Two late Alton women − Therese “Trixie” Morrissey and Charlene Gill − left a legacy of setting a high standard for other women.
Trixie Morrissey, who died at 84, helped found Morrissey Construction in her basement and was the company’s community ambassador. Trixie partnered with Ed, her husband of 62 years, to start Morrissey Construction.
Charlene died at age 89 and was the first woman supervisor in the Operations of the Defense Mapping Agency Aerospace Center; she retired as a program manager there in 1980. She was co-founder of the Alton Museum of History and Art, where she volunteered.
Trixie had a spirit of compassion for others that few possessed and was adored by her large family. She was the administrative and accounting mind behind the construction business.
Charlene had that same feeling for others and appreciation of the Alton area’s rich history. Today the museum receives visitors from all over the world, and much of its success is because of her 42-year volunteer effort.
As the president of the Alton Museum of History and Art, Gill would often be the last to leave at day’s end, and she continued to work at the museum until the final months of her life.
Patrick Morrissey, Trixie’s son, said his parents’ story of beginning the construction company is like a fairytale. It was the story of a dynamic man and woman who developed the company out of their home into a large operation.
“She carried the face of Morrissey Construction so well to social events,” he said. “Her personality would light up a room. I don’t know how else to say it. Her soft presence but dynamic personality would fill the room.”
Trixie raised 11 children, but even in the most difficult times she would come home and feed and care for the entire clan.
“That was the generation where the woman stayed in the kitchen and raised the children,” Patrick said.
Mary Morrissey, Trixie’s oldest grandchild out of 27, said what she would remember most about her grandma is that she made each of the grandchildren feel as if he or she were her only one.
“When you came home she would come over 10 minutes before you left and she would have brownies and a card. What I took from my grandma was she had an incredible amount of love and you always felt it in her presence.”
Jeanne Morrissey described Trixie as the “glue to all of our family.”
“We have a lot of kids, grandkids and great-grandkids and she kept everyone together,” she said.
Charlene married Fred Gill in 1946. He preceded her in death in 1988. She had two sons, Charles and Rick Gill. She also had several other family and extended family members.
Becky Rhyne, Charlene’s granddaughter, was extremely close to her. She was born in 1974 and as the museum started in 1971, in a way she grew up with it.
“It was always one of her life goals to pass the love of history to her family, and she has done that with me and my kids,” she said. “She always wanted the schools to bring in children to the museum.”
Charlene’s granddaughter feels like most do, that without her grandmother’s tireless work the museum never would have become what it has.
“The museum receives no outside funding,” she said. “When the museum was having harder financial times she would be near tears to figure a way to keep it running. She has done 10 times what anyone else could do in a lifetime and done it all well.”
Becky Rhyne spoke about her grandmother in a way that echoed the sentiments the Morrissey grandchildren had for their grandmother.
“I have a great life working as a sign language interpreter,” she said. “I am who I am because of her.
“I will always remember her strong advocacy for women’s rights, her love of history and willingness to speak when something needed to be done.”