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Hilda Bellinger Gewin

Hilda Bellinger Gewin

Hilda Bellinger Gewin

LifeTime Private Autobiography

The experience of sharing your stories in a private autobiography for the family

Copyright © 2022 Hilda Bellinger Gewin

First produced in the U.S.A. in 2022 by Private Autobiography Service, Inc. for the

Author’s private circulation.

This book is produced for private circulation and is not for public distribution.

The accuracy of the content is the sole responsibility of the Author and is based on

the Author’s perceptions of his/her experiences over time. All opinions and statements

of fact are those expressed by the Author as his/her personal recollections, and

dialogue and thoughts are consistent with those recollections.

All rights reserved.

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or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior

written permission of Private Autobiography Service, Inc., nor be otherwise circulated

in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is produced.

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and may not be in accordance with contemporary accepted styles and usage.

Typeset in Goudy Old Style.

Printed and bound in the U.K.



Private Autobiography Service, Inc., 503 E Summit Street, Crown Point, IN 46307, U.S.A.

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For my family




1. Home and Abroad 11

2. College at Vassar 29

3. Meeting My Husband 33

4. Moving South 41

5. Henry as a Doctor, 1951 to 1994 49

6. The Boys at Home, 1952 to 1970 69

7. Boats, Fishing, and Dauphin Island 89

8. Family Reunions 105

9. The Boys Leave Home 115

10. Hilda and Henry Travel Abroad, 1989 to 1998 129

11. Moving On 137

12. Moving to The Gates, 2008 to Present 143

Epilogue 149

Timeline 151



Writing this book has been a family affair. After my son Chris started researching

his ancestors, my family asked me to write about my life, and everybody has

been interested in the project. It’s not that I have had any kind of special life, but

I have lived a long time, met many people, and visited a good many places. My

family thought that my stories would be interesting not only to my own children,

grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, but also to my nieces and nephews from all

over the country—the children and grandchildren of my brothers and sisters, who are

no longer with us—who may want to learn more about their families too.

This book contains the significant dates in the lives of family members and friends, so

I hope that it will serve as a kind of compendium of family history. Mostly, however,

I hope that my stories remind my family members of their parents and cousins, of

the fun they had at family reunions, and of just how wonderfully outlandish normal

little boys can be. Just a few days ago, as her two little boys ran all over the house,

my granddaughter Claire asked, “Are little boys supposed to do that?” I thought, just

wait until she reads what her father did when he was three years old!



Home and Abroad

My father, Alfred Raymond Bellinger, was a classics professor at Yale University.

He was born on July 24, 1893, in Durham, Pennsylvania to my grandparents,

Hiram Paulding Bellinger (born in 1865) and Elizabeth Dwight Raymond Bellinger

(born in 1869).

My mother, Charlotte Brinsmade Bellinger, was born on September 20, 1893, in

Washington, Connecticut, where her ancestors had lived for centuries. Her father,

John Chapin Brinsmade, was born in Chicopee, Massachusetts on April 24, 1852,

and attended The Gunnery School—a boys’ school in Washington—and Harvard

College. He later served as a member of the Connecticut legislature and became

headmaster of The Gunnery School, which other members of the family also

attended. He and my grandmother, Mary Gold Gunn Brinsmade (born 1876),

had eight children. In addition to my mother, their children were Frederick (born

1882), William Bartlett (1884), Chapin (1885), Eleanor Gold (1886), Mary (1888),

John C. Jr. (1891), and Abigail (1896). The only one of my mother’s siblings that

I really knew was Uncle Fred, the eldest, because he taught math in a school in New

Haven, not far from where we lived.

New Haven, Connecticut

I am one of five children, and our big household, in New Haven, Connecticut

was managed by our mother. We eventually gave her 19 grandchildren! My eldest

brother Peter was born on June 15, 1921. He was very good looking and people

used to say that he looked like a movie star, or rather, two different movie stars—

one when he was younger and another when he was older. My next eldest brother

was Rossiter Raymond Bellinger—we called him Ros—and he was born on June 29,

1922. Ros was kind and considerate. I came next, on September 27, 1924, and my


sister Mary was born May 20, 1929. As I will explain later, the youngest, Elizabeth,

came later.

We grew up on Fountain Street in New Haven, in a big, three-story house with eight

bedrooms and seven bathrooms that my great-grandfather, R.W. Raymond, gave to

my mother and father as a gift. I can actually remember sleeping in a crib in that

house. My parents told me that when they had company, I would stand up in the crib

and say “Howdee, howdee!” to everybody who passed on the way to use my mother’s


My mother sometimes went away on archaeology trips with my father, and while

she was away we stayed with my grandparents, H.P. and Elizabeth Bellinger. While

we were there, we were cared for by an English nurse named Miss Kendall. She was

very strict. At times, she took me into a closet, pulled my pants down, and spanked

me with the back of a hairbrush. If I cried, she spanked me for crying. I was afraid

of her, but my brothers, who I thought were very brave, weren’t afraid at all. I know

this because we played a game that we called Miss Kendall. Peter would pretend to

be Miss Kendall and Ros and I would be the children. Ros and I would then pretend

to take our naps, but would read books instead. When Peter/Miss Kendall came in,

I hid my book so that I wouldn’t get in trouble, but Ros just kept on reading and

wasn’t worried at all. If we weren’t playing Miss Kendall, we spent nap time climbing

around the room trying not to touch the ground.

I have so many memories of living in that house. When we were teenagers, my

sisters and I sometimes spent the night on the sleeping porch, even when it was as

cold as 30°F outside. I had my own room up on the third floor where Mary often

condescended to sleep with me, but whenever she got mad at me, she picked up her

bedding, went over into the big attic and slept on the trunks that we stored there.

Dinner on Fountain Street was always quite formal. When my brothers were home,

the seven of us were carefully stationed around the table. I sat opposite a glass cabinet

that had mirrors in it, so all my life I saw myself in the mirror because that was my

place at dinner.

My parents were very good parents and not bossy at all. They were very intellectual and

read to us all the time, and, not surprisingly, they were serious about our studies. My

mother didn’t like any of us listening to the radio until we had done our homework.

A sabbatical in Europe and a surprise detour to Istanbul

My father, as a professor, had sabbatical years periodically. When his sabbatical came

up in 1932, he and my mother took me, then aged eight, and my brothers and sister


with them to Europe. We made our way through Belgium, France, and Switzerland

on our way to Rome where my father was to study at the American Academy. Much to

everyone’s surprise, we discovered that my mother was pregnant with Elizabeth while

we were there. My parents left America with four children and returned with five!

One of our memorable stops in France was in Normandy, where we saw the 76-yardlong

Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered cloth that depicts the events leading up to

the Norman conquest of England. We also went to Mont-Saint-Michel, which was

stunning. With my father driving a Chevrolet convertible, we moved away from the

east coast of France until we came to Tours. We decided to have a picnic on the river

Loire, on the outskirts of the city, but unfortunately, our car got stuck in the mud!

There was nothing my father could do as there weren’t any gas stations around, so

he ended up having to walk back to the city to get help, leaving behind his pregnant

wife and four children until he could come back with help. All ended well and, with

help, my father had the car pulled out of the mud.

We then traveled westward through France to Switzerland where my brothers were to

go to a boarding school while the rest of my family stayed in Rome. I well remember

Vevey, where we stayed at in the Swiss Alps. It was a beautiful town on Lake Geneva,

with the Alps hovering above it. We stayed there for around three weeks until the

boys started at their new school, La Clairière. After we dropped off the boys, we took

the Chevrolet across the mountains in Switzerland into Italy through the Simplon

Pass. On the way up to the pass, the car broke down again, and again, my father had

to leave his pregnant wife and daughters as he searched for help. It turned out that

somebody had put water in the gasoline. After we straightened that out, we drove on,

passing through Milan until we reached Rome.

In Rome, we stayed in Villina Bellacci, a delightful, sunny house right next to the

American Academy, where my father studied. We had a fabulous chef—and in

fact, I still have his infallible recipe for spaghetti meat sauce. Our maid, Elda, and

our nursemaid, Theresa, were supporters of fascism and adored Mussolini. Once,

when Mussolini came to visit the American Academy, Elda and Theresa told Mary

and me to lean out of the window to wave to him, and he actually waved back to

us. They also taught us many fascist songs, which my parents asked Mary and me

to sing for company after we got home, probably to show off their little girls. I was

really surprised when we got back to the United States to learn that my grandfather

thought Mussolini was a very bad man. I was only eight and didn’t know anything

about politics.

I missed the whole of third grade while we were in Europe. My mother tried to teach

me spelling, but that didn’t go very well. I went to school in a convent nearby, but


the only catch here was that the nuns didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Italian.

Eventually, I learned to speak a little Italian, but the only nun who spoke English was

the piano teacher and she was really mean, so it is no wonder that I never learned

how to play the piano. Another nun with a beautiful face tried her best to teach us

how to sew. The class project was for each of us to sew ourselves a chemise, and she

kept saying, “You just take up one thread with your needle.”

I remember our stay in Rome as a sunny, happy time. Like all the members of our

family, Mary and I were climbers who did not like staying on the ground, and we

loved to climb on a fountain nearby. One day, as Mary and I walked around the

fountain, she fell in, provoking me to laugh and laugh, which Mary promptly reported

to our parents. Mary ended up with kind of a temper when we were teenagers, and

my laughing at her probably didn’t help her disposition.

We stayed in Rome for six months and then traveled on to Brindisi, a city on the

Adriatic Sea, to board a boat to Greece. My father had connections at the Academy in

Athens, so we stayed there for around a month, joined by Peter and Ros, who left their

boarding school in Switzerland. We visited lots of cathedrals and lots of museums.

My brothers and I were a bit bored, although years later, when Henry and I traveled

together, I wished I had paid more attention. Despite our short time in Athens, my

family made some deep connections. Mary and I had a nursemaid named Thalia with

whom my mother kept in touch for years, including all through the war.

As my mother’s pregnancy neared its end, my father searched for a doctor to help

with the delivery. The only person he knew of in all of Europe was a Dr. Shepard,

who lived in Turkey, so we left Greece for Istanbul where we lived with Dr. and

Mrs. Shepard and their four children while waiting for our little sister to be born.

They were happy to have us, they said, as they planned to send their children to the

United States to go to college. Despite our short connection with the Shepards, their

daughter Alice played, as I will explain, an important role in my life many years later.

While we were in Istanbul, my brothers and I walked down to the Bosporus strait to

take a ferry with the Shepard children to the American School on the Asian side of

the city. It was a slow-moving ferry, so, like all children, we passed the time playing

games. One game in particular, which we called Ghost, was a lot of fun. One of the

players called out a letter of the alphabet, and then, one by one, all of the players

added letters to form a word. The object of the game was to avoid being the last

person to add a letter that formed a word. While we studied at the school, we put on

a performance of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, in which Alice played

the part of the witch. I learned all of the songs in the play, and I’ve remembered them

all my life.


Our sister Elizabeth Dwight Bellinger was born on May 25, 1933, after which we

returned to the United States. We had no crib for Elizabeth, so we took her home in

a market basket, which is still in Elizabeth’s family.

Grammar and High School in New Haven

When we got back to America, the Depression was in full force. It didn’t affect my

father very much because he was on a salary at Yale, but I do remember seeing men

without legs sitting on the sidewalk and selling pencils to make money. That image

sticks with me as my main memory of the Depression years.

Before we went to Europe, I had attended kindergarten at Benton Grammar School

as a four-year-old, which meant, of course, that I had to repeat the year when I turned

five. After that, I went to first and second grades at Foote School, which was a private

school. As a seven-year-old, I fell in love with Stuart Clement, a second grade Foote

student who was very good looking, played baseball, and was also the first cousin to

the first President Bush. Throughout school I made many good friends and always

enjoyed myself.

After we returned from Europe, my parents sent me back to Benton, the public

school where I had gone to kindergarten. It is possible that the Depression affected

my family to the extent that my parents could no longer afford to send me to private

school, although I do not remember any sense of privation. At that time, we were

able to go to the 5&10 store and buy the items on our entire Christmas gift list for

under a dollar.

I was a very conscientious student and was even the teacher’s pet at Benton. She used

to take me by the shoulder and put me in the front of the class. Mary and I walked to

grammar school and, later, to Sheridan Junior High, which was across the street from

our house. New Haven High School, however, was an eight-minute bus ride away and

I can still feel the unbelievably cold and gusty wind that nearly killed us while we

waited at the bus stop in below-zero weather.

There were some especially good teachers in junior high. One of these was a science

teacher and I probably loved science because of the way she taught. I also loved the

popular Latin professor, and my friends and I liked to hang out in his classroom

after school. There was, though, one teacher I did not like; in fact, I was terrified of

the music teacher, who made us do homework. One time, after failing to bring my

homework to school, I told her the outright lie that my sister had torn it up. Despite

my terror, I remember all of the music she taught me, so she must have been a good



In high school, my American history teacher gave me a good foundation in history,

and I loved the mythology the Latin teacher taught us. On the other hand, my

English teacher didn’t think much of me or my friends, saying that we were wasting

our good minds on frivolity and that we should straighten up and do better. But of

course, frivolity is what teenagers do.

There were so many of us of high school age in New Haven that the school had to

teach us in double sessions. During sophomore year, we had classes from eight in the

morning until 12:30 in the afternoon, and then, as juniors and seniors, we went in

the afternoons. When I was a senior in high school, I had a boyfriend who went to

Yale, which was right near the high school. When I finished school at 5 o’clock, he

would be waiting for me outside, which was very exciting.

While my sisters and I attended junior and senior high school in New Haven, Pete

and Ros went away to boarding school at Hotchkiss in Lakeville, Connecticut after

grammar school at Hopkins Grammar School in town. In his teens, my brother Ros

was so bright that my father did not have to pay a penny to send him there. When

Ros went to college at Yale, he was invited to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society,

making him the only person in our family besides my father to be in Phi Beta Kappa.

Going through the public schools, I was always in the college-bound division (division

A2 for girls, and A1 for boys). It wasn’t discriminating; it just meant that we were with

people who were studying the same subjects. Because I was a girl, I took chemistry

(and liked it a lot) but did not have nearly enough math. Instead, girls were required

to take four years of Latin and French. This meant that I only took a half a semester

of algebra and half a semester of trigonometry in all of high school, and that’s not

enough. I always wanted to take physics in college, but I just didn’t have enough


Our public schools were not segregated, so there were lots of boys and girls of color at

them. One of my classmates was the son of Edith Jarvis, who used to cook for us. She

was a wonderful person and worked for us for many years; however, like many black

people at the time, she found a better-paying job when the war came. My mother was

always embarrassed by how little she paid Edith to live in the house and cook for us,

but we got along fine. She loved us and we loved her. Edith named her son, who was

later my classmate, Alfred Bellinger Jarvis after my father.

My mother put up with teenage girls pretty well, which is probably part of the reason

why I really enjoyed high school. Our dances in those days were very different from

the way young people have them today, and I think it really was more fun. We went

to big dances where the boys (we called them the stags) lined up along the wall and


then cut in on other dancers. This way, we were able to dance with many different

people as we waltzed and did the foxtrot. Once, years later, when I was a mother and

taking our boys home from their dancing school, my son Chris asked, “Mother, what

kind of dances did you do?”

Jokingly, I answered, “The minuet.”

Of course, we didn’t dance the minuet, but that didn’t faze him at all, because he

said, “Oh, I thought maybe you did the cancan.”

I always enjoyed going to see the Yale sports teams, and my favorite sport was football.

Because my father was a professor at Yale, we could get tickets to anything, so in

addition to the football games, the whole family went to hockey and basketball games

and swimming meets, although I never really liked the basketball.

I was still in high school when World War II started, graduating in 1942. We know

that we remember exactly where we were at important moments. Well, I will never

forget that I was singing Christmas carols at the Dwight Chapel at Yale when the

Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. We learned what had happened in Hawaii just as we

finished. Later, Franklin Roosevelt’s Day of Infamy speech was broadcast throughout

the school.

We probably all had expected war to come, even though Franklin Roosevelt said,

“I hate war, and Eleanor hates war.” After the attack, we knew that things were

going to change. For instance, my brother Peter, due to graduate from college in

1943, pretty much gave up focusing on his studies. He wrote his senior thesis about

pig embryos, but I think he copied it right out of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He later

said this wasn’t true, but I remember it happening, and it was all because he knew

that he was going to have to go off to war and was thinking of other things. He

applied for officer training school and was sent to a place called Edgewood Arsenal

in Baltimore.

My brother Ros had such terrible asthma that he was rated 4F and given a medical

exemption from the draft. This was probably a good thing as he was sort of a pacifist

anyway, and it also meant that he was able to finish his education at Yale. At this

time, both Peter and Ros were attending college at Yale and lived with us, so I got to

know them very well. They were good big brothers. Ros’s bedroom was near mine,

and because of his asthma, I could hear his breathing all night long. His doctors

prescribed a special kind of cigarette which I remember smelling when he smoked.

Years later my sister said, “You know that was marijuana.” Poor Ros, his asthma was

so bad.


Hilltop in Washington, Connecticut

One of the places we loved to go was Washington, a delightful little town in the

Berkshire Hills of northwest Connecticut where my mother’s family and their

ancestors had lived for hundreds of years. It was somewhat famous as a place that

movie stars went to get away from the crowds. We spent summer and Christmas

vacations there, staying in the house we called Hilltop, which belonged to my

father’s sister Louisa (Aunt Lou). My great-grandfather had given her the house in

Washington, just as he had given my parents the house in New Haven. My father’s

nickname for Aunt Lou was Hilda, and I guess that’s why I was given my name,

which I never really liked.

From the top of the hill, there was a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside,

and across the street from our house was the cemetery where my ancestors on

my mother’s side of the family, going back to the 1600s, had monuments. It was

always fun to walk across the street to look at all of the names and think about

their lives.

We had happy times at Hilltop. During Christmas vacations, we took out our ice

skates and sleds, and when the ponds froze over, the boys gathered their hockey sticks

and their pucks and played on the ponds, and my sisters and I wore short skirts and

went ice skating. In our teenage years, we had a whole gang of friends in Washington

with whom we walked down the hill to go to the movies at the city hall. We also

rode around in cars (without seat belts at that time), and in 1938, a bunch of us

went to New York City to see the World’s Fair. That was a memorable time. There

were exhibits showing the beginnings of television and air-conditioning—big things

in 1938! We also saw a marvelous General Motors show, with cars going around in

a circle.

A few years earlier, in 1934, tragedy struck when Hilltop burned down and

Grandfather Bellinger died in the fire. We never learned exactly what happened,

but the townspeople who lived in the valley, down in what we called The Hollow,

gossiped a lot about the cause. Some said that maybe my grandfather had set the

fire himself. Another rumor was that his head was missing. My mother disagreed

and said, “No, I don’t think any of that happened. We would have known that.”

I do remember that both of my brothers cried a lot when they heard what happened

because they loved my grandfather so much. He was amazing with little boys.

There is a sad irony to the story too. In the cemetery across from Hilltop are the stones

for many of my ancestors, most of whom were cremated, while the only physical

body in the cemetery is that of my grandfather and he was burned to death. With

insurance money after the fire, my aunt was later able to rebuild Hilltop.


Welcoming friends and other family members to Fountain Street

The family living in our big three-story house on Fountain Street in New Haven

also got bigger at times. After my father’s father died, my grandmother came to live

with us. I think it’s probably a good thing for three generations to live together,

although at the time we didn’t like it. We thought it was an imposition on our

mother, who had to make sure that our grandmother, who was in the bed nearly

all the time, had her lunch and everything else she needed. My grandmother had

been a great reader, but when her eyesight completely failed, my mother read The

New York Times to her every morning. I think it worked out well and they got along


Although she rarely got out of bed, our grandmother would occasionally take us on

a spree when the Gilbert and Sullivan shows came to town. I was a teenager by then

and I learned all the music and all the lyrics. We had a record player in the living

room on which I played music from the shows for her, turning up the volume loud

enough that she could hear the songs up in her room on the second floor. She just

loved Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.

My grandmother wasn’t the only family member who came to live with us for a time.

When one of my mother’s brothers, Uncle Chapin, became very sick, he came to

live at our house until he died. He and my mother were two of eight children, and

we laugh that it took our grandparents eight years to get started having children, but

once they found out how to do it, they had eight.

We didn’t, however, open our house only to family members, for my mother regularly

invited Yale students to come for dinner, fixing them creamed chicken on rice. It

was nothing very special, but they all seemed to love to come. Among our guests

were Alice and Fred Shepard, the children of the family we met in Istanbul. As their

father had promised, the children attended college and medical school in the U.S.,

and at Yale!

My father and the first President George Bush’s father were very good friends, so

occasionally, members of the Bush family were our guests. When George, already

married to Barbara, came out of the navy, he went to Yale. Once, he sent word

that he was going to come to one of my mother’s dinners, but that he was going

to send Barbara early and would join us later. Mary and I told my parents that we

would take care of her and asked, “What’s her name?” My father answered that her

name was Mrs. Bush and we said that we couldn’t possibly call her Mrs. Bush. My

father responded, “In my day, if you only knew someone’s first name, you would be

terribly embarrassed.”


Father with his mother, Elizabeth D. R. Bellinger


Aunt Lou with me at age one


Our home at 234 Fountain Street in New Haven, CT where I lived until my marriage in 1946


A family portrait soon after Mary’s birth with me, Father, Peter, Mother holding Mary, and Ros


Bellinger siblings: Peter, me, Mary, and Ros


Aunt Lou’s home “Hilltop” in Washington, CT. This three-story home was built after the first Hilltop

burned down


Taken by my long-time friend Sheldon Wise on top of West Rock in New Haven


Father had this portrait made of Mother sometime in the 1940s



College at Vassar


loved college, but to this day, I don’t know how I was accepted. One day in the

spring of my senior year, we all took our college entrance exams—the Scholastic

Achievement Test in the morning and the Scholastic Aptitude Test in the afternoon.

I expected to do pretty well on the first, but I knew the second test would be nearly

impossible because it was half math, and I just hadn’t had any math. I sat there,

unable to finish the whole test but trying to make sure that the questions I was able

to do were correct. In the end, I applied to college having finished just half of the

aptitude test. I have no idea how I was accepted at Vassar, although it must have been

for reasons other than math!

I began Vassar in 1942, choosing this college because my mother had gone there and

because my best friend Anne Jackson (who was the daughter of my mother’s cousin

from Hilltop) went there the year before. Anne and I were inseparable throughout

our childhood. She helped me to prepare for college by sending me all of her notes.

Later, my sisters went to Vassar too, although we did not attend at the same time.

Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, had a beautiful campus, but it could get

very cold there. In my first year, the temperature once went down to -40°F! Vassar

did not have sororities, so I lived at Raymond House, where we were warm. In the

winter, the snow fell in layers until, eventually, the sidewalks were thick with snow

packed into ice, but even in the winter, we rode bikes to class as soon as the snow

was cleared.

I had wonderful roommates and kept up with them for many years after college. We

really had a very good time together. Of the six of us who ate breakfast together every

morning, I still have one roommate left, Nancie Coan, who is my age. At 97, she


hikes five miles a day and drives her little car around Washington, D.C. It’s amazing

how well she does. I’m sorry that the other roommates have gone, as have most of my

friends here in Mobile.

Fashions were changing at the time and my friends began wearing jeans. One of my

lasting memories is seeing roommates Gatch (Betty Gatchell) and Andy (Katherine

Ann Campbell) pulling up their jeans and racing out of their room with their shirts

flying to run down the four flights of stairs to the dining room by 8 o’clock in

the morning, the last call for breakfast. When I started dating my future husband,

he couldn’t get over how many girls were wearing jeans at Vassar. Once, when he

dropped me off at college, he looked around and said, “I think I’d better be wearing

skirts because all the girls are wearing pants.” He’d come from Vanderbilt, where

there was still a dress code requiring that girls wore skirts.

One of the things I learned at college was how to plan. When I first went to college,

I had an adviser who sat me down and showed me how to record in a calendar which

hours were for going to classes and which for preparing for classes. I’ve been keeping

a weekly schedule ever since, a practice that started with a good teacher.

All my college years were during the war. Anybody who lived during those times

knows how unusual they were, in both big and small ways. So many of our brothers

had gone to war, and in addition, because of the war, people thought that girls should

finish college quickly and join the war effort. This meant that I went to college from

1942 to 1945—for three years instead of four—attending classes during the summer

so that I could finish early. When I started singing in the Vassar College choir, that

was the beginning of my love for choral music, although my eighth-grade teacher had

already made me familiar with good classical music.

Another roommate, Marjorie Carolin, shared a humble entry in her own autobiography

about her expectations of making the Daisy Chain. Girls from the sophomore class

were chosen for their looks to carry two chains of daisies for the seniors to walk

between. The day came for the committee to come to our house to make their

selection and Marjorie said she did everything she could to call attention to herself,

but to no avail. Adding to the disappointment of not getting the invitation was the

humiliation that it was given to her dear but unstylish friend, Hilda Bellinger. Years

later, when I read her letter, I thought, “Well, Marjie should have gotten it!”

Although at a less significant level, there were also changes in our daily lives. At

Vassar, because the war effort required more workers, the hired help left, leaving the

students to do the work they had once done. We were, in consequence, organized into

teams—a housekeeping group and a kitchen group. I went to college on a scholarship,


which in those days was $400, with full tuition and board costing $1,250, and I had

to wait on tables to make up for some of the support. At one point, my father had

three of us in college when his yearly income was $6,000.

I was just a B student at Vassar and didn’t make Phi Beta Kappa. Toward the end of

my senior year, I was interviewed by the Army Signal Corps. I knew nothing about

the work, however, and the job didn’t work out because it was eliminated once the

war was over, and I returned to New Haven to live with my family.

Back home, my father took me on rounds to ask his colleagues if they had a job

for me. Eventually, for $100 a month, I got a job at the Yale Library working for

Dr. Wing, who bought all the books for the library. The Yale Library is absolutely

beautiful, with Gothic architecture and open stacks, and all of those beautiful books

probably ruined my reading for life. As each of the new books went across my desk,

I was so tempted to read it, but I had to make do with reading the beginning to see

if I liked the book and then skipping to the end of the book, just trying to read as

much as possible before passing it on. My job was to assign the method of payment

for each book (specific grants, for example). I loved that job and would probably have

stayed there happily for the rest of my life if, 10 months later, I hadn’t met Henry.



Meeting My Husband

To introduce my husband, Henry Monnier Gewin, we have to go back to Istanbul

in 1932. Just as Dr. Shepard had said they would, his children attended college

in the United States. In 1946, the Shepards’ oldest child, Alice, who had attended

medical school at Yale, introduced me to Henry Monnier Gewin on a blind date.

Like Alice, he was doing his medical internship at Yale.

Alice told me that an intern friend of hers was far from home and lonely. Since he

had asked if she knew any intelligent, attractive girls in New Haven, Alice set us up

for a blind date. I drove my father’s car to the hospital where Henry worked and

lived, parked my car, we both climbed into the blue Chevrolet that his father had

given him, and we drove to a local restaurant together. I looked at the prices to see

which would be the cheapest meals because I knew that interns didn’t earn much

(and actually, they received no income!), but Henry said, “I hear they have good

steaks here,” so that’s what we ordered.

Afterward, we went to a movie in Henry’s car. I don’t remember how we figured out the

car situation. It was a good start to our relationship because we always traveled in two cars,

even after we were married. When Henry took me home, we discovered that my family

had forgotten that I wasn’t there and had locked all the doors. Luckily, I remembered

that there was a small dog opening in one of the back doors, and somehow, Henry fit

his broad shoulders through that small dog door, went inside and unlocked the door.

The next day, I told my parents that I had really liked my date, but I didn’t remember

his name. My father got out his Yale directory and read out all the names in the Yale

medical school and in the hospital. He finally read a name that sounded familiar:

Henry Monnier Gewin. Not an easy name though.


Henry was three years older than I, born on February 23, 1921—the same year as

Peter—in Demopolis, Alabama. Our first date was in January 1946, and afterwards,

we dated every night that Henry was not on call. One night in April 1946, Henry

said, “I haven’t asked you to marry me yet because I wasn’t sure you were ready.”

“I’m ready,” I responded. We were sitting in a car, so he didn’t go down on one knee

or anything like that, but that’s how we decided to be engaged.

It was all very improbable. Henry had been born in a small southern town and grew

up in Mobile, where his father, Roulhac Gewin, was a United States Marshal. I, on

the other hand, was a real Yankee who had never gotten farther south than New

York City until after I graduated from college, and even then, I went only as far

south as Washington, D.C. Henry was a leader, and I was a follower. He had a bad

temper, and I was more inclined to smooth things over. On top of this, I was not at

all interested in marrying a doctor. My uncle, Arthur Jackson, in Washington, was a

doctor and I knew how hard he worked and how often his phone rang. His daughter,

Anne, was my best friend, and there were nights that we had to stay home to answer

his calls when we wanted to be out having a good time.

But I also learned much about him that I liked. Henry was wonderful, very smart,

a perfectionist, and a leader. (He had been president of the student body at his high

school in Mobile.) He had gone to college and medical school at Vanderbilt and

finished first in his class in medical school. This was during the war, when many

educations were being accelerated and, with the army putting him through school,

he finished both college and medical school in six years. After he became a doctor, he

applied to do his internship at Yale and was given an 18-hour-a-day job in exchange

for room, board, and laundry.

So, I took a leap of faith, married Henry, and moved south with him. Those times in

the south were not easy, but it didn’t affect Henry and me. Yes, we were very different

then, and even by the time he died, we were still very different, but love makes up for

a lot of things, and we had a rich and happy life together, different as we were from

one another.

Getting to our wedding day has its share of memorable stories, among them, Henry’s

first meeting with my family. My grandmother was still living with us at the time,

and although she rarely came down the stairs to the living room from her room on

the second floor, this was a special occasion. That meant that Henry had to face her,

my parents, Aunt Lou, and my sisters—all for the first time. He handled it beautifully,

and he even took charge of the interview himself.


We held the wedding in the Congregational Church on the green in Washington,

Connecticut on June 22, 1946, and the reception was in the Parish House. I wore a

wedding dress that my mother and I shopped for in Hartford. As I have mentioned,

I was not a very stylish person. In fact, when I finally came to Mobile, my mother-inlaw

looked over all my trousseau, which was not very fine. My wedding dress suited

the wedding, however, as it was simple and typical of those that took place after the

war when people were not having big weddings, especially from country homes like

ours. Most memorably, my father asked a quartet to sing the wedding hymn, which

was composed by my grandmother’s cousin, Percy Atherton.

Henry’s brother Julian came up from Annapolis in his white dress uniform, and his

sister Phylis came from Texas, bringing her daughter, Roulhac, who was 12 years

old. His parents couldn’t come because his father had just been diagnosed with

tuberculosis and Henry’s mother stayed home to care for him. I was happy to see

many of my college classmates at the wedding, especially because the only way to

reach the little town of Washington, high on the hill in the Berkshires, was by car,

and many people didn’t have cars in this post-war period. After a lovely honeymoon

at a lake in New Hampshire, we began our journey to Alabama.


The engagement announcement photo taken before my June 1946 wedding


My wedding portrait for the newspaper


Julian, Phylis, and Henry at a reception at Hilltop before our wedding. Julian was in the US Naval

Academy, and Phylis was married to Dr. Tom Bunkley and living in Stamford, TX


The Congregational Church on the green in Washington, CT, where Henry and I were married

(Postcard—copyright 1990 by Henry Clay Childs)


Our wedding group in front of the church: Phylis’s daughter Rouhlac, Mary, Elizabeth, Henry and me,

my cousin Anne Jackson, and my college roommate Nancie Coan



Moving South

After our honeymoon, we made a quick stop in New Haven to say goodbye to my

family and then began our drive to Alabama. We laughed a lot along the way.

Henry couldn’t carry a tune, but despite this, he entertained me by singing songs that

I was supposed to recognize and identify. It was almost impossible. On top of him

not being able to carry a tune, I recognized very few songs until he began singing,

“Alabama, Alabama, we will aye be true to thee.”

Our destination was Tuscaloosa, where Henry, a second lieutenant in the army,

was going to work at the Veterans hospital. We did not go straight to Tuscaloosa,

however, and instead drove to Mobile as I had yet to meet Henry’s parents and

because, in addition, Henry hadn’t yet found us a place to live. On our way, we

passed through so many little towns full of cows, horses and unpainted shanties—

typical of 60 years ago—that I could not imagine we would ever arrive at a real city

like Mobile.

We stayed at boarding houses in Warrenton, Virginia and in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

When we got to Chattanooga, Henry said, “It looks as though it’s raining down

south.” This made me think that we’d gone about as far south as it was possible to

go. Little did I know that we still had another 400 miles to go!

When we finally arrived in Mobile, I saw that the city was beautiful. The trees were

blooming, and it was lovely. Henry’s parents, who lived on Chatham Street, were

so welcoming. Can you imagine being a southerner in the 1940s and meeting your

Yankee daughter-in-law for the first time? Henry’s mother, Maud Monnier Gewin,

treated me like a daughter and we got along well. Roulhac, Henry’s father, was also a

lovely man. Unfortunately, he was in bed a lot of the time and died in 1949, not long


after our first son was born. They were good to me in the two weeks I stayed with

them until Henry found a place for us to live in Tuscaloosa.

People up north didn’t understand the south, and the south didn’t understand the

north. These were difficult times, but Henry’s family welcomed me, introduced me

to all of Henry’s high school friends, and helped me to get to know Mobile very well.

Tuscaloosa, 1946 to 1948

We didn’t stay long at the first address Henry found for us in Tuscaloosa. We rented

a portion of a house from a somewhat cantankerous old lady who turned off the

heat when she went to bed at 9 o’clock. In exchange for lower rent, she hired Henry

to stoke her furnace and mow her lawn. He did stoke the furnace, but he didn’t like

mowing the lawn (in fact, he never liked mowing the lawn). He eventually got his

friends to come by and help with that!

One weekend, my mother-in-law came to visit. After inspecting our living quarters,

she decided that she did not like her son sleeping on the mattress that came with

the place and promptly ordered a new mattress for us. Well, when the landlady saw

the mattress, she said, “If you don’t like my furnished apartment, you can go find

someplace else to live.” Well, young as I was, I cried and cried, and then I cried some

more on the phone to Henry, who came home.

We decided we had to leave. We already had good friends who regularly came over

to play games like Monopoly with us in the evenings, and among them were Bob

and Midge Radding. For three weeks, we stayed on their sofa bed while we looked

for a new apartment, and played bridge with them at night. Once, Bob found that

he didn’t like his cards, or something about the game, and just threw down his cards

and went to bed. But that was okay, as we all got along well.

We moved to a duplex house on a cul-de-sac off what is now McFarland Avenue. Not

only was it right across the street from the golf course (which Henry liked), but on

the other side of our duplex lived Dr. Bill Warren and his wife, Jane, who became our

close friends, and remained so as long as they lived. When we first moved there, only

about 30,000 people lived in Tuscaloosa, but in time, McFarland Avenue became a

very big road and our old duplexes were torn down. Just four blocks away from where

we lived, there are now huge stadiums.

Anybody who knew Tuscaloosa that long ago knows that we also had to get used to

the awful smell from the nearby paper mill. We arrived in in the heat of July, and

I didn’t know whether to open the windows to let the air in or close them to keep the

paper-mill smell out. But evidently, it didn’t bother me for long as I had a fabulous


time living there. Other doctors and their wives arrived, some newly married and

young like us, and we made some excellent friends who remained so throughout our


It was probably 90°F when we arrived, and it took time for me to get used to the

southern heat. To this day, I hate crape myrtle trees, because I associate their red

summer blossoms with intense heat. Nevertheless, Tuscaloosa was a great introduction

not only to Alabama (where I became a lifelong Alabama football fan), but to the

south as well.

New Haven, 1948 to 1951

After two years in Tuscaloosa, Henry received an offer to do a residency in internal

medicine back at Yale. By this time, I was pregnant with Billy. We returned to New

Haven in 1948 and Billy was born in December, a few months later. Although we

had good friends in New Haven, we didn’t do as much socializing because Henry was

extremely busy, and, without a nursemaid, I was very busy taking care of Billy.

While we lived in New Haven, my Aunt Jo Brinsmade did something that would affect

my life for many years: she nominated me to the Junior League, and I volunteered

there while my mother took care of Billy. Being responsible for a child was a change

for me, but my mother was there to help and advise me, as were my father and my

sisters—especially Mary—when they were home from college.

In our second year back in New Haven, Henry was made chief resident of internal

medicine at the Yale New Haven Hospital, which meant that he became even busier.

He also worked as a researcher with world famous doctors, and one of his research

projects really stands out for me. It was an experiment with white rats that showed

that if they ate enough protein when given alcohol, they would not develop cirrhosis.

Henry had to hold those white rats and stick a tube down their throats, and he said

they would bite.

We lived near the hospital in New Haven, and we were lucky that Henry found us

an apartment there because they were very rare at that time. It was in a three-story

house divided into three apartments and located in a lower middle-class area. I’ve

laughingly called it a slum apartment, but it really wasn’t. Working people lived in

the neighborhood and were mostly nice. There was, however, an alcoholic living

upstairs, and Henry sometimes had to help him up the stairs when he came home


I didn’t have a washing machine or a dryer, but I did have a baby carriage. I would

put Billy in the baby carriage and walk to what was called the “Washitarian.” I don’t


think there was even a dryer there as I can remember hanging diapers out on a

clothesline. In the wintertime, when I hung the first diaper to dry, it immediately

froze in the cold.

The house was very nice. We even had a dining room, and when we got television,

I could watch baseball games from around the country. Henry and I were both

baseball fans, and while I cheered for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Henry cheered for

St. Louis. We also watched the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, which

was Henry’s favorite. Poor little Billy amused himself by climbing around on the

furniture while we watched baseball games.

Returning “home” to Mobile

Recognizing his skill as both a doctor and a researcher, the doctors at the medical

school asked Henry if he would stay on as a member of the hospital medical staff

or as a professor. Henry, however, had always wanted to go back to Alabama. Back

in Mobile, Dr. Grady Segrest had just started the Diagnostic & Medical Clinic on

Government Street, and he invited Henry to join him as a partner. There were

just four doctors at the time, while today, there must be over 70 doctors working

there. Years later, one of our sons, Bill, became a doctor and eventually worked

there too.

Six months before we moved to Mobile, Henry’s brother Julian helped us to purchase

4702 Old Shell Road, which would be our home for the next 55 years. Although we

hadn’t even seen the house, we knew it was in Spring Hill, which was a nice place

to live and near Julian and his family. At the time, Henry was only making $100

a month as chief resident at the Yale Hospital, and I was a little worried about the

cost. Henry thought it would all work out and settled with a banker. We had a big

mortgage, although houses were not that expensive back then.

Thanks to Aunt Jo, the Junior League became an important part of my life in

Mobile too. I was, initially, uncertain about joining until I saw that the wife of one

of Henry’s best high school friends was a member, which convinced me. Joining

gave me a wonderful opportunity not only to learn a great deal about Mobile from

the provisional course that I had to take, but to form lifetime friendships in Mobile.

Over the years, I became less involved, but I always benefited from their excellent

volunteer training classes.

We also joined Spring Hill Presbyterian Church in January 1952, probably because

it was across the street from our house and we had only one car at the time, which

Henry needed to go to the hospital. This meant I could take little Billy’s hand and

cross Old Shell Road together to go to church. Since Henry made rounds at the


hospital on Sundays, it was many years before he could go to church with us on

Sundays. I am a member at Spring Hill Presbyterian to this day.

Henry, Bill and me in front of my parents’ home in Hamden, CT where they moved in 1949


The Bellinger family: in the front row are Father, Mother with Bill Gewin, Grandmother Bellinger with Kim,

and Aunt Lou; in the second row are Elizabeth, Mary, young Peter with his mother Marilyn, and me; and in

the back row are Peter, Henry, and Ros


Our home on Old Shell Road where Henry and I spent all of our married years. We purchased it sight

unseen in January 1951, with Julian’s help


Maud enjoying time with her grandson, Bill



Henry as a Doctor, 1951 to 1994

Henry was born in 1921 in Demopolis, Alabama and attended Demopolis

public schools until January 1936, when the family moved to Mobile. Here, he

attended Murphy High School, graduating in June of 1939. He was president of the

student council in his last year at school and he lettered in basketball, but he always

wanted to be a doctor.

As a high school student, Henry made rounds and house calls with Dr. McGehee,

and when he was a senior, an article about him in The Mobile Press Register noted that

he wanted to be a doctor. Not surprisingly, he attended Vanderbilt University with

this goal in mind. From 1939 to 1942, while an undergraduate, his social fraternity

was Delta Kappa Epsilon. Graduating with an A.B. degree Magna Cum Laude, he was

also invited to join the Phi Beta Kappa society in 1942.

Medical curriculum and honors

Henry’s final year of college and his first year of medical school overlapped so that

he was a senior in absentia from Vanderbilt’s undergraduate school while he attended

Vanderbilt’s medical school as a freshman. He received his medical degree in 1945.

His medical school fraternity was Phi Chi, and his honor society was AOA. Henry

won the Founders Medal in June 1945 for being first in his medical school class.

Following medical school, Henry applied for several internships and resolved to go

to the first place that accepted him. Thankfully, Yale New Haven Hospital in New

Haven accepted him, and he did his internship there from July 1945 to July 1946.

After completing his internship, Henry served as a medical corps captain in the

United States Army from July 1946 to June 1948, stationed at the Veterans Hospital


in Tuscaloosa, Alabama before returning to the Yale New Haven Hospital for his

residency. There he was Assistant Resident in Medicine (1948 to 1949), Associate

Resident (1949 to 1950), and Chief Resident and Instructor in Medicine at Yale (1950

to 1951).

During his residency, Henry participated in research for Dr. Gerald Klatskin on

alcohol and cirrhosis of the liver, with papers published in the Yale Journal of Biology

and Medicine. He was offered an assistant professorship at Yale University Medical

School, but he told Dr. Klatskin, “I’m tired of feeding alcohol to rats, and I want to

return to Alabama to take care of sick people.”

Dr. Klatskin offered his best wishes and told him, “I wish I could go with you.”

When we returned to Mobile in 1951, Henry was in private practice in internal

medicine as a member of the Diagnostic & Medical Clinic until his retirement

in 1994. He was first associated with Dr. Grady O. Segrest, Dr. John Moss, and

Dr. William Atkinson. Newer members of the group included Dr. Martin Lester,

Dr. Albert Coker, Dr. Donald Kirby, Dr. Robert Lerner, and our son Bill. At that

time, their offices were located at 1217 Government Street. Later, the group was

joined by Dr. Thomas McGee, Dr. Maher Sahawneh, and Dr. Brice Whetstone.

Although Henry had been certified in internal medicine since 1953, he chose to recertify

in 1977, scoring 97 percent on this grueling exam. This wasn’t necessary, but

he wanted to show that he could.

Henry started weekend calls with Dr. Bill Atkinson. (After all these years, Bill’s

granddaughter, Amanda, just married our grandson Phillip, Chris’s son. Her

grandmother was one of my very best friends.) The medical group was quickly

expanding, with doctors coming back from the war and getting started with their


Early in his practice, Henry was involved in a case in which he proved that a patient

of Dr. Segrest’s was actually poisoned by his wife. The husband had been in hospital

without the symptoms that led to his death until after he returned home, and he was

buried before being diagnosed with poisoning. Henry reported the case in a paper

presented at the annual meeting of the Alabama Medical Association in 1956. It was

also reported by the Mobile Press-Register in 1956, with the title “Diagnosis Poison,

Unsuspected Poisoning, a Diagnostic Pitfall.” Henry was always, first and foremost,

an excellent diagnostician.

Henry was designated a Fellow of the American College of Physicians in 1963. Later,

in 1990, the same organization presented him with the Laureate Award, which is


given to physicians who have “demonstrated by their example and conduct an abiding

commitment to excellence in medical care, education, or research and in service to

their community, their Chapter, and the American College of Physicians.”

Henry taught medicine on the Mobile General Hospital residency program and at

the University of South Alabama Medical School from 1951 to his retirement. He

was Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the

University of South Alabama Medical School. I remember that he chose December

and January to make his rounds, waking at 6 o’clock in the morning to meet the

young doctors at the hospital and make rounds with them.

He was on the medical staff at the Mobile Infirmary, Providence Hospital, Doctors

Hospital, and Spring Hill Memorial Hospital, and served at various times as president

of the medical staff at the Mobile Infirmary, Mobile General Hospital (which is now

the USA Medical Center), and the Blessed Martin De Porres Hospital.

Henry was a member of the Mobile County Board of Health for five years and

served as president of the Mobile Board of Health in 1968. He devoted his life to

patient care, which he found stimulating, enjoyable, and rewarding. Throughout his

career, he had a great nurse, Jane Roney, who made sure that he saw and took care

of all his patients.

In 1951, as I was busy with a growing family of boys in our new home in Mobile,

Henry started up a busy medical practice. In the mornings, he made rounds at the

hospitals and stopped by the Doctors’ Lounge at the Mobile Infirmary for a chat with

his friends, before going to see his patients at the Diagnostic & Medical Clinic.

As a doctor’s wife, I was also, inevitably, involved with his practice. In those early

days, there were no answering services to take doctors’ calls during their off hours,

so I often answered the phone when patients called our home from the hospital on

Henry’s day off. He had three partners covering his patients for him, but if a patient

called, I had to go out on the golf course to find him so that he could return home

to call the patient.

In some ways, I also protected him. If a doctor answers the phone from a patient, he

has to respond, even if he’s off, but at times, a patient might call on Henry’s day off

and I would say that he wasn’t home and that they should reach out to the on-call

doctor. My secret is that I did this occasionally, even when Henry was in the next

room, as he needed his day off! There were times when he would get a call every

two or three nights after he went to bed. After muttering a few bad words, he would

politely answer the phone, “Dr. Gewin.” Then, he would get up, change his clothes,


and go down to the hospital to admit one of his patients, which, in those days,

doctors had to do themselves. Now, with hospitalists, it’s much, much easier.

Henry wasn’t all work. We also enjoyed time together as a couple. Henry and I went

to many Mardi Gras balls, and I loved them, but Henry didn’t because so many

of them were on Tuesday nights and Wednesdays were very busy days for seeing

patients. The balls, which were at Fort Whiting, gave me a chance to see people at a

time when I was stuck at home with little children. I would hide from Henry so that

he couldn’t tell me it was time to go home. I can understand why he didn’t want to

be out late, but I loved it.

Our special life with doctor friends

Many physicians returned from World War II, completed their training, and

eventually set up practices in Mobile. During the years that Henry was building

up his practice and I was busy with little children, our life was mostly connected

with these doctors and their wives. Henry and I socialized with them and formed

lasting friendships. Special among them were the Donald brothers, Jim and John,

both excellent surgeons, and their wives, Gretchen and Martha. There was also my

obstetrician Dr. Sonny Hope and his wife Marianne; Dr. Sam Marshall, a urologist,

and his wife Clarinda; Dr. Bill and Virginia Fondé; and Henry’s partner, Dr. Bill

Atkinson and his wife Kit. Our good friends also included Henry’s brother, Julian,

and his wife, Madge. We were close to them throughout our lives, especially as their

children, Logan and Erla, were the same age as two of our children and they all went

to school together.

Henry played golf with his doctor friends until boating replaced his love of golf.

We had dinner parties at one another’s homes, and I began what would become

decades of activities with their wives, getting to know their children as well. We had

big celebrations at the country club on Labor Day and would invite all the families

together. The dads would go out to the golf course to watch golf, and the wives would

stay with their children and watch them swim at our house.

Mobile was a very welcoming city and I became involved in many activities there. In

1954, when Jimmy was a few months old, I was invited to join the Shakespeare Club.

Friends of mine had joined and I thought it would be interesting. We met weekly—

and continue to meet 68 years later—to discuss one of Shakespeare’s plays, reading

one act at a time out loud and discussing it. Each of us took turns to be responsible

for leading the discussion for the next five or six weeks. When I first joined the club,

I lead the discussion of The Taming of the Shrew. Although I didn’t always like the plays

we studied, it was fun. I especially like the series of history plays about the Yorks and

Lancasters. We have just finished reading The Merchant of Venice. It is a splendid play.


In 1961, when Bobby started in kindergarten, I had mornings free and started playing

9 holes of golf at the Mobile Country Club, eventually graduating to playing 18 holes.

We had golf carts that we preferred to pull on our own. At my first tournament,

I had such a high handicap that I won the tournament and my name was engraved

on a silver bowl trophy—my claim to fame. I never became particularly good at golf,

but I enjoyed it until about four or five years ago.

In the summer of 1968, some friends and I began a fun tradition that lasted for

decades. Seven other doctors’ wives and I started playing two-table bridge together

every Tuesday. We would meet in each other’s houses, sharing coffee or tea but not

food. We played every week for almost 50 years until I moved to The Gates in 2008.

As members of the group died, others joined in their place.

Another thoroughly enjoyable activity for me was singing in the church choir. Henry

was supposed to be off medical duty on Wednesdays, and though he was always so

tired, he was glad to come home and stay with the boys when I went to choir rehearsal

at 7 o’clock every Wednesday night. I was involved with that choir for years and years

and I loved it. It was a welcome relaxation for me and probably for Henry too.

In December of 1971, I started volunteering at the Mobile Infirmary. Henry would

get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and leave home to make rounds at the hospital,

and I thought that I might go there too. My job was to take patients to their rooms

from the admitting department, and if it was a simple job, I still felt as though I was

doing something for somebody else. It is a really good place to work, and I enjoyed

it for 25 years.

When the boys were all in school or college, this is what a typical week looked

like: I would start out playing golf in the Women’s Golf Association on Tuesday

mornings, followed by our bridge game that afternoon. On Wednesday mornings,

we always had a church meeting of some kind, and Wednesday night was choir

rehearsal. Shakespeare Club was on Thursday morning, and I volunteered at the

Mobile Infirmary in the afternoon. Friday morning it was back to the golf course,

and on Friday afternoon, we usually went to Dauphin Island—a 166-square-mile

island at the entrance to Mobile Bay—for the weekend. I don’t know how I did it

all—and this schedule didn’t account for taking care of the boys!

None of my volunteer activities would have been possible—and I would have had to

stay home and do a lot more housework—if it hadn’t been for Mabel Barlow, who

came to work for us in 1963 when Bobby was eight years old and Jimmy was in third

grade. Mabel lived down Old Shell Road from me, and she was a good woman who

was not afraid of anything and who became a good friend. Not only did she help


me at home, but if Henry and I went away to a College of Physicians meeting in

California, for instance, she would cook for the boys. My mother-in-law would be on

hand if anything happened, but the boys were pretty big by then, and Mabel made

these trips possible.

Mabel was from Marion, Alabama, and I believe that Coretta Scott King was a cousin

of hers. We lived through difficult times because there was a lot of dissension during

that period, but we got along well. She stayed with us until she was old enough to

retire and has since died.

Beginning in 1972, I always went to three or four performances of the symphony

at the Civic Center every year. I also helped as an usher for the youth concerts

on Friday mornings when all the schoolchildren came to concerts. That was very


I then started going to continuing education classes as part of the University of

South Alabama’s Odyssey program. The classes, held at the humanities building,

were excellent, and there were art lectures showing great, great art pictures. The

music department was amazing, and somebody from there used to come to give

talks. I was tickled. Henry came to classes with me, and even went to the opera

with me. Philip and his wonderful new wife, Amanda, were here over the weekend.

Amanda is just so delightful and lively. When she said that Philip had gone to the

opera with her, I told her that Henry had gone to the opera with me too and hadn’t


Henry’s biography of Hilda

Henry wrote a letter about my life and my family to Annie Ayres Terry in 1971

when she asked him for information about me for the Women of the Church Life

Membership Award. I have included it in my book because it shows Henry’s and my

lifelong devotion to each other.

Dear Mrs. Terry,

I am enclosing some notes containing biographical data relative to Hilda. Inevitably,

reminiscing about her background and our twenty-five years together have served to

remind me of how extremely fortunate I was when I shared marriage vows with this lovely

Yankee on June 22, 1946; and I feel compelled to add some personal impressions to the

rather cold biographical facts. If you need further background information her sisters in

Washington, Conn. and Portland, Oregon, can supply such. I will have to obtain the

exact addresses for you.


Your kind invitation to attend your meetings is appreciated but I really must decline,

for not in my moments of greatest bravery have I even halfway approached the courage

needed to face the women of the church.

Best wishes to all of you,


Henry M. Gewin, M.D.


Hilda Bellinger Gewin was born September 27, 1924, in New Haven, Connecticut, the

third child and oldest daughter of Charlotte Brinsmade Bellinger and Alfred Raymond

Bellinger. Raised by gentle parents in an atmosphere that stressed spiritual and intellectual

values with little use for the materialistic she shared unusually strong family ties with her

parents and her two older brothers and two younger sisters. When I first met the Bellingers

I was quite impressed by the closeness of the family – how they got along so well together

and shared each other’s interests and problems, how well they communicated with each

other and how they attended church together and played games together as a family; most

of all, I was impressed by the lack of any petty quarrels and the absence of gossip and

criticism of others.

There is also a strong background of scholarly attainments, for her father, who is a wellknown

archeologist and authority on ancient coins, was for many years Professor of Latin

and Greek and Classical Studies at Yale University, and since his retirement he has

served as interim Professor of the Classics at Johns Hopkins, Princeton and Cincinnati

Universities and has been Chairman of the Board of the American University of Athens,

Greece. Her mother’s family founded The Gunnery, an outstanding prep school in

Washington, Connecticut, and her mother was a Vassar graduate who inspired her three

daughters to also become Vassar graduates, while the two brothers were Yale graduates

who became Doctors of Philosophy and College Professors.

Hilda attended public schools in New Haven, entered Vassar College and graduated in

1945. After graduation she worked at the Yale Library.

In January 1946, she met her future husband, having been introduced by Dr. Alice Carey,

an old family friend of the Bellingers’ and fellow intern of her future husband at New

Haven Hospital.


Hilda and Henry were married on June 22, 1946, in the Congregational Church on the

green at Washington, Conn., which had been attended by both sides of her family for


For the next two years they lived in Tuscaloosa, AL., where Henry was stationed as a

medical officer during his army tour of duty.

In July 1948, she and her husband returned to New Haven for three years of residency

training. Her oldest son, Bill, (William Charles Gewin) was born in New Haven in

December 1948.

In July 1951, the Gewin family moved to Mobile to their present residence at 4702 Old

Shell Road and shortly thereafter joined the Spring Hill Presbyterian Church which was

then located on Old Shell Road.

There have been three other sons, Henry Christopher, born August 1952, James Richard,

born December 1953 and Robert Bellinger, born August 1955.

In addition to her church work, Hilda has been an active member of the Shakespeare

Club and has participated in the opera workshop and the Junior League Community

Service programs for many years. On the recreational side she loves to play golf and to

swim and fish.

As a husband who is, admittedly, prejudiced, but who has, nevertheless, been trained to

objectively and scientifically observe and evaluate people, I believe one can truly say that

Hilda is one of those fortunate individuals blessed with a sweet and happy disposition.

In sharp contrast to some of the better known but traditionally cold and reserved New

Englanders who “speak only to God”, she speaks to all of God’s children and somehow

seems to love them all. An eternal optimist, she expects only the best from people and is

sure everything will turn out right; yet the inevitable failure of some people to live up to

expectations never seems to shake her faith in her fellow man.

A combination of beauty complimented by compassion, strong religious beliefs with

tolerance for the beliefs of others, intelligence without a trace of intellectual snobbery and

overwhelming love for her family with a record of twenty-five years of unselfish service

as a wife and mother, all the while appearing to enjoy every moment of it—these are my

impressions of Hilda.

Truly, a remarkable woman! A wife for all seasons.


Maud Gewin

I learned more about Henry’s mother, my splendid mother-in-law, Maud, in these

years, although I didn’t call her Maud when I first met her. Here I was, the daughterin-law

to a nice southern lady, and I didn’t know what to call her. Since I had a mother,

I tried calling her Mama, but that didn’t work. After the children began calling her

Maud, I joined in, and that became what we all called her. It was appropriate, and

she didn’t mind.

Maud was born and grew up in Demopolis, Alabama. She married Roulhac Gewin

in the town’s Methodist church in 1908, and they had four children. The eldest,

Roulhac, Jr., was killed when a sand road caved in on him when he was 11 years old.

Maud was, I think, still mourning the loss of that son at the age of 61, when I first met

her. Phylis, Henry, and Julian moved with their parents to Mobile, where Roulhac

became the United States Marshal for South Alabama. Maud was an extrovert and

she very soon made many friends in Mobile.

Maud was a real character with a very strong personality. There are so many “Maud

stories,” that my red-haired sister-in-law, Madge, always wanted to write a book about

her. She had three especially strong convictions—although as you will see, she made

an exception at least once for each.

First, Maud was a “rabid Democrat”—as were many people in Alabama, until

Eisenhower was voted in (after which many became Republicans). There was one

break in her Democratic streak, however. Her granddaughter married a Toledano

who was running for mayor of New Orleans as a Republican, and Maud sent money

to him for his campaign. I never thought I’d see that.

Second, Maud was very definite about the fact that she would never drink alcohol.

She loved Mardi Gras balls, at which she and her friend sat at tables and talked about

the dancers, but she would not take a drink. Once, I heard her say, “This is the best

ginger ale I’ve ever tasted.” Of course, she was drinking champagne, although she was

very definite that she had been drinking ginger ale.

Finally, Maud insisted that she would never ride on an airplane, and when she went

to Europe with friends they traveled on ocean liners. On one trip, however, one of

her traveling companions got sick and couldn’t return to the U.S. on the ship, so

Maud condescended to ride in an airplane. I think the whole family met her at the

airport to hear what she had to say about her first flight. Maud was very outspoken,

and although we had lots of different opinions, she was generous and kind, and we

all got along.


Maud was also very generous. She and her friends exchanged gifts at Christmas that

she would have started shopping for in the July sales and had wrapped and ready by

October. She would wrap up a gift someone else had given her if she didn’t want it,

and she gave her grandchildren more presents than they could use.

Our family tradition at Christmas was to sit in the living room after breakfast to

open our gifts in turn, starting with the eldest son. One year, Billy opened his gift

and took a little time figuring out what it was. Chris and Jim had opened theirs

and Bobby was starting on his when Billy exclaimed, “It looks like the control to an

electric blanket!” Somebody had given Maud an electric blanket and she thought the

control was a radio—exactly what a young boy would like!

When we were all a little older, Henry started collecting recording equipment. Once,

he hid a microphone under the tablecloth before going out to collect his mother and

her cousin Marguerite for Sunday dinner. As I served the meal I had cooked, I went

into the kitchen to get more plates. When I stepped away from the table, Maud

leaned over and confided—right into the microphone—“These potatoes aren’t done,

are they Marguerite?”

Maud and her friends loved parties. A friend once asked her, “Did you go to

Mrs. Crawford’s party?”

Maud replied, “Well, I don’t know if I went to that party, but if I did, I had a good



Portrait of young Julian and Henry Gewin


This is Henry’s Murphy High School portrait. He was President of the Student Body


Henry’s Yale Hospital portrait


Henry after he started his Mobile medical practice


Henry’s brother Julian married Madge Urquhart in Mobile in June 1954


Henry was all smiles playing chess with me ... until I beat him!


Maud enjoying the beautiful view from The Round House on Dauphin Island


Henry Monnier Gewin


Chris and Dinah’s son Phillip would watch Jeopardy in the evening with Henry, 1988



The Boys at Home, 1952 to 1970

After arriving in Mobile, Henry’s practice grew rapidly. While he worked long

hours in the day, I was busy with three more sons. Chris was born August 3,

1952 (the year we installed window air conditioning and got some relief from the

heat), Jim was born December 4, 1953, and Bobby on September 11, 1955. They

kept me pretty busy. After Chris was born, my mother-in-law—who was very good

at finding and hiring helpers—found someone to help me care for the children. The

stories of their childhoods could fill many books, but here are a few of those that we

remember most.

Small boys having backyard and neighborhood fun

By 1955, we had a full house of four active boys only seven years apart in age. In

fact, Chris and Jimmy were so close in age that when I put diaper pins in my mouth

preparing to change a diaper, I couldn’t remember which baby needed it! Life was

different back then. Although I was at home all the time, I didn’t follow the boys

around. They could go out to play, just as long as they came home when I rang the

bell on the back of our porch. The stories you are about to read paint a pretty good

picture of our life on Old Shell Road as they were growing up.

From early on, Chris had a mischievous streak and we have many stories about

his antics. When he was around three years old, he had two little friends in the

neighborhood, including Michael Sellers, who lived behind us. Beyond this were dirt

roads and houses with a very country-like atmosphere, and the boys could run about

quite freely, unlike today. One day, as I was engrossed in watching a baseball game

on a little television in the room we called the study, the Sellers family’s housemaid

and babysitter, Miss Pearl, called me, saying, “Miss Gewin, you’d better get over here!

Chris and Michael just set off a fire in the garage.” Apparently, Mike and Chris made


a bet that paint wouldn’t burn. As Chris later related to me, when he saw the fire he

announced that he’d won the bet, but they knew that they had to get Miss Pearl to

help put out the fire on the garage floor.

Their antics continued when, as four-year-olds, Chris and Michael broke some

windows in the Sellers’ garage while throwing rocks. “In our defense,” Chris said years

later, “it was a separate building that they used for storage.” Later, as long-suffering

John Sellers puttied up the new windows, Chris and his friends watched. When John

finished, the boys ran their little fingers along the fresh putty and scraped it out,

which, of course, caused the windows to fall out again.

Although I kept the fire story from Henry, I did tell him that the boys had broken

some windows in the garage. When they tried something like that at our house, that

was the end of it. As I mentioned, Henry had a hot temper, and when he came home

and learned that windows had been broken at our house, he disciplined Chris (as

I had tried, unsuccessfully, to do). When their conversation was over, I thought little

Chris was going to reform school. That didn’t happen, but it did mark the end of his

window breaking.

The boys were full of energy. Chris loved to climb trees and play games like Kick-thecan

with his friends Michael and Tony Chapman, and a favorite game was pretending

to be the heroes from their favorite television shows: Top Cat, Rough and Ready, and,

especially, Mighty Mouse. They would pin old towels on themselves to use as capes

and yell, “Here I come to save the day!”

When Chris was perhaps five years old, he played at a nearby creek where you could

see all kinds of wildlife—it’s amazing how rustic it was then. One day, he called

me from his friend David Johnstons’ house and said, “I found some words in an

encyclopedia, but I can’t read them.” I was impressed that, at his young age, he was

even trying to read the encyclopedia and told him to call out the letters to me over

the telephone so that I could help him. He said, “The first word is R, O, U, G, H.”

“Chris,” I told him, “that’s the word rough.”

And then he called out, “G, R, O, U, N, D.”

“That spells ground.”

Next, he called out, “S, N, A, K, E.”


When I heard that, I realized he’d found a snake and I shouted, “Chris, you put that

snake down, and come home right away!” Although this snake wasn’t poisonous,

there are all kinds of poisonous snakes in Mobile.

His curiosity didn’t stop with snakes. Somewhere in Chris’s childhood, he began

to love learning about dinosaurs. In the beginning, his favorite book was Danny

and the Dinosaur, but he went on to collect books about dinosaurs from the library

and bookstores, or as gifts. One day, as he looked at a comic book which Jim and

he regularly purchased at the drugstore, he saw an advertisement for a science

educational series which included record player narratives, companion books, and

a projector and slides related to the recording. He was mainly interested in the first

topic in the series, which was “Digging for Dinosaurs.”

Henry and I weren’t interested in this topic and thought the series was pretty

expensive, but it was educational, so we said, “If you want to put a little bit of your

money towards this, we’ll split the cost.” Chris remembers that the record began with

The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky as the background music to Walter Cronkite saying,

“Let me take you back millions of years.” Chris was so in love with that series that we

kept it for quite a long time. He really wanted to see dinosaur fossils, but there wasn’t

any opportunity to see fossils in Mobile.

Henry’s hobbies attract the interest of growing boys

Henry loved his many hobbies. When we were in Tuscaloosa, he began building

model airplanes, and he really messed up my living room with all of his modeling

equipment! After the boys were born, Henry wouldn’t let them meddle with his

airplanes, so much so that Michael Sellers, now over six feet tall, remembers sitting

out in our backyard gazing at—but not touching—an airplane the doctor had told him

not to touch.

In 1956, Henry started a woodworking hobby. The first thing he built was a doghouse

on which Chris and his friends liked climbing. Henry did woodworking most of his

life, and taught the boys how to handle saws, drills, and all manner of tools.

Another of Henry’s hobbies was building model trains. He built a Lionel train set in

our guest house by the pool, and since the boys were not allowed to touch it, I had

to lock the guest house door so they couldn’t get in. As they got older, Bill, Jim and

Chris decided to build their own HO gauge set. They had big plans and set the whole

thing up. “Unfortunately,” as Chris said, “Bill was our electrician and was going to

do all of the wiring but went off to college before it was done.” So that was the end

of that.


A road trip to remember

In 1960, when Bill was 11 and Bobby was just 5 years old, I decided that a 36-year-old

mother of four little boys could take them all on a long road trip. My college’s 25th

reunion was to be held in New York and I wanted to go. Since I couldn’t leave all the

boys at home in Alabama, I decided to take them with me while Henry stayed home

to work. They all remember this trip well.

We packed up the car and the four boys climbed into the station wagon, but the trip

started poorly because Chris threw up when we’d gotten no farther than Chickasaw,

less than a half hour away. I stopped the car to find some fresh clothes for him and

realized that we hadn’t put one of the suitcases in the car. We ended up turning

around to go back home to get it and clean Chris up. When I came into the house,

Henry remarked, “Well, that was a fast trip.”

We started out again, and drove through Birmingham, but when we got to Knoxville

we got lost. Bill was 11 years old at the time, and as the eldest, he got to ride shotgun,

so I made him look at the maps to guide me through Knoxville. Evidently, he didn’t

do a very good job because I got a little bit upset with him, but we eventually found

our way.

We stopped in Baltimore at the home of one of my college roommates, Betty Gatchell

Bouton, who also had four children. This stop was especially memorable for Bill.

Since it was a full house, Bill and I had to sleep in the same room. This is when,

hearing his wheezing, I discovered for the first time that he had asthma. Henry and

I slept downstairs, and the boys were all upstairs, so we’d never heard him wheezing


There was a lot of tension in the country at the time and it was kind of a bad time

for traveling from the south to the north. Betty’s husband, Bud, said, “Hilda, I don’t

want you driving through Baltimore with that Alabama license plate.” To make sure

we passed through the city safely, he led me through with his car and then the boys

and I continued north.

I’d always gotten along well with my parents, and they had agreed to stay with the

boys while I went to the Vassar reunion. It was the first time the four of them had

ever been to Hilltop. The reunion was a lot of fun.

On that trip, the boys revealed some of their father’s love of hobbies. After I returned

to New Haven from the Vassar reunion, I took them on the train to New York City

where, because the boys collected coins, we visited a place that sold rare coins to

look at proof sets. As all four boys opened up their wallets to inspect their funds, the


nice guard there warned them that they better not show how much money they had.

Chris remembers that this was his first realization that other people might want to

take his money.

On the drive back home from Connecticut, as Jim often later told his patients,

although he was impressed that his 36-year-old mother could make a long road trip

with four boys by herself, I got so sleepy that I almost fell asleep at the wheel. When

we got to Chattanooga, I knew I had to sleep, so we stayed at a motel with a pool.

I just let the boys swim by themselves and went to sleep.

Paper dollars are not equivalent to silver dollars

Henry and I used to give the boys a small allowance of 50 cents a week, plus $2 for

each year old they were. Their grandmother, Maud, was very generous and also gave

them silver dollars. I also paid the boys to learn classical music. I would give them

a dime if, when I played a piece, they could identify the music and the composer,

and if they knew whether it was music in a particular opera. Jimmy made a lot of

money on that. Chris said that to this day he enjoys hearing classical music by Verdi,

Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms and others, including the overture from William

Tell, because he made money recognizing them.

We let them keep track of the dollars they saved, and they would devise hiding places

where they thought their brothers wouldn’t find them. Jim and Chris liked to roll

their silver dollars to knock down toy army men. I decided that wasn’t a very good

use for silver dollars and took the boys to the bank to open up savings accounts and

deposit their silver dollars. One day, sometime later, Chris and I went to the Carwie

Hardware store, and he saw a white kitchen scale with a bright red dial that he

wanted to buy, along with a miniature anvil. I’m not even sure what an anvil is, but

for some reason Chris wanted to weigh the anvil on the scale and wanted to spend

his money to buy both.

He and I went to the bank, I filled out a withdrawal slip, and took it to one of the

tellers, explaining to her that Chris wanted some of his money. When the teller gave

him paper dollars for the withdrawal, he immediately became upset and shouted,

“No! I want my silver dollars!” She politely said that they didn’t have silver dollars

anymore but that this was just as good. He shouted, “No, it’s not!” He told her that

they definitely had his money, pointing to safe deposit boxes. He made enough noise

that you would have thought there was a run on the bank. We did end up buying

the scale and anvil, and although I didn’t have a use for the anvil, I did use the scale,

which made him feel better for decades.


The “magic circle”

When the boys were little, I had a narrow kitchen, with the refrigerator, sink, and a

gas stove all close together. The controls for the stove were on the front, and I had

to keep the boys out of the kitchen or they turned on the gas. To let them know

what was off-limits, I said, “This is the magic circle. You can’t go into the magic


One day when nobody was around, Jim entered the magic circle and climbed up on

the countertop to reach the cabinets. He was excited to see some chocolate in the

cabinet, but upon taking a bite he discovered that it was bitter baker’s chocolate. To

this day, he remembers his solo visit to the magic circle.

A swimming pool perfect for four active boys

While the boys and I went on our road trip in 1960, Henry decided to build a

swimming pool at our home, which was a great help in keeping active boys busy

because I could send them out of the house to use up their energy in the pool.

I wanted the pool to be rectangular, but Henry and the builder decided that it should

be kidney shaped. We could trust the boys in the pool. Sometimes Bill babysat his

younger brothers (it was nice having all boys because if I’d had girls, I probably would

not have left them with Bill), but he was so responsible—a Boy Scout who went on

to become an Eagle Scout. Chris and Jim didn’t become Eagle Scouts, but they were

Boy Scouts too.

At one point, Bill figured out how many times he would have to swim back and forth

to make a mile. The first time he did it, I got out the blood-pressure cuff to take his

blood pressure when he finished. No problem! When Jim saw that Bill swam a mile,

he decided to swim a mile too, and then he decided he wanted to swim three miles.

He was quite competitive!

Years later, Jim’s daughter Anne Marie told me that Jim said he had once jumped

off the roof of the carport into the swimming pool. I didn’t think this could have

happened, but when I asked Jim, he said, “Yes, I did. I just had to get a good running

start.” When I wondered where I had been during this exploit, Jim said, “Mother,

I would not have done it if you were at home.”

Broken bones and other mishaps

Like all my family, Chris liked climbing trees. One day, when he was eight years old,

he climbed one of the wax-leaf privets that we had in the backyard and leaned out

to try to swing like Tarzan. Unfortunately, the limb of the tree broke. As he fell, he

was heading straight down to the ground, headfirst. He locked his arms to protect

his head and ended up breaking both his right and left wrists and his left upper arm.


For some reason, the bone doctor plastered both arms up to his shoulders, making

bathing and putting on clothes and going to the bathroom a challenge. He needed

assistance until he got the hang of it.

His teacher, Lexie Barnett, came to see him when he was recovering and brought

him some get well cards and some drawings from his classmates. He recalled that

he wasn’t very polite to her, apparently because he was so afraid that she was going

to lean over and pull the blanket off his bed, revealing that he was wearing only

underwear for pajama pants.

A lot of people knew Lexie Barnett because she taught so many children, including

Jimmy and Bobby. She became a member of my church, Spring Hill Presbyterian,

and years later, I introduced Chris to her, and he said, “You can’t be Miss Barnett!

She would be a lot older than you look.” She was a good teacher who became the

principal of Mary B. Austin and then principal of Chickasaw School.

Chris’s wasn’t the only childhood injury. In 1966, I got to see Jim make the winning

run in a Little League baseball game, but as he slid in to home, unfortunately, he

broke his arm. We had planned a boating trip to Destin on the cabin cruiser that

Henry and Julian owned by that time, so his Aunt Madge took care of him while we

went on the boat. We got aboard in Mobile and took the boat trip to Destin. It was

great fun.

Although this story doesn’t end in a broken bone, it definitely involves a mishap.

The Gewin family has always been and will probably always be very gadget oriented,

so there were always ingenious devices with little practical use around the house.

One such item was a self-inflating personal floatation device. Using a compressed

carbon dioxide canister inside a cigarette-pack-sized container, squeezing a trigger

would cause the float to inflate suddenly. We hid what Chris called “this tempting

little trick” on a high shelf in the back of our walk-in bedroom closet, which was

totally off limits for the boys.

Apparently, Bill showed Jim the device, explaining (while pretending to squeeze as

hard as he could) that he could not trigger the CO2 cartridge. Not deterred by

Bill’s apparent failure, Jim returned on his own, climbed up on a stool to reach the

flotation device, and—successfully —triggered the device. Little did we know, as we

were sitting waiting for him to come down to dinner, that he was standing on a

stool in the forbidden closet, startled and scared, as the flotation device suddenly

exploded, full of air. He came running down the hall yelling, “Something terrible

has happened!” We teased him about that for years.


Ingenious antics, good manners and hard work

As teenagers, the boys kept us on our toes. I was around all of the time, but as their

stories make clear, I didn’t always know what they were up to. Despite their antics—

which, when we remember them today, make us laugh—they also made us proud with

their good manners and the significant ways that they helped Henry at home.

Chris the bank robber?

Chris started driving in 1968, and he is the only one I ever worried about. He was

so independent and wouldn’t tell me where he was going, and this was something

I handled by getting a police radio so that I could hear if he was in an accident

before they brought him home. It actually happened once that Chris was mistakenly

stopped by the police because he was wearing an outfit matching that of someone

who had just robbed a bank. The police stopped Chris at the mall, got him out of his

car and put him in the backseat of a police car. “Oh I hope my mother’s not listening

to her police radio now,” he told them.

Experimenting with chemicals

When I was in high school, I liked chemistry, so I thought it would be nice to

give Bill a chemistry set. I found one that came with a complete set of instructions

and lots of small glass bottles of various compounds and experimental chemicals.

Because this was a time before numerous product lawsuits, the set included some

compounds that would certainly not be included today, such as potassium nitrate,

sulfur, and powdered charcoal. I didn’t realize at the time that these chemicals are

the ingredients for gunpowder, and while the set didn’t of course give instructions

on how to make gunpowder, boys being boys, they found out about it on their own.

Fortunately, as I found out later, they never found the correct formula for mixing

these chemicals and their gunpowder did not burn.

Bill had already discovered that there were uses for chlorine other than keeping the

pool clean and safe for swimming. An equal amount of sulfur and pool chlorine mixed

together produced a brilliant, flare-like burn, emitting volumes of gas smelling of

chlorine. Bill’s eighth grade homeroom teacher was also his science teacher, and when

he asked if he could bring an interesting experiment to science class, she didn’t object.

He brought the ingredients for his interesting experiment to school, mixed the sulfur

and chlorine together and waited for the spontaneous combustion to occur, but nothing

happened—or at least, not until Bill had left to go to another class. The explosion that

went off in that science room after his departure was an event he learned of only later.

The Mobile Alabama Rocket Boys

At this time, Bill and his brothers also devised small rockets by mixing sulfur and

chlorine with crushed match heads and placing them in the center of a square of


aluminum foil. Bill folded the foil into the shape of a rocket, placing the mixture at

the top and making a small opening at the bottom. He then rested the foil rocket on

a wooden incline, with the chemical mixture at the head of the rocket protruding

over the edge. Once an alcohol wick candle was lit under the rocket head, the mixture

would ignite and propel gas from the rear of the rocket, forcing it to fly forward. The

boys called themselves the Mobile Alabama Rocket Boys, and they kept a detailed

journal, comparing the length of rocket flights to the amount of the mixture used

each time. The longest flight was about 80 feet.

Many years later, they told me of their ingenious discoveries, explaining that their

first challenge was to find a supply of sulfur. They easily solved this with a walk to

the local drugstore, which sold sulfur in quart jars. I was told that the drugstore also

sold jars of potassium nitrate (also known as saltpeter), so I guess any ingenious boys

could add charcoal from the grill to make their own gunpowder.

Chris and Jim carried on the experiments after Bill went to college, but I did eventually

become suspicious and asked them to show me what they were doing in the boathouse,

which was basically a separate storage room for the pool chemicals and the lumber

for Henry’s projects. They showed me how they scientifically measured and mixed

the chemicals and assembled the rockets. They also showed me the journal started

by Bill. Unfortunately for them, they did not disclose the fact that the mixture would

occasionally spontaneously combust. And right on cue, the mixture in the mortar

decided to flare up while I was reviewing the journal, filling the boathouse with

noxious gas! Needless to say, the chemistry experiments stopped.

Southern manners

On another trip to Connecticut in 1965, Chris, Jim and I flew to Washington, D.C.,

where my father was doing some research at Dumbarton Oaks. After they got sick

on the plane, I called Henry at home for medical prescriptions. The boys were very

impatient for Grandfather to get the medicine for them.

On that trip, I drove them and at least two nephews to the World’s Fair in New York.

Bill had seen the Fair the previous year when, as an Eagle Scout, he went to the Boy

Scout Jamboree in Valley Forge. I remember clearly that on the bus trip to the fair,

Chris and his cousin Kim (Ros’s middle son), who were teenagers at the time, got up

to offer their seats to ladies. Others on the bus were surprised, but Kim explained,

“We’re from the South.”

We saw the Carousel of Progress at the fair, and a Disney show with animatronic

dinosaurs, which later moved to Disneyland. The boys remember singing the Disney

song “It’s a Small World After All” for weeks afterwards. Chris, Jim and Bob saw the


same exhibits again later, when they took a UMS trip out west. They visited the new

Houston Astrodome, the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam, the Painted Desert, Las

Vegas, Disneyland, and the Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.

Working for Dad

One summer, Chris and Jim didn’t have jobs, so Henry said, “Well, I’m just going

to put them to work.” The guest house was infested with termites at the time and

Henry made out a long list of jobs for the boys to do to repair it, and then went off to

work. One morning at 11 o’clock, I discovered all the boys watching Jeopardy on the

television in the playroom.

“Didn’t your father give you a job to do?” I asked.

“We’ve done it,” they claimed. Evidently, they worked very fast.

Later, when Henry came home and inspected their work, he said, “Well, that was all

right, but frankly, you’re going to have to do it again.” They got so that they hated the

word “frankly” because they knew that it meant that they’d have to do more hard

work when they would rather be swimming or, really, doing anything more interesting.

Bill also had his time working for his father. After he graduated from Vanderbilt

and had already been accepted at medical school, he didn’t have a job. We had just

bought The Round House on Dauphin Island (of which more later), and a lot of work

needed doing downstairs. Henry gave Bill instructions about what he had to do—

mostly electrical work—and Bill did it, but he didn’t much like working for Henry in

the summertime either.

Getting a good education

Our boys received good educations in Mobile. Henry and I had always gone to public

schools, and we thought that our children would too. Chris started at Wimbledon

kindergarten and then went to first grade at Mary B. Austin School, where he won

the Good Citizenship Award in sixth grade, in 1964. When Bill was in fourth grade,

he really became a good reader. Jim went to kindergarten at St. Paul’s in 1959 and

then he went to Mary B. Austin in 1960. Everything was going well until Bill moved

on to Sidney Phillips Middle School, which was when he began having trouble in

algebra. Since he was a good student, I knew something was wrong. It turned out

that he had an incompetent teacher. As a result, we made the decision to take Bill

(and eventually all of the boys) out of public school.

We chose the University Military School (UMS). When I took Bill there to

interview with Colonel Huckabee, he sat Bill down and told him, “You have a great


esponsibility now.” I thought to myself that Bill had failed algebra, and I wondered

how he could be saying that my son had a great responsibility. Eventually, all the

boys were welcomed at UMS; even Bobby, who was not a good student, was accepted,

probably because of his older brothers.

UMS was a boys’ school at the time, and although our sons might have wished that

they had gone to a school with girls, that’s the way it was. As it turned out, Chris and

Jim ended up as captains of A Company, which was an honor. Based on the mischief

that Chris got into—starting when he was as young as three years old—I would never

have expected him to get such a high honor. In 1968, he also became president of

the UMS Key Club.

Family pets

When Henry and I were first married and living in Tuscaloosa, we got a cocker

spaniel called Doc. Our family pets, however, began with a cat. She invited herself

into our home and then, every time I got pregnant, it seemed that she did too. Once

the little girl next door was visiting and announced to me that the cat was “laying

the kittens in the radio.” We had a Philco radio in the living room, and, as it turned

out, the cat was definitely laying kittens inside it. She was our first pet, although we

didn’t choose her—she chose us.

Bobby later had a tiger cat called Tigger. We got Tigger when he was just four or five

weeks old, which was too early for a kitten to be weaned, and Tigger would climb

onto Bobby’s pillow and begin nursing, kneading away on the pillow. Bobby and

Jimmy slept in the same room and kept the window open all the time. Outside their

window was a large oak tree, and Tigger, who always knew when Bobby was coming

home from school, would climb out the window and down the oak tree to meet him

at the bus stop on the corner of Marston Avenue and Old Shell Road. Bobby loved

that cat.

Jimmy also had a cat but eventually decided he didn’t like it because he found out

that he was allergic to animals. Now he has two cats. Once I asked him, “Don’t the

cats bother you?”

“No,” Jim replied. “I’m a doctor now and I can take the proper medicine to keep from

being allergic.”

Dogs came next. Among our first dogs were a couple of Welsh Corgis, as Henry liked

collecting them. Nobody else in the family particularly liked them, probably because

the first one, Melissa, was very temperamental and afraid of everything. Later came a

Welsh Corgi named Dolly, and then a cocker spaniel who lived outside.


Our favorite pet was, without a doubt, our Labrador retriever, Lucky, and he was

quite a character. Everyone loved him. The trouble was that we didn’t neuter him the

way you do nowadays, and we didn’t have a way to keep him on our property. This

probably wasn’t a good thing because Lucky liked to wander about, visiting friends.

When he found someone he liked, he might stay with them for as much as two

weeks. Then, the phone would ring, and somebody would say, “Dr. Gewin, would

you please come get your dog? We love him. He’s a really great dog, but we can’t afford

to feed him anymore.” (Disclaimer: At the time, we didn’t know how inconsiderate

it was to let a dog run loose!)

Lucky was an outside dog and he never came in the house, except for just the one

time. During his wanderings, he made a Dalmatian friend, the dog of a schoolteacher,

and one day, he came to the back door with his friend the Dalmatian and, for the

first time, waited to be let in the house. When I opened the door to let them in,

Lucky proceeded to give the Dalmatian what appeared to be a tour of the house,

showing it in and out of all the rooms. He had never been inside the house before,

but he nevertheless invited the Dalmatian to come and see it.

No dog could eat faster than Lucky. We would open a can of dog food and it

would be in his mouth as it fell from the can to his food bowl. Lucky loved going

to Dauphin Island and loved to swim, but he was very protective and wouldn’t let

Bill go into the Gulf without going with him, guarding him and shoving him back

to shore. Despite his love of swimming, however, he never swam in our pool—even

on the hottest days. (I do have a suspicion, however, that he swam in the baby pool

at the club.)

Lucky was also a good retriever, running after whatever we threw and bringing

it back to us. We’d had other dogs who would run after what we threw, but only

Lucky brought things back. (He was probably a frustrated hunting dog.) Lucky often

followed Chris to the municipal park, where he and friends played baseball, and

when somebody hit the ball, Lucky would run to retrieve it, bringing it to Chris and

Jim who continually had to say, “Lucky, go home!”

Lucky knew the route of the carpool we arranged for our three boys and three other

children who went to Mary B. Austin, and he would race from our home to the first

pick-up stop at the Shields’ house, arriving before we did. Bry Shields then had to

get into the car in a hurry, because if he didn’t, Lucky got in first. Then we moved

on to the Hollingers’ house, and Lucky would cut across the field to get there first.

He also knew the way to school. Sometimes he stayed at school and sometimes he

came home.


I was too involved with taking care of the boys to worry much about the dog.

Once, he ran off and the dog catchers caught him. That was when we discovered

that he was very sick with heartworms. When Lucky died of heartworms,

Bill was off at Vanderbilt and had to mourn him from afar. Lucky was such a

wonderful dog.

Henry spent hundreds of hours building this elaborate O-gauge train set when the boys were young.

Pictured is Chris


Young superheroes; Mike Sellers, Tony Chapman and Chris don their Mighty Mouse capes


Look but don’t touch! Mike, Tony and Chris were allowed to view but not play with Henry’s airplane models


A rare moment that Chris was allowed in the “magic circle” for a photograph


Jim and Henry in front of Henry’s first woodworking project, a dog house


Back in the 1950s and 1960s, kids stayed outside and used their imagination to have fun. Shown here are

Chris, Mike, Bill, and Jim


After we built the swimming pool, the boys would spend hours in the sun


Our favorite pet, a Labrador retriever named Lucky, shown at the beach on Dauphin Island with Jim



Boats, Fishing, and Dauphin Island

Out on the water

Henry was an avid golfer and I remember how proud he was when, years later, in

1966, he hit a hole-in-one on the eighth hole at the Mobile golf course. But perhaps

most of all, Henry loved boating. He especially loved deep sea fishing and participated

in a fishing rodeo off the Gulf coast in the second week of July every year. People

would bring their own boats or charter a boat and go out in the Gulf, usually as

far as what they call the Farewell Buoy, where the big fish are, and try to catch king

mackerel. Henry wasn’t the most successful fisherman, but we fished every summer,

and it was fun.

Henry’s first boat was a Stauter, a 16-foot wooden boat built in Mobile. We kept it on

a trailer and would take it out on weekends, launch it off the causeway which divides

Mobile from the Delta, and fish north of the causeway. The next boat that we had

was a Du Craft. It didn’t have a “head,” so Henry eventually got a 24-foot wooden

cabin cruiser, which he called the Hilda Belle.

Madge, Julian, Henry, and I sometimes spent weekends cooking and sleeping on that

boat, which we kept in a boathouse next to one owned by Dr. Sonny Hope. In the

spring we would take it down to Dauphin Island and fish in the Gulf, but it was very

slow, and I remember standing on shore with Bob, watching Henry and the other

boys in the Hilda Belle being the last away from the marina. That was the end of the

Hilda Belle.

After that, we bought a Boston Whaler, an open fiberglass boat, for fishing or

just riding out to the lighthouse. The next boats were a Powercat, followed by a

Thunderbird, both of which were tri-haul boats and were very rough going over the


waves. We kept those boats on trailers and we launched them either at Dog River or

Billy Goat Hole on Dauphin Island.

Henry and his brother owned a 36-foot wooden cabin cruiser together which we

called the Maudie G, and its maiden voyage was certainly a trip to remember. After

dropping off a car at what would be our final destination, we picked up the Maudie

G at Dog River Marina and headed for the Dauphin Island Sailboat Race, the annual

regatta in which more than 300 sailboats competed. There were six of us—Henry,

me, Julian and Madge, and Bill and Virginia Fondé (those whom Logan called

‘admirals’)—and we had a very joyful ride down the bay, trying to stay out of the way

of the sailboats, because the captains would certainly have let us know if we got in

their way while they were racing. We took lots of pictures while we were underway

and then dropped anchor so that we could watch the boats cross the race’s finish

line. However, in trying to get away from the sailboats, we ran over our anchor line

with the propeller. We dragged the boat over to shallow water at Fort Morgan where

one of the “admirals” had to dive down with a steak knife to untangle the anchor line

from the propeller, to the accompaniment of a lot of “colorful” language!

That wasn’t the end of the checkered story of the Maudie G’s maiden voyage. Recall

that a car awaited us at the marina so we could drive back to where we had parked

the other cars. It turned out that the person who took the car to the destination

marina accidentally took the keys home, so we had a car but no way to drive it.

Later, we took the Maudie G from Dauphin Island to Destin in Florida for a weekend.

Jim had just broken his arm while scoring the winning run in a Little League game

and he had to miss the trip. (As an aside, I had four boys and 12 broken bones;

my sister had five girls and not one broken bone!) On the way to Destin, we caught

over 100 mahi-mahi in an hour using hooks without bait—there were no limits on

fishing then.

Around four years later, Henry was interested in a boat made by John Almond in

Florida. Our whole family had a nice trip to Florida to pick it up. He and Dr. Jim

Donald shared ownership of it, and Henry called it the Lucky G.

Henry wanted to try sailing too, so he bought a 14-foot Aquacat, which we also kept

on a trailer and could use for sailing in Mobile Bay, or from The Round House on

Quivira Bay. Henry’s partner, Bill Atkinson, also sailed and often won the April

catamaran sailboat race to Dauphin Island. I remember that Henry and I once raced

back to Dauphin Island from San Francisco, where we had been at a College of

Physicians meeting, arriving just in time to see Bill and Kit Atkinson rounding the

finish line and winning the race one more time.


Later, Henry decided to purchase a traditional sloop sailboat, a Rhodes 19. We

enjoyed this sailboat for a few years, but Henry wanted a sailboat with a larger cabin,

so he replaced the Rhodes 19 with an O’Day 25, which we kept at Dauphin Island

for many years until a hurricane deposited it onto the swamps of Mississippi in 2004.

Chris sailed the O’Day in many Dauphin Island races, placing first in his division

a couple of times and actually winning the Glover Cup, a perpetual trophy for a

spinnaker-equipped sailboat.

I enjoyed many fishing trips. Some went well, but a few were disastrous, so I can relate

to this story told by my nephew, Logan Gewin, the son of Henry’s brother Julian.

Logan’s story

“It was a great camping trip. Cousin Chris, Uncle Henry, my dad and I left Uncle

Henry’s Dauphin Island house—Dad and I in a power boat and Chris and Uncle Henry

in their O’Day sailboat. Dad and I ran ahead to Petit Bois Island, some 14 miles to the

west-southwest. We trawled for Spanish mackerel in the pass between the western end of

Dauphin Island and the eastern end of Petit Bois Island, catching glimpses of baitfish and

landing a few skipjacks and Spanish mackerel along the way.

When we saw the sailboat in the far east-northeastern skyline, we proceeded to our

destination, where birds, alligators, racoons, frogs, snakes and turtles all made their home.

Approximately six miles long, Petit Bois Island lies deserted, about six miles south of the

city of Pascagoula and across the Mississippi Sound, fronting the Gulf of Mexico on her

southern shore.

We anchored on the far eastern end, where the Sound and the Gulf collide in strong tidal

flows in the wind-driven waves. It makes for a turning of currents and sweeps helpless

bait towards large predator fish awaiting their feast. The water here is always crystal

clear and less stirred by multi-day wind storms. Anchoring near the beach in about three

feet of water up against the shoreline, we unloaded our gear as our sailors arrived just in

time to prepare our camp. Claiming the island as ours, Chris did most of the engineering

and thought processes to pitch the tent, while I acted as his assistant under his direct

supervision. Dad and Uncle Henry were the admirals and we youngsters were the mates.

Our fathers enjoyed their afternoon cocktails and we had some beer. The talk was good.

Chris and I scouted much of the eastern island that afternoon, fishing as we went along.

We caught a few fish and I think Chris and Uncle Henry also did some trawling on the

way down to the island. That evening, we had a terrific dinner consisting of steaks that

we brought with us and the fish we caught. The night was lively, with so many cooks and

bartenders in the “cooking fire.”


We all slept in the tent, best I recall, although I’m not sure how much sleep we really

got, as it was close quarters. But we Gewins were digging the non-stress of an easy

island life. Unfortunately, we awoke to a very nasty norther that had swept through

that night. The wind was howling, and there was not much time to take for relaxation

in the morning, as action called. The sailboat had swung around and was perilously

close to beaching itself, possibly for eternity. It was underpowered to go into the teeth of

a 25-knot wind, so the admirals, in their wisdom, ordered their two mates into action.

I lined up the powerboat with the sailboat and Julian threw Henry a rope to tie to the

sailboat’s forward cleat. Chris pulled the anchor aboard as I dragged the sailboat forward

and away from the shore.

Everyone had a mission and team effort ruled the day. It all worked out and the mission

was accomplished. To this day, no ruling has been made on Chris letting go of the

anchor rope too soon, or my moving the powerboat forward too quickly. But the anchor

was not the important part of the objective, and the sailboat was saved. Fortunately,

Dad and I were able to locate and retrieve the anchor using a casting rod after the

sailboat was secure in deep water away from the beach. There were tense times during

the strategy session for the mission, as time was working against us. During the execution

of the mission, as often in life, sometimes our words do not become our intended future

actions. However, this trip was one of my favorite memories of watching my father and

his brother Henry interact away from civilization. No question about it—they were very

close. What a trip!”

Dauphin Island

In 1966, Maud purchased a house on the Gulf side of Dauphin Island, just after

the bridge was built from the mainland. She was afraid of the water, so she built

the house as far away from the shore as she possibly could. Ironically, hurricanes

eroded the beach over the years and her house gradually became much closer to

the water.

The days before air conditioning were hard on me, but the boys loved visiting

Dauphin Island, and they would race down to the water, begging to swim. By the

time we got back to Maud’s house, they would be starving. As I rushed to fix them

lunch, the freezer door, I recall, hit me on the head every time I opened it! But we

enjoyed Dauphin Island and we have since had many family gatherings there. Later,

Maud let each of her three children take the place for a month each year: Phylis

(Bunkley) would bring her children, Roulhac and Tab, from Texas in May. Julian’s

family would have the beach house in June, and the boys and I would have it in July

when there was excellent fishing in the Gulf.


Some memories last forever. We were all at Maud’s on Dauphin Island on the day

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July of 1969. Everybody in the neighborhood

was glued to their televisions. Not a single person could be seen on the road, and

everything was so quiet.

We enjoyed our month at Maud’s house each year, but in 1971 we decided to purchase

our own place—an octagonal house on Quivira Bay on the north side of Dauphin

Island, which we called The Round House. Henry took his power tools down and with

the help of a builder on Dauphin Island and our son Bill, he fixed the ground floor to

make it fit for a bedroom and bath. Next, Henry bought the property on the west side

of the house. He had seen plans for a vacation house in Good Housekeeping magazine

and wanted to add another house on the lot. He found a builder on Dauphin Island

who built us a tall house next door to The Round House. I had introduced Henry

to some beautiful bird prints made by the British artist Basil Ede, and as he was a

collector he bought 20 large prints of Ede’s waterbirds which we had framed and

hung at the new house. That’s how we came to call the house The Bird House.

We also bought a condominium at Perdido Key, Florida, near the Alabama state

line, in 1989. Eventually we gave The Round House to Chris, and the condominium

at Perdido Key to Bill and Laura, and I kept The Bird House and shared it with Jimmy

and his family because they came down to Dauphin Island often.

Julian and Madge also had houses on the water. They first lived on Dog River, and

then at Down the Bay, a large, rambling house on the Mobile Bay with a wraparound

porch. Then, they built a beach house not far from Maud’s original house on Dauphin

Island and large enough for entertaining their many friends.

Bill and Laura sold the Perdido Key condo in 2002, avoiding hurricane damage

from Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The Dauphin Island houses often suffered hurricane

damage, especially following Hurricane Ivan, so Chris suggested that we get these

houses cleaned up and sell them, which we did in 2005. We were lucky, because a

few months later they both were damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and we would have

had to sell them at a discount. Although I miss Dauphin Island, I don’t need to go

to the beach for recreation.


The Maudie G, a 36-foot wooden cabin cruiser, which we took on many fishing trips and overnight



Henry’s first sailboat, a 14-foot AquaCat, here piloted by Bill, with Jim and Chris, sailing on the Mississippi

Sound north of Dauphin Island


Our first sloop sailboat, a Rhodes 19, was more comfortable than the catamaran and had a small

“cuddy” cabin


The Round House, purchased in 1970 and survivor of numerous hurricanes, hosted two Bellinger reunions.

It had a panoramic sunset view of the Mississippi Sound north of Dauphin Island


In 1989, we bought a unit on the sixth floor at Windward Condominiums in Perdido Key, FL, just past the

Alabama state line. Here, Phillip and Claire enjoy the Gulf surf


Henry found the plans for The Bird House, a ski lodge design that he put on piers


Henry sold the Rhodes 19 for a larger O’Day 25. This photo was taken during the annual Dauphin

Island Regatta


Henry and Julian enjoying cocktails while preparing dinner on Petit Bois Island for themselves, Chris,

and Logan


Madge and Julian moved from Mobile to a beautiful house down Mobile Bay. Here, Henry and Julian have

a serious conversation, probably politics


Jim, Chris, me, and Bill enjoy another beautiful evening at Dauphin Island


After selling The Round House, Chris and Dinah bought a 32-foot Catalina sailboat, pictured on

Mobile Bay with Michelle, skipper Jim, and me



Family Reunions

From 1966 onward, I said a lot of sad goodbyes, reinforcing more than ever the

importance of family and leading us to plan for regular reunions in both families.

My brother Ros died in 1966, and Aunt Lou died on November 12, 1968—her

birthday. She had been living in Washington, D.C., where she worked at Dumbarton

Oaks. My parents were in Greece and couldn’t come to her funeral.

Two years after Lou’s death, in February of 1970, my mother died of heart failure in

New Haven. The family children all gathered at Hilltop in June for a memorial, and

although it was a sad occasion, the family loved being together, and thus began our

tradition of having regular—and big—family reunions.

Shortly after my mother died, my father had gallbladder surgery and began to show

signs of early dementia. At this reunion at Hilltop, my siblings and I realized that he

could not live by himself and we made plans to care for him as best as we could. The

main burden fell on Elizabeth since she had his power of attorney. But we all made

sure that he could be close to members of his loving family. It actually drew us closer


Our sons began making visits to Connecticut in 1960, and Chris and Jim went to

Connecticut in 1964 to help Uncle Larry build a wing to his house to accommodate

Grandfather, but the first gathering of the generations happened in June 1970,

after our mother’s death. There had been one memorial service at Yale, but the

main service was in the church on the green in her hometown of Washington,




My parents had 19 grandchildren, and to this day, all these cousins have the

ability to communicate with each other, although they live in 11 different states,

including Washington, D.C. At our first reunion, Hilltop was large enough for

all. Pete and Carolyn came from California with their two children. Ros’s three

sons were living in Connecticut at the time. I could only bring Jim and Bob

because Bill was courting Laura Livingston at the time and Chris had a job. John

(Davenport) and Mary brought their six teenagers. He brought them east every

five years so he could go to his Yale reunion. Elizabeth and Larry (Miller) already

lived in Washington with their four children; Elizabeth was a schoolteacher, and

Larry made copper lamps.

Skinny dipping and a telescope

There is a funny story from our first reunion in 1970. My brothers-in-law and

their wives decided to go skinny dipping in the pool that Aunt Lou had built at

Hilltop. The cousins got word of this and one of them, Janet, said “Oh, my mother

wouldn’t be doing that.” Then they discovered Bobby—who had begun to be very

interested in astronomy—with his telescope and thought he had seen them. Of

course, he had only been looking at the stars, but they nearly died laughing. What

I didn’t know, according to one of my nephews years later, is that the younger

generation decided to go skinny dipping too. That swimming pool was good for

one of Elizabeth’s sons, because he swam a lot and went on to become a diving

coach at Harvard.

My sisters and I visited each other often and we planned the first formal reunion in

1985 at our two houses on Dauphin Island. I think there were 30 family members

there, counting the children. Bill and Chris had their cameras and camcorders out

and took many pictures and videos as the adults and children visited with one another,

went boating and swam in the canal. Henry was very much a part of planning this

first Dauphin Island reunion. He got matching Dauphin Island hats for everyone

and blow-up riding toys for the kids to play on in the canal.

This reunion was so successful that we planned another one in 1990 at The Gunnery

School in Washington, Connecticut. Bill and Laura and their two boys stayed at the

school, and Henry and I, and Chris and Dinah stayed in a bed and breakfast on Lake


Our next family reunion was in Portland, Oregon in 1995. Chris brought Phillip and

Claire and took many pictures. The Davenports had lots for us to do there. I urged

the group to come to Dauphin Island again as there was so much to do there when

school was out.


The special 2000 reunion at Dauphin Island

The family reunion in 2000 was a star gathering because of the many people who

joined us. Even years later, Chris and I and others who were there, enjoy browsing

through the pictures, trying to identify everyone who came, including the children

who have now grown to adulthood. I was delighted that so many of my family

members were able to be there.

My brother Peter was having problems with emphysema caused by smoking Camel

cigarettes many years before and couldn’t fly to the reunion. That didn’t stop him

from coming, however. His son Rick, together with Rick’s wife, Miyoko, brought

Peter by train, stopping along the way in New Orleans so that Kim Bellinger could

show them the sights.

When they arrived on Dauphin Island, Pete’s daughter, Christy Warrender, and

her husband, Charles, and their children, Diane and Scott, joined them. Ros’s son,

Peter Bellinger, and his wife, Ellen, were there, along with their children, Beth, Rob

and John. And we were glad to see Kim, Alex and Christina Bellinger, who often

please us with their visits. Bill and Laura brought John, and Chris and Dinah brought

Philip and Claire.

Jim, Michelle and Anne Marie came down from Birmingham, and my sister Mary’s

daughter, Janet Smith, arrived with her three children, Ethan, KC, and Cyrus. As

they had in previous reunions, Katie and Mike Davenport joined us from Portland,

Oregon, and Anne Davenport came from Panama City, Florida. Molly and Keith

Sessions came from Washington, D.C. and Lucy Wocial brought her children,

Sebastian and Karina.

Liz, who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, still looked great and was, at the

time, still teaching. She was treated for nearly 14 years before she died on October 18,

2005. Three of her children made it, including Keith and Agnes, with their children,

Tomi, Danny and Freddi. Wendy and Pete Gleason, with Pete’s daughter, Jessica,

came with their baby daughter, Megan. I’m pretty sure that Chip and Anna Miller

were there, although they are not in the pictures.

We enjoyed being together and watching the fireworks over that Fourth of July

weekend, although Chris reminded me that there were also terrible storms during

which nature supplied even more fireworks! Looking back, I’m so happy that so many

of my parents’ grandchildren got together at this really big reunion.

We had another get-together again in 2003, this time in Milford, Connecticut, at

the beach house of my niece Wendy and her husband, Pete Gleason. Although she


was able to attend this reunion and still teaching, Elizabeth was continuing to have

treatment for breast cancer. I had had a chance to see Liz after this reunion as well.

When she was still well enough to travel, her son Cyrus and his wife Lisa brought

her down here for my 80th birthday. Hurricane Ivan had just hit, and although they

had reserved a room at a hotel on the Beltline, they couldn’t stay there because the

hotel was full of contractors who had come to help with the clean-up. Liz stayed with

me, but Cyrus and Lisa had to stay at the Grand Hotel, which was a little far away.

In 2005, Alex and Christina Bellinger planned the next reunion in Glen, New

Hampshire. They found a large house where everyone could stay, except me. I stayed

out of the noise and bustle in a nearby motel. If there was another reunion in 2010,

I don’t remember it, but in any case, I didn’t go. I was so happy that in 2015, when

I wanted so much to go to Washington, D.C. with Molly and Keith Sessions, Patty,

Bill’s fiancée, said, “Hilda, I know that you really want to go. Bill and I will take you.”

What a great addition to the family she is!

I think the cousins planned another reunion for 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic

put an end to plans all over the world. We resumed on Zoom during Covid.


Father on the back steps at Hilltop, 1965


Our first Bellinger family reunion held on Dauphin Island in 1985. All attendees received an official

Dauphin Island memorial hat


The Bellinger siblings, Peter, me, Mary, and Liz, during the 1985 reunion


Mary and John were perfect hosts at their home in Portland, OR in 1990. My family didn’t take a group

photo, but Mary posed with Phillip and Claire


There were too many young cousins to try a group photo, so we pasted together a collage for the 2000

reunion at Dauphin Island



The Boys Leave Home

By 1973, all of the boys were off at college or medical school. All of them had

experiences and made decisions that would mark their lives.

Bill and his family

Bill was the first to leave home. When he graduated from UMS in 1966, he left for

Vanderbilt University and immediately started a pre-med curriculum, majoring in

psychology. After a successful four years there, he was accepted to Louisiana State

University Medical School in New Orleans. Before he started medical school, he

met his future bride, Laura Livingston, at our church in Mobile, and they carried

on a long-distance romance—he in New Orleans and she in Las Vegas, where she

was stationed as an airline flight attendant. They married on June 12, 1971 in the

Spring Hill Presbyterian Church, and lived in the shadow of the Superdome in New

Orleans until Bill received his medical degree in 1974.

I was happy that Bill chose to serve his internship at the University of South Alabama

Medical School in Mobile, and it was here that his and Laura’s first son, John, was

born. After his internship at University of South Alabama, Bill returned to New

Orleans for a fellowship in pulmonary medicine. While in New Orleans, their

second son, Thomas, was born. After completing his fellowship in New Orleans,

Bill’s family moved back to Mobile and he joined as a partner at the Diagnostic

& Medical Clinic. At the time, the clinic had only six physicians, including Henry

and Bill. Bill passed the American medical boards in internal medicine, pulmonary

medicine, and critical care medicine.

There were a few adventures along the way. Hurricane Camille, one of the

strongest hurricanes ever in the United States, hit in 1969 and caused a lot of


damage in Mississippi. At the time, Bill was home with some college friends from

Vanderbilt and they were staying with us on Dauphin Island. Henry decided to

take them out deep sea fishing. Hurricane Camille was in Cuba at the time, and

they thought it would take a long time to reach Alabama, but unfortunately, it

hit the next night!

Each of the boys had his own hobbies, and twice a year, Bill went solo on scuba

diving trips—his trips had to include water—and Laura liked to go by herself on

trips to look at furniture. On one of their many trips together, which was to China,

she was sick the whole time. When they got back, she was diagnosed with ovarian

cancer and didn’t live very long afterwards, which was very sad. Laura had been a

wonderful mother to two boys. Bill has since remarried to Patty and we love having

her in our family.

Bill and Laura’s sons were enrolled in St. Paul’s school from the beginning. John

had a creative middle school English teacher, who influenced him to love reading by

introducing him to science fiction stories. His reading level and his abilities in other

subjects made it possible for him to reach his senior year as a National Merit Scholar.

I was so proud and delighted that I sat down and wrote him a congratulatory check.

As Thomas looked on, I said to him, “Thomas, this doesn’t apply to you. John really

worked for this and that’s why he’s getting this check.”

Thomas replied, “Grandmother, you had better save your money.” Sure enough, two

years later, Thomas was a National Merit Scholar as well.

John went to Vanderbilt, where his grandfather and father had gone to college, and

then went to medical school at UAB. Today he and his wife, Barbara, live in Madison,

Alabama, where John practices psychiatry. Thomas, our second grandchild, attended

college at Georgia Tech, thinking that he would pursue a degree in computer science,

and indeed, his job after college involved computers, but he became so bored with

it that he decided to start over and go to law school. While studying at Emory Law

School, he met his future wife, Jen. They live in the Atlanta suburbs and both

work in the legal department of the United States Department of Labor. They visit

corporations to make sure that their retirement plans are set up correctly and doing

well for their employees.

Chris and his family

Chris graduated from UMS in 1970 and was accepted to Vanderbilt University.

However, he wanted to experience a larger school, so he decided to go to the

University of Alabama, giving us good reason to cheer for the Crimson Tide. Initially,

he pursued a pre-med degree, but in his junior year, he decided that medicine wasn’t


what he wanted and transferred to the University of Alabama School of Business.

Because he lacked so many of the basic business courses, he took an extra year before

graduating in 1975 with a degree in finance.

Chris began work at Merchants National Bank as a management trainee, and after

training in several departments, he started working in the investment department.

During this time, he also received a degree from the Graduate School of Banking

at LSU in Baton Rouge, and also attained the designation of Certified Financial

Planner. Chris was offered the position of manager of the investment department

in 1982 and was responsible for the bank’s investment portfolio, as well as for the

supervision of all trading activity by the bank’s investment staff.

Chris’s firm went through several mergers and acquisitions, from First Alabama

Bank, Regions Bank, Morgan Keegan, and Raymond James Investment Companies,

along with different duties, although he basically remained a financial advisor, and

was recognized with many awards.

He continues to advise me on investments to this day and takes care of some income

taxes and family investments. I really can’t make a decision without checking with

him first.

Chris was very picky with the girls he dated, but eventually, he found Dinah Golemon

and they were married on November 17, 1984. They have remained not only a loving

couple, but best friends as well. Chris and Dinah moved into a home in west Mobile,

very close to my home on Old Shell Road. Their son, Phillip, was born in Mobile on

January 12, 1986, and his sister, Claire, followed on June 9, 1988.

After graduating from UMS, Phillip enjoyed college life at Samford University in

Birmingham. He’s a young man who collects friends wherever he goes. After getting

his master’s degree in accounting in Alabama, he went on to become a CPA. His

great love has always been cars, and when the family thought I ought to have a bigger

car, he found it for me. He had always been able to just pick out a car for anybody in

the family. It is fitting that he is now the chief financial officer for a company that

buys and sells expensive cars.

Phillip’s sister, Claire, said “Sorry Dad!” and decided to go to Auburn. She was very

happy there and excelled in the School of Liberal Arts. We teased her about the time

she told her parents that she had been invited to join a national organization called

Phi Beta Kappa and wanted to know if she should accept. Her astonished brother

Phillip said, “Don’t you know? That’s a big deal!”


At Auburn, she met Will Harbison, now an ordained minister, and they and their

two little boys—my great grandsons Liam and Judah—live in Arab, Alabama. Claire is

a counselor at the Child Advocacy Center in Guntersville, Alabama. Will and Claire

will move to Huntsville, where he will be the head pastor at a new church, and she

will continue to commute to Guntersville.

Jim and his family

Jim graduated from UMS in 1972 and entered Vanderbilt University the following

fall. After four years at Vanderbilt, he graduated and was accepted into the medical

school at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, where he received his medical

degree. While he was in medical school at UAB, Jim met a pretty twin, Michelle

Yancy and fell in love. They were married on February 6, 1982 in Birmingham and

lived in Jackson, Mississippi while Jim continued his two-year internship at the

University of Mississippi.

He continued with a family practice residency in Birmingham at East End Memorial

Hospital, followed by a final year of internal medicine residency at UAB. He passed

his family practice boards in 1984, followed by his internal medicine boards in 1985.

During their time in Birmingham, their daughter and our third grandchild, Anne

Marie, was born on December 8, 1983. After a teaching residency in 1985 to 1986,

Jim started a solo private practice and occasionally traded calls with his brother-inlaw,

Dr. Bert Walker, who is married to Michelle’s twin sister, Marie Walker.

Michelle homeschooled Anne Marie in their tiny two-bedroom apartment. When

I went up to visit them, there would be so many people and so many books on the

living room floor that there wasn’t any place to step. Although Michelle did a good

job of homeschooling, I was concerned that Anne Marie would never meet any boys,

but I need not have worried because she is now married to Brandon Runnels, a

fine college professor of mechanical engineering at Colorado Springs, and they have

two precious children, Freddy (born March 16, 2020) and Sally (born September

17, 2021). Brandon recently received an eminent award from the National Science

Foundation to study why materials break.


After his brothers had all left home for college, Bobby was a senior in high school

at UMS. While we were spending a weekend together at Dauphin Island, he told us

that he had been hit in the chest by a soccer ball at school and that his heart was

racing. To our shame we did not take him seriously, although as Henry was heading

out for work on Monday, I asked if he could listen to Bobby’s chest. Henry did so and

exclaimed, “That’s the worst heart murmur that I’ve ever heard.”


We took him to the University of South Alabama Hospital for catheterization of

the heart, and when the results showed that a valve in his heart had ruptured,

we had to decide whether to take him to Birmingham, where there was a whole

department of heart surgeons, or keep him here in Mobile, where there was only

one heart surgeon. We decided to keep him here and the excellent surgeon, Dr. Billy

Hightower, successfully repaired his heart valve. The following year he was able to

join the others at college. He attended the University of Southern Mississippi, but

when we discovered he was almost failing his subjects, we transferred him to the

University of Mobile.

At this time, he was very interested in astronomy and wanted to go to see the

solar eclipse in Portland, where he had cousins. I didn’t want to send him, but

in the end I agreed, bought him a ticket, and took him to the airport. Later,

I learned that he didn’t know anything about riding on an airplane, and when the

plane changed in Los Angeles, he became confused, thinking he was supposed

to get off. I don’t know how that was resolved, but he stayed on the plane and his

cousins met him in Portland, where he was able to see the eclipse and take some

prized photographs.

His cousins found that he wasn’t himself and decided to purchase a ticket for him to

return to Mobile. When I met him in Atlanta, I could tell that something wasn’t right.

At home, he began talking to the television set and it was obvious that something

was wrong with him. At the age of 22, Bobby was diagnosed with schizophrenia,

a disease that no one else in my family suffered from. This problem in his brain,

through no fault of his own, pursued him for the rest of his life.

Probably the worst day of my life was in 1983, when Henry and I decided that we

needed to commit Bobby to Searcy Psychiatric Hospital for his own well-being. He

remained there for 10 years, and this was a bad time in my life. I used to drive up

to Searcy to see him and come back with tears just rolling down my cheeks because

I felt so sorry for him. He was given the best care possible, but he was a kid who

expected to enjoy the pleasures that all other young men had at that time. Sadly, the

illness in his brain could not be helped.

During Bobby’s illness, I became involved in the National Association for the

Mentally Ill (NAMI), a national organization with a chapter in Mobile. Later, after

years of experience caring for Bobby, I have to say that people with mental illness

get a really bad rap. Not all of them go out to buy assault rifles, and in fact, they are

more likely to be victims than they are to harm others. It helped that Bobby was

strong willed and could stand up for himself. I never would have gotten this feeling

for people with mental illness if it hadn’t been for Bobby’s experience.


When Bobby was at Searcy Hospital, I was part of the Advocacy Committee, which

made sure the hospital was fulfilling all its legal obligations. In a way, it was lucky

that Henry’s very good friend from high school, Dr. Dixon Meyers, was head of the

medical staff at Searcy. That is how we knew that they were doing their best to take

care of Bobby.

After Bobby spent 10 years at Searcy, the state of Alabama decided to close the

two mental hospitals and move the patients to group homes. This happened at a

time when newer medications allowed patients like Bobby to function somewhat

independently. A lawyer from the probate court interviewed Bobby and determined

that he was eligible to live in a group home.

Bobby lived in group homes from then on, and for the most part, they were good

places. He had a roommate and a supervisor, and was allowed to walk to neighborhood

stores and spend the money that we provided to him. Although Chris didn’t like me

driving on the interstate, I still drove to Bobby’s group home to bring him home on

weekends. Even when I moved to The Gates, he had his own room and a computer

where he could pursue his hobbies of hurricane tracking and astronomy. He tracked

every hurricane since the year 1900 and in so doing, became good friends with a

local television meteorologist, who was good to him. He preferred to spend most of

his time in his room and maintained his grandmother Maud’s stubborn streak when

we tried to suggest other activities.

Chris, Jim and Bill were good to Bobby; they understood that he was disabled. When

Bobby died on March 15, 2021, Chris wrote Bobby’s obituary. A local newsman

commented that while most obituaries are so much the same, extolling the virtues of

the person who died, he thought that Bobby’s was different—a complex description

of Bobby’s unique life.

Robert Bellinger Gewin

9/11/1955 – 3/15/2021

Robert Bellinger Gewin “Bob” was born in 1955 in Mobile to Dr. and Mrs. Henry Gewin

(Hilda) and grew up at their house on Old Shell Road. Bob graduated from UMS-Wright

Preparatory School, where he showed an interest in chess and was a member of the Chess

Club. After graduating from UMS-Wright, Bob attended the University of Southern

Mississippi until mental illness prevented him from continuing his education.

Although Bob suffered from mental illness all of his adult life, he had a strong interest in

astronomy and meteorology. He was particularly interested in lunar phases and hurricanes


and spent countless hours mapping hurricane paths and patterns and lunar phases to form

hypotheses about their relationship. Bob discussed his theories with WKRG meteorologist

John Nodar, a truly nice person, who would take the time to talk to Bob and on occasion

visited him when he was ill. Bob would also follow NOAA and Weather Underground

reports on his computer and watched The Weather Channel every morning.

In Bob’s 20s and 30s, he would spend many hours at night viewing and photographing

star constellations and clusters and could recite all the stars visible to the naked eye.

He improved his astrological photography over these years to the point that Astronomy

Magazine published one of his photographs with an acknowledgement, a stipend and a

letter stating that his photograph was of “excellent” quality.

Bob would also spend time in his photographic darkroom developing his photographs of

stars, galaxies, nebulas and of solar and lunar eclipses. He traveled to Portland, Oregon

for a full solar eclipse and was proud of the numerous photographs that he took and


Bob also maintained an interest in chess and spent hours later in life reviewing chess

masters’ strategies and play. He was an avid Star Trek fan, and could recite any of the

original series plots and characters.


Bill married Laura Livingston in Mobile in June 1971


Lovely photo of Laura with young Thomas and John


Jim and Michelle Yancy were married in Birmingham in February 1981


Chris married Dinah Golemon in Mobile in November 1984. Shown here are Bill, Laura, Henry and John,

Thomas in front of me, Chris and Dinah, Michelle, and Jim


Bill and Patty Lee celebrated their wedding in June 2016 in Mobile with family, including her mother, Lisa,

and three sisters, Jane, Mary, and Barbara, and their families, plus Chris and Jim and their families


After many years suffering from mental illness, Bob died in March 2021


I was chairman of the Advocacy Committee at Searcy Hospital and received this Resolution by the State of

Alabama House of Representatives



Hilda and Henry Travel Abroad, 1989 to 1998

Although I had been in Europe when I was eight years old, it would be many,

many years later before I returned—first with friends and then with Henry. He

was a busy doctor and always wanted to spend his two weeks’ vacation on Dauphin

Island on a fishing rodeo. I could never get him to go anyplace else, so I learned to

run the boats and fish with him.

Returning to Europe with girlfriends in 1981: The UK and Ireland

In 1981, I, with three of my friends, Gretchen Donald, Virginia Fondé, and

Katherine Marriott, decided to go to England, Ireland, and Edinburgh in Scotland.

It was the year that Charles and Diana got married and everything seemed so

romantic. We landed in Shannon, Ireland and traveled by bus around Ireland and

to Dublin, kissing the Blarney Stone on the way. From Dublin we flew to Scotland

and toured along the Highland roads to Edinburgh, where we visited the castle and

shopped for small trinkets to bring home to our bridge friends. We then took a fast

train trip to London, visiting many familiar places, including St. Paul’s Cathedral,

site of the ill-fated royal wedding, and especially enjoyed going to an evensong

service there.

The four of us had a really good time, and I guess our husbands were glad to let

us go. Henry was happy that I enjoyed the trip, but he wouldn’t have wanted to go.

He didn’t grow up in a musical family, but he still went to the opera with me. He

even went to symphony concerts with me until he complained that the seats at the

Saenger Theatre were not comfortable for long-legged people. He even got interested

in recording music for me, and I became interested in things that he was interested

in too.


Italy: Henry’s first trip abroad in 1989

In 1989, my red-haired sister-in-law, Madge, finally talked Henry into going to Italy.

I had dutifully gone with him to Dauphin Island every July but was very happy when

Madge and I managed to talk Henry into making a foreign trip. My brother-in-law

Julian had unfortunately recently died of lung cancer, and Madge was looking for

something to do, so along with other friends from Mobile, we went with Sam and

Lily Betty to Italy. Sam and his wife used to take teenage children on trips to Europe,

but at some point, the children’s parents decided that they wanted to go too, so the

Bettys began arranging adult trips as well.

Sam was an excellent tour director, especially in Italy, where he had traveled countless

times. On this trip, we visited Venice, Florence, and Rome. Sam arranged prayer

meetings every evening, although they weren’t exactly traditional prayer meetings.

We would drink a little wine and share our experiences from the day. It was a fun

way to get together at the end of a day of festivities and touring.

The trip began in Venice, city of canals, where we visited St. Mark’s Square and

the Doge’s Palace, and art museums were everywhere, with paintings and sculptures

familiar to me from my excellent college art class. From Venice, we traveled by bus to

Florence, with Sam Betty expertly pointing out many notable works of art. We were

of course eager to see the famous David statue by Michelangelo at the Accademia

Gallery, and as we toured the Uffizi Gallery, I was reminded of a friend’s remark:

“The Uffizi is not for the lame.” Indeed, we walked a long way that day!

Our hotel was near the Duomo and Giotto’s bell tower. On a bet, I actually climbed

the tower—we were adventurous in those days! We admired the carvings on the door

of the Baptistery of Saint John and visited the Ponte Vecchio before continuing our

tour through the vineyards and steep hills of the Italian countryside.

We visited Assisi, home of St. Francis and admired the golden paintings of Giotto.

Once again on the bus, we visited Rome, where we took a tour of St. Peter’s

Basilica. We were lucky to have an audience with the Pope. He called on the

“Tourists from Mobile,” and blessed the rosary of a friend. The Sistine Chapel

was much more crowded than I remembered from 1934 when, as a child, I was

able to sit down on a bench in the middle and admire the ceiling. This time, you

couldn’t sit down anywhere.

While the others went to Pompeii, Henry and I stayed in Rome, hoping to find the

Villina Bellacci, where my family had lived for a time when I was a child. With Sam

Betty’s assistance, we obtained an English- and Italian-speaking taxi driver to help

us, and we found it. I did not like Rome that much. My memory of the city as a child


included wide open spaces, but the city felt crowded, smelly, and noisy this time,

and although I liked going to the Vatican, the taxis were bad and I had to guard my

purse because people would see an elderly woman with a purse on her elbow and

snatch it.

This was Henry’s first trip out of the U.S. and he enjoyed it, except for the day we

had to climb a big hill. He had a very bad knee and as we climbed, I could tell he

was having difficulty. Sam Betty had arranged for one white-haired lady to ride in a

car up to the top, and Henry assumed that he would ride up with her. That didn’t

happen and although it wasn’t my fault, he was pretty angry. After that trip, he had

his knee operated on and afterwards he climbed mountains like a gazelle. Once

Henry found out that it was fun to travel, we took more enjoyable trips together.

Holland, Paris and Switzerland in 1991

In 1991, we found a good trip organized by Intrav to Holland, Paris, and Switzerland.

After touring Amsterdam, we took a boat around the waterway that was once called

the Zuiderzee (now IJsselmeer). With only one hundred tourists in it, our group was

small enough for us to get to know the other travelers, at least by sight. With the same

group we flew to Paris, though only to catch a train to Switzerland. What a thrill

it was to go to bed on the train on a cloudy night and wake up the next morning

in Montreux, with the huge Alps towering over Lake Geneva. Although I did not

realize it at the time, we were close to where my family had stayed before taking Peter

and Ros to school at La Clairière.

The Greek Isles and Turkey in 1992

We took two other trips with the Bettys. First, in the fall of 1992, we had a marvelous

tour of the Greek islands on a cruise liner. I was apprehensive about spending a lot

of time cooped up on a boat, but I need not have worried. The tour directors were

excellent, there was more to do at sea than we had time to do, and staff were always

pushing food, tea, a meal, or entertainment in our direction.

After arriving in Athens (our port of departure), we took a quick tour of the city

and then met our ship at Cape Sounion. We enjoyed a fine get-together lunch while

docked, and then got settled in our state rooms. The ship always left at night and

arrived at a new port in the morning, which gave me and others the chance to get up

early to witness how such big ships could sidle up to the dock sideways—a feat that

was new to me.

Our first two ports were in Turkey, with a shore excursion to Ephesus, an ancient

Greek city that appears in the Bible and in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. It

used to be on the water, but is now many miles inland, showing just how much


lands can change. We then started an island journey, beginning at Rhodes and then

coming to the island of Patmos. We Christians were happy to view the grotto where

St. John is supposed to have written Revelations. I was surprised that I could read

the welcome pamphlet in French without an English translation, for although I had

majored in French at college, I found that my French was not very good and I never

tried to speak anything but English.

The next two islands were very memorable, beginning with Mykonos, where my

friends from Mobile bought lots of things. Next came Santorini, an island so beautiful

that it is pictured in many travelogues, and with a very deep crater caused by a mighty

volcanic eruption. The high cliffs, the white buildings and the lovely blue sky made

an unforgettable vision.

Our last stop in the Aegean Sea was in Crete, location of many stories of mythology.

We then traveled across the Mediterranean to Sicily, and to Menorca, off the coast of

Spain. There, we toured Mahón, a town familiar to historians of the British navy’s

fight with Napoleon. After that, we docked in Spain, gathered our belongings, took

a bus to the airport, and flew home.

Back to the UK with Henry in 1996

On our final trip with the Bettys and other close friends, we went to tulip country

in Holland. At the Aalsmeer flower market in Amsterdam, we saw acres and acres

of flowers which buyers sent all over the world. Flowers bought at this market would

show up in our grocery store in Mobile that very same day!

From Amsterdam, we flew to Manchester and traveled on to the county of Yorkshire

in England. We enjoyed an excursion to Chatsworth Castle and to Castle Howard,

familiar to fans of Masterpiece Theater. For me, it was a thrill to go to evensong in

the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, which is also called

York Minster. The music director was very well known. We then boarded a fast

train to Edinburgh where we visited Edinburgh Castle, which I had visited with my

friends in 1981.

Traveling along the narrow Highlands roads, we arrived at Gleneagles golf club,

a stopping place for many golfers. We also visited Glamis, home of Shakespeare’s

Macbeth, and had a picnic lunch on the bonny banks of Loch Lomond. Taking

another fast train, we spent our last four days in London. While the others took in

the sights of London, Henry and I traveled to Sussex, south of London, where my

college roommate Andy lived when she and her British diplomat husband, Adam

Watson, were not in Charlottesville, Virginia. Henry and I had a fine visit with them

before returning to London for the flight home.


The American and Canadian West in 1993, 1994 and 1998

We took our first Tauck tour in 1993, which started in New Mexico, went past the

Grand Canyon to Nevada, then on to Las Vegas and San Diego. San Diego is a

beautiful city and we enjoyed visiting the famous zoo there. From there, we travelled

up the California coast to Los Angeles, where Peter met us, and we had a good visit.

We were able to visit Peter on a number of other family trips as well. He taught

biology at the University of California at Northridge, and we visited him there

before the Northridge earthquake of 1994. He, as a biology professor, had many

glass slides of insects—his specialty—on his desk. After I heard about the earthquake,

I thought about how much broken glass there must have been. My mother and I had

both worried a lot about him. At least with a hurricane there are warnings that it’s

coming, but that’s not the case with earthquakes. We also visited Pete and Carolyn

in Chatsworth in March 1999.

Returning to the Tauck tour in 1993, as we continued up the California coast, we

stopped at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. That was very interesting to me as I hadn’t

previously known much about its builder, William Randolph Hearst. Traveling

through California was very unusual for me because, growing up in New England,

I was raised on the Pilgrim Fathers and the Puritans. Those growing up in California,

however, learn about the Spaniards coming up the coast.

Our next Tauck trip was to the Canadian Rockies in 1995. The weather was crisp and

cool and there was snow on the mountains. Everything about that trip—from Jasper

Pass to Continental Divide, to climbing on a glacier, to Banff and Lake Louise—was


Our last Tauck trip in 1998 was managed by Brownell Tours, and we went to Alaska

with good friends from Mobile. It was an eventful trip, and not just for the scenery.

Eight friends got stuck in the hotel elevator for 45 minutes. Henry choked on a piece

of steak and needed to go to the hospital in Edmonton. I shared the taxi to the

hospital with another passenger who was very sick so, of course, soon I got sick, and

on the Holland America ship back to Seattle (a beautiful city), other passengers also

got sick. In addition, the telephone was out on the ship, so we had to walk to the

front office to tell them when we needed room service.

I was a little scared to see Henry choke on that piece of steak. I thought he had

breathed it in and that I would need to do the Heimlich Maneuver. It turned out,

however, that the food was lodged in his esophagus, which meant that we had to go

to the hospital. I’m used to hospitals, but this one surprised me, for I did not expect

to be taken into the room where the doctors were doing the procedure and asked to


help. I had to hold Henry’s hands while they reached down to remove the steak from

his esophagus.

Although, overall, it wasn’t such a good trip, it was fun to be with friends as we

shared these experiences. As a result, we formed lifetime friendships with the good

friends who had traveled with us.

That trip was also special in another way as we were also able to visit both my

brother Peter and his wife, Caroline, in California, and my sister Mary in Portland.

As I have mentioned, my mother had 19 grandchildren, and while they are scattered

all over, a good many of them live in Portland, Oregon. They think that there is no

place as wonderful as Oregon. In this they are like Texans, who think that Texas

is the most wonderful place on earth. Mary had six children and I think they will

all eventually end up back in Portland. I am glad I had the opportunity to travel

to see them.

I enjoyed all of these travels. Although I had been to Europe as a child, my brothers

and I were pretty bored with visiting cathedrals and museums. After I had been

to college and learned more about art and paintings, the trips became more

memorable for me. Every trip was very, very exciting and I was happy that Henry

enjoyed them too.


In 1996, Henry and I took another trip with the Bettys, this time to Holland, England, and Scotland.

Here I am on the shores of Loch Lomond



Moving On

Before and during our travels, and as the boys began making their own lives,

other changes—some happy, some sad—marked the years.

After losing two of our parents, I attended a course on security markets at the

University of South Alabama. It was so funny that I, a French major with no idea

what markets were like, took this course. I learned about the money market and got

interested enough to start investing in stocks. With what I learned, Henry and I were

able to sit down and talk about our investments. Henry never touched a computer,

saying, “I never learned touch typing, so I’m not going to touch a computer.” This

meant that I had to do all the figuring, using spreadsheets, which I enjoyed, and our

investments did well.

Sadly, Julian died of lung cancer in 1986, and after a period of loneliness, Madge

married her daughter-in-law’s father, Walter Rody. They had a good life together.

Henry decided to retire in 1994 so that he could enjoy travel and relaxation. There

was a good celebration at the Diagnostic & Medical Clinic for his family and many

friends, and two years later we also celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary with

a fine dinner at Chris and Dinah’s house. Our grandchildren, now old enough to

enjoy such a gathering, remember the family get-together.

My sister Mary, who had come to Mobile for the anniversary party, developed a

fast-growing cancer and died the following January. Our niece taught my sister Liz

and me how to write emails, and that became the way we communicated with each

other for years. Liz and I flew out to Portland, Oregon for a celebration of Mary’s life.

I miss both of them.


In 1996, Henry still had good health, and he drove Virginia Fondé and me to

Connecticut. I grew up in Connecticut, but this was the most spectacular autumn

color display that I had ever seen. Two years later, Henry was also able to take the

trip to Alaska; however, as I was making complicated plans for the family reunion in

2000, I could see that my brilliant doctor husband was losing pieces of his memory.

As Henry began to develop dementia, Bill said, “He just had so much memory, he

must have used it up.” At some point, my sons warned me that he should no longer

be driving, and anyone who has faced the situation of taking car keys away from

loved ones will understand what a traumatic time that was for us. It was very sad for

me and my brilliant husband.

Although he must have treated patients with dementia, I was happy that Henry

never seemed to know that something was wrong that was not going to get better.

He just said, “I can’t do anything right anymore,” and he would be mad about that.

Gradually his memory got worse. He was good about it, but when it first began to

happen, I didn’t know how to handle it. He had taken care of me for 50 years, and

now it was my turn to take care of him. I was pretty frazzled at that time.

We finally found a sitter service that would provide someone to drive him to the

places he liked to go, and as he became more dependent, we gradually added more

help. I was so happy that he was able to keep living at home. Bill and Chris, with

their beloved wives, were living nearby and provided much help. Henry died quietly

in his sleep on February 1, 2007. Bill was so helpful with the medical issues and Chris

helped tremendously with the legal and burial details. Jim and Michelle came down

from Birmingham, and other family members came too. They were so supportive.

I just wish they had children in Mobile to help them the way they helped me.

Many people admired and respected Henry, and for his funeral, there was a long

line of colleagues and friends at a reception at Radney’s, and we had a service at

Spring Hill Presbyterian Church. The three Bellinger boys served as pallbearers

with other family members. Our beloved organist and choir director, Randy Sheets,

conducted appropriate music to be sung by my choir. I spent a long time afterwards

writing a hundred notes of thanks for memorial gifts, gifts of food and, especially,

for warm wishes.

Life does go on, and my grief was relieved by the attentions of family and friends.

One friend in particular was Dot (Dorothy) Dawson, who had been in Henry’s class

at Murphy High School. Although Henry never got a grade lower than an A, Dorothy

was class valedictorian. We became friends when we played golf together regularly

at the country club. She liked to do the same things that I did, and we went to

symphony concerts together downtown, to the musical concerts at South Alabama’s


Laidlaw Theater, and to continuing education Odyssey classes at South Alabama.

After her husband, Bealle Dawson, died, I talked her into volunteering with me at

the Mobile Infirmary. We went to fitness classes together, and in the summer we

swam with a group. Between her and my family and my church, I did not have much

time to be lonely.

After Henry died in 2007, Bill thought I ought to travel, so that year I returned to the

Canadian Rockies with Bill’s and Jim’s families. Since one of Chris’s children could

not go on that trip, Chris, Dinah, Phillip, and Claire went with me on another Tauck

trip the following year, this time to Provence and Paris, where I saw the Mona Lisa

painting. At the end of our tour, Chris, Dinah and I flew back to Mobile, but Phillip

and Claire wanted to continue on to the British Isles. Phillip had planned a trip to

Scotland and back to London and Claire was happy to go with him. When I got back

to Mobile, I knew that I had many decisions to make.


Henry died on February 1, 2007, and many Gewin and Bellinger family members gathered together at

Chris and Dinah’s house


I continued to travel after Henry’s death with family, here in France in 2008



Moving to The Gates, 2008 to Present

Henry would never have consented to move from our house on Old Shell Road,

but I had quietly been looking around for a smaller place. Anytime Henry ran

out of room on Old Shell Road, he just built another addition, so the house was

pretty big. Also, the electrical system was antique. I knew I wanted to move out and

I had my eye on The Gates.

Soon after returning from Europe in 2008, it happened that the very home I’d

imagined living in went on sale at The Gates. The family agreed that it was just the

place for me, so I bought number 5. I was very familiar with this area. I had watched

football games across the street with Virginia Fondé, and two of the friends with

whom I play bridge and golf lived there. On top of that, I had gone to Garden Club

meetings there with other friends.

I didn’t expect that moving in my 80s would be easy, but with the help of family and

friends I got it done. The contractor and his excellent carpenter made the needed

changes. I chose a paint color and ordered a new stovetop, oven and microwave,

as well as new brass fixtures and bookshelves. The smaller decisions about what to

take and what to leave came easily, but it was difficult to find homes for the eleven

bookcases of books in the house on Old Shell Road. Fortunately, a place called the

Book Nook on the campus of Spring Hill College agreed to take most of them. After

the books had gone, I occasionally found myself searching for one that I wanted to

reread and discovered that I had given it away. The solution was simple: I would

return to the Book Nook and, for 50 cents, buy it back!

My utilities had to be changed and my generator, which was necessary to survive

the humid summer heat during power outages, particularly following hurricanes,


had to be moved by a large crane into my new property. Addresses were changed

on everyone’s computers and places had to be found for my furniture and personal

possessions. All this was accomplished in good time. Chris was here every day and

Dinah packed all my crystal and china in boxes, transported it to the new place,

and set it all up beautifully. The house is big enough for everything I need. My only

complaint is that the alcove for my computer is just not big enough.

Treasured friends

It was easy to make friends in the new community. I knew many of my neighbors

in the 38 houses here before I moved, and Jane Ann Lane and Sue Jardine had

neighborhood parties to welcome me. I lived right across the street from two of my

best friends—Alice Mighell Inge, with whom I played golf, and Jo Harrison with

whom I played bridge. I met Celeste Taylor, Donna Dunaway, and Mack and Dodi

Matthews as they walked by my place. Paula Henry and Lila Finney asked Jo and me

to give them more experience playing bridge, but as it turned out, they really didn’t

need instruction for soon they were better than me! Lila was indispensable to all

of us, with her little gifts and her unerring way of seeing a need and responding to

it herself. We were so happy when she married Dick Pennington, with whom she

served on the Session Committee at Spring Hill Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Max and Nikki McLaughlin, who had once lived next door to me on Old Shell

Road, then moved to The Gates—next door again! John and Rita Langus had been

good friends from the church. Dr. Edwin Lamberth could solve technical problems

for any of us who asked, and his wife, Caroline, was familiar to all of us because she

walked her little dog out to Bit and Spur Road, followed by Ivy, their cat.

I miss Anne McCall, who lived across the street in The Gates. She had no fear of

intruders and would regularly leave her front door open. I could cross the street,

knock on her door and say, “I’m coming in!” Anne Meador is a great walker all over

Spring Hill, but we see her more often now that she has a little cocker spaniel named

Ruby. Dr. Harry and Joyce Coker can also be seen starting out for their long walks.

Harry is from Demopolis, Alabama, like my Henry, and he sometimes shares news

from his hometown. David and Barbara Hannan are also good friends, although

I was sad when they moved from across the street to another part of Spring Hill. Sally

Czepiel from Indiana is another good friend, with many connections to members of

the national organization, PEO Sisterhood—a philanthropy that provides educational

opportunities for female students around the world.

Our Tuesday afternoon bridge games continue until today—even during lockdowns—

with new friends from The Gates, including Lila Pennington, Paula Henry, and Rita

Langus, as well as Alice Inge, Jo Harrison, Sarah Shields and others. Because of our


smaller houses, we played one-table bridge instead of two. So as not to be left out,

some neighbors who don’t play bridge—like Sally Czepiel, Sara Long and Jain Anne

Lane—play Hearts with us instead. Both games are relaxing and a good way to get

together with friends.

The Shakespeare Club still meets on Thursdays, and when I could no longer drive,

Sally Cobb began taking me to our meetings at Trinity Church. I enjoyed visiting

with her as we drove to and from the church. Other activities have come to an

end. For a time, I tried to attend the monthly meetings of the Spring Hill Garden

Club, which now meets at the beautiful botanical gardens, and eventually, I began

to enjoy the fellowship of our Friday golf games more than actually playing golf.

We played as long as we could, but eventually stopped. Finally, after 50 years of

attending the symphony, I had to give up my seat (best in the house) because

I could no longer gracefully climb the stairs to reach it. This did not mean a

complete end to musical performances, however. My friends Ruth Fitzgerald and

Bron Dixon continue to take me to concerts at the University of South Alabama’s

Laidlaw Theater.

These new friends became important parts of my life. When my children arranged

a delightful 95th birthday party for me at the Country Club Lounge in 2019, I was

happy to welcome my friends from The Gates, as well as relatives who came from

afar to surprise me.


The only hard part about living at The Gates is that a lot of people here, and in my

life more generally, have died. Since just before moving into The Gates in 2008, many

friends have died. Gretchen Donald died in 2002 and Lessie Mitchiner, Henry’s

cousin, in 2005. Mabel Barlow, our housekeeper for 40 years, died in 2010. Madge

Gewin, my darling sister-in-law, died January 12, 2011. My college roommates, Andy

(Katherine Ann Campbell) and Marjorie Carolin, both died in 2012. Carl Yancy,

Jim’s father-in-law, died in 2014. A very sad occasion was when Laura Gewin died in

October of 2014. My friend Dot Dawson died September 13, 2016. Alice Inge, one of

my golfing buddies, died December 16, 2016. By January 2020, my across-the-street

neighbors Jo Harrison and Anne McCall had also died. That leaves a lot of spaces.

Thankfully, there are also new friends and new neighbors.

Looking back on 10 years at The Gates

I’ve lived here now for more than 10 years, and it’s been an ideal place. I’ve socialized

in many people’s homes and have regularly found myself standing in the street,

holding up traffic as I talk to a neighbor. I also feel very safe here; there is only one

way out, so I don’t think any burglar would be brave enough to come in.


My life here has been made so much easier as a result of my marvelous housekeeper,

Sonya Harrison, who I had the good fortune to find soon after I moved here. It’s easy

to grow old when you have people to help! When I quit driving, I so hated having to

depend on others to drive me that I became apologetic to everybody. My wise, good

friend, Vera Lynn, finally said to me, “Hilda, why don’t you quit apologizing and just

say ‘thank you’!” That was very good advice!

I am also very happy that Bill and Chris and their families live nearby in Mobile. We

often go out to dinner together and they are so helpful. There’s not a place in this

house that Chris hasn’t repaired!

Looking forward after the tumultuous pandemic years

In March of 2020, the world learned of a menacing new coronavirus. People were sick

and dying, and our lives changed sharply. We learned to practice meticulous cleaning

habits, to wear face masks and to keep a measured distance between ourselves and

others. People stopped going anywhere, even to church and to work, and the poor

schoolchildren had to learn their lessons online. The government helped by supplying

ventilators to the hospitals, which were reeling from the heavy demand. We were

hopeful that the vaccinations that drug companies produced in record time would

shield us from infection. In early 2021, I was happy to receive my two vaccinations,

followed by a booster shot. As of this writing, I have escaped the deadly virus. Others

were not as fortunate.

The pandemic affected my life in many ways. We used to get together with friends

at The Gates regularly for parties or just to meet on the street and talk. During the

closures, however, it got so that we were even afraid to meet each other outside.

My involvement at Spring Hill Presbyterian also changed abruptly. I rejoice that

I sang in the church choir, beginning in 1951. I don’t have any particular talent for

singing, but I enjoy singing in a group because my little voice is drowned out by

everybody else’s voices. I loved the music and the fellowship of the choir. Back when

our children were small, even though choir practice fell on Henry’s night off, he was

so tired that he would be glad to stay home with the boys. As I got older and couldn’t

always find specific words when I was talking, it was fun to learn that when I sang a

familiar hymn, I could remember all of the words!

In addition to weekly practices, we enjoyed monthly birthday parties in the choir

room, and Sunday dinner in members’ homes after the yearly Christmas cantata.

There were also committee meetings and circle meetings at the church, and 12 of

us started the monthly Lunch Club Fellowship. Finally, after receiving 50 hours of

training in providing emotional and spiritual one-to-one care, I was commissioned


as a Stephen minister on January 31, 2016. These activities continued until Covid

closed them all down.

I can’t explain my good health, except that maybe I’ve always had other things to

think about. Following my first hip surgery in 2015, I recovered quickly. That may

have been because Dinah and Chris invited me to stay in their lovely house for two

weeks after the surgery when we discovered that water was leaking onto my wooden

floors from underground. Then, during the chaos of the pandemic, I had surgery to

replace my right hip in July 2020. I was so happy to be free of pain that I got right up

after the surgery.

I warn my family’s younger generation to prepare for the usual consequences of

old age. I forget to wear my hearing aids and sometimes misplace them, and now

I sometimes forget to wear a mask. Macular degeneration probably explains why

I can no longer keep the bridge scores: sixes look like eights, and threes and fours

look like nines, while B’s look like eights.

The year 2020 did bring happy family news. Rob Bellinger, son of Peter and

Ellen, became engaged to Elìn Gutierrez, and they plan to marry at the end of

July 2022. Like many, if not all of our family’s weddings, this one will include The

Wedding Hymn, which was written by Percy Atherton, a cousin of my grandmother,

Elizabeth Dwight Raymond Bellinger. The former organist and choir director at

my church, Wesley C. Ellis—who unfortunately died in recent years—arranged the

hymn for us.

When I moved to The Gates, Bobby was still living in group homes, but he had a

room here and stayed with me on weekends. During the week, Bobby gave me a

reason to get up every morning. Early in the morning, I would take my cup of coffee

and my newspaper out to the front porch for our daily call at 7:30 a.m. It was good

for both of us. Friends who walked by would know that I was talking to Bobby. As

I mentioned earlier, Bobby died during the pandemic on March 15, 2021, when I was

96 years old. In the last year of his life, he had so many medical problems, so many

physical problems. Although I miss him and our morning talks, it is a relief to not

have to worry about him.

A few months after Bobby died, we celebrated new possibilities. In June 2021, Phillip

Gewin proposed to Amanda Maxwell. We celebrated their engagement with a party

in October, and their wedding on November 20, 2021. I called it the Royal Wedding

because Amanda’s grandfather was Dr. Bill Atkinson, a medical partner of Henry’s

at the Diagnostic & Medical Clinic when we first came to Mobile, and Phillip’s

grandfather was Henry Gewin. In the midst of these fall celebrations, Sally Ruth


Runnels was born in Colorado Springs in October, joining her big brother, Freddy,

and her parents, Brandon and Anne Marie Runnels.

As we emerge from the awful isolation caused by the very contagious coronavirus,

I hope for new and better days celebrating family and enjoying good friends, all

while fully aware that we can never expect that things will be the same as they were

before 2020.

This is the Bridge Group in 1990, when we went to spend the night at Windward Condominium. Pictured

are: front row: Edith Gilchrist, me, Alice Mighell; back row: Clarinda Marshall, Jo Harrison, Gretchen

Donald, Margaret Sue Oswalt, Martha Donald



When Henry and I began our life together in Mobile, Alabama, a pastor

spoke to those of us who were taking the Junior League Provisional Course.

Although I don’t remember the pastor’s name, I do remember his message, which

was from Matthew 6:33: “Seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness.” I took

the message to heart. At the growing Spring Hill Presbyterian Church, a group of

lively and intelligent members formed an adult Sunday school, an idea that was

completely new to me. I ended up learning more about the Bible there than I did as

a child growing up. It was a good beginning.

I found good advice for living in Romans 12. My decades of weekly Shakespeare

study also provided apt guidance. In Hamlet, Polonius advises his son, “Those

friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them to thy soul with hoops

of steel.” Indeed, I was fortunate to have good health, a loving family, and many

special friends whom I have tried to keep close. At this stage in my life, I’m trying

to keep a positive and joyful attitude. I try to keep learning, keep giving and above

all, keep moving.




1852 John Chapin Brinsmade, Hilda’s maternal grandfather, born in Springfield,


1865 Hiram Paulding Bellinger, Hilda’s paternal grandfather, born

1869 Elizabeth Dwight Raymond Bellinger, Hilda’s paternal grandmother, born

1876 Mary Gold Gunn Brinsmade, Hilda’s maternal grandmother, born

1893 Charlotte Brinsmade Bellinger, Hilda’s mother, born in Washington, CT

Alfred Raymond Bellinger, Hilda’s father, born in Durham, PA

1921 Henry Monnier Gewin, Hilda’s future husband, born in Demopolis,


1921 Peter Bellinger, Hilda’s brother, born in New Haven, CT

1922 Rossiter Raymond Bellinger, Hilda’s brother, born

1924 Hilda is born

1929 Mary Bellinger Davenport, Hilda’s sister, born

1932 Family travels to Europe and Turkey

1933 Elizabeth, Hilda’s sister, born in Turkey

1934 Hilltop burns down and Hilda’s grandfather dies in the fire


1942 Hilda graduates from high school and attends Vassar College

1943 Peter graduates from college and serves in World War II

1945 Hilda graduates from Vassar and returns to New Haven

1946 Hilda meets Henry Gewin. They marry on June 22 in Washington, CT

1946 July: Henry and Hilda move to Tuscaloosa where Henry serves at a Veteran


1948 Henry and Hilda return to New Haven where Henry does his residency at


1948 William Charles Gewin born on December 2 in New Haven

1950 July: Henry becomes chief resident

1951 Move to Mobile; washing machine outside

1952 Join Spring Hill Presbyterian Church in January

1952 Henry Christopher Gewin born on August 3 in Mobile

Added air conditioning window units

1953 James Richard Gewin born in Mobile on December 4 in Mobile

Bill goes to kindergarten and first grade at Wimbledon. Moves to first grade

at Austin

We close in the porch and make a carport; architect, Ed Baumhauer

1955 Robert Bellinger Gewin born on September 11 in Mobile

1956 Maud builds house at Dauphin Island

We buy our first boat, a DuCraft

1958 Chris starts kindergarten at Wimbledon and goes on to Austin


1959 Jim starts at St. Paul’s Kindergarten and goes on to Austin

1960 We build the pool and garage

1961 Bill starts at Sidney Phillips

1963 Bill starts at UMS

Mabel starts working

1964 Chris starts at UMS

1966 Bill graduates from UMS

Jim breaks his arm

Destin trip

September: Bill starts at Vanderbilt

November 30: Henry gets a hole-in-one

December: Ros dies

1968 Maud Gewin dies

April: College of Physicians in Boston

Begin playing bridge on Tuesdays

November: Aunt Lou dies

1970 Mother dies. Children and grandchildren gather at Hilltop

1981 Jim and Michelle engaged

June: British Isles trip

1982 February: Jim and Michelle married

1984 Chris and Dinah engaged and married


1985 June: first Bellinger reunion at Dauphin Island

1986 January: Phillip born

July: Julian dies

1988 June: Claire born; Chris and Dinah move

1989 Hilda and Henry’s first trip to Italy, with the Bettys

Buy Windward Condominium, Perdido Key, Florida

1990 Reunion in Connecticut

1991 Spring: Intrav trip to Holland, France & Switzerland

1992 Greek Isles with the Bettys

1993 First Tauck tour to New Mexico, Nevada and California

1994 Henry retires

1995 Reunion in Portland

Tauck tour to Canadian Rockies

1996 Trip to Holland, British Isles with the Bettys

June 50th wedding anniversary

1997 January: Mary Bellinger Davenport dies

March: Portland for memorial service

1998 February: auto trip to Stamford to visit Phylis Bunkley

Tauck trip to Alaska

1999 March: with Liz to visit Pete and Carolyn


2000 June: Bellinger reunion at Dauphin Island

July: Henry quits driving

Peter Bellinger dies

2003 Family reunion in Milford, Connecticut

2005 Elizabeth Miller dies

2007 February 1: Henry Gewin dies

2014 Laura Livingston Gewin dies

2015 Family reunion in Washington, D.C.

2016 Bill and Patty marry

2021 Son, Robert Bellinger Gewin, dies on March 15


Our eldest grandchild, John, married Barbara Lee in Birmingham, October 2005, here shown with Laura,

Thomas, Bill, Barbara’s mother Lisa, and her sisters Patty, Jane, and Mary, and their families


Thomas and Jen del Nero were married October 2009 in Atlanta


Claire graduated first in her Auburn University School of Liberal Arts in December 2009. Pictured are:

Phillip, me, Chris and Dinah, Claire and her fiancé, Will Harbison


Claire and Will were married May 2010 in Mobile. Chris and Dinah, Claire and Will, Phillip, me


Anne Marie married Brandon Runnels in March 2017 in Colorado Springs. Pictured with me are Jim, Anne

Marie and Brandon, and Michelle


My last grandchild to marry was Phillip. Shown here are Chris and Dinah, Phillip and Amanda, me, and

Claire and Will in Birmingham, November 2021


My first beautiful great-grandchild, Sam Gewin, the son of John and Barbara


I have been blessed to live well into my 90s. Here family members are celebrating my 95th birthday!


Although some of my family is spread out, they always find time to visit, here at Christmastime


Bill, Patty, Chris, Dinah and I regularly eat out, and we are delighted to have Kim Bellinger join us

occasionally from New Orleans


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