Photo of the Week – Mary Mirota at Burnbrae Pond, Sparta, NJ

This sweet photo of Mary Mirota (1913-1969) with the Lydecker girls was taken on September 2, 1934, at the Lydecker’s summer cottage at Burnbrae Pond, alongside Morris Lake in Sparta, NJ.  Mary had just turned twenty-one, and she looks poised and beautiful, and dressed so femininely, possibly in her Sunday best. Mary worked for the Lydecker family as a mother’s-helper for most of the 1930s, and she loved these children. They also loved her, and called her “our dearest Meddy,”  in their many cards and letters sent over the years, after they were grown up and had families of their own.

A few years back I was looking at one of the Images of America books by Arcadia Publishing, Middlesex Borough (published in 2003), with my mother-in-law, and I saw a photo of the Lydecker’s other house with the address. It looked so familiar, and then I realized why – it was because our family has photos of that home with Mary and the Lydecker children playing in the front yard. We drove over to see the house, and it looked much the same as it did in the 1930s. Their parents, Chester and Mary Lydecker, owned one of the oldest dwellings, a lovely old white colonial, in Middlesex, Middlesex County, NJ.  Chester Lydecker had been the third mayor of the borough of Middlesex.

Before Chester and Mary Lydecker bought the home in 1932, it had belonged to her parents, Lucius and Bernice Guernsey. They had established an orchard on the property, called the old Sebring Estate. The book on Middlesex solved two mysteries for me – I finally found out the exact address Mary Mirota lived at while she worked for the Lydecker family, and also since I had an old cookbook given to Mary by a Mr. Guernsey, I now understood that connection. Here below is another picture taken of Mary, with children and kittens, in front of the Lydecker home in Middlesex, also taken in the 1930s.

Later after the Lydecker children grew up, Mary enrolled in the Drake Business College in nearby Plainfield, NJ, and completed a secretarial course. She became a private secretary and traveling companion to the formidable dowager,  Mrs. Francis de Lacy Hyde of North Plainfield. This turned out not quite as happy an employment for Mary, since it was said that when Mary left to marry James Doran, she was still owed money from the Hyde family.

One of Mary Mirota’s nephews said of his late aunt, “Aunt Mary was love, unconditional love.” What a wonderful way to be remembered!

11 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – Mary Mirota at Burnbrae Pond, Sparta, NJ

  1. I can’t believe how much she looks like Veronica! Such a resemblance. I just checked out your website, too. You two are awesome. I had sent my sister the link to your blog but now I’m sending her your website, too. Love your stories.


    1. Lin, Thanks for your kind and touching remarks! If we can be of any help to you or your sister searching for family roots, please let us know. “Such a resemblance” is very true – two beautiful ladies inside and out!


  2. Wonderful post, and such beautiful pictures. I grew up in North Plainfield near Delacy Avenue, no doubt named after a connection of the formidable Mrs. Hyde. From what I can tell on old maps of the area, the Hyde family owned most of the east end of North Plainfield in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; by the 1930s their estates had been subdivided, although a beautiful, quirky gatehouse to one of the estates still stands a few blocks from my childhood home.


    1. Thanks for your kind words, and also the extra history of the area around the Hyde estate. I have an old postcard of that gatehouse!


  3. We love the information on Mrs Hyde, a former member of the Plainfield Garden Club! We have been opening our archives of late and posting them on line. Here is the direct link for Mrs. Hyde:

    To see more “formidable” women of that era, visit us on line at And if there is any more information about Mrs. Hyde, we would love to include it in her profile.


    1. For those interested in more about Mrs. Hyde, my blogpost this week on 1/16/13 is about when Mary Mirota worked as her private secretary.


  4. Thanks Ladies! My sister and I enjoyed the links about the Plainfield Garden Club and the formidable garden club women! After I gather my notes together, I’ll post again about Mrs. Hyde and her daughter, Carolyne Hyde Woodin Haskell of Tuscon, Arizona. Thanks for opening your archives!


  5. Maryann Barnes, thank you for this wonderful posting. I am Mary Morrissey-Ross. My mother was Hazel Lydecker Morrissey. She is the young girl standing to the left of your Aunt Mary. My mother was 11 years old in this picture, taken in our beloved Sparta, NJ. I know that I heard my mother speak lovingly of your Aunt Mary, aka Meddy, OFTEN. I copied the picture in Sparta and sent in to my Aunt Helen “Honey” who is standing in front of Meddy. Thanks again for this treasured posting. I am sure my aunt will love it.


  6. Mary, I thank you so very much for your message! How wonderful that you found my blog posting about your lovely family. I do have other photographs saved by my mother. I’m Mary’s daughter, and not her niece – sorry for the confusion. My mother so enjoyed going to Sparta and Burnbrae Pond, and the Lydecker Cove. She also loved your mother, Hazel, and all the children, and was happy receiving news through the years about your family. Please send my greetings to your aunt Helen!
    Warmest regards,


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