This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.
Magdalena Cook of Rock Island was one of those women who believed that anything worth doing was worth doing well. That's why she proudly signed every check she ever wrote, every document, every formal letter "Magdalena Cook, Spinster."
Perhaps she signed her name that way because she bore so little resemblance to the cartoon spinster. Magdalena was plump, with rosy cheeks, blue eyes, and curly hair, and a jolly personality to fit.
Spinsterhood was not an occupation Magdalena decided to major in in college. She fell into the work by being the oldest of eight children in the Cook family. Her mother died in childbirth, leaving Magdalena to care for her siblings and her father, and keep house in a large brick home on Market Square.
She was also expected to help out in father's business, the Cook Bicycle and Barbershop Supply, which also sold guns and pharmacy items.
For Magdalena, spinsterhood became more than a necessity; it was a calling. For most of each winter, she took in an aunt who had nowhere else to go. Then Uncle Leonard, with the glass eye, retired from being a rowdy out in the wild west, and came to stay. She also took a lonely neighbor lady, Minnie Dietrich, under her wing, and became a frequent companion for dinner and theater. She loved cooking fancy meals for large gatherings of relatives, crocheting nut cups for each guest. Every Christmas she made a huge dishpan of scalloped oysters, and for New Year’s Day, a large box of Swiss cakes for everyone.
When her brothers and sisters began having children and then grandchildren, Magdalena was in her element. She loved children. A relative who brought a child to visit was welcome at all hours. They still remember the house as if it were a castle, full of nooks and crannies to explore.
Magdalena Cook, Spinster, lived until she was close to ninety, spending her last years in a nursing home in Milan, still not satisfied that she had been as good a spinster as she could have been. Nieces remember her opening Christmas presents they had worked so hard to find. "Well," Magdalena would say, taking out the sweater or the pin, "I guess it's good enough for me."
Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.