Tama County Historical Society & Genealogical Library
200 N. Broadway
Toledo, IA 52342

Deep Roots: Mary Ruth Ebersole Dvorak "Rural Royalty"
Mary sat on the floor of the family barn watching a little brown field mouse wash his whiskers in a dusty shaft of sunlight. “I remember it like yesterday,” she told me in her 80’s. “Like it was yesterday,” she repeated, a faraway look in her still beautiful eyes. Mary was my Paternal Grandmother and this is her brief biography.

Mary Ruth Ebersole, was born on February 10, 1909, at her home in Toledo, Iowa. Her father, William B. Ebersole, was 33 years old. And, her mother, Norma (Carson) Ebersole, was 30 years old. 

William Ebersole, lived his life as an agriculturist on a farm of 80 acres in Toledo township. In 1898, he served in the Spanish-American War as a member of Company K, Forty-nineth Iowa Volunteer Infantry and went on to serve as an assessor of the township. William’s parents, Cyrus Ebersole and Sarah (Gressley), settled in Toledo township in 1878. Cyrus served for seven years as School Director and then as School Treasurer. Cyrus’ brother, John W. Ebersole, and his wife, Mary (Johnston) Ebersole, were two of the eleven charter members of the United Brethren Church.

Mary’s mother, Norma Carson’s, father was Peter Carson. Peter Carson, as referenced in the “History of Tama County,” was “on the roll of the pioneers of Tama County.” Because of this colorful lineage, I jokingly refer to Grandmother as a part of Tama/Toledo, Iowa’s “rural royalty.”

Mary loved everything about her Tama home, lovingly referred by her family as “The Acreage.” She was known as a kind and caring girl who loved life and animals, especially the little lamb that followed her to school one day, just as in the nursery rhyme. But, most of all, Mary loved her mother, father, and four brothers; Ray, John, Evan, and Paul.

Mary grew up enjoying taffy pulls and socials. It was at a shortcake social, held by her mother for the local Boys’ Club, that 13-year-old Mary met her future husband, Raphael Ralph Raymond Dvorak (aka “Dozy”). Mary was not “impressed with him much.” He, on the other hand, told his friends, “That’s the one for me.”

Raphael wasn’t the only one that thought Mary was “the one.” One day the teenaged Mary received a postcard from an aviator who was pursuing her. The photo on the front was an aerial view of her home, the card’s message? “Can you guess where I am? I will tell you next time I see you.”

One afternoon when Raphael came “to call,” he commented on her new Brownie Box camera. She told him right up front that a boy she knew had given it to her. Right then and there, Raphael vowed, that the next time he saw her, it would be to present her with an engagement ring!  

And, so it was that, on June 14, 1933, in a small ceremony at the parsonage of the United Brethren Church, Mary exchanged wedding vows with Raphael, their childhood pastor, Reverend W.L. Duncan, officiating. Upon return from their brief honeymoon, Mary and her husband settled into their home in Tama, Iowa. As a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and wife of a prominent attorney, Mary’s social life was as busy as ever. They attended and hosted many socials, bridge parties, and other events. And, yet, there was one thing missing from Mary’s life and that was a family of her own. So, when Mary found herself expecting, she was more than elated. But, on September 28, 1934, Mary’s bright world grew dark as she and Raphael suffered the birth of their stillborn son. After a time, Mary, ventured back into their social whirlwind of entertaining and attending events. One such event in October of 1935, was a treasure hunt at the newly established Tama-Toledo Golf Club, in which they had a share. Along with Mr. and Mrs. Kensinger, they found “the treasure” of 400 pennies. (“The Gazette,” October 13, 1935, Pg. 15)

On October 26, 1937, Mary and Raphael’s life was blessed with the birth of a healthy baby boy, David Dee. Then, on August 31, 1939, they welcomed their last child, a son, Richard Lee, into the world.

In 1943, Mary left her beloved Tama, Iowa, to accompany her husband to Des Moines, Iowa, where he would serve for three years in the State Legislature. Thereafter, and during the latter part of World War II, Mary found herself in Battle Creek, Michigan, as a result of her husband accepting a position where he served as an attorney for the regional office of the Price Administration. In 1969, Mary began calling Fairfax, Virginia her home, as her husband had accepted what was to be his final position at the Pentagon in D.C. as an attorney for the Department of Defense.

Mary’s life was filled with receiving and giving love. Her love was reflected in all that she touched and did from her rose garden, cooking, and sewing, to how she cared for her husband, children, and, her six grandchildren.

On April 5, 1975, Mary lost her husband of 41 years to a fatal coronary episode. Mary continued to live in her Fairfax, Virginia home with her daughter-in-law, Laura Lynne Dvorak. Mary always considered Lynne the daughter she never had; and, Lynne, considered Mary a mother. On July 6, 1999, Mary died of natural causes at the age of 90, in Warrenton, Virginia, where she and Lynne had lived since 1992.  

Mary is buried next to her husband and their stillborn son in Woodlawn Cemetery located in her hometown of Toledo, Tama County, Iowa.

Further detailed information on Mary Ruth (Ebersole) Dvorak’s life and family can be found in the framed display items, the two (2) scrapbooks that contain original photographs, newspaper clippings, and other materials, as well as the two volume “History of Tama County,” published in 1910 by The Lewis Publishing County, Chicago & New York. All are available for view at the Tama County Historical Society.

A Son of Tama: Raphael Ralph Raymond Dvorak
Raphael stood outside the parsonage of the United Brethren Church. The sun was as shiny as the pocket watch in his hand, the watch his mother had given him upon his acceptance to the State University of Iowa. His finger traced the inscription, “To Raphael R.R. Dvorak From Mother, May 29, 1925.” His mother was his staunchest supporter. He remembered in grade school when he had homework, he would include her so that she could learn with him. She’d never had a formal education and was eager to learn. He remembered how happy and full of pride she was when, in 1931, he graduated from the State University of Iowa Law School. He had returned home and went to work with local, prominent attorney, M.W. Hyland, before establishing his own practice in an office above the drugstore on Main Street. In 1933, his mother was proud to introduce him as “my son, the County Attorney.”

Today, June 14, 1933, Raphael looked at his mother’s beautiful face and smile. Sometimes, when he looked at her, he was reminded of his poor but proud roots and how far they had all come. His mothers, Josephine Drinovsky’s, family had immigrated in 1866 from Lubna, Svitavy, Bohemia, their entire belongings in a wood chest her father had made for the ocean crossing. His father’s, James Dvorak’s, family had also immigrated from Bohemia with very little to their name. And, now, he, their son, was marrying into one of the most prominent families in Tama, the Ebersole’s, true pioneers of this town.

They entered the parsonage and Raphael took his place at the front of the room next to Reverend W.L. Duncan. As he waited for his sweetheart, he recalled the first moment he saw her. She was 13 years old when they met at the shortcake social her mother had hosted for his boy’s club. As soon as he saw her, he told his friend, “That’s the one for me.” His friend gave him a doubtful look, “You really think that ‘you’ are going to marry Miss Mary Ebersole?” He knew what his friend was saying; he, a boy, whose father was a carpenter and the son of poor beginnings, and she, the only daughter of a prominent family. But, what did that matter? They had all grown up together with no pretensions whatsoever from anyone. In fact, he and her father, William, “Curly Bill,” as he was known because of his curly red hair, were fast friends. Raphael had been steadfast in his wooing of Mary, ensuring that none of the other fellows interested in her stood a chance, not even that fly boy who’d fly his plane over her place and send her postcards with aerial views. And, now, today, here she was before him, her beautiful eyes staring up at him before their first official kiss as man and wife.

After a brief honeymoon, they settled into the house where he had grown up, a gift from his parents before their move to Los Angeles, California. Raphael and Mary’s life was happy and full. They were always busy doing this and that, going here and there, and hosting events for their friends from the Masons, Order of The Eastern Star, and his professional affiliations.

Raphael had a job he loved and a beautiful, loving wife. He had everything he’d ever wanted. Still, there was one thing he knew Mary wanted as much as he and that was a family of their own. On September 28, 1934, their prayers were answered and then quickly shattered, when their first son was stillborn. Instead of watching Mary rock their baby to sleep in the nursery they had excitedly prepared, Raphael found himself looking at coffins and purchasing a burial plot in Woodlawn Cemetery. For a while, life was dark. Raphael lost himself in his job’s responsibilities and he and Mary’s daily lives. Years passed and then, on October 26, 1937, they were blessed with the birth of a healthy baby boy, David Dee.

Raphael’s career soared. Why, it seemed like he couldn’t pick up a newspaper without an article on his latest case or an event Mary had hosted or that they had attended. 1939 had even more in store for the Dvorak’s. In January, Raphael was elected State Representative. Two years later, he was appointed County Civil Defense Administrator. Then, on August 31, 1939, they joyfully welcomed their last child into the world, a son, Richard Lee.

Raphael had come a long way from being that young man who had worked at the local newspaper setting type for pocket money and to put himself through school. The next 19 years would herald many changes. In July of 1943, Raphael resigned his position as County Civil Defense Administrator to accept the position of Litigation Attorney and Section Chief for the Regional Office with the Price Administration in Des Moines, Iowa.

In December of 1945, Raphael accepted the job as Chief Evaluator and Labor Assistant Director in the Safety Responsibility Section of the Department of Public Safety. The shiny start of January 1946 became dark when, on January 15, his father, James J., known as “J.J.” to his friends, passed away suddenly in Bell, California. He was 76 years old. He had not lived to see his son accept the position of Administrative Assistant to the Director of Public Safety for the State of Iowa in April of that year. Nor did he get to see his son become Assistant Attorney General for the State of Iowa in February 1952 or become the First Assistant Attorney General of Iowa in 1956.

Raphael was on top of the world and didn’t think he could be any happier. But he was delightfully wrong. On October 16, 1957, Raphael and Mary were elated at the birth of their first granddaughter, Cynthia Elaine Dvorak. Cynthia, or “Cindy” as they called her, was the daughter of his youngest son, Richard, and his wife, Lynne. Proud Grandparents, the doted on the little girl. He meticulously wrote dates and captions on the back of all her pictures. Raphael arranged for “Dick,” as Richard was known, and Lynne to take Cindy to a formal photography session. After which, he had a large copy made and framed for their home and smaller one for his desk.

In 1958, Raphael accepted the job as Attorney Advisor with the Federal Civil Defense Association (later to be known as the Office of Civil Defense) in Battle Creek, Michigan. A position led to the family’s relocation in 1963 to Virginia where Raphael would continue his duties at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Raphael and Mary bought a home in the affluent suburb of Mantua, located in Fairfax, Virginia. There, Raphael and Mary were blessed with three more grandchildren, two girls and a boy. He was happy that his youngest son’s family lived with them. After a long day at the Pentagon, he came home to a house full of love and grandchildren. Before and after dinner, he enjoyed taking each one upon his lap and reading to them from storybooks or watching them color. Their toy box was on a wall in the dining room, so that he could keep them near as he went over the household books. Raphael had achieved more than he could have dreamed and enjoyed the fruits of his labors and his family.

On the beautiful clear, cool day of April 5, 1975, after doing a bit of lawn work, Raphael laid down for a nap on the bed in his and Mary’s room. He never awoke. Raphael left behind, his mother, Josephine, of Bell, California; his beloved wife Mary; his two sons, Dick and David; his two daughters-in-law’, Lynne and Debbie; and, six grandchildren, Cyndi, LaVonne, Ricky, Laura Anne, Derek, and Dane. Mary and his eldest son, David, accompanied the casket to Tama, Iowa where he was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery next to his stillborn son. Raphael had returned to the town of his birth where he had grown in love and wisdom. Raphael Ralph Raymond Dvorak was 67 years old.

Please Note: Further detailed information on Raphael Ralph Raymond Dvorak’s life and family can be found in the framed display items, the two (2) scrapbooks that contain original photographs, newspaper clippings, and other materials. Additionally, there is a wealth of newspaper articles regarding his cases, his campaigns, and life, accessible via Newspapers.com.