- Introduction -
to the Jack London Family
by Helen Abbott
copyright August, 2000
Welcome to the Jack London Family. I am the matriarch of this family.
I am Helen Darcy Abbott, daughter-in-law of Joan London, their first child. Joan was born January 15, 1901, married Park Abbott, born 1900. Their son, Bart Abbott, was born October 12, 1921. Imagine! Jack London, had he lived 5 years more, would have been only 45 years of age when that first grandchild was born. Bess London (known as Becky), born October 20, 1902, married Percy Fleming. One daughter, Jean Wellman Knight, one son, Guy Fleming.
These three named children of Joan and Becky London, i.e. Bart Abbott, Jean Wellman, and Guy Fleming, are direct descendants, grandchildren of Jack and Bessie London. From this line of descent there are eight great-grandchildren. Bart Abbott was Joan's only child. He and his first wife, Lee Pence, had two daughters, Julie and Jill Abbott; Bart had three more daughters by his second wife (myself); they are Darcy, Chaney, and Tarnel Abbott. These are Joan's grandchildren.
Jean Wellman and her husband, Charles Knight, had two sons, Charles Gene and Bruce Knight. These are Becky's grandsons. Guy Fleming and his wife Winona had one daughter, Sandra; Becky's grand-daughter, making eight great-grandchildren of Jack and Bessie London.
There is of course another generation, seventeen great-great grandchildren! Unless some one wants to keep a genealogy chart I think all the above should suffice for now. However these descendants, like the acorn, did not fall far from the tree. You may have an interest in the lives of some of these offspring of Jack and Bessie London; so I will start with Joan and Becky London and warn you that my perceptions of these two women are very personal and biased in their favor.
I had no idea that I would marry into the London family. And I almost
bolted when I first learned that I would become Jack London's grand-daughter-in-law...it
was a case of worshiping at the feet of the idol. And so it happened:
I met Joan, my mother-in-law-to-be, in 1946 in her home in Berkeley,
California near the Claremont Hotel. She was an awesome, majestic figure
coming down a broad carpeted staircase in that stately, large, brown-shingled
house at 17 El Camino Real.
a variety of jobs which led to a more interesting and exciting lifestyle
with a great amount of newspaper publicity which might not have met
with husband approval. She was married five times, twice to the same
man. Her marriage to Charles Lortz Miller, her high school sweetheart
and Oakland's Tri-athelete Champion (Indian Miller), lasted for 23 years
until his death in 1970. She followed him in death less than a year
later, and was in turn joined by her first husband, Park Abbott, ten
days apart...all three had been high school friends and maintained a
life-long friendship. Joan was truly her father's daughter, a warrior
for the California Farm Workers, and worked tirelessly with labor leaders
on just about every cause for benefit of the workers. She was a true
socialist. She had worked practically all her life, was self-supporting,
shared child support expenses with her divorced husband, the father
of Bart, and even shared the raising of their child with equal time,
which usually worked out for the best interest of all.
years the press was unable to obtain needed permission to publish. Bart
recovered the ms. and the book was published by Malcolm Margolin of
Heyday Press, Berkeley. After Joan's death, the California State Legislature
voted unanimously to honor her for her 20 years work with the State
Federation of Labor and her devotion to worker's causes. They sent Bart
a beautifully bound, gold embossed document
which will be copied for you to read.
the homemaker as well as a career woman commuting every day by train
from Pleasant Hill to San Francisco; a gourmet cook, a gardener, an
author, a knitter of socks, a seamstress of dresses, pajamas, and robes
for her grandchildren, a lover of cats and dogs and exotic fish, the
savior of wounded birds...the person most ready to help you when your
luck ran out. Do you believe you know this woman? These two women were
sisters. You never sat with them in a house or garden, overhearing their
chatter their poignant memories of "Daddy".
a chatterer, flighty, mercurial. She took the name "Becky" after seeing
the stage play of Becky Sharp. And just to give you something to think
about, she became Becky Sharp, and with her sense of comedy she gave
the Jack London fans a run for their money. Her life story might be
better told by the two grandsons, whom she loved. I had fondness for
Becky. When I married her nephew Bart, she made me a photo album of
Bart's childhood. She kept with her all her life a sea-scape I painted
for her. She hides her good deeds, and the hurts. She spent years translating
all of her father's books into Braile. She was self-employed in the
card shop she and her husband ran and I'd bet it bored her frantic.
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