Obituary of Madeline Elise Birdwell
Inurnment for Madeline Birdwell will be 10:00 am, Monday, May 21, 2018 at Overton City Cemetery with Reverend Fred Parsons officiating. Arrangements are under the direction of Cottle-Pearson Funeral Home in Overton.
Madeline Elise Birdwell, 96, of San Jose, California passed away September 6, 2017 in her home.
She was born August 31, 1921 at her family’s home in Overton. She was the second child, and only girl, of G.P. and Bertie Birdwell.
She grew up with 3 brothers; James, Eugene Fields and George, to whom she was very devoted for her entire life. Madeline told many stories of her brothers teasing her. One of their favorite ways to tease her was to fashion a hang man’s noose and hang all her dolls in her bedroom. Although, Madeline was always the “Princess” of the family and had many happy memories of her childhood.
Madeline was very musical. Trained in piano, violin, voice and ballet dancing. She sang a lovely, lyrical soprano.
She graduated from John Tyler high school in Tyler, then attended Hockaday School in Dallas. She was always a proud Hockaday graduate and loved reading the school magazine every time it came. Just before the start of World War II she moved to New York and remained there throughout the war. This was so that she could attend Juilliard School; a private university for the Performing Arts, located in the Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City. She has said that her time there was the most exciting experience in her all her years. Aside from attending school, she was a part of the chorus in the New York Opera Company. Coming from a small town in Texas, New York was just one big adventure! She made several, dear friends during her years in New York and always treasured her time there. Madeline returned to Tyler when her father died in 1945 to assume the care of her mother until her mother died in 1954. While in Tyler she frequently sang soloes with various choral groups and churches.
After her mother passed, Madeline moved to Sacramento, California. There she continued her solo career by performing with the Sacramento Orchestra, among other organizations. She and her 3 brothers started the Birdwell Lumber Company in Sacramento. At this time, she also began teaching private lessons to piano and violin students. She taught private lessons for many years, including to her nieces and nephews. How well they remembered Aunt Madeline “telling” on them to their parents if she felt they were not practicing enough!
Madeline also achieved a Bachelors and Masters degree in English from Sacramento State University. After the family sold their lumber company, she embarked on a career as an elementary teacher. First, she taught at a Catholic school and was later employed by the school district in Sacramento. She retired from that after many years of helping to educate students, as well as introducing them to music of many kinds.
Madeline was especially fond of the opera and for several years owned season tickets for the San Francisco Opera Company. She also enjoyed musicals and attended many Broadway shows as they toured California.
Madeline loved to travel and went to Europe many times. She also went on several cruises and enjoyed Alaska very much. She spoke both French and Italian. One of her greatest adventures was going to Russia while it was still a Communist country. She especially loved touring St Petersburg, and often spoke of visiting the Hermitage.
Not only was Madeline devoted to her brothers, they were to her as well, despite teasing her as youths. They loved each other dearly and were always willing to come help her with anything at all. Jim and Fields were especially handy around the house and could always be counted on to fix whatever she needed. They even built a gazebo in her backyard with a lovely rose garden. She loved flowers, of course roses were her favorite, and was so proud of her beautiful flower garden. Her brother George was her constant travel companion, every summer without fail, they enjoyed going somewhere.
Madeline is preceded in death by her parents; G.P. and Bertie Branch Birdwell; her 3 brothers, Jim, Eugene Fields and George; and her nephew, David.
She is survived by her nephew, Jim of Los Angeles, California; her niece, Janis Lake of Los Angeles; her nephew, Jeff Birdwell of Atherton, California; and her niece, Suzanne Birdwell of Wills Point, Texas.