Margaret (Marge) was born September 1, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois to Violetta Agnes Senn (1902-1997) and John Leo Clifford (1902-1980). She had two sisters, Mary Elizabeth and Barbara Louise, and a younger brother Thomas Richard. In the 1930 census the family lived at 2204 1/2 Miami Street, South Bend, Indiana.
In late 1947, Marge met Billie Alford at a dance club named Palais Royale in South Bend, Indiana. Her parents disapproved of the relationship because he was not Catholic. Bill was brought up Protestant and converted to Catholicism for the marriage. On September 1, 1948 Marge married Billie Thomas Alford (1922-2008) from Hot Springs, Arkansas. Grandpa (Bill) was working on the road as a pipe fitter when he met Marge. He continued to do that until about 1956. He eventually became a clerk at the Mishawaka, Indiana Post Office until he retired.
In 1949 she gave birth to my father, Michael. Later I learned that they tried to have more children, but were unable. She was very proud of Mike and kept every report card and newspaper clipping from his involvement in the Boy Scouts to his eventual college graduation at Notre Dame. I am fortunate that she made a scrapbook for me with many photographs and all his merit badges. I just wish I would have asked her more about her own life.
My dad shared with me, “As a kid I remember him (Dad) coming home for the weekend a couple times a month. This was always a bone of contention for mom, and he finally got a local job. Dad moved out of the home twice. The first time was in 1965, just a few months before I turned 16. The second time was a week before I graduated high school in 1967. The second time he swore he was not coming back, which put major dampers on my high school graduation party and led to questions about financing for Notre Dame. Neither time did he stay away for more than a couple of months.”
“Dad worked as a distribution clerk in the Mishawaka post office. He basically sorted the mail for the mail carriers. Near the end of his career he switched to the customer window so that he could get better retirement. He only lasted a few months at it because at the time the window clerk was responsible for any shorts, which he had a lot of. He complained till the day he died that he should have stayed a distribution clerk.”
“Mom and dad bought the house sometime in the early 50s on land contract. It originally was a slab house that only had the front bedroom, living room, and kitchen with an outhouse in the back. Dad and my uncle did most of the work to add the bathroom, back bedroom, and basement. Dad did most of the work to add the front porch, driveway and garage. I remember as a kid playing in a huge mound of dirt probably when they built the basement. Mom insisted on indoor plumbing before we moved in, but I remember being yelled at to stay away from the spot the outhouse had been lest I fall through. They also owned a lake cottage on West Saddlebag Lake near Marcellus, Michigan for a few years (mom worked to get that money together).”
“As a kid we had the only house on our side of the street. Mom and dad bought the empty lot that covered the house next to us and the house grandpa and grandma (Clifford) lived in some time in the early seventies. Grandpa had lost his vision and mom usually helped them run errands. Grandpa's sisters, Marie and Eleanor, had money and offered to build them a house if they supplied the land, so mom and dad subdivided the lot and they moved to the new house in the late 70s.”
Marge worked as a bookkeeper/secretary off and on during her lifetime. One of the places she worked was Edwards Iron Works. My dad had his first paying job there as a sophomore in high school. Grandma worked whenever they needed money, which included times when house repairs were needed, illnesses occurred, I went to college, or dad moved out (twice that I know of). She probably worked about 20-25 years of her life at one place or another.
I was fortunate to get to see Grandma quite often while I was growing up. I would often go to her house and sit at the kitchen table and color in my coloring books while she would watch her soap operas. Then we’d watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. I always thought she knew everything and would have cleaned up if she ever went on the shows.
Once my parents divorced I saw Grandma less frequently. It was a nice thing that Great Grandma & Grandpa Clifford lived just down the block and I was able to go and visit them as well. When I was 13 my grandparents took me on a trip to California and back. It’s one of those experiences that have had a special place in my heart. I remember it pretty clearly and often reference it when I’m talking with friends.
Grandma and Grandpa always seemed to have a pretty volatile relationship. Grandma was always pretty vocal about when Grandpa was “wrong” and often corrected or argued with him. It wasn’t till I was much older that I came to realize that they did actually love each other.
When Grandma had a stroke that left her with very little speech and only able to move her left side it was hard to see her that way. Grandma was always quite opinionated and now she couldn’t really express herself. She could still laugh and smile though so you could certainly tell that she was still “with it” and following the conversation. The last time that I visited before she passed away I was able to share with her a small book I had put together remembering our trip across the US. I read it aloud to her and though she was disoriented, I like to think that she knew how often I thought of that trip and appreciated what she had shared with me. A week later she did pass away and though I felt very sad, I was glad that she was finally released from the pain and frustration she had felt for her last few years. I picture her up in heaven giving us all a piece of her mind on the latest political matter and kicking butt at Jeopardy.