Madelene Shelby Simons




Madelene Shelby Simons

Madelene Shelby Simons was born 28 Mar 1913 in Bay City, Matagorda County, Texas, and died 12 Sep 1985 in Longview, Gregg County, Texas.  She married Edwin Ford Beckenbach 30 Aug 1933 in Bay City, Matagorda, Texas, son of Charlie Beckenbach and Lucy Richardson.  He was born 18 Jul 1906 in Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas, and died 05 Sep 1982 in Syracuse, New York.

Madelene Shelby Simons was a remarkable woman for her time.  She graduated at the age of 20 from Rice Institute in 1933 with a B.A. degree in Home Economics.  She met her future husband, Edwin Ford Beckenbach, when she was a sophomore and he was working on his Ph.D.  She was taking a math class from him and needed extra help.  He offered to tutor her.  Two years later, 30 August 1933, they were married in the garden at her parent’s home in Bay City, Texas.

However, Ed and Madelene’s first few years together were filled with heart-ache.  From 1933 to 1939, Madelene suffered three miscarriages.  Finally deciding that perhaps she would be unable to have children, she decided to pursue a career instead.  Following in the footsteps of her father and brothers, she decided to become a doctor.  She returned to school at the University of Houston from 1935 to 1938 and attended the University of Michigan after Ed had accepted a position there as an Assistant Professor.  Even though her first child was born in 1939, she continued her pursuit, entering the University of Michigan Medical School in 1941.  In 1942, Ed was offered a position at the University of Texas and Madelene transferred to the University of Texas Medical School where she graduated in 1946, after having given birth to her second child in 1943.

At about the time of Madelene’s graduation from medical school, Ed was offered a full Professorship at the University of California at Los Angeles so Madelene applied to several hospitals in the Los Angeles to do her internship.  At that time, a doctor entering “General Practice” (today’s “Family Medicine”) was only required to do a one year internship in order to hang up their shingle.  However, it was not easy for Madelene to find a position.  Almost all of the hospitals, including the UCLA Medical Center and the USC Medical Center turned her down because she was a woman.  Interns were required to work 24 or 48 hour shifts, sleeping on call at the hospital.  None of the hospitals had facilities for this for women doctors.  She finally did find a position at Santa Monica Hospital where she was allowed to bunk in with the nurses.  Needless to say, throughout her professional life, she continued her association with Santa Monica Hospital, giving birth to her last child there two years after completing her internship.

No discussion of Madelene’s life would be complete without mention of another family member, Joanna Parker.  Joanna was an African American woman, the granddaughter of ex-slaves who had immigrated to Texas from North Carolina shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation.  Madelene’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. Simons, hired Joanna in 1913 when Madelene was born to help with their infant daughter.  Joanna was 18 at the time and, as much as Madelene’s parents, raised Madelene.  And then, when Madelene married, Joanna went to work for the Beckenbach family.  Despite being married and having children of her own, when Ed and Madelene moved to Michigan, Joanna moved to Michigan.  When they moved back to Texas, Joanna moved back to Texas.  And then in 1946, she moved with the family to California.  Joanna not only helped raise Madelene, she helped raise Madelene’s children.  I am quite sure that Joanna’s help and support was a large contributing factor that allowed Madelene to be successful in her medical school education and subsequent career.  Finally, in about 1956, after suffering a heart attack and having worked for the Simons/Beckenbach families for 43 years, Joanna retired and moved back to Texas to live with her daughter in Houston.  She passed away in March of 1957.

Through the 1950s, Madelene had a very successful medical practice and was very involved in her community.  She was an active member of the Pilots Club, a woman’s philanthropic organization, at one time serving as President of the organization.  She actively participated in the American Medical Association, often attending their conventions.  She was part of the team that performed the fist successful open heart operation on at infant at Santa Monica Hospital.  She had delivered the baby only days before. 

Unfortunately, much of her professional and social life was curtailed beginning in the early 1960s.  Emotionally, she did not cope well with her divorce and a heart attack at the age of 50 caused her to cut back much of her medical practice.  She no longer delivered babies or performed surgeries.  After a series of heart attacks and strokes, she formally retired in 1972 and, in 1980, returned to Texas, moving to Longview, Gregg County, with her daughter, Lenann and her family.  Madelene passed away 12 September 1985 in Longview and was buried next to her parents in Cedarvale Cemetery in Bay City, Matagorda County, Texas.  She spent her final years renewing old Texas friendships and enjoying her grandchildren.


Nicholaus von Beckenbach (1705 - ca 1750)

Johann Christian Beckenbach (1739 - ca 1790)

Johann George Beckenbach (1772 - 1834)

Johann Jacob Beckenbach (1797 - ca 1850)

Peter Beckenbach (1836 - 1878)

Charlie Geiger Beckenbach (1869 - 1932)

Edwin Ford Beckenbach (1906 - 1982)


John Simons (1715 - 1780)

Shadrach Simons (1758 - 1801)

John Joseph Simons (1793 - ca 1858)

Henry James Simons (1818 - ca 1870)

John James Simons (1842 - 1969)

James Elmo Simons (1870 - 1935)

Madelene Shelby Simons (1913 - 1985)


Heinrich Dufe (ca 1760 - ca 1810)

Peter Joseph Dufe (1784 - 1846)

Peter Duffy (1815 - 1883)

Peter J Duffy (1851 - 1924)

Annie Elizabeth Duffy (1877 - 1935)


William Peake (ca 1800 - ca 1832)

Joseph Peake (1826 - 1876)

Lucy Charlotte Peake (1851 - 1883)


James Bradley (1720 - 1788)

Francis Bradley (1743 - 1780)

James Alexander Bradley (1768 - 1839)

Margaret Weir Bradley (1813 - ca 1880)


Shelby Phillip (ca 1650 - 1731)

Evan Shelby (ca 1690 - 1751)

Moses Shelby (1728 - 1776)

Evan Shelby (1748 - 1825)

Moses Shelby (1784 - 1826)

James Madison Shelby (1814 - 1889)

Jane Eliza Shelby (1846 - 1902)


Michael Vogg (ca 1800 - ca 1845)

John Frederick Vogg (1824 - 1901)

Margaret Vogg (1856 - 1878)


Alexander Coachman (ca 1640 - 1671)

Tilney Coachman (ca 1660 - 1716)

John Coachman (1700 - 1750)

James Coachman (1732 - 1789)

Joseph Coachman (1761 - 1814)

Mary Lynch Coachman (1792 - ca 1857)


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