Alberta Perrin Day

This last chapter is different from what I have written before; it is an assembly of memories of my mother. There will be few footnotes; the reader will need to trust my memory and my interpretation of photographs. Hopefully in the future someone will go and document the details of Berta's life from official records, doubtlessly finding discrepancies from what I write. But it is too soon now to do scholarship.

There is quite a photographic record for Berta. Pictures come from her father, husband, children and grandchildren. So there are a number of slideshows associated with this page. Whenever possible I have tried to use those photos which look less posed and more spontaneous; as a result the quality of the photographs is not as high as it should be for the late twentieth century.

Courtship and Marriage

The last section had observed Berta's childhood in Crafton, with her entry into Westminster College in 1938. It seems clear that her courtship by Tom Day began a year later, folowing a church outing on September 9, 1939. Tom apparently did not go anywhere at that point without his camera, and the pictures he took from that day show his initial interest in her.

Berta and unknown woman, September 9, 1939

The courtship was intermittent, given their school responsibilities, but became serious. Upon his graduation in 1941, he went to work in Painesville, Ohio for a chemical company named Diamond Alkali. A picture of his room at 161 N. State Street included her picture.

Tom's apartment, August, 1941

Tom would be in Painesville for only six months, at which time World War II began for the United States and he began active duty in the Army. Pictures show that Berta visited Tom during 1942 in Virginia and Oklahoma, the latter trip chaperoned by Tom's parents.

Berta graduated from Westminster in 1942. Her college experience had included becoming the head of the YWCA on campus, as well as a summer serving as a counselor at the Presbyterian Church camp Camp Kanesatake, located north east of Altoona. Following graduation Berta worked as secretarty for Christ (Methodist) Church in Charleston, West Virginia. The photographic record shows her apartment containing a picture of her fiance as well.

Charleston, WV apartment, November, 1942. Photo by Lea Perrin

Tom and Berta married September 1, 1943. Their honeymoon was at Cook Forest; I remember hearing that they couldn't go any further from Pittsburgh than that, given the scarcity of gasoline ration cards. Following her marriage she lived with her husband in Illinois, where Tom was posted, returning to Crafton when he was sent to England in early 1944.

Macomb, IL, fall, 1943. Photo by Tom Day

The correspondence for the next eighteen months between Berta and her husband was destroyed, but some evidence of it remains, including the envelopes sent by Tom to Berta, and pictures sent by Berta to Tom. These and more photos from the early 1940s may be seen in this .

Early Adulthood

Painesville, Ohio

With Tom's deployment in September, 1945, Tom returned from California (where he was preparing for the invasion of Japan, made unnecessary by Japan's surrender in August) and resumed work for Diamond Alkali in Painesvile, Ohio.

Postcard of Diamond Alkali plant, circa 1940. View is from the south

Berta joined him there, where they rented part of a house on East Erie Street, on the northeast side of town. They would move into a newly built house at 1156 Madison Avenue within the next year.

1156 Madison Avenue, 1949


Berta became pregnant shortly thereafter, and she gave birth to her first son, Tom Perrin Day, on August 30, 1946.

Berta and Tom Perrin Day, September, 1946

Tom lived for sixteen days, becoming acutely ill and being transported to Cleveland, thirty miles away, before dying. An autopsy at the Cleveland Clinic showed extensive congenital heart disease fitting the diagnosis of Tetrology of Fallot.

Following a miscarriage in 1947, Berta's next two pregnancies were successfull, leading to the birth of John Lea Day in 1948, and Richard Perrin Day in 1950.

Berta with children, March 17, 1951

Postwar Life

While a move from Pittsburgh to Painesville may seem trifling to us today, it presented real challenges for this couple. Berta's life in Crafton was secure and protected. Painesville was a world with two faces; the old Western Reserve county seat sat along side a twentieth century industrial presence on its northern border. Those who worked in the factories, the Finn, the Hungarian, the (gasp) West Virginian were never assimilated culturally into the older small town; rather, with postwar living standards these same workers started the suburban growth which would economically strangle the small city. So an engineer and his wife fit poorly into either culture.

Probably the most important social outlet for the couple was the Methodist Church. I believe Berta and Tom initially worked with the youth ministry. Berta became involved in an organization known as the American Association of University Women (AAUW) whose activiies allowed her to meet other displaced intellectuals. She joined a group dedicated to playing recorder ensemble music, forcing her husband to participate as well. Finally, there was the Lake County Society for Crippled Children. I understand now that her involvement there was the direct result of her own first child.

Berta and her special children, 1960

Around 1958 Berta announced that she would be going back to school, earning a teacher's certificate from Lake Erie College in Painesville. She obtained a post in the Painesville Township school system, teaching at Melridge Elementary School.

Home life involved setting up a garden, continuing the interest in flowers and birds instilled into her by her stepmother Marion. She and Tom joined the Holden Arboretum in 1953, dragging her family there for nature hikes, and sometimes just to be with the lilacs in bloom.

More photos from these times may be found at this .

Middle Age

The Sixties

1960 remains memorable to me as the beginning of a series of once or twice yearly family camping vacations. Despite Tom's objections that he had slept on the ground entirely too much during his military service, the family began touring the country with a tent and sleeping bags. Trips often as not involved going someplace barely above freezing (like Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in June). The family soon graduated to a small tent camper trailer, permitting more sleeping comfort.

Camping, 1960

Probably at the urging of John and Carol Stoneburner, associate minister and youth director, respectively, of the Painesville Methodist Church, Berta and Tom started attending workshops at Shadybrook, a spiritual organization which at that time occupied an old mansion in Kirtland, Ohio. While Tom probably found these events interesting because of their espousal of mysticism, Berta became quite enamored with new ideas concerning the identification and expression of feelings. While I hesitate to say it was an awakening (not being particularly awake myself during my adolescence), it was a change in direction for Berta, one which she would draw on throughout the rest of her life.

Shadybrook, January 11, 1964

For the next fifteen years Tom's work would become disjointed. He had become a project engineer for Diamond Shamrock, working full weeks on a given construction site, first in Delaware, and then, starting in 1967, in Houston. The family moved to Texas for eighteen months, residing at Zapp Lane in Pasadena

1813 Zapp Lane, Pasadena, Texas, 1967

and returning to Painesville in 1969, in time for their son John's wedding.

from John Day and Betty Harris wedding
Painesville, Ohio, August, 1969

Berta and Tom continued to be displaced with construction jobs by Diamond in Nigeria (to which they almost moved) and Texas. The house in Painesville was sold around 1975, and Berta and Tom moved to Seabrook, Texas. There Berta became involved with deaf children, learning sign language. She did not resume paid employment after leaving Painesville the second time.

1156 Madison Avenue backyard, 1975

322 Hickory Ridge, Seabrook, Texas, April, 1977

More photos from the sixties and seventies may be found at this .


While the fifties and sixties had its share of road trips during Tom's work vacations, these were somewhat traditional compared to the travel which Tom and Berta began once their children had grown. Initially they tried wilderness camping, but there is no evidence that either Bert or Tom enjoyed it.

In 1970 Berta and Tom traveled to Iceland for a three week tour. Judging from the pictures, they became hooked.

Iceland, 1971

While a few vacations took them to typical old person tourist spots like Germany, the emphasis after 1973 was Africa, doubtlessly inspired by travel in preparation for Tom's possible relocation there. It is not possible for my brother or myself to recall all their destinations, only that they included most of Africa, north, south, east and west, as well as much of South America. Asia was conspicuously absent. In general, the more obscure the location, the better. There is another showing Berta in various places through 2002.


Rock Hill

Tom and Berta at retirement party, July 22, 1980

Tom retired from work in 1980. They removed shortly thereafter to Rock Hill, South Carolina, having purchased land around 1978 there. On the property they built a modern log cabin, complete with geothermal heating and cooling. The opportunities for gardening and enhancing the property were limitless. For several summers her house became a summer camp for Berta's three grandchildren.

Outside Rock Hill, 1984

Grandchildren in Rock Hill, 1983

Berta, drawing on her travels as well as teaching skills, started an African studies program of sorts. She developed a traveling show of African art and sculpture which, along with slides from their travels, became a popular and acclaimed curricular tool. Her program won a School Program Award from the State of South Carolina State Board of Education "for her African teaching program" . She also received a Certificate of Appreciation from the South Carolina AAUW (Cultural Interests Award) in 1990. One fanatic interest also came from her African experiences; working with beads.


Following extensive hurricane destruction to their property in Rock Hill in 1992, Berta and Tom, now both over seventy years old, opted to move to Greenwood, South Carolina to a retirement community run by the Methodist Church. They lived first in a freestanding house,

Making bread, Greenwood, 1995

moving around 2003 to an independent living apartment. In Greenwood Berta struck up the same interests as before -- gardening, church choir, teaching African studies in the elementary schools, beads. She began tutoring women prisoners for literacy. Travel to Europe continued well into the new millennium, by which time Tom's health became too frail to continue.

Greenwood apartment with Babs Dunn, 2004

More photographs from South Carolina and elsewhere are available in a final . Two pictures deserve display here. They both come from the spring of 2006, and show Berta as photographed by her husband visiting her two sons and their families.

Silver Spring, 2006

Madison, 2006

Several days after the latter picture, Berta collapsed and after a short illness, died in July, 2006. Her husband died five weeks later.