Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Myrtle McSpirit
SCHENECTADY Myrtle McSpirit, 98, died Saturday, February 8, 2003 at Kingsway Arms Nursing Center where she had resided since 1975. A former resident of Albany, she had worked as a seamstress and as a factory worker in a bottling plant. She had no known surviving relatives. A service will be held 11 a.m. Wednesday, February 12, 2003 at Zwack & Sons, 633 Central Ave., Albany. Interment will follow in Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands. (Copied from the Albany Times Union, February 11, 2003)

Yesterday a new Chronicle of Higher Education came in the mail, and the cover story about disposing of old computers caught my eye. I thought it would make a good basis for a journal entry. But Myrtle McSpirit got in the way. I couldn't wait for Blogger; I whipped out my bound green volume (where I cheat on the ejournal) to scribble my thoughts on paper. Sometimes typing isn't quite the same.

I'd seen Myrtle's obituary in the paper yesterday, and I decided I would look up that name in Mimmie's genealogy notes. I vaguely remembered that Mimmie's brother had moved to Albany, and that Myrtle was his wife's name. I thought, after I confirm this, I'll send the obituary to my mother. And isn't it interesting, if Mimmie was living she would be 98, so she was the same age as her half-brother's wife.

As I re-read the death notice, it struck me: how sad. Not that 98 years is anything but a good long life, but the part about no living relatives, and the fact that the obituary was so brief, with no mention of Myrtle's mother and father, husband or daughter. Or even her birth date. Others on the obituary page have lengthy columns, mentions of churches attended, club memberships, hobbies, colleges degrees, names of beloved pets. And then there's Myrtle's: no relatives, she worked as a seamstress and as a factory worker in a bottling plant, and she spent the past 28 years in a nursing home.

I remembered the trip to St. Ann's Cemetery, sparked by finding Mimmie's genealogy notebook and by my sister's trip to Ireland, and the markerless graves. I had a good thought for my query, which must have arrived at the publisher by now. There are too many books and page-long obituaries on the Marilyn Monroes and Eleanor Roosevelts (though I mean no disrespect to either), and too few on the Mimmies and Myrtles of this world. I don't know a lot more than the obituary, but here is what I found in Mimmie's notes: Myrtle's husband was Lawrence McSpirit, who drowned in the Hudson River and is buried in Albany. Their daughter's name was also Myrtle.

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