I look through a foggy window, peering to see the man on the other side. His last name was Fay. His wife knew him as Edgar Fay. None of the people who knew Edgar directly are alive today. Walter Dempsey Fay was the third child of Edgar and his wife Mellie. When Walter grew to adulthood and related family stories to his children, he described his father as a kind, loving man who was very fond of family. He also remembered him as a man who worked hard, even leaving home to find work during the depression, never to return home, presumed dead, though no body was ever found. Walter, his sister Rose, his brother James, and their mother were devastated. Walter and his siblings, all children when he disappeared, were convinced that surely their father was still alive. They all continued to look for clues about him, his heritage, and his fate, throughout their lives.
The clues for Edgar were few. They came from a few things told by Walter, prior to Walter’s death, and from the adult children of James. Here were the clues: Edgar Fay was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, a fact he told his children over the years and that the children remembered. Prior to his marriage in Arkansas at 43 years of age to Mellie Burns, he did circus and rodeo work. The children, and later the grandchildren, avoided asking Mellie about Edgar over the years, not wanting to upset her. She died in 1973, taking her knowledge of Edgar, his past, the beginnings of their relationship, and his family with her. Among Mellie’s belongings left behind, there were no photographs, letters, diary, or writings by or about Edgar to give us guidance.
The path to find Edgar Fay has been long and adventurous. It involved interviewing family members for their memories as clues, DNA testing, and intensive traditional research and genealogy techniques. Eventually, I will write about the discovery process. But first, it is time to write about Edgar and his life. The desire to write has been strong, but until recently, the foggy window made it hard to see Edgar’s face, to understand him as a person. Recently, the window came ajar. As we gradually open the window further, we see Edgar as he begins to come into view. We still cannot see him fully, yet he is ready for us begin telling his story.
Over the next weeks, you will hear about Edgar’s heritage and youth, his young adulthood, and his married life and what may have been his demise. Thank you for coming along for the journey!