Edith Lucy Ann Elizabeth Wilkie Silvia O’Keefe
1913 – 2002
Edith Lucy Ann Elizabeth Wilkie Silvia O’Keefe (Yup, that’s her real name) was born in Little Compton on February 6, 1913 to Benjamin F. and Addie (Kirby) Wilkie. Benjamin had fifteen children with two wives. Edith was the thirteenth. According to census records they lived on Burchard’s Lane, however they lived on Peckham Road on the corner of Burchard Avenue. Perhaps there was a driveway from the house to Burchard Avenue at the time.
Edith attended Little Compton schools (I am thinking probably the Stone School House on Long Highway). In the 1930 census she was living in Westport with my grandmother (who had remarried to Thomas Bennett after my grandfather died in 1917), and was working as a housekeeper. She married Gilbert Silvia in Westport on August 7, 1930. He was the son of Alfred and Mary (Travers) Silvia. They had one son, Gilbert Silvia, Jr.
Edith worked at the Kerr Mill as a sewing machine operator for a number of years. Eventually they built a home on Long Highway across from the Stone School House in an area that my father owned and called Mosquito Gulch! I remember Edith having blue glass panels in her coffee table and side tables in her living room. I can still see them in my mind. As a young girl I thought these were the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Now I know they were the style in the 1940s.
Edith was one of my two favorite aunts. She was always into something. She had a spider monkey named Milton that used to run rampant in the house. I was afraid of him because he would bite when he felt like it.
Every year before I went back to school (until I was old enough to protest) Edith would give me a Toni home permanent. You can see from the photo that she wasn’t a hairdresser!!
I can remember Edith, my mother Inez, Joanne Bliss and I went to pick blueberries in the bog on the corner of Long Highway and Colebrook Road. We did not know that the farmer just north of the bog was pasturing a bull there. When the bull saw us he came charging. We were running and thrashing through the briars and brambles, and poor asthmatic Joanne was wheezing and slowing down. Mom and Edith grabbed her by the arms and dragged her out of there, barely making it! When we knew we were safe we could not stop laughing. We went there to pick berries because Edith often had food sales on the stone wall across from her house. It wasn’t unusual to go by and see pies, cakes, cookies, and breads all spread out on the wall!
Edith was deathly afraid of thunderstorms. She would put on rubber boots, get in her car with rubber tires (I can almost understand up to this point), and then she would drive to our house on Peckham Road and park in our driveway until the storm was over. We didn’t even know she was there! For some reason she felt safer there!
After Gil died, Edith married a chef, James O’Keefe, and they worked in various restaurants in the area and on Cape Cod. In the 1960s they opened the JOHNNY CAKE HOUSE for a short time in a small building to the south of Wilkie’s Garage on Long Highway. I later ran two businesses from that same house – The Patchworks and Johnnycake Farm Collectibles!
Edith and Jim ultimately moved to Newport News, Virginia where they were responsible for the food for the airplanes flying out of Patrick Henry Airport. Edith died in Newport News on December 5, 2002.
Caroline Wilkie Wordell