My Parents

Prompt  for week #28 in The Book of Me is – My Parents,  This is a very surface description of my parents. I have written other posts about them. Links to two are below.

"Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr and son Albert Jr"
Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr and son Albert Jr – about 1913

My father, Albert, was born in 1911 in Indianapolis Indiana.  His parents, Albert and Pearl Cleage, met in 1907 when his father came from Athens, TN to attend Medical School.  His mother was born in Kentucky and moved to Indianapolis with her family before 1900. In 1912 my father and his parents moved to Kalamzaoo, MI where his father started his practice. By 1915 they were in Detroit where they remained.  He was the oldest of 7 children.  His nickname was Toddy and his friends and those who knew him in his youth continued to call him that throughout his life.  My father was one of the most intelligent people I have known.  He was well read and could think and understand both history and current events. I wonder what he would have to say about the state of the world today.

My mother with her father – 1924

My mother, Doris, was born in Detroit in 1923, the third child of Mershell and Fannie Graham who came to Detroit from Alabama in 1917.  She lived in Detroit, in the same house on Theodore, until she married in 1943.  The only nickname she had was “Stubs”, and the only person I heard call her that (a name she wasn’t fond of.) was her sister’s husband, my uncle Buddy Elkins.  My mother was one of the most independent people I have known.  She taught in Detroit elementary schools for almost 20 years.  She taught reading during the last years before she retired and loved helping children discover reading.


They met at Plymouth Congregational Church and were married there in 1943.  In the early years of their marriage they moved several times – to Lexington, KY, to San Francisco and then Los Angeles, CA, to Springfield, MA and then back to Detroit.  Judging from letters my father wrote home, their marriage seemed to be one of shared interests and activities, until I was born. At that point, it seems to me, that my father expected my mother to become a traditional wife and mother while he continued the interesting life of organizing and running the church.

They were divorced in 1954.  They remained on friendly terms. We saw a lot of my father as he was home during the week so my sister and I ate lunch at his house during school week.  When we were older, we spent the weekend with him frequently.

In 1960 my mother married my father’s brother, Henry. They remained together until her death April 30, 1982.  My father never remarried.  He died February 20, 2000.

My father, me, my mother, Henry. Photo by my sister Pearl Cleage. 1966.

I’ve written about my parents in these posts.

 100 Years – 100 Photos – 100 Sepia Saturdays  – Commemorating my father’s 100th birthday.

Growing Up – In Her Own Words – By and about my mother.

H is for a Nostalgic Interview with Henry – an interview about the Freedom Now Party. 1990s.

12 thoughts on “My Parents

  1. Kristin,

    My grandfather, Sam Williams, gave the address of 912 Theodore St on his 1941 Social Security application. I knew that he split his time between residences in Mississippi and Chicago but Detroit was a surprise. I guess it should not have been since his sister, Lula Allen nee Williams lived there. I discovered that I have a lot of Williams family living in Detroit that I didn’t know about. Do you know if your family was ever acquainted with my grandfather and his sister?

    1. Tara,
      I just looked at Google Maps and 6638 Theodore St. was 2.2 miles from 912 Theodore St. – a 44 minute walk. The original houses are gone, unfortuantely. I doubt if they knew each other because it wouldn’t have been in the same school district or anything. Was your grandfather living there in the 1940 census?

      Coincidentally, my husband’s grandfather was also named Sam Williams! He was from Arkansas and was born and died there.

      1. Mine was from Mississippi and died in Chicago. Good idea to look up the walking distance between them…thanks. On the 1940 census, he was in Mississippi. Then in 1942 he was back in Chicago.

  2. It was helpful to read a “helicopter” view of your parents…your other posts reveal their personal stories. isn’t it strange, but not that unusual, how your father’s perspective on the type of person your Mum should be once she became a mother…symptomatic of the era. I suspect you’ve inherited your Dad’s strong intelligence and your Mum’s independence.

    1. Yes. It’s kind of sad. I guess he just expected her to turn into a mother like his was and that was something she fought against all her life – being a “typical” woman. You’re right about the overview too.

  3. Interesting that your father’s brother did not seem to have the Sam expectations of the role your mother should play. Why do you think this was?

    1. It was 1960 instead of 1943 and everybody was older. Times had changed. And my father was the oldest of 7. Henry was the 3rd. My mother recalled more than once that Henry had done the dishes for her when he came to visit when they lived in Springfield and she was overwhelmed with two small children and housework and being a ministers wife. On the other hand she remembered my father refusing to help with housework because he said he hadn’t gone to college to scrub floors. And my mother was more aware of what she wanted out of a relationship at 38 than she was fresh from her parents home at 20 when she married my father.

      Not that it was all plain sailing with Henry and my mother. She demanded and insisted on her rights being respected. There were discussions that went on and on about women’s rights and respect. One thing all of them were good at was talking and discussing and presenting their point of view.

  4. I agree with Pauleen that it helps to have this overview, becauseI’ve been following your blog for a year and learned a lot from this that I hadn’t realized before. It also allowed me to go back and discover the 100th birthday collage you did for your father and his obituary in the New York Times. What a rich legacy—from your mother, father, and uncle! Thank goodness you have taken on the essential task of recording it. I love the 1966 photo of you and your father, mother, and uncle. What an expression on your face!

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