Within six months of each other two women with deep Wauna connections will reach a rare milestone. Marcelle “Mar” Hoey and Betty Boyd will celebrate their 100th birthdays — Hoey in October and Boyd in March.
The two have other things in common: longstanding family ties to the land, precious early childhood experiences on the Key Peninsula, time away during early adulthood, and a return with their own families to the place that became home for 60 years.
Hoey was born and raised in Tacoma. Her grandparents, aunts and uncles — the Whites and Goldmans — all lived in Wauna. They owned W.E. White Flour Feed and Groceries, the general store in Wauna located where the boat ramp is now. Her grandmother, Mary Frances Goldman White, was the post mistress in 1906 when the U.S. Post Office (not yet known as the postal service) wanted a name change from Springfield to avoid confusion with other towns of that name. She suggested “Wauna,” a Native word thought to mean “river,” among other things, which was approved though didn’t catch on locally until the 1920s.
Her parents both worked, and as soon as she was old enough Hoey spent summers with her relatives.
“I was on the beach or in the water or out in the woods,” she said. “It was just heaven. It still is.”
After three years in college, first at the College of Puget Sound (now UPS) and then at the University of Washington, she went to work for United Airlines as a stewardess. “When I was a kid occasionally an airplane would fly over and I would think, where are they going?” she said. “I couldn’t wait. It was a way to travel, all I ever wanted.”
A year after she joined United, she and a friend were recruited to a start-up airline in the Philippines to help train stewardesses. There she met Bob Maguire, a pilot from Portland, and they married. He started working for Alaska Airlines and in 1949 the couple moved to Israel to participate in a humanitarian effort, “On Eagles’ Wings,” flying converted war surplus aircraft between Aden and Tel Aviv. The mission ultimately brought 49,000 Yemenite Jews to safety. They stayed for a year and a half, and to this day Israel is the place she most wishes she could visit again.
Work took the couple to New York and then Los Angeles. They separated in 1952. “It was hell on Earth,” Hoey said of that time. She had two young children and found work with the Flying Tigers Line, ultimately becoming chief stewardess. It was there that she met her second husband, Bill Hoey, a pilot. Over the next several years they lived in Edmonton, Detroit and San Francisco.
“I traveled. It was good.”
She inherited a little over 6 acres in Wauna from her father, part of her grandparents’ land. Around 1960 she brought Bill, her California-born husband, to see the property. “He loved it,” Mar said.
They built a house there and later purchased the adjoining property, where the original Wauna schoolhouse had been converted into a home. Bill died in 1975. In 1982 her daughter Marty, a Mount Rainier climbing guide considered one of the finest mountaineers of her day, died on a Mount Everest climb. Hoey then decided to sell the family home and move to the old schoolhouse building. “The house was just too big,” she said.
But Mar never lost her wanderlust. She continued to travel, including a world cruise and a tour of Angor Wat in Cambodia, renting her house to law school students to help pay the bills. She house-sat for friends and relatives in Hawaii and the Virgin Islands. “I think I am running away from working,” she said. The only continents she has not visited are South America and Australia.
She always returned to Wauna. “You have to have an anchor,” she said.
Betty Boyd came to visit her grandmother at her cabin on the Burley Lagoon as a young child. Her father purchased 5 acres from his uncle and built a house for his mother.
Her father’s childhood was spent on the road performing with his mother and sister. The siblings were described as the “sweetest, daintiest tots that ever graced a stage.” It was a hard life, Boyd said, and her father left at 15 to live with friends and go to school in Duluth. After serving in the military during World War I, he remained in Europe to work with the YMCA. He had corresponded with a high school friend during that time and when he returned to the U.S. he reconnected with her, they fell in love, and got married.
He built the cabin for his mother before returning to Europe to work in Greece and France. Boyd was born in France and the family returned to the States when she was a year old. They lived in Bellingham for the next five years and she visited her grandmother many times.
The family then moved to Minneapolis. Boyd went to college at Macalester, with a brief interruption when she joined the military during World War II. While working in a military hospital in Iowa as a PT assistant, she met a man named Milton Boyd who was recovering from injuries. They married and raised six children.
Milton worked in theater, including radio and television, and at the local high school. By 1967, they were living in Rock Island, Illinois. “Things weren’t going well,” Betty said. “The town was dying at the time.” Milton enjoyed teaching but it was under a provisional license, and he would have to complete student teaching to get certified. Her grandmother’s house in Wauna was vacant.
“We had talked about retiring there, but why wait?” Betty said. “Here we had a house on Puget Sound. We packed up six children, ages 6 to 19, and a dog, sold everything, and moved to Wauna. People thought we were crazy. The only people who understood were people who knew the area.”
The cabin was small, but it was August and the kids mostly slept outside while they remodeled the basement and added a few rooms. Milton applied for teaching jobs and his experience in Illinois qualified him in Washington. He would go on to teach at Peninsula High School for 23 years and be active in local community theater. He helped design the Milton S. Boyd Performing Arts Center, where PHS productions take place to this day.
Betty taught as well, first as a substitute teacher, which she said was perfect when her children were young. She then taught English as part of a high school program at the Purdy Women’s Prison for seven years and moved to teach at PHS when that program closed.
Milton died in 2002 and Betty continued to live in the house until she moved to Gig Harbor. Her daughter and grandson live in the family home now.
Both women remain fully engaged in the world around them.
Mar and Betty joined the Wauna Club when they returned to the community with their young families. The club was founded in 1913 — both have aunts who were founders — part of a movement of women’s social clubs, and remained active for a century. Members held social events at the clubhouse, supported schools and lobbied the state about transportation and fishing rights. They were among the last members when the group disbanded.
These days Mar’s travel is mostly going out to lunch with friends, and she is often the one doing the driving. A group of former guides from Mount Rainier who worked with her daughter come to visit every few months.
When asked if they have a secret to longevity both women shook their heads.
“It’s not genetic,” they said. They outlived their parents by many years. Mar admits to smoking for 40 years, though she has been a non-smoker for the last 40. “Maybe it’s attitude,” Betty said. “I just don’t agree with being sick.”
Although Mar has outlived her family, she is surrounded by neighbors who check in on her, and who say that she routinely beats them at Scrabble.
Although she sometimes forgets words, Betty can still recite the Gettysburg Address and the Shakespeare she memorized when younger. She is an avid reader — anything but science fiction — and especially enjoys reading about politics now.
“I like to get caught up on what the heck has happened in our culture,” she said. “Every time I think I know what is going on something else happens. I think that’s what is keeping me alive — wondering what will happen next.”
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