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Annabeth Beasley Biography

Depression-era childhood

Annabeth Beasley's parent's Johnson Tucker Beasley was a salesman for a seating manufacturer and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bremser worked in the perfume department at Marshal Field's department store in Chicago, Illinois.

John and Lizzie had five children, only two of whom lived to adulthood. In 1914, their first son Robert died after four days. They then had twin girls, Jane and Ruth, but Ruth died at age 2.

In 1920, John and Lizzie had another girl, Mary Elizabeth. Betty was what is now described as a "blue baby." She had what was then an untreatable defective heart valve. The doctors told her parents she would not live long. When Betty did in December 1925, Lizzie was pregnant with their fifth child Annabeth, who was born on July 16, 1926.

Elizabeth struggled to manage the mortgage payments each month, embarrassed when grocery marketing and the bill went unpaid at times.

When the Depression struck, John's good job of 19 years with the American Seating Company of Chicago ("Exclusive Manufacturers of Furnishings for Theatres, Churches, Schools and all Public Buildings") went from a salaried, expense-account position to commission only as a Manufacturers Representative. John drifted deeper into debt. In 1930, Elizabeth and John separated — again — after he forced her to agree to a second loan on the mortgage. Foreclosure loomed, a dreaded specter.

Lizzie's mother, who made a side income selling eggs, doing laundry, and selling butter she churned herself, frequently sent Lizzie money. John moved to Chicago, where he managed a hotels, among other things. Elizabeth and Johnson were separated the rest of their lives. While family members said they were divorced, John's 1950 obituary describes him as being survived by his wife.

In 1930, when Annabeth was 14, she and her mother Elizabeth rented the house in Kansas City and moved to Norwalk, Ohio, to live with her her sister Minnie and Bremser. Elizabeth kept house for her sister.

In 1933, they moved again to Des Moines, Iowa and in with the McDonald family. Many, frequent moves followed. In 1934, during the depths of the Depression, Annabeth's mother Elizabeth worked in a cafeteria. She was unable to care for Annabeth, who spent the summer in a children's home. Elizabeth and Jane got a room in a neighbor's, the Penniwells. Elizabeth worked in a sorority home.

In 1935, they moved back to Norwalk, Ohio and into another family's home, the Lexa's. In 1936, they spent the summer in Lexington, Illinois at Ray and Ruth (Beasley) Rickett's home. Annabeth had several cousins her age living there and no doubt made some friendships. However, when fall rolled around, they moved back to Des Moines where Annabeth started in the fifth grade. In the spring of 1936, Annabeth was in school in Norwalk and living with her big sister Jane in the Robin's home.

Their mother Elizabeth worked in the Wentz' Childrens' Home in Norwalk as the Director of Girls and a counselor.

Myron Ricketts visits his sister Carol at home during 1942 in Lexington, Illinois, before shipping out for Europe. He survived the war and numerous campaigns only to die in a drowning accident afterwards.
Seventeen year old Annabeth Beasley in 1942 on the porch of 1501 Park Avenue.
John Beasley in 1948 or 49, shortly before his death.

When 1937 arrived, Annabeth continued to attend school in Norwalk. Jane and 11-year-old Annabeth lived together. Finally, in 1938 as the Depression started to end, Aunt Minnie and Uncle Curt made it possible for Elizabeth and Annabeth to move back to the home in Kansas City by paying off the two mortgages on the house at 1501 Park Avenue. (Around that same time Grampa Henry Bremser paid for a bell for the Lutheran Church bell tower.) Eleven-year-old Annabeth, Annabeth was back attending seventh grade in Kansas City. After 11 moves in seven years, finally got a room of her own.

Jane didn't return to Kansas City, When she turned 18 in 1936, with the help of Gramma Bina Klein Bremser, Jane attended Drake University in Des Moines as a freshman, where she worked in exchange for room and board. She later transferred to Bowling Green State University which she graduated from in 1940. (From there she moved the University of Michigan and received her masters in 1945. She earned an Ed.D. in 1955 from Columbia University's Teachers College.)

From 1938-1947, living in the family home in Kansas City, Annabeth for the first time since the stock market crashed, experienced some stability in her life.

During 1942 Annabeth's cousin, 18 year old Myron Ricketts came to visit, splendid and proud in his Army uniform. Myron survived the war only to lose his life in a drowning accident on the Wolfgang See near Salzburg, Austria after the armistice was signed. Annabeth attended Southeast High School and graduated from there in 1943.

Later that year, she began working part time as a secretary for a Kansas City department store while finishing school. She also worked for a brief period in the test kitchens for TWA airlines. During the summer of 1943, Jane worked in a glider factory. She said she could never forget the penetrating smell of the glue. In early 1944, Jane married a serviceman, Art Budden Jr. Jane's intellectual, independent attitude contrasted with Art's conservative, quiet nature, and they separated and divorced within two years.

In 1946, Annabeth met a handsome Navy man, a student in civil engineering in the "V-12" program at Kansas State University. Annabeth got a job in the kitchen facilites for Trans World Airlines preparing airline meals.

Harold Bartle Phelps Jr. and Annabeth were wed in the Country Club Christian Church in Kansas City, Missouri on 21 December 1947. Her father John Tucker Beasley did not attend the wedding.

They moved shortly afterwards to the Naval Training Center at Chincoteague, Virginia. From there they moved to Camp Pendleton, near Long Beach, California. Bud was born there in 1951. The family then moved in 1952 to Great Lakes Naval Training Center, 35 miles north of Chicago.

Annabeth's mother Elizabeth moved to Sandusky, Ohio. While Annabeth was in Great Lakes, her mother entered a convalescent facility, where she died of a heart attack in 1952. Annabeth forever regretted that she could not visit her mother before her death.

John Beasley remained in Chicago. In 1943, he worked for the Jonas Photo Frame Manufacturing Co., largely estranged from his daughters. Jane wrote, "In graduate school [about 1944] I came into Chicago to accompany a friend to the hospital. On leaving the hospital I called my father to tell him I was in town, was returning to Ann Arbor on a train later that day, but would have some time to visit, if he were free. He became annoyed that I had not told him in advance of my coming, saying that since I hadn't bothered to tell him, he wouldn't bother to see me. I never talked to him again or wrote him. I only attended a grave side burial service in the little town where he had grown up. This was five or six years after the call." In Chicago in 1950 he died, as his wife did, of a heart attack at age 64.

In 1954 Hal was next stationed to Germany. Annabeth and Bud followed in late 1954. Though a Navy man and far from the seas, he was attached to a Seabees (civil engineering) unit at the 6th Army Headquarters. While in Germany, their second son, Brian was born. The family left Germany in February, 1956 and returned to California. Hal was assigned to the Naval Air Station in Monterey, California.

Annabeth and Hal were divorced in 1957. She worked for the federal government much of the rest of her life as a stenographer and secretary at Ft. Ord, California. She raised her two sons Buddy and Brian largely single-handed and paid off the home mortgage.

Annabeth helped found a neighborhood association and Parents Without Partners on the Monterey Peninsula. She retired in 1986 and continued to occupy the family home on Ralston Drive. After much turbulence in her early life, she held firmly to the home as a lasting symbol of security for herself.

Bud died in August, 2000. Jane passed away less than two weeks later. Annabeth died in her sleep within six months of her son and her sister, at age 73. She died unexpectedly in her sleep of an apparent heart attack on the morning of May 17, 2001.