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January 27, 2014

Two Berkley women reflect on growing friendship over 65 years

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Taffy Stonehouse, 67, left, and Linda Tucker, 68, stand Jan. 14 at the circulation desk at the Berkley Public Library. Stonehouse and Tucker work together at the library and have been friends since they were children.

BERKLEY — The A&W restaurant on 12 Mile Road in Berkley may just be another option for dinner to some, but for Taffy Stonehouse and Linda Tucker, the restaurant is as much a place to eat as it is a place to discuss life.

For instance, years ago, Tucker called Stonehouse to meet her there to tell her that she was going to be a grandmother. Stonehouse, on the other hand, had to let Tucker know she was going to be a first-time mother.

“We did a lot of soul-searching at the A&W,” Tucker said. “If we were to meet for lunch, we would go there.”

Tucker, 68, and Stonehouse, 67, grew up just around the block from one another in Berkley. While new houses have been built up in the lot between Stonehouse’s childhood home on Cass Avenue and Tucker’s on Cambridge Road, the two could see each other’s homes across the field when they were growing up.

Having mothers that were friends, the two have practically been friends since they were just learning to walk. Over the 65 years, college, kids and careers have not gotten in the way of the two.

“She has always been supportive of me, always been there for me,” Stonehouse said of Tucker. “Linda got married out of high school, and I went to college. When she had a baby, she made me godmother. I used to feel sorry for her that I was at college and having fun and going on dates, but Linda used to feel sorry for me that I didn’t have a husband that loved me and I didn’t have a baby.”

When Stonehouse went off to college, Tucker didn’t stray too far from the familiar, as she would hang out with Stonehouse’s mother, even taking a sewing class with her.

Growing up, Stonehouse was the one hanging out with Tucker’s family. Tucker was the youngest child with brothers and sisters who were grown and out of the house, so when her family went on vacation, they invited Stonehouse to go with them.

“We had fun and did a lot of giggling,” Stonehouse said. “We got a chance to see the Mackinac Bridge being built because it wasn’t up when we used to go up there.”

One of the favorite activities of the two growing up was walking to Coolidge Highway and visiting the Berkley Public Library. While Tucker wasn’t much of a reader in second grade, going to the library was more an act of freedom than getting a new book.

“To me, my first memory of coming to the library was in second grade, and Linda and I were able to walk there alone,” Stonehouse said. “Our parents let us, and it was quite a distance, especially at that age.”

Despite not being a reader as a kid, Tucker has worked at the Berkley Public Library for 37 years as a clerk. Nine years ago, Stonehouse retired from being a kindergarten teacher, but realizing she still needed to work part-time to help her finances, she took a job as a desk assistant at the same library.

For a long time, Tucker served as the librarian at the Senior Center in Berkley, taking books there every week. As budget cuts came, the job was eventually passed to Stonehouse, who now takes books there when they are requested.

“The library was all books back (when we were growing up); now, it is about 50 precent nonprint media,” Tucker said. “Taffy always liked to read, but I wasn’t much of a reader. The books were not like they are today, with all the beautiful illustrations in them.

“I worked at the library full- time and retired, and came back and worked part time. For the most part, I like the people I work with and the people that come in, but I like getting to see Taffy, too.”

Moving from the kindergarten classroom to the library, Stonehouse seemed like a natural fit at the library. Working with her best friend was an added benefit, she admitted.

“Our old director (Celia Morse), she used to say she knew why Linda and I were friends — because she said she had never met two people nicer than us,” Stonehouse said. “I really like the patrons and I feel like I am doing a community service, and I like chatting and telling people I read this book or no, this movie isn’t so good.”

Tucker currently lives in Lathrup Village just outside Berkley, but she raised her kids in her hometown and saw them, along with her grandkids, attend Berkley schools just as she did.

Stonehouse followed suit, staying in Berkley and raising her kids in the town where she grew up.

She may be three miles outside of Berkley, but Tucker said Berkley would always be her home.

“I was born here and I grew up here, and I went to school here, and my kids went to Berkley schools, and my grandkids go,” she said. “I like the community, and when I lived in Berkley, we could walk to the show when it was here or to the drug store or grocery store.

“It is a safe community, and the schools are good. When we were growing up, we were always second class to Royal Oak, but now I think Berkley is doing really well.”

Stonehouse and Tucker regularly joke about their mothers strolling them down the streets together as kids, but despite every opportunity to branch out, the two have remained best friends over the years.

From sitting as kids on the edge of an old bucket filled with water serving as their swimming pool to working side-by-side in the Berkley Public Library, something has worked for the pair to remain so close.

“It is not often you can have someone you can tell anything to and they won’t judge you,” Stonehouse said. “Even if you might be wrong, they say they are sticking with you no matter what, and that is a very secure feeling.”

“We are just supportive of each other,” Tucker said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.

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