Edna Nason Doherty


Edna Nason 1915

Edna Nason was born in Hammond, Indiana on April 24, 1898. Her father, Fred R. Nason, was born on July 27, 1861 in Girard, Pennsylvania. Her mother was Florence Curtis, or Curtiss, born in 1864.  Her grandfather was David Nason, born on November 26, 1820 in Otego, New York. His wife was Eunice Godfrey of Girard, Pennsylvania. Family names were important to my grandmother.  Her oldest son, Frank, was named after her brother; my father, Eugene, had “Nason” and “Godfrey” in his name.

I have fragments of memory and only a few family stories about my grandmother. But looking back over her life, I can get a good feel for her character. She was resilient, tough, and resourceful. She did what she needed to do after her husband was too ill to work, started businesses and ended her days with three houses and money in the bank.

She was one of nine children. Her brothers and sisters were Sophronia (Fronie), Florence, Frank, Margaret, Genevieve, Lillian, Gertrude, and Edward. Her parents were killed in an avalanche in 1907.  She was eight years old when they died.

Gramsey married Frank Burton Doherty in 1918 or 1919. Her first son, Frank Burton Doherty, was born in Hammond, Indiana on July 19, 1920.  A second son, Eugene Nason Doherty, was born on October 28, 1922.  Her third child, a daughter, Judith Doherty, was born prematurely and died on July 2, 1931. She only lived for a few months after her birth.

Edna Nason Doherty & Her Sons, Eugene (left), Frank (right) 1943

Frank and Edna Doherty left the Midwest and went east to Elizabeth, New Jersey around 1927.  I don’t know why they left their families and Midwest lifestyle for a more urban, independent one.  Perhaps that’s the reason. Her husband became ill, so Gramsey became the breadwinner.  She learned to cut and perm hair and opened a beauty parlor in her home.  As a kid, I remember the smells from the hair treatments.  She took in borders.  She collected and sold antiques.  She held the family together and made ends meet. They were poor.  Dad remembered stealing a face cloth to give it to his mother for a Christmas gift.

I know very little about her siblings; two of the sisters entered religious life: (Sophronia and Genevieve?)—one taught in Catholic schools and St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, the other may have been a Discalced Carmelite), Florence married and died within a decade of her wedding; Frank was killed in a train accident; Margaret married; Gertrude died as a baby; Edward married and had a daughter.  He lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In the 1940s or 1950s, Gramsey took a train from Elizabeth, New Jersey to Chicago to visit one of her sisters who was a nun.  Dad described Gramsey speaking to her sister through a screen that separated them, which meant she lived a cloistered, contemplative life. Gramsey asked her sister (Genevieve?) if she ever regretted becoming a nun. Her sister replied that if she had to do it all over again, she wouldn’t have entered; but she also said she had a good and full life as a religious. Genevieve had some musical ability and played the organ or piano for her community for Mass or as part of the Liturgy of the Hours. I have always marveled at her honesty in her statement on her life’s choice. I aspire to be that forthright and brave. My grandmother may also have been close to her youngest brother, Edward.  He visited her around the time that she died. I believe he had one daughter, who eventually moved to San Diego.  The Nasons have a pull to go West.

Edna Nason Doherty died of cancer on March 6, 1961. She was 62. All the Chesterfields cigarettes over the years finally caught up with her. She was buried on March 9, 1961 in Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, New Jersey with her husband. I do have one scene etched in my memory as my grandmother lay dying. She was lying on a cot in the living room or dining room. I was standing with my mother, Helen Doherty, and my younger sister at the edge of the room.  “Helen, let me see the girls,” my grandmother kept saying. My mother wouldn’t let us go to her. I regret that now.  I should have disobeyed my mother and gone to my grandmother. This is one of those regrets that stay with us through a lifetime.





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By Karen