On Sunday, October 26, 1997, Cornell Brothers True Value Hardware paid homage to Madeline Williams for 60 years of service. A retirement party, in her honor, was held at Daniel’s Restaurant. There were 45 people in attendance including her sister, Rae Golden, her nephew, Michael Golden and her niece, Carol Adkins. Among other gifts, Madeline was presented with a gold watch and an adding machine that had been spray painted gold. Madeline had used the adding machine over 40 years ago.
Madeline (DeLuca) Williams was born and raised in Tuckahoe. In 1937, John Fix, Sr., owner of Cornell Brothers Hardware was looking for a bookkeeper. Mr. Fix called Mr. Goff, then principal of Tuckahoe High School and asked Mr. Goff to recommend a bookkeeper and have him/her go for an interview. The number one person on Mr. Goff’s list was Madeline DeLuca. Mr. Goff went to 22 Maynard Street to tell Madeline to go for an interview. He went to her house because Madeline did not have a telephone. Jimmy Brundage, brother of Mary Brundage Fix (wife of John Fix, Sr), interviewed Madeline. After Jimmy consulted with Mr. Fix, the decision to hire Madeline was made. Madeline had given Jimmy the butcher’s telephone number to call if she got the job. Well, Jimmy called the butcher and asked to speak to Madeline. The rest is history. On July 25, 1937 Madeline became Cornell’s bookkeeper, and on September 27, 1997, after 60 years of service, Madeline retired. She enjoyed many years of retirement and passed away on October 22, 2003.
Madeline was not only bookkeeper for Cornell’s but she also became a new member of the Fix family. Mrs. Fix became Madeline’s second mother and Mr. Fix became the father Madeline never knew. Her own father had died months before she was born. Over the years, the five Fix children, Mary, John Jr., Tom, Joan and Nancy became Madeline’s second family.
In 1955, Madeline met and married the late John Williams. Although they never had any children of their own, Madeline has been Godmother and “honorary Grandmother” to many children, spoiling them all with gifts of love, money and toys.
Over the years, she has worked with many generations of the Fix family. Just before Madeline retired, Brittany Ann Fisher, on of the 4th generation, began her part-time job at Cornell’s. She joins her Uncle Thomas, Great-uncle John, and second cousins John III and Mary Beth. The Fix family will miss Madeline’s presence at Cornell’s. It will never be the same. Madeline was one great lady, truly a class act.
John Fix 3rd delivered the following eulogy at Madeline’s funeral mass on October 27, 2003.
“When large numbers of people attend an event to honor an individual, newspapers often report that “friends and family gathered”. A reporter writing about our gatherings Saturday, Sunday and today would write “Family gathered to celebrate the life of Madeline Williams”. Madeline didn’t have a big family in the biological sense…she never bore any children of her own, she had just one sister, and that sister had only two children. Holidays must have been pretty quiet at Madeline’s.
In reality, Madeline’s house was usually the busiest place in town on a holiday. It wasn’t because she cooked a sit down meal for thirty. Instead, groups of people would arrive a few at a time, squeezing into that tiny kitchen (and tiny dining room), overflowing into the downstairs room or out on to the porch if the weather was nice.
Who were all these people? It was Madeline’s family. Her husband John and her mother of course, and some “real” family like Rae and Dick, maybe her niece or nephew and years later their children. A few of Madeline’s cousins might be there as well. But there were others… friends from the old Tuckahoe neighborhood would come by. Some who knew Madeline through Assumption Church. Still others from that little hardware store she worked at for a few years. Before you knew it the house was overflowing with Madeline’s family.
In a small community like Tuckahoe, it all kind of runs together. The principal knows you by name and recommends you for a job at the hardware store down the street. You don’t to travel far to meet your spouse…maybe just to the diner next to the hardware store. The hardware store employs other people in town, and they become your family as well. This family and community connection spanned generations…Madeline joked about working for three generations of Fix bosses. Don’t let anyone kid you, Madeline was always the real boss.
In a small community, the lines between family and friends blur together. The people you work with, the people you worship with, the people in your neighborhood…Madeline considered them all family. Their children and grandchildren became Madeline’s children and grandchildren as well. On the holidays when the crowds converged on Madeline’s the kids would gawk at the clamshell fountain in her living room, before heading downstairs to see the other cool stuff like the deer’s head, the lava lamp or the leopard skin chair. And Madeline always gave you the cool gadgety stuff, the stuff you saw in mail order catalogs but your parents would never order for you.
After a while, the crowd would disperse, each small group heading off to join their “official” family for a holiday dinner. If you listened carefully, in dozens of households all over town you could hear people saying “We went to Madeline’s for a while”, “We stopped at Madeline’s on the way over”, “Sorry we were late, but we were at Madeline’s”. Even after she sold her house and moved into the apartment, Madeline’s was still a regular stop when for many on Sundays or holidays.
Madeline’s…sounds like a good name for a restaurant or a bar. Cheers might have been famous on television, but in Eastchester and Tuckahoe Madeline’s was the place where you wanted to go, where everybody knew your name, and Madeline was always glad you came.”