DeMar family history recorded in survivor’s book

By Regina Villiers.  Originally published May 14, 1997 in The Suburban Life, added May 13, 2016.

Russell DeMar talks with the Madeira Historical Society about the history of his family.

Russell DeMar talks with the Madeira Historical Society about the history of his family.

Howard and Nora DeMar pose with their son, russell, on Feb. 27, 1944, the day he left for service in World War II.

Howard and Nora DeMar pose with their son, Russell, on Feb. 27, 1944, the day he left for service in World War II.

This is the last of three columns about the DeMar family.

The DeMar family in Madeira was too big and too diverse to include more than a sampling of its members in three columns.

For instance, Blaine DeMar, grandson of the first DeMar to settle in Madeira, married into the John Jones family, first settler in Madeira, intertwining two historical families.

Ten years ago, I interviewed their oldest son, James Blaine.  He had grown up in Madeira on the John Jones farm, but had moved away for a lifetime career in the federal government.  When I interviewed him, he was retired and living in Virginia and Cincinnati, with homes in both places.

One of the most interesting little stories he told was that his great-great-grandmother, Nancy Flinn Jones, was the first white baby that the Shawnee Indian chief, Tecumseh, ever saw.  Tecumseh was so fascinated by the tiny, white baby that he returned a short time later for another visit, bringing her a gift of a pair of tiny, white Indian moccasins.

Last summer, while exploring a cemetery in Madisonville, I discovered the grave of Nancy Flinn Jones and remembered the Tecumseh story all over again.

It’s hard to condense the many DeMar stories into a few columns.  They would make a book and Russell DeMar, the last remaining DeMar in Madeira, has done that – put them into a book.

Russ got the idea for the book when he took a class in genealogy at the Institute for Learning in Retirement at the University of Cincinnati.  He put the book together with charts, family pictures and as many DeMar family stories as he could unearth.

He has no plans to try to publish the book.  His sole purpose in writing it was to produce enough copies for his grandchildren.  He wants them to know about their family and to be interested in all the stories.

Russell and his wife, Mary Lou, a well-known Madeira artist, have a son and a daughter and nine grandchildren.  Russ and Mary Lou met on their first jobs at Gibson Art.  Russ was in sales, and Mary Lou worked in the art department.

In many ways, the first 16 years of his life, as described by Russ in his book, sounds like pastoral idyll of family life.

A section of Camargo Road, where Russ was born and lived for 16 years, was known as “DeMar Row.”  Russell’s grandparents lived there.  Clyde DeMar built a house next door to Russ’ grandparents.  Russ’ parents also lived along the row, as did his father’s brother, Delbert.

Russell’s description of life, growing up with his cousins and friends, sounds somewhat like the lives of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, as written by Mark Twain.  Boyish fun. Boyish pranks.  Life in a small town.

But Russ remembers unpleasant times, too.  Hard Times.  He remembers what it was like to watch his parents survive the Depression years.

Russell’s father, Howard, had been a builder.  He had just finished building two new houses in 1929.  Suddenly, there were no buyers for houses.  Without buyers, there was no money to pay off construction loans.

Howard took small jobs wherever he could find them.  He hung on to the two houses and managed to rent them.  But rental receipts were small, and for several years, he could pay only part of the interest on the loans.  But Russell’s parents were stubborn, and they managed to hang on to those two houses.

In 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected U.S. President, and times got better for Howard and Nora DeMar.

A civil service examination was to be held to select a new postmaster for Madeira.  Howard decided to go for it, and he studied for this exam endlessly.  When the exam day arrived, 99 people took the exam.

All of his study paid off, for Howard DeMar got the job.  In doing so, he became an official part of Madeira’s history.  Not only did he become a postmaster, but also he became the last postmaster of Madeira.

He became postmaster in 1933 and served for 33 years.  By that time, Madeira’s post office was strictly a one-man operation, located in the small building on Laurel Avenue that is now a shoe shop.  The job paid $1,440 a year, but that was big money in those days.

When Howard and Nora DeMar retired in 1965, they lived out their years in one of the houses he finished in 1928 and could not sell when the Depression hit.

Years later, Russ and Mary Lou, after their children married, moved into that very same house to make it their retirement home.

“Maybe one of our two children, or one of our nine grandchildren, will want to come and live here someday,” Russ said, “to keep the tradition going.”

The DeMar family has dwindled.  Businesses now occupy the old “DeMar Row” on Camargo Road.  There are only four young, male DeMars growing up to carry on the DeMar name-Russ’s three grandsons and Dale DeMar’s son, Josh.  Dale is the great grandson of Clint, one of the 17 children of William and Cely.

But the DeMar family is a big part of Madeira’s history and will always be remembered.