By Jennifer Myers
Theresa Quigley was 16-years-old when she and her sister Dorothy were trapped inside the burning Omaha Packing Company meat packing plant on January 6, 1943; her clothing burned away from her chest and shoulders. Her hair was burned to the scalp in spots; her shoulders ribboned with blisters.
If this story sounds familiar to you, it may be because I blogged about it last May. Revisit that post here: https://room50.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/omaha-packing-company-fire-1943/
The catalyst to that post was a Christmas card sent to Lowell Fire Chief Edward “Skip” Pitta from Ms. Quigley, the first correspondence he had ever received from her. At the time I attempted to contact her, but having not received a response to my letter, wrote the story anyway in May.
Last week, I was pleasantly surprised when a Christmas card arrived in Room 50, addressed to me from Vidalia, Georgia. Inside the card was a handwritten letter from Theresa Quigley Mapes, now 87-years-old, which she begins by apologizing for her late reply.
So, what has she been up to the last 71 years?
In 1945 she married Edwin Walker from Newburyport; they were married for 42 years. She has five children, 24 grandchildren, 54 great-grandchildren and 3 great-great-grandchildren. Whew!
“I keep myself busy by doing a lot of sewing,” she wrote. “I also keep myself busy helping some homeless get back on their feet and taking them to Drs, shopping, or wherever they need to go.”
As if that wasn’t great enough . . . Theresa also knits legwarmers for people living in nursing homes and calls bingo twice a week.
“The people I helped I took in my home where they could take hot showers and have hot meals and a place to sleep until they get back on their feet,” she wrote. “And having them around was good company for me. It was good to hear them talk about how they became homeless.”
She explained she is no longer able to help the homeless the way she used to because last May she fell and broke her hip; the limited mobility led her to move from Florida to Georgia to live with her daughter.
“I am sorry I didn’t get to answer any sooner,” she added. “But next time I’ll be quicker. I got to go now so I can get this in the mail.”
How nice! Thanks again for all that you have done Jennifer.
I miss you Gramma Walker! Save me a place.
Dorothy Quigley is my mother and Theresa is my aunt. I still have the original newspaper article from this fire. My aunt was badly burned in this fire, I remember her scars.