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Mary Isabel Tooher

Female 1887 - 1964  (77 years)


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  • Name Mary Isabel Tooher 
    Born 4 July 1887  Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Female 
    Occupation Housewife; she had five children 
    Died 3 August 1964  Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Acute Coronary Occlusion
    Notes 

    • Mabel’s birth certificate cannot be found at the Kent County Clerk’s office, although she was born in Grand Rapids on 4 Jul 1887. She was baptized at St. James Church on 17 Jul 1887 and her godparents were Martin Johnson (her mom’s brother) and Anna Tooher (her dad’s sister).
      When Mabel was less than two years old, her dad, Ed Tooher, committed suicide. Her mother, Mary Johnson Tooher, remarried to Albert Peters around 1892. They had two boys and two girls, Mabel's half brothers and sisters. Mary Peters died in 1900 of pneumonia and Albert Peters soon remarried. Thus, Mabel was living with two adults, neither of whom was her parent. The new Mrs. Peters kicked Mabel out of the house at 12 years of age, and Mabel went to live with her mom's half-sister, Rosalie Johnson LaBelle, and her husband Joe from 1900 until she married in 1910. The LaBelles had three boys: Al, Jerry and Louis. In later years Al LaBelle married a woman named Sabra. They had no children and ran a gift store in Birmingham, Mi. They also had a gift store in northern Michigan in the summer. Louis married Eleanor Kenny (sp?). (See photos in “Multimedia.”)
      Mabel graduated from eighth grade at St. Joseph Catholic School. A Grand Rapids Herald article, p. 13, dated July 2, 1899, states:
      “COMMENCEMENT EXERCISES. Children of St. Joseph’s School will Give a Pretty Program.
      “The annual commencement exercises at St. Joseph’s school will be held Wednesday evening [July 5]. The following program will be rendered:….Zither, Miss M. Tooher...”

      1900 U.S. Federal Census
      Living at 182 Oakland St. in Grand Rapids on the 6th of June 1900:
      Peters, Albert, 42 yrs, widow, born Netherlands, painter
      Peters [sic], Mabel I., 12, single, both parents born in Netherlands [no; father born Canada], at school
      Peters, Bernie, 4
      Peters, Henry, 3
      Peters, Bertha, 6 months

      In the Grand Rapids Evening Press dated October 25, 1902, the following notice is given in the Social Notes column: “Miss Hattie Platt of 486 Grandville avenue was pleasantly surprised by about fiften of her friends Monday evening on the occasion of her sixteenth birthday anniversary. The evening was spent with games and other amusements, after which light refreshments were served, and the guests departed for home. Those present were: Misses Mable Tooher, Ela Patterson, Nellie Taylor, Clara Poldendyke, Anna Marrin, Messrs. Leo Pipe, Jacob Sommerdyke, Anthony DeBoef, Nicholas Zant, Cornelius and Henry Dutmers, Robert Newman, and Edward Frans.”
      Also in the newspaper March 22, 1904 was this notice: “The will of Albert Peters has been filed in the Probate court. The estate of $3,200 is given principally to Hannah Peters, the widow, who is entrusted with the care and education of her husband’s children by another marriage. After her death the property goes to the children. A stepdaughter, Mable Tooher, is given $5.”
      Both of Mabel’s Johnson grandparents died before she was born. It is not known if Mabel had any contact with her Tooher grandparents; her grandfather Tooher died when Mabel was nine and her grandmother Tooher died the year she married John Bek.
      As a young woman Mabel worked in the millinery department of The Boston House in downtown Grand Rapids. I wrote the following piece through her eyes.

      MABEL AND THE FERRETS
      by Deb Bek Moore

      My grandmother, Mabel Tooher Bek, loved to tell this story from her working days. I’ve written it through her eyes.

      December 6, 1909

      I glance at the clock on the wall and see that’s it 8:30 p.m. I’ve still got another half-hour to work, rushing to finish as many hats as possible. I attach some netting and ribbon to a navy blue wool hat, tacking the trims down firmly. I quickly admire my handiwork and set it inside a hatbox, put the lid on, and lay the order form on top. After shelving the order, I pick up my next project, a dark brown hat that calls for pheasant feathers.

      I’m nineteen years old and have been working in the Millinery Department of The Boston Store in downtown Grand Rapids for about a year. The store closes at 6:00 p.m., but my job is to stay late and complete the fancy ladies’ hats in time for Christmas. It’s extra busy at Easter time, too, but I particularly dislike staying in the winter’s cold and dark all by myself.

      I look up at the clock again, and now it’s 9:00, time to go -- the moment I’ve looked forward to yet dreaded all along.

      My work area cleaned and tidied, I put my pocketbook over my arm, grasp the store key in my hand, and poise to open the door to the wooden cage. The sleek, furry animals know freedom
      is coming, and stare up at me with anticipation. Standing back as far as possible, I lift the cage door and the ferrets run out of the enclosure, scattering through the front of the shop, beginning their search for dinner. (Every store uses ferrets to keep their rat population down.) I pull the string that turns off the bulb in the back workroom. Now I’m immersed in darkness, except for a thin speck of light I can see from the street lamp outdoors.

      I begin my walk through the store to the front door. I can’t get there fast enough, yet I resist the urge to run through the long, narrow space. The bright, beady eyes of the ferrets follow every step of my journey. My skin crawls with each step; the hair on my arms stands straight up. I can feel their eyes on my back as I draw nearer to the door. Eventually my right hand touches the doorknob, turns it, and I’m safely outside. I insert the key in the lock, give it a quick turn, and lean against the door, taking a deep breath. When my heart finally stops slamming, I begin my three-mile trek home through the snowy streets.
      *END*

      1910 Census:
      Living at 265 Palmer St. in Grand Rapids
      LaBelle, Joseph, 47, boiler maker in a railroad shop
      LaBelle, Rosalie, 40, not working
      LaBelle, Alfred, 16, soda clerk in a drug store
      LaBelle, Gerald, 10, not working
      Tooher, Mabel, 22, niece of Rosalie, milliner in department store. She was born in Michigan, her father in Canada English, and her mother in Holland.
      Note: Mabel’s last name is mis-identified as “Tooke” on the census index. Also, her Aunt Annie Tooher Hoogerhyde lived across the street and down a few houses at 214 Palmer at this same time.

      Mabel married John Marie Bek on 30 Jun 1910 at 8:30 A.M. St. Alphonsus Church.
      On 4 May 1918 she went to church and signed up to help with the War effort with her mother-in-law. Mabel said she could knit, sew and do milliner work.
      Mabel enjoyed cards and bingo. She was also a good seamstress and began a tradition when her grandaughter Joanne Roach was born. She embroidered Joanne’s name on the slip of the christening dress, and all subsequent grandkids, 29 more in all, wore the gown and Mable stitched their names. (Mabel and John had 33 grandchildren total.) She was a very pleasant person with a good sense of humor and an excellent memory. She talked about the confusing relationships in her family history and it all got so complicated and silly that everyone laughed about it (see above - Dad’s suicide, mom’s remarriage, mom’s death, stepdad’s remarriage, Mabel kicked out of their home. etc.)
      Mabel’s three daughters all married within five months’ time in 1939, Marion to Tom Roach in June, then Ruth eloped with Bill Manning in July and Grace married Leo Fortier in November.
      Mabel developed severe psoriasis in the early 1940s. She went to the Mayo Clinic, the University of Michigan Hospital and even flew to Chicago for treatments each Tuesday in 1945-’46, looking for relief. She dreaded those bumpy airplane rides to Chicago on a DC-3! Her son Jack thought the codition began about the time Ruth eloped and it was soon revealed that she was pregnant. For one psoriasis treatment Mabel was completely covered with tar in an effort to clear up the condition.
      Mabel learned to drive and John bought her a little Chevy. She feared the traffic, though, so she had other people drive her in her car to do errands, such as her daughter-in-law Mary, who married her youngest son Jack in 1950.
      Mabel was about 5'2” and slim as a young person. She gained weight throughout her life, though, and probably weighed about 180 lbs. at her death of a heart attack in August 1963. The autopsy revealed that it was amazing she had lived so long: her blood flowed through arteries the diameter of pinholes. Her oldest grandson, Bob Bek, was ordained a priest just weeks earlier — the family said she hung on long enough to see that happy day, along with the conversion of her son-in-law Bill Manning to Catholicism.
      After her husband John died, Mabel had a boarder in the upstairs rooms of her house named Bertha Darga. Her daughter Grace lived two doors away with her husband and ten children and her son Bob Bek and his family lived up the street in the next block of Carrier for quite a few years. She was also friends with Grace Robinson, her next door neighbor.
      Mabel and her husband John are buried in Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Grand Rapids, Mi, Block C, Lot 137, near the tall Redemptorist Priests monument.
    Person ID I1156  Moore-Bek
    Last Modified 30 January 2017 

    Father William Edmund Tooher,   b. 19 September 1862, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 3 May 1889, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 26 years) 
    Mother Mary Christina Johnson,   b. 1862, Netherlands Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 March 1900, Grand Rapids Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 38 years) 
    Married 4 March 1886  Grand Rapids—St. Andrew's Catholic Church Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F77  Family Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family/Spouse John Marie Bek,   b. 16 September 1884, Clinge, Netherlands Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 3 December 1949, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 65 years) 
    Married 30 June 1910  Grand Rapids, MI, St. Alphonsus Church Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
    +1. Robert Louis Bek,   b. 17 April 1911, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 20 August 1982, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 71 years)
    +2. Marion Rosalie Bek,   b. 24 August 1913, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 3 December 1984, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 71 years)
    +3. Grace Barbara Bek,   b. 8 July 1915, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 23 October 1994, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 79 years)
    +4. Ruth Margaret Bek,   b. 13 July 1920, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 5 December 2005, Rockford, MI Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 85 years)
    +5. John Joseph Bek,   b. 16 November 1926, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 30 May 2007, Grand Rapids, Michigan Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 80 years)
    Family ID F30  Family Group Sheet  |  Family Chart


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