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Peter Born in 1939
Kalamazoo, 1939-1941. Peter Alfred Biggins was born breech November 8, 1939, at Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 1939, there were 48 states in the Union. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President of the United States.
Peter was born 364 days after his sister, Emily Jane.
Peter was baptized November 19 at St. Augustine Church by Father Raphael Dunigan. His godparents were Jack Covington and his aunt Marian Drueke. In 1951, a new church was built and, in 1971, Kalamazoo became a diocese and the church became St. Augustine Cathedral.
Peter's father was a corrugated box salesman for Container Corporation of America. He had a company car: a 1938 Chevrolet Master Business Coupe. The list price new was $648. Specs: 85 horsepower, 6 cylinders straight, 80 mph top speed, 17 mpg fuel economy.
Peter is half German and half Irish. Peter's maternal grandparents, William and Rose Smith Drueke, lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan in a house they owned at 120 Grand Avenue NE, about 50 miles north of Kalamazoo. William was a second generation American of German descent and owned a game manufacturing company. Rose was a fourth generation American of German descent.
Peter's paternal grandparents, Leslie and Emily Foy Biggins, lived in the Lincoln Park community of Chicago in an apartment building they owned at 2318 N. Sheffield Avenue in St. Vincent DePaul Parish. Leslie was a third generation American of Irish descent and had his own waterproofing business. Emily was a second generation American of Irish descent.
In 1940 or 1941, Peter's family moved a mile and a half south to another house in Kalamazoo at 1518 Evanston Avenue. Peter's brother, James Alfred, was born at Borgess Hospital on July 15, 1941.
Glendale, 1941-1942. In 1941, Peter's father was transferred to St. Louis, and the family moved to Sappington Road in Glendale, a suburb of St. Louis.
Kirkwood, 1942-1944. Not too long after that, the family moved to a newly-built house at 400 Fairwood Lane in Kirkwood, another suburb of St. Louis. Peter's sister Sarah Jane was born on February 6, 1943, while they were living there.
Webster Groves, 1946-1948. At some point between 1946 and 1952, Peter's father joined Union Bag & Paper Corporation. In any event, his job took him to St. Louis. Peter's parents bought a home at 200 Parkhurst Terrace in Webster Groves, a suburb of St. Louis. The house was across the street from a plant wildlife sanctuary.
The family lived in Holy Redeemer Parish. The children went to Holy Redeemer School. Peter went to second and third grades there.
He became a St. Louis Cardinal fan when they had Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Marty Marion, and Harry the Cat Brecheen.
On June 7, 1947, Peter's brother, William Alfred, was born.
On hot days in the summer, the family would go swimming at Treecourt, along the Meramec River at 2499 Marshall Road in Valley Park, 7 miles southwest of Webster Groves. They also spent time at the St. Louis Zoo in Forest Park.
Wilmette, 1948-1963. In 1948, Peter's father was relocated to Chicago. His parents sold the house in Webster Groves and bought a house at 806 Oakwood Avenue in Wilmette, a suburb just north of Chicago. Peter went to St. Francis Xavier School, starting in fourth grade there.
Peter was in the Boys choir in 1950 and 1951. He was an Altar Boy from 1949 to 1953.
Peter played football and basketball at St. Francis Xavier School. In basketball, he was a second string forward. He was a good set shooter but not a good dribbler or jump shooter. In football, he was third string center.
In February 1952, Peter's father was promoted by Union Bag & Paper Corporation to Western Division sales manager of corrugated containers. His biggest account was Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis.
In 1953, Peter and four others from his eighth grade class at St. Francis Xavier went on to study for the priesthood at Quigley Preparatory Seminary. Quigley, the seminary of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, is located at 103 E. Chestnut Street on the Near North Side of Chicago. There he took, among other subjects, three years of Latin, English, and religion; two years of Greek; a one year of German and general science. In his sophomore year at Quigley, he won the basketball shooting contest.
At Quigley, Saturday was a school day, but Thursday was a day off. One Thursday, May 17, 1956, a fellow student arranged for a group of students to be Andy Frain ushers at Comiskey Park for a game between the White Sox and the Yankees. Peter, a Cub fan, was ball boy on the left field line. The Yankees won 10-3. Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, and Billy Martin were playing for the Yankees. Casey Stengel was the manager. Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, Minnie Monoso, and Sherm Lollar were playing for the White Sox. The Yankees went on to win the World Series that year, beating the Brooklyn Dodgers 4-3 in the 7th game. The White Sox finished third in the American League. The fellow student was from Queen of All Saints Parish, also the parish of Andy Frain.
On January 18, 1956, Peter's grandfather, William Francis Drueke, died of an abdominal aortic aneurism at age 72 at Berea College Hospital in Berea, Kentucky. He and Peter's grandmother Rose were driving to Florida for a two-month vacation. Following a funeral mass at St. Stephen's Church in Grand Rapids, he was buried at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
Peter had a succession of foreign cars. In 1954, he learned how to drive on his parents' used red 1951 Hillman Minx drop-head coupe. In 1955, he bought a new Volkswagen Beetle.
In 1956, he bought his parents' used green 1951 Rover 75. The Rover had an engine and side panels made of aluminum. With his friend Bob Ford as navigator, he participated in a number of sports car rallies and concours d'elegance, winning various dash plaques.
In 1957, he bought a new blue Triumph TR3. In 1958, he bought a used black TR2. In 1960, he bought a used Beetle. In 1964, he bought a used white 1962 Rover 2000.
During the first two summers while Peter was in college, he worked as a mail clerk at the First National Bank and Trust Company of Evanston. During the last two summers, he had a job with the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District. He rode a red Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a side tank used to spray sewers with DDT. (Rachel Carson's bestseller Silent Spring exposed the hazards of DDT in 1962. In 1972, the newly established Environmental Protection Agency banned DDT.)
For several Christmases, Peter was a mailman in Evanston.
On May 25, 1959, Peter's grandfather Leslie Biggins died at age 82 in Chicago. Peter's grandparents were living in an apartment that their son Richard had built onto their house. Following a funeral Mass at the Church of St. Juliana in Chicago, he was buried in the Foy plot in Mount Carmel Cemetery in Section B, Block 2, Lot 19.
In April 1960, Peter was a Federal census taker in Rogers Park (his pages will be made public in 2032).
In July 1960, the Republican National Convention in Chicago was held in Chicago at the International Amphitheater, adjacent to the Union Stock Yards. Peter's Uncle Richard Biggins got him a job driving the Administrator of the Convention, Hal Short. He received an Assistant Door Keeper medal for admission to the convention. Despite his work with the Republicans, Peter voted for John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic to be elected president of the United States. He just happened to turn age 21 and become eligible to vote on election day, Tuesday, November 8, 1960. His birthday was to fall on election day every 7 elections (28 years): 1960, 1988, and 2016.
In 1961, Peter received an autographed picture of President John F. Kennedy with best wishes. The cover letter said it was sent at the request of Dave Powers. A fellow student at the University of Chicago had requested it through his uncle Dave Powers.
On April 28, 1962, Peter's sister Emily married John David "Jack" Williams at St. Francis Xavier Church in Wilmette.
Upon reading this page, Peter's second cousin Bill Donahue wrote that during his service in the Korean War he worked with the 7th Cavalry Regiment on the DMZ. The 7th Calvary Regiment and the Custer Division both have connections with Custer but they are not related organizationally. Bill noted that the Custer Division was so named because it was activated at Camp Custer (Fort Custer after 1940). This was in 1917 in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Camp Custer wass named after George Armstrong Custer, who came from Michigan, fought for the Union in the Civil War, and was present at Appomattox for Lee's surrender to Grant. After the war, Custer led the 7th Cavalry Regiment in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Custer and all of his detachment, including two of his brothers, were killed. The battle is known popularly as "Custer's Last Stand."
On March 23, 1963, Loyola University Chicago won the NCAA basketball tournament, defeating No. 1 ranked Cincinnati 60-58 in overtime. Peter saw the game with fellow graduates at the home of Bob and Mary Jane Bailey.
Chicago, Edgewater, 1963-1964. Peter found a job at the headquarters of Allstate Insurance Company at 7447 Skokie Boulevard in Skokie, Illinois (now Lincoln Pointe condominiums and townhouses). He worked in Corporate Planning and then Operations Research.
Marilyn Born in 1940
Chicago, Austin, 1940-1952. Marilyn Kathryn Carroll was born January 3, 1940, at West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park, Illinois, exactly eight weeks after Peter was born in Kalamazoo. In 1940, there were 48 states in the Union. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President of the United States.
Marilyn is 11/16ths Irish, 1/4th Swiss, and 1/16th Scottish. Marilyn's maternal grandparents, James and Charlotte McDonald Kenny, lived a few blocks away at 4715 W. Maypole Avenue. James was a second generation American of Irish descent and was retired from the railway postal service. Charlotte was a second generation American of Irish and Scottish descent. She was 15 years younger than her husband. During World War II, she worked as an assembler for a manufacturing company as part of the war effort. Marilyn's paternal grandparents, David and Emma Starke Carroll, lived a few miles away at 2730 W. Jackson Boulevard in Most Precious Blood Parish. David was born in Ireland and was a retired Chicago policeman. Emma was a second generation American of Swiss descent.
The year Marilyn was born, her family moved around the block to a 4-unit apartment building they purchased at 200 N. Lamon Avenue, at the corner of Maypole Street.
Marilyn's only sibling, Maureen (Micki), was born on June 19, 1942.
Marilyn went to kindergarten at Spencer School and then went to grammar school at St. Thomas Aquinas. In second grade, Marilyn wanted to maximize the effectiveness of her class picture. So she practiced smiling in front of a mirror the night before the pictures were to be taken. It worked. The result is the smile in the picture shown here.
In April 1948, when Marilyn was age 8, her grandmother, Charlotte Mae McDonald Kenny, fell down a flight of stairs at the neighbor's next door and died suddenly. The man next door was sick, and she was going to visit him. The hallway was dark. She opened the wrong door and fell down the stairs. The coroner certified that the cause of death was a "skull fracture" and that "the deceased fell down a flight of stairs striking her head on the basement floor." Following a funeral Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Lottie was buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery.
Charlotte lived on the other side of Cicero Avenue, three blocks east, at 4715 W. Maypole Avenue. Marilyn remembers walking to the bakery at Maypole and Cicero Avenues to get jelly doughnuts and freshly baked bread and waving to her grandmother standing across Cicero Avenue waiting for a bus to go to work.
One day, in fifth grade, Sister asked the children to write an essay on what they wanted to do when they grew up, with perhaps a slant toward the religious life. Marilyn's essay states:
When I Grow Up
Wing Lake, 1952-1955. In March 1952, when her parents were just about to move in to a new house on Arbor Street in Glenview, Illinois, Marilyn's father was named manager of the Detroit Branch of the Kohler Company. In July the family moved to 6385 Thurber Road in the Wing Lake section of Bloomfield Township, Michigan. Marilyn went to Holy Name School for eighth grade and then on to Bloomfield Hills High School. While at Wing Lake, Marilyn became an excellent swimmer.
In April 1954, the union struck Kohler in what was to be one of the longest and bitterest strikes in United States labor history. The company hired and trained replacement workers, but production slowed significantly and the inability to fill customer orders made Marilyn's father's life very stressful.
In the summer of 1954, Marilyn and her family went on a vacation to New York City. Her father drove and they stayed for a week in a hotel. The highlights were walking around Times Square, going to Ripley's "Believe It or Not," and eating at the Automat. The Kohler district manager took them to the Aquashow in Queens with synchronized swimming and clowns on the diving board.
In April 1955, Herbert Kohler Sr. traveled to Detroit and met with Marilyn's father at the Detroit branch. At night, he took her parents to a fancy party in the area. Afterwards, he returned to their home and was introduced to Marilyn and and her sister Maureen (Micki).
On May 16, 1955, Marilyn's father, Edward William Carroll, died suddenly of a heart attack at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, at age 49. Marilyn was age 15. The funeral was held at St. Thomas Aquinas Church back in Chicago. Herbert Kohler Sr., the chief executive of the Kohler Company, attended the funeral. Marilyn counted 50 cars in the funeral procession. Marilyn's father was buried at Queen of Heaven Cemetery.
Glenview, 1955-1962. After the funeral, the house on Thurber Road was sold, and in August the family moved back to Illinois. Marilyn's mother Bunny bought a new house at 338 Nordica Avenue in Glenview.
After 21 years as a housewife and mother, Marilyn's mother was left with two teenage daughters to support. She started working again as a secretary. First she worked at the research laboratories of Kraft Foods Company, 923 Waukegan Road, Glenview. In 1961, Bunny started work as a secretary at Milwaukee-Golf Development Co., owner of the Golf Mill Shopping Center at Golf Road and Milwaukee Avenue.
Marilyn finished high school at Niles Township High School (now Niles East). At age 16, after babysitting for five years, Marilyn got a job working part-time and summers as a waitress in the tea room at Marshall Field's in the Old Orchard Shopping Center. On Spring break in her junior year, she went on the school trip to Washington, D.C., and Colonial Williamsburg. In her senior year, she went on the trip to New York City.
After graduation from high school in 1957, Marilyn applied to and was accepted at several colleges. She decided on Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where she majored in English and Speech. Marilyn joined Phi Mu Sorority, where she met her friends Nancy Kurfess and Joanne Jemison (now Leilich). While at Purdue, she worked summers as a secretary. Marilyn graduated from Purdue in 1961.
With the help of Ralph Gust a friend of the family and President of the Proviso School Board, Marilyn got a job teaching English and Speech at Proviso West High School at 4701 Harrison Street in Hillside. Marilyn met her friend Fran Baumgartner at Proviso West.
After her first year teaching at Proviso, Marilyn went on a 10-week tour of Europe with her sorority sister Nancy Kurfess and Nancy's friend, Gail Dent. While in Rome, Marilyn took a side trip by herself to Castel Gandolfo to see Pope John XXIII.
Park Ridge, 1962-1964. In 1962, the family moved to an apartment at 1306 Carol Street in Park Ridge, and the house on Nordica was rented out and eventually sold. Marilyn continued to teach at Proviso West High School. She lived with her mother and sister in Park Ridge until she got married.
On October 31, 2007, Peter received this e-mail from one of Marilyn's former students, Linda Leffler Simpson.
This email is actually for Marilyn. First, let me say that I came across your website purely by accident (while researching churches of all things). However, you have no idea how ironic this is for I have been thinking about my old high school teacher, Ms. Carroll, a lot recently. I've always talked about her off and on, but lately she's been on my mind more often. This is so bizarre.
Peter and Marilyn Marry in 1964, Have 4 Children
Peter and Marilyn met for the first time on Memorial Day in 1963 at Illinois Beach State Park. The occasion was a picnic for college graduates sponsored by the Sheil Club, a Catholic club at Northwestern University. Marilyn went on to summer school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Peter called in the Fall. They began dating and in March, Peter said "I think I ought to get married." Marilyn said "I have to go to the bathroom." Sometime after that they decided to get married.
Peter and Marilyn were married by Father John Dussman on August 22, 1964, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Glenview, Illinois. Marilyn was given away by her uncle, Bob Witherell. Peter's brother James Biggins was best man, and Marilyn's sister Maureen (Micki) Carroll was maid of honor. The reception was at the Orrington Hotel in Evanston. Marilyn and Peter spent their honeymoon at the Iroquois Hotel on Mackinac Island, between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. On the small plane up to Mackinac Island, they saw the pianist Van Cliburn.
Arlington Heights, 1964-1966. After their honeymoon, they moved into a one bedroom apartment at 809 East Miner Street in Arlington Heights. Peter was an analyst at Allstate Insurance Company in Skokie.
On August 15, 1965, Marilyn's sister Mickey married Johnny Varro in Miami. They were married by a Miami councilman at the Roney Plaza Hotel on Miami Beach. Mickey was given away by Harold E. Rainville, friend of the family and special assistant to Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen, minority leader of the U.S. Senate. Mickey, age 22, was an actress appearing in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "The Music Man" at the Deauville Hotel. Johnny, age 35, was a pianist with Phil Napoleon on the Jackie Gleason Show. (In 2004, Johnny's first marriage was annulled, and Micki and Johnny were married in the Catholic church by Father Barry Furey at St. Thomas More church in Darien, Connecticut on December 23.)
Their first child and only daughter was born on September 10, 1965, at Northwest Community Hospital. She was baptized on October 18, 1965, at St. James Church by Father James Murphy, who went to grammar school and Quigley seminary with Peter. Godparents were Robert Ford and Marilyn's sister Maureen (Micki) Varro (stand-in was Marilyn's cousin Carroll Fultz).
Marilyn quit teaching English and speech at Proviso West High School to become a full-time mother when her first child was born. She had taught for four years. Peter continued working at Allstate Insurance Company in Skokie.
In July 1966, Peter left Allstate to join the Chicago and North Western Railway Company at 400 W. Madison Street. He was director of financial planning, working for a person whom he had worked for at Allstate. Just before going to Chicago and North Western, Allstate had appointed him Corporate Economist in a new research center in Menlo Park, California. He and Marilyn had rented an apartment there, and Tom and Donna Kuehne had given them a going away party. But a last minute offer from C&NW convinced them to stay in the Chicago area. At C&NW, Peter worked on a project with consultant W. Edwards Deming. The CEO of the railroad was Ben W. Heineman, Sr. (1914-2012).
Evanston, 1966-1968. In October 1966, Peter and Marilyn moved to a two bedroom apartment at 503 Sheridan Road in Evanston, a half block from Lake Michigan and the beach. They joined St. Nicholas Parish. Carroll got her own room and no longer had to sleep in a crib in the dining area.
On August 24, 1967, Peter's grandmother, Emily Foy Biggins, died at age 89 in Milwaukee. Following a funeral Mass at the Church of St. Juliana, she was buried in the Foy plot in Mount Carmel Cemetery in Section B, Block 2, Lot 19. In 1966, Emily had moved to a nursing home in Milwaukee to be near her daughter Kathleen.
Peter and Marilyn's second child and first son was born at Evanston Hospital on February 26, 1968. He was baptized by Father Robert Maier on March 31, 1968, at St. Mary's Church. Peter went to Quigley seminary with Father Maier. Godparents were James Scallan and Peter's sister Sarah Biggins.
Wilmette, 1968-1972. In September 1968, Peter and Marilyn bought their first house at 2231 Greenwood Avenue in Wilmette for $25,000. The down payment came from money they invested at $7 a share in American Express Company after the salad oil scandal and sold for $35 a share.
The house was originally part of the Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition at the Chicago World's Fair of 1933-34 sponsored by the Stran-Steel Corporation of Detroit, Michigan. Steel was used instead of two-by-fours. The house, designed by Chicago architect G. L. Tucker, was called the Garden Home, and it was said to be done in the manner of a New England cottage. In the 1940 U.S. Census (Image 1 and Image 2), the house was owned by Daniel K. Strassheim, a food broker, born in Illinois in 1907. The house was valued at $15,000. Dan was a high school graduate and had an income of $4,000 in 1939. He lived with his wife Nathalie, their 6-year old son Daniel III, their 6-month old twins Janice and David, and a maid Theresa, age 21.
In February 1969, Peter's godfather, Jack Covington, died at age 60 in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
On July 5, 1969, Peter's sister Sarah married Elroy "Kelz" Kelzenberg in Bond Chapel at the University of Chicago.
In October 1969, Peter became godfather for Stephen, the son of James and Eileen Scallan.
In October 1969, Peter's job at the railroad was eliminated as a result of the merger of Northwest Industries and a conglomerate named Philadelphia and Reading. He decided to seek a job in management consulting. He was allowed to stay on until the end of the year while he looked for a job. A week before year-end, he received an offer from Hewitt Associates. Hewitt had 125 employees at the time and specialized in employee benefit consulting. Peter worked at the headquarters which was housed in the former summer home of Joseph Medill Patterson (1879-1946) on Milwaukee Avenue at Route 60 in Libertyville, Illinois. Patterson, founded the New York Daily News in 1919. John Cuneo Sr. (1884-1977), who lived next door, bought the house and grounds in 1946 and rented the house to Hewitt from 1951 to 1971. Cuneo sold the Patterson property in 1971, and it became part of the Westfield Hawthorne Shopping Mall. Hewitt then rented space in an office building on Wilmot Road in Deerfield. The Cuneo property, acquired from Samuel Insull (1859-1938) during the Great Depression, is now The Cuneo Museum.
Peter and Marilyn's third child was born at Columbus Hospital in Chicago on June 10, 1970. He was baptized on July 12, 1970, at St. Joseph's Church. Godparents were his uncle and aunt, Elroy and Sarah Biggins Kelzenberg.
Peter and Marilyn's fourth and last child and third son was born at Columbus Hospital in Chicago on April 11, 1972. He was baptized on May 7, 1972, at St. Joseph Church. Godparents were Marilyn's cousins James Hennessey and Carroll Fultz.
Darien, 1972-1978. In August 1972, Hewitt Associates transferred Peter to their New York office at 600 3rd Avenue. Peter and Marilyn bought a newly-built "raised ranch" at 3 Revere Road in Darien, Connecticut. The house in Wilmette sold for $50,000. The new house in Darien cost $68,000.
The family joined St. Thomas More Church. where Father Edward Howley was the pastor and had Mass at 10:00 am every Sunday especially design for the children. The children attended Hollow Tree School and Happiness Pre-School at St. Thomas More.
On August 13, 1973, Peter's grandmother, Rose Viola Drueke, died at age 91 in her home at 1624 Seminole Road SE in Grand Rapids. She had been a widow for 16 years. Following a funeral mass at St. Stephen's Church, she was buried at Mt. Calvary Cemetery next to Peter's grandfather.
In August 1973, while working on a flexible benefits project for a client at Xerox Corporation, Peter left Hewitt Associates to work for his client at Xerox and became manager of employee benefits.
At Christmas time in 1975, the family traveled to Florida. Shown is a photo Peter took of his youngest on his grandfather's shoulder at Monkey Jungle.
In 1976, Marilyn appeared as an extra in a made-for-TV movie about John F. Kennedy, entitled "Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye." It starred Brian Dennehy and was directed by Gilbert Cates.
In June 1977, the family attended a reunion of the Al and Jane Biggins family hosted by Kelz and Sarah Biggins Kelzenberg at their home in South Bend, Indiana.
In 1977, Peter became a member of the parish Council at St. Thomas More and editor of Dialogue, a quarterly parish newspaper. One of his writers was John Cotter, a professional newspaperman who worked for Newsday and the New York Post.
In June 1978, Peter decided to leave Xerox to take a job with Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. Pat and Anne O'Malley gave them a going away party. John Cotter had some nice words in the next issue of Dialogue.
Peter Biggins, who edited these pages for several years, packed his Clark Kent clothes last month and moved his wife and four kids to Michigan where he has accepted a post with the Ford Motor Company. Peter, a personnel expert who continually wondered how he managed to attract strange friends (including yours truly), was very active in the St. Thomas More community and his contributions, those of his wife Marilyn and the rest of the family will be missed. The Dialogue staff and his friends will also miss him, but we have fond memories. We will miss mostly, I think, his sense of humor, which is as dry as black powder and twice as explosive. Peter was so funny I personally can't think of anything funny he ever said. Now that's real wit (and also a bit of parody). A major Biggins contribution to the morale of the Dialogue staff was allowing us to have beer at our monthly meetings. His decision was wracked by such soul searching, however, that most of us figured that he had a bad experience with altar wine while growing up in Chicago. But enough of that nonsense. To get a true picture of Peter Biggins, human being, we asked Pat O'Malley, a parish member, to speak briefly on Peter's character. "I really don't know where to begin," O'Malley began. "How can I put this? Peter is a true Christian man, a devoted husband and father, a man for all seasons, a man of compromise. Let me give you an example: Peter's wife Marilyn didn't like to cook. Now, some fellows might get upset, but not Peter Biggins. He showed true Christian spirit. He took the family out, especially on holidays. Why, just last Easter he took the family to the Bronx Zoo for Sunday dinner. What can I say? Peter Biggins is just a classy guy." John Cotter
John Cotter died in 1991 at age 48, just before he was to become managing editor of the New York Daily News.
Birmingham, 1978-1980. At Ford, Peter became manager of salaried employee benefits and foreign service administration at Ford's headquarters in Dearborn. His office was on the fourth floor of the "Glass House," eight floors below Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca. (In July 1978, Henry Ford II fired Lee Iacocca.)
Peter and Marilyn bought an existing house at 2720 Bradway, Birmingham, Michigan. This was in the Bloomfield Village section of Bloomfield Township, Michigan. It cost $175,000. They sold their house in Darien for $139,000.
Negotiations for the purchase of the house in Birmingham were conducted through a lawyer. Later it was discovered that the owner, John Leeming, was in the FBI's Witness Protection Program. In 1974, Leeming started a medical testing business and gave kickbacks to doctors for referring business. In May 1975, Leeming became indebted to Vito "Billy Jack" Giacalone, leader of the Detroit Mafia. In September 1976, Vito was best man at Leeming's wedding to Edie Rousos. Vito paid for the reception and gave them one-month free extortion. In December 1976, Leeming bought the house at 2720 Bradway for $175,000 and spent $50,000 on furniture and decorating. In early 1977, Leeming agreed to launder narcotics money for a person who later turned out to be an undercover DEA agent. In June 1977, Leeming's medical testing business was raided by the FBI and DEA, and Leeming was arrested. One headline said: "Narcs nab Birmingham millionaire." In August 1977, Leeming was indicted for narcotics violations, mail fraud, and racketeering. In November 1977, Leeming began to cooperate with the authorities. On December 16, 1977, Leeming and his family were placed in the Witness Protection Program and moved to another city. In May 1979, Vito pled guilty to extortion and went to prison for three years. In February 1880, Janet Talcott wrote a series of six articles on Leeming in The Oakland Press based on interviews with him in 1979.
The house was three miles from the Wing Lake home that Marilyn grew up in from 1952 to 1955. The children attended Westchester elementary and Covington junior high schools. Carroll completed her freshman year of high school at Birmingham High School. During the summer, all the children were on the swimming team the Cranbrook Swim Club.
On December 13, 1979, Peter's father, Al Biggins, died at age 69 of acute myelogenic leukemia at City of Hope in Duarte, California. Jane's brother William hosted the family at his home in Grand Rapids. The funeral was held at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Grand Rapids. He was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Grand Rapids. Just three months before Al died, he toured the country visiting his family. His granddaughter must have lifted his spirits with her colorful sign proclaiming: "Welcome Grand Ma/Pa."
Dallas, 1980-1989. In 1980, after just two and a half years at Ford, Peter left to join The LTV Corporation, a conglomerate in Dallas, Texas. He was hired by the client who had hired him away from Hewitt at Xerox, and he became manager of employee benefits. Peter and Marilyn sold their house in Birmingham for $215,000 and bought a newly-built house at 6532 Copper Creek Drive in Dallas for $205,000. They had a swimming pool built for relief from the Dallas summers. Only two years before, the subdivision had been a cotton field. The neighborhood was very friendly, consisting of families who had all recently moved into the subdivision. There were block parties and frequent pool volley ball contests. Long lasting friendships were made, especially with the Engelskirgers, who subsequently moved to Darien, and the Morrices, next door neighbors in Dallas. The family joined All Saints Church.
The children attended Brentwood Elementry School, Parkhill Junior High School, and J.J. Pierce High School. The boys played basketball andfootball at Pierce. All four children graduated from the University of Texas.
While at LTV, Peter testified in 1984 on flexible benefits before the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. See: Senate Finance 1984 Hearings on Fringe Benefits, pp. 231-256 and 278-279. Senators Dole, Packwood, Chafee, and Symms were present.
In 1985, it looked like LTV might go bankrupt, and Peter was interested in going back into consulting. He rejoined Hewitt Associates in their Dallas office. For the first time, he had a computer on his desk. It was a dumb terminal tied in to a mainframe at Hewitt headquarters in Illinois, with access to Supercalc spreadsheets and PROFS mail. Mail names were eight characters with the first two being initials for one's first and middle names and the last six being the first six letters in one's last name, hence pabiggin. He could communicate with anyone within Hewitt Associates and people within a few client companies.
Marilyn worked for several years as an instructor for Weight Watchers.
In June 1988, one week apart, her first child received her bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Texas in Austin and Marilyn received her master's degree in counseling at North Texas State University in Denton. Bill Moyers was the commencement speaker at both graduations. As part of her degree, Marilyn interned as a guidance counselor at R. L. Turner High School in Carrollton.
Darien, 1989-present. In 1988, Hewitt asked Peter to move to either Chicago or New York. Peter and Marilyn decided on New York, where Peter worked at the Hewitt office at 452 5th Avenue, across 40th Street from the New York Public Library.
Next door neighbors, Bruce and Marge Morrice, gave them a going away party. They sold their house in Dallas for $320,000 in November 1988 and rented an apartment temporarily in Dallas.
In January 1989, they moved to Darien and rented a house temporarily at 337 Brookside Road in Darien. In May 1989, they moved in to a newly-built house at 230 Old Kings Highway North that they bought for $600,000.
The house backs up on the Five Mile River and is built on the site of 18th century grist and saw mills. Remnants of the dam, mill pond, and mill run are still there. The location of the mills can be seen on an 1873 map of Darien. In 1982, Louise H. McLean (1906-2004), past president of the Darien Historical Society, wrote an article on "The Red Mill at Five Mile River" that appears in Volume 4, Number 8, of the The Darien Historical Society Annual.
An historical marker on Old Kings Highway two miles south of the house reminds passers-by that George Washington went by in 1756, 1776, and 1779.
Old Kings Highway was on the original main road between New York and Boston. It was called the Country Road in Colonial times.The road now criss-crosses three newer and straighter routes: the Boston Post Road (U.S. 1) built in 1806, the New York and New Haven Railroad built in 1848, and I-95 built in 1955. The Railroad did not build a bridge; thus, today's Old Kings Highway North and South.
More information can be found in The Red Mill on the Country Road.
The family rejoined St. Thomas More Church in Darien. Father Edward Howley was still the pastor.
In August 1989, Peter and Marilyn celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to Italy. They flew to Zurich on American Airlines points, rented a small Fiat Panda, and drove down to Rome with stops in Verona, Ferrara, Bologna, Florence, and Venice. In Rome, they visted St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican museum, the catacombs, and the Pantheon. They stayed in a pension near the Spanish Steps and had dinner at Alfredo's and at the Canova Café on the Piazza del Popolo.
Marilyn's mother, Henrietta Kenny Carroll, died November 1, 1989, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut. She was 81 years old. The funeral was at Divine Infant Church, the parish church of Ralph and Gertrude Gust, in Westchester, Illinois. Bunny was buried at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, next to Marilyn's father.
Since 1990, Marilyn has taught ESL at Norwalk Community College. In 1995, Marilyn received a master's degree in social work from Columbia University. As part of her work at Columbia, she interned as a social worker at Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven. She worked as a social worker at Parents Foundation in New Haven, Smith House Health Care Center in Stamford, and Mediplex of Westport.
In 1995, Peter was transferred by Hewitt from the New York office to the regional office at 40 Highland Avenue in Rowayton, Connecticut--about a five minute drive from home.
In 1997, Peter had an annual physical and the doctor suggested he exercise regularly. As a result, Peter started walking four miles a day. His normal route is down Raymond Street to the mail boxes near the end of Five Mile River Road, and back. For the first 10 or 15 years, the walk took an hour. After 20 years, it was up to an hour and 15 minutes. In 2020, he started a web page on the Five Mile River.
On May 18, 1998, Peter's mother, Jane Drueke Biggins, died at age 83 in Florence, Oregon, where Peter's sister Emily lived. She had emphysema, but she was doing fairly well and had just bought a brand new house in Florence. There was a Memorial Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Florence. Her ashes were buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, next to Peter's father.
In October 1998, Peter's group at Hewitt moved from Rowayton to the 201 building at Merrit-7. In October 2001, they moved to 45 Glover Avenue, a new Hewitt building in the Merritt-7 office complex in Norwalk, Connecticut.
In September 1999, Peter and Marilyn went to France. They spent a week in Paris on the Left Bank. They visited the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Picasso museum, and the Musée d'Orsay. They went to Montmarte and and dinner at a restaurant to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary.They then rented a car and drove up to Normandy. In Normandy, they visited the Memorial Museum in Caen and stayed overnight at Mont Saint-Michel. They also visited the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer and Omaha beach.
Peter and Marilyn celebrated the millennium, which was called Y2K, at the home of Paul and Mariann Knag in Darien.
In March 2002, Peter and Marilyn took a vacation to London, England. The saw their son who was living there at the time. They went to the Imperial War Museum and took train/walking tours of Bath, the Cotswolds, and Oxford. They stayed at the Cranley Gardens Hotel in South Kensington.
On June 27, 2002, Peter's employer Hewitt Associates converted ownership shares to stock and made an initial public offering of its stock at $19. Peter's ownership value quintupled. Each owner was given a free share in a frame. On July 12, 2010, Aon Corporation purchased Hewitt with cash and stock.
On September 30, 2002, Peter retired at age 62, with no particular plans--other than to pretend like it was a weekend or a vacation. He began to look into his and Marilyn's genealogy and never stopped. He also started going to the Darien YMCA three times a week. At the invitation of Bob Towne (1918-2008) of Stamford, he joined the Darien Senior Men's Association.
In July 2003, Peter and Marilyn attended the reunion of the Philip and Olive Taylor Biggins family at Valcour Island, near Plattsburg, New York. In June 2004 and July 2006, they attended reunions of the Minogue/Kane families in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
In Fall 2003, Peter took a course in James Joyce at Norwalk Community College. In 2004, the class morphed into a classics book club that meets biweekly at NCC. In June 2007, he began mapping the books and placing links to the maps on the Wikipedia pages about the books. The following year, Maps of the Classics was started to catalog the maps.
In 2004, Marilyn and Peter went to Chicago and drove by places where their families had lived. They went by 952 West Altgeld Street, where Peter's father had lived until age 15. Not knowing exactly who lived there now, Peter rang the bell, and Patricia Donahue Schwake opened the door and invited them up. It turned out that Pat is Peter's second cousin. Originally, the building had two entrances, 950 and 952 Altgeld. Each entrance had two floors, with one apartment on each. Peter's father lived with his family at 950. The 950 half of the building had been torn down when Marilin and Peter visited in 2004. The 952 half was torn down in 2005. Genevieve Gier Donahue and James and Patricia Donahue Schwake were the last to live in 952 Altgeld.
In August 2004, Marilyn and Peter celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in the best room of the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, with all expenses paid by their children. Marilyn went swimming. Peter walked the carriage paths. It doesn't get any better!
In Fall 2004, Peter took a course in Web site development at Norwalk Community College, then started PetersPioneers.
In Spring 2006, Marilyn went to Napa Valley with the same friends that she went to Europe with in 1962, Nancy Kufess Abrams and Gail Chelius. At the same time, Peter took his first trip to Ireland.
In Summer 2006, Marilyn and Peter visited his Drueke cousins in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and had a mini-reunion.
They then took the ferry across Lake Michigan to look for Marilyn's Flannery cousins in southwest Wisconsin. They asked the first farmer they saw if he knew any Flannerys. He said "I'm a Flannery."
They also attended the third annual Kane/Minogue reunion in Arlington Heights, Illinois, including a mini reunion with Biggins cousins.
In Spring 2007, Peter and Marilyn to a trip to Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. The first week was spent in Germany visiting small towns where Peter's ancestors were from. Included was a trip to Schönholthausen and Ostentrop, where we met with Pastor Franz Rinschen of Maria Himmelfahrt Church, who had written a history of a house in Ostentrop where Johann and Elisabeth Bitter Drüecke lived. The second and third weeks were spent with Marilyn's sister Maureen (Micki) and her husband Johnny Varro in Waiblingen (near Stuttgart), Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. Johnny was touring the Stuttgart area with a Jazz band. Their son flew in from Liverpool to meet up with them in Rome.
In Fall 2007, Marilyn went to China with her friends Nancy Kufess Abrams and Gail Chelius. Marilyn sent this email to her family.
While Marilyn was in China, Peter took a second trip to Ireland and discovered the Foy farm. He also took a side trip to London, England, to visit with Chris, who had just moved there from Liverpool.
In September 2007, Peter redesigned the Web site for St. Thomas More Church in Darien and assumed maintenance of the site until June 2017.
In July 2008, Peter had his Y chromosome DNA tested. His DNA is kit #127469. This was done at the request of Daniela Maneta, who started the Biggins DNA Project. Eventually he figured out that he was related to the Three Collas who lived in the 4th century. In May 2009, he started a web page called DNA of the Three Collas. In June 2009, he became the first member of the Clan Colla DNA Project and a co-administrator with Josiah McGuire.
In February 2009, Peter redesigned the Web site for the Middlesex Genealogical Society in Darien and assumed maintenance of the site. He also became a Director of the Society. In September 2015, he became President of the Society.
In October 2009, Marilyn went to Egypt and Jordan with her friends Gail Chelius and Nancy Abrams. Peter took the opportunity to return to Ireland, finding the Beggan farm in County Cavan (see Patrick Beggan of Drumgill).
In February 2010, Peter and Marilyn visited Emily and Jack Williams in Henderson, Nevada, and went on to a snowy Grand Canyon and to Death Valley.
In June 2010, Marilyn and Peter went to Chicago and visited with his godson, Stephen Scallan. They also went to Peter's 50th college reunion at Loyola, visited Marilyn's cousin Carroll in St. Charles, and attended a reunion of Marilyn's distant Flannery cousins in Argyle, Wisconsin.
In October 2010, Peter made a presentation at a meeting of the Middlesex Genealogical Society on "How to Test Your DNA and Why." In November 2010, Peter became an administrator of the Biggins DNA Project.
In January 2011, Peter became administrator of a new Ely Carroll DNA Project. The Ely Carrolls include the descendants of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, signer of the American Declaration of Independence. Marilyn's cousin Michael Patrick Carroll had his DNA tested in March 2011 and found out that he was related to the Ossory Carrolls instead of the Carrolls of Ely Carroll. Nevertheless, Peter continues to administer the Ely Carroll DNA project. The Ossory Carrolls have Breassal Breac DNA.
In May, 2011, Peter and Marilyn took a trip to Turkey and Greece with Paul and Maryann Knag and toured with their son in Athens and Corinth. They visted the House of the Virgin Mary, which had been visited by four Popes, and the ruins of Ephesus, the second largest city in the Roman Empire in the first century. In Greece, they went to Athens, with a day trip to ancient Corinth and a side trip to the islands of Santorini and Mykonos. In Athens, they stayed in the Parthenon Hotel and the Phaedra Hotel. The latter had a view of the Acropolis from the balcony and the rooftop garden. In addition to the Acropolis, they visited the ancient Agora, Areopagus, and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. One of the highlights was the new Acropolis Museum.
In November 2011, Peter and Marilyn attended a two-day conference on genetic genealogy sponsored by Family Tree DNA in Houston. Peter made presentation on the DNA of the Three Collas. With them at the conference were Tom and Hilda Roderick. Tom, a geneticist and fellow administrator of the Clan Colla project at FTDNA, arranged for the presentation. Following the presentation, Peter and Marilyn visited the Leilichs in The Woodlands and Bruce Morrice in Dallas.
In March 2012, Peter and Marilyn took a trip to the Holy Land with Paul and Maryann Knag sponsored by the Yale Divinity School. Our leader was the Dean, Harry Attridge. Harry was retiring as the Dean of the Yale Divinity School, but he was to continue on as Sterling Professor of Theology, which was announced just before our trip. They described their trip in emails sent at the end of each day on the iPad that the children gave them at Christmas. They visited Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Jericho, Tiberias, Haifa, and Jaffa. See Sacred Land: Common Ground?.
On August 22, 2014, Peter and Marilyn celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Grand Isle in Vermont. Father Brian Cummings of Saint Anne's Shrine and Saint Michael's College officiated as they renewed their marriage vows in the presence of their children and grandchildren and Dan and Sandra O'Brien. A dinner followed at Shore Acres.
On October 6, 2014, Peter's sister-in-law, Anne Roarty Biggins died at Johns Hopkins Hospital after a two year journey with lung cancer. A Memorial Mass was celebrated Monday, October 13, 2014 at 11:00 am in Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Solomons, MD. Anne and Jim had been married for 45 years. Peter went alone as Marilyn was in the Long Ridge nursing home for rehab following a fall on September 15. Emily came from Davis, CA. Bill and Chris came from San Francisco. Sarah and Kelz came from Sun Lakes, AZ. Jim and Anne's boys were there with their families. Anne's sisters and brother were there with their families.
On October 17, 2014, Marilyn was discharged from Long Ridge nursing home, where she was doing rehab following a fall on September 15. The next day, Marilyn and Peter flew to Miami for a one-week cruise with Marilyn's sister Maureen (Micki) and husband Johnny Varro aboard the ship MSC Divina. Johnny was playing piano with Jazz Fest at Sea.
In September 2015, Peter became President of the Middlesex Genealogical Society, a position he was to hold for three years.
In October 2015, Peter started the Breassal Breac Project at Family Tree DNA. Based on the Y-chromosome DNA of Marilyn's cousin Michael Patrick Carroll, her Carroll ancestors descend from Breassal Breac, who lived in the ancient Irish kingdom of Leinster around 200 or 100 BC.
On July 31, 2016, Peter's brother-in-law, Jack Williams, died at home in Davis, California. He had congestive hear failure. He was 78. Jack and Emily had been married 54 years.
On November 18, 2017, Peter made a presentation to the Middlesex Genealogical Society on "Understanding DNA in Genealogy."
On January 16, 2018, Marilyn's sister Maureen (Micki) died of cardiac arrest at home in Palm Court, Florida, after a flu-like illness. She was 75. See: The Hollywood Reporter.
On October 6, 2018, Peter made a presentation to the Middlesex Genealogical Society on "Y-DNA and Genealogy."
In November 2018, Peter retired as President of the Middlesex Genealogical Society.
On April 4, 2019, Marilyn entered Sunrise Senior Living, an assisted living facility in Stamford, because she was getting hard to transfer between chair and bed.
On February 18, 2020, Marilyn entered Ridge Crest at Meadow Ridge in Redding because she had to have a feeding tube, which required a skilled nursing facility.
In March 2020, Marilyn's brother-in-law, pianist Johnny Varro, visited Marilyn at Ridge Crest and played her favorite song. Two days later he recorded it at Flux Studios in New York City with a special introduction: Have You Met Miss Jones?
Peter Widowed in 2020
. . . To be continued.
Marilyn Dies in 2020 at Age 80
Marilyn died peacefully September 16, 2020, at Ridge Crest Health Center in Redding, Connecticut, after a long battle with the brain disease leukodystrophy. On March 23, a Funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Thomas More Church in Darien, followed by burial at St. John Cemetery in West Norwalk.
Marilyn had been losing her health gradually the last ten years. On a trip to Greece and Turkey in 2011 with the Knags, Marilyn fell at the top of an escalator in the Athens airport and outside the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul. On a trip to the Holy Land in 2012 with the Knags, Marilyn fell at Caesarea. Gerontologist Dr. Leo Cooney, who was on the trip with us, recommended that Marilyn walk with a cane. Later that year, Marilyn fell on her face in the middle of 7th Avenue at 54th Street in New York. In 2013, Dr. Cooney took her driver's license away. In 2015 we installed an elevator and a roll-in shower. A neurologist at Harvard said she had leukodystrophy (loss of white matter in the brain). The falls continued and she went from cane to walker to wheel chair. She was in and out of hospitals and nursing homes. In April 2019, she had lost the use of her arms and legs and went into assisted living at Sunrise Senior Living in Stamford. In February 2020, she stopped eating. A feeding tube was put into her stomach, and she went into Ridge Crest at Meadow Ridge. By the time she died, she had pretty much lost the ability to talk and make eye contact. Family visits were stopped in March due to Covid 19. Phone calls were allowed, but a nurse had to hold the phone by her ear. Visits once a week were allowed in May, increasing to twice a week in August.
Address230 Old Kings Highway North
Darien, CT 06820 USA
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