Sunday, September 29, 2013

Do You Know This Man?

Nancy and I have been working on finding records to confirm the information we've been given from all our various sources.  Today we found Lucius Arthur Sullivan's birth registration.  Uncle Lu is my mom's oldest brother and first child of Marie J (Bednorz) & William Augustine Sullivan.  Look at what we found:

Birth Registration for Lucius Sullivan

Look at who the father is: Arthur O. Sullivan.  Well, now, I'm pretty sure that Grandma wasn't sleeping with a different Sullivan so soon after getting married.  So it looks like Grandpa Sullivan wasn't too worried about using his legal name on his son's birth record.  Was he thinking he might someday want to deny his paternity of Lu?  (Just kidding)  And what about the O?  A bit of a flourish, don't you think?

Of course, this provides support for the stories we've heard that Grandma always called her husband Arthur - I can see why.  And Lucius' middle name certainly is Arthur as Aunt Tiny (real name Dorothy) asserts in her memoir I referenced yesterday.

Nancy and I are trying to figure out how Grandma and Grandpa met.  We know that in 1905, William A is living in Marshfield WI.  That was not easy to confirm. It turns out you would have to search for Augustine in that census as Grandpa is not listed as William at all.  But he is living at home with his parents Michael (car repairer) and Catherine, his sister Mary (a dressmaker) and brother David (still in school).

We know that Marie is living in Marysville, Wright County MN with her family.  They moved to a farm here shortly after the 1900 Census was taken where they were listed as farm laborers in Buffalo Township, Cass County, North Dakota.  Her dad lists himself as a farmer in the Minnesota 1905 census.  John is no longer at home, but all the others are: Henry, Frances, Marie, Paul and Gertrude.  (You can't search for Marie Sullivan in this census - her name just won't come up.  It turns out that the indexer for this census transcribed Marie's name as Mance)

We also know that in the 1910 US Census, neither Marie nor William are living with their families.  But searches of Minneapolis areas have yet to turn up either or both of these characters.  We know they married in 1914 in Minneapolis, so it is likely they are in that area.  More research needs to be done.  Stay tuned - or better yet, join in.  Let us know what you can find, or what you might have hidden in your own family archives.

Lucius Arthur Sullivan

Rumor has it that Marie is a dressmaker working in the Minneapolis area.  We know that Augie (Augustine, Bill, Arthur, William A.) is now in the lumber industry as he was listed as a lumber scaler in the 1905 Wisconsin State census. Simple searches don't turn up the names William A Sullivan or Marie Bednorz in either Wisconsin or Minnesota, but I feel sure they're hiding out somewhere in one of these states.  As we've learned, names can get messed up as indexers transcribe handwritten documents.  More patience will be needed to close this gap.

But thanks to you, Uncle Lu, we have confirmed one of our Sullivan mysteries!  We love you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

By George she's got it!

Major organizational success here!

I've been working on organizing my document "stash" since August.  Stash is the right description for the state of affairs when I started - assorted piles, files, and boxes - many of which I had used to document events in my Legacy genealogy program on my computer - none of which I could reliably find when needed. 

Since I'm relatively new at genealogy, I knew from the small number of documents I currently have and the disorganized mess I had made of them, that I needed to figure this out before moving forward with more research.  Here's what I ended up with:

Original files binders, one per grandparent surname: Hanson, Hintz, Sullivan, Bednorz. Of course the Sullivan binder is GREEN!

Subsections in the binders for types of document: artifacts, birth, census, church, death, family tree, ID, immigration, legal, marriage, military, newspaper clippings, and personal correspondence. 

With a ton of help from my sister Nancy, each original was scanned then put into archival page protectors.  Each page protector was labeled so it could be put away again.  The label included the binder surname, a file ID number, the subsection name, the name of the person, the year of the document and any description needed. 

Digital files were renamed LastNameFirstNameYYYYDescriptionFileIDNumber (example: SullivanPat2009Will00003.pdf) and filed in my Dropbox folders that were set up to match the binders. 

The pièce de résistance is the Excel spreadsheet I made that connects the digital and print copies of the original document.  Now I can look at the spreadsheet and find any file - digital or print - quickly.  I can sort by surname or by file name to find all the documents related to a family or an individual. 

A huge weight has been lifted but a ton of work still needs to be done. At least now I've got a way to move forward without creating an even bigger mess. 
It wouldn't be fair to claim credit for all this progress.  First I need to thank Nancy Walters who has been coming by for weeks to help figure this all out. She puts things away when done with them. Novel concept. Then I have to acknowledge all the helpful tips, ideas and confessions from the Facebook Organized Genealogist group.  I borrowed much wisdom from them in finding my personal solution.  

Now if only my house were this organized. Is it too early in the day for a celebratory glass of wine?

Monday, September 23, 2013

William Augustine Sullivan Revisited

William Augustine Sullivan

I've been re-reading a memoir written by Aunt Tiny and feeling like I should be sharing some of her stories about Grandpa William.  I also entered his military registrations for WWI and WWII today and learned some new things.  So, more on Grandpa Sullivan tonight.

I'm not sure when Tiny wrote her memoir - 12 typewritten pages of stories about people and places growing up.  My Mom thought it was around 1999 and was likely after Aunt Toots (Sister Augustine) passed in April of 1999.
Aunt Tiny is actually Dorothy Gertrude, 4th child of Marie and William A.  Her Dad nicknamed her Tiny because she only weighed 4 pounds when born.  In Tiny's words : 

Dorothy Gertrude Sullivan
Dad was born in Erin, Wisconsin on June 17, 1877 of parents Michael Sullivan and Catherine Whelan. He was named William Augustine but when he met Mama he told her his name was Arthur so she called him Arthur as long as I can remember and Lu’s middle name was Arthur. So… his mother called him Augie, Mama called him Arthur and his friends called him Bill. We called him Daddy, then Dad.

Dad had a sister Mamie, two years older than him and a brother several years younger, Dave. Though Toots and I went to Marshfield several times for visits, I never met Aunt Mamie. She was always working out of town. The only recognition I have of Uncle Dave was a photo of him in his World War I uniform.  He died at the young age of 27 from tuberculosis.

Dad was a small man and a very persnickety dresser; he had a thin face with dark hair and eyebrows and wore glasses. I swear, he looked the same when last I saw him. He always seemed to be ‘older’ to me but he was just “Dad’. We also knew that he was ten years older than Mama but that fact was not true. I sent for my Dad’s birth certificate in 1988 when I was having difficulty getting a passport for a European trip and his certificate gave his birth date as 1877, sixteen years older than my mother. I wonder if she ever knew.

The only photo I have of my dad is one that was taken in Canada – he was sitting on an outside stoop, hat perched jauntily on his head, with Lu on one side of him and Eddie on the other. He seems to be proud of his two sons so neatly dressed in their winter woolens and wooly stocking caps, also boots.  He called Eddie ‘Sonny’. 
Lu, William A. and Eddie Sullivan, Le Pas, Manitoba Canada

I have no idea what prompted Dad to pull up stakes in Canada and move to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Perhaps it was at this time that he became employed by the W. G. Wheeler Company of Rockford, Illinois; I know he became a lumber broker for that company and traveled for them, quite extensively, and Oshkosh may have been a central location....The state’s second largest city in 1866, Oshkosh became known as the ‘Sawdust City’ and the ‘Lumber Capital of the World’ with sawmills lining the Fox River and producing over one million board-feet of lumber....

Dad was traveling now with a Model A black Ford company car. He’d take his big, brown leather grip and set off for the week. On return he’d reacquaint himself with the children, have a good dinner and set off for a neighborhood tavern to co-mingle with his men-friends. He was ‘Bill’ to the men. He was making a good salary at that time.  Tiny Sullivan

My other re-discoveries today were Grandpa Sullivan's WWI and WWII military registration cards.  These are in the National Archives and Records Administration repository.  I accessed them through and downloaded the record copies.  For both wars, he was too old, but was required to register anyway.

Wm A. registered in 1918 while living in Le Pas, Manitoba, Canada.  He had his statements witnessed by the police magistrate of Le Pas and then mailed back to the Wood County Local Board.  According to his card, Wm A. was 41 years old, a lumber inspector for the Finger Lumber Company in Le Pas. He lists his mother, Catherine of D St in Marshfield, WI as next of kin.  The registrar noted that he was short, of medium build, light blue eyes, dark brown hair and no visible physical impairments.
WWI Registration for William Augustine Sullivan

When he registered in 1942 for WWII, William was divorced from Marie and living in Milwaukee at 737 No 15th St,  He has a phone number.  He is 64 years old and lists his birthplace as Hartford, WI. (He was actually born in Erin Township.)  The registrar notes that he is 5 foot 6 inches tall, weighs 147 pounds with blue eyes, grey hair and a ruddy complexion. He is employed by Quirk Crate Company, E Layton Drive in Cudahy WI.  He lists his daughter Anne, 50 Northwestern Ave, Oshkosh, as the person who would always know his address.  That would imply that he remained in touch with Anne at least somewhat. Sali, did your Mom ever talk about Grandpa?

WWII Registration William Augustine Sullivan
The Quirk Crate Company made wooden milk crates.  Someone was selling this crate on Etsy.

The North 15th St address doesn't have any vintage homes anymore.

I'm sure Bill/Augie/Arthur was a less than ideal husband and family provider, I still wish that I might have met him to know him myself.  His children write fondly about him - at least in his early years.

But I remember that about my own father - he was much more fun and approachable when my sister Nancy and I were young than when he and my Mom were struggling to raise 6 kids.  As I learn more about these grandparents, I discover that I have traits in common with them.  I learn to appreciate them as adults navigating a difficult world, something I couldn't know or appreciate when I was a child.  We had such fun in Oshkosh.  It could have been a totally different experience.

Visiting Grandma & Grandpa Sullivan's Graves

We had a week between Mom's funeral (Aug 6, 2013) and burial (Aug 13, 2013) - due in part to the massive storms that wreaked havoc on the infrastructure of Appleton the night before the funeral.  It took a few days longer than normal to get a death certificate processed in order to complete the cremation.

During this time, my  brother Dale, sister Nancy and I headed to Riverside Cemetery in Oshkosh to try to find Grandma & Grandpa Sullivan's graves.  William Augustine and Marie Josephine Bednorz Sullivan are my Mom's parents, my maternal grandparents.  I had never visited their graves.

Dale had been to the Sullivan grave site and had a vague memory of where the graves were.  However, after wandering a couple of sections along the river with no results, Dale resorted to calling Uncle Gerry to ask where Grandma was buried.  Besides directions - which Uncle Gerry had written down in his files (and could find in just a couple minutes of looking- Impressive!) - Gerry had stories to explain why Grandpa was buried next to Grandma - not at all a given since they had been divorced since 1936.

Dale Hanson communing with Grandma Sullivan
Grandpa Sullivan died March 14, 1957.  According to Gerry, he was a drinker, an alcoholic who spent the family's hard-earned money on treating his bar mates to drinks and buying expensive items (like $10 shoes) for himself.  Money was always tight and children were numerous.  Gerry says that when his Mom confided in a priest about how Augie was ruining the family with drinking and spending, keeping them in poverty in spite of her working to earn extra money, the priest suggested Marie leave her husband. Probably not in so many words, since Catholics don't divorce, but the implication was clear. (What an enlightened priest!) So she did. Gerry was no older than 18 months when the divorce was finalized in 1936.

After that, Gerry told us, Augie only contacted Marie when he had a "business scheme" he wanted Marie to invest in.  But Marie always knew that his only business was getting some personal spending money because he had drunk away all that he had and couldn't pay his bills.  Gerry seemed to think that Grandma would give him some food money and send him on his way without getting taken in by his schemes.  I wonder whether any of the children ever saw him again.  I need to ask Gerry.

At the end of his life, Grandpa was living in Milwaukee. My Mom always said Grandpa fell on a radiator (the old steam kind that got really hot) and died of his injuries.  A death certificate would help confirm or clarify this family story.

He died when I was 9 years old, and until then, I didn't even know of his existence.  I had always thought that Al Chappa was our grandpa, and  one day while I was still little, he mysteriously disappeared from Grandma's living room, never to be seen again.  No one talked about him after that. Since he never interacted with us, I didn't think much about it. I didn't really have a relationship with "Grandpa Al"

"Augie's" funeral was in Oshkosh - I remember a bunch of us cousins being at Grandma's house while the adults all left in their dress clothes.  I understand now that they went to Grandpa's funeral held in Oshkosh.  My Mom kept the funeral card which only gives dates of birth and death. And the birth date on the card is incorrect - on purpose?  According to the copy of Wm A's birth registration (in my collection), his birthdate is June 17, 1877.  The year on the funeral card is 1874 and the year carved in the gravestone is 1883.  Did Grandma just not know the actual year?  Why did she have the stone carved 1883?  We'll never know.
Funeral card for Wm A. Sullivan

So Grandma paid to have Grandpa's body shipped from Milwaukee, paid for the funeral, bought a grave site and headstone at Riverside Cemetery.  All for a man who drained the family's resources.  To me, this is a testament to the Christian charity of my Grandma.  She never turned her back on the scoundrel.  And it also shows the strength and good sense of my Grandma.  She managed to raise 11 children, buy a house and live a comfortable life all on her own.  Quite a feat in her day.  Makes you wonder what kind of conversations they are having now that they are back together again, side by side under one gravestone.

Sullivan William A. (Father, 1983-1957)
& Marie J. (Mother, 1893-1972)

 If you go, Marie J. and William A. Sullivan are buried in Riverside Cemetery off Algoma Boulevard.  The grave site is about 20 yards south of the intersection of St. John and St Peter streets.  They are near the river, but a bit up (east) from the road that goes along the river.  Hopefully, the map below may help you find them.  While at Riverside, you might want to look for their daughter, Ann Sullivan Beutler and her husband Kenneth Beutler.  I don't know where their graves are. Hopefully cousin Sali can fill us in on their location within this humongous cemetery.

St John & St Peter streets intersection
north of the Sullivan grave site
View from the Sullivan grave site
looking west toward the river

Research notes:  My to-do list for fleshing out this part of our history

  1. find obituary for William A and Marie J Sullivan (Oshkosh library)
  2. interview Jerry about the funeral and Grandpa's cause of death and whether he or siblings ever saw him after the divorce
  3. interview Monica about funeral and cause of death and whether she or siblings ever saw him after the divorce
  4. find divorce papers (should be in Oshkosh); determine actual date of divorce
  5. find death certificate for William A and Marie J Sullivan (one in Milw, other Oshkosh)
  6. find Milwaukee address for Wm A
  7. find church where funeral was held (Oshkosh)
  8. find Ann and Ken Beutler graves, photograph
  9. Add this gravestone to Find a Grave

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hintz Family Reunion

On Sunday, September 8, 2013, the weather was perfect for the Hintz Family Reunion.  Held at Plamann Park in Appleton Wisconsin, there were 89 people and I forget the number of families present.  

Clearly the reunion is about eating and talking as there were almost as many tables of food as there were tables for eating the food.  As you can imagine, the food covered the spectrum of comfort picnic food from hot dishes, salads, desserts and watermelon.  

This is the first Hintz reunion I've been to since I was in high school eons ago.  I explained in a previous blog post how I finally re-connected with this group of cousins, uncles and aunts.  Now I know that the reunion is always the same weekend in Sept and none of my first cousins have been coming.  A task for next year will be to track them down and twist their arms into coming.

After lunch there's a short "business" meeting where the information on database updates for this year and a financial statement are shared. (We all chip in $2 to pay for coffee and sundries.) And the organization is passed to the next Hintz sibling family to organize the following year's event.  End of meeting - except to say that WE are now the older generation and if we want to keep the Hintz connections alive, it is up to us to do that.  Both scary and challenging - how do we keep this custom alive in today's world where we are so spread out and so overwhelmed with daily life?  A problem well worth noodling over to see how to give the essence of family as we knew it to our children and grandchildren.  Ideas, anyone?

I was able to catch up with some second cousins who were in school with me, met and heard stories from my Dad's cousins who remember my Grandma and could confirm some of what my Dad told me.  They were also able to correct the names on a couple of photos I brought. I got names and contact information from a couple distant cousins who are also doing genealogy.  And I was able to share some information with a couple of my Dad's cousins who were thrilled to see a paper copy of the Hintz and Uhlenbrauck families.

There are photos (where'd I put them?) and connections to be studied and shared.  There are new people to collect stories from.  This genealogy stuff just keeps getting bigger and more fun.  

Things to remember for next year - 

  • Bring an audio recording device to capture stories.
  • Be more deliberate (and less shy) about taking photos of the people there to be sure to get a photo collage of all who attended
  • Make and bring scrapbook pages of this year's reunion
  • Have genealogy info better prepared, and bring photos, stories and family trees to share

Wisconsin Genealogy Network

I recently joined a Facebook group called Wisconsin Genealogy Network.  I've been lurking for a few weeks and yesterday took the plunge to ask for help with tracking down my grandpa Harvey Hanson.  His father is Hans Peter Hanson, as near as I can figure out.

I have a couple of pieces of information gleaned from his WWI and WWII draft registration cards and an obituary.  In one draft card, Harvey notes his next of kin as Caroline Sophia Hanson of Neenah, WI and in the other, he lists his father Hans Peter in "Nominee" (Menominee?) Michigan.

I shared this little bit and overnight there was a flood of sources to check - gravestones in a Neenah cemetery, an obit from Caroline's death, a marriage record and census data for this family.  It will take me a week to sort through it all and see if the puzzle pieces all fit together.  But it sure looks promising.  And of course getting to the original records would be most helpful.

I can't wait to find the sources, analyze the information and share back my new discoveries about that branch of the family.  What an amazing resource and what a dedicated group of members!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Meet Aunt Toots

Ancestors of Mary Catherine Sullivan, 4 Generations
Sister Marie Augustine

As an adult she was known as Sister Augustine, as a child, Mary Catherine Sullivan.  To her nephews, nieces, and siblings, she was simply Aunt Toots or Toots.  She was Patricia Hanson's oldest sister and one she was close to all her life. I don't know any of my Sulli Cuzzins who don't love her to pieces. She always had time for us; in fact sought us out to find out what we were up to. She played games with us, walked with us, and shared stories and jokes. She somehow always found time to stay in contact with us, even as adults. 

We loved to visit with her.  I'm hoping other cousins and siblings will chime in here to share some of their stories. 

I remember a time when she was living in Yonkers and I was living in Poughkeepsie, NY, and she talked the 23 year-old me into driving the station wagon of the sister house, filled with nuns, to Washington, D.C. I can't remember much about the occasion of the visit.  I do remember that we stayed with relatives of the nuns in the area and visited some of the D.C. museums.  We talked and laughed all the way down and back.  There was one time on the way down when we were driving through some construction and I hit uneven pavement causing us to bump and swerve a bit.  There was a loud suggestion that the nuns get out their rosaries and pray, then silence for a few minutes as they all prayed for our safe arrival.  A bit unnerving for the driver, but we all arrived safely, wimples intact, in D.C.  (Wimple is the headpiece worn by nuns.)

Mary Catherine Sullivan abt 1923

Toots (Mary Catherine Sullivan) was the 3rd child of William Augustine Sullivan and Marie Josephine Bednorz.  She was born February 9, 1919, in Le Pas, Manitoba, Canada where the family had moved for William's job in the lumber industry.  They returned to Oshkosh, Wisconsin by late 1921 because their sister Ann was born January 22, 1922,  in Oshkosh.  

Lu (back), Toots, Eddie, Tiny
Photos from Toots collection
Sr. Marie Augustine
Perhaps early  70's
Sr. Marie Augustine
Date unknown

You can see from the Family Group Sheet below (edited to it's briefest form for this post) the list of Toots' siblings.  Following that list, I will let Toots speak in her own words from an autobiographical reflection she wrote in 1967. Warning: it's 3 pages long.  

Family Group Record for William Augustine Sullivan -
Unpublished research on September 1, 2013
Produced by: Lynn Hanson Dosch, ,
Husband William Augustine Sullivan
Born June 17, 1877 Erin, Washington, Wisconsin
Died March 14, 1957 Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Father Michael Sullivan (1847-1929)
Mother Catherine Kate Whelan (1852-1933)
Marriage February 17, 1914 Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota, USA (Divorced about 1936)
Wife Marie Josephine Bednorz
Born October 30, 1893 Waverly, Wright, Minnesota, United States
Died February 24, 1972 Oshkosh, Winnebago, Wisconsin, USA
Father Andrew (Andreas) Bednorz (1852-1928)
Mother Frances (Franzciska) Marketon (1858-1925)
Other Spouse Albert Chappa ( - ) Abt 1944 - Oshkosh, Winnebago, Wisconsin, USA
1 M Lucius Arthur Sullivan
Born June 11, 1915 Waverly, Wright, Minnesota, United States
Died March 6, 1990 Sun City, Maricopa, Arizona, USA
Spouse Viola Agnes Schossow (1914- ) May 3, 1941 - Saint Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota, United States
2 M Edwin Sullivan
Born April 8, 1917 Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota, USA
Died January 22, 2002 Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida, USA
Spouse Winona Ann Hamlin (1920-2002) April 13, 1942 - Independence, Jackson, Missouri, USA
3 F Mary Catherine Sullivan (Sister Augustine)
Born February 9, 1919 Le Pas, Manitoba, Canada
Died April 20, 1999 Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, USA
4 F Dorothy Gertrude "Tiny" Sullivan
Born April 12, 1920 Le Pas, Manitoba, Canada
Died November 18, 2004 Yuba City, Sutter, California, United States
Spouse Wes B. Owens (1927-1989) March 12, 1943 - Tucson, Pima, Arizona, United States
Spouse William E. Jensen ( -1981) March 16, 1977
5 F Ann Elizabeth Whelan Cecilia Sullivan
Born January 20, 1922 Oshkosh, Winnebago, Wisconsin, USA
Died August 11, 2006 Sister Bay, Door, Wisconsin, USA
Spouse Kenneth Samuel Beutler (1920-1978) August 10, 1942
6 F Virginia S. "Deda" Sullivan
Born June 2, 1923 Oshkosh, Winnebago, Wisconsin, USA
Died December 27, 2005 Maricopa County, Arizona, USA
Spouse Thomas H. Glantz ( - ) April 15, 1944 - Tucson, Pima, Arizona, United States
Spouse E. James Simpson ( - ) October 6, 1953
Spouse William J. Monteforte ( - ) July 6, 1959 - Carson City, Carson, Nevada, USA
7 F Sylvia Lorraine Sullivan
Born July 21, 1924 Oshkosh, Winnebago, Wisconsin, USA
Died March 23, 2003 Pelham, Shelby, Alabama, USA
Spouse Robert Bernard III Porter (1923-1999) December 5, 1944 - Tucson, Pima, Arizona, United States
Spouse Charles Lamb (1922- ) July 8, 1972 - Rochester, Monroe, New York, USA
8 F Bernice Frances "Bink" Sullivan
Born January 31, 1926 Oshkosh, Winnebago, Wisconsin, USA
Died July 2013, Jamestown, Tennessee
Spouse Clyde Owen Sutherland (1919-1998) February 16, 1946 - Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, USA
9 F Patricia Ethel Sullivan
Born August 31, 1927 Oshkosh, Winnebago, Wisconsin, USA
Died August 4, 2013 Appleton, Outagamie, Wisconsin
Spouse Melvin Carl Hanson (1926-1997) July 12, 1947 - Wisconsin, USA
10 F Living Sullivan
11 M Living Sullivan

Toots Reflection 1967

Sister M. Augustine CSA
“Let me read with open eyes, the book my days are writing – and learn.” (Markings, Dag Hammarskjold)
In these few words I hope to bring out the things and events that I consider determining factors in making me the person I am today. I could mention many sisters,  -- superiors and others, who by their example, their prayerfulness, their trust in God, their patience, and their innate goodness have greatly influenced me. In deep and sincere gratitude I remember them daily in prayer.

I know I was born across from an Indian reservation in Canada – the oldest of eight girls in a row, preceded by two brothers and followed by one more sixteen years later, bringing our family to thirteen, all of whom are living except my father.

But – what is my life all about?  What has made it what it is? What has made me act and react as I have done and continue to do? I could write a book. I won’t.

Being one of the oldest of a large family has taught me early in life to share not only material things, but also time, joys, and sorrows. It made me gregarious – I despise having to be along – and it taught me to give in to others even if I were the “big” sister. It made me sensitive to the needs and wants of others.

With a mother whose mind was always active and creative, I was never at a loss for something constructive or instructive to do, summer or winter. She liked to make surprises for people and showed us the pleasure to be derived from the thoughtfulness of doing so. She was a meticulous housekeeper and was determined that her girls would take after her.

My father, not a musician himself, always appreciated fine music. He was extremely tidy about himself and was always polishing something, be it a window pane, a watch chain, or a pair of shoes. I have adopted traits from both parents and have been called by some an “old maid.” Some people I have lived with have solidified some of these tendencies in me.

The depression hit our house during my high school years. A large family doesn’t have exactly an easy time when money for food and clothing is scarce. Mom was an accomplished seamstress and earned a few extra dollars at that, besides making clothes for all of us. Dad, who was a lumber buyer, grader, and salesman, was forced at last to be a WPA foreman. I worked for one dollar a week cleaning, ironing and doing dishes for a young woman who was a hypochondriac. With that, plus babysitting at thirty-five cents a night, I paid for all my high school expenses. This meant I had to choose my recreations wisely; many times it meant coming into a basketball game after the half or just walking with friends who were in the same straits. I found out the hard way the value of money.

I spent twelve years being educated by our sisters. In all that time, I never once was conspicuous of anyone’s verbally “selling” me religious life. Yet, when I look back, there were two nuns who impressed me more than the others, though I loved and respected all of them. They have influenced many of my attitudes toward life and the values I set for myself. Sister Gervase was my teacher for five years. No, I didn’t continually fail the grade; but she was “smart enough” to go with us from 2nd through 6th. I remember her as an excellent, enthusiastic teacher; one who taught us art appreciation and color theory; a warm, human person, and a perfect lady at all times. She left a fine imprint on me at an early age. I can see her in the classroom yet.

It was when I was a senior the blow fell—Mom and Dad having had a particularly frustrating and hard time trying to make short ends meet, became impatient and cross with each other and in April of that year, separated, making our family a “broken family”. This was the greatest hurt of my life. I had just turned seventeen and my youngest brother was only six months old. The two oldest were out trying to make a “go” of it on their own. Besides the pain I felt for a family growing up without a father in the house, I was particularly saddened because I was exceptionally fond of my father. We had always been buddies, and though deep down I planned on entering the convent shortly, I hated to see him so alone, so without the family.

It was during these dark days as a senior that Sister Antoine became my sounding board. I had to talk to someone – and she listened sympathetically, patiently and often. She never blamed, probed, or scolded – just listened. She had a real feeling for people. I was aware that she enjoyed teaching teenagers. She never lowered herself to their level. She was the first person to whom I mentioned my desire to enter the convent, but that was all the further it went—merely mentioned. She didn't go into a sales pitch. When my father died in March of 1957, I thought, “if only I could talk to someone who knew him—“. she would have been the one. I was in Victoria; she in Hays—but died there in February almost before I even knew she was ill. I found out by accident on Friday; she died on Saturday morning. That left me with no one who would understand my sorrow on the loss of my father.

It seems that I had never had the slightest thought of ever being anything but a Sister of St. Agnes. It was my one and only choice, a dream which I barely mentioned to anyone even by insinuation. I didn’t feel I had to share something that was so exclusively mine. It would have taken something away from it I am sure.
An unusual message came to me in a letter from my Aunt Frances during the first year after my profession. She wrote to me quite regularly, but this letter was different. She related that when she took me to the little church in LaPas, Manitoba, to be baptized, Father Gee, the pastor, asked where my godfather was. My aunt explained that the family was relatively new in the area and they didn’t feel they knew anyone well enough to make such a request. He asked, “What’s the matter with me?”and proceeded with the baptism. After having signed his name as godfather, he said, “Who knows, some day she may be a nun.” My aunt had deliberately kept this information from me for fear that it would influence my making a free decision.

I have not regretted my choice for one minute of the last thirty-one years. Dag Hammerskjold says, “We cannot afford to forget any experience, not even the most painful.” I have countless precious memories and only enough of the not-so-pleasant to make the others even brighter. I have wonderful friends ranging in age from my “old” friend, Sister Bertha, to some who have been professed only a couple of years. I like all people, young, old, and those in between. The work they do has never been a deciding factor in my choice of them as a friend. I have known great simple souls like Sister Marietta, and I have the utmost respect for those who led the way when the community was young—those pioneers of whom Sister Vera writes so beautifully with “all devotedness”.

In spite of the fact that I like people I have often been accused of being quite snobbish by people who don’t know me. The truth of the matter is, I am afraid of people I don’t know. This is a trait picked up from my Dad. He was always ill at ease among strangers. One sister told me she actually prayed that she would never have to live with me. She finally did, and we laughed together when she told me this after three years. She is older than I! I have never deliberately tried to frighten people. If they could know how I was struggling inside, they would feel sorry for me instead.

The Community has always been extremely good to me. I pray that I will ever be grateful for its having included me among its numbers. I am a charter member of Marian College; I feel that I deserve a “degree” from the Leo House by reason of six summers spent there. I have earned my business education credits at Duquesne University and have had the privilege of receiving a Master’s degree from Creighton. Even after all this, I have had the opportunity to earn extra credits in English and Journalism. The silver jubilee workshop at Creighton will always be appreciated as a time of special grace for me. I have often looked back on it with a great deal of joy and satisfaction.

Some of my most challenging summers, though, have been spent at our hospitals. I have worked in the offices of all four – St Anthony and St. Agnes each twice. Here I learned HUMILITY if it was ever to be learned – the humility that comes from others having faith in you. To this day, I can’t understand how the administrator, the accountant, the office manager, and the seven-year, all-round worker Agnes could have all left St. Anthony for a month leaving all financial matters in my hands from the opening of the safe and the remittance control in the morning to paying bills, making out payrolls, handling mail and Blue Cross checks, running the bookkeeping machine, balancing cash and making daily deposits, and –writing a $12,000 check to the government. I wondered: “Who am I to be trusted with all this; and how can I write checks like this with someone else’s money?” I got a terrific headache that day—but the hospital remained solvent.

The whole thing, however, did make me think. I had done the best I could in a field quite foreign to me. I had never been in a hospital office before. In a human situation it is cheating not to be – at every moment – one’s best. How much more so in a position where others have faith in you!

As like everyone else, there is the uncertainty of the future before me. What God in His goodness has in store for me only He knows. I must take each day as it comes, each morning holding out the chalice of my being to Him. I must hold it out empty, -- empty of self and self-interests, for the past must only be reflected in its polish, its shape, its capacity for love. I pray that I may continually grow firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer—realizing it is the last steps which decide the value of all the things that went before.

For all that has been – Thanks!
For all that still shall be – Yes!

July 8, 1967

We all love you Aunt Toots.  Your warmth and encouragement, caring and laughter, taught us to be like you. More than you'll ever know, we carry these lessons in our heart.  You taught us well.