Emma Perry Waite
1920 – 1985
Essay by Walter and Norma Elwell
Essay by Holly Gomez Emond
I decided to contribute a biography about my grandmother, Emma Perry Waite. Emma was born on April 13, 1920 in Fall River, MA to Gloria (Ferreira) and Manuel Perry. Her parents were second generation Azoreans. Emma had two sisters, Gloria and Helen. Sadly her father died in a fire when Emma was a young girl. Her mother remarried and Emma gained a stepfather and 3 more siblings, Alfred, Everett and Louise Araujo. Emma graduated from Durfee High School.
Emma literally married the boy next door, Lewis E. Waite, in June of 1940. Lewis’s mother had passed away in 1918 during the Spanish Influenza outbreak. He was raised in the Lafayette House on Main Rd. Tiverton by the Rose Family. Emma lived in the house next door.
Emma gave birth to her first son Lewis Jr. in 1941. Twins Barbara and Judith came along in September 1942. Rochelle was born next in 1944 and James in 1945. By the age of 25 she was very busy with 5 young children.
In 1947 Lewis moved his young family to Little Compton. They lived on Simmons Rd. in the house next door to St. Catherine’s church. My cousin, Jim Waite still lives there, something that would have pleased my grandmother. At first my grandmother hated living in Little Compton. My grandfather was an offshore fisherman out of New Bedford. Emma was lonely and isolated with 5 small children. She had no car, in fact she never learned to drive in her lifetime.
During the hurricane in 1954 Lewis was still working as a fisherman out of New Bedford. She had no way to contact him for 10 long days. She didn’t know if he was dead or alive. After this Emma put her foot down and Lewis gave up the long fishing trips. He began to work on a fishing crew out of Sakonnet Point, a place they both loved for the rest of their lives.
As the children grew and became more active in school, Emma’s involvement in the community grew as well. She was very active in the Wilbur School PTA, acting as president for many years. She organized many dances, whist parties and bingo nights. Emma had a lifelong love of bingo, a trait shared by Barbara and Rochelle.
Emma was a very hard worker and had gone back to work once Lewis started working out of Sakonnet Point. She had a job at a mill, Lexcraft in Fall River. She was a seamstress making 10 cents for every completed piece. In the summers she worked at Sakonnet Golf Club as a pastry chef alongside her dear friend, Anne Sylvia.
I am told the Waite household was a bit of a hangout for the kids in town. There were 5 Waite children with many friends. Th Waite household was very welcoming and Emma fed them all without complaint. Once while Emma and Lewis were out for a ride some of those kids helped themselves to a half of a turkey left to cool on the counter! The story goes that Emma just laughed. She was regarded as a mother figure to many.
Emma was happy to see all 5 of her children marry. She was blessed that 4 of them remained living in Little Compton and 1 lived nearby in Tiverton. One of her greatest joys was becoming a grandmother to James Jr., Melanie, Holly, Sidney, Jennifer and Heather.
I adored my grandmother. I spent countless days with her. I was a frequent sleep over guest on Saturday nights after Mass. We would talk, snack and watch many episodes of Love Boat and Fantasy Island. My grandmother shared her love of reading and cooking with me. She spent hours working on cross stitch pieces and embroidery. I think of her often.
Emma Waite was always loving and smiling. She had a kind word for all. I would describe her as a very happy, kind person. She passed away in February 1985 at the very young age of 64. She left her mark on many people with her kind heart and loving kindness.
Holly Gomez Emond, Granddaughter
April 18, 2020
Essay by Walter and Norma Elwell
Emma Waite, daughter of Manuel and Gloria Perry, lived on Simmons Road with her husband Lewis E. Waite and their two sons and three daughters. All these children stayed in Little Compton or neighboring towns as Emma was a great mom. She was very active in the Little Compton Fire Department Auxiliary, Parent Teachers Association as president, and especially with the St. Catherine’s Church.
Walter and Norma Elwell
One thought on “Emma Perry Waite”
Holly- I am so happy that you wrote about your grandmother. I was one of the “kids” who spent a lot of time at their home. Lots of great memories of Emma and her great laugh. She was always smiling!
Caroline Wilkie Wordell
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