Born: Friday, March 4, 1927
Died: Friday, December 28, 2001, at 1 A.M.
A baby girl was born to George and May Woodhull in Brooklyn, NY. She was their first child and they named her Mary. A pretty baby, she was precocious and fun loving from the start, and she soon became known for her winning and effervescent personality.
The Woodhulls were an old historic American family with English and (don't tell the English side) Irish ancestry, which went back to General Wellington of Waterloo fame. George, Mary's father, was in the middle between four sisters, all of whom married enterprising and successful men. May, Mary's mother, arrived (behind the four sisters in the picture), with a distinctive Irish ancestry and strong temperament.
There were a number of family stories swirling around about May’s father. It appears he had been a bootlegger during prohibition, a not uncommon Irish profession for the time, and a onetime partner of Joseph Kennedy. It was said that he was the one who took the fall and had to spend time in prison. We all know that Mr. Kennedy never did.
Mary’s brother, who was named George after his father, was born two and half years after Mary. Within the year May left. Though she never returned, George never stopped loving May and her name was on his lips when he died.
The two small children needed to be raised, so their maternal Grandmother, Agnes Moran, stepped in and raised Mary and her brother George, whom everyone started calling Woody. A woman who called to mind the classic English matron rather than the Irish of her ancestry, Agnes had a stern, but loving hand. As a result, Mary grew up in a disciplined, but supportive environment. The neighborhood where they lived was a true ethnic melting pot of Jewish, Italian, and Irish families.
Mary’s father, George, had an interesting and eclectic background. He had traveled as a young man, working in the merchant marine, where he saw a little of the world and sowed a few wild oats. But as a supportive father, he worked the night shift as a comptroller on the New York subway, since it paid better. As a result, the Great Depression had minimal impact on the family’s everyday lives, but George was never able to attend the school functions like the other parents.
Mary’s time at St. Francis of Assisi Grammar School was relatively uneventful. She was quick to make friends and was always outspoken (possibly the Irish bloodline asserting itself), with fiery red highlights simmering in her dark auburn hair. Still, Mary was very popular, so much so that she was voted Miss Congeniality/Personality in her senior year of Girl's Commercial High School.
Meanwhile, back in Brooklyn, the war was touching everyone and early in 1942, fifteen-year-old Mary and her brother Woody said goodbye to their cousin Warren, as he too went off to war. The stage was being set for Bill and Mary's paths to cross, but almost four years remained before they would intersect.
High school during the war had its own set of challenges, but there was a sense of urgency to life, in which everyone grew up faster and held on to things tighter. As she steadily matured, Mary became an attractive young lady. It was not long before the war was almost over, which meant that the men would be returning and the thoughts of romance began to fill the air everywhere.
One important person in Mary's life was her grandmother. Agnes Moran had become Mary's defacto mother. She was a woman who called to mind the classic English matron rather than the Irish of her ancestry, Agnes had a stern, but loving hand. As a result, Mary grew up in a disciplined, but supportive environment. The neighborhood where they lived was a true ethnic melting pot of Jewish, Italian, and Irish families.
As Mary graduated from high school servicemen began flooding home from the war with New York as one of the chief ports of entry for the European theater. Most of the eligible ones were either just out of uniform or waiting to get out. Roller-skating was big in the Forties and Bill and some of his naval aviator buddies used to go into Brooklyn to skate at the Empire Roller Rink. It was a good place to meet girls. One fateful evening, just before Christmas, on one of those visits to the rink, he asked Mary for a skate dance…and the rest, as they say, is history.
About two months later, on Valentine's Day 1946, taking full advantage of the romance of his naval pilot status, Bill proposed to Mary and she said yes. He was released to inactive duty a month later.
They took several trips to New Jersey to meet Bill’s extended family and visit his parents at the farm. On a trip to Bayonne to meet some cousins, Mary had a baptism of sorts when they gave her a shot of whiskey, which she was required to down in one gulp. After successfully passing that test she was officially declared a Meisheid and one of the family
The engagement had its ups and downs, not surprising considering the two strong personalities involved, but Mary had only one real hurdle to overcome, and it wasn’t her weak ice skating skills. She told Bill he would have to build an indoor bathroom at the farmhouse in New Jersey before she would move there. This born and bred city girl just couldn't make the leap to an outhouse, especially when his proposal came in the dead of winter, reminding her of what would lay ahead. True to form, she was stubbornly persistent and finally, with the promise that an indoor bathroom would be finished before the wedding, everything was set to go ahead. The moment Bill had been waiting for finally came. His appointment with destiny was set for 4 p.m. Sunday July 14, 1946, and the arrangements finally started being made in earnest.