Answer Man

Get to know Donald Trump’s mother, the lesser-known Trump parent

Mary Anne MacLeod, President Donald Trump’s mother.
Mary Anne MacLeod, President Donald Trump’s mother.

Q: With Mother’s Day fast approaching, I’d like to hear something about President Trump’s mom. We have heard a lot about his dad, who taught him about real estate. Do we know anything about his mom?

Marjorie Buser, of Belleville

A: Talk about opposites attracting.

By the mid-1930s, Frederick “Fred” Christ Trump was a well-established, 30-something real estate developer whose star was rising quickly. Already at age 15, Trump had gone into the construction business with his mother, who reportedly signed the checks since he was under 21.

With an $800 loan from mom, he built his first house in 1923 and sold it for $7,000, according to a story earlier this year in the Bridgeport, Ct., Post. By the time the Depression hit, he was building single-family houses in Queens that sold for about $4,000 and, even in the midst of the Depression, helped pioneer the concept of supermarkets with the Trump Market in Woodhaven, where “Serve Yourself and Save!” became the company slogan.

At the other end of the economic spectrum, you have Mary Anne MacLeod, a Scottish immigrant who in 1930 landed in New York with $50 and little else than the clothes on her back. For the next five years she would live with sisters as she eked out a living as a domestic.

Yet by 1935, these two had met and fallen in love. In January 1936, they wed and settled in Jamaica, Queens, long before Mary Anne herself would become a naturalized U.S. citizen. They would spend the next 63 years together raising their five children until Fred died of pneumonia in 1999. She would follow a year later, ending a love story that had spanned the Atlantic.

MacLeod was born May 10, 1912, in Tong, which is a small village on the isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. She was the youngest of 10 children born to Malcolm and Mary MacLeod. A member of the Church of Scotland, she was raised in a Scottish-Gaelic-speaking household with English as her second language. Her father was a fisherman and small landowner. He was also the area’s truancy officer, which may have encouraged Mary Anne to be a star pupil.

But, like her older siblings, Mary Anne had dreams of a better life early on. A report in the Daily Mail says she also may have been escaping a family scandal: Her older sister Catherine had given birth out of wedlock in 1920. So, according to the Scottish newspaper The National, she was issued immigration visa number 26698 at Glasgow on Feb. 17, 1930. On May 2, she left Scotland aboard the RMS Transylvania, arriving in New York on May 11, the day after her 18th birthday.

“There is quite an exodus of young people, male and female, from this parish for Canada and United States,” an article in the Stornoway Gazette reported about the time of Mary Anne’s departure. “They leave home with a determination to succeed and because of their courage, endurance and reliability, they are generally successful.”

It took some time, but MacLeod followed the pattern. Arriving in New York, she declared she intended to become a U.S. citizen and would be staying permanently in America. For the next four years, she would live with older sister Christina on Long Island, where she worked as a domestic servant, according to 1930 census records. Then, in the summer of 1934, she returned to Scotland for a visit, traveling on a “re-entry permit” that required her to once again pledge that she eventually intended to become a U.S. citizen. When she returned, she resumed her work as a domestic, but living with sister Catherine .

But after reportedly meeting Fred Trump at a dance (some say Catherine introduced them), Mary Anne’s life began to change almost overnight. By April 1935, she was reportedly living in the Trump family home at 175/24 Devonshire Road in Jamaica, Long Island. She was described as “charming, vivacious and shrewd,” probably just what Fred was looking for. Nine months later, they wed at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church followed by a wedding reception for 25 at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan.

As with most marriages, triumphs and tragedies would follow for the next 63 years. On March 10, 1942, six years after she married, Mary Anne finally would earn U.S. Naturalization Certificate No. 5175295. They would go on to have five children: Maryanne Barry, a federal judge; Elizabeth, a banker; Robert, who took over his father’s company; Fred Jr., who died at 42 after a life of alcoholism; and Donald.

On Halloween night, 1991, Mary Anne, then 79, was mugged and beaten near her home in Queens, suffering broken ribs, a brain hemorrhage and permanent damage to her sight and hearing. When a delivery truck driver apprehended her 16-year-old assailant, Donald gave him a check that saved the driver’s home from foreclosure, according to a story in The National.

In 1999, Fred Trump Sr., whose estate by this time was estimated to be between $250 million and $300 million, died of pneumonia on June 25, 1999, at age 93 after a six-year bout with Alzheimer’s disease. Mary Anne, who had come to the U.S. with $50, died a year later and was buried alongside her husband and son at Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village Queens.

“Peacefully in New York on Aug. 7, Mary Ann Trump, aged 88 years,” the death notice in her native Stornoway Gazette read. “Much missed.”

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Today’s trivia

What confederate general’s left arm is reportedly buried near where he was shot in Chancellorsville, Va.?

Answer to Saturday’s trivia: When asked to name the flattest state, people surveyed often respond with Kansas. Anyone who has had drive across the 410-mile-wide state probably wouldn’t find that surprising. In reality, however, Kansas is more like the Himalayas compared to other states. The actual flattest state as measured by the difference in extreme elevations is Florida, which climbs only from sea level to a maximum of 345 feet. It’s followed by Delaware (450) and Louisiana (543). Illinois comes in eighth at 956 feet between a point on the Mississippi River and Charles Mound in Jo Daviess County. The most extreme state is Alaska, where Mount McKinley rises some 20,320 feet above sea level. Kansas, meanwhile, comes in with a difference of 3,360 feet between the Verdigris River and Mount Sunflower.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer