52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #10 – Mercedes (Strait) Scabet

Relationship: Aunt
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Unfortunate news this week. My aunt Sadie passed away a few days ago.

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James William and Mercedes Marie Scabet nee Strait. Circa 1995.


Her obituary published in the NJ Herald on 08 March 2015 reads:

NEWTON – Mercedes “Sadie” M. Scabet, 78, of Newton, died Thursday, March 5, 2015, at Harris Health Care Center at Bristol Glen.

Born in Newton, Sadie was a lifelong resident of Newton. She was the quality engineer at the former United Telephone in Newton for 35 years before her retirement. A graduate of Newton High School, Sadie was a member of St. Joseph R.C. Church and was an avid bowler.

The daughter of the late William C. Strait, Sr., and Beatrice Irene (Repsher) Strait, Sadie is survived by her husband of 52 years, James W. Scabet, and five stepchildren: Carol Stang and husband, Robert, of Coopersburg, Pa., Maureen Slack of Hampton, James Scabet, Jr., and wife, Sandra, of Stillwater, Michael Scabet of Diberville, Miss., and David Scabet and wife, Lorraine, of Bridgeville, Del.; one brother, William Strait of Andover Township; 12 step-grandchildren; 10 step-great-grandchildren; and three nieces, Jody, Jill and Jennie. [Jodi, Jill and Jenni]

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday at the Smith-McCracken Funeral Home, Newton. Entombment will follow in St. Joseph Cemetery Mausoleum, Newton. Visitation will be held Monday, March 9, from 2-to-4 and 7-to-9 p.m. at the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to Newton First Aid & Rescue Squad, PO Box 5, Newton, 07860. Online condolences may be offered at www.smithmccrackenfuneralhome.com.


Seems obituaries are good for giving “just the facts, ma’am” but not for giving the flavor of a persons life. Here is my attempt to give some more life to her story.

Aunt Sadie spent the last few years of her life battling against the debilitating Parkinson’s disease. It seems that neurological problems tend to run in the family since her father, William Charles Strait, Sr., passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1961. Because of Parkinson’s, she had to move into assisted living at Bristol Glen in Andover for the last bit of her life. However, long before that, she lived at 11 Lincoln Place in a neat white house for years and years. Just down the street at 43 Lincoln Place lived her mother, Beatrice. Across the street from her lived the Crawns and next to them a spunky little woman named Rachel who was often invited to holiday dinners with us at Beatrice’s home.

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Left to Right: William Charles Strait, Jr., Martha Ethel (Westra) Strait, William Charles Strait, Sr., Mercedes Marie Strait, Beatrice Irene (Repsher) Strait. Circa 1959.

Born on 26 September 1936 in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey[1], Mercedes Marie Strait was named after one of her mother Beatrice’s favorite teachers, Sister Mercedes Marie, a nun at St. Michael’s School in Netcong. She was the daughter of William Charles Strait and Beatrice Irene Repsher. Mercedes was her “real” name but she was always known in the family as “Sadie”. She grew up in Newton and was a vivacious young girl. Here is a picture of her in a uniform that her mother sewed for her. Her brother, Billy (William), is with her modeling his uniform too. She played in the back lots along Sussex and Pine Streets in Newton with her brother and cousins. They climbed trees, played with the chickens in Uncle Billy Knox’s chicken coop and, I’m sure, threw rocks at things just like all kids do at some point in their childhood!

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Billy and Sadie Strait

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Billy and Sadie Strait showing their patriotism around WWII

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Cousin Patty Strait (left) with Sadie Strait

She went to Newton public schools and graduated from Grammar School in 1951 and Newton High School in 1955 when it was still located at what is now the current Halstead Street grammar school.

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She got decent grades in school as some of  her report cards show:school004 school010 school016 school026

Newton High School 1955 Diploma - Mercedes STRAITAfter graduation, she took a job as a payroll clerk at United Telephone Her life-long friend and soon to be sister-in-law, Martha Westra also worked there as an operator. Sadie didn’t stay a clerk for long and moved up in the ranks to become one of the few women in the company who actually climbed up the telephone poles to make repairs! Sadie would stay with United Telephone, and all it’s resulting sales and changes in names, for her whole career. She Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 11.17.21 AMwas recognized numerous times for outstanding service to the company. Among them was a safe driving award:

“United field workers honored for driving” – Lafayette – United Telephone of New Jersey has recognized its field employees who have driven 10 and 15 years without preventable accidents.  Each of the qualifying employees was given a jacket during safety award ceremonies. Safety awards are part of the company’s comprehensive safety program, which began in 1976.  Approximately 350 company vehicles traveled more than three and a half million miles on the roadways last year alone handling New Jersey customers’ service and repair needs… The recipients were… Mercedes Scabet…

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Mercedes Marie Strait marries James William Scabet

Sadie married James William Scabet on 07 September 1963[2] at a small ceremony held at her mother’s house on 43 Lincoln Place. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2013. While Sadie and Jim never had children of their own, Jim had six children by his first wife, Catherine. Sadie was a part of their lives and enjoyed all the step-children, step-grandchildren that were born over the years.

Sadie was involved with St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic church. Every Sunday, my mom, sisters (Jill and Jenni), and I would meet Sadie and her mother at the church for morning services. We would sit quietly in the very front pew during the mass. Once it was over, though, there were donuts and pastries waiting at the after-mass get togethers. Then, we got to pile into Sadie’s car (except mom, she went home). If I was especially grumpy on a particular Sunday, Aunt Sadie would infuriatingly call me by the name Sarah. “Is Sarah having a bad day?” she would say and I would just fume at that! She got a kick out of it and I learned to not stay grumpy too long. When she was young, Jill had trouble saying Jodi, Jill and Jenni. It came out Sodie, Silly and Senni. As we got older, Aunt Sadie would affectionally refer to us as Sodie, Silly and Senni.

Sadie would drive us to Grandma Strait’s house were we got to spend the rest of the day playing on the living room floor and running around the yard. On special occasions, we picnicked in the back yard. Christmas Eve was always spent a Grandma Strait’s house. While my sisters and I got to open our presents from Grandma Strait, Sadie and Jim would take a picture every year of Sadie sitting on Jim’s lap. Aunt Sadie would also make sure the we had little something specials on the holidays like shiny new 1/2 dollars and a small chocolate bunny for Easter.

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Beatrice (left) and her daughter Sadie (right) in Wildwood, New Jersey. Aunt Sadie seems to be fixing some problem on niece Jill’s dolly! Early 1970s.

Before my dad and mom were divorced, we would all travel as a family (me, mom, dad, Jill, Jenni, Sadie, Jim and grandma Strait and Gram’s brothers and sisters) down to southern New Jersey in early September each year to spend a week at Wildwood. We would swim in the ocean, walk the boardwalk (“Watch the Tram Car Please!”), visit the piers and go to Cape May to look for Cape May opals.

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Aunt Sadie was also a huge Elvis fan. She was a member of the Elvis Presley Fan Club. The club sent her a post card of Elvis and named some of his fan’s favorite songs.

I have many fond memories of Aunt Sadie, too numerous to list out here.

She will be missed. And you can call me Sarah!


[1] Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri, compiler, “Family George Arthur Repsher and Anna Repsher nee Anna Karthaeuser”; (Handwritten family group sheets, Newton, New Jersey, 1971-1995), p. 10; privately held by held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2015.
[2] Anna (Karthaeuser) Repsher, compiler, “Family Record of J. J. Repsher Jr. and Caroline Repsher nee Bonser”; (Handwritten family group sheets, Netcong, New Jersey, 1911-1970), p. 85; privately held by held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2015.

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