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Painting: Popu and Pete

Jeanne Harris Weaver (8/12/2016)©

My mother’s family came to the states in the 1920’s. She was a young girl; and the oldest of her siblings to travel with their parents by sea to make America their home. They became citizens quickly and assimilated into American life. At some time my grandmother would have received a letter posted by ship. By the time she received it, it would have been weeks, if not months old. It would tell her of the death of her mother, her father or another family member. How very hard to learn this news so far after her loved one’s death. 


My grandmother passed away while her son, Pete, was serving in combat overseas during WWII. While in the trenches, he received a telegram with the news. A short time later, my mother and his wife, Aunt Sherma, would learn through a telegram that he, 1LT Pete J. Wassdorf, had been killed in action in Italy. It was the quickest correspondence of that era.


Although alone in our home at the time, how fortunate I was, to have two representatives of my son’s military service come to our door to deliver, in person, our fateful news. They came to our door that early morning with courage and compassion. They remained with us in the coming weeks to be sure all of our needs and concerns were met. How fortunate we were to receive a phone call from Todd’s superior officer only hours later to console us and to give us needed information. I am forever grateful to these people for their support to us; and for their compassion and love. They helped to bring solace to the unbearable.


My mother lost her brother, her mother, and her younger sister, all within a few years of each other. I do not ever remember Mother wearing black; and she refused to have lilies in the house. For her, they were symbols of those dark days of mourning.


But, she enjoyed telling stories about her family and about her siblings. She told me about the fun times she had with her brother; how they would both polish their cars and clean the spark plugs until they shined; how her brother would tease her and they would laugh; how they had a healthy sibling competition. 


She talked of her younger sister, Ankie, with such love and admiration. Ankie passed away at the age of 12 from leakage of the heart. She was soft, gentle, and kind.  Mother said she was an angel on earth. 


It is from Mother’s stories I came to know my Aunt Ankie and Uncle Pete. I never met their physical presence. I love them. They are a part of my family. 


From her stories I surmised there was a physical and personality similarity between Uncle Pete and Todd. Her stories allowed me to see the temperament of Aunt Ankie in my eldest daughter. There is a genetic connection; and It is something I would not be aware of if my mother had not allowed her memories to bring these people into our family. 


I am grateful to my mother for teaching me the importance of remembrance; for helping me to understand a man is not dead until he is forgotten. I am grateful each day for God's blessings.


Oil painting: My grandmother standing with Uncle Pete as a young boy. She is pregnant with her fourth child, Corey. Artist: Jeanne Harris Weaver

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