CATHERINE EVELYN COFFEY
Born December 18, 1907 – Cleveland, Ohio
Baptized St. Colman’s December 29, 1907
with John and Jane Cooney as sponsors.
Died July 14, 2001 – Detroit, Michigan
I know so little about this lovely lady. I only met her once, in Boston in the summer of 1949 when I was fifteen and she was 42. She was less than five feet tall and at 5’9", I towered over her. She was delightful, bubbly, effervescent, and utterly fascinating.
In 1992, when I was deep into genealogy, I called and talked with her about family. She knew only bare facts and eventually I sent her narratives with what I had learned of the family.
Her father, Timothy D. Coffey, was my Grandmother Margaret Coffey Flynn’s baby brother, so Evelyn was my father’s first cousin. Evelyn never knew what the D. in his name represented. It is possible it was Daniel for his father, or it could have been Denis. Four of the five sons in the family had D. as a middle initial, and we only know that in the case of the oldest son, it stood for Denis.
Timothy apparently was the only Coffey sibling, other than my grandmother, who had children. He married Mary Jane Cooney on January 30. 1907, in Cleveland, Ohio. He called her "Mary Love," and they had two daughters, Evelyn and Rose. He died when the girls were quite small, and their yearning for the father they never knew is expressed quite poignantly in Evelyn's poem:
To my father
(who died too soon)
I don't know
where you are:
where lies the essence
that once was loved
as I am loved;
where stills the heart
that loved ---
in love to make me.
Breath and bone of you
you whom I cannot
Dreams you knew,
you left me;
loves you felt,
Death has not tamed
the wild heart
or chained the feet
There is no where
for you to lie
except in me.
(Attached to a copy of this poem is this note. Was it written to her sister Rose?
“I wonder if you’ll like it, Honey. It’s the first time I’ve said anything to him, and the thought of it made me cry. All my love, Evelyn”)
Mary Jane supported her girls working as a seamstress. During the summer while she worked, the girls attended a playground program near their home. Evelyn described herself and Rose as "dirty little girls on a playground," when a lady, Helen Jeanette Wheeler, found them. She was president of the Ballet Masters of America and arranged for the children to have dancing lessons as well as appropriate costumes for performances. Eventually she created a scholarship for Evelyn to go with her to dance in New York, where Evelyn performed. Evelyn was very tiny and must have been a beautiful dancer. When she was quite elderly, a neighbor in Detroit described how she came down the stairs, placing her feet like a dancer.