Last week, Mary Jane Wilcox Crothers passed away. She was one of those people who just made me smile.
I first met her more than 40 years ago in the emergency room at Memorial Hospital. My son, Mike, had fallen off his bike and had a large cut on his forehead. He was bleeding and we were very concerned. Mary Jane was the nurse in charge. I remember the young doctor on call saying, “The mother will have to leave while I stitch him up.” The look on my face must have said it all. I wanted to stay and Mary Jane realized that. She turned to the doctor and said, “I believe his mother needs to be here,” and so I stayed with my young son. I loved her technique and she had my admiration after that.
I would run into her occasionally around town and she always had a smile on her face and lots to say. It was always an animated conversation and one where I walked away smiling. In 2002, I wrote about her and here are excerpts from that column to help you know her a little better:
She served nursing well (Off the Hook 2002)
She was born in 1925 to Lyda and Fred Wilcox. The family lived in a home on W. 3rd St. in Marysville. Mary Jane was very proud that her father was the son and grandson of Civil War veterans.
Her father was a mail carrier and also quite an enterprising gentlemen. He had a second job, which was his own business and consisted of two summer lunch stands, one at the corner of Raymond Road and West Fifth Street and the other at the present site of the Dairy Queen at Five Points. In the 1930s, that was on the edge of a large field where the town ended. Her dad was way ahead of his time in this business. He had an early version of carhops, which would take your order for hamburgers, homemade potato salad and pie, and when ready, it was delivered to your car.
Mary Jane also remembered the train station in Marysville. It was on North Maple Street across the street from the former Scott’s Taylor plant and was a very busy place in the 1930s. Passenger trains headed all over the country from there. One of the most popular destinations was Columbus, where Mary Jane and her mother often traveled. Imagine the convenience of riding the train, doing your shopping and coming home without ever having to drive your car.
Many regularly boarded the train in the early morning to work or shop in Columbus. Others went late in the afternoon to have dinner and see a movie. Then they would return on the last train about midnight. Wouldn’t that be nice today?
In 1938, Mary Jane’s father started another business which became known as Wilcox’s Restaurant (Its slogan was, “The biggest little restaurant in town”). It was located in the building, since demolished, beside what is now PNC Bank on East Fifth Street. Fred was a great cook and the restaurant became known for his home cooking.
Butler’s restaurant was, however, the teen hangout. Mary Jane said Tony Butler was a kind and apparently tolerant man known for breaded veal sandwiches and outstanding hot fudge sundaes. It was the place to go after school and the movies, located where Casa Fiesta used to be on West Fifth Street (now a vacant, grassy lot.)
The downtown was flourishing in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Mary Jane said it was a Saturday night town. That’s when the farmers came to town and their families would shop. All the stores including dress shops, department stores, shoe stores and hat shops were open.
The Oakland Hotel, located on the downtown square, (site of the Bicentennial Building today), had a formal dining room. The pool hall (Casa Fiesta now) served hot roasted peanuts from a window which opened onto Main Street. This was to accommodate the proper ladies who didn’t want to enter the pool hall.
During high school, Mary Jane played the saxophone in the Marysville High School marching band and that’s when she first met Bob Crothers, one year her senior. Speech and drama were her other loves and that involved speech contests and dramatic readings. Later, after her daughters were born, she returned to volunteer at MHS as an assistant director for school plays.
Her first job at age 15 was working for Bruce Gaumer at the Union County Journal helping print election ballots. After graduation from high school in 1943, she enrolled in the White Cross School of Nursing. The hospital was in downtown Columbus. It later moved and was renamed Riverside Methodist Hospital.
Nursing was different then. There were few antibiotics except sulfa, until after the war. Penicillin came into use then and made a big difference in saving lives. She said then most pneumonia and heart attack patients were in oxygen tents for weeks at a time and many pneumonia patients didn’t survive.
She graduated in three years, going nearly year-round. Joining the Cadet Nurse Corps helped pay for school and also obligated its members during their last six months of training to help treat the war wounded. Fortunately, World War II had ended, so in 1947 she returned to Marysville to work for Dr. Harold Stricker.
Now back in town, she and Bob Crothers renewed their relationship and married in 1948.
They had two daughters, Lynn and Mary Ann. They also had a granddaughter, Mackenzie.
As a registered nurse. Mary Jane always had a job. She served the Union County Health Department, Memorial Hospital and Crippled Children’s Association in Columbus. Bob retired from the Union County Engineers office in 1985 and he and Mary Jane moved to Savannah, Georgia. Two years later his health was failing, so they returned to Marysville. He passed away in 1994.
She later worked for Dr. Malcolm MacIvor and when time allowed, she liked to read, garden, shop and play bridge.
Nursing was the perfect profession for her. This kind, concerned, compassionate lady was a great conversationalist and a joy to be around.
(Melanie Behrens – firstname.lastname@example.org)
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