Peeking out from a random box in an obscure antique mall in Brookfield is not where you’d expect to find an intimate, sometimes painful, and extremely detailed portrait of one of Youngstown’s most powerful families.
But that’s where a special look into the accomplished Wick family was found.
Mary Wick was a daughter of James Lippincott Wick, a leading Youngstown industrialist who ran Falcon Bronze Company and was a top civic activist in the city for much of the 20th century. With his wife, Clare, they championed many of city and Valley organizations that remain vital still today, including Youngstown College, Mill Creek Park Board, Youngstown Chamber of Commerce, YMCA, Mahoning Valley Historical Society and more.
On the sidelines watching those heady activities were the four Wick children, including Mary. She died in 1999.
The special look that was left behind was Mary’s five deeply personal scrapbooks – discarded and left to be discovered by a stranger who just happened to be a historian and writer.
“I feel I was meant to find them,” said Lillian Reynolds Reeher of the scrapbooks.
She has had them for the better part of 20 years and just now turned them into a self-published book, “Her Name Was Mary Wick.” Reeher has published several historical books in the Grove City, Pa., area. She’s a retired teacher and worked for a spell at the Sharon Herald newspaper.
The first scrapbook starts in 1917 – a year after Mary was born. The fifth book starts in 1936 and ends about 1940.
In chronological order and captured in real time as the eclectic Wick life evolved over 20 years, the five scrapbooks are a collection of journal entries, photos, programs, funeral flowers, wrappers, ticket stubs and many other things that allow an inside and intimate look at this epic city family.
And they were for sale in a ho-hum Brookfield flea market.
“I have moved twice, and I kept the scrapbooks with me,” said Reeher. “I would open them from time to time – and eventually, I bonded with the books.”
More so, she bonded with Mary.
Reeher’s memory of when she exactly bought them or how much she paid is foggy. She thinks she bought them before Mary’s 1999 death – the assumption being, the books were castoffs from a house clean-out or auction, she guesses.
Not only does Reeher find special meaning that she kept them through two moves, she also ponders how important they were to Wick. The last items were entered in 1940 – 59 years before her death. Yet they stayed with her until the end of her life – even if they ended up in a flea market.
“Why did she keep them all these years?” Reeher wonders. “I wanted to get this story back to Youngstown.”
At almost 200 pages, Reeher is making the book available for nonprofit groups to buy and sell. She has no desire to profit from the book. It’s a passion project for Reeher – perhaps because of a kinship she developed for a young woman she never knew.
In listening to Reeher, you could sense her drawing on some similarities in their lives.
“Mary was detail-oriented. She made notes about everything. She kept so many things,” said Reeher. “In going over it and over it and over it, you get a deeper picture of the complicated life she lived. I was afraid no one else would get [what Wick was trying to tell].”
Some parts of the scrapbooks and Wick’s life that stand out for Reeher:
As a 12-year-old, Wick had an entry that said, “My Boy Friend’s Letter.” And when you opened the letter, it was a letter from her father.
A Vindicator article went into detail about how Mary, as a teen, was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. In her scrapbook, Wick saved that newspaper clipping and wrote “Crazy” next to it.
Wick’s art talent was exceptional. She worked for a time as a medical illustrator for the startup Johns Hopkins University Hospital.
Many photos were included, including her brother, Warner Arms Wick, childhood photos from around Youngstown and college events.
At Mount Holyoke College, she was there when the all-female college hired its first male president. Protests erupted, and Wick was in the middle of them.
Her 1937 budget for a Chicago trip included line-item spending for travel, pleasure, education and miscellaneous.
In the book, Reeher moves back and forth between her own writing and direct writings from Wick.
“I always liked to read personal letters,” Reeher admits. “You learn so much from a person. It’s like talking to them – but it’s not.”
For such a detailed life’s work, Wick’s last entry was rather innocuous.
She spent $57 on clothes in Baltimore – presumably for her Johns Hopkins work.
But true to her passion for detailing her life, Wick’s $57 was broken down into 15 items – including 60 cents for a dress pattern.
If you have an interest in the book, email me and I will connect you with Reeher.
Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at email@example.com. He blogs, too, on Vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.