Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Distracted Husband Lillian Westrum Keyes Part 2

The definition of distracted is :
Having one's thoughts or attention drawn away: unable to concentrate or give attention to something. This is the word used to describe Lillian's husband in the obituary attached to the back of her photograph and below the letter, we have been discussing. In all my years I have never ever seen that term used in an obituary let alone describe the spouse of the deceased. In a messenger conversation with James, we decided that perhaps it was a comment on the state of the marriage. This seems the most likely explanation. So I began an attempt to find out what I could about Ray Keyes.

His full name was Raymond Edward Keyes and he was born March 7, 1894, in Martin Minnesota. His parents were Edward Keyes and Alma Nelson and he had a sister named Ora Keyes.  Edward Keyes was a hardware salesman from Illinois or New York and his mother a housewife from Sweden. His life overall seems very unremarkable. On the 1920 census, Ray is listed as doing clerical work in a machine shop. Normal right? Well yes up until August in 1929. Ray's first newspaper mention that I've found happens in August 1929 when Albert Lea experienced a very large fire. The fire occurred at a business called Albert Lea Transfer Company. The fire nearly wiped out the business district in Albert Lea.  It's odd because for some reason Ray Keyes had his band equipment stored there along with the equipment of another person named Earl Hunt. Keyes lost 2000.00 worth of equipment and vehicles. It kind of boggles my mind how a man from Martin, Minnesota was able to afford equipment and vehicles valued at 2000.00.  In terms of 1929 money that is a large amount or least, it is for a young man who worked a clerical job in 1920.

The remainder of the information I can find on Ray has to do with tracking where he was playing from 1929 on. He seems to have been booked for outside gigs mostly at fairs or outside venues. The primary information seems to be from Saint Cloud Minnesota.  The gigs are sporadic and mostly summer or fall gigs. What blew my mind is that Ray, the same Ray whose wife killed herself February 11th was back playing gigs by March of 1937. Ray must have been so decimated at having lost his wife, NOT.  Nine days after Lillian's death Ray advertises the goods from their home "priced right." Suddenly Ray doesn't seem so um, what's the word, oh loving.

The other issue that seems to plague Ray seems to be suicides. July 6, 1938, the Minneapolis newspaper "The Minneapolis Star" reports that the sax player, George "Red" Russell, is found hanging in the Albert Lea Courthouse. Allegedly Red seems to have been despondent for a while.

Long story short. Ray traveled a great deal and seemed to become mired in things when he was around. The fire, his wife's apparent suicide, and the suicide of his sax player in a very public place. You will find yourself saying "What the hell is up with this dude?" Then Ray walks away from Albert Lea and goes to Minneapolis. By 1940 is married to one Lorraine Catherine Boudin who is 22 years his junior and December of 1940 has a son.

I can't judge Ray's behavior but I can with some confidence say that his relationship with Lillian seems to have not been a healthy one at least for her. Perhaps that you could go as far as to say he was responsible for her death if only by neglect. Whatever the cause Lillian paid much too high a price.

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