~ Keeper of the family flame
By Tammy Kinney
Minerva Healy Lucken, devoted daughter and wife, exemplified the resilient women of the early 20th century who experienced tragedy early in life, accepted it with grace and quietly carried on. Minerva’s life in Monroe – from 1909 until her death in 1997 at age 94 – mirrors the town’s growth and development both in population and industry. Minerva’s history also provides an example of the life and times of women who worked outside the home and found fulfilment there. Her succession of jobs shows the variety of employment options available to single and married woman of her generation.
Minerva’s parents were Bartholomew and Minerva Illif Healy. They married in Minneapolis in January 1900 and came west, settling in Tolt, Washington. Bart was a partner in a logging operation with John Joyce named Healy & Joyce. After that, he ran a logging operation of his own and owned a lumber yard in Tacoma called Healy Lumber Company.
Minerva’s mother took a position as a teacher in Tolt soon after they arrived, and they welcomed their first child in 1901, a daughter named Mildred. In September 1903, a second daughter arrived who was named Minerva after her mother. Next followed a stillborn boy and in 1907, twins Marjorie and Marguerite. In 1909, son Harold arrived. Minerva’s mother contracted tuberculosis (called consumption in those days) a common and deadly illness. The family moved from Tolt to Monroe in 1909, to a new two-story home, to help her recover. Minerva’s mother struggled valiantly in their new home, as she recounted in a 1989 interview.
“We moved because there was no one in Tolt to take care of my mother. Dr. Cox was here in Monroe to take care of her. Treating TB now is different, but he wanted her to get up early, go to work and stay busy all the time, which is the opposite of now. She died the next year. We were having breakfast one morning. I remember the nurse came down the hall and into the dining room and she looked at Papa and said ‘she’s gone.’ I understood immediately. I jumped up and ran up the stairs but she wasn’t quite gone because when I knelt down by the bed, she said ‘You be a good girl, won’t you?’ “
By the time Minerva’s mother died on March 11, 1910, the family had already experienced tragedy. First-born daughter Mildred passed away three months before her mother in January of 1910 and the year before, six-month-old son Harold died. Bart was left alone to raise young Minerva and the twins. He devoted his life to them and never remarried.
“Mildred was my mother’s pride and joy. After she died, her class from school came to the house and they stood in the front room next to the casket and all the children were singing.”
Despite losing her mother and siblings, Minerva persevered, displaying the positive attitude and sunny disposition that was a hallmark of her personality. She remembers a carefree childhood of playing hide and seek with her sisters and neighborhood friends in the big white house on Hill Street and Bart allowing just about anything, as long as the children were at home.
“We would run up and down the stairs and hide in the attic and under the beds and ride and play with the horses, Dolly and Bill. We climbed all over those horses and no one ever got hurt. Marjorie beat all the boys at (the knife game) Mumbley Peg. I wasn’t much on that but I played marbles a lot. My husband picked some of our marbles out of the garden years later.”
Bart sold his business interests in 1906 and focused on raising his three daughters. As the oldest, Minerva also shared this duty, doing well in school, helping out at home and graduating from Monroe High School with high marks in 1922. After high school, she attended Washington State University in Pullman for two years.
During breaks from college, Minerva worked for J.D. Woods in Monroe, which became a full-time job after college. She also worked at the Frye Lettuce Farm in 1933, one of the major sources of employment for Monroe residents in the 1930s.
“I remember Elizabeth Nelson came by and said that our friends were going to work at the lettuce farm and asked if I wanted to go. We earned a dime an hour. She picked me up and brought me a pair of boy’s overalls. We crawled around weeding and I almost wore my trousers out in the knees. One day, Pauline Oster came out (she did more cussing than speaking ordinary English) and said ‘Everybody get busy, here comes Charlie Frye.’ We were working like the dickens and all of a sudden along came Charlie Frye and I saw those shiny shoes down in front of me. He said ‘What’s your name?’ and I said ‘Minerva Healy.’ He said ‘You’re not Bart Healy’s daughter?’ And I said ‘Yes, I am, Mr. Frye.’ I came home that night and asked my father why he didn’t tell me he knew Charlie Frye. He said he thought it was better that I didn’t!”
After discovering her tie to Charlie Frye, Minerva was moved into the office at the lettuce farm and then went to work for the Frye’s meat packing plant in Seattle. She lived with a family during the work week and took the bus home to Monroe every weekend to take care of her father and sisters.
Minerva’s work life also included teaching Works Progress Administration (WPA) adult education classes in “sewing science” in 1933-34, working as a freelance seamstress in the community, as office manager for Pictsweet Foods in the 1940s and for Monroe physician and surgeon Dr. Percy Cooley in the 1950s. But the job that most people associate with Minerva was at Dever’s Furniture store in Monroe. Over 40 years, she served as office manager, salesperson and became the face of the business to countless shoppers and local residents. She retired at age 75.
Minerva married Even Lucken on Sept. 1, 1940 and the couple lived at the family home with Bart and Marguerite. Even Lucken died in 1986 and she followed on Sept. 4, 1997.
Minerva’s family history lives on in the 1885 oak pump organ that was donated to the Monroe Historical Society Museum from her home. It came west with her mother from Minnesota and stood in the house for almost a century. The family home at 321 Hill Street, that saw both tragedy and joy, is being restored by a local Monroe businesswoman intent on preserving the Healy-Lucken memories and pioneering spirit.
Minerva’s memory also lives on in the many Monroe residents who knew her. “Minerva was a very good friend of my mother’s and we would go visit her at her home,” says Monroe native Harriett (Ohlsen) Barr. “She was a very happy person and a pillar of the community – always well dressed and immaculate. The house was the same way; beautifully kept with a lovely yard. She was a gracious lady and well-respected by everyone.”
In November of 1989, Minerva was recognized as a Pioneer of Snohomish County by the Snohomish County Centennial Committee.
David Abbot letter to Monroe Historical Society. 6 January 1989.
Tami Kinney interview with Harriet Ohlsen Barr, January 2015.
Minerva Healy and Bartholomew Healy personal papers.
Amy Beavers interview with Minerva Lucken, (on CD), January 27,1989.
Nellie Robertson, “Minerva Lucken House Filled with Antiques and Family Memories.” Monroe Monitor, October 1, 1986.
H.L.Squibb. Letter of Recommendation for Minerva Healy to Snohomish County Centennial Committee.
© Tami Kinney 2015 All Rights Reserved