* Auntie Bertha Cloon *
(version May 23, 2022)
Please email corrections to Mike Clark


Bertha Ester Pease, or "Auntie Bertha" as Jean Carty knew her, was born to Homer and Cora (née Weldon) Pease on June 29, 1886 in Hampden, Hampden County, Massachusetts, the youngest of three children. She married her first husband Francis "Frank" Marcius Davis (b. Oct. 12, 1888), on June 13, 1908 in Hampden, just a few days before her 24th birthday. Shortly thereafter, Bertha and Frank moved to Chester, Massachusetts where they were living during the 1910 U.S Census.

John and Alice Weeks (neé Smith), who may or may not have known Bertha and Frank, lived in Palmer, Massachusetts, where in 1910 they owned a fish market, and had four children, ranging in age from 15- to 7-years old. Their youngest child was Helen Weeks, who was destined to be Jean Carty's mother. Alice was pregnant at the time with her fifth child, Phillip James Weeks, who was born on March 20, 1910 in Palmer. Tragically, Alice died three weeks after his birth, and her husband John passed away only a month later from a type of kidney infection known as Bright's disease. Bertha and Frank took in newborn Phillip, and two years later adopted him, changing his name to Phillip Weeks Davis. The other Weeks children went to live in other homes, with Helen, who was only 8-years old at the time, going to live with her Sunday School teacher Jennie Elsie Brainerd.

Bertha and Frank by 1920 had moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, where they had a house on Coleman Street, near the Springfield Armory. They also had with them, by this time, a little-year girl named Adele Maryland (Aunt Dele), whose parents had either died or given her up. Frank worked as a Teamster operating trolley cars in Springfield, which must have been a prosperous job, and Phillip and Dele fondly remembered driving around town with him in a large fancy motor car that he owned. Sadly, Frank around 1928 took sick, and he died on Sept. 25, 1930 in Springfield, Massachusetts, after two years in decline.

The 1930 U.S. census lists Bertha as a widow and shows her at a house in Boston with one Louise Davis, who may have been either one of Frank's sisters, or the wife of one of his brothers. However, Bertha must have still been living in Springfield, as Jean Harris notes that in 1932 when she was about one-year old, she lived for awhile in Springfield with Auntie Bertha and Dele. Phillip by then had moved out and was living on his own, and Dele, who was only 17 or 18 years old, soon moved out as well when she married a young man from Bismark, North Dakota (but born in Palmer, Massachusetts) named James Duncan Wallace (1911-1975?). Bertha, who was used to a house filled with people, became depressed, and Jean recalls that there was talk of Bertha being being suicidal. However, Philip and Dele made a point of visiting often to check up on Bertha and to help keep her spirits up.

Answering a personal ad in a local newspaper, Bertha met Walter Francis Cloon (1888-1951), and they were married in 1933 in Marblehead, Massachusetts, which was a small seaside town located on a peninsula north of historic Salem. They settled in at his house at No. 4 Harris St. in Marblehead, which was the same house where Walter had been born. Walter (b. August 13, 1888) was an only child, two years younger than Bertha, and he had lived for most of his life with his mother in the Harris Street house, his only real exposure to the outside world being a stint in the army during WWI. It was in fact only after his mother died in 1932 that Walter had placed the newspaper ad through which he met Bertha. The Cloon family had lived in Marblehead for generations, along with most of the other families there, and Walter's relative and former neighbor Samuel G. Cloon was owner of the Cloon Hardware Store, which was one better known establishments in town. However, Walter was not associated with the store in any way, and he worked instead as a carpenter and mailman.

Walter's house on Harris Street was near the ocean, and Jean Harris moved there from Boston just after the 1935 divorce of her mother Helen from Arthur Harris. Bertha had already raised Helen's younger brother Philip; and Helen, having been raised herself by Jennie Brainerd, was used to life with a step parent. Thus, when Helen's divorce forced her to take a job that required travel around the country to teach cooking classes, she asked Bertha to take her daughter in.

Jean remembers that even though she was in Kindergarten in Boston at the time, her new teachers in Marblehead insisted that she start over again in her schooling. Also Phillip Weeks Davis and Dele Maryland no longer lived with Bertha, but they were still in the area, and they basically became Jean's older siblings. Jean also remembers that the Harris Street house had one of the nicest yards in town. Although it was Bertha who kept the lawn well groomed, Walter loved lawn ornaments, and he would usually decorate the lawn with several during holidays. Another memory is that Bertha still owned the car that Frank Davis had bought in the early years of their marriage. Even though neither Bertha nor Walter ever learned to drive, he and Bertha kept the car for several years, only selling it during the hard times of the late 1930s when they badly needed the money.

Because money remained tight, Walter and Bertha in the 1930s and 1940s had the Freeto family as renters. The Freetos were a family of five, made up of the father Irving Freeto (1895-1939), his wife Alice (1900-1974), and their three children - Alice (1923-1943), Beryl (b. 1925), and John (b. 1933). Mr. Freeto's ancestors, like Walter's, were from an old Marblehead family, and the Freetos and Cloons had known each other for many years. The family paid Walter $22/month rent, and they lived on the first floor and basement of the house, with the Cloons, which included Jean, living on the upstairs floor and attic. Jean also remembers that there were two deliveries each week at the house - one for coal and one for ice. With both families receiving a delivery of coal, but only the Freetos getting block ice, as the Cloons were fortunate enough to own an electric refrigerator.

The Freeto family knew much sadness. Mr. Freeto had been shell shocked on a French battlefield as a soldier during WWI, and nearly given up for dead - an experience that left him a sad and melancholy person. Jean remembers that he always always seemed depressed, and he died in 1939 from an unexpected ailment. Then there was his oldest daughter Alice, who was several years older than Jean, and who Jean said never seemed "quite right. When Jean was 12-years old in 1943, and the older girl about 20-years old, Alice suddenly took ill one day. Mrs. Freeto shouted upstairs for Auntie Bertha to come down and help, but Bertha was out running errands, so Jean went downstairs instead. She found Mrs. Freeto crying and saw that Alice was in a bad way. Bertha came home just a short time later, but the girl in the meantime had died. Although Jean watched Alice die, she was not allowed to attend her funeral, as Bertha apparently felt this would not be proper. To add to all this, there was little John Freeto (b. 1933), whom Jean recalled was "different" than others, and whom the local sheriff would not allow to attend school, as he believed John to be a danger to other children. John ended up in the Munson State Hospital, where he may still be today. Nonetheless, John was literate, and he exchanged letters with Jean over the years. He is known in 2015 to have still been alive, when we received a nice email from one of his caretakers.

Walter and Bertha Cloon are the couple on the right, with Bertha holding John Freeto. His mother Alice Freeto, and her daughters, Alice and Beryl, are standing on the left, and the little girl in front of them is Jean Harris.

Jean's mother Helen all this time had been living in San Francisco and seeing Navy officer Lieutenant Lawrence Hall. When she moved in with Hall in 1944 or so, her fortunes changed for the better, and no longer on the road with cooking classes, she was finally able to come back east to pick up her daughter. Together Jean and Helen made the return trip by bus from Massachusetts to California, arriving in San Francisco on Labor Day. They remained in the city for awhile, before moving with Lieutenant Hall to Pomona, and then finally to Compton about the time Jean became a freshman in High School. Lawrence also eventually was promoted to Commander.

City directories show that in 1949 Walter, Bertha and Mrs. Freeto were still living in the Harris Street house. Walter died on Feb. 6, 1951 in Marblehead, and he is buried in Waterside Cemetery in Marblehead near his father. Even though Bertha had lived in Walter's house for nearly twenty years, she sold it right after his death and retired to Wales, which is near Lake George, Massachusetts, where she lived alone for several more years. She died in her bed on or around June 13, 1966, the exact day being uncertain as she was not found until her neighbors realized that her mail had been accumulating for several days. She is buried with Frank Davis in the Prospect Hill Cemetery in Hampden. Her adopted son Philip Weeks Davis, who never married and was rumored to be gay, died later that same year. Alice P. Freeto (1900-1974), who had been Walter and Bertha's renter for many years, died on March 15, 1974 in Marblehead, where she, her husband and their daughter Alice are buried in Waterside Cemetery.

Aunt Dele (1915-2011), who had married Jim Wallace (1911-1975?) about 1934 or so, moved with him first to South Dakota, and then later to Oklahoma and Arizona - Jim being employed as a teacher by the Indian Service. They finally ended up in Sun City, Arizona, where they lived with their son James Jr. They also had a daughter named Barbara JoAnn Wallace (1942-1958) who died from leukemia as a teenager and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona. Three of Jean Harris' children - Jane, Janet and Bud Carty - spent ten days during the summer of 1966 with Jim and Dele in a small townhouse that that they owned in Sun City, and the Cartys recall that Jim, Sr had quite a collection of Indian artifacts from his days teaching on the reservations. Jim died about 1975 (date uncertain) from cancer, and Dele sometime on or before 1984 married her second husband Fred M. Haverland (b. 1912), Fred having been a past area director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Dele in 2007, after Fred had passed away, was moved to a retirement home near her son's family in Long Beach, California, where she passed away on January 1, 2011 at the age of 95 years. Although she died in Long Beach, her funeral was held in Sun City, Arizona. Jean Harris passed away in 2011 also, just a few days after Dele.



Jean Harris

Helen Weeks




by Janet & Michael Clark

This history is an evolving document.
Despite our best intentions it probably contains mistakes.
Please let us know if you spot any by sending an email to Mike Clark



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