by Loretta Moore
Claudia Woodruff, an attractive, thirty-two-year-old African American attorney devoted her life to preserving humanity’s well-being. Single, childless Claudia fervently pursued her belief that no one should be overlooked, dismissed or under-valued, directing most of her activism toward children. As much as she covered social matters, she involved herself in politics as well. An active party member of the Democratic Party she once belonged to a branch of the Communist Party. After a very short time, disenchanted with their un-American ideas, she left the organization and became a staunch, Liberal Democrat. Although she challenged anything that appeared to dash the hopes of people, she projected a glowing, exciting life.
My Aunt Claudia looked out on a gloomy outlay of life with the idea of possibility from her comfortable two-bedroom apartment in center-city Philadelphia. Whenever I visited her apartment I felt encapsulated by a brazen spirit strung with pearls of magic, pleasure, and delight. Summer visits had the most magical effect. After dark had fallen, the apartment became a cocoon of marvelous, deep mystery. The balmy atmosphere streaming in through the open windows penetrated the surroundings with the sharpness of a sword, carrying captivating messages from wondrous, distant places.
Throughout my childhood, watching my mother’s younger sister, Aunt Claudia, I learned about a society dotted with holes of woe, and how to make peoples’ lives better. As a centrist, and maybe a borderline conservative, my ideas and hers differed, nevertheless, I captured the idea of public service, something I carried with me the rest of my life.
Hard-core activist, highly intelligent, educated Aunt Claudia had attended prestigious Girls High School in Philadelphia—the case with the girls, while the Woodruff boys went to high-ranking Central High. And, my Aunt, as most Woodruffs had extraordinary looks. Her passion and independence and activism had been expressed by a member of the Woodruff before her. (Rabble-rousing Great Aunt Daisy Woodruff an engineer–when few women were–and her sister, Patricia, a married, mother of seven, marched along Philadelphia streets with the Temperance and suffragette movements).
All of the Woodruff’s had high principles and standards; each member considered a depository for heritage and legacy. From the earliest days, Aunt Claudia had expressed a determined spirit that went against Woodruff family. She courageously and brazenly respected her sister Mildred who stepped away from Woodruff standards, to marry James Lewis, someone from the wrong side of the tracks..
“My sister Mildred has the God given right to marry anybody she wants. And if none of you attend the wedding, I’ll be there. She can count on me,” Claudia firmly announced at the family’s mansion-like “Mainline” Philadelphia home.
Claudia Woodruff marched to her own drum beat. For most of her life Claudia had rebelled against many of the things the family expected of her. (“I am not going to any debutante ball,” teenager Claudia strongly stated, angering her parents. She didn’t base her life on the same self-righteousness or high principles predominant in the Woodruffs. Everyone came to expect a ‘clash’ with her family to occur.
Her family would have been truly shocked had they known about a long-term relationship she’d been carrying on with Roger Hamilton, a married man with children. Claudia Woodruff and Roger Hamilton met and instantly became lovers.
“And, you are who, young lady?” Tall, handsome, thirty-nine-year-old Roger Hamilton asked, smiling.
“Uh, Mr. Hamilton, I, I am here as a consultant representing the NAACP, twenty-six-year-old Claudia Woodruff stammered. His incredible looks totally caught off her guard.
I’ve always looked at Aunt Claudia and Roger Hamilton with fascination, as you would a glamorous movie star couple.
Aunt Claudia once made a run for city council, but she lost the election with large support. Nevertheless, she continued using that broad vision of hers, uplifting people’s lives. (She was able to open another door to humanity, the world, the universe. With knowledge, understanding, and compassion as her base, nothing could stop her fight against unfairness, racial prejudice and other goals that her own black elite family could never understand.Looking at Aunt Claudia and the subject of love and happiness, you’d have to say she experienced that because of Roger Hamilton, and the deep
Looking at Aunt Claudia and the subject of love and happiness, you’d have to say she experienced that because of Roger Hamilton, and the deep loved they shared.
“I only have eyes for you, dear….” How do you like that singing?” Roger Hamilton drew Claudia Woodruff closer as they danced slowly around the living room of her downtown Philadelphia apartment.
“And, I only have eyes for you…” Claudia softly sang in his ear. “We’re dancing, and no music’s playing. I could put on some tapes,” she softly told him in the romantic atmosphere.
“For the umpteenth time, when can I have your hand in marriage, Claudia darling? Please don’t tell me the same old story. ‘I don’t want your children to be without you.’ They’re practically out of the house Cynthia and Jonathan have become adults, and Barbara will in another year.”
She looked deeply into his eyes, “I will marry you, Roger, whenever you say, my love. I won’t refuse you anymore. My heart can’t refuse you any longer. Yes, my darling, I’ll marry you.”
Uttering, “Thank you, thank you my Claudia,” Roger kissed her the longest he had ever, and then the couple retired to Claudia’s luscious bedroom and fell into the deepest ecstasy they’d ever experienced together.
One magical spring evening my Aunt Claudia and Roger Hamilton drove from Washington, D.C., headed for Philadelphia. In the twilight atmosphere, the couple seemed happily in love as a Miles Davis tape soulfully played.
She snuggled closer to the man she loved so deeply. Her long-term lover had just told her he’d asked his wife of twenty-five years for a divorce, and as never before, she felt overwhelming contentment.
“I asked Lillian for a divorce today,” His statement caused her with breakdown in tears, overcome with joy realizing that this man she’d accompanied through the years as his mistress could make her his wife. She’d waited years for things to come to this point. Almost instantly, her thoughts turned to Lillian, Roger’s wife of over twenty-five years, and to his children. She’d always gotten along well with his family. In actuality, she and the girls, Barbara and Cynthia had a cozy relationship; she was fond of them and they were of her as well. Due to a working relationship over the years she frequently visited his family. She’d take his daughters and son on outings, particularly to parks, to the circus, to the theatre in Philadelphia, but also on visits to New York. And she’d often babysat his children at home or in her apartment.
Mystery shelved some woods standing in the darkness. Roger’s thoughts hung on his wife driving down the darkened highway. He couldn’t seem to find comfort with way he’d departed the marriage, back to when he’d asked his wife for the divorce. He wondered if he’d been inconsiderate and unfair or brutal for not telling her the real reason. “I’ll be moving some things out of the house tomorrow. I’ve come to a point when I feel I have to get an apartment and be my own. It has nothing to do with you. Lillian, you’ve been a great partner all of these years, and a terrific mother. It’s just that I’m ready to start a new chapter in my life. George Hadley will be my attorney. I’ll pay for an attorney for you, if you choose to have one.” Heartbroken, Lillian Hamilton begged him to think things over. She suggested they get marriage counseling. However nothing could turn him around. Granted, his affection toward her had been lukewarm to nothing for a very long time. But this hit her like a rock.
All of a sudden Roger Hamilton swerved to get out of the way of a car on the wrong side of the highway speeding toward them. Sadly he didn’t move out of the way in time, and the two cars collided. Everyone in both cars instantly died of their injuries.