Florence Eugenia Vadnais (part 2)

Florence’s future husband, John Jule (I’ve also seen his middle name as Joseph) O’Neil was born on August 25, 1903 in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota.15  He was the youngest of 7 children (4 boys and 3 girls) born to John and Edith Gabrella (Rosekrans) O’Neil.  At the time of John’s birth, his father was 48 years old, his mother was 40 years old and his 6 siblings ranged in age from 13 to 24 years old.

Florence and John were married by Judge Frank McNamee on November 13, 1947 in Clark County, Nevada.  Florence was 30 years old and John was 44 years old.  Their witnesses were W. L. Bell and Margaret Hinson; I’ve found them on other marriage certificates where Judge McNamee officiated, so I believe that Florence and John did not know them personally.

Florence and John in Clark County, Nevada Index to Marriage Certificates16
Clark County Marriage Certificate for John J. O’Neil and Florence E. Vadnais – November 13, 194717

After their marriage, Florence and John moved to California where John became the proprietor of a lithography and silk screen printing business called Serigraphers.

Florence and John

Their first child, Michele Vadnais O’Neil, was stillborn on June 22, 1949 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, Los Angeles County, California.18  Florence and John must have been devastated.  Michele was buried in an unmarked grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.  

John and Florence are enumerated in the 1950 U. S. census; he is still a silk screen printer and she is a homemaker.19

John and Florence O’Neil in the 1950 U. S. census

On October 16, 1950 in Los Angeles, California, 33 years old, Florence gave birth to their second daughter, Mary Marguerite “Peggy” O’Neil.20

Circa 1951 – Florence, Peggy and John O’Neil – the proud parents with their healthy daughter
Do you see how Peggy is holding her Dad’s finger?
John J. O’Neil California business card

On July 8, 1952, almost 21 months after Peggy’s arrival, Patricia Ellen “Patty” was born.21  Not long after Patricia’s birth, the family moved when John took a faculty position as the head of the department of ceramics at Father Flanagan’s Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska.

1954 – John watching a young man throwing a pot – Omaha Boys Town Department of Ceramics

John Patrick, their last child, was born in Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska on December 1, 1953.22

Florence had 2 toddlers and a baby to care for when in 1954 her husband John got sick with a heart ailment.  He spent several weeks in the hospital and came home the day after their 7th wedding anniversary on November 14, 1954.  On Monday, November 15, 1954, at 2:15 a.m., the 51 year old John, passed away in his sleep.  The direct cause of death is given as an acute myocardial infarction, a heart attack.  I cannot begin to imagine Florence’s grief; she was a 37 year old widow with 3 small children, the oldest only 4 years old.

John J. O’Neil Nebraska death certificate #11031, November 15, 195423
John J. O’Neil obituary in the Omaha World-Herald, November 16, 195424
(I think he had owned his California company, Sericrafters [Serigraphers], for about 2.5 years, not 25 years.)

Services were held at the Boys Town Chapel in Omaha and then John was transported back to Minnesota where services were held at St. Mary of the Lake Church with burial at St. Mary of the Lake Cemetery in White Bear Lake.25

John J. O’Neil Minnesota Obituary
At the time of his death only John’s sister Catherine (Mrs. William Freeburg) was still alive.  Both of his parents and his 5 other siblings had preceded him in death.
Prayer card for John J. O’Neil
John J. O’Neil grave marker at St. Mary of the Lake Cemetery

With the support of her family, Florence moved back to the White Bear Lake area to raise her children.

1956 – John, Patty and Peggy

Florence and her children lived with her sister Leona and her family for about a year before moving into a small home on Matomedi Avenue in Matomedi.  She supported her children by working a variety of jobs, sometimes having 2 to 3 jobs at once.  A few of the places she worked include: Hayden’s Hardware at Al Abar Shopping Center, Applebaum’s grocery store as a cashier and Lundgren Hardware in White Bear.

An avid and skilled bowler, Florence joined the Roy Novotny Sporting Goods team in 1957.  Team members included her sister-in-law Bev Vadnais, Doris Thein, Arlyne Novotny, Bernice Benson and Mildred Nelson.  A powerful bowler with a strong hook, Florence used a 16 pound 2-finger bowling ball, a type usually used by men.  By 1958 the team won the league championship with Florence being the highest average bowler of the group.  That same year the team placed 5th in the St. Paul City Association Bowling Tournament.

Front page of the White Bear Press, May 15, 195826
Another picture of the bowling team – left to right: Bev Vadnais, Florence O’Neil, Doris Thein, Bernice Benson, Arlyne Novotny and Mildred Nelson

In the early 1960s Florence, with the help of her family, bought and renovated the old Bloom house at 4825 Bloom Avenue (the old address was 523 Bloom Avenue) in White Bear Lake.

2018 – 4825 Bloom Avenue

Florence married widower Marvin Harry Smith on July 5, 1965 at St. Mary of the Lake Church in White Bear Lake; Marvin was 54 years old and Florence was 48 years old.27  Marvin, along with 3 of his 5 children joined Florence and her children at her Bloom Avenue home.  Florence and Marvin were married almost 8 years when Marvin passed away on June 14, 1973.  He was buried at St. Mary of the Lake Cemetery.28

St. Mary of the Lake church record showing Florence Vadnais’ marriage to Harry M. Smith [Marvin Smith] on July 5, 1965

After Marvin’s death, Florence continued on with her job in the office of her family’s business, White Bear Oil Company.  When she retired from White Bear Oil Company, Florence sold her home on Bloom Avenue and moved in with her son John and his family for a few years.

Circa 1985 – Florence at work in the White Bear Oil Company office on the northeast corner of 4th Street and Bald Eagle Avenue in White Bear Lake

In the early 1990s Florence went to live with her brother Charles and his wife Florence to help with Florence’s care.  After Charles’ wife Florence passed away in 1992 Florence made one last move to her daughter Peggy’s and son-in-law John’s home on Bald Eagle Avenue in White Bear Lake.  During her 16 years with them she kept quite busy.  Peggy, John and their family were fortunate in that Florence loved to cook, was a willing launderer and a skilled house cleaner.  Florence spent her leisure time with friends and family.  She loved to play cards.  Although her daughter Patty lived out of state, Florence would spend periods of time with her and her family and would help not only with the family, but would also work as an employee at Patty’s business, putting labels on ID tags.  Florence kept busy doing a variety of things including: babysitting for the Barrett family in Mahtomedi, delivering Meals on Wheels and coordinating funeral luncheons.  Her daughter Peggy told me, “she was a caregiver.”  Florence at 79 years old was written about in the 1995 family newsletter: “If she’s not making some of the best food ever presented to a family, she is playing bingo, playing cards, being a caretaker for an elderly woman, going on the latest adventure with the seniors, having lunch with sisters and friends, organizing funeral luncheons, watching the Twins play (at Wrigley field), house-sitting, baby-sitting, reading, working for O’Neil Enterprises [Patty’s company is Marketing Solutions Advantage and Global Healthcare Marketing] and playing the organ. Good for her!”29

Circa 1995 – Florence
Florence and her family at the 1995 Vadnais family picnic

Florence passed away from cancer on Sunday, April 5, 2009 at 91 years, 9 months, and 28 days old.   

Florence Eugenia Smith Minnesota Death Certificate #28327430
Florence Vadnais O’Neil Smith obituary in the White Bear Press on April 15, 200931

Services for Florence were held at St. Mary of the Lake Church on Thursday, April 9, 2009 and she was buried alongside her husband, John O’Neil, at St. Mary of the Lake Cemetery.32

Florence O’Neil Smith grave marker at St. Mary of the Lake Cemetery

Thanks for visiting, come back soon,

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Footnotes for Florence Eugenia Vadnais

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