Audrey Hichman Rohleder & Norvell Wordsworth Page
A Valentine prompt for Valentine week.
They met in school. Her father was a lawyer; his father was an advertising agent. His family was well-off; her family did well enough. His family didn’t approve of her family, but that didn’t stop Audrey and Norvell. When Norvell went off to the College of William & Mary, he missed Audrey terribly and eloped with her his first year there. His family didn’t find out until much later—Norvell left a series of letters with his roommate to be mailed home weekly.
Audrey, my first cousin twice removed, was born in Richmond, Virginia, on 4 May 1904 to Richard Atherton Rohleder (1878-1942) and Florence Eugenia McAllister (1878-1958). She had six siblings, a sister and five brothers. By 1910 Richard was working as a lawyer. Are you wondering why Norvell’s family didn’t approve of her? Well, it seems Richard was quite the bigoted fellow, and raised a stink in 1906 with a lawsuit that made the papers. Audrey and Norvell married about 1923 and had a son, Norvell McAllister “Mac” Page (1928-1981) when they were living in Norfolk. By 1930 the family was renting a place in Brooklyn for $80.00 a month, and Norvell was editor of a newspaper. In October of 1931, the couple took a trip to Bermuda. The 1940 census indicates the family lived in Newtown, Connecticut, in 1935, but they returned to New York, Queens, by 1940, renting a place for $75.00 a month. Audrey’s brother Stuart and his wife lived with them at the time. Audrey died in Newtown, Connecticut, on 28 November 1942 at the age of 38, and was buried in Shockoe Hill Cemetery in Richmond. Their son was 14 at the time of her death.
Norvell was born in Richmond on 12 July 1904 to Charles Wordsworth Page (1880-1947) and Estlie Isabelle Bethel (1880-1943). After he left William & Mary, he worked as a journalist for several newspapers: The Cincinnati Post, The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, The New York Herald Tribune, The New York Times, and The New York World-Telegram (according to his obituary), before beginning his career as a pulp fiction writer around 1934. He started writing westerns, because they sold, but eventually moved into gangster fiction, writing the main stories for The Spider pulp series. He quit writing fiction in 1943, shortly after Audrey died, and never went back to it. With a son to look after, and since the United States was at war, Norvell moved to Washington and got a job with the government, becoming a specialist in writing government reports. Besides his last job as Chief of the Reports Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission, he served on the President’s Scientific Research Board, 1947; the President’s Ten Year Health Program, 1948; both Hoover Commissions, 1948-49 and 1954-55, and the President’s Materials Policy Commission, 1951-1952. Norvell died 14 August 1961 in Darnestown, Maryland, and is buried in Parklawn Memorial Park and Menorah Gardens in Rockville.
I think it’s telling that Norvell stopped his creative writing endeavors when Audrey died. He couldn’t bear college without her, and that creative spark seems to have died when she did.