, IA.

Bob took the opportunity to return to school, so in 1924 he enrolled in the Engineering College in Ames, Iowa, about 30 miles from Des Moines.  In 1926 Bob joined a fraternity and Betty and their young son joined Bob on campus, Betty taking the roll of house mother!

Bob graduated with a degree in 1928 or 1929 and went to work for his older brother Dana. The couple's second child was born, but sadly died several months later.

In 1931 Bob was hired on as an engineer for U.S. Gypsum. In early 1933 the company transferred him to Dearborn, MI, while his young family stayed behind in Iowa. Later that year the company transferred him again, this time to New Brunswick, Canada.

The entire family made the move to Canada, where they would reside for 6 years, returning to Chicago in 1939. The couple's youngest child, a daughter, was born in Canada.

Bob was reassigned to East Chicago, Indiana and the family moved into a rental house in the southern suburbs of Chicago.

Two years later Bob was transferred again, this time to Chicago proper. The family relocated to Evanston. About this time WWII broke out. Bob's oldest was called to fight. Bob and Betty started having marital problems and the younger children were sent to boarding school.

In 1944 Bob was transferred, once again, for his job. This time to California. The family stayed behind in Chicago. Betty went back to school to learn stenography. In June 1944 Bob ruptured his intestines and required emergency surgery ..... in California. He wrote he would not be back home for a while.

In a letter home from Mexico City written in 1947, Bob informed his family that he had purchased a printing business in Chicago and would be returning home. Bob attempted to patch up his marriage at this time, purchasing the family a big home in Evanston.

By 1950 Bob and Betty were having trouble again. Bob took to staying in Chicago during the week, returning home for Sunday dinners.

On May 25th 1955 Robert Willis "Bob" Thomas died suddenly of a heart attack. He was 51 years old. He is buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Des Moines, IA.

Betty never remarried. 


Robert Willis Thomas b. 5/3/1904
                                       d. 5/25/1955
                                       m. 5/25/1923 to Elizabeth Twining Potwin
                                                                  daughter of Irving A Potwin and
                                                                              Carrie Elizabeth Twining
                                                                         b. 10/28/1904
                                                                         d. 11/17/1985

Robert Willis Jr b. 2/14/1924 d. 1/7/1994 m. (1st) Clare Perdelwitz
Kenneth Lauren b. 1/28/1928 d. 3/17/1928
Barbara Jeanette b. 5/2/1931 d. 9/23/2009 m. (1st) James VandeVort (2nd) Roland Rentscher
William Irving b. 7/30/ 1933 d. - m. Shirley Bach
ELIZABETH ALICE b. 9/21/1936 d. - m. Robert Faulkner


©2017 Anne Faulkner -, All Rights Reserved
©1980 Elizabeth Twining Potwin Thomas - private collection

No comments:

Post a Comment