When a death-dealing malady strikes many members of a family, the question may evolve: where did it come from?
In the case of Marilyn Sowle Bean's family—the family whose photographs were rescued from a local antique shop—the effects of Marfan Syndrome may have been a mainstay for many generations. Marilyn's son certainly succumbed at a young age—in his thirties, thanks to medical advances during his early twenties which granted him another decade more than his dad had. Then, too, besides Marilyn's husband, her brother-in-law Sam, the poodle trainer for the Shipstads and Johnson Ice Follies touring shows, also was felled by the same syndrome.
But what about previous generations? We've already observed that Marfan Syndrome likely entered the family through the line of Maude Woodworth Bean, Marilyn's mother-in-law. Maude's brother Lucius certainly had several sons afflicted by the same malady. But was it owing to Maude's and Lucius' father William Woodworth? Or his wife, Effie Aurilla Williams?
Before answering that question, I was curious to see whether anyone else in Maude's generation might have showed signs of the illness. According to Maude's father's obituary, William and Effie were parents of six children, of whom only three survived beyond the year of William's death in 1928. Of those six, I can only trace five, making me wonder whether the sixth child might have died in infancy.
The five of William's children faced varying fates, though none of them seemed to manifest Marfan Syndrome personally. Eldest daughter Nieva, born in 1892, lived to be a respectable ninety one years of age, hardly the symptom of a malady like Marfan Syndrome. Married twice, Nieva had four children, two of whom lived until at least retirement age, though one three-year-old son died and one daughter I could not trace beyond her twenties. Perhaps there is a story hidden there.
The second daughter of William and Effie, however, died at ten years of age. Though I can't yet find any record stating cause of death for Irma Woodworth, the early age of death might be a clue—or perhaps just an expected outcome for a childhood which ended in 1907.
The youngest child of William and Effie also died at a relatively young age. However, rather than signalling another death due to Marfan Syndrome, Helen Woodworth's death in 1921 at the age of twenty one was due to quite different and tragic circumstances.
So did Maude and Lucius merely serve as carriers of the Syndrome? Though each of them died at relatively young ages—Maude at thirty five and Lucius at forty five—it is likely their deaths were results of other maladies. The next step is to take a close look at each of Maude's parents and their related lines. We'll remain with the Woodworth family for yet another generation tomorrow to see whether we can find any telltale signs of Marfan Syndrome in their history.