Brunswick Area Historical Society - 4613 Laurel Road, PO Box 714 - Brunswick, OH  44212 - email -

Three generations have helped community grow: Brunswick at 50

By 'Sam' Boyer, Sun News

One of a series on the early days and development of Brunswick and Brunswick Township, celebrating their 50th anniversaries this year.

When Lucille Fester moved to Brunswick, it was almost Christmas, 1929.

Her dad, who was working for a bakery, lost his job for selling discarded day-old bread to farmers to help his family. Fate intervened, however, when Dr. Sindelar, a dentist who owned a farm here was looking for a caretaker. Her father had friends who recommended him and he was hired to run the property on Center Road.

“We had our Christmas tree up at our home in Cleveland,” Lucille said. “My mother took it down and put it back up here.”

Her dad had free rein at the farm but had to work with a team of horses. “We had a big table, like the one they have at Heritage Farm, and the men helping him would come in starved from working so hard.”

Lucille Fester Widdifield

One thing her father noticed was the marshy land and a fresh spring. He began a project with a horse and plow and with a lot of work turned it into what we know as Brunswick Lake. “We were very popular in the summer because of that spring, the lake was always cool.”

Lucille graduated from high school in 1932 and, until this year, many of her classmates were still living. They all remained fast friends and three of the girls in the class had daughters who all graduated together from Brunswick.

After she graduated, Lucille met Howard Widdifield, who was the coach for the girls’ basketball team. “I went to a game and he kept watching me and asked for a date,” Lucille said. His wife had died of typhoid fever. He had a daughter, Mary (Parker). They married in 1936.

“I had my first child on our first anniversary. That’s Pat (Bouman) and next came Jean (Combs.) They lived on Ganyard Drive.

Howard died of a blood disease when Pat was 10 and Jean was 7. “I had to go to work,” she said. But she had no training.

She held a variety of jobs, from nurse’s aide to selling home products and working for a publishing company while she went to school for business training at night. She was hired by RCA as a service dispatcher and retired after 20 years from the job she absolutely loved.

Jean Combs

Daughter Jean, graduated in 1959. “We were the last class that graduated from the stage in the old part of Edwards Middle School,” she said. It was before the big gymnasium was added. There were a lot of new people arriving in Brunswick, including one of two valedictorians. Holly Barabas was a longtime resident but Andy Repjar only arrived in his senior year. “The class was so friendly, he got to know everyone in a short time.”

She remembers some of those newer arrivals telling them about “senior day,” when the upperclassmen would all skip class. “I remember taking a day off and having a ball for the first half — and then we didn’t know what to do with the rest of the day. Mom grounded me and we had to come back an extra day to get a signed diploma.”

Eventually, Jean met a young man from Maryland who was the youngest of nine children. She married Tex Combs in February, 1961, and the couple had son, Christopher, in December. They moved to an apartment he and his mother had in Cleveland. “I hated it,” she said. But she didn’t drive so at least she could get around when Tex was at work as a painter.

Son Jim was born in 1954, Bill in 1966, and Tommy in 1968. She had several miscarriages as well.

“In 1967, we had ordered a house to be built here but it wasn’t done, so we moved in with mom on Ganyard. Poor mom. There I was with three little kids.” At this, Lucille just smiled.

The Combs moved to Gary Boulevard, but after Tommy was born with special needs, the family faced losing the house because of the tremendous health care expenses. So Lucille moved to the house on Gary and the Combs moved to her house on Ganyard.

Tex went to work for the city building department because there was better health insurance. He was also a volunteer firefighter. The family was eventually able to purchase another house, this one just down the street from Lucille. Jean worked off and on at a variety of jobs before becoming an Emergency Medical Technician and working as a volunteer for many years. Tex retired after 30 years with the city and was one of just a handful of volunteers who served as chief.

Jean and Tex also became certified as foster parents. “Juanita and Buddy were our first two. They were from Medina County,” she recalled. Then they called with another one right after Tommy was born, so we had to stop until he was about 6 and doing well,” she said. Then they began to receive foster children from Cuyahoga County. They fostered more than 200 children, some as babies that they parented for several years, and they adopted four of the children – all girls.

Because of her own health problems, Jean had to give up foster parenting about eight years ago.

Lucille has been in great health most of her life, but now has low blood sugar. Because of a fear of passing out, she recently gave up driving. Though she gave it up, not all her classmates have. “Ward Bowman drives perfectly,” she said after a recent trip they took to a classmate’s funeral.

The Widdifield-Combs family is a good example of the generations who helped make Brunswick the community it has become as we celebrate the city and township’s 50th anniversaries.