Showing posts with label Genealogy Blog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genealogy Blog. Show all posts

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Where was Ed Chase?

Hattie Potter Chase about 1877
This is a continuing blog thread on my ancestor, David Edgar Chase and the on-going answers I find on the mystery of his death at age 47 in 1900 by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. To read my first entry on David, click here

Hattie Potter was just a month away from her 22 birthday when she married the handsome young David Edgar Chase, known as Ed. He was 25. Their wedding took place on a mild Wednesday in November of 1877 in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Both Hattie and Ed came from privilege. Hattie's father, Randall Potter, was a successful shoe manufacturer in Haverhill. Ed was the second son of David Chase, whose family were early settlers in nearby Newbury.

The Chase Family had long roots in Massachusetts. Ed's 6th great grandfather, Aquila Chase, was an early settler of Newbury. Many of the later Chase men were clergy, then lumber traders, shoe manufacturers, and in some census records, merely listed as Gentlemen.

Ed's father, David Chase, was a well respected, prosperous lumber merchant. His business included all three of his sons at various times.

In 1881, Ed and Hattie welcomed a little girl named Eva. When she was 6, Edgar left Haverhill and moved to Denver, Colorado. He and Hattie were married 10 years at this point.

Why he left isn't clear. It could have been to expand the D.D. Chase & Sons company. Hattie and Eva did not go with him and can be seen in U.S. Directories living in the Chase family house on Chestnut Street in Haverhill, along with patriarch David. Ed's brother, George, also lived there with his wife and family.

Ed would stay in Colorado for at least 3 years. But then between 1891- 1896 he simply falls off the map. He is not listed in Denver, nor is he listed in Haverhill. Hattie is listed plainly in Haverhill during all those years living with Eva in the Chase home.

Where was Ed Chase during those years?

Friday, August 25, 2017

The shameful secret of David Edgar Chase

David Edgar Chase abt 1880
I've written about my great-grandmother, Fannie Potter Willett, in a previous post. While researching Fannie, I discovered she had two older sisters, Harriett and Angeline, whom no one in the family ever had any real knowledge or recollection of. It was while I was researching Harriett that I found that her husband, David, died relatively young at age 47 in 1900.

I am always intrigued in genealogy when I find someone died young because there is always a life changing story attached to it that we may never know.

I was lucky enough to have a photo of both Harriett and David from the family photo albums that my cousin Leigh is the caretaker for. Harriett was lovely and serene looking. David was handsome, well-dressed and looked like your typical Massachusetts businessman. I was drawn to both of them for some reason and took my research in their direction to fill in their story for the family tree.

It didn't take me long to discover how David had died so young:

Newspaper article about David Edgar Chase

The headline shocked me. The sad scenario touched me. While his wife ate breakfast downstairs, he put a gun in his mouth and shot himself. He had been suffering from "nervous troubles" all winter. He left behind not only Harriett, but their 18 year old daughter, Eva.

This kind of death in our family, thankfully, was a new one for me to discover. Don't misunderstand me...I've seen some very sad obituaries about how some of my ancestors have passed away. Pneumonia, drowning, terrible diseases. Even being crushed in a gold mine collapse in California during the gold rush. But this one. Suicide. This was jarring to me.

I need to find out what happened in this man's life that would cause such a sad ending to a life that from the outside spoke of wealth, privilege and success.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

I have an ugly Fannie

Fannie Potter abt 1884
It's nice to know we've come a long way in my mother's family and we have developed into caring, loving people. Our ancestor, Fannie Potter Willett, had none of those qualities, unfortunately. 

By all accounts, Fannie was a spoiled, self centered woman with a keen sense of entitlement. Her looks matched her soul, apparently. 

Homely. Man-ish, Mean looking. Hideous. Selfish. Down right Ugly. Those are just a few of the words my family has used in describing dear great-grandmother Fannie. 

In a previous blog I told you I liked to explore Buba's house in Swampscott when we would go up and visit. And how nearly everything in that house seemed mysterious and frequently scary to me. 

Fannie Potter Willett abt 1887
Buba's basement was number one scary place in the whole whole house. It was partially finished but smelled like wet dog and old wood. Buba had her washer and dryer down there and a finished room that was weirdly bright and sunny for a basement. It was completely furnished. I keep meaning to ask my mother more specifically about it, but I believe it was used as a more informal family room. I do remember seeing photos of my mother's wedding presents all displayed out beautifully in that room. 

Also in that room were photos on the wood paneled walls. Of really old people. Scary looking people with big eyes. Large portraits and photographs in beautiful ornate frames. I remember them so well because they all looked so serious and stern. Fannie was the one who stuck in my head the most. In one, she had a white, frilly dress and an enormous bow in her hair. I could see parts of my grandfather and mother in her looks...but she had a cold, mean stare that definitely set her apart from anyone in my family that I knew. 

Fannie and her wedding dress
My cousins, Leigh and Beth, have these portraits that hung in Buba's basement and I was delighted to see one of them hanging in Leigh's bathroom in her Vermont home of our Great-grandfather, John Howard Willett.  John was Fannie's husband.  It just cracked me up to see him hanging there in the bathroom. Leigh has a great sense of humor. 

We've inherited other photos of Fannie that are similar to the ones hanging in the living room that I'm sharing with you here. They give you a sense of her. As a child I was scared of her because the portraits were so enormous in that room that they were intimidating. Her eyes seemed to follow you around the room. But I wonder about her life and why she was the way she was. 

This is what I know.

My Aunt Jean remembered her and said the family really didn't see Fannie and her husband John much growing up. Maybe certain holidays. They lived in Boston for a long while, but then moved to New York City for the last years of their life. She and my mother and their parents were closer to Mark and Luta Shrum, who were kind and loving people. 

The Willett family on a picnic about 1905
Frances Estelle Potter (she would tell people her name was not Frances, but really Fannie. But her official birth records show differently.) was born to the prominent Potter family of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her father was in the shoe business. She and her two sisters were raised in the best manner with no worries about money. She and John Howard Willett would marry in 1887 . One year later she would give birth to a stillborn son. He was never given a name. My grandfather, Harold Potter Willett,  was born in 1894. One year later, John Howard Willett, Jr.  as was born. He was called Jack. 

Fannie Willett in 1939 in NYC
Fannie was not a tiny, delicate woman. She was a large, brash woman who liked nice things. In a photo from 1905 you see the family out at a picnic--dressed up like it was Sunday church. 

Fannie was also not the maternal kind. She relied on their servant, Carrie, to take care of the children almost exclusively. My grandfather would say she was not an affectionate or loving mother. On Thursdays, Carrie's night off, she insisted on going out to eat so that she did not have to cook. She couldn't cook anyhow. On those nights the children were left to fend for themselves. They were not included in the dinner plans. Carrie, the housekeeper, took it upon herself to teach the boys some basic cooking skills so that on Thursdays they could make supper for themselves and their younger sister. 

I wonder how Fannie reacted in 1916 when John Howard telegrammed Harold who was a college sophomore at Indiana University and told Harold there was no more money left. John Howard's partner had embezzled all the money from their company. John later got a job selling shoes. Most likely with Fannie's father's influence. He got a job in New Rochelle. Fannie must have experienced a real change in her lifestyle. 

Fannie had three children, all who were very different as most children tend to be. Jack was reportedly a laid back man who worked with his father and went along his life with little fanfare. He did not go to college, as was expected of him. He married a woman named Mildred who was vivacious and outgoing. They stayed married for their life, but it was not a very happy marriage. She was frustrated with his mild manner. Although he and Harold were close in age and did things together when they were growing up, as adults they were not particularly close. They were cordial. 

Fannie's daughter, Jeanette, had a good life in NYC and a boyfriend. The family says that Fannie ruined Jeanette's young life by being demanding and guilting her into coming home and taking care of her. Fannie played sick and liked being waited on and Jeanette was the one to do it. Jeanette developed a "nervous condition" and then a pituitary gland tumor which my great grandfather, Mark Shrum, diagnosed. She died unmarried in 1945. My mother remembers her as being a very nice woman and thought it was sad that she died at only 44. 

There are many photos of Fannie. She loved having her photo taken. My cousin Leigh is the keeper of those photos and has shared them with me. I'd like to think there is a reason she was the way she was. We may never know for sure. 

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Meet Martha Lee

My mother hated the name Martha Lee. And she lived her life avoiding it whenever she could. I remember my grandmother sometimes calling her M.L. She felt that was much better than the grating “Maaatha Lee” they would address her with in their thick Boston accents. As an adult she would be known as Lee

M.L. held by her mother, Jeanette 1928
Her new friends at her new high school, Kendall Hall boarding school in New Hampshire, began calling her Willey.  This, reportedly after an impressive demonstration by my mother of belching out the entire alphabet at the lunch table one day.

 A demur Martha, she was not. This girl needed a cute name.

Willey, short for her last name, Willett, had a gregarious personality and many friends at this school. This was a pattern that would repeat herself for my mom’s entire life. Everyone always loved when she was at a party. But as for this school, it was a place her parents had sent her to “straighten up” after her and her best friend, Phyllis, repeatedly skipped school and hung around various places in Swampscott, Massachusetts. Mom would come home at the end of the school day and my grandparents had no idea she wasn’t showing up for class. Occasionally the truant officer would stop by the house. He was a friend of my grandfather.

“Harold, you’ve got to get that girl to go to class.” The officer would tell him. My grandfather would shake his hand and tell him he would get control of it all.

Sometimes Mom and Phyllis would hop the train to the Boston Garden to watch a hockey game. Neither had an interest in hockey, by the way. But this was 1942 and young men on shore leave from navy vessels passing through the Boston Harbor would take in an afternoon game at the Garden. Despite my grandmother telling her daughter to never, ever, take a cigarette from a stranger because it could have something “funny” in it, Mom and Phyllis were double trouble and liked flirting with the young men. And yes, smoking their forbidden cigarettes.

The fun came to an end one day when they decided to skip school and hang out by the local grocery market in the center of Swampscott. 

According to Mom’s version of the story, Phyllis suddenly jumps to her feet.

“M.L.! It's your mother, coming this way!” Phyllis exclaims.  They both spot my grandmother, coming up the street on foot, to go to the market.

Supposedly, my grandmother turned at all the commotion the frantic girls were making and looked over just in time to see her daughter and best friend diving into the nearby shrubs…their skirts flying.

Mom said my grandmother walked over alongside the shrubs and sighed,
“M.L. you come out of there right this instance!”

Mom says she and Phyllis popped up, knowing they were really in for it now. My grandmother had had enough.

Martha Lee about age 12, 1940
My mother adored her father. The feeling was mutual. While my mother’s older sister, Jean, was dainty, scholarly, demur and classically pretty, Mom was more along the lines of an early version of Carol Burnett. She was skinny and gawky with a wide, gummy smile. And she was not in the least bit interested in school. My grandfather secretly loved that about her because he had been a horrible student himself. He was more interested in chasing girls and having fun. Some of the stories in his own past mirrored what his favorite daughter was doing. What goes around, comes around was rearing its head to Harold Willett if there ever was a time.  It was all innocent fun, he probably thought, thinking back on his own youth. He was now a successful insurance salesman. He straightened up just fine.

But my grandmother was not having any of this. SOMETHING had to be done about these girls traipsing around Boston doing unladylike things.

The fathers called a meeting. They had gotten together to talk over the situation. Both sets of parents and the girls sat in the living room of my grandparent’s house on Lewis Road in Swampscott.

“Girls, we have made a decision. Your education is important and you can't keep dodging school. You come from good families. We are sending you both away to an all-girls boarding school.” My grandfather reportedly announced.

Martha Lee High 1946 graduation
Mom and Phyllis were absolutely delighted. They would have adventures in a far-away place! How fun would that be?

The parents were puzzled by the smiles on the girl’s faces. This was a punishment. What are they so happy about?

My grandfather was the first to figure it out.

“Young ladies,” my Grandad lectured to them, “You do understand you are not going off to school TOGETHER, don't you? “

Apparently my mother’s face dropped. Phyllis looked confused.

Grandad continued, “We can't even trust you two in the same state. M.L, you will be going to New Hampshire.” Phyllis’ Dad was sending her to a school in Vermont.

Mom remembers still not quite getting the whole picture of it. So she asked a question.  

“But Daddy, what is there to do in New Hampshire?” She remembers asking.

“Exactly!” all four parents answered in unison.

Mom loves telling that story. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hockey makes it all better

Growing up as a child I was never overly interested in sports. My brothers and Dad were more aviation geeks than sport followers. My Dad did like baseball, though, and he would follow the Red Sox. He took me to a game at Fenway when I was a teenager. I remember Carl Yazstremski  and Carlton Fisk were both playing in the game I went to, so I'll leave it to you to narrow down the years. But baseball never really took a strong hold on me. I liked it and I watched it, but I could take it or leave it.

But then came hockey. The Hartford Whalers to be exact. And my love for it and them all happened due to my sister Lynn's divorce. Lynn worked for Travelers and was in a  hockey booster club called the 91 club where she got discounted season tickets and who all drove up I-91 to Springfield, Mass to see the Whalers play.

Yes, I said Springfield, Mass. That January of 1978, the Hartford Civic Center roof caved in and the Whalers were now without a home. The Whalers were actually the New England Whalers at that point in 1978. They belonged to the WHA (World Hockey Association). While the Civic Center was rebuilt, the Whalers were offered the Springfield Civic Center. They stayed there for 2 years until the new Hartford Civic Center re-opened 1980, and the New England Whalers were now the Hartford Whalers and were a part of the NHL.

But back to 1978. Lynn and her husband Glen Drake were going through a divorce and Lynn got custody of the hockey tickets. She asked me if I wanted to go see some games. I was 13 at the time. We had just moved to South Windsor and I was having a pretty tough time of it with being bullied. I was extremely unhappy. Looking back on it, I think Lynn suddenly realized I was struggling and decided she would at least try to get me out of the house once in a while. I figured why not. It was something to do. Sure, I'll go, I said.

I loved hockey! It was 90 minutes of fast paced action. I completely forgot about any troubles I had going on in South Windsor, and I threw myself completely into learning everything I could about the game, the players and the league.

Christmas 1977
My favorite player was Mike Rogers. He played center, and he was scrappy and fast and super talented. Lynn and I would go down and sit in the front row seats of our section and watch the warms-ups since the ticket holders never came until the game had started. Thus began me waving and smiling and acting like a complete doofus every time Mike skated by. Eventually, he caught on and every game he would skate by and wave and smile, or tap his stick against the glass to say hello. It was our thing.

In 1978, my favorite Christmas present was the Rogers jersey I received for Christmas. Mike eventually signed it a few years later.

Meeting Mike. Age 13
Then came my chance to meet him in person. The Whalers were doing a meet and greet in the Civic Center center court and Mike was one of the players who would be there. I wasn't even a bit nervous to meet him. I was just so darn happy as you can see in the photo to the right. I was about 13 there. After I told him my name, I started to explain who I was, thinking he wouldn't really get the connection that I was the crazy one who waved at him every warm up. He laughed and said, "I know exactly who you are! I'm so happy to have a name to go with you now. Nice to meet you Jenny!"

How can you not love a guy like that?

Mike was a sweet and special guy. He introduced me to his wife, Ann, at the first Booster Club banquet, and if it were at all possible, she was even nicer than he was. She loved that I adored her husband and was very kind and encouraging to me whenever I would see her at hockey games or at events. She always remembered me by name.

Age 15, Posing with Mike Rogers at a Whaler banquet
When their daughter, Dayna, was born, I sent them a stocking I had made with her name on it and a baby's first Christmas ornament. Mike called me at home. I have no idea how he found my number, but I was beside myself with happiness. I'll never forget it. I was doing my Spanish homework and the phone rang. When he said who he was I didn't believe him. I thought it might have been one of the boys who bullied me at school trying to trick me. Mike kept saying, "No, sweetie, it's really me." I made him tell me his wife and daughter's names, plus how many goals he had scored so far that year to prove that it was really him! He laughed, and thankfully got the answers all right, and I finally believed him. I couldn't believe he was calling me. He said he just wanted to thank me for the gift for Dayna and for being such a caring and loving person. I almost couldn't handle it while I was talking to him. You haven't read yet what I was going through at the time in South Windsor, but for someone to say such nice things to me was something I had a hard time even letting him say out loud. I kept interrupting him and telling him he didn't need to say any of that.

My sister, Lynn, wrote to Mike shortly before my 15 birthday and asked if he could give me a signed hockey stick. I had no idea. So, there we were down in the front seats for warm-ups that night. Mike didn't take his usual lap around to wave or tap the glass to me. I was a little disappointed. But then he came out on the ice and skated straight for the rink door that was right next to us. The Zamboni came out that door. Mike skated over and looked at me and smiled and tapped on the glass to get the ice crew's attention. One of the guys came over and opened the door. Mike handed him a stick and pointed over to me. The guy handed the stick over to me and said, "This is from Mike. He says Happy Birthday Jenny." I was floored! Mike just grinned and skated away. I looked at the stick and not only was it signed by Mike, but by the entire team. Names like Gordie Howe and Mark Howe.

Mike was traded to the New York Rangers when I was a junior in high school. Devastating, to say the least. But I had come a long way since I had first met him and I accepted it quickly and knew that he would do well anywhere he played until he retired or went back to Calgary, Alberta Canada where he and Ann were originally from. I tried to keep up with Rangers, but it just wasn't the same. Mike eventually went on to the Edmonton Oilers and then retired from playing and became a coach in Canadian minor league hockey. The Whalers, of course, left Hartford and moved to North Carolina. Connecticut is still not over it, and you see Whalers memorabilia all over the place.

In 2010, there was a Whalers reunion held at Renchtler Field in East Hartford. Whaler alumni were all getting together for a meet and greet. Thousands of people showed up. I waited in line for 3 hours to see Mike again. When I got up to him I had a photo I had taken of him and Ann at one of the Whalers banquets. I gave it to him. Then I showed him the photo of him and I at the event. I said, to him, "I'm sure you don't remember me, but, I'm Jenny. "  He shook his head and said, "Oh my God, yes! Of course I remember you. How are you?"

I babbled on to him about my life and how I had named my third daughter, Michelle, after him because he had made such a big impact on my life. He looked truly touched and looked me in the eyes and said, "I can't believe that. Wow. Just wow."

Mike Rogers and me, in 2010 at the Whaler reunion
Honestly, he could have just been being polite. But I didn't care. He was genuinely happy to see how excited I was to see him, and when I asked to pose for a photo with him, he didn't hesitate. He hugged me after this photo and said how much he appreciated me remembering him and coming out after so many years.

So hockey was a real saving grace for me through those years I lived in South Windsor. And it continued to be a wonderful part of my life after we moved back to Windsor and my life got so much better. It was like the icing on the cake at that point. And I know Mike really has no concept of how important he was in the life of a 13 year old girl who was struggling so terribly.

Who would have thought hockey would make such a difference?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Through the looking glass

Being the youngest has benefits, trust me.  I was slightly coddled and spoiled and fussed over to a point. But it has its drawbacks. Like being blamed for every naughty thing that goes on and being teased by your older siblings.

In my case, my siblings were quite a bit older than me. The year that I was born, Chuck was 13, Lynn was 12, Robin was 10. Rick was the closest to my age at 6 years older than me.

Me, age 3, with my brother Rick 
So as I've mentioned in previous posts, when I was old enough, and Rick wasn't too old, we would hang out and play together with the other neighborhood kids.

For the most part we got along. But Rick was a teaser. And I was just a tiny bit overly dramatic with a wee bit of temper. One incident when I was 5 would pretty much prove both.

When I went to kindergarten Mom went back to work part time. I think the first job she had was working at Carvelle's restaurant in Wilson as a hostess. I remember going there sometimes to pick her up and hoping she would let me have a soda. Sometime she did. Most times she said I could have water, which of course was absolutely no fun.

On afternoons that she had to work, usually Chuck, who was 18 or Lynn, 17, would babysit me.

On this particular day Chuck was home. Rick and I were outside playing. We went to go inside and Rick ran ahead of me and  he thought it would be funny to run in the house and hold the glass door closed so I couldn't get in. Then he thought it was even funnier to lock the glass door. Then he thought it absolutely hysterical to point at me and say things like, " can't get in. Sorry, see you tomorrow!"

I kicked the door. I rang the bell, I cried and knocked on the door. Then I started getting mad, so I knocked harder. Then I started pounding on the glass door and crying and telling him he'd better let me in.

All of a sudden, my pounding resulted in my right arm crashing through the glass pane of the front door. I don't remember any pain. I just remember the look on Rick's face, and the blood everywhere.
Rick's face went white and he took off to find Chuck. I was in shock, and kept thinking that if I went inside I would get blood all over the floor and Mom would be really mad at me. So I had it in my head that I had to hide.

I crunched over the broken shards of glass and hopped off the front steps and started running. I thought I'd hide out in the woods in the backyard of our house. Maybe I thought my arm would just stop bleeding and I could just come inside later and no one would know. I was 5, remember. Then I remember feeling the blood hitting my legs as I ran and thought maybe this was worse than I thought, and maybe I should just go around to the back door and sit still in the grass--figuring the blood wouldn't do any harm pooling in the grass.

By the time I got to the back door, Chuck was there. I panicked that he was mad at me and I started running around to the front of the house again. Chuck caught up with me and tackled me around the waist. He picked me and ran me across the street to the Long's house. Mrs. Long was a nurse. I don't really remember anything else until I was in the emergency room. I'm guessing Mrs. Long assessed me and then she brought me to the hospital. I remember laying on a table in the emergency room and the nurse cleaning my arm and it was hurting now. They were sewing my arm up with what looked like a sewing needle and brown thread. I remember crying and the nurse gave me a rootbeer lolipop to eat while they finished up. The scar was about 5 inches long and deep.
Two years after "the Incident." Still buddies

They fit me for a soft cast for some reason. My mother thinks it was because of my age and they didn't want me picking at the scar or getting it dirty. What I remember about that cast is that I wasn't allowed to go on the swings or play on the playground during recess. Maybe because they didn't want me to bust any stitches.
I had to pick a quiet toy and I would sit under a tree for recess. I'm sure I picked a different toy every day, but I remember mostly picking one of those Fisher Price yellow buses with the eyes on the front and you pull it along and the eyes move back and forth. .There were people with round bodies and a hole in the bottom that would stick inside of the bus. There was even a dog. I loved that bus.

My Dad fixed the glass window and he put a metal guard across the front of it so that nothing like that happened again. Rick and I continued to hang out. Today, that scar is still pretty visible. My temper is much better.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Stalking Michael J. Fox

As an intern at Entertainment Tonight in the summer of 1986, I had the thrill of walking on the Paramount Studio lot every day. If you read my previous post about going out for this internship, I did, indeed get it. So as I told my mother, I would be back home in 3 months. My friend, Denise, got a job in the ticket booth at Universal Studios in Studio City. My internship would be 5 days a week, Monday to Friday. It was unpaid. So I needed to get a job as well. I had experience working in nursing homes, so I applied at the most famous one I knew...The Motion Picture County Home in Woodland Hills. The place old movie stars lived.

I loved every minute about being on that lot, and explored my way around whenever I had a break or on my lunch. I liked watching the people around the lot, moving props, sets and costumes all over the place. Every lunch time I would find a bench and sit and eat my lunch somewhere on the lot so I could catch someone famous walking around.

But I didn't just want to see ANY famous person. I was on a mission to see actor Michael J. Fox. Michael was the most popular celebrity ever in the summer of 1986. His show, Family Ties, and his movie, Back to the Future had been #1 in movie theaters. I simply had to see him in person before I died, I thought. Family Ties filmed on the back lot at Paramount.

ET Segment Director (can't remember her name),
 Sophia Loren, me, and my friend Vida in the
summer of 1986.
During the internship, I was assigned to various reporters and would go out on field shoots with them, and I met some popular celebs of the time like comic Garry Shandling and actor Bruce Boxleitner. The biggest celeb I met? Sophia Loren. We drove to a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel and her assistant greeted us at the door and invited us in. Sophia was still getting ready and had no make-up on, big round curlers in her hair and was dressed in a white blouse and dark capri pants. She was honestly the most breath taking beauty I had ever seen. Absolutely flawless skin and big beautiful eyes. She came over and hugged Jeanne Wolf, the reporter. Then she hugged the camera guy. Then she hugged ME. She was simply gorgeous and so warm and friendly. When she came out of her room 30 minutes later, all made-up and dressed for her interview, I could see the Hollywood glamour up close and personal and honestly thought she was more beautiful without the make up. She hugged me again when we were leaving, and wished me luck in school.

But I was still obsessed with Fox. Each day the other interns would take their lunch break in the Paramount commissary. They would always invite me along, but I knew I had a better chance of seeing Michael if I stayed out on my bench. None of the big actors went into the commissary.

Until that Friday in August.

I was sitting on my bench, eating an apple, when I saw the writer and creator of the Dick Van Dyke
Me with the research staff at Entertainment Tonight 1986
show, Carl Reiner, ride by me on a bicycle. Bikes and golf carts were the preferred way for people to get around the enormous lot. He was wearing jeans, a golf shirt, a sweater vest, and a white cap. I was so excited! DVD was my favorite show ever, and Carl Reiner had appeared himself on it as Alan Brady.

I ran back to Entertainment Tonight, ready to tell my friend, Vida, all about my sighting. When I stepped into the research room with my excited news, I could see it on her face.
As if she was preparing me for news about the death of a loved one, she came up to me and put her hand on my shoulder. "Jenny, Michael came into the commissary today."

I was crushed. Crushed, I say! He was there only 5 minutes or so, talking with someone else, but Vida recounted that he was literally 5 feet away from the table all the interns were at.
My fellow interns came up to me the rest of that day with their condolences. Every one knew I had been hoping to see him, and they all looked out for him for me.

My friend Denise took this photo for me while she
was working at Universal Studios. I thought it was
 the closest I would ever get to seeing him. 
As if the universe was feeling sorry for me, fate intervened the next week. Vida came in on Monday with some exciting news. She had gotten a job as a page (like an usher) at Paramount and she would be working on Family Ties this week! My dear friend had already put me and Denise on the guest list for the audience on Friday when the show taped. She was allowed 2 friends and family passes for each show. I hugged her, I was so excited.

That Friday came and Vida sat Denise and I right smack in the front row of the raised bleachers.. Before the taping, the actors would be coming out to be introduced to the audience. I was so excited Denise told me if I didn't calm down she was going to make me leave.

And out he came. Michael J. Fox. He was cute as a button. I was giddy with happiness. After the show the actors came out again for accolades. I whooped and screamed when Michael was named. He looked directly at me and nodded.

Or at least I would like to think he did.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Where did you go to school?

My time in elementary school was one of the very most happiest days of my life.  I attended John F. Kennedy school on Park Avenue in Windsor for grades K-6.  We lived on Diana Lane and I was a "walker." 

My earliest memories of Kennedy was walking with my mother up Diana Lane and meeting up with other kids and their moms and we all walked the rest of the way together. The moms would lag behind chatting while we kids walked ahead of them. It was a social time for the moms who were mostly stay-at-home moms. We'd usually run into Bobby Long and his mom first since they lived across the street. Then Ronnie Harner and his mom. They lived at the top of Diana. Robin Road was the road Diana dumped out on and my very best friend, Jayme Hannah, lived right smack in the middle of it right where Diana ended. My mom and her mom, Betsy, were especially good friends.

One of my best childhood friends, Jayme Hannah. 
About 1974. She is holding our Velvet dolls. We always 
asked for the same dolls at Christmas so we could play
together with them. 
As the school year went on the dynamic changed. Sometimes Debbie Abbey and her mom would join us. Sometimes way up on Craigs Road Eric Lazarus and his mom would be walking when we were. By first grade, believe it or not, our parents didn't walk with us anymore. We walked together. That would never happen today that a bunch of 6 year olds would be allowed to walk to school without an adult, but in 1971 it was a safe and innocent time in our neighborhood.

For kindergarten I had Miss. Dalphanie. She was so little she would almost qualify to be called a little person. She had to be only 4'6" or so. She was loving and sweet and she had a bouffant hairstyle. She also had fat feet.  I remember fat spilled over her black pumps as if they were too small. What a crazy memory.

Who can complain about kindergarten? I'm quite sure I had afternoon kindergarten. It was only a half day.  I ate graham crackers and drank milk out of little red and white cartons with my friends at snack time. We had  little rug remnants we had to take our nap on. We had cubbies to put our coats and boots in.  I remember having happy feelings in that room.

Me in 1970, at my grandparent's 50th 
wedding anniversary. No more cast. 
One not so happy memory was when I had a cast on my arm during the first part of that year. My brother Rick had locked me out of the house and was teasing me from inside that I couldn't come in. I had a little temper back then, I'll have you know.  So I banged on the door. The glass storm door. You can see where this is going. My arm went flying through that window and glass and blood were everywhere. I had to have stitches. I remember being freaked out and running around the back of the house. My older brother, Chuck, who was 18, caught me and tackled me and dragged me across the street to Mrs. Long's house. She was a nurse. Mom wasn't home for some reason. I remember the hospital nurses giving me a root beer lollipop while the doctor stitched my arm up.  Then they put a soft cast on it. I'm not sure why. Maybe for the same reason they put those cones on animals so they don't pick at their wound. Who knows.

So what's that got to do with kindergarten, you are asking yourself.  At recess time I wasn't allowed to go on the swings or the monkey bars. Both were a pretty big deal to this 5 year old. I had to choose a quiet toy and play under the trees. I recall one time I chose one of those Fisher Price buses with all the round people who fit in and it had eyes on the front of the bus with a plastic string you could pull the bus along with and the eyes opened and closed. Not as fun as the monkey bars but good times!

John F. Kennedy, overall, was an extremely happy time in my life. I am still friends with kids from this school today. Facebook had a lot to do with that. But some I just kept in touch with over the years the old fashioned way. 

Having a fabulous hair day for fourth grade
photo day, despite having the 
scariest teacher on earth that year.
On my barrette was written, "Jeannette."
My first grade was with Mrs. O'Donnell. She was a sweet, grandmotherly kind of woman and I remember she had a gentle voice. Second grade was Ms. McAuliffe. She got married the summer after I had her and became Mrs. Cosma. She was tall and pretty with long dark hair and I remember her Dad and my Dad had some kind of connection with World War II. I don’t remember what. Third grade was Mrs. Rund. She got married during the school year and we were invited to her wedding…all the kids in her class! Not to the reception of course. That would have been insane. But it was the first wedding I had ever gone to. She was such a sweet teacher. She was tiny like Ms. Dalphanie.

Fourth grade was like a culture shock. Miss McCarthy. Honestly, I think this woman absolutely hated children. She looked like the Wicked Witch from the West in the Wizard of Oz.  No joke. And she was MEAN. She scared the hell out of each and every child who had her. I remember also she was sickly. So we had subs every once in a while. Which was good. We needed the break. I remember I learned my times tables with her. We had to go up to her desk individually and recite them to her. She looked bored and annoyed out of her mind. I could never get my 12s times tables right. I thought she was going to murder me because I didn’t know them. I was scared silly.  But she was having a good day and was only mildly annoyed and told me to work on them better. To this day I stink at my 12s, and I think of her almost every time. 

Mrs. Belzer, my fifth grade teacher. Apparently,  I
circled people in the class picture who I liked a lot
that year.She was my favorite teacher and taught 
me to always try to have a positive attitude. 
Fifth grade was my favorite teacher in the entire world. Mrs Belzer. Oh, how I loved her. She was young, reddish hair, round and chubby. She hugged kids every day (when it was still ok to do that). She loved to laugh. She loved all of us kids, and she made us all feel special. I was getting chubby at this point, so looking at her and seeing such a chubby woman who was so happy in life, with a loving husband, made me feel better that it would be ok if I grew up to be a chunk too. A lot of us JFK kids on Facebook found Mrs. Belzer and reconnected with her in 2014. She had just retired and worked at JFK for her entire career. We were her first class after she graduated from teaching school. 

Sixth grade was Mrs. Beauregard. She had some tendencies like Miss McCarthy so we were all kind of on edge with this one. It was difficult to go from one teacher who was so loving, to another teacher who you felt wanted you to be dead and just go away most of the time. Sometimes she could be perfectly nice and funny and friendly. But, boy…one thing would happen and someone might act up and she would just flip out. I kept my distance with this one and just did my work and kept out of trouble.

As you will read in upcoming posts, we moved after 6th grade and I had a few pretty terrible years for 7th and 8th grade. I barely passed either grade and received C’s and D’s and a few F’s.  I was bullied horribly. I don’t remember a single teacher’s name at Ellsworth School for 7th grade or Timothy Edwards School for 8th grade in South Windsor.

I don't remember a single teacher's name, that is, except one. Mr. Longo. He was the gym teacher at Ellsworth. He was a little guy. He was always kind to me despite the fact that I did absolutely everything to get out of gym class. Forged notes from my mother, forgot my gym clothes, asked to go to the nurse’s office, etc.  He would get exasperated with me, but I think on some level he knew I was dealing with a lot of stuff and just didn’t push it.

It was in gym class that I sprained my ankle. Playing basketball. Or trying to play.  I tried to shoot a basket and jumped up and when I came back down I landed funny and felt excruciating pain. See what happens when you make a fat girl to do gym class, Mr. Longo? Nothing good comes of it. 

Anyhow, he helped me to the nurse’s office and they called my mother and I remember he was really nice and came in to check on me. When my mother came to get me to bring me for x-rays, they had to get me down about 25 steps in front of Ellsworth School to Mom's car. I'll never forget Mr. Longo saying, “I can carry her down.” I was like, “What? Are you crazy? I’m twice as big as you! No way.” I was mortified to even think of him carrying me.  I clearly outweighed him and was about 4 inches taller than him! He finally gave in and probably realized it was for the better for his own health and so I hobbled down those 25 steps holding onto his shoulder and my mom brought me to the doctor. 

Back on Windsor soil, 1982, dressed as Harpo Marx for a 
high school costume party. I had good friends all throughout
high school. Left to Right, Dominique Corbett, me, 
Colleen O'Meara and Kelly Packard. I'm still in contact
with Dominique and Colleen to this day. I lost contact
with Kelly, unfortunately. 
Ninth grade we had moved back to Windsor and I went to Sage Park Junior High (now Middle School) for 9th grade.  I had lots of good teachers at Sage Park. A few of them were still there when my daughters attended there many years later. It was a happy time for me and I made Honor Roll.

I was so happy to be back in Windsor! I made friends easily there and I was excited to know that I would be seeing all my JFK friends at Windsor High School the next year for 10th grade.

Then there was Windsor High School for 10-12th grade. Today it is 9-12th. When I was in 11th grade it changed. We couldn't believe they were letting those baby 9th graders in.  I loved everything about Windsor High School and had a lot of friends and happy times.

I wasn’t in the popular group, but I knew them and got along with them. I wasn’t in the jock group (of course!), but I knew them and got along with them.  I wasn’t a loser, either (despite what my kids think!). I was in the middle. Kind of preppy, I guess. But not a nerd.  A good student. Involved with the Yearbook. Wrote for the school paper. I really got into my English and writing classes tremendously. I managed the boys track team with Jeanne Deshais (whose younger sister, Suzanne, ended up marrying my husband's brother, John). I still don't know how I got involved with that one. I think she and I liked the same boy who did track and she convinced me to help out. Managing just meant taking down stats on the clipboard, filling water bottles, starting and stopping the stop watch and just over-all helping as needed. I have no interest in anything like that, so it must have had to do with Steve Parks, who was a year ahead of me and who I totally liked. I did a lot of things outside school like going to movies with my friends, going to hockey games, sleepovers, etc. I didn't get into any trouble.  I didn’t drink or smoke. It just wasn’t for me. I just liked to laugh and hang out and watch movies and write.

Did I mention that I was never bullied again?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Milkshakes and Bazooka gum

Dad still took us places. We didn’t do things as a complete family anymore, but me being the youngest I didn’t have any frame of reference about that because I was too little to ever remember us doing things with both my mother and father.
About 1973. Rocking a fabulous pantsuit and posing in 
front of my Dad's VW bug. Probably on our way to Bart's.

My special place to go with Dad, usually just him and me, was Bart's. Bart's was, and is, a popular drive-in restaurant in my hometown that had been around since the 1950’s. One side of Bart's sold hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, milkshakes and other delicious drive-in kind of food. The other side was a little convenience-like store where you could get some basic food items like milk and bread. And candy. 

I loved Bart's. It was a special treat to go there for a milkshake. There were no seats at Bart's. You drove up, walked up to the counter and ate and drank right there. Or you brought it back to your car. 

I remember being so small that I used to count the wads of gum people stuck under the counter because I couldn’t see over the counter.  Dad would order his coffee milkshake. He would order a strawberry one for me. I could never finish them. They were enormous.  Dad never used a straw. They all knew Dad there and he would make small talk with the owners, Bob or Bart Dillon, while he leaned against the counter. 
Mr. Dillon. He made plenty of my
milkshakes when I was a little girl. Photo
from website. 

I would hold my milkshake and go over to the connecting double sided glass door between the restaurant and the store. The door wasn’t used, but  I liked to push my face up against it to see through a peg board that was between the two panes of glass. I thought it was a special secret that I had discovered that there was a large poster of Santa Claus they were storing between the glass panes. I liked peeking through the holes to see Santa.

After milkshakes I could usually talk Dad into going next door and getting some candy. Bazooka bubble gum. The cost was 1 cent.  Or Fireballs. Also 1 cent. I preferred the Bazooka gum because there was always a little comic wrapped around the gum. 

Carol Dillon  was wife of one of the owners and she used to work the register in the store. She had big, blond, poofy hair and pink lipstick and was always so nice to me.  She would call me sweetie. Dad used to give me some pennies and I could pick out what I wanted and pay Mrs. Dillion all by myself.

Bart's was a special place for me with good memories. It was for my Dad too. When he was very ill and in the nursing home he couldn’t eat solid food any longer. I asked him if he would like me to bring him something special. He asked for a Bart’s coffee milkshake. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The red chair

Grandad is his red chair in his den. Early 1970's. 
When my grandmother, Buba, died just a few months before I was married in 1988, my mother let us know that my Aunt and cousins were working on getting her house on Lewis Road in Swampscott, Massachusetts ready to be sold and that if we wanted anything we could go up and take a look. Fred and I would be getting our own house after we got married and I thought there might be some furniture, especially, that we might want to consider.

Among other things we chose was my grandfather's red leather chair from his den and a matching ottoman. It was a favorite of mine and one of the few things that reminded me of a man I really didn't know very well.

I had just turned 8 years old the summer Grandad died. His was the first wake and funeral I ever attended. At the wake, my mother wanted nothing to do with being in the same room as the open casket that Buba had going on for him, so she stood with me outside in the hallway and greeted people as they came in. I was relieved to not have to see a dead person. Score one for being the baby. At his funeral, I remember being mesmerized with the American flag presentation to my grandmother for his World War I service. She looked sad. They had been married 53 years at that point.

Harold Potter Willett about 1896
at the age of 2. Look at that outfit.
The photo above of him sitting in that red chair in his den is how I remember him. What's weird is that I also remember that glass he has next to him. My grandmother had a set of those and I remember drinking out of them.

I love looking at the photos of him growing up. My mother and aunt as well as Buba's diary provide some great stories of him.

He and his brother, John Howard, and sister, Mildred Jeanette, were raised in a very unloving family. Their mother, Fannie, was by all accounts said to have been selfish and cold.  An older brother was still-born in 1888. Harold's middle name was Potter which was his mother's maiden name.

John Howard, Jr. and Harold Willett abt 1902
The Willett family was well off. John Howard, Sr. was in the shoe selling business in Boston which was a lucrative business in the late 1890's. They had a servant. Her name was Carrie Steele, according to the 1910 census. Grandad told the story that she was a loving woman who taught him and John Howard to cook so that on her nights off they wouldn't go to bed hungry. Fannie insisted on going out to dinner on the nights Carrie was off. She had no regard whether the children ate or not.

Harold Potter Willett abt 1912
My own memories of Harold Potter Willett are fleeting and few. He had a brown mole on his cheek and on his forehead. He worked in insurance. He had a soft voice. He was tall and skinny. He always insisted when we drove in the car with him that we had to wear a seat belt. This was in the early 1970's when it wasn't the law and no one did it. I remember what a pain it was to have to do it because I was little and couldn't see out the car window as well. One time while in the car with him, a fire engine came up behind us and he pulled over to the side of the road to let them pass. I asked him why we had to do that and he told me so that the fireman could get to save the people faster. Another time, I remember walking into the kitchen and hearing him complaining about me to my grandmother that I didn't eat all my dinner. He was really mad about it, I remember. He thought I was wasteful and fussy. It hurt my feelings to hear him say that and I snuck out and cried in the upstairs bedroom. I was probably about 5 or 6.

He was actually a very nice man. I just didn't get a chance to get to know him We lived just far enough away in Connecticut that by the time I was born we only made trips up to Swampscott on special occassions. My mother adored him and was always closer to him than she was to her mother. My mother and Grandad were very similar. Neither were good students. Both liked to have fun (too much) growing up. Both were stoic and "suck it up and move forward" kind of people.

My grandfather's red chair
in our living room 2014
I remember Grandad being sick. He had breathing problems due to mustard gas exposure in World War I and it caused issues later in his life.  He had to be on an oxygen tank. They cleared out the dining room of their home in Swampscott and set up a hospital bed in there so he didn't have to go up and down the stairs. Buba took care of him. I recall a time I was sitting in the living room and she was helping him get dressed. He was very frail at that point and he was sitting on the edge of the bed in a hospital gown. She was putting socks on him.  Grandad insisted on getting dressed every day and sitting in a chair.

He died in July of 1973 at the age of 78 in his sleep. Buba was in the living room doing some needlepoint and when she went to check on him, he was gone.

She missed him for the rest of her life. She would mention him frequently and always note his passing by saying something like, "Harold's been gone 20 years this month."

The red chair sits in my living room. Well loved by our cat, Stuart, who likes to nibble on it, unfortunately. But plans are to repair it. In the mean time, it is lovingly watched over by a photo of his wife.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Family Tree of cats

If you know the  Horners  you know that we love us some cats.  I don't, in fact, remember my life without a cat. 

I converted my husband, Fred, to love cats too...although he won't really admit it readily. Our girls all love cats in varying degrees. It's safe to say--we are cat people. 

I have had the best experience with all of my cats, and have never been without one in my entire 50 years of life. 

First there was Bootsy. She and I grew up together.  
The first cat in my family tree. Bootsy Horner.

When she was put down when I was 13 years old I cried for months afterwards. She was my most best friend.  

I had a difficult time when we moved from Windsor to South Windsor. I was bullied pretty badly. You'll read more about that in a later blog post. Bootsy would greet me at the end of each day by kissing me through the bars of the railing of the upstairs staircase. She seemed to sense I needed a friend. She never left my side. A beautiful angora Persian black and brown beauty. I still think of her. 

We're not sure what happened to her that caused her injury. What I remember is that one day she came in from being outside and she couldn't walk. She dragged herself into our downstairs bathroom and wedged herself between the wall and the toilet. We wondered if maybe she had been hit by a car. My mother was going to be bringing her to the vet later that day. I snuggled up to Bootsy before school that morning. I remember she was grooming herself. She wouldn't let anyone touch her but me. I pushed my face into her fur as she gave herself a bath. I told her I loved her. She licked me on the top of my head. 

My Dad petting Bootsy
My mother had her put down that day while I was at school. The vet recommended it because of her age. He said they could explore what was going on but the cost and recovery would probably be too much. I didn't understand. But I know my mother loved her too and wouldn't have put her down easily. All I knew was that I was inconsolable.

Bootsy was brought into the Horner family a year before I was born. She was my big "sister. " I'm told it was love at first site for both of us. My mother, who, went back to work when I was very little, liked to tell the story of how Bootsy liked to protect me from strangers.

One of the earliest jobs I remember my mother having was at The Windsor Towne House. As of 2013 it still stands in Windsor. Back then it was a place for business men who were working for long term assignments at various Hartford area businesses. I think a lot of engineers like my Dad. My mother liked to entertain. My parents were separated or divorced at this time. I don't remember which. I remember my mother would invite men and women who didn't have a place to go for Christmas to our home for Christmas dinner. My mom just didn't want people to be alone for Christmas.  I'd like to think I inherited that feeling. I open my home to all on Christmas Eve and have had many "orphans" on this night. And I love it.

But back to cats.  On those nights that mom had parties and strangers were over, Bootsy would sit at the top of the stairs and glare down at everyone . She frequently planted herself right in front of my bedroom door if strangers were over and I was asleep. Mom liked to say she was protecting me.

I don't remember how we got Munchkin. My mother called her Nadia. Everyone was enthralled
The only good photo I have of Munchkin.
She looked a lot like Boo-Boo Kitty.
with the gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who just scored a perfect 10 in the 
Olympics. The name didn't stick. Everyone else called her Munch. I remember she was a sweet thing.  She was a gray and white tabby. I never grew as close to her as I had Bootsy. But I loved her. She lived with my mother right thru the time she moved to Westfield, Massachusetts and I was in college. I don't remember how she died. For some reason I think it was diabetes. I know I was grown and my mother was close to her and they were great companions.

One of the stipulations I had when I married Fred was that I needed to have a cat right away. He was fine with it but he wasn't really a pet kind of person. He had all kinds of random pets growing up but they never stayed around for one reason or another so he never really formed that magical bond between a pet and their owner. He would soon know that incredible love!

A few weeks before we got married, my sister in law, Carol Horner, took in a stray cat. The cat, it was soon discovered, was pregnant. Fred and I had plans to move into our new house about a month after we got married, so I thought it was fate that there would be some kittens available that I could choose from to make our new house truly a home!

The kittens were born a week or so before the wedding and Fred and I went to take a look and choose one. Fred’s only condition was that we had to have a male cat. He felt female cats were moody and unfriendly (not true, of course). I didn’t care what sex we got…I just knew I needed a kitty. We chose a name in advance. Boo-Boo. Fred won’t like this story getting written down for all generations to see, but Boo was an affectionate name that I had for him early in our relationship.  

It was adorable, trust me.

Anyhow, we choose a black and brown newborn male and named him Boo-Boo. The plan was he would stay with his Mama until he was old enough to leave her which would be about the time we were moving into our new home. Carol was happy to take care of him until we were ready for him.

The wedding came, and then our 2 week honeymoon. First a week in San Diego, California and from there a cruise to Mexico. When we returned, Carol had left a message for me to call her. I was crushed to hear that little Boo Boo had died. Another one of the kittens had died as well and Carol’s theory was that because the mom was a stray, she was not healthy herself and her babies were sickly.
Our sweet Boo-Boo Kitty (1988-2008)

Carol felt so terrible that “our” kitten had died, that before we got back from our honeymoon and had found out, she went up to a farm she knew of in Stafford Springs, Connecticut that had kittens for adoption and chose one for us. He was waiting for us at her house. 

There we met the love of our family’s life. Boo-Boo Joseph Hawran.

He was a gray tabby with white paws and a white tummy. And the most precious baby boy you have ever seen in your life. Carol chose him from the other kittens because he had such a sweet nature. We had 20 wonderful years with Boo Boo. The day we had to put him down due to cancer in his jaw was the day our hearts broke in pieces. Fred cried as hard as I did that day.

We used to joke that we had Boo Boo longer than we had our daughters. He was, in all senses of the word, spoiled rotten. He was our baby before we had babies.

Boo-Boo was incredibly smart. People smart. When he wanted to go outside, he would ring this silver bell we had hanging on our front door handle. He taught himself to do that. It was simply left there one Christmas. All of a sudden he started ringing it. People were astonished he taught himself. But we weren’t. That was Boo-Boo.

When we first moved to Hope Circle, Fred and I used to take walks after dinner. We would start up Hope Circle to Rood Avenue and I would glance back and there was Boo-Boo—trotting after us. Wanting to walk with us. Almost to the end of Hope Circle. It took us some convincing and explaining to get him to go back home. We were worried about him wandering too far away from home if he walked with us.

Many years later he could tell time. Seriously.

I worked at home doing web design. The girls were all in Oliver Ellsworth School. I would easily loose track of time while I working. But not Boo-Boo. He knew the girls would be coming home soon, and he would come into my office and meow to go out around 2:45pm. Loudly. The bell was gone at that point. And he would pace around. And bother me. Until I let him out. It took me a while to figure it out. I would glance out my office window. Every day he would trot out to the front lawn and sit and wait. Several minutes later the bus would roll up to the front of our house. Boo-Boo would stand up. The girls would get off the bus. Boo-Boo would run over to the them to greet them (and be greeted by them).

They loved it. Other kids would comment on it, “Is that your cat waiting for you?”

There were a few times over those years they were all talking with each other and would run past him accidentally on the way into the house. He would look stunned when that happened. They would always realize it and run back to love him.

Boo-Boo's usual cuteness
He loved to be outside while they were playing. Or if Fred was working in the yard. He would sit under a bush in the shade and just watch. He’d come over once in a while 
to make sure you knew he was there and get some love.

Boo-Boo always came in at bedtime. You would just call him and he would come in. No worries. Once when he was younger he was gone for a few days. I scolded him about it and it never happened again.

He was a dream because he never used a litter box. We trained him to go outside. Even in the winter.

He got the “good” seat on the couch. Boo-Boo had his favorite seat and if you were in it, he would circle around from the family room to the kitchen, back to the family room to see if you moved yet. He was polite about it. Boo-Boo was always polite, we used to joke. But by the third time he circled around and stood there looking at you—you felt guilty. And you moved somewhere else. To another seat, to the floor—wherever. And Boo-Boo would happily jump up to his seat, take a bath and go to sleep.

We have had other cats since. All just as loved and adored and worshipped. 

We don't have a lot of photos of Bow. Here he is. Can you see
the notch out of his ear on the left? (1998-2009)
Bow. He was a black and white little boy I got from my friend Denise. Michelle and he 
loved each other. He would let her hold him like a baby and she would rub his big rabbit feet. Bow Francis was his legal name. He had a wild spirit and went out for long stretches of time. But he was a sweet boy. One time he came back with the tip of his ear chewed off. He went outside one night and never came back. We think he met an untimely demise due to another animal. After Bow I never let our cats out again. I just couldn’t face losing another one.

BJ. He was a sweet tiger cat. BJ Lawrence. Our girls gave all of our cats a middle name, if you haven't noticed. He was from the CT Humane Society. But he was a nervous sort. Not at the very beginning, but definitely as he got older. It ended up he had heart problems. He used to sit on the kitchen stool all the time. He was afraid of Buddy, our next cat. Sadly, he died on our bathroom rug after a blood clot made his legs useless and his heart gave out.  He meowed during the night and I layed down with him and stroked his back as he passed away. Fred had to take him to the animal hospital for cremation. I was too sad.
Buddy Arthur Hawran, about 3 months after we took 
him home from the vet. BJ wasn't hiding on the kitchen chair yet. 
Buddy (2009-present)

Buddy came next. Buddy Arthur Hawran. We had just put Boo-Boo down a few months prior. I walked into my vet with BJ for an exam and he said in his Indian accent, “Ohhhh…you need a new kitty. This one is perfect for you. He needs a home.” I said absolutely not. My heart was still too broken over the loss of our Boo-Boo. Sara was with me. No, no, no, I said. Just take a look, he said. Well, of course, that’s all it took. Buddy snuggled right into the crook of my neck. He was a kitten that Hartford animal control found on the streets of Hartford during sub zero weather. He had an upper respiratory infection and was not ready to go home quite yet. He gave kisses to Sara. Snuggled and purred with me. I had to have him. Of course. Darn cat love. 

Stuart Ward Hawran. Thanksgiving 2014. Deciding he
wants to help set the table with me. 
Then came Stuart. We decided after BJ died that Buddy needed a playmate. So  Katie, Michelle and my niece Lisa all headed to the CT Humane Society. There we met this adorable Ginger named Stuart. So, breaking with the “B” theme of our cats, we kept his name and brought this hilarious guy into our family. His middle name? Ward. After some kid that Michelle went to school with. A kid she didn't even like much, apparently. But it suited him, anyhow.  I honestly think that next to Boo-Boo, he is the smartest cat I have ever known. He has incredible patience and a long memory. If he wants to get into something…he’s gonna figure it out. His specialty is chewing plastic bags. And headphone cords. Yeah, he's weird. But we sure love him. 

Life is sweet with cats. They are each so individual, and I know they are spoiled, loved and cherished beyond belief. Cats rule!


Let me just log onto Ancestry for a few minutes to search.


Nope, nothing in this newspaper about our family.