Josephine Wible, a Cousin Twice Over
Headlines in the Dover Daily Reporter 60 years ago this August announced, “Josephine Wible Feted.” The occasion? Marriage, at age 48, that September 1954, for one of Dover’s most-beloved and ambitious, teachers.
Rewind a half-century. Josephine, born 1905, was eldest of Edwin Frederick Wible and Minnie Mae (Ley) Wible’s four children.
Edwin, remember, was a son of David Wible, and grandson of Frederick Weible, which made him nephew to my great-great grandfather, Franklin Eli Weible.
Minnie Mae Ley was the only daughter of Augustus Ley and Harriet (Powell) Ley, brother to my great-great grandfather Charles Henry Ley.
Edwin and Minnie’s marriage, in December 1904, was the first union of the Weible and Ley families. My grandparents, Sue Weible, granddaughter of Franklin Eli, and Robert Earl Ley Jr., grandson of Charles Henry Ley, would marry nearly 40 years later.
But back to Josephine. Of her childhood, W.D. Shirk, in his history of the Powell families, writes of a 1917 visit to her parents’ household, “theirs is truly a model family….
“They are … the proud parents of four as bright children as can be found in the Buckeye state; Josephine Elizabeth, b. Sept. 26, 1905; James Frederick, b. Sept. 30, 1908; (Ruth) Eleanor, b. July 21, 1910, and David Augustus, b. Apr. 4, 1916.”
After graduating from Dover High School in 1923, Josephine attended Ohio Wesleyan University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1927. She then spent 13 years racking up classes and specialized training in theater, radio and dramatic production, studying at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Wisconsin and the University of Iowa, which granted her a master’s degree in 1940.
Throughout her studies, Josephine taught. She held a teaching fellowship in the summer theater at Westford, Mass.; taught high school in Dover and Delaware, Ohio and in Rochelle, Illinois; and taught at the post-secondary level at Stevens College (Missouri), Salem College (North Carolina) and Centenary Junior College (Hackettstown, N.J.).
Returning home to Dover was an early stop on her teaching itinerary. Throughout the 1930s, she led the drama and speech groups at Dover High School, and appeared to warm the hearts of everyone, as evidenced in the 1931 yearbook dedication below. The signature, on my grandpa Don Foutz’s junior yearbook, is hers.
Beloved Teacher Summers in Dover
Later editions of the Dover Daily Reporter are only a partial guide to Josephine’s many achievements and their impact on the life of her community. Josephine is featured regularly in “Echoes of Yesteryear”….
- In 1932, Josephine attended summer theater school at Kent State University and portrayed Laura Atherton in “Children of the Moon.”
- In 1936, a “large crowd” witnessed her speech students presenting “Only 38”
- In 1938, she opened a private school of speech and dramatic art
- In 1941, her New Rochelle, Ill. drama students appeared on a Chicago radio station
- In 1943, she accepted a position in the drama department at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo.
- In 1951, her Centenary College girls won $100 on a New York radio show
- When the Strasburg Dramatic Club celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1961, they credited Josephine with outlining a method and program of presenting plays in 1936 that they still followed.
The paper always seemed proud of the town’s prodigal daughter for returning to Dover every summer, no matter where her teaching career took her.
It was during a visit home in August 1954 that Josephine was treated to her bridal shower. She likely met John Milliken of Stockton, New Jersey, while teaching at Centenary College. Their marriage — his second, her first — was performed by the Rev. Richard Michel at the Moravian Church.
After marrying, Josephine and John moved to Acton, Mass., where she continued her teaching career and active involvement in the community.
By the time of her death, in May 1974, the Millikens called Los Gatos, Calif., just south of Santa Clara, home. Josephine died one day after my great-grandmother, Beatrice Ethel Weible — her first cousin once removed. John would follow her in death in 1982.
Interestingly, Josephine Wible Milliken chose to be buried at home, near the Weible family plot in Maple Grove Cemetery. John is buried in New Jersey.