The baby of the family always seems to find a special spot of recognition. From cradle to grave, it seems, those oft-repeated words will always echo in that child’s mind: “No matter how old you are, you’ll always be my baby.”
I don’t know much about the baby of Timothy Kelly’s family. She made her entry sometime prior to the 1880 census, sporting the phonetically-spelled version of her name duly noted by that year's assigned census taker for subsequent generations of genealogists to see: “Dabora.” I can just hear it now, with that Irish lilt, spoken with the accent on the second syllable. Perhaps that explains such a creative spelling for what surely was a common name.
Deborah Kelly had another mark to her early years: she was the last baby to be held by her mother, Ellen. Before Deborah even had the chance to reach her second birthday, her mother had already passed away. For Deborah’s growing-up years, there would be no mother left to rehearse those worn lines, “you’ll always be my baby.”
What would it be like to grow up, never knowing what your own mother was like? Perhaps as her stepmother stepped in to fill that role by the time of her twelfth birthday, she might have been resigned to accepting the only mother she would ever know. But somehow, that woman would never be the one for which Deborah was “her baby.”
Sometime between the time of the 1880 census and the next census record, Deborah’s two older sisters also met an early death. How did she feel to be the only female left remaining in the family? Did that somehow make her feel vulnerable?
With all the hardships apparently suffered as a matter of course in lives of that era, I can’t believe that people merely became hardened to the premature loss of life. I can’t help but wonder what the impact of these experiences would have been for that “baby” of the Kelly family.
At some point in her twenties, Deborah met a man from Ohio whose family had moved to the Fort Wayne area. Eventually, as stories of this sort went in that era, Frank C. Pence and Deborah Kelly decided to get married, and solemnized that decision on the first of June, 1898.
It is hard, from nothing but census records, to tell what kind of life the Pences lived. While family obituaries made it appear that the couple had moved out of the area—her stepmother’s obituary mentioned Toledo in 1913—that must have been a short-lived arrangement. The 1900 census showed the newlyweds living in the same household in Fort Wayne as Frank’s mother Sarah and sister Allie. The chicken scratch at the end of the line on their census reading seems to indicate Frank was a salesman for a photographer. The 1910 census showed them in Fort Wayne, too—with Frank at work at some sort of shop, if I read the census record right.
Perhaps that would be a retail shop, rather than a manufacturing shop, for by the time of the 1920 census, Deborah's husband was a merchant, selling cigars. Only the finest, I presume.
Perhaps the Pences were not much different than the rest of the nation, come time for the 1930 census. Was it hard times that was reflected in the fact that he was now working as a custodian at a local public school?
Ten years later, there he was, living in the same house with Deborah, working at the same custodial job despite now reaching the age of sixty eight.
While these documents don’t reveal much about daily life in the family of Frank and Deborah Pence, there was one final record that made me wonder. While the Kelly family plot was already full, as we’ve seen, and while it makes sense that those Kelly children who married and made homes of their own would not be included in those burial plans, I had thought that Frank and Deborah would still be buried in the same cemetery.
That was not so. I was surprised to see them buried, not in the Catholic Cemetery—the final resting place for the faithful of Deborah's childhood Church—but in a different location. There at the Lindenwood Cemetery, you can find both Frank and Deborah—he on March 4, 1944, and she following him a year and a half later. Deborah Kelly Pence left this world after seventy two years on November 6,1945, with no one left to mourn her loss—once again, part of the legacy of being the “baby of the family.”