Robert Alexander Wilkin (1891-1937)
Grace Mae Lohnes (1896-1978)

Robert Alexander Wilkin was born on June 26, 1891 in St. Jacques de Leeds, a small village in southern Quebec. He was the oldest child of Joseph Wilkin and Margaret Squire .

Despite his Canadian birthright, it wasn't too many years before the family headed south to Barre VT. Robert became a big brother at when he was only a year and a half old. A brother Gilbert joined the family. Sadly, as a toddler of less than two years, Gilbert was accidently kicked in the head by a horse and died. In 1894, Robert's first sister, Margaret Edna was born. By 1897, the young family had left Canada and moved to the United States. This picture was taken shortly after their arrived in Vermont. That young boy is Robert - roughly age six, with his sister who was probably right around two years old at the time.

The family grew during their time in Barre. Robert's brother James Wilfred Wilkin and sister Mary Elsie were born in Barre, both before the turn of the century. But, for whatever reason, the family left Barre and moved 150 miles south to North Adams, MA. Robert's father took a job working as a watchman at the North Adams Normal School, which later became the State Teachers College of North Adams, and then North Adams State College, and today is the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts .

North Adams was a booming industrial town in the early 1900's. The small city became a melting pot of immigrants from all over the world. The Wilkin family settled in a large double decker built into the side of a steep hill on the west end of town. The house, on Charles Street, became the center of family gatherings for nearly 100 years. Young Robert had taken a job as a foreman at a comb factory by 1910. From there, I have lost track of Robert for a while.

Somewhere along the way, young Robert met a girl from upstate New York. Grace Mae Lohnes was five years younger than Robert. She was the youngest daughter of George Lohnes and Carlista Block. George was a farmer in Grafton, NY in the early 1900's when Grace was just a child. Her mother was a shirt maker. Grafton is only 20 miles or so from North Adams. Today, the drive between the two towns takes you over the Taconic Trail on Route 2. It's a very scenic and pretty ride!!

Somehow, Grace and Robert got together. They were married on August 7, 1917 in Pittsfield, MA. By the early 1920's, Robert and Grace were living in Bridgeport, CT. Robert was a machine set-up man at the H.O. Canfield Rubber Company. Robert was an extremely frugal man and worked under the premise that if you can't pay cash for something, you can't afford it! That meant that the family never had an automobile. Robert would walk down a steep hill each day to catch the jitney bus to work and then have to hoof it back up the hill at the end of the day. This was a problem, inasmuch as Robert had a congenital asthma condition. The fumes from the rubber plant were enough to make his asthma worse, let alone trudging up a steep hill at the end of the day!

Robert worked hard for H.O. Canfield Rubber, and as best I can gather from anecdotal information I have heard from relatives, he literally gave his life to the company. On August 8th, 1937, Robert died suddenly in what I'm told was some sort of industrial accident, although I have no details. He was 42. His untimely passing left Grace alone to raise a then teenage son, Robert, and a pre-school daughter, Shirley.

Robert and Grace had two children:

Robert Alexander Wilkin - born August 28, 1922, died December 11, 2005

Shirley Carlista Wilkin - born October 15, 1934, died March 29, 2008

This picture was taken in roughly 1932. It is Robert and Grace with their son, Robert, who was about 10 years old at the time.

Grace and her children remained in Bridgeport for several years following Robert's death. She suffered a very bad stroke in 1961, which left her unable to speak for the rest of her life. As a result of her son, Robert's path through life, she ended up moving to Oxford, OH with his family. There she stayed until her passing in 1978. Grace is buried in Oxford, OH.


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I am extremely grateful to Patsy Wilkin for her help in providing information for this page. Patsy is the wife of Grace and Robert Wilkin's son Robert, who passed in 2005. She has been most generous in sharing her husband's writings and some really precious photos for this page. Thank you Patsy!! Hopefully more information and photos come along and I can expand this page even further.