Ed and Wilma

Dale Fehringer

Copyright 2019 by Dale Fehringer


Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Years ago, my aunt Margaret corralled me when I went to visit her. I had recently retired and was interested in writing; she had recently moved into a care home.

I want you to write the history of the Lacy family,” she told me, and she jabbed her index finger into my ribs. When Aunt Margaret asked you to do something you took it seriously.

So I set about putting together the story of our ancestors from the time they immigrated from Ireland. Along the way I ran across the story of Ed and Wilma. It’s a simple late-in-life love story, but a sweet one.

Edward (Ed) Lacy was born May 18, 1898, in the small farming town of O’Connor, Nebraska, the fifth child (third boy) of Michael and Anna Lacy, who had immigrated from Ireland. Ed went to local schools, then stayed at home after graduating from high school and helped his father run the family farm.

A few photos exist of Ed during that period of his life, generally taken on the farm, and he is usually in bib overalls. He was shy but hard-working, and he was dedicated to helping his father run the farm. He was 49 when he met Wilma.

Wilma McCoy, the oldest of 18 children, was born in 1906 and raised on a farm near Harvard, Nebraska. She obtained a teaching certificate and taught school in Spalding. It was there she met and dated her first husband, Joe McCoy. After they married, Joe and Wilma moved to Greeley, Nebraska (about nine miles southwest of O’Connor). They had six children (Larry, Don, Francis, Robert, Helen, and JoAnn). Francis drowned in a stock tank at age two in 1937.

The Depression was hard on Joe and Wilma, and Joe went from job to job, always hindered by asthma and arthritis. He quit farming because of his health and sold their farm equipment, but not their farmland. Joe went to Denver to live with his adopted sister and her husband, and to get a job that would support his family.

Joe died of a stroke December 8, 1945, at age 46 while he was in Denver, working at the Post Office, earning money to send home to Wilma.

At the time of Joe’s death, their four children ranged in age from 12 to 2. Joe and Wilma’s fifth child, JoAnn, was born one day after Joe died.

Wilma’s son, Don, remembers that his father’s body was shipped home from Denver and placed in the bedroom with Wilma, who was in bed after having given birth to JoAnn.

So Wilma held JoAnn in one arm and reached out the other to hold the hand of her deceased husband. She must have wondered that day what God had planned for her.

Don remembers her saying, “God has taken one away and given another.” That left quite an impression on him as a 10-year-old boy.

Following Joe’s death, Wilma raised the five children by herself. As her son Don recalled, “Here was this 39-year-old widow in a rented house with no income and five children to raise.” She and Joe had hung on to the land they inherited from his father -- one quarter section (160 acres) of homesteaded farmland. But now Wilma had a difficult decision to make: sell the land so she could qualify for government aid or keep the farm and try to get along without financial assistance. She decided to keep the land and somehow managed to get by. Those were lean years for Wilma and her family. A relative of Wilma’s later told her children that Wilma’s faith was not all that strong before all this, but afterwards she would go and sit in church and pray for the strength to cope with everything that was happening.

Wilma took in roomers in the house the family shared, and she planted a big vegetable garden each year. She sold their car because there was no money for gas and maintenance. She baked bread for the family and kept a milk cow and sold any extra milk to neighbors. There were always chickens, which produced eggs and meat. Larry and Don delivered newspapers to make a little cash for the family.

As if life wasn’t already challenging enough for Wilma, she had a hysterectomy in 1948, and a year later Don and Helen were diagnosed with polio.
Ed Lacy met Wilma McCoy in 1948 when he responded to an advertisement she placed in a newspaper to sell hay. Ed was in the market to buy hay, and he later told Wilma that he came by to look at the hay, but also to look at her. He must have liked what he saw. Until he met Wilma, Ed had been a bachelor farmer who worked, attended church, and occasionally had supper in town. It seemed he would never marry. But he and Wilma seemed to click. They dated, Wilma’s children eventually accepted Ed, and Ed became part of Wilma’s family.

Ed and Wilma married in the chapel at the school in Greeley in November 1949. After the wedding, Ed moved into Wilma’s house and helped raise her five children, who by then ranged in age from 16 to 4.

Wilma’s son, Don, remembers Ed as a kind and gentle man and a good stepfather. Going from being a bachelor to a stepfather of five, he says, must have been daunting.

Wilma’s three oldest children (Larry, Robert, and Don) respected Ed and appreciated the help he gave their mother. Because they were old enough to know their birth father, they thought of Ed as their stepfather, and they called him “Ed.”

The two youngest children (Helen and JoAnn) never really knew their birth father, and they called Ed “Dad”. They treated him as their father.

Wilma’s daughter Helen remembers Ed as a wonderful man and says he was very good to Wilma and her children. Ed wasn’t real outgoing, she remembers, but he was friendly and had a good laugh.

Ed and Wilma ran a very busy farm. Ed was a huge help to Wilma and the boys, and they appreciated each other. Wilma had a partner and Ed had a family. How nice for them to go to school events together, and family picnics, and to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries!

Their lives involved raising the kids and keeping up the farm and they were active in their community and their church. They occasionally took vacations, especially when the kids were older, often driving to western Nebraska or Wyoming to see Ed’s relatives. I think it’s fair to say those were their happiest days.

Wilma died in her sleep in a nursing home in 1982. About that time, Ed suffered several stokes, which left him partially paralyzed. He moved into a nursing home in Greeley, Nebraska, where he spent the rest of his life. His stepdaughter, Helen, remembers him being frustrated by not being able to care for himself. He passed away in Greeley, Nebraska June 11, 1985 at age 86. Ed and Wilma are buried next to Ed’s parents in the cemetery in O’Connor.

Ed and Wilma’s story is one of perseverance and kindness. When Wilma’s world fell apart she persevered; when Ed met Wilma he was kind. Together they created a marriage and a family. Their story brings hope for happiness and love for all of us.

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