Friday, May 16, 2014

Aunt Sadie's Memoirs, Part 6: Marriage, Motherhood, and Losing Dickie

This is the sixth and final excerpt from my Aunt Sadie's Memoirs. Previous posts were: 
Part 1 and Part 2 (Life on the Farm)
Part 3 (Separated From the Family)  
Part 4 (Life With the Thomas Family)
Part 5 (Brother Lindholm, Uncle Jesse, and Grammie Crabtree).


My next memory [was] in 1933, in the middle of the Great Depression. My family had moved from Canada to Ludlow, Maine, and Papa [David Jewett Crabtree, Sr.] had also brought [Sadie's oldest sister] Alma's family over. 

Ludlow had no high school so if your family could not pay for your board in town, you had to work for it. I spent my sophomore year with a family with three small children. I had to get up very early in the morning and feed and dress them before I went to school. 

In my junior year, I got lucky. The entire Middleton family had migrated to the U.S. from Canada, to Hatfield Point, I think. Anyway, John Middleton [father of Eugene, who was to marry Sadie's sister, Anna] made arrangements to have his sister Louise Murphy board his daughter Geraldine and I was sent along to work my board and help "Aunt Louise." Louise was diabetic and had to have an insulin shot daily. Her widowed daughter Pearl (a nurse) lived with us and took care of that. Geraldine and I had fun going to school together. Pearl and I became close friends. 

Now, the plot thickens. Across the street lived the Ayotte family and that's how I met Joe Ayotte. He had beautiful eyes and looked like Bing Crosby. Besides, [Sadie's sister] Anna and Eugene were getting married, and [Sadie's sister] Gladys was marrying Murray Victory, and I wasn't about to let them get ahead of me. So we planned to be married when I finished school. I do know I went back to Milo High for my senior year and he came to see me once and Auntie [Sarah Ermina Crabb Thomas] liked him. 

So, immediately after my graduation I returned to Houlton and we were married from Aunt Louise's house. Pearl and her brother George stood up with us.

One Sunday evening [in February 1938], I was listening to Charlie McCarthy on the radio when my water broke and I started hemorrhaging and was taken to the hospital by Joe's brothers. I wasn't due until March and he [Richard "Dickie" Ayotte] weighed just five pounds and wasn't quite finished. Anna sat with him in the palm of her hand and I started to cry. I said, "He looks like a little rat." Nobody thought I would ever raise him. The first year was touch and go with ear infections, swollen glands, high fevers, etc. I would climb into his security bed with him. I only weighed 110 pounds after his birth. 

After 11 years, I got a divorce [about 1948]. I refused [any] help and went on my own. I became a divorcee. A divorced woman was considered fair game by the men and a threat to the women. 

My first job was washing dishes in the Woolworth's Cafeteria in Houlton. It was very popular with the Canadians and we did a thriving business on Canadian holidays. I worked up to be the manager and was offered the opportunity to travel New England and help other stores that might be in trouble. What a great life, living in hotels. But I had a little girl [Jane, born in 1944] I would never leave. So I came to Connecticut with Jane and lived with Alma until I got situated. 

Dick came down to Connecticut one winter and utterly despised it. He was deeply attached to his friends and classmates [in Maine] who he had been with since kindergarten. I arranged for him to stay with relatives and I sent him $15 a week. It was very painful to be separated from him because I worshipped the ground he walked on. But, I think if he had been forced to stay in Connecticut it would have ruined his life. 

Dick had two brushes with death before the final one. During the winter he stayed with me in Connecticut, one night he came home with intense pain in his stomach that turned out to be a ruptured appendix. He was gravely ill in New Britain Hospital. 

The night he graduated from high school he was in the car with a dear friend whose father had given him a new car for graduation. They ran into Rockefeller's Wall in Bar Harbor. The friend was killed instantly and Dick suffered a broken neck. He didn't want me to know about this but Dan Ayotte [Dick's uncle] informed me. Anna and Eugene took me to Bar Harbor immediately and I stayed with him a week. You would never believe the cards and letters he received. One lawyer from Houlton wanted to help him with medical expenses. His visitors were standing in line. He never rode in a car with a drinking driver again. 

[After Dick married Martha Jellison] he developed a passion for skiing and they moved to Carrabassett, Maine, and he is credited with being a pioneer in the development of Sugarloaf Ski Resort. He was called "The Mayor."

On October 5, 1981, Martha called with the terrible news that Dick and Jud Strunk had been killed in a plane crash. Jud was a TV personality who had been a regular on "Laugh-In" where he satirized the Maine native. He also wrote a hit song, "A Daisy a Day." He was a buddy of Dick's and came to Sugarloaf in a vintage World War II plane and asked Dick to go for a spin with him and see the foliage. Jud had a heart attack and they crashed in the woods. 

Janey and I [went] to Maine immediately. I know the funeral was very big with a lot of prominent people but I don't remember much. I died inside and stayed that way for the next 25 years. 

Martha and Dick's daughter, Aimee, was ten when her father was killed and right after she graduated high school, Martha developed cancer and passed away. Aimee was alone in the world except for her half sister, Holly. She was married and when she had a baby girl, she started bringing the baby to see me twice a year and my broken heart started to mend. I celebrated Christmas last year (2004) for the first time since Dick's death. 

Sarah Norma "Sadie" Crabtree Ayotte Ariel

Sadie's family
Back row, left to right: Sadie, Joey Cichon III, Christine Cichon Bolduc, Marcel Bolduc, Anita Cichon Simmons, Bill Simmons
Front, left to right:Jane Ayotte Cichon, Joseph Cichon, Jr.; Krystel Simmons
(Thanks to Joey Cichon for sharing photos)

I lived alone in my house on Pine Street with tenants on the first floor. But expenses kept increasing and my income was decreasing until I could no longer make ends meet. Then, in June 2005, I had surgery for colon cancer. I have a treatable heart condition but my heart doctors said I could not live alone. So, here I am, living with my daughter, so I guess I have to come to the end of my story. 

May I say that not one sister ever withheld their love and support for me. They just loved me and prayed for me. This has been very painful for me to write and I cried a lot because I can't go back and correct my mistakes. I have to go forward. I have had a miraculous recovery and I am getting stronger every day. 

Stay tuned; there might be a sequel. 

Love to all, 

Aunt Sade


Sadie died in 2009, four years after writing this memoir. This was her obituary:

Sarah N. Ariale
MERIDEN - Sarah N. Ariale, 89, lovingly known as Nanny by her family and friends, passed away peacefully, Oct. 3, 2009, at MidState Medical Center. Born Jan. 14, 1920, in Andover, New Brunswick Canada. She moved to Meriden in 1951. She worked in several area restaurants, until retiring in 1975. She enjoyed spending time with her great-grandchildren and enjoyed family games and playing the piano. She is survived by her daughter, Jane Cichon and her husband, Joseph Jr. of Meriden; five grandchildren, Anita Simmons of Meriden, Christine Bolduc of Kensington, Joseph Cichon III of Meriden, Aimee Case of Boothbay Maine and Holly Behre of South Carolina; five great-grandchildren, Krystel and Cassandra Simmons, Kyle and Luc Bolduc, Evy Case; and several nieces and nephews. Sarah was predeceased by her parents, David and Edith Crabtree; her beloved son, Dick Ayotte; four brothers; and eight sisters. She was also predeceased by her late husbands, Joseph Ayotte and Joseph Ariale. Friends and relatives are invited to attend a funeral service to be held on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 11 a.m. at Family Christian Worship Center located at 53 Coe Ave. in Meriden. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in her name to the American Cancer Society , 538 Preston Ave., P.O. Box 1004, Meriden, CT 06450-1004, or the charity of your choice. Arrangements are under the direction of the John J. Ferry & Sons Funeral Home, 88 East Main St., Meriden, CT 06450
Published in The Record-Journal on Oct. 11, 2009


  1. From Auntie Bucksnort (my sister Jean): "What a lot of tragedy - a divorce, a lost son, serious health issues. I'm glad she healed from all of this and that she remarried finally. I hope she had a happy rest of her life after so much heartbreak."

  2. Love the stories, thank you for honoring my Nanny with her life stories. I don't like that picture of me with the family I was so sickly back then. Was dealing with some kind of virus at the time.. But it was the only one I could find with us all together.. Much love, Joey Cichon III

    1. And thank you, Joey, for your part in listening to and typing up these memoirs.

    2. Thank you again for all of your research and hard work. It is appreciated. Has everyone been identified in the family portrait? Grand-dad and grand-mum and uncles I can figure out. The two youngest must be Lois and Faith. I'm assuming your mom and Alma are in the back row (my dad was a work in progress). Perhaps this information is elsewhere and I missed it. Thanks-Tim

    3. Tim, here is my best analysis. Back row, l. to r., with birth dates: Beecher (1906), Clifford (1903), Jesse (1909), Bessie (1913), Elva (1914). Front row: Anna (1917), Sadie (1920), Hope (1910), Alma (1900), baby Faith (July 1926) on the lap of mother Edith (1880), toddler Lois (Aug. 1924) on the lap of father David (1875), and Gladys (1921). So the picture must have been taken in the winter of 1926-27 because Faith looks to be four or five months old. You are right about your father, David, Jr., who was going to arrive in June of 1928. Of course, I welcome discussion and other opinions!


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