Saturday, December 22, 2012

Richard Wyatt (1930-2012)—A Daughter Remembers

“You live as long as you are remembered.”
— Russian proverb

My sister-in-law Susie lost her beloved father recently.  She asked me to share some thoughts about him.  So I combined info from his obituary with the pictures and notes she gave me, and this is what I came up with.  I hope you like it, Susie.  I’m so sorry for your loss.

Richard “Dick” Wyatt, 1930-2012

Richard Wyatt, 81, passed quietly away in the early morning hours of September 20th, 2012.  He lived a wonderful life and will be missed by many.

Susie wrote, “My dad was generous and friendly and hard-working and funny.  He was an athlete who loved sports—especially high school sports.  He went to every West Aurora High School basketball game, home or away—he always went—and he would take anybody who wanted to go.”

Dick was a member of the West Aurora High School Sports Hall of Fame.  He was also an avid Cubs fan, and saw them play the Detroit Tigers in the 1945 World Series.
From Susie:  “Dad loved his family.  In the summer we would get all the neighborhood kids and play baseball.  Dad always played with us.  He was an avid Cubs fan—but his true love was the New York Yankees!”

Richard Wyatt was well known in Aurora as the owner and operator of the Aurora Tennis Club on Indian Trail for some 35 years.  There, he cultivated may friendships and took extreme pride in the dominance of the youth tennis program throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.

Susie wrote, “Dad always had teenage hired help at the tennis and swim clubs.  He trusted them, and they always came to him for advice.  He gave them responsibilities—and they never let him down.”

Richard Wyatt—a daughter remembers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Analysis of Worries

Many years ago, my late father wrote out these words of wisdom for me on a little scrap of paper...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Carriveau Curse

My husband’s maternal grandmother was a Corriveau by birth.  They were a family who seemed to live under a shadow of misfortune. 

The patriarch of the family was Laurent Corriveau, who came from Quebec to Michigan in the late 1800s after his young wife died (probably in childbirth).  He and his second wife Eugenie, who went by “Annie,” settled in Huron County, Michigan—“The Thumb” as Michiganders say—where they began to spell their last name “Carriveau.”  In the 1910 census Annie reports that they had “thirteen children, eleven still living.”  Nine are shown in this picture, with Larry and Annie front and center.

Those eleven children, all long dead now, had interesting lives...  One of the sons, who took over the family farm after he was grown, spent some time as an “inmate” at Pontiac State Hospital—an “insane asylum” as they were called then.  Another was the “responsible son,” who had no children of his own, but took in a younger sister after her divorce and was guardian of a nephew.  Another son was a hunchback, according to his WWI draft card.  One daughter was married young and had nine children—six of whom she raised alone and in severe poverty, dishing out some “pretty severe punishments” on them, according to one son.  Another daughter married at age 16 to a man of 55; the last two of her many children were most likely the children of her husband’s nephew.  (After her elderly husband died, she lived with the nephew for many years as man and wife.)  Another daughter, it was said by her nephew (my father-in-law), committed suicide.  Eliza, my husband’s grandmother, died in her thirties after she fell backwards and was drenched in boiling oil.  One of Eliza’s sisters married an abusive alcoholic at age 16; she and her two young sons ended up living with her brother.  Another sister also married young, to a man of the same last name (brothers?), and she ended up the same way—leaving him, and moving back in with her parents.

One son was a steeplejack who returned to Canada as a young adult, and apparently escaped the family curse (as far as I know)—as did one other son, the youngest. 

How I came to research the Carriveaus is a story I told in a post called “For the Love of Norman.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Letters from the Front Lines: Don't Worry, Please

An excerpt from a letter my father wrote to his parents from France during WWII:

“Well, at least I have a chance to write again.  I have not been hurt, except just one little scratch on my leg from a mortar shell.  Don’t worry, please, I went 4 days after and then went to the medics and they put some stuff on it.  It is all healed now, but I think the piece is still in there, as there is only one hole.  The medic said there is nothing to worry about, and I went right back to my company...  We have really been plastering and plastering them until I don’t see how they can stand it.  I will really have some experiences to tell when I get home. 

The war hasn’t affected me the way you might think it would, and I have seen things that I never thought I would see, but they just seem everyday.  After it is over, the letup on my nerves may make me jumpy for a while, but that is all...  I’ll be home soon, I hope, and I will be happier than I can ever say.  I have the folder with your pictures in it, and the Bible that Aunt Ithel gave me in my pocket, and when things are hot, I feel them and think, ‘How can I miss with these in my pocket?’”...

Dad was badly wounded a few months later, but he did eventually make it home.  He was indeed jumpy for a while—and although that eventually faded, he never forgot what happened over there.  May we never forget, either.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"La Corriveau"

“La Corriveau”…   Her real name was Marie-Josephte Corriveau, and she was one of the most infamous murderers in Canadian history.  She was born in 1733 near Quebec, and she was my husband's 2nd cousin, 6x removed.   This is a bronze sculpture from the National Museum of Quebec. 

According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, she was born in 1733 in Quebec and married in 1749 to Charles Bouchard, by whom she had three children.  After he died in 1760, she married again, in 1761, to Louis Didier.  Not long afterwards, in 1763, his body was found in the stable, with several fatal blows to the head.  Neighbors and family found it hard to believe that the horse was the culprit, and suspicion soon fell on Marie. 
There were two sensational trials.  The first ended with a death sentence by hanging—for Marie’s father!—who had confessed to the crime to save his daughter.  (Marie was sentenced to be flogged and branded for her part in it.)  But before these sentences could be carried out, her father made his last confession to a priest—and revealed his daughter as the sole murderer.   (He was later pardoned by King George III.)

At the second trial Marie confessed; she had struck her husband twice with an axe while he was sleeping and dragged his body to the stable.  She was sentenced to death by hanging—with the stipulation that after being executed, her body would be put in an iron cage and displayed publically as an example.  After a month of such display, her body was buried in the grounds outside the Catholic cemetery—where it was discovered in 1850.  She has been an object of interest ever since, with art, film, and entire chapters of books being devoted to her, and she is still known as “La Corriveau.”

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Young Man with a Past

He was the last person I would ever have expected to be interested in genealogy—and what I found out about his roots was the last thing I would have guessed. 

It was late 2011 and I needed a new genealogy project.  My husband had mentioned my hobby at the manufacturing plant where he works, and one of the young factory guys asked him, “Do you think your wife could find out more about my family tree?”   Bruno (not his real name) was young, wild, and festooned with tattoos.  I was intrigued.  I decided to take on the project until my next paying client came along.  Bruno provided me with a few names and dates—that’s all he had.  He was particularly interested in his father’s ancestry, which he thought was German.   Perhaps he hoped for a few skeletons in the family closet.

A few days into the project, I came across the World War I draft card of Bruno’s great-grandfather Albert in Livingston County, Illinois.  I did a double-take when I read the answer in the space reserved for “Do you claim exemption from draft?  Specify grounds.”  Albert’s answer was “Religion—Mennonite Church.”

More digging connected me with the generation before that—and sure enough, before long I’d “struck Amish.” Others had blazed this particular trail before me, so at that point I was able to connect with the research of fellow genealogists who were willing to share… and so I was able to follow Bruno’s paternal line all the way back to a small village in Switzerland in the 1600s, where his 7th great-grandfather Peter had been part of a group of Anabaptists led by Jacob Amman himself—the original founder of the Amish church.

Bruno took some ribbing on the factory floor for all of this. “Chill out, Bruno—remember, you come from a peaceful people.” But he was happy to know more about his roots, and I was happy to be able to share the gift of such a wonderful and surprising heritage with a young factory guy from Ottawa, Illinois.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Grandma Wallin—Ahead of Her Time

My paternal grandmother was Sara Elizabeth Peterson Wallin, whose father Charles Peterson I will write about in a future post.  It was Grandma Wallin who gave me my love of genealogy (and some of my Swedish genes).

Grandma was born in Nebraska in 1894 and died nearly 100 years later, in 1986.  She grew up at a time when girls, especially daughters of immigrants on the Nebraska prairie, didn’t think about much except getting married and having a family.  But Grandma was smarter than most, and more ambitious than most.  She managed, after graduating eighth grade, to attend a nearby coed ‘college’ (as the word was used then), Luther College, and then get a job at a local bank, the Hordville Bank.  She did well there—well enough that when the owner/president of the bank needed to be out of town, Sara ran the bank.  But when WWI ended and her sweetheart came home from France, she gladly gave that up and settled down.  She and Sture Nels Wallin were married in 1920, after a seven-year-long courtship. 

When I knew her, half a century later, she was interested in genealogy, and it rubbed off on me.  I spent a few happy afternoons in my childhood walking around a local cemetery with her, reading each gravestone and imagining the lives of those they described.  I still remember her handwritten charts showing her ancestry and Grandpa’s.  I ended up with that information in later years, and it became the basis of a family tree that now has nearly 10,000 members on it. 

But what I remember most about Grandma Wallin was her insistence that all her grandchildren, girls included, should try to get an education.  (That, and the lutefisk I avoided like the plague every Christmastime.)

So thank you for the inspiration, Grandma Wallin.  You are gone but not forgotten!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

For the Love of Norman

I was married for the first time in 2007 at age 51, to a wonderful man.  His father, Norman, walked me down the aisle that day, since my father had died many years before.  As I got to know Norman, I was intrigued by the story of his mother, Eliza Jane Carriveau Mosey, who had died tragically when Norman was five.  Norman had only one picture of her—her wedding picture—and knew very little about her, since his father had remained a stoic and grieving widower for the rest of his life.

I had been a genealogy buff for a long time by then.  So Norman and I began looking at his ancestry, trying to find out more about his mother and her family.  We spent many happy hours around his kitchen table that first year, poring over documents and talking and taking notes.  Slowly the story of the Carriveaus started coming together. 

I also wanted to record Norman’s own life story.  So shortly after Veteran’s Day 2008 I phoned him and said, “When I am in Michigan on Thanksgiving weekend, let’s talk about your time in the Navy during WWII.”  He happily consented. 

Little did I know that this would be the last time I ever talked to him...  On the day before Thanksgiving in 2008, he was out on his beloved John Deere tractor, plowing snow out of his driveway, when a van flew over the hill and hit him.  He was thrown to the ground, breaking more bones than any doctor could count.  His tractor was left in two big pieces on the road.  The doctors kept him alive until we could rush to Michigan to say goodbye, and then he was gone.

Later that weekend, when we returned to Norman’s home before the funeral, there on a table in the living room was a neat pile of pictures and documents—the things that Norman had gathered together to share with me about his time in the Navy.  I did write up the history of his time in the Navy, but I had to do it without him; perhaps I’ll share it another day. 

I was never able to find any more photos of Norman’s mother Eliza, but I’m still researching his family’s history.  I’ve learned so much since then, that I wish I could share with him!  I still do Mosey/Carriveau genealogy—For the Love of Norman.