Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!!

Due to some photo copying glitches I'm a day late, but I wanted to celebrate my mom's birthday. Having died in February of 2005, she would have been 89 yesterday. I still think about calling her on Saturday afternoons. Oh how I wish I could hear her tell her stories about her cat--krr meow or her pet duck that she called mama. Or about living in a farm house where every Saturday night they would have dances in the kitchen with her dad playing the fiddle. There was so much dancing that they would wear out boards in the kitchen floor. My grandfather, being a carpenter would just pull them up and make and install a new one before the next dance.

My mom was born Agatha Eve Szczepaniak on February 5, 1919 in Marshall County, Minnesota. She did not have an easy childhood, although she was greatly loved. Her mother (Tekla Truszczynski) died in 1922 when my mom was just three years old. The family then moved to northern Wisconsin near a little township named Sugar Camp. Her father (Joseph) died when she was ten. My mom was very lucky to have come from a large family. In fact, her oldest sister, my Aunt Mary, was married and had her first baby BEFORE my mom was even born! Later, my mom would always joke about having a niece older than she was.

Quite the Gibson girl wasn't she? This is my grandmother Tekla with her first born, my Aunt Mary. This photo was taken around the late 1890s.

This photo is of my mom with two of her brothers, my Uncle Frank (the little one) and I believe, but I'm not sure, my Uncle Alec, with her dad (with the distinquished white hair and moustache). I believe my grandfather was in his 40s when he married my grandmother who was still a teenager, which seems shocking now but was not unheard of back then.

After her father died, a wealthy family wanted to adopt my mother. But, her older sisters and brothers were adamant that she remain a Szczepaniak, the name since being changed to Stefonek. So started a number of years moving around living with her sisters and brothers and their families. Since this was during the depression, the ones that could afford to take her in did, until they could no longer afford it. She would then move in with another sibling. She once told me she lost count on how many schools she started only having to leave a few months later.

Around the age of 14 she left school altogether and started work at the home of a wealthy family where she had one afternoon off a week. She helped take care of three children and did the housework for her room and board. When she was old enough, she became a waitress and settled in St. Paul. She would travel by train in the summers to Yellowstone National Park where she would waitress at the Grand Lodge.

This is where she met my dad. He was a bellhop and they met in the summer of 1941. World War II started and my dad enlisted in the Marines. My mom decided to take the train from St. Paul to San Diego to see my dad off. She arrived three hours AFTER my dad’s ship had sailed. She decided to stay in California and moved to the Hollywood area to waitress. She met some lifelong girlfriends there and had stories of seeing Caesar Romero and Harpo Marx. She even told me of a time when some man was trying to talk her into modeling her hands. He said they would be on a big billboard. He gave her his card. Well, of course, all the girls were warned about men like this and she just threw the card away. Wouldn’t you know, about six months later she saw this billboard advertising hand lotion with some woman’s hands!
She and my dad married in 1945 in St. Paul.

They raised five exceptional children. My father died in 1984 after working for years as a pipefitter and having been exposed to asbestos with little more then a dust mask for protection all those years.

Here I am with mom. Taken just a week before she died.

Happy Birthday Mom! I hope you are still celebrating with dad and your sisters Mary, Teenie, Stella, and Pauline and your brothers Alec, Mike, John, Frank and Joe. You often spoke of how much you missed them. Although I'm glad for you that you are all together now, you are still painfully missed here.


Dorothy said...

Lovely photos of your Mom and her family! My mom passed away 10 years ago at age 91 and I still miss her so much. I have a similar photo of the two of us taken shortly before she died..and it's one of the only ones I have of the two of us.

I think you did a wonderful job honoring your mom's special day.
Hugs to you!

possumlady said...

Thanks Dorothy!

One amazing thing happened this week and I have to thank the writers' strike! Since there is absolutely nothing on tv anymore (well, except for LOST), I've been doing a little internet searching. No one seemed to know where my maternal grandmother was buried. Now that I have where my mom was born I looked up cemeteries in the Marshall County, MN area and found out they have a Tekla Szczepaniak buried in the tiny town of Florian, Minnesota. There are no dates on her gravestone but it is a start!

I read that Florian, Minnesota (in the upper northwest part of the state)was populated with Polish emmigrants starting in the late 1800s which coincides with my mom's family being there.

So, hopefully, I can get my sisters and possibly my niece who lives in eastern nothern Minnesota to go on a fact-finding expedition this year.

possumlady said...

Sorry, I meant immigrants!

Mary said...

Very sweet memory, Possumlady. And I like the photo of you and your Mom before she died. You must cherish it.

Dorothy said...

Isn't it nice to be able to "find" your missing ancestors? I have a special place in my heart for my maternal grandmothers.....we all share the exact same mitochondrial DNA, and I wish I could have known them all. I find it so sad that only three or sometimes four generations know of each other, and then they seem to be forever lost. can be very helpful...although expensive, but I still have some missing relatives they can't help me find information about. Good luck in your search..may you find more of your family.... :o)

KGMom said...

Possumlady--what a sweet memorial to your mother (and your family).
I love the wedding photo of your mom and dad--they look very happy!
And the photo of you with your mom is just priceless--which I am sure you know!