Her name was Frances Lucille Morris Hedden, born October 23, 1921, Died May 14, 1968. She was 47 years old. She was murdered by her husband Clarence Rey Hedden (C.R.), she was my aunt.
I was 8 years old when this tragedy befell our family, and so I was too young to realize the magnitude of what had happened.
But I can share what I do remember about her, my memories. They may be glorified because they are mine. She was glamorous, she was worldly, she had traveled. She was my Dad’s sister. There were a few years between my Dad and Aunt Fran, he was the baby of 12, Dad was born in December 1932. So nearly an 11 year gap. She was one of 7 sisters Oma, Helen, Margaret, Eleanor, Phyllis, Virginia and 4 brothers Abie, Myron, Howard and my Dad Robert. I think she fits in right between Margaret and Eleanor.
First I would like to tell you what I do remember about my Aunt. She was tall, or maybe she always had heels on. I have a very fragmented memory bank of her, a few visits to Oskaloosa, IA where she lived with her husband and local business owner C.R. Hedden. In our visits she was always wearing a dress, heels, and a hat. perfectly dressed. Inside the house I remember a sunken living room of sorts, I think there were stairs, and CR sat in a chair and beside him was a spittoon as I recall. They had a dog, a Great Dane I think, it was big and it’s food bowls were big cement bowls. We never spent much time in the house, we would always take our visits downtown or to the local park. But it’s her bedroom I remember the most vividly. It was hers, they did not seem to share a room, looking back. Her bed was a quilted silky thing and in the middle was her pajama bag. It was a doll I think and it had this full skirt, silky too.. and on the back side was a zipper and you stored your pajamas inside. Strange concept I think. And that encompasses my entire memory of their house.
I vaguely remember when the tragedy occurred, but again I was 7. I remember my Mom and Dad discussing it briefly and then it became a part of our family history. I was never given any details other than what I read in the paper years later, which frankly wasn’t much. So I filled in the story the best I could grabbing bits and pieces from my Aunt and cousin as they were on the scene after the tragedy.
My Uncle CR was originally from South Dakota and owned two laundries in his lifetime, one in Ames around 1930 with his first wife Georgia Irene Wilson and the second in Oskaloosa around 1940 while he was married to my Aunt Frances Lucille Morris. CR was born on July 29, 1886. He was 34 years older than my Aunt. He was 81 years old when the murder occurred. I know from family that he married her at a very young age and took her to the World’s Fair in Paris in 1937 which would have made Frances 16 years old at the time. If my math serves me right they were married for 30 years before her death.
In my memory CR was never a well man, perhaps because of his advancing age in my lifetime ( he would have been 75 when I was born) or perhaps he had health issues, but he was always frail in my memory and Aunt Fran was vivacious. I have tried to research who they were before the murder-suicide, with no luck so far. In the future I would like to visit Oskaloosa and search for anything that demonstrates who they were before.
Was he simply a local business man? Was he wealthy by the standards of the day? Did she work or was she simply a housewife as many were at that time? Did she simply lavish in the life she chose? Any insight would be great, and those who can tell her story, are few.
Recently I connected with my cousin Ken and he shared some photo’s he found with me. the one above is my favorite. If you can’t guess, Aunt Fran is at the end of the row in the plaid dress. I wished I had know her longer or at least better, but she will always remain frozen in time for eternity.
Until Next Time,