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Hilda C. Morse, widow of Chauncey I. Morse, passed away naturally, age 93, at her Defiance area home on Sunday, November 18, 2018. Her health had been failing for some years, with the last seven or so months being especially difficult. Had it not been for five loving caregivers, and their families-and her only daughter, Julie- she would have been unable to remain at home.
Hilda was born in Defiance County where her parents, Wayne Platter Bilderback, and Ruby W. Bilderback, née Weber, both taught school. Her father’s father, William Bilderback, was the harnessmaker in Hicksville, Ohio; successful enough to once own several downtown buildings and a home there. Hilda grew up during the Great Depression, however she didn’t consciously dwell on it. Her family had had plenty of food. Her parents owned a grocery store. Hilda’s mother, Ruby, however, retained a lifelong memory of a modest number of customers that never, ever, paid their bills from those difficult years; not even after times of plenty had returned again to the US.
Hilda’s mother, Ruby- one of 7 Weber children, all born in the nineteenth century- was from a farm near Bellefontaine, Ohio. Ruby’s father, and her four beloved, attentive, brothers, were farmers. Her father was of Scotts heritage. The family financially helped young Ruby to get her teaching certificate. She was seventeen when she started teaching! She taught by the Lancastrian method-older children teach younger children and on down- in a one room school house near her home. Sometime thereafter, she sought additional education. Ruby went off to receive a college degree. She met her future husband, Wayne Bilderback, in the early nineteen twenties. At the time they were both teaching in Farmer, Ohio, near Defiance. The two teachers soon married. Their daughter, Hilda, was born in Farmer.
The couple then moved to Jewel and produced a second daughter. That daughter is Hilda’s only sibling, Mrs. Fred (Betty) Behringer. Now retired, Betty had been an elementary teacher at Anthony Wayne School in Defiance. Betty’s husband, Fred, a GM retiree who passed away in early 2018, had been civically minded. He served on Defiance City Council. The couple have five children: in order, Lori, Mike, Lisa, Matthew, and Fred. They are the 5 related nieces and nephews of Hilda (Mrs. Chauncey) Morse. Note: Sister Betty’s husband, Fred Behringer, was the second cousin of the man Hilda would marry and happily spend a lifetime with.
Sadly, there had long been TB in the Bilderback family of Hicksville, Ohio. Hilda’s father, Wayne, born in the eighteen eighties, lost both his mother and older sister to that dreaded disease. By the early 1930s Wayne himself was found to have TB, while happily employed as the principal of the public school at Jewel. Following treatment with the new medicine of the day, he did survive. In that era, however, Wayne would no longer be permitted to teach children. That was due to persisting fears he might still be infectious. That broke his heart.
As a result of his retirement from his chosen field, Mr. Bilderback, a highly educated man for the time-once having a law license as well as being an educator-and ten years his wife’s senior, moved his family to Defiance. There, and originally along with his wife, Wayne operated a small corner store for the remainder of his life. Wayne taught Sunday School, raised his two daughters who loved him dearly, and served on Defiance City Council. His wife, Hilda’s mother, Ruby, eventually returned to teaching; largely filling in, often for extended periods, at a local parochial school. In those years pregnant teachers had been required to stop work when a pregnancy became known. Therefore, a substitute teacher’s position could sometimes last for months on end.
Eldest daughter, Hilda, attended, and graduated from Defiance High School. During high school she-along with seven other young girls-formed a social group. They called themselves “The Eight Balls.” Remaining friends to the end, at least 4 of those women were in contact with Hilda into their eighties; two of those into their nineties. Two who passed earlier, or moved away, were Jean Schultz and Martha Murphy. Betty Rex remained local but died reasonably young.
The third from last of the Eight Balls to pass, Mary Davis Reeves, was the mother of Mercy hospitalist, Dr. J. D. Reeves, and of his sister, Mrs. Amy Struble. Dr. Reeves aided greatly in assisting Hilda’s daughter, Julie, with Hilda’s numerous hospital visits in 2018. Second to the last of the eight friends, Beulah Smurr, passed away suddenly in the spring of 2018, while of extremely sound mind, then happily living with her granddaughter and young family in Florida. Forth from the last to leave was Hilda’s dearest lifelong friend, Jeanne Behringer, married to Hilda’s husband’s brother-like first cousin, Jack Behringer. Cousin Jack, now deceased, had been athletic director and coach at Grove City College in Western Pennsylvania. Fifth from the last, Sal (Mrs. Robert) Switzer, was the step-sister of Hilda’s husband, Chauncey Morse. Chauncey, however, biologically an only child, considered Sal a true sister. Her, and husband Bob’s children, Jack, John, Dave, Bob, Sam and Sarah, now, make up the rest of Hilda and her husbands’ extended Defiance family. Note: Bob Sr. was Chauncey’s second cousin.
Following her roll models-her two well educated parents-Hilda student taught and graduated from Defiance College. That was during the war years. At the time married women couldn’t teach. So, as she knew she would marry, for a few years thereafter she worked for a local law firm. Hilda was last employed outside the home around 1951. However, she did the requisite volunteer work while being a stay-at-home mother. Further, from the Wyant Art Study Club, to the local chapter of Sorosis-that professional women’s organization started in NYC in the 1860s-and even a bridge club composed largely of close female friends, Mrs. Morse was involved in the mid to late twentieth-century world around her. She enjoyed golfing in Ohio, Michigan, Florida and once in Scotland. Hilda took up bowling for a time. And her weekends were full of entertaining and being entertained. Loving husband Chauncey was generally by her side; if he wasn’t out on his tractor mowing his pride and joy! Or on his other true love; his Sea
Hilda was a wonderful homemaker. She was neat as a pin. She was a talented cook. Many remember her Shanty Creek potato salad, made with grated potatoes and Hellmann’s mayo. Hilda filled out a bathing suit well; very well indeed. And she had had a movie star quality about her, especially when she wore a tight dress and spiked heels. All of that, especially being always beautiful and well presented, were aspects of her that made Chauncey a very happy fellow!
Around age 12 she had met, and shortly developed a crush, on the handsome young Chauncey I. Morse; an only child who would become her only husband. He was a tall and slender, blue eyed, and bright; but a daring and somewhat rambunctious young fellow. Chauncey was highly personable. He dearly loved to tinker with boats and cars. He loved to ride his Indian motorcycle. Neat to a fault-and more gentile than most men-young Hilda was almost immediately besotted. Chauncey’s pretty mother, Helen (née Behringer) Morse passed away when Chauncey was just 13. But “Honey” as most called her, left him with but a hint of the honey colored hair, and light freckles, that had added so to her own natural beauty. Honey also left her young son with her own nearly fanatical desire to be ever surrounded by neatness! Fortunately Hilda was ready, able, and willing to accommodate his needs in that area as well.
Chance, or C.I.- as many called Chauncey Morse-so loved anything that ran by gasoline engine, that Hilda was sure he would grow up to be a car mechanic; perhaps eventually owning his own gas station. From a young age, Chance loved to hang out at garages, talking cars with local mechanics. He loved to watch the garage mechanics tear them apart and put cars together again. He also liked to spend time learning from others with knowledge in electronics.
Chance deeply admired his mother’s first cousin, Grover Behringer, a Defiance businessman and inventor who had been successful in patenting, and then manufacturing, unique and necessary radio parts. Later, right after high school, Chance learned to love to fly planes........courtesy of Uncle Sam!
Fortunately for Hilda, she grew to be a true, dark haired, beauty. Following Chance’s return from first the Army Air Corps, and then from Dennison College, Hilda and Chauncey we’re married on June 25th,1949. Soon thereafter-with go-between financing from Chauncey’s dotting father, hail-fellow-well-met, local businessman, Harry Roberts Morse-the dashing young couple started building their new home. That home was on Corwin St. in Defiance. Chauncey and Hilda and friends-primarily Chauncey’s buddy, sheriff’s son, Tom Bridenbaugh -had done much of the original building of that house themselves. Tom and his wife MJ were like family; as we’re sons John and Bill. That house was built shortly before daughter Julie was born.
The couple’s daughter, Julie, remembers her dad personally finishing the basement when she was little; years before the term “man-cave”came into existence. A few locals will still remember the unusual bar that Chauncey built in that basement, as well as the secret door that totally hid his workshop. What had been so unusual about his bar was this: If one requested a scotch and water the bartender, usually Mr. Morse himself, pushed a secret button on the floor under the cabinet’s toe-space with his foot. Water would then miraculously fill the glass by coming directly out of the ceiling overhead. And what a mess if a novice bartender forgot exactly where on the bar it was necessary to first place that glass full of scotch! NOW YOU
MIGHT BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND WHAT HILDA HAD TO ENDURE DURING 67 YEARS OF MARRIAGE!
During the early nineteen fifties, several Eight Balls and their husbands also built houses nearby on Defiance’s North Side. While their children were pre-kindergarten, and in those early years of their marriages, a few of that group of women, along with several others, enjoyed a revolving morning coffee clutch. They met about once every two weeks or so. Some of Hilda’s daughter’s earliest memories are of going with her mother to the Reeves’s on High Street, and also the Smurr home across town. The nearby Switzer home was more of a daily stop!
Hilda’s husband continued to love to hang out at gas stations and garages for the remainder of his life; just ask the guys at Snyder’s in Napoleon! However Chauncey never worked in those service stations and garages. Over time Chance chose a more entrepreneurial path, a direction from which he was eventually able to provide his strikingly beautiful wife with the luxuries of travel, boating, and lovely homes. One of those homes she remained in from 1974 until her recent death.
Hilda and Chauncey Morse were truly pair-bonded. While still able to care for themselves, one would never leave the other. If one was in the hospital, the other would be by his or her side. The same was true of several of Hilda’s nursing home stays; short stays made necessary by a couple of serious falls. Nightly, elderly, tall, Chance, dressed in high-end-casual, would leave his home with a little cooler containing one scotch and water and one martini. And he DID remember the olive for his beloved wife! There, at the nursing home, the senior couple would enjoy WTOL News and cocktail hour simultaneously. And would continue to do the same at home as soon as Hilda-or Bildy, as Chance sometimes had called her, especially in the early years-was all healed up and home again! Dinner rarely started before “Jeopardy” ended.
The couple had had but one child; a daughter. Chance always said he only wanted one child; allegedly because he had originally built only a two bedroom home. Hilda wanted a few boys. He won!
While the endings of human lives are generally far from perfect events (OK, let’s face it, death sucks!) the elderly Hilda and Chauncey Morse were able to stay in the second home they built together until Chauncey’s death in 2016. That home, “Chance’s Ranch”, was built by then local contractor Fred Schroeder in 1974. The dwelling is surrounded by ten acres inside of a hundred acre woods. The ranch-style house overlooks a lovely pond. Deer, turkey, an army of squirrels, and an occasional swooping Bald Eagle-attempting, usually, to steal one of neighbor Grant Phillips’s fish- help make that home the perfect spot to enjoy life.
Hilda’s daughter, Julie Morse Havighurst, is quoted: “My parents spent a great, long, enjoyable, life together. Lots of the time-surrounded by their numerous friends-they had really had a blast! They worked hard and played harder; ate, boated, drank, smiled, traveled, and laughed a whole lot, both as a couple, and in the company of others. My handsome parents made every day count.
Julie Zachrich Monson- the same age and name as myself-grew up next door to us on Corwin Street in Defiance. Her parents, Lolly and Jimbo Zachrich, then owners of DMP, now both deceased, could very often be found in the company of my parents, Hilda and Chauncey. The foursome might be found together boating the Great Lakes, dining in Florida, partying at Clear Lake, Indiana, or even chilling in Defiance. Julie Monson wrote the following condolences to me soon after hearing of Mom’s passing, at a moment when I had asked her to help pick which of the many photos of my mother to use for Mother’s Defiance Crescent News obituary.”
“This one,” Julie Zachrich Monson wrote me; “Little but Mighty”! She went on: “Hilda was clever, charming and a force all her own. She complimented C. I. perfectly. Her size made him feel strong, but her charm calmed his need for adventure. Her brains matched his inquisitive mind. Hilda was the important woman behind a good man. Like many women of her time, she ran the home, baked delicious treats, drove in the car pool to school and ballet, participated in local volunteer activities, and supported the Brownies; young Girl Scouts to be. Hilda went to school events, fed your dachshund, Smitty, and next fed your incredibly long lived cat, Jockey. Hilda-along with neighbors John and Loisann Zimmerman, I’ve been told- probably fed that cat Nine Lives for twenty-three years! Hilda also cautiously watched over daughter, Julie’s, many escapades, all the while being the sophisticated Lady of the house. The little smile that we see before us on this photo says it all. She was the power source. Yes, my friend, this is the photo to use!”
Visitation will be held from 4:00 to 8:00 pm on Friday, November 30, 2018 at Schaffer Funeral Home in Defiance. The funeral service will be at 11:00 am on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at Schaffer Funeral Home, with Rev. John Schlicher officiating. Burial will follow the service at Riverside Cemetery.
Memorials Donations can be made to Defiance Fire and Rescue. Online condolences can be given at www.Schafferfh.com.
Defiance City Fire and Rescue
Defiance OH 43512