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Bertha Beatrice Smith, age 31, went missing from Phoenix, Arizona in 1944.

Bertha Beatrice McGary was born in Texas in 1913.   She married Willie T. Dyer in 1931.  Bertha and her husband had five children.  In 1942, they divorced, and Bertha reportedly moved to Arizona and possibly married someone by the name of Smith.

Something odd that I noticed: I found a birth record for one of her sons, his birth name is William Lee Stapleton.   Parents are Bertha McGary and W T Dyer.  I wonder why Stapleton, and not Dyer?  He was born in 1935.

Bertha was last heard from when she wrote a letter to her family in 1944, stating that she was returning to Texas.  Nobody ever heard from her again.

There doesn’t seem to be any information available as to what has already been done in investigating this case – but many ideas come to mind:

If Bertha married someone named Smith in Arizona, there would be a record of it in the Arizona marriage index.  Has this been checked?  If she had any other children with Mr. Smith, that should be in public records as well.

Was there a return address on the letter Bertha sent in 1944?  If so, has the address been cross-checked to determine who was living there in 1944?  This can be done via city directories.   I’m sure the Phoenix library has them.  If there was no address, was there a zip code on the postmark?

Did she already know someone in Arizona when she left Texas?  It seems unlikely that a woman would travel to Arizona alone in 1944, with no family or friends waiting for her there.  I could see Hollywood, maybe.. but Phoenix?

There could be any number of reasons why Bertha wrote that letter at that particular time – but of course, 1944 was right in the middle of WWII.  I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to consider that the war may have played a role in her decision.  Possibly Mr. Smith had just enlisted, and Bertha wasn’t prepared to wait for his return.   Or maybe he was a casualty and his death prompted her to return to her family.  It couldn’t hurt to search through WWII casualties/enlistments under the name Smith, just prior to the date of her letter.

I wonder if there were any other clues in the letter – how she planned to get back to Texas, or any accounts of her time in Arizona?

Bertha would be 100 years old now, so the chances of finding her alive are slim to none, but it’s still possible to find someone who knew her, maybe a son or daughter, niece or nephew of Mr. Smith, who might be able to shed some light on what happened to Bertha.

Sources:

NamUs

Ancestry.com

 

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8 thoughts on “Bertha Smith

  1. ZIP codes were not introduced until the early 1960’s. They did have zone codes at that time for certain regions, however.

  2. I think that the William Lee Stapleton was an administrative mistake back in 1935, or else when transcribing. I’ve had a look, and there’s a W T Dyer (Jr) born to Bertha McGary and W T Dyer on the same day in 1935 as William Lee Stapleton.

  3. Cindy is W.T. Dyer your Dad?

    I found two Bertha Smiths, who died in Arizona, whose birthdate is close to this Bertha.

    Bertha M. Smith B. 1912 D. August 8, 1988 in Yuma Arizona
    Bertha M. Smith B. 1910 D. March 21, 1998 in Buckeye, Arizona

  4. Cindy is the daughter of William Stapleton, my uncle. The five children where in orphanages and foster homes due to WWII. He changed his name after he grew up. He was the youngest son of Bertha Dyer. My mother, Mary, is the second child, and oldest daughter of Bertha Dyer. The letter referred to is mentioned in a family history book, sent to Bertha’s aunt I believe. But we have not found anyone with the actual letter. Yes, there was a relative in Yuma, Arizona, I believe a cousin. Cindy and I are two of six granddaughters of Bertha.

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