Check out today’s special birthday slideshow to the right – – – – – –>
Edna Mary Micheau Penny was born on May 10, 1921 in St. Louis Missouri. Her parents were Joseph Perry Micheau (1888-1975) of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, and Edna Julia Lewis (1890-1989), of Carbondale, Illinois. From the time she was born until 2008 she lived almost exclusively in St. Louis. However as a child she did spend several years in Prairie du Rocher. She recalls that her father did gardening around St. Joseph’s Church in Prairie du Rocher which was diagonally across the street from the house. Her mother was the first black teacher in Prairie du Rocher, taking over at the colored school when the nuns left.
She is a seventh generation Catholic and her family historically has been very devout. They became Catholic in 1722, when their forebears were brought as slaves from Santo Domingo by Philip Renault to Upper Louisiana to find gold and silver for the King of France. Renault never found precious metals, but he did find lead, which is still mined today in southern Illinois and eastern Missouri.
Edna’s father Joseph had wanted to become a priest, but after meeting Edna Lewis, God showed him a different way.
Edna Mary had five siblings: John Joseph Micheau, who died in infancy in 1915; Claude Alexander Micheau (1917-1991); Philip A Micheau (1919-2008); and Ottie Margarett Micheau Perkins, and Mary Anne Micheau Robinson, the latter two still living.
In St. Louis, Edna attended St. Rita School and Sumner High School.
On June 17, 1939, Edna Mary Micheau wed Ralph A Penny (1920-1983) at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Kirkwood Missouri. It was a double ceremony as her brother, Philip, at the same time, married Alquinston White (1921-1989).
She has two grandchildren David Penny and Christopher Penny, who live in Washington state and a great-grandchild, Christopher’s daughter with his wife Melissa, Jacqueline Elizabeth Penny. She has numerous nieces and nephews all across the USA.
As a young woman, Edna trained as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). She worked for many years at a neighborhood health center near the intersection of Cass Avenue and North Jefferson in St. Louis.
A shy but inquisitive woman, Edna would take her children on trips across the country by train. For example in 1962 she took her two youngest children Claude and Margarett to Seattle to see the worlds fair. Another time she took her children to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore.
For herself, Edna continually educate yourself about things that merely interest her. For example she once took an auto mechanics class, though she did not own or drive a car at the time. She learned to make her own soap and paper; and in the 1950s she made up virtually all of her children’s clothes, including a business suit for her eldest son David.
But it is her Catholic faith that defines Edna Micheau Penny more than anything. She attends mass every day of the week and prays the rosary multiple times during the day.. Her favorite television channel is the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).
After she retired from the active workforce, Edna was a fixture at Birthright of St. Louis Inc. For nearly 30 years, she attended the March for Life in Washington DC, riding a bus on the 24 hour round-trip.
In 2008, the culmination of tragic events, including the second premature death of one of her children, led Edna Micheau Penny to come live with her daughter and son-in-law in California. Here her pastimes include rocking babies at Mercy women’s health Center while their mothers receive treatment. She still attends daily mass sometimes walking in the rain to make it there. When for some reason there’s not a mass, she will sit in the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament.
California has been somewhat of an adjustment for them. We drive too fast we talk too fast and we each strange foods according to her. She’s fiercely proud of her Catholic upper Louisiana heritage. Once when someone asked her what race she was, it not being particularly obvious, she said “I’m Illinois French.”
Family means everything to her. Lately thanks to a son-in-law she’s discovered genealogy. She’s intensely interested in her Micheau/Mischeaux cousins throughout the country, though most remain in St. Louis.
She spends time with her daughter and son-in-law (although at their house she’s more likely to see the Game Show Network than EWTN–Chuck Woolery instead of Mother Angelica; Lingo instead of Latin!).
Happy 90th birthday to the world’s greatest mother-in-law!
May 10, 2011 Tuesday at 12:27 am