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Obituary: Lyle Brooks Watson Marquess

Venerated genealogist, author, teacher

Thursday, February 17, 2000

By Marylynne Pitz, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Whether she was indexing old church records or recounting history, Lyle Brooks Watson Marquess was a witty storyteller who often used her slender, graceful hands to make a point about genealogy.

A genial, prolific author whose nine books chronicle the history of southwestern Pennsylvania families or church congregations, Mrs. Marquess researched genealogy in England, Scotland, the Midwest and the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Susan Priest, director of the Citizens' Library in Washington, Washington County, said Mrs. Marquess often helped people trace their family history at no charge and was a hard-working member of the library's genealogy workshop, which indexes obituaries and other important records.

"She was great at finding records and getting them indexed in such a way that a person could get use out of them. When somebody said, 'I'm searching for this and I can't seem to find anything,' she would say, 'Oh, well you should look in here.' " Priest recalled.

Mrs. Marquess, 75, died Friday of complications from an inoperable intestinal tumor at the Presbyterian Home in Oakmont.

A tall, well-dressed woman who favored red nail polish and red lipstick, Mrs. Marquess settled in the Washington County town of Bentleyville after World War II. Her first husband, Clyde Morgan Watson Jr., ran the independently owned Bentleyville Telephone Co.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mrs. Marquess served as a substitute teacher for 19 years in the Bentworth School District. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mrs. Marquess taught kindergarten in the Ringgold School District. She also pursued her interest in different religions by traveling to Israel and India.

An accomplished seamstress, Mrs. Marquess made hand puppets as well as marionettes and occasionally entertained her students with puppet shows. She also attended puppeteer conventions. In 1963, Mrs. Marquess earned her master's degree in education from the University of Pittsburgh.

A native of Enid, Okla., Mrs. Marquess graduated from Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky.

Joy Watson Lauric of Verona urged her mother to at least recoup personal expenses while researching other people's genealogy.

"She would not take any payment for individual requests. She considered it her life's work. She did sell her books but she sold them at the cost of printing," Lauric said.

Mrs. Marquess was among the first members of the Geneaological Society of Southwestern Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1971, and served as its treasurer in 1977 and 1978. The organization recently presented her with a certificate in recognition of her nearly 29 years of volunteer service.

When Alex Haley published "Roots" and the book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977, Mrs. Marquess was besieged with requests from people interested in tracing their family lineage, said her son, Richard L. Watson of Washington, Pa.

"It really wore her out. When she got into something, she'd drive herself right to the brink with it," Watson said.

Watson said his mother was outgoing.

"She'd think nothing of knocking on a stranger's door, inviting herself in and asking questions," he said.

Bernie Emery, who befriended Mrs. Marquess in the mid-1940s, said her friend was "always looking for new things to do. She knitted beautiful Christmas stockings. Everything she did was very fine. She was a perfectionist."

Mrs. Marquess also was interested in reading about psychics, clairvoyants and the afterlife, said Emery, who lives in Kissimmee, Fla.

After 44 years of marriage, Mrs. Marquess divorced her first husband and married her high school sweetheart, Audley Perkins Marquess, a college administrator who lived in Cocoa, Fla. The couple divided their time between Bentleyville and Florida. Mr. Marquess died of liver cancer in 1995.

In addition to her first husband, son and daughter, surviving is one brother, Curtis Bruce Brooks of Newark, Del.

Friends will be received from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in Piatt & Barnhill Funeral Home, 420 Locust Ave., Washington, Pa. A funeral services will follow visitation at 1 p.m., with the Rev. Robert Brooks officiating. Interment will follow in Beallsville Cemetery.

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