Down in New Jersey at The Old House, Aggie was very ill
for a short time, and died at Thanksgiving on November 25, 1968. It was
very painful for all of us. Budgie had been with her, and was there in
Point Pleasant for the funeral when I went down from Connecticut with
two of my children. I later found a small sheet of paper with little
notes about the night Aggie died, naming the people Budgie had called to
report the sad news. Aggie was the second of her two sisters to die.
Bobby had been the first. She had died the previous year.
obituary in the New York Times, November 26, 1968.
the editor by Barbara Burton, New York Times, 1968.
Four letters Budgie saved over the years tell part of
the sorrow the family held.
Letter from Budgie to Barbara
after Agnes' death, December 1, 1968.
Letter from Barbara to Budgie
about selling The Old House, December 7, 1968.
Card and drawing from Pamela
to Budgie on Agnes' death, December 10, 1968.
Letter from Oona to Budgie
after Agnes' funeral, December 16, 1968.
At the funeral home I met Betty Tetrick, Charlie’s
cousin from California. She came in Oona’s place. Oona was unable to
make the trip at the time. She came over later to settle the estate and
to sell The Old House. Chief of Police Beecroft had often said how he
loved the house and wanted to buy it. He and his family moved in and
enjoyed it for a time. Budgie saved an old letter from Virginia Beecroft.
It tells how they felt.
Just a few lines to let you know we moved into “The
Old House” October 1st. George has an apartment upstairs, and Bill
and I share the downstairs with our daughters and we just love it
here. In the spring we want to have the rear of the house shingled
to match the rest. A new front porch will complete the remodeling. I
find it difficult to put into words how happy we are here. To me the
house will always be “Aggie’s house” and I think that is why it
holds so much nostalgia for us.
Sincerely, Virginia Beecroft
Two more letters came through the mails in 1970. Another
came from Oona to Budgie after Beecroft bought The Old House.
Oona to Budgie about Agnes' files, January 15, 1970.
Barbara Davis to Budgie after Barbara Boulton Sheldon's
death, November 27, 1970.
Oona to Budgie, mentions Charlie had slight stroke, May 5,
Eventually The Old House was torn down and faded into a
memory. Now there are other houses which have been built on the
property...the property where we used to run and play games and climb
into the wisteria vine that covered one side of The Old House...where Oona and I left notes for each other in the crotch of the old elm, our
“Castle Tree”...where we sat under the grape arbor, stuffing ourselves
with tasty red grapes, and ran out to play Hopscotch...where we romped
with little Middie (Midnight Dreams), the cocker spaniel who lived with
Shane and Oona in the dear old house where we did a lot of growing up.
It’s all a lovely and sometimes sad memory. I am grateful for those
special and unforgettable days.
On Christmas day in 1976, Charlie died. We were in touch
with the family immediately. How I wished I could go over to be there
with Oona, whom I know must have been suffering terrible grief and
feeling very lost. Later on she came to New York and bought a penthouse
in Manhattan. She called me whenever she made the trip, and some of the
family would drive to the city to have a visit with her. It was so good
to see her again, but sad it had to be under these circumstances.
Before too long came the dreadful news of Charlie’s body
being stolen from the little cemetery in Vevey. Oona must have had a
very difficult time dealing with this overwhelming and frightening
experience. She told me later how she had to learn to train with guard
dogs, and felt safer with the dogs on the premises at Le Manoir de Ban,
the family home in Vevey.
To get away from it all, Oona took a trip to Bermuda
with her two youngest children, Annette and Christopher, as well as her
close friend and Charlie's cousin, Betty Tetrick. She called and asked
if I would meet her there, and sent me a plane ticket. We stayed at The
Ariel Sands by the water, and walked nearby on the pink beaches.
It was lovely for me to be reunited with Oona. Our
conversations included lots of talk about our various children, but when
I brought up anything from the past, Oona would hold her finger to her
lips to hush me. It felt strange because so much of our relationship
dealt with days from the past. I realized later that she must have
tucked away many of the distresses of her childhood, finding it more
comfortable to leave them far behind.
Oona loved Bermuda, and one afternoon called her driver
to take the two of us around the island and show us some of the
interesting places he knew. This he did with great delight, taking us to
his favorite haunts and showing us where each of his relatives lived.
“Now this is where Uncle Jimmy lives,” was the travelogue he presented
on one of the back streets. “And my cousin Bobby grew up here.” And around
the corner, “That’s where I went to school.” Oona nudged me as we
sat in the back seat chuckling delightedly. We were thoroughly enjoying
this special jaunt through the back streets of a part of Bermuda the
average tourist would never experience. I am grateful to that
entertaining driver. It was a little trip I will never forget.
Part of the time in Bermuda, Betty Tetrick joined me and
we visited when Oona retired early to her room. I enjoyed this bright,
interesting woman who had taken Oona under her wing. We had some lively
talks, but I felt there was something she wasn’t telling me. She may
have been concerned that Oona was drinking in her room and not wanting
to be sociable. There was a sadness that hung over Oona even in her
lighter moods. She was in deep mourning for Charlie, and it was not an
easy time for her, waiting to hear if his body had been found. After her
return to Switzerland, the police called. They had recovered the body
and he was returned to Vevey where huge slabs of concrete were placed
over his grave so nothing like this might ever occur again.
Our visit ended and I was taken to the airport to return
to the States. On the flight home, as the plane took off through the
clouds, a feeling of despair came over me. I felt as though I had
encountered a darkness that touched the soul…in a land of light. Had Oona called me out there, hoping in some way she might touch some of her
past and hold onto a truth that her childhood family was still here for
her? Without a doubt she needed family and support in going through all
the emotional pain she was having to endure. Did I represent a safe but
very sad place in her past, a place she might sometimes go into very
Examining these feelings, I was becoming entwined in
what I imagined were Oona's hidden hurts. Guilt came over me as the
plane rose higher above the clouds into the sunshine…and Bermuda
disappeared. I too had abandoned Oona in some way, and I could imagine
her still holding in a painful distress, which I felt she needed to
share…but seemingly could not.