May McDOUGALL, Terrell

Madie was a Hoot! Small in stature but large in personality and character!!  Born in Valpariso, Indiana on May 23rd 1900.   Her early years were ones of traveling by train and stagecoach with her itinerate minister Father who preached from town to town.  On one such train trip she remembers meeting Wild Bill Cody (Buffalo Bill) and getting to sit on his lap, listening to his tails of adventure!

Later she was a typical preachers daughter who rebelled in the “Roaring Twenties”.   I remember a story she told of during that time while dating one of the Hudson brothers (a son of J.L. Hudson of the Hudson Motor Car Co.)

in Chicago one night, when during dinner at a fine restaurant, her date saw 3 men enter, pushed her to the floor and threw up their table in front of them – as tommy gun fire sprayed around the room!

At 19 May’s first husband James Leonard Terrell Sr. only stayed long enough to sire James Jr, and then abandon them to support themselves.   May was young strong and resourceful.  During the war years she worked in an aircraft factory and helped support herself and small son by renting out not only the rooms in her house, but also the davenport and porch day bed.

 She once worked in a cookie factory where she later told of having what she thought might be an allergy which made her nose itch, and she’d always rub it getting powdered sugar on her face.  She thought that might have been the cause for the skin cancer she later developed, where she had to have part of her nose removed.   She later developed more cancer and was a guiny pig for a double colostomy operation at a university in Los Angeles around 1965.  They must have done a good job for she lived another 25 years with the daily grind of caring for this procedure.

I remember the first time I met her  I was not quite 19, had heard lots of stories of Grandma Madie not liking or getting along with Rick’s Dad’s wives, so didn’t know what to expect.  We went upstairs to her small apartment in Sunland near Tujunga California, where my fiancé promptly fell asleep on her couch leaving me to face Madie and Aunt Florence on my own.  One of the first things I remember her telling me was “Well if you stay married long enough (as if she felt we wouldn’t!!) I’ll give you the family silver”!!   Wow! I thought … was this like Fort Knox or what?!  I wondered what she’d meant!  Later I found it was just a partial box of Community Chest Coronation flatware!!  A wonderful treasure but hardly the Fort Knox she’d led me to believe (or was that my wishful thinking 😉

She married Ray Swartley who died February 5, 1943 – the same night, in the same hospital that my husband was born (in Glendale CA).  She remembered going from a room of death to a room of birth, and the doctor handing Ricky to her to help console her pain.  She later married Jack Wilson, a hard working steam roller man for a paving company.  They were together for — years until his death in —

Madie was always very good to both me, my husband and her great-grandson Ryan.   She made frequent visits to see us in her big ol Chrysler where her small just over 5 foot frame could barely see over the steering wheel!  She spent her final years in a small apartment in Yucca Valley California, near her son Dr. James Leonard Terrell.   I called and asked a local reporter to interview her for her 90th birthday – attached is a copy of that article.   Madie died on December 20th in her sleep with Jim at her side.

by Suzi Terrell


  1. Margrit c Poynter says:

    My name is Margrit Poynter. I write a monthly newsletter for the Michigan Chapter of the National Hudson-Essex-Terraplane Club.
    May I have permission to copy this article in my August newsletter?
    Thank you!


    1. szterrell says:

      Yes certainly!

      Liked by 1 person

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