My father was a substantial man. In one sense, I consider
his size and shape normal, since I grew up with it and I am that size now - most
of us consider our size "normal". He was 6'2" and about 250 pounds.
I was Little Mike and he was Big Mike for most of the time I was growing up.
In high school, I got taller than he was, while weighing 165 pounds, and he gave
me $5 as he had promised several years before. His name was Martin Samuel
Firth, called Mike most of his life except by his sister who helped raise him
and called him "Mahtin" in a New England accent.
Martin, born January 26, 1909, was some ten years younger than his nearest sibling and when his mother died, his married sister had to keep her
father's household, to her expressed dismay. Martin grew up in western
Massachusetts in a railroad family. He told of using a railroad pass to
travel to Chicago as a teenager to visit his brother. An uncle who was a
design engineer for the railroad died testing a new bridge or trestle in
Nebraska and they named the small town of Firth after him.
According to one litany, the Firth line resided in Worcester MA
after Glostershire MA after Glostershire England then Worcester England. One neat
fact is that because of the age of the fathers in my direct line of descent,
there are only five generations back to the Revolutionary War. I was born
in 1942, my father in 1909 before WWI, his father Charles, 1855 before the Civil War, his
pa Samuel Firth in 1820, and his Abraham 1763.
Martin attended William and Mary College and was ordained as a minister,
did missionary work in Brazil, losing his vocation, came back and worked for the
people inspecting poverty handouts in New York. Did research for the
National Industrial Conference Board on training programs (reports I have seen
in library at M.I.T.) which got him a number
of job offers and he took one with General Motors.
There he met and married Margaret Arklay “Lee” Minert in the early 40’s having
two children, Michael Raymond in November 1942 and
Betty Lee in October 1945. In the early 50’s he moved to R.
R. Donnelly and Sons, in Chicago, the largest printing company, and to Crystal Lake,
Illinois. In the mid-60’s, following a house fire, he retired and then divorced.
He remarried to Virginia Neilson and moved to California. He filled his
retirement with writing, selling Time-Life books at fairs and shows with his
wife, and community activities. He died in 1979 in San Diego, when his aorta
blew out. She remarried two more times and ended living in Victoria, BC, with
her last husband, not far from her daughter.
Margaret Arklay Minert “Lee” Firth was born in October
1911 in Waukon, Iowa. She completed high school there early and after taking a
filler year at another college, she enrolled at Iowa State University as one of
the first Home Economics majors in an organized program, earning one of the
first degrees in Home Economics. During the Depression she worked in Indiana
with a program on WOWO, then a clear channel reaching most of the eastern U.S.
and in Michigan with the Rural Electrification Administration training farm
women to use the new electrical appliances available to them. After marrying
Martin Firth in Flint, Michigan, she had two children, Michael
and Betty, while living in Flint and later Loon Lake,
Linden, Michigan. During her marriage she remained a social powerhouse,
including organizing several chapters of PEO, and being active in the American
Field Service exchange program and other community and social activities. After
her divorce, increasing and returning health problems led to her death in early
Michael Raymond “Mike” Firth was born in Flint, Michigan, in
November 1942, graduated from Iowa State University in 1965 and got an MFA from
Southern Methodist University in 1972, also taking additional courses and
spending 21 months in the army between those two events. He married Harriet Jane
Andrews in Iowa in July 1965, moved to Dallas, Texas, in the early 70’s and they
were divorced in 1975. During these years, he served in the U.S. Army in 1967-68 with active duty in
Oklahoma and Thailand, got an MFA in Theater at Southern Methodist University
(1973) and worked as a writer, producing a
couple of published plays, playwrights’ workshops and newsletter. Beginning in
the mid-70’s, with the development of microcomputers, he built on a long
standing interest in programming and started 15 years of self-employment doing
custom programming for small businesses and teaching about computers at
community colleges. In November 1984 he married Eugenia “Gigi”
Fisher whom he had met though his interest in computers for the handicapped and
her use of a talking Apple computer for the blind. As of 2011, they are still married. From
the mid-90’s, for 9 years he worked at a very large local hardware store in
Dallas, Texas. From the early 90’s he has had a continuing interest in blowing
glass from a furnace, a hobby he carries out in the backyard while maintaining a
large website on low cost furnace working. He retired in 2004 following
increasing leg problems related to Lyme disease. He has no children.
Betty Lee Firth was born in October 1945 in Flint, Michigan.
She graduated from the University of Colorado and married her high school
sweetheart, being divorced after several years. She has lived in Minneapolis and
Ely, Minnesota for a couple of decades doing graphic and publishing work as well
as selling her pottery. She has no children.
Eugenia Fisher "Gigi" Firth as born in
February 1950 in Alexandria, Louisiana, losing her vision due to being premature
and being treated with oxygen and ultraviolet light before it was realized that
the treatment destroyed the retina. She is the eldest of four children
having a younger sister, Cathy, and two younger brothers, George and Wayne.
She was raised in Pineville, across the river from Alexandria, in Baton Rouge, and in Houston
Texas, attending public schools and the state school for the blind and then
Northwestern Louisiana University. She worked for a year at the OPM office in
New Orleans and then took teaching certification at the University of Texas,
Austin, and worked as a teacher in the Valley and Dallas. In November
1984, she married Mike Firth and after special training in
Little Rock, began 19 years with the IRS in Dallas. She retired summer
2005 on disability after a fall left her increasingly dizzy and bothered by
constant computer and telephone sounds. She immediately became active in
knitting groups that made items for babies in hospitals, in volunteering at the
nearby elementary school, and helping with financial planning for Blind
Ambitions Groups, a non-profit job readiness training organization in Dallas.
She became Treasurer of BAG in the spring of 2006 which ended unfortunately.
As of January 2011, she has gotten certification
from the Library of Congress and a Braille Proofreader and works full days in
connection with Region 20 of the Texas educational system..