Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy birthday, Grandma (+ 1 day)!

Yesterday would've been my grandmother's 81st birthday - my father's mother, Helen Meta Stutzmann Gorry.

Helen was born on Feb. 10, 1932 to Frederick Casper Stutzmann and Helen Meta Haase - she had an older sister, Faith, and was followed eventually by brother Frederick and little sister Dawn. She was 100 percent German and her family was fairly well off - her father was the son of Rudolph Stutzmann, founder and president of Ridgewood Savings Bank, founder of R. Stutzmann & Son Funeral Homes in the Brooklyn-Queens area. Unfortunately, of Rudolph's two sons, Helen's father Fred was not the responsible one. He was the one who was kicked out of Dartmouth, who gambled at the horse racing track, who sold his share of the business to his brother Rudolph. I actually don't know that much about my grandmother's childhood - she lived in Queens Village but her parents eventually divorced and I believe she was sent away to a nearby boarding school. She also dealt with some mental problems that from what my father told me, doesn't sound like they were ever properly addressed when she was young - from what I can gather, her childhood was pretty tumultuous and when I think about that, my heart goes out to her. My grandparents lived only a few blocks away from us in Freeport when I was growing up, but again, because of some of her mental health issues, there were long periods I didn't really get to see her, and so I still really don't feel like I ever got to know her all that well. When I think of my grandmother, I think of my grandfather of how he related to her, and of how much he obviously loved her. They knew each other as children and actually lived around the block from each other - my dad tells me a story of how Grandpa used to throw snowballs at her when they were kids. They were married in 1951 in Queens Village and eventually had five kids and moved to the suburbs. Grandpa was always lovingly teasing Grandma, I remember that, and she put up with all his silly jokes with a smile on her face. I ran away from home once when I was a kid, and I ran away to their house. My most vivid memory of my grandmother, who always seemed quiet and reserved, as Germans often are, compared to my loud, gregarious Irish grandfather, is actually a funny one - we were over their house and she was talking on the phone, probably with one of my aunts. She was sitting in the rocking chair in the living room and right in the middle of her conversation, the chair tipped over backward. Somehow Grandma was still seated in it, and she just kept on with her phone conversation, as if nothing was out of the ordinary at all. That memory still makes me laugh. I also believe my father told me that the artistic bent that runs on his side of the family comes from his mother. And she was very beautiful - I love looking at old photos of her.

My grandparents were married for 50 years and after Grandma died in 2002, my grandfather was never the same. I know part of him died that day as well.

But this is supposed to be a happy, not a sad post, so happy 81st birthday in heaven, Grandma - I know you are surrounded by loved ones there and remembered by many loved ones here!

So cute!

Grandma at 6 months and her older sister Faith, 1932.

Grandma and Grandpa on their wedding day, 1951.
Grandma at the beach.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Happy birthday, Grandpa!

Today would have been my grandfather Clifford Monroe "Dick" Raynor's 99th birthday - he was born on Feb. 1, 1914 in Freeport, on Long Island in New York. He grew up on South Main Street, where his family had lived for hundreds of years, the oldest boy out of 7 kids. His best friend growing up was Dan Cronin, who lived on the same street. He enlisted in the Navy during World War II and served in the Pacific theatre, and upon returning home, married Dan's sister, my grandmother, Mary Cronin. He joined the Freeport police department where he eventually made it to the captain's list, though he retired as a lieutenant. He and my grandmother moved down to Etowah, North Carolina, near the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the 1970s. According to my grandmother, he loved to go golfing there, and he would buy fresh fruit at the farmer's market for her to make jams for us and he helped put the buttons onto the pajamas my grandmother would make for us. That's where he died on Sept. 18, 1991. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn, in my grandmother's family plot.

I don't remember a lot about my grandfather. I was 12 when he died, but I only saw him 2 or 3 times a year. I remember his house in North Carolina, which I used to love to visit - in fact, the smell of grass and trees and other greenery after a spring rain still makes me think of the woods behind their house. He wasn't Catholic, he and his family were Protestant, but my grandmother is Catholic and they raised their kids Catholic, and I remember Grandpa would go to church every Sunday with my grandmother. I remember that he used to make me laugh, that he could be really silly with us kids, and that he used to love to garden and work out in the yard. My mom always said he had a real green thumb. 

Happy birthday, Grandpa!

Clifford "Dick" Raynor, Crystal Lake Hotel, Freeport, NY
Grandpa at his wedding in 1946.

I have a photo of Grandpa when he's a kid, which I love, and a couple of him with me and my siblings when we were little, which is how I remember him - will post them next week if I can find them!