As I’ve written about here, visits to Norfolk, Virginia, to spend time with cousin Tilithia at her cafe were highlights of my grandmother’s childhood. They later lost contact, however, and it was not until I connected with B.J., a descendant of Tilithia’s sister Mattie Brewington Braswell, that I learned that Tilithia lived until 1965. I wish Mother Dear had known that.
In my earlier post, I mentioned that Tilithia was married to railroad fireman Walter Godbold during the years after World War I that my grandmother visited. “Her marriage to Godbold did not last,” I noted, “and the 1930 census found him back in Rocky Mount NC (described as divorced) and her still in Norfolk, holding herself out to be a widow while maintaining the little restaurant at 426 Brambleton Avenue.”
Ancestry.com’s Virginia Divorce Records database shed some light on this fractured set-up:
Yes. Apparently, Tilithia and Walter — married in 1921 and separated in early 1926 — stayed married for nearly 40 more years. Only in 1963 did Tilithia receive the divorce she finally filed for (and Walter contested.) Grounds: desertion. Walter was not new to that game, though he turned the tables in his go-round with Tilithia. Here’s the divorce record noting the dissolution of a previous marriage to a woman from his hometown, granted seven months before he married Tilithia:
And what could have led an 84 year-old woman to seek a divorce from a man she probably had not seen in decades? A third shot at love. Less than a month after her marriage to Godbold was dissolved, Tilithia married John Carter Dabney, a retiree nearly twenty years her junior.
This union, if happy, did not last long. A year and-a-half later, on 21 November 1965, Tilithia Brewington King Godbold Dabney passed away. Her heart failed, but presumably did not break.