Monday, March 18, 2013

Fearless Females / Matrilineal Monday: "Nani" - Sara Melzina Wolfe Guokas Archibald, 1907-1997

Sister Jean Marie (Jo Ann) Guokas and her mother, my maternal grandmother, Sara Melzina Wolfe Guokas Archibald, 1990
If Nani, my maternal grandmother, Sara Melzina Wolfe Guokas Archibald, was still alive today, she would be 106 years old.  She was born in Winn Parish, Louisiana, the second child and oldest daughter of Louis Henry Wolfe and Addilee Tennesee Shelton Wolfe Odom Harris.

On the 1910 Census, the family (which included Sara's older brother, Lloyd L. Wolfe, 1906-1993) was living at 1204 Sprague Street in Shreveport, Louisiana.  This census, taken in late April, indicates that Sara was only two years old, which is the first of many documents that have contributed to some confusion about whether she was born in 1907 or 1908. 

By 1912, the family is in Texas, as they are listed in the city directory that year living at 1433 Cortlandt in the Houston Heights.  Younger sister Edith Elizabeth Wolfe Smith Murff Brown Gould Knox (1910-2006), born in December 1910, is the fifth member of the family.  The following year, the city directory gives their address as 924 Ashland, still in the Heights, and the sixth member of the family is youngest sister Neva Marie Wolfe Ely (1912-1995), born in November 1912.

Things get a little confusing after that.  The next record I have for Sara shows her and her three siblings placed in the DePelchin Faith Home (now the DePelchin Children's Center, and in a different location) for about a year and a half, from mid-April, 1916, to late September, 1917.  Around this time, her mother Addilee ran off with another man.   The children were put in an orphanage temporarily because of Louis' work as a bricklayer, which had him moving around a lot.

By the 1920 Census, Sara, her father, and siblings are living with Louis' brother Shannon Wolfe and his family, at 1405 Allston in Houston.  In the Morrison & Fourmy 1923-24 Houston City Directory, Louis has an address of 403 Lamar Avenue - and Sara has her own listing there as well.

Sara married my maternal grandfather, Charles Peter Guokas Jr. (1903-1967), on July 20, 1926, in Houston, at St. Joseph Catholic Church.  They honeymooned at the Hotel Galvez in Galveston, Texas.  They had three children, Charles Guokas III (1927-1999), my mother, Geraldine, and my aunt, Jo Ann (Sister Jean Marie). 

The family moved around a lot as my grandfather worked in a series of jobs.  After their marriage, they lived at 1212 North York in Houston, according to the city directory.  In 1928 and 1929 they were living at 2215 Shearn in Houston, but on the 1930 Census, they are living at 1717 Shearn with my widower great-grandfather Charles Guokas Sr. (1863-1939) and my great uncle Roy Lee Guokas (1917-1959); they were also at this address in 1932.

In June 1933, Charles Jr. was named appointments secretary to Governor Miriam Amanda Ferguson (my namesake), so the family moved to Austin.  The 1935 Austin city directory shows them living at 1604 Alta Vista Avenue, but the listing must have been created early that year, as "Ma" Ferguson's term ended that January and the Guokas family moved back to Houston.  In the 1940 Census and 1940 and 1942 city directories, the family is again living at 2215 Shearn.

In 1944, Sara divorced Charles Jr.  She went to work for the U.S. Post Office.  There, she met Wallace Franklin "Archie" Archibald (1896-1970).  They married in 1945.

Sara continued to work for the downtown Houston Post Office until her retirement.  I remember a class field trip to that post office when I was in elementary school in the late 1960s. After retiring, she was very active in NARFE, the National Association of Retired Federal Employees.  I remember spending many nights at her home with Archie at at 1118 Bay Oaks in Houston, Texas.  This wasn't too far from my family's home in the early 60's at 7913 Cedel in Spring Branch.

After Archie's death in 1970, she shared a house with her sister Edith (who also lost a husband in 1970), first on Windswept Lane (near Chimney Rock Road), then at 7431 Beechnut, which was not far from our home at 8015 Sharpview, until Aunt Edith remarried in 1981.  At that point Sara moved to a condo at 6161 Reims (again not far from our home), where she lived the rest of her life.

I was going through a difficult divorce when Nani turned 90 in March 1997, and I missed a surprise birthday party for her in Houston.  About that time, she was diagnosed with lymphoma, and chose not to go through painful treatment.  I was able to attend a Wolfe family reunion with my offspring near Montgomery, Texas, on June 28, 1997, and spend some time with her there and at her home afterwards.  She passed away in hospice care on November 16, 1997.  She is buried next to Archie in Woodlawn Cemetery in Houston.

Nani's difficult childhood and experiences raising her family during the Depression made her very frugal. However, she was very generous with her five grandchildren, and I was able to pay my own way through college with the help of the many contributions she made to my college fund. She also contributed to college funds for my offspring, and helped me financially and emotionally through my divorce.

I still miss her.

© Amanda Pape - 2013 - click here to e-mail me.

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