Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The History of the Journal's Mary Lee Tucker Program – Part 2

Rhea Soper Eddy was the longtime Journal employee that is well-remembered as the person behind the Mary Lee Tucker program for decades.

She was the subject of an announcement that ran on the front page of the paper on November 18, 1924. A boxed item read, “Today marks another milestone in the era of Journal expansion. With this issue is begun the regular daily publication of Elyria society, church, club and fraternity events, written by Rhea Soper Eddy, a society reporter of long experience.”

As noted in yesterday’s post, she inherited the role of Mary Lee Tucker following the death of Mrs. Katie Hayes.

But she made it so much more than just a once-a-year act of charity. She became Mary Lee Tucker.

She explained it in a full-page history of the Mary Lee Tucker program that ran in the June 21, 1955 Lorain Journal after her passing.

“Soon after I took charge,” she note, "we decided to start an advice column which was just another angle of the Mary Lee Tucker department. It was not a very important one, perhaps, but one that seemed to create a little interest.”

Here is the announcement of the new daily Mary Lee Tucker column that ran in the Lorain Journal on Feb. 15, 1926.

Her reminisce continued. “One day about six weeks before my first Christmas program was to be given, several employees offered their help with the project.
“Our editor agreed with our plan to remember the old folks in the county home on Christmas. It seemed that the children in the county home in Oberlin were always being remembered at Christmas time but the old folks had very little share in the yuletide joys.
“The matron and superintendent of the home were enthusiastic about the program. To raise the funds to finance the party we gave a dance at Antlers hotel.
“We arranged a program of home talent and took ice cream, cakes and oranges to the home with us. We gave each person in the home a box of candy. There were about 50 men and women there at that time.
“That same year we made quite a campaign for clothes, food and toys to give out in Christmas baskets. The names of between 300 and 400 families had been turned over to us and we were anxious to do what we could to make the supplies go around.
“Gifts were collected in a storehouse not far from the Journal. Christmas came on Tuesday that year and we decided to pack the baskets on Sunday. Journal employees volunteered to help.
“The articles were to be brought over to the Journal office Saturday night after the employes had left. I went home expecting to come down early Sunday morning to supervise the packing of the baskets.
“Early Sunday morning I received a telephone call from the business manager of the paper. He informed me that there was everything from shoes to potatoes piled in the editorial and business rooms, that the truck drivers still had another load to bring over  and we had no place to put the things.
"A corps of about 25 worked all day Sunday packing baskets with food, toys and canned goods. We finished about 11 o’clock that night and had about two truck loads left over. We called the Salvation Army to take it to their store room so we could have the rooms cleared before employes came to work Monday morning.
“There were bushes of potatoes, carrots, a load of cabbages, bacon, hams, eggs, canned fruit, box after box of jelly, clothes, books, toys, – everything. That was a wonderful Christmas and we all felt happy when we saw the cartons being taken away in Journal trucks on Christmas eve for delivery to needy families.”
The article also described how Rhea Soper Eddy kept the Mary Lee Tucker department busy all year helping the community.
“It was during the depression years from 1929 through the 1930s that the department was called on many times over to help those in need. Here are some of the accomplishments listed by Mrs. Eddy during that time period.
“Bought medicine for the sick, gave out layettes, gave clothes to school children and high school boys and girls in particular, bought glasses for several children with defective eyesight, obtained cans for families who had been given vegetables and fruits but who had nothing in which to can them, averaged 175 interviews each Thursday during the four depression years, had children’s teeth fixed, saw that many children with ailments had medical attention, furnished milk to children in needy families, obtained work for men, women and high school girls, got pianos for two girls who wanted to take piano lessons (the lessons were furnished gratis by friends), bought an average of 200 pairs of shoes each Christmas for four years, got overshoes for children, sought legal advice for several families."
Rhea Soper Eddy passed away on Monday, January 16, 1950. Her obituary appeared on the front page of the paper that day.
Death Takes Rhea Eddy Early Today
Widely Known For Quarter-of-Century as Mary Lee Tucker
Mrs. Rhea Soper Eddy, woman’s editor of The Lorain Journal and head of the Mary Lee Tucker department of the newspaper for 25 years, died early this morning.
Ill for more than a year, she had continued to write the daily Mary Lee Tucker column almost until the last. From her bed, she directed the 1949 Christmas sharing program for the benefit of the old folks at the county home, the children at the Oberlin home and the underprivileged of the community – an annual program she helped institute and which she carried on for a score of years.
Never Had Harsh Word
In a speech recorded for the Christmas meeting of the Rotary club, she told something of her work and said she had found that nothing was more important than forbearance, tolerance and getting along with others by speaking kindly and refraining from anger.
Only a few days ago, a committee representing the women’s organizations of the city called upon her and presented her with a scroll. The scroll expressed appreciation of civic, service, fraternal, patriotic and other groups for “her many years of devoted and unselfish service to the community.”
Mrs. Eddy had spent months in St. Joseph’s hospital, but went home for Christmas. Her son, daughter-in-law and other loved ones were with her at the end.
Mrs. Eddy started in newspaper work as a reporter on the old Times-Herald on graduating from Lorain High School in 1913. She joined the staff of The Journal in 1924, following the death of her husband.
As society editor, she was one of the most widely known and respected women in the community, but she made the name of Mary Lee Tucker even wider known. Friend and counsellor, her advice was sought by hundreds on all manner of problems. And her counsel was always in keeping with her philosophy of speaking kindly and refraining from anger.
She lived in accordance with her advice. Associates on The Journal never heard her speak ill of anyone.
Came To Lorain in 1910
Mrs. Eddy was born at Hamilton, N.Y.. May 5, 1893 and came to Lorain with her parents at the age of 13. She graduated from Lorain High school June 13, 1913.
On Nov. 23, 1917, she was united in marriage to James Eddy who died in 1924 shortly after their son, J. William Eddy, was born.
She was a member of the Congregational church, director of the Beta Sigma Phi sorority, the Lorain Business and Professional Women’s club, Ohio Newspaper Women’s Association, Rotaryanns, Duquesne club, Lorain Sorosis, Lorain Sisterhood, at one time served on the Salvation Army board and was an honorary member of the exemplar club of Beta Sigma Phi, an honor recently bestowed upon her.
She was also an honorary member of many clubs and organizations thruout the city.
Surviving with her son, William, and his wife, Patricia Ann, are a grandson, Rex; her stepmother, Mrs. William T. Soper, and her mother-in-law, Mrs. Alice M. Eddy, all of whom resided together at 445 9th-st.
Funeral services will be held at 12 noon Wednesday at the Walter A. Frey Funeral home. Rev. Herbert Loomis of the Congregational church will officiate and burial will be in the family lot in Elmwood cemetery.
On  December 17, 1950 the Lorain Journal ran this wonderful tribute (below) to Rhea Soper Eddy on the editorial page.
Next: It’s showtime!
To donate to the Morning Journal’s Mary Lee Tucker Clothe-A-Child program, click here.

No comments: