Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rita arrived 100 years ago today

My mother’s 100th birthday is today, March 25th 2017.   I have been thinking a lot about her lately.
 On February 16th, 1987, my mother alerted me to the fact that it was her mother’s 100th birthday that particular day.  Even though my Grandma Margaret O’Donnell died on May 29, 1956, my mother was remembering her in a special way on the 100th anniversary of her birth.  
 I have been doing the same thing –thinking of my mother and remembering her life.    I have a theory that when you actually live inside another human being, right there under her heart, like I did for a full nine months, that person stays close to you even after her body dissolves.
I was wondering what can I say, what can I post to honor my dear Mother on this special day?  Then she mysteriously gave me her own words to share with you.
My daughter, Diane, found the following entry in my mother’s Marriage Encounter Dialogue notebook dated 1971.  It is a simple black and white Penmate Composition Book that we unearthed in my father’s house after his death. At some point, in my parents’ “non-move”, it had been transported up from 62 Interboro Parkway, Brooklyn, NY.  This 1971 copybook was found among many such notebooks that were stacked in several cardboard boxes.   After attending a Marriage Encounter weekend, the idea was that a couple would continue the dialogue they had begun on the Encounter Weekend.  Thus my father and mother were taught this technique:  Spend 10 minutes dwelling on a feeling(s) about a certain topic, write these feelings down in their notebooks and then spend ten minutes sharing these feelings with each other.   The fact of the matter is that there are many more composition books in my mother’s lovely hand-writing and a whole lot less in my Dad’s distinctive script.   Strange that out of stacks and stacks of composition books, Diane, picked up this one and opened to this particular page.   On the front of the copybook my mother wrote two things – her name Rita Fries and this message in quotations, “The only true gift is a portion of thyself”. 
The question that my parents were pondering this particular day was this:  “What are my feelings about my childhood?”
These are my mother’s own words, written in her own beautiful hand.
“I feel fortunate and grateful for my childhood.  My earliest recollections are of Halsey Street and the ground floor apartment we had there.  I use to sleep with my sisters in a folding bed in the living room or front room.  I can remember laying in the bed and listening to the neighbors talking outside our window. I can’t remember the conversations but I know it use to intrigue me.  The trolley cars passed in front of our house and once I was sick with scarlet fever and they kept me awake.  My father promised to have them take a different route or stop running at night. His assurance contented me so I was able to sleep.
Christmas was a time of year I especially remember.  Each of us had his or her chair with gifts laid out on Christmas morning.  We awoke before dawn to see what Santa had brought and quickly ran in to show my mother and dad the new doll, which was always there.  We always got a few other toys – coloring books, story books or games, but always it seemed more than we had asked Santa to bring.  These wonderful Christmases went on for me till I was nine or ten. Then one year Maureen discovered the same books in our pile from Santa as she had seen a week or two before Christmas in our storeroom.  That was the last year Santa came for us.  My mother invited us to help prepare for Anne, Dot and Joe’s Christmas gifts from Santa but the thrill was never quite the same.  I’ll have to continue or elaborate on this question another night. “

 ( Like I often do, I don’t think my mother ever got back to this subject).

This following section was at the top of the page that pertained to the Coleman Family ( which I posted on March 23rd, 2017)
The first born of Thomas Joseph O'Donnell and Margaret Mary Coleman O'Donnell was born on the 25th of March 1917. Although I didn't realize it at the time, it happened to be me - Rita Mary O'Donnell. I was born at home at 50 Howard Avenue between Jefferson and Putnam Avenues across the street from Bushwick Hospital in Brooklyn. At that time, the section was called Bushwick. Today the area is considered a part of Bedford Stuyvesant.
As was customary in those days, I was born at home. My mother engaged Mrs. Willet, a nurse, to be with her during her confinement. When my mother felt certain that my birth was imminent, she begged Mrs. Willet to call Dr. Stevens, the doctor she had engaged for the delivery. This officious lady refused her request. The result - I was born before the doctor's arrival. Needless to say, my mother did not hire nurse Willet for the birth of her other children.
Thank you, Mom, for giving me a portion of yourself, the only true gift. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Marie & Joe O'Donnell Photos

These precious photos were in pretty bad condition but I did what I could to revive them on Picasa. 
This photo is marked September 1944 and Sharon is in the photo.  Can you pick her out?
L to R Marie, Sharon (in utero), Margaret & TJ O'Donnell, Charlie Jr, Anne O'D, Joe O'D & Rita and Mary Beth (in utero)
Charlie Jr wearing his Uncle Joe's hat. All of these photos were taken in September 1944 sometime before Joe went overseas to fight in the horrendous battle that became known as the Battle of the Bulge.   Sharon was born on January 1st, 1945 while her father was fighting for his country in Europe.
The picture below was in the best condition and actually has the exact date on the back ( God bless my mother for doing this! ) September 3, 1944
This one is from a few years later, July 1950
Last but not least for this evening - July 6th 1947 at Rockaway Beach

Geary's Valley Rest, Route 106, Lawton, Pa

The photo with the two boys is marked, Summer 1937.  I don't know who they are but possibly Judy Ellison Papso or her sister, Terry Kolpakas, may know.  I believe that this place was owned by their maternal grandmother, Anna Mae Coleman Geary, " Mae" after her husband, Charley died in a truck accident in 1931.  It contained a little gas station and convenience type store and it was a way that Mae could support her 8 children after her husband's untimely death. Later, Mae moved her family to the Triple Cities are and worked for IBM (as per the Curley Reunion Second Edition 1989).  My father, Charles A. Fries, Sr. had fond memories of going to Geary's Valley's Rest as a young man.  Apparently he stayed in one of these itsy-bitsy cabins a time or two.
Ruth Geary Snover , Gene O'D Frankowski , ? Gerard O'D (partially hidden) Rose O'D, Rosina Coleman Smith, Nellie O'D, Nonie Geary Ellison, Anne Fries O'D in back, John O'Donnell, I am not sure who the kids are (boy with Nellie may be Warner Krebs?  

Rita in all her glory in Garrison NY

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Bit of Coleman Family History - compliments of Rita O'Donnell Fries

(The following piece was written by my mother, Rita Mary O'Donnell Fries - anything place in parenthesis was added by me, Mary Beth Fries Buchner, Rita's oldest daughter.):
My mother ( Margaret Mary Coleman O'Donnell)  was born on her parents farm in Middletown township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. She was the oldest of ten children, two of whom died in infancy. Except for the time she taught school in different districts, she lived on the farm till her marriage. She attended school in a one room school house. The school house was a mile or two from her home near the Beaumonts, their closest neighbors. Her birthday was on the 16th of February 1887, and she was christened Margaret Mary which was the name of her paternal grandmother, Margaret Curley Coleman. Her parents were George Francis Coleman, called Frank, and Hannah Byrne Coleman. The next year on the 31st of March 1888 her brother Lawrence D. (Darius) was born. The two siblings shared a close and loving relationship. Mother told me she felt a closer bond to Lawrence than any of her other brothers and sisters. The third child Christopher called "Chris" was born on the 29th of July 1889. The other children arrived in rapid succession. Mary was born in 1891 and died in 1892. Martin M. was born the 9th of November 1892. Mae, christened Anna May, was born on the 2nd of May 1894. Next in line was Francis B. born 1895 (no exact date given). Norene E.'s Birthday is the 6th of October 1897. Aunt Norene told me another baby girl who died in infancy came between herself and Kathleen her younger sister. Kathleen, the youngest in the family, was born posthumously on the 18th of September 1901.

Sometime in February of 1901, Frank, mother's father, slipped on a huge boulder in the woods between his house and his father's house on Route 858.  He sustained a compound fracture of the leg.

About six weeks later on Good Friday evening he and baby Norene were in bed together. He had been given permission by the doctor to get up the next day and was in fine spirits. Grandma and mother were home with him, also. He put down the book which he had been reading, fell back on his pillow and died instantly from a blood clot which was called apoplexy in those days. The date was April 1901. Since the boys were out for the evening mother had to go alone to get help - a nightmarish experience which she never forgot.

When Grandpa died, Grandma, a 35 year old widow, was left to raise seven children completely by herself. The eighth child, Aunt Kathleen, was born five and a half months after Grandpa's death.

( The photo at the top is my maternal grandparents, Margaret Mary and Thomas Joseph O'Donnell and my maternal great-grandmother, Hannah Byrne Coleman which was taken on my mother's wedding day - October 19, 1940).
(The photo below is  Hannah Byrne and G. (George) Frank Coleman 
which was taken on their wedding day, Tuesday, April 27, 1886. I was surprised to see that Hannah is spelled Hanna on the Wedding announcement - also posted below the photo.   Their first child, my grandmother, Margaret Mary Coleman was born a little more than 9 months later on February 16, 1887. )

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

132 Years Ago Today

Happy Birthday, Grandpa O’Donnell
On this date, March 22nd, in the year 1885, (one hundred and thirty two years ago), Thomas Joseph O’Donnell was born to Thomas and Annie (Clark) O’Donnell in St. Joseph, PA.  He was the youngest of three boys (John and Frank were older).
His family owned a farm and TJ worked at farming as a young lad until he left for NYC area in the early 1900’s (1906).  He returned home to marry my grandmother, Margaret Mary Coleman, at her parish church, St. Patrick’s Church at Middletown, PA on January 19, 1916.  TJ and Margaret had 6 children together (Rita, Maureen, Dorothy, Anne, Joseph and Margaret).  They lived in Brooklyn, NY for most of their married life (I believe they lived in NYC for a very short time before settling in the Bushwich section of Brooklyn.)   TJ became a NYC Police Officer as did his two brothers, John and Frank.  After retirement from the NYPD, TJ worked as a security guard/door man at the Savoy Plaza in Manhattan.    When he got older, he once said to me, “why do we have to die?  Now that I am older, I can understand why he asked that question.  TJ was a character, and as far as I could tell he was well loved by all who knew him.  His famous sayings linger with us still –
“Margaret, your digging your grave with your teeth”;
 “Thank the Lord I’m neither full nor fasting.  This was a tasty little morsel; another man would call it a meal.”
“Frank Dugan, the hens did eat the pie! Don’t worry Annie Dugan, we’ll have pie another day.”
I am certain some of the other grandchildren may remember others.
TJ died on October 8th 1973 at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, NY, NY (my Alma Mater) after suffering a heart attack a few days before.  He is buried in the Friendsville, PA cemetery alongside his beloved wife, Margaret Mary, and next to his daughters, Dorothy and Anne O’Donnell.   If you are ever in that area, I’m sure he’d love you to stop over for a visit.