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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

For St. Patrick's Day, my dad and his siblings

I did not know I was Irish until I was in college and someone identified my last name. My father was proud of neither his family nor his heritage. Abandoned by their father; neither his mother or her family able to support five more children, he and his siblings had a hardscrabble existence. 

Aunt Laura, the oldest girl, remembered the Akron Children's Home as a nice place, with all the books she could read and her only taste of birthday cake. My dad and my Uncle Bill, the oldest, didn't do well in the Children's Home. My dad turned 17 on August 28th, and by the next weekend was in the army.

Uncle Bill was sent to Orient State School, a mental institution, where he remained until my parents sprung him and took him in in the sixties. He was presumed mentally retarded, a good catch-all for institutionalization. Over his many years at Orient he taught himself to read, and read "to all the boys." When he died his collection of books was enormous. He had every Zane Grey ever published.

The two youngest, Aunt Ruth and Aunt Helen Rita, were eventually taken in by relatives. Aunt Ruth by an aunt, Aunt Helen Rita by her grandmother.  Aunt Ruth was trained to and became a nun, Aunt Laura was trained be a secretary. She met her husband in the course of her job and married. Aunt Helen Rita just eloped one day. All the marriages were long and happy.

Here are pictures  of them I've put together from several sources.


Dad and his little brother, Uncle Bill.
About 1911.



Dad at his wedding, 1942.


Dad and his beret, in the sixties.


Dad in the mid seventies.


Uncle Bill in the fifties. So few pictures of him.


Aunt Laura, aged 16.
The oldest of the three girls.


Aunt Laura in her fifties.


Aunt Laura at 72. 
She was the snappy, fun loving aunt.


My Aunt Ruth, in the sixties.
When her order adopted the less formal habit Aunt Ruth went for it.
She even dyed her hair so her students would not know it was pure white under there.


Aunt Helen Rita, the youngest sister.
She was quiet, demure, meek.


Aunt Helen Rita in her seventies.


The three sisters in the twenties.
Aunt Ruth, left, Aunt Helen Rita center, Aunt Laura right.


Three of the siblings at my sister's wedding, late eighties.
Standing, me (the bridesmaid)
My cousin Pat, who actually is my dad's cousin and another abandoned child of his Irish clan.
Next Aunt Helen Rita, by her daughter Elaine.
Next, Aunt Ruth and Uncle Bill.
Seated, my cousin Marge, Aunt Helen Rita's other daughter,
and her husband Tom.  

33 comments:

  1. Difficult times, it took strong stock to make it.

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  2. I love family photographs like this Joanne - and it is so easy to see the family likenesses here.
    Happy St Patrick's Day to you and your family.

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  3. Hari OM
    Families spin intricate webs... you have strong resemblance, particularly to Aunty Laura!!! Hope there was a goodly bit of GREEN springing around you today. YAM xx

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  4. How fortunate you are that the photographs survived through all those years of hard times. It's no wonder that you are such a strong woman... and with that Irish heritage can tell a story in such an interesting way.

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  5. Such difficult times. I love that you come from a family of tenacious survivors, and that you are passing on the heritage.
    Amazing photos too. True treasure.

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  6. Your father and his siblings had a hard start but they seem to have had good lives once they attained adulthood.

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  7. Love the pictures of your family. Your Dad looks such a gentle soul. Life must have been incredibly hard for them through those years.

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  8. I loved the pictures and thanks for sharing your family history! Very interesting story!

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  9. You do look a fair bit like your father, don't you! Thank you for sharing with us.

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  10. A good strong bunch of survivors....Happy St Patrick's Day to you and yours.

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  11. I love those old photos. I never knew you were related to Sister Ruth,

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  12. In those times, the Irish had many children and could not afford to care for them all. Some were put in homes and others were given to relatives. My dad, also was a throw-away. They lived in Worchester, MA, and he was the oldest. He was given to a mean aunt who lived in CA when he was between 10 and 13. He lived there, in what seems, as an indentured servant. He did not see him parents or 7 other siblings till he was about 32.

    He was the sweetest, kindest man and never showed any animosity or anger for what was done to him. He also never spoke about it.

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    1. My cousin Pat, next to me in the photo, was the orphan daughter of alcoholic parents. She's less than two years older than I am. My parents wanted to adopt her, but the Irish relatives closed ranks (my dad renounced Catholicism and, worse yet, married a Baptist!), and sent her to live with the mean aunt in Texas. Same abused childhood for her. No one saw her again until after she was married to a man who protected her as she grew up and knew he would marry her when she graduated high school. No wonder the Irish can write so many books!

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  13. It is amazing that you have been able to collect so many family photos! What these children had to endure, and yet had successful lives, shows a strength of character.

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  14. Happy Saint Patrick's Day !
    Very nice collection of family pictures. You have saved them with so much love.

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  15. Neat post. I like Aunt Laura at 72. She looks mischievous.

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  16. Strength, tenacity, and determination... you come by it honestly Joanne.

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  17. I married into an Irish family. Even before that I was fascinated by the Irish race. They are a hardy bunch willing to work at anything even the worst possible jobs to provide for their families. They are loving people who are ready to help almost anyone. When Ireland fell on hard times and many young people traveled to America hoping to find a better life. They were belittled and discriminated against. Through it all they persevered. I am proud to say that my Irish children and grandchildren have inherited these wonderful qualities. It seems your father's family did too.

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  18. What great photos, but your dad and his siblings had such a sad childhood. They must have been a strong bunch to carry on the way they did.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. My granddaughter made a statement of fact based on her childhood experience, recently, and I attempted to convince her childhood is such a small percentage of life, things can change. For every one of the children except Bill "childhood" ended quickly. For my dad, at 16. For all my aunts, before they were 20. Only Uncle Bill's life was on hold until into his sixties, and that through no fault of his own, or of my parents, who tried repeatedly to get guardianship of him. All had the goal of leaving childhood behind, I believe.

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  19. Happy St. Patrick's Day to you, Joanne. These are lovely photos, your family are beautiful!

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  20. It seems that many families have similar situations in their families that you describe. Hopefully they remained close with each other throughout their life time. Interesting story. -- barbara

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  21. Such interesting stories even with the sad parts. And the family resemblances - Joanne, I see the older Aunt Laura in you, and the younger Aunt Laura in Emily. And possibly Aunt Helen Rita in your g-daughter Laura. Of course that is just from the pictures. What do you see, having known all these relatives in the flesh?

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    1. My dad had such a patrician nose and the rest of us got mom's solid German nose that I never thought much past that. However, I had a woman walk into our studio thirty years ago, when Aunt Laura was still alive and announce immediately I looked exactly like Aunt Laura. I think I did more then than now.
      The most interesting resemblance is my brother's two youngest daughters to Aunt Ruth. Walter never admitted to their being his children, but from the time they were babies I knew they were Lytle's.

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    2. Yes, sometimes the genes are very strong and cannot be denied!

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  22. So very interesting to read this! It is good that your dad and his siblings were able to move on from their hard start and make something of their lives, living productive lives! All the pictures were so sweet to look at too!

    betty

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  23. Some people do have it more difficult in life. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger is the old saying. I think for the most part it is true. Your dad looks very dashing in his photos and your aunts all look so pretty. It's always good to know the family history so it can be passed down. For much of my life the earlier family history was unknown. I was grateful along with my mom to piece most of it back together again.

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  24. Such hardship endured to make strong people. Thank you Joanne.

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  25. Quite a family history! I'm Irish on my Mother's side, we're the poor Kennedys.

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  26. It is interesting to me that every name you mention in that generation of your family matches the names in the generation of my family! Irish and German...

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  27. Lovely photos. I enjoyed looking at them.

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  28. Family history and old photos alway fun to check them out.
    Merle..........

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  29. What great photos! Your Aunt Laura looks like she was a ton of fun. My Dad's side of the family is Irish and he, his mother and siblings spent some of WWII in Ireland, where it was safer than the Irish ghetto in London they called home.

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