Lee's Mother: Catherine Watson Billington

  • May 14, 1922 - July 15, 2010

Mum was one of two siblings from a working-class family in Blackburn (northern England). Mum told me that, when she was young, she felt unloved by her mother, so she went to her dad for hugs and affection. She believed her parents preferred her younger brother Derick over her. 

At age 21 she married Royal Air Force flight mechanic Thomas William ("Tim") Godden (my father) in 1943, shortly before he left for RAF duty in South Africa, where he helped the Allies win World War II. Their first son Terry was born in 1944, and I followed 14 year later in 1958.

After a bitter divorce battle in 1967, Mum -- believing she was doing the right thing -- violated English court orders and took me out of the country by plane, after securing American travel documents provided to her as a result of her hasty marriage to U.S. sailor Philip Herbert Steinbach, a previously unmarried man 14 years her junior. The two had met in London, and the three of us settled in a rented house in Arlington, Virginia, near Steinbach's place of work, the Pentagon. Not wanting anything to remind her of her first marriage, Mum legally had my last name changed from Godden to Steinbach. 

Mum divorced Steinbach after five or so years years of marriage and countless physical fights. As a boy I witnessed most of these fights. Sadly, Mum was always the aggressor. (Later in life we learned Mum was likely manic-depressive.) She literally terrorized poor Steinbach, including throwing boiling water on him, and trying to stab him with a kitchen knife. The worst thing I witnessed was Mum tearing the toupee off Steinbach's head. She tore it to pieces with her hands while he cried, knowing he'd have to go to his Navy job the next morning as a bald man. (His co-workers had never seen him without hair.) 

After her divorce Mum dated a number of US Navy men. She charmed them all. At one point she asked me which of the three men she was dating she should marry. I ranked them in this order: 1) the guy with two cute daughters around my age; 2) the guy with two older-than-me sons who drove fast cars; and 3) the never-been-married, loner, bachelor guy who lived in a cabin in the woods. Mum chose number 3, a Navy Chief named Albert Yatrofsky, who became my second American step-dad. I was fifteen.

After high school I joined the U.S. Navy, then launched my own career, all the while staying in touch with Mum and Albert. Her manic-depression disorder led to dementia, which escalated into a long (17 year) battle with Alzheimer's disease. During those years I spent more time visiting Albert at their home in San Diego. Alzheimer's is a cruel disease that not only prevents recognition of loved ones, but also cripples the body. Eventually Mum needed a feeding tube. Albert was a tireless caregiver to his ailing wife for years and years, tending to her every need. When she died July 15, 2010, Albert and I mourned her passing, but we knew Catherine's years of pain and suffering were over. 

Here's a 3-minute video I made as a memorial to Mum, after her July 2012 passing: 

(Just a quick note of thanks to cousin Glenda Eaves in Australia. Her help compiling the following information on our Billington ancestors and relatives has been invaluable!)

Lee's Mother: Catherine Watson Billington (later Yatrofsky)

  • Born: May 14, 1922 in Blackburn, Lancashire
  • Died: July 15, 2010 in San Diego, California
    • Buried at Riverside Cemetery, Riverside, California 
  • Father: Harry (Harold?) Billington 
    • (Lee's maternal grandfather)
    • Born: Oct 24 1898 in Blackburn
    • Died: June 8 1977
    • Worked at Blackburn cotton mill (wife Bella worked there too!)
    • 1 of 9 children; 11 born but 2 died
    • John and Kate (Billington) photo from Glenda EavesFather: John Thomas Billington 
      • Born Dec 22, 1862 in Radcliffe (Potter Street)
      • (Lee's maternal great-grandfather)
      • Died July 15, 1947 in Feniscowles (23 East St.) near Blackburn
        • Buried: New Row Cemetery in Darwen with his wife Catherine
      • Known as "The Papermaker," and written about in local newspaper at age 80 for lorry (truck) loading at the Star Paper Mill
      • Married Catherine Watson (see details below) on Dec. 24 1884 at St. Peter’s Church, Newbold, Rochdale, England
        • Witnesses: Elizabeth C. Crocker (John’s sis) & Wm. Watson (Cath’s father)
      • Father: John Billington (Lee's maternal great-great-grandfather)
        • Born: Sep 10 1825
        • Baptized: Oct 23 1825 in St. Mary of the Assumption (a Catholic church!) in Burnley, Lancashire
        • Occupation: block printer
        • Married: 2nd July 1855, Manchester Cathedral
        • Wife: Margaret Jordan
          • born 1840
          • Witnesses: William Hope and Mary Mack both of 76 Ordsall Lane, Salford
          • arrested in 1877 (age 37) for drunk and riotous behavior. Lost all upper front teeth. Sentenced to 14 days hard labor and fined 20 shillings.
        • Thomas Billington b.1816 in Bryning lower left with wife Margaret Nee Proctor on his right both at front with their children from back left:Sarah Ann b, 1858, Thos Henry b. 1862 and  Robert Newton Billington b.1864Poss. Father:? Thomas Billington (Lee's maternal g-g-g-grandfather)
          • Baptized 15th March, 1801 in Penwortham
          • 1st marriage to Elizabeth "Betty" Shaw , born Stuart, Married circa 1820
          • Wife: Ellen Nee Taylor
          • Poss. Father?: Thomas Billington
            • Born c. 1776 Garstang
            • Married 1 poss. Betty Douglas in Lancaster (died in 1816)??
            • Married 2 Betty Stuart on Sep 1, 1818, St Helens, Garstang.
            • (Married under prev (m) name of SHAW
            • Poss. Father?: James Billington
              • Married Margaret nee Turner, 3rd August, 1761, Garstang.
        • Possible mother: Elizabeth Shaw, born Stuart
          • born: March 18, 1792 in Garstang
    • Mother: Catherine Billington (nee Watson)
      • Born August 6, 1862 in Robertson Sq., Bathgate, Scotland
      • Died May 24, 1938 in Feniscowles (23 East St.) near Blackburn
      • Father: William Watson
        • Born: Sep 22 1826 in Anderston, Glasgow, Scotland
        • occupation: iron turner
        • Married Agnes on July 6, 1846 at Barony Parish Church, Scotland
        • Father: William Watson
          • married Catherine Feb 20, 1824
        • Mother: Catherine McKeller?
      • Mother: Agnes Watson, nee McLaren
      • Brother: William Watson, b1858 in Edinburgh
      • Sister: Martha Watson, b1861 in Bathgate, Scotland
      • Sister: Margaret Watson, b1865 in Village of Whitburn
      • Sister: Jane Watson, b1868 in Glasgow
    • Walter and Alice Billington (Glenda Eaves' grandfather and grandmother)Brother: Walter Billington (Glenda Eaves's grandfather)
      • Born: 31st August, 1901, Blackburn, Lancs
      • Married Alice Campbell on Sep 1 1928 at St. Peters Church, Blackburn
      • Son: William Kenneth Billington (Glenda Eaves's father)
        • Born: 14th January 1930, Blackburn Lancs
        • Died: Oct 1, 2004 in Queensland, Australia
        • Married: 19th December, 1950 St Lukes Church in Blackburn
          • Walter-Billington-1920sWife: Edna Rose nee Evans
            Born: 15th April 1931 Blackburn
          • Daughter: Glenda Eaves, nee Billington
            • Born: 24th April, 1951
            • Glenda’s family emigrated from England to Australia, 1968
            • Married 11th August, 1972 to Terence
            • Husband: Terence Derek Eaves (bass player)
              • Born: Tottenham:7th September, 1948
            • Daughter: Renee Terri Eaves
              • Born 29th April, 1976-Brisbane.Australia
            • Glenda and her father on her wedding dayDaughter: Netelle Denise Eaves
              • Born 24th September, 1979-Brisbane Australia.
            • Daughter: Jodie Angela Eaves
              • Born 8th February,1983
            • Note: Lee has been in email contact with Glenda Eaves since 2004. telglen@bigpond.com
          • Daughter: Judith Balcazar nee Billington
            •  lives in London
            • Husband: Hernan Balcazar
          • Son: David Billington
            • Twin daughters
      • Died: May 24, 1969 (age 68)
        • buried at New Row Cemetery, Heyes Lane, Blackburn
    • Brother: William Billington
      • Born: Dec. 14(?) 1885-Rochdale.
      • worked at same paper mill as his father John Thomas Billington
      • Married Frances Alice Wiggans in 1908 in Blackburn
      • Son: William Billington (first born)
        • born 1913 in Blackburn
        • Lived with his parents in Old Trafford in Manchester
        • worked at Metro Vickers, Manchester?
        • worked at chemist in a flour mill
      • Son: Walter Billington
        • born in Manchester, England in 1920
        • died in WW2 in Wellington bomber mine-laying mission, working as a wireless operator and rear gunner. Awarded Distinguished Flying Medal.
        • See email and web links from Ken Brooks, sent to Lee July 25, 2012, and commented on by Glenda Eaves.
    • Sister: Kate (Kitty) Clarke nee Billington
      • Born: Sept. 1/4 1887 in Rochdale
      • Died June 5th 1942
      • Married to Charles Clarke
      • Son: Jack Clarke
        • Note: Jack was “at sea” when mother Kitty died
      • Son: Frederick Clarke
      • Son: Francis (Frank?) Clarke
      • Daughter: Lucy Clarke
    • Son John (Jack) Billington
      • born 1893 in Rochdale
      •  owned a fish & chip shop?
      • Married Eva Fenton Pearson
        • born in Scotland?
      • daughter: Irene Billington
        • married Ellis Slater in 1942?
      • Won Military Medal in the Great War
    • Sister: Lucy Almond nee Billington
      • Born 1891 in Rochdale?
      • Married Len Almond
        • died Jan 15 1970
      • No Children
      • Died mid-1970s
    • Sister: Isabella Billington
      • Born 1903
      • Married?
      • Had two sons?
    • Sister: Agnes Chippendale nee Billington
      • Born: 1896
      • Married Thomas Chippendale
      • Daughter: Doreen Chippendale
      • Daughter: Muriel Chippendale
      • Twin daughters: Jean and Joan Chippendale
    • Brother: Frank Billington
      • Born 1904
      • Died (c) 1983 in Blackburn
      • Married Mary Elizabeth Boothman
        • died 1998
      • they lived in Blackpool for awhile, then moved to Blackburn
    • Sister: Alice b 1895, deceased (as child?)
    • Sister: Maggie b1890, died at age 1

  • Harry_Bell-Billington-rightCatherine's Mother: Isabella “Bell” Billington (nee Riley)
    • (Lee's maternal grandmother)
    • Born: Sep 26 1898 in Blackburn, England
    • Died 1974
    • Father: Thomas Riley (see photo --->)
      • Born Oct 16th 1872 in Blackburn
      • Died Nov 1919
        • death certificate: location 6 Cambridge St. Blackburn; cause: heart disease and bronchitis.
        • Great-Grandfather-Thomas-Riley-bOct16-1872Lee was told by Mona that Thomas' death was by influenza, which does match the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919.  
      • Married: Ellen Jane _______? June 25th 1892
        • see details below
      • Father: Jonathan Riley
        • Born 1827 in Blackburn
        • occupation: weaver
        • Died: March 1883?
        • married Mary Ann Payne
        • (Lee's mum Catherine said she never knew her maternal grandfather)
        • Thomas Riley's mother in BlackburnFather: Henry Riley
          • Born 1800 in Blackburn
          • married Jane
            • born 1801
          • married Alice
            • born 1803
          • married Beth Hammond?
            • born 1812 in Blackburn
        • Siblings: Henry b1823, Elizabeth b1824, Jane Anne b1826, Mary Matilda b1830, Rachael b1833, Thomas b1838, Levi b1843
      • Mother: Mary Ann Payne
        •  Born 1839 in Worcester
        • photo --->
    • Bertha-Riley-Lightbown_bAug25-1903Mother: Ellen (or Hellen?) Jane  _____?)
      • Born Feb 1 1872 in Clayton LeMoors
      • Died Nov 3 (or 23rd?) 1913
      • Occupation: spinner
      • Note: Catherine never met her maternal grandmother
    • Sister: Louisa Riley
      • Born Oct 6th 1900 in Blackburn
      • Died ______ in __________?
      • Married Jack Kyle
      • Daughter: Louise
      • Son: Kyle
    • Sister: Bertha Riley
      • Sisters Bertha Riley and May RileyBorn Aug 25th 1903 in Blackburn
      • Died 1994
      • Married Fred Lightbown Sep 19 1931 in Blackburn
        • Born Nov 29 1908
        • Died Oct 29 1959, muscular atrophy
        • Father: Richard Charles Lightbown
      • Daughter: Iris Lightbown
        • born ___
        • died June 22 2010
        • Married James Clifford Dunn July 11 1959
          • Born: ____ in Liverpool
        • Daughter: Cheryl Dunn
          • Born: Sep 5 1961
          • Works as higher education executive in Blackpool
          • Cheryl (Cheryl.Dunn@blackpool.ac.uk) contacted Lee via this website Feb. 21, 2014, writing, "Just randomly searching my mum's maiden name (Iris Lightbown) and up popped my grandma Bertha Riley's photo! I remember grandma's sisters and her tales of her grandma - born she said on the boat coming over from Ireland? Anyway, thought I'd say hello."
        • Son: Andrew Dunn
          • Born: May 26 1964
    • Sister: May Riley
      • Born May 30th 1908 in Blackburn
      • Died Jan 4 1989
        Married Fred Hodkinson on March 9 1931
        • Born: Jan 29 1906 in Feniscowles
        • Died: June 11 1992
        • occupation: painter / decorator
      • Daughter: Jean Hodkinson
        • Born May 22, 1932 in Blackburn
        • Jean-Hodkinson_Ken-Brooks_wedding_Dec11-1954Married Ken Brooks, Dec 11, 1954 -->
          • age 78 in Aug. 2007 when he wrote Lee this email from brooks1954@hotmail.com:
            • "Hi Lee. My name is Ken Brooks, a 78 year old from Blackburn. My wife is Jean Hodkinson Brooks, and she, and her sister Marjorie, are the two little girls in that photo with your Mom. Their mother was May Riley, your Grandma's younger sister. The photo was taken in their backyard in Warrington Street, Blackburn. I am working on the Mum-age-13-with-Marjorie-and-Jean-Hodkinson-1935Hodkinson/Riley family tree, and I see that there are a few errors in some of your information on the website. Jean knew your Mom quite well, back in the 1940s. If you would like to email me, please feel free to do so, perhaps we can help each other on the family trees. Ken Brooks"
        • Daughter: Kathryn Behnken, nee Brooks
          • born 1962 in Blackburn
          • Kathryn wrote me an email in August 2007, saying she'd visited my Godden website and 1) Grandma Bell is her great-aunt; 2) she knew Bell and Harry, and probably used the same outhouse toilet I did when she was young. She immigrated to the US in 1966, and now lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, but she visits Blackburn often. Email: the_exfactor8@yahoo.com 
          • Ron-Kathy-Behnken-Feb7-2004Son: John Coble (from first husband)
            • born 1984
            • Daughter: Kathryn, born 2007
          • 2nd Husband: Ron Behnken, married Feb 7, 2004. --> 
      • Daughter: Marjorie Hodkinson
        • Born: Feb 8 1935 in Blackburn
        • also in photo, along with sister Jean, with young Catherine.
    • Jack Riley, 1918 (killed in WWI)Sister: Jane Ann Riley
      • Born Jan 9th 1895 in Blackburn
      • Died 1905 (age 10)
    • Sister: Eleanor Riley
      • Born Dec 25th 1896 in Blackburn
        Died 1897 as infant
    • Brother: John “Jack” William Riley -->
      • Born June 6th 1894 in Blackburn
      • Died 1920 from injuries sustained in WWI

  • Brother: Derick Billington
    • Born: May 5, 1929 in ___________
    • Died Nov __ 1994 in Blackburn
      • Derick-Billington-c1939Wife: Marjorie Billington (nee Beaumont)
        • Born: July 5, 1931
        • Lives in Blackburn, England
        • Note: Terry, Steven, Simone and I visited Marjorie in October 2011. We all attended a Blackburn Rovers football match at Ewood Park. (They lost to Manchester City.) Nice restaurant dinner afterward. Lovely visit with a lovely lady!
        • Father: Henry 'Harry' Beaumont
        • Mother: Lillie Beaumont (born Clegg)
      • Son: John Billington
        • Derick Billington and MarjorieBorn: Aug 23, 1955 in Blackburn
        • [note: confusion below...clarification appreciated)
        • 1st Marriage to Sharon Jones (born Green)
        • 2nd Marriage to Allison (nee Gregory)?
        • Daughter: Karen Billington
          • Born Sep 25, 1983
          • [Note: Karen has been a great friend in helping preserve Billington family history.]
          • Lives in London
          • karenbillington1@gmail.com
          • Partner: Timothy Barton-Knott
            • born June 26, 1979
          • Son: Finley James Barton-Knott
            • born Jan 29 2011 in London
        • Daughter: Devon Billington _____
      • Son: Mark Billington
        • Born: Nov 26, 1958 in Blackburn
        • Married to Linda
        • Daughter: Faye Billington

  • 1st marriage in Blackburn on September 21st 1943 to T.W. Godden
    • Divorced: February 1967
  • 2nd marriage in 1967 to Philip Herbert Steinbach, in England
    • Born: Sep 19, 1939 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
    • Joined US Navy April 29, 1958
    • Divorced Catherine 1970?
    • Retired from US Navy Feb 11, 1977
    • Married Delores J. _______
      • Born 1947
      • Died June 13 2009
    • Died Dec 18 2007 (age 68)
    • Buried (alongside wife Dolores) at Virginia Veterans Cemetery (Amelia, VA)
  • Valeri, Albert, Alison, June 2011 in Yorba Linda3rd / current marriage in Charleston, South Carolina, USA on April 28, 1973 to Albert (nmn) Yatrofsky
    • Born: January 15, 1936 in New York City
    •  Raised in Ontario, California on father's egg farm
    • Father: Irvin Julius (or reverse) Yatrofsky
      • Born 1909, in New York, New York
      • 1st marriage to Nettie (below)
      • 2nd marriage to Linda Greenberg
    • Mother: Nettie (nee Fleescla (sp?...Polish name)
      • Born 1909 in New York, New York
      • Sister (from Nettie): Phyllis
      • Sister (from Nettie): Cheri
      • Half-Sister (from Linda): Michelle
      • Half-Sister (from Linda): Charlotte
    • Cousin: Mary
      • Son: Jay / John Frum
        • Lee corresponded with Jay
        • died while living in San Francisco
      • Mary lived in Baltimore with Uncle Sony (below)
      • Lee (age 18) lived with Mary for several months after he and his mother Catherine returned to the US after Albert retired from the Navy. Catherine and Albert moved to California. After working odd jobs during the the summer of 1976, Lee (with few alternatives) visited the Baltimore recruitment center and enlisted in the Navy.
      • Son-in-Law: Stanley
        • owner of a Baltimore HVAC company. Hired me as part-time assistant during Summer of 1976.
        • Son: Bobby
        • Son: Phillip
    • Cousin "Uncle" Sonny
      • head of local AA chapter
      • career spent working at Bethlehem Steel
      • partner: Shirley

Catherine Billington

More Billington photos

Lee and Terry Godden and their families

The Goddens