Friday, November 23, 2007

Alma Bessie (Richmond) Seaver (1882-1962)

Alma Bessie Richmond was born on 16 February 1882 in Killingly, Connecticut, the seventh child and fourth daughter of Thomas and Julia (White) Richmond. The family was active in the Episcopal Church in Killingly and Putnam, and had a rich musical tradition and abilities. The Thomas Richmond family moved to Leominster, Massachusetts before 1895. Her father was a foreman in a textile mill, first in Burrilville, Rhode Island, then in Putnam, Connecticut and finally in Leominster, Massachusetts.

She married Frederick Walton Seaver on 21 June 1900 in Leominster, Massachusetts. They had seven children - Marion born in 1901, Evelyn born in 1903, Stanley born in 1905 and died in 1910, Ruth born in 1907, Frederick born in 1911, Edward born in 1913 and Geraldine born in 1917.

Bess had exceptional musical talent, and was taught by her father, who was a choir director and tenor singer, and her mother, who was an organist, piano player and alto singer. As a pianist, she played very difficult pieces, especially Chopin, her favorite composer. After taking organ lessons, she played the church organ as a teenage girl at St. Marks Episcopal Church in Leominster for several years before her wedding in 1900. After her marriage, she stopped playing the organ because of family responsibilities (seven babies in 17 years). In about 1923, she again was organist at St. Marks until 1941 when her husband was ill.

After his death, Bess moved with her daughter Geraldine to Northampton for a time. After about two years, she moved back to an apartment in Leominster to be nearer family and friends, and took jobs as music director and organist at a Methodist church in Fitchburg and as the organist at the Episcopal church in Whalom. Gerry says "She played music instinctively... she memorized so quickly that she could play one thing after the other without any music in front of her because she'd memorized it."

Gerry also says "...her life was pretty hectic trying to take care of all those kids. The thing that saved her was the fact that she had the piano. She would go to that piano right after dinner, I remember very well. She would go religiously, and leave the dishes for the girls, and sit down and play the piano for at least two hours, sometimes longer... many a night I have gone to bed and listened to the strains of Chopin coming from downstairs..."

Her son, Edward Seaver, described his mother: "My mother was a very beautiful woman, my early memories of her were with beautiful black hair with a swatch of white coming right up the middle. I used to love to watch her sitting at the vanity combing her hair. She was a very nice looking woman. As the family grew up and expanded and the grandchildren started to come, she just adored every one of them, and they, in turn, thought the world of her. She was always attentive to the children, always listening to their problems"
Bess and her daughter Geraldine traveled by train to San Diego, California in July 1942 to attend the wedding of her son, Frederick Seaver. In 1959, Bess accompanied Walter and Evelyn (Seaver) Wood to California, driving from and back to New England. This was the only time that Bess saw her three California grandsons.

Bess died of gall bladder cancer on 29 June 1962 in Leominster, Massachusetts. She is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Leominster with her husband and young son, Stanley.

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