Siblings

Ted and his sisters
Ted, Marnie, and Henrietta sitting on the front porch at 74 Fairfield Street.
Photo from the collection of Peggy and Ted Owens.

Ted was the second child born in the Geisel family, two years younger than Margaretha Christine Geisel. She was affectionately called Marnie by her family, and she had a close relationship with Ted while they grew up together.

The tall and pretty Marnie held her younger brother’s hand as they walked to school, played tennis with him at the city courts in Forest Park near their home, and enjoyed dressing in costumes with Ted during the many birthday parties their mother held for them. She played the piano and was very studious, taking school work much more seriously than Ted. Marnie graduated magna cum laude from Central High School and later attended Smith College in Northampton.

As children, they visited the nearby Forest Park Zoo where Ted drew his unique versions of the animals. Marnie sometimes teased her brother because his animal drawings had mismatched features and were curiously exaggerated. For amusement, Ted drew a mural of “crazy animals” on the wall of his sister’s bedroom when they were young, which has since been wallpapered over in the house on Fairfield Street.

Deer in the Forest Park ZooAs children, Ted and Marnie visited the nearby Forest Park Zoo.

But not all of Ted’s childhood memories were happy. As America entered World War I and prejudice against German Americans increased, the young Marnie and Ted bonded together as they coped with the taunts of others. Marnie most likely developed agoraphobia in later life, and the challenging social issues that she and Ted faced as children certainly had an impact on their lives.

Another sad memory was the death of Ted’s youngest sister, Henrietta, who had been born in 1906 and named after their mother. She died of pneumonia at just eighteen months old. Ted was not yet four at the time, but the image of his infant sister’s tiny casket reposing in the music room of their home was a memory that stayed with him his entire life.

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