Brendan Halvey & Marie Shields
Brendan Hynes Halvey Undated portrait of Brendan Halvey. was born on September 27, 1886 in Philadelphia to Irish immigrants Timothy Halvey and Margaret Brophy. Brendan’s father was a wool merchant who owned a warehouse on the city’s waterfront and his mother was a socialite and animal rights activist; I suspect both his parents were well known in the city’s Irish-American community and that the family was somewhat wealthy. They lived at 1739 West Diamond Street in North Philadelphia, and Brendan might have gone to school or attended mass at Our Lady of Mercy Church (which was about four blocks east) or St. Elizabeth’s Church (which was about six blocks west).
In late 1901, 15-year-old Brendan wrote an account of his experiences at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, where he was present for the event’s closing on November 2.
According to “family lore” he was expelled from St. Joesph’s Preparatory School, a Jesuit-run boys’ high school, in about 1902. There is no consensus as to why this happened, but my father and at least one of his siblings maintain that Brendan walked a mile south to Roman Catholic High School and enrolled there—without telling his parents why. My father also claims that Brendan bore a slight grudge against the Jesuits for the rest of his life. Regardless, he graduated from Roman Catholic High School’s “commercial course” in 1905.
Marie Knight Shields was born on May 28, 1883 in Philadelphia to James Shields and Mary Jane Knight. According to the 1900 census her father was “Supt. of Valets,” but he may have also worked as a bank clerk. Both of Marie’s parents were the children of Irish immigrants, and her father might have emigrated himself at a very young age. The family lived at 1302 North 18th Street in North Philadelphia in a home adjacent to the Church of the Gesu, where they probably attended mass.
In about 1901, Marie graduated from the Academy of Notre Dame at Rittenhouse Square, a Catholic high school for girls run by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She went on to become an active member of the Notre Dame alumnae association.
Both Brendan and Marie appear to have entered the workforce in the first decade of the twentieth century. City directories describe Brendan as a stenographer in 1907 and as a clerk in 1909; the 1910 census lists him as an oil company salesman (possibly for Texaco), and he would work in this industry for the next several decades. According to my father, Brendan sold oil and gas to blacksmiths and other laborers before cars were widespread. He continued to live on Diamond Street with his family until at least 1916.
In 1908, a city directory lists Marie as a stenographer, and the 1910 census reveals she was working at a “Trust Company.” It appears that Marie and her sister Helen, a public school teacher, became their family’s main providers after their father’s death. She was still living with her family in 1910.
Brendan and Marie must have met in North Philadelphia, although it’s hard to say when. The shortest routes from the Halvey residence to both St. Joesph’s Preparatory School and Roman Catholic High School would have taken Brendan past Marie’s house on North 18th Street—but I think it’s more likely that they met sometime after 1910. They married on November 4, 1916 at the Church of the Gesu Church of the Gesu is on the campus of the high school that allegedly expelled Brendan years earlier. in North Philadelphia. Brendan was 30, and Marie was 33. They would go on to have three children:
- Patricia Mary Halvey was born on October 13, 1917. She attended the same high school as her mother and married Philadelphia fireman John Edward Bense in 1949. She had five children before her death in 1999.
- Robert Shields Halvey was also born on October 13, 1917. He served in the US Army during World War II but was transfered to a non-combat role in Bolivia after the death of his younger brother in 1943. He later became a photographer at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital and took pictures for Philadelphia’s archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Standard & Times. He married Theresa Veronica Fischer in 1958 and had one child before his death in 2004.
- Richard Hovendon “Dick” Halvey was born on July 11, 1919. He graduated from Roman Catholic High School in 1942 and joined the US Army soon after. A member of the 1st Infantry Division, he probably participated in the Battle of Kasserine Pass in North Africa before being killed in or near the Algerian town of Tebessa on March 21, 1943. Patricia’s oldest son (my father) is named after Richard. He did not marry or have children.
On a 1918 draft card, Brendan reported his address as 219 East Upsal Street in Northwest Philadelphia and his job as a station inspector for “The Texas Co.” (i.e., Texaco). By 1919, the family moved to a home at 109 West Mount Airy Avenue in Philadelphia’s Mount Airy neighborhood, but they also briefly lived at 27 Morningside Avenue in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania in the same decade.
Marie Portrait of Marie Shields and her two older children in March 1918. She later captioned this photo “No fun for anyone.” appears to have started a writing career in the early 1920s that she would continue for the rest of her life. One bibliography reports that her short stories “The Reason for the Verdict” and “A Question of Rights” were published in the pulp magazine Breezy Stories in December 1923 and August 1924. At least two more stories (“Passing of a Great Lover” and “Madonna Blue”) were printed in Extension Magazine, a Catholic periodical that published popular fiction, in September and December 1932. In 1930, her story “The Monogram” won third prize in a contest conducted by the Catholic Press Association, and in 1942 she won first prize in the same contest for a story called “The Message.”
Sometime before 1930, Brendan, Marie, and their children to 519 Willow Avenue in Cheltenham Township, just outside of Philadelphia; I’m unsure of this house’s exact location. The same census also reports that Brendan was still working for an oil company, now as a salesman.
I suspect the 1930s were as difficult for Brendan and Marie as they were for most people in America. “Family lore” says that Brendan lost his job and almost all of his money in the early years of the Great Depression, forcing him to take a job as school custodian at Little Flower High School, an all-girls Catholic high school in North Philadelphia. However, according to his obituary he didn’t start work there until 1939, leading me to believe that he didn’t lose his oil company job immediately. Even if this theory is correct, there’s still a gap of several years in Brendan’s occupational history. According to some notes left by his son and daughter-in-law, Brendan briefly sold insurance during the 1930s. They remark that he refused to buy life insurance as a result of his experience in that industry.
Regardless, the family moved to 5323 North 13th Street before 1940, probably to be closer to Brendan’s workplace. The census that year also reports that all three of Brendan and Marie’s children were working as well.
In 1937, Marie started writing a newspaper column called “The Breviary for Laymen” which was picked up for syndication in the Catholic press. The column provided an analysis of the Roman Breviary, the Catholic liturgical book (now known as the Liturgy of the Hours) which contains prayers and scripture readings for each day of the year.
Marie died suddenly of a heart attack on March 10, 1942 at the age of 58 and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania. One year later, her son Richard was killed in North Africa while serving in the US Army.
Brendan was devastated by the loss of both his wife and son in such a short period of time, writing in a letter to Marie’s sister Helen:
I know in the past I have been accused of many things by many people—not that the charges ever worried me—but only of late can anyone say that I am absolutely licked. This morning I put Bob [his older son] on a train at North Philadelphia to return to camp[,] and the memory of a like trip there last July to start another soldier on the first lap of a one-way journey has had me “down” all day. […]
If there is a heaven, if there is a life after Taps, I know [Richard] and Marie are together and happy in the knowledge that they accomplished their earthly missions in a way that earned commendation from their friends and a great reward from their God. […]
I feel I have paid a big price these past months, and [I] also realize that such things happen for the best. If I am to be called upon to give another in this great cause[,] I hope God sends me strength enough to face it. […]
Brendan continued to work at Little Flower High School until his retirement in 1965. In one legendary incident, he asked his son-in-law to deliver a package to a nun teaching there—only for his son-in-law to discover that the box contained two bottles of gin. Brendan supplying the nuns with liquor was apparently a regular or semi-regular event. Sometime before 1950, he moved to 5909 North Marvine Street in the Fern Rock neighborhood of Philadelphia.
On January 15, 1955, Brendan married a second time to Jane P. Birmingham, an Irish-born dressmaker from Yonkers, New York. I cannot determine how they met, but they remained married for the rest of Brendan’s life.
Brendan died on September 28, 1974 at the age of 88 after suffering from emphysema. He was buried with his first wife in Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania.
Brendan Halvey’s and Marie Shields’s entries on my Ancestry.com tree (requires a subscription). A few additional sources (mostly Philadelphia city directories) are visible here.
Brendan Halvey’s and Marie Shields’s pages on FamilySearch (requires a free account).
Untitled blurb about “charity entertainment” given by eight-year-old Brendan at the family home; A PDF of a clipping is viewable here. The Times (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), April 8, 1894; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
“United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M3W9-C5F : accessed 12 December 2020), Brendan H Halvey in household of T F Halvey, Philadelphia city Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 812, sheet 5A, family 96, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,473.
“United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M37K-K6J : accessed 12 December 2020), Marie C Shields in household of Jas Shields, Philadelphia city Ward 29, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 715, sheet 4B, family 83, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,471.
“A Boy at Buffalo,” Brendan’s full account of his trip to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. Strangely, he does not mention President McKinley’s assassination, which happened two months before his visit. St. Michael’s Almanac. Society of the Divine Word, 1901. Original from New York Public Library, digitized by Google. Link
“Program, Twelth [sic] Annual Commencement of the Roman Catholic High School,” June 15, 1905. Via Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library online. Link
“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MGZ2-9W5 : accessed 12 December 2020), Brendan Halvey in household of Timothy F Halvey, Philadelphia Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 756, sheet 8B, family 168, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1403; FHL microfilm 1,375,416.
“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MG7F-FZD : accessed 12 December 2020), Marie K Shields in household of Mary J Shields, Philadelphia Ward 47, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 1206, sheet 8B, family 175, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1414; FHL microfilm 1,375,427.
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, U.S., Marriages, 1852–1968 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. Marriage Records. Pennsylvania Marriages. Various County Register of Wills Offices, Pennsylvania. Link (requires subscription)
Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., Marriage Index, 1885–1951 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Index, 1885–1951.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia marriage license index, 1885–1951.” Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Link (requires subscription)
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm. Link (requires subscription)
“United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MF18-VZR : accessed 12 December 2020), Brendan H Halvey, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing ED 622, sheet 7A, line 31, family 177, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 1624; FHL microfilm 1,821,624.
W. G. Contento and P. Stephensen-Payne, Eds., “The FictionMags Index,” 2019. Link
“Notre Dame Alumnae in Session Here Vision One World-Wide Federation,” A PDF of a clipping is viewable here. The Boston Globe, June 25, 1922; Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
“Miss Mary A. Barr of Boston Elected President of National Federation of Notre Dame Alumnae,” A PDF of a clipping is viewable here. The Boston Globe, June 26, 1922; Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHC1-8QW : accessed 12 December 2020), Brendon H Halvey, Cheltenham, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 24, sheet 22B, line 81, family 522, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 2081; FHL microfilm 2,341,815.
“Awards Short Story Prizes,” The Tablet (Brooklyn), May 31, 1930; Brooklyn, New York, USA.
“Plans Book Forum,” A PDF of a clipping is viewable here. Includes a photo of Marie. The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 3, 1935; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
“The Breviary for Laymen,” A PDF of a clipping is viewable here. The Tablet (Brooklyn), October 2, 1937; Brooklyn, New York, USA.
“United States Census, 1940,” In this census, Brendan and Marie’s son Robert is an “advertising solicitor,” their daughter Patricia is a “dairy store clerk,” and their son Richard is a “chemical manufacturing clerk.” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KQJG-SK3 : 28 January 2020), Brendanh Halvey, Ward 49, Philadelphia, Philadelphia City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 51-2125, sheet 6B, line 68, family 128, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 3752.
Death certificate of Marie Halvey; Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, PA; Pennsylvania (State). Death Certificates, 1906–1968; Certificate Number Range: 018651–021050. Link (requires subscription)
Obituary of Mrs. Marie Halvey; A PDF of a clipping is viewable here. The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 11, 1942; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
“Mrs. Halvey, Former Writer, Buried” A PDF of a clipping is viewable here. The Tablet (Brooklyn), March 28, 1942; Brooklyn, New York, USA.
“CPA Announces Winners in Literary Contest,” Marie’s story “The Message” won first prize in a 1942 contest—but she died before she could accept the award. Arkansas Catholic, April 17, 1942; Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. Link
“Find A Grave Index,” database, This headstone mentions a Josephine T. Enright who died in 1985; she was a close friend of Brendan’s sister Nina. FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV2T-4PFB : 13 September 2020), Marie Shields Halvey; Burial, Yeadon, Delaware, Pennsylvania, United States of America, Holy Cross Cemetery; citing record ID 73399540, Find a Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/73399540.
Obituary of Brendan H. Halvey; A PDF of a clipping is viewable here. The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 3, 1974; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.