Brumley Family – Nancy Beatrice Brumley – my Great Aunt. I never got to meet her but I wished I could have because I would have loved hearing her stories of the people, places, and things she experienced in her life. The only thing I know about her came from my mother and Bea’s son. In this post, I will share the stories my mother told me about her along with excerpts of a letter written March 2, 1987, by her son, John D’Ambrosio, Jr.
She was born on October 10, 1901, to Isaac Walter Brumley and Nancy Katherine Cox in Osage County, Missouri. She was the only daughter born out of six children in the family so naturally, she was named after her mother Nancy but most people called her “Bea.” Her brothers were John Leo, William Ralph, Thomas Clinton, Henry Elmer Raymond, and Walter Willis Brumley. My mother, Nancy Gertrude Brumley Weik always referred to her as Aunt Bea.
Her mother died on August 28, 1912, of Pellagra, Bea was only about ten years old. As many families did back in the day when the mother died the children were scattered out to aunts, uncles or good friends so that the father could keep working to support his family and so it was with this family. I have been able to track down all the boys in the family but Nancy Beatrice I could not find anywhere in the 1920 Census. I don’t know if she was sent away or if she lived with a neighboring family. The twelve years between 1912 and 1924 has been a mystery of such but with the help of her son John we have pieced some of her life during that time.
My mother’s story was that she was married to a young man who rode an Indian Motorcycle in the Motordrome until there was a bad accident in Memphis, Tennessee and he was killed. My mother and I have never found a marriage record of this union, nor do we have the name of that person. After his death, she decided to be a high diver in a swim show where she swam with an unknown speed swimmer named Johnny Weissmuller, who later became an Olympic swimmer before his starring role as “Tarzan”. She then wanted to be on the big stage, so she became a dancer in the old “Orpheum Circuit” in Chicago.
As the story told by my mother whom she said was how Bea told the story to her – Nancy Beatrice Brumley was dancing on the stage and a gentleman by the name of John D’Ambrosio was in attendance and I guess he liked what he saw and slipped a note to her that he wanted to meet her. They got together and had a whirlwind relationship and on November 5, 1924, in Crown Point, Indiana they were married and stayed in and around Chicago. She would go on to have two children from this union, Rosemary and John, Jr. D’Ambrosio.
After Nancy Beatrice Brumley D’Ambrosio was married she would visit occasionally from Chicago with her brother John Leo Brumley and his family in Kansas City, Kansas and it would be a very special time for my mother. Nancy Beatrice had married a man with money and had nice clothes and furs, etc., so to a girl who didn’t have hardly anything to see her aunt doing so well was special. This was also during the 1930’s during the Depression. Aunt Bea would always bring my mother trinkets of some kind and if she had any clothes she would give them to my mother who would be thrilled to have anything of hers. My mother also shared with me that when Nancy Beatrice would come for a visit she would make up a huge batch of spaghetti and meatballs and feed and the neighborhood. She shared her wealth with her family when she came to visit. My mother looked up to her for who she became as a woman of Chicago society but never forgot her family.
Nancy Beatrice with her husband and children lived in Chicago, Cook, Illinois until her death on June 24, 1962. She was sixty years old.
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