Family Stories occupations: what they did

The work life experiences of individuals and couples among members of our families have been wide-ranging, and in a few instances exciting. What follows is a sampling of six careers:

Henrietta Jane & John Alexander McDonell

Paul A. Lilly

James Richard "Richie" Walden

George Lawrence Shank

Charles Pierson "CP" Brant

Betty Jean "Jo" Koss, DDS

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The Orchardists

John Alexander McDonell was born 14 June 1852 in Lancaster, Glengarry, Ontario, Canada. Henrietta Jane McDonell was born in Lancaster 30 May 1856. They were married 18 July 1878 (and needed written permission because they were cousins).

Over the next 20 years the family moved at least six times. Their son Alexander John was born in Keewatin, Ontario. Sons Lawrence Angus Duncan and Finley Joseph were born at Turtle Mountain, Manitoba. A daughter Jane was born at St. Raphaels, Ontario, and a daughter Anne was born at Ottawa, Ontario.

John and Henrietta McDonell Family, ca 1900

In about 1888 the family moved to the United States, living for a year in Seattle and then 18 years in Mullan, Idaho. In Idaho they had two more children, a daughter Catherine Josephine and a son Francis Allen Eugene.

In 1908 The McDonells purchased 20 acres in the Selah Valley of Washington and established an orchard. Ten years later they purchased additional land and increased their acreage to 25, all planted to apples, pears, peaches and prunes.

Henrietta & John McDonnell in their Selah Valley Orchard

A book about prominent citizens of the area stated of John that, "His efforts as a horticulturist have been attended with gratifying and well deserved success and he has long been numbered among the representative fruit growers of his section."

John died in 1928 at the age of 76. Henrietta died in 1936 at 80.

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The Actor-Director

Paul A. Lilly was born 11 July 1909 in Bradford, Pennsylvania. He was the second youngest of six children born to James Edward Lilly and Margaret Ellen Lynch. Following high school he attended the University of Detroit, earning a BS degree in 1931.

Mr. Lilly founded and for more than a decade headed the Catholic Theater of Detroit, which was described as "the best in non-professional theater." Located on the campus of the University of Detroit, the company produced up to seven shows per year along with shows for children and classes in acting, directing and playwriting. At various times Mr. Lilly was the president, business manager, executive secretary, director, actor and stage hand for Catholic Theater.

During World War II Mr. Lilly worked as a program director for the Red Cross overseas. A newspaper of the time carried a photo of him supervising a French pastry chef who was preparing cookies, presumably to serve at a show for American troops. The article also noted that Mr. Lilly worked in Africa, Italy and France.

Following the war, Mr. Lilly toured with several theater companies and also performed in New York City. He was a senior partner in L.S.P. Productions, which staged the off-Broadway hit play, "Teach Me How to Cry." His other work included stock theater, radio, movies, television, and Broadway shows.

He was a member of Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Paul A. Lilly's business card.

In New York City he appeared in the musical version of "Street Scene" and in plays "The Shrike" and "My three Angels." His last stage appearance was in "Auntie Mame," which starred Rosalind Russell.

He died 19 October 1959 of cancer at the age of 50 in New York, and he was buried in Bradford, Pennsylvania, where he was born.

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The Grocer

James Richard "Richie" Walden was born 27 December 1864 in Franklin, Indiana. He was the fourth of twelve children of James Alexander Walden and Francis Branham. His father worked first at farming and then as a carpenter.

On 3 October 1888 he married Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Baker and together they had two sons and three daughters. Except for a short period in 1898 when he served in Cuba during the Spanish American War, Mr. Baker lived all of his life in Franklin. In city directories his occupation is listed as butcher and grocer.

James "Richie" Walden in front of his grocery store in Franklin.

One of Mr. Walden's hobbies was wood carving. He used wood slats from produce boxes to carve and paint whimsical things like birds that he gave to friends and family.

People attending a Baker family reunion in the 1990s talked about the high regard residents of Johnson County had for Mr. Walden. They recalled stories about how generous he was with local people during the hard times of the Great Depression.

Mr. Walden's daughters, Dorothy and Alice working in his grocery store.

Mr. Walden's wife died 8 February 1944, and he died 24 February 1946. They are buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Franklin, Indiana.

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The Painting Contractor

George Lawrence Shank was born in Bradford, Pennsylvania, 3 January 1890. He married Mary Mildred Lilly 5 January 1915, and while living there they had a daughter Marcia Kathleen and a son William Martin Shank.

In 1920 the family moved to Olean, New York, for Mr. Lilly's work as a painter. His daughter Marcia said of her father, "He wasn't educated, but we was one of the best painters, especially in those old homes. He had a certain technique for painting delicate oak." She said that people in their town really "would appreciate his artistic painting."

Olean, New York

Living in Olean, George and Mary had a second daughter, Dorothy June Shank.

Mr. Shank was assaulted by a man at a union picnic - this was around 1927 - and he sustained a serious head injury. As a result, he was partially paralyzed not able to work again.

Image of Mr. Shank from a 16mm film by his son-in-law Robert Brant.

Mr. Shank died on 8 June 1974, and Mary died 12 days later on 20 June 1974. They are buried in the St. Bonaventure Cemetery in Olean.

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The Well Drilling Contractor

Charles Pierson Brant was born 18 September 1854 in Butler, Pennsylvania, the son of Captain John Brant and Margaret Steen. His father was killed in the Civil War at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and his mother died the next year. Charles then went to live with his father's brother George and their family.

When he was older, Charles went to work for a man who was in the business of drilling oil wells. (The Pennsylvania oil rush occurred from 1859 to the early 1870s.) Oil production was a huge contributor to the area's economy. Kendall Motor Oils, for example, had its start with the Jackson Walker Well drilled in Bradford in 1875.

Pennsylvania Oil Field

Charles married his employer's daughter, Louella Louisa Ritts, and eventually started a drilling business of his own.

Charles and Louella moved to Lima, Ohio, in the 1880s and there they had sons Walter and John. His business then took the family to Bluffton, Indiana. This likely was because at the time gas deposits were discovered in northern Indiana and oil in southern Indiana. A year later they settled permanently in Indianapolis and had another son, and after that Charles often traveled to western states with his contracting business.

Charles died in Indianapolis in 1930 at the age of 75. Louella died in 1946 at the age of 80.

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The Pediatric Dentist

Dr. Betty Jean "Jo" Koss, born 27 September 1925, was the daughter of Dr. Harry Albert Koss and Alice Etta Walden. Her older brothers were Harry Albert Jr and Dr. William Frederick "Bill" Koss.

Betty graduated from Butler University and entered the Indiana University School of Dentistry, following in the steps of her father and brother Bill who both were dentists. Betty was the only woman among 101 students in the 1951 graduating class, and was said to have been only the second woman to graduate from the dental school. Their family also was the first to graduate a father, son and daughter from the school.

Dr. Koss for many years lived with her mother in a large home on the north side of Indianapolis, and maintained a dental office in the finished basement. Her practice was pediatric dentistry (then called pedodontics).

Dr. Koss with a young patient and her dental assistant.

Dr. Koss held leadership positions in several state and national organizations. She was president of the Indiana Dental Society, president of the Association of American Women Dentists, president of the Indiana Society of Pedodontics, and Fellow of the International College of Dentists.

She maintained a second home for retirement on Lake Tippecanoe. She died 26 March 2002 at 77 and is buried in the family plot, Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis.

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Created By
William Koss
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Credits:

Created with images by City of Boston Archives - "A Street in Boston"

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