Anna Desjardins and Jules Gauthier: The Story They Pioneered

Submitted by:
Deborah Cornelius
November, 1998

I write this story in tribute to my French-Canadian ancestors, their collective spirit, resilient and triumphant, that lives on. I tell a story of many twists and turns leading here now to me, claiming me as the very first Wisconsin-born direct descendant. Naming me now as the one to give voice to their journey, I attempt here to resurrect and preserve what I know of this history.


Anna Desjardins (age 46)

Jules Gauthier (about age 53)
Terrebonne County, Quebec: The Story Begins...
My great-grandparents, Anna Desjardins and Jules Gauthier, were born in Terrebonne County just north of Montreal. Anna was born on August 31st, 1874, to Mathildée Charbonneau and Ovide Desjardins who had married in 1863 in St. Sauveur, Terrebonne. Jules was born on March 2, 1868, in St. Jerome, Terrebonne, where his parents, Célina Beauchamp and Jérémie Gauthier, were wed in 1865.

Research and Genealogy
I take a moment here to mention as the reference source of my information the Loiselle Marriage Index, found on microfilm at The Family History Center, located in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and operated by The Church of Latter Day Saints. The Loiselle Index was compiled by Père Antonin Loiselle and provides an extensive reference to marriages in Quebec Province through 1900. This source was most helpful since, in addition to listing the date and location of the marriage, it lists the parents of each couple. I could then proceed to look for the marriage record for each set of parents and thus continue back until I could no longer find a listing.

In this manner (in addition to Anna and Jules' parents mentioned above), I was able to locate both sets of Jules' grandparents, namely Jean-Baptiste Gauthier wed to Elizabeth Paquet. On his mother's side, Célina Beauchamp's parents were Joseph Beauchamp and Catherine Diotte. Through this research, I also found three of Jules' siblings, although undoubtedly there were others. I found three brothers, Hormidas (married Donalda Groulx in 1900), and two others, both named Jean-Baptiste. As an aside, I found it interesting to note that these two brothers married two sisters, Cordélia and Poméla Bigras (daughters of Cordélia Nadon and Elisée Bigras), in 1890 and 1891 respectively. [Update: Jules' obituary also mentioned a brother, Joseph, and a sister, Emma Gauthier, both residing in Montreal at the time of his death in 1943.]

On Anna's side, I found her paternal grandparents (Ovide Desjardins' parents) to be Desjardins (no first name listed) and Anne Tasse (widowed). I had most success in tracing Anna's maternal lineage. I was surprised to find her grandmother (Mathildée Charbonneau's mother) was also a Gauthier, Henriette, married to Joseph Charbonneau in 1840 at St. Jerome, Terrebonne. Joseph's parents were Joseph Charbonneau and Marie Duclos. Anna's other set of maternal great-grandparents were Jean-Baptiste Gauthier and Antionette Chartier. I was not able to locate marriage records for these sets of Anna's great-grandparents, however I estimate they would have been born between 1775 and 1800. The appearance of the Gauthier name on Anna's side raises the possibility that Anna and Jules could have been cousins, no closer than second but perhaps, or probably, more distant. Siblings of Anna found were: Adrien (married Imelda Paiement in 1900), Eloise (married Uldège Thisdell in 1899) and Anne-Marie (married Bellefleur). In any case this is the status of my present genealogical knowledge. In order to proceed further, I would need to try to locate other records such as: Parish, Birth/Death or Census. Although I was hoping to get back to France, which can't be all-too-distant now, I'm presently at an impasse.

The Story Continues...
Returning now to the story of Anna and Jules, the couple was married January 7th, 1896, at St. Adolphe de Howard Catholic Parish in the town of Mont Laurier, approximately 90 miles north-west of Montreal. Knowing relatively little about their life during this period, I present limited details along with a few speculations. I do know that Anna either miscarried and/or lost at least two babies during these first few years of marriage. The first surviving child, Yvonne (Eva), was born in the city of Montreal in 1900 when Anna was 26 years old. Eva was the only one to be born in Canada prior to their immigration to the United States a couple years later.

I sense that these last years in Quebec were restless, searching times for Anna and Jules as they struggled to find new paths. It seems they were not content to farm the Terrebonne fields of their ancestors but, rather, were intent upon opening new doors of opportunity for themselves and the family they had begun. And, while they were deeply devoted to their French-Canadian heritage and homeland, I've been told by relatives that they decided to leave for political reasons, escaping the oppressive climate of the times. And in the true spirit of their ancestors, so too, Anna and Jules were pioneers in search of new lands.

Their journey led them to their new home. Crossing the Canadian border into Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Jules and Anna settled on the shores of Lake Superior, in Marquette, in 1901. Marquette was the main shipping port in the Upper Peninsula. Most likely my great-grandparents were drawn to the area because of the abundant availability of jobs relating to both the booming iron mining industry and the railroad. Undoubtedly they also had knowledge of an existing French community. I do know Marquette was then a small city of just a few thousand or so people, a substantial percentage of whom were French-speaking. This certainly must have been of great comfort to Jules and Anna who spoke only French.

Life in Marquette
From all accounts, Marquette was good to my great-grandparents. They proceeded not only to fulfill many of their hopes and dreams, but perhaps to well surpass them. Jules found skilled employment as a repairman/mechanic with the local railroads (Lake Superior & Ishpeming line for 19 years and also with the Duluth South Shore & Atlantic line for 18 years). It's a strong speculation that he very likely had worked previously for a Canadian line where he acquired his skills. (In fact, the railroad passed through his hometown of St. Jerome). In any event, within the next couple of years my great-grandparent's were able to put a down-payment on a large two-story home, still-standing, at 441 Spring Street. It was here that they increased their family with the birth of seven more children between 1903 and 1916, to total six girls and two boys. In birth order, the Desjardins-Gauthier children were: Eva, Irene, Alma, Albertha (Bertha), Florence, Albert, Edward, and Bernadette.

The Gauthier Family: 1920


Back Row: Alma; Eva; Irene; Center: Florence (young girl standing); Front Row: Bernadette (standing next to mother); Anna; Albert; Edward; Bertha; Jules

The Gauthier children grew up bilingual, speaking French with their parents. It has been told to me that Jules had a strong resistance to learning English, perhaps a residual effect of the French resistance in Canada to the earlier British assimilation policies. In any event, I've been told he held great pride in being a Frenchman, deeply devoted to his native French. Anna, on the other hand, made more of an effort and apparently learned to adequately communicate with the English-speaking patrons of the little grocery store/ice-cream shop she opened in the rear of the house. Jules had little academic education but Anna was fairly literate, often reading and, I'm told, she carried on an extensive letter-writing correspondence with her sister, Anne-Marie, who lived in Ste. Agathe, Quebec. Too bad those letters were not saved.

I only began my active research for this project several months ago (September, 1997). Unfortunately, three very significant figures, who could have contributed much to this story, all died within recent years. My great-aunt, Bertha, warm-hearted and generous, died in 1994. Also I would have liked to have better known her sister, Eva, the eldest, dying in 1988. And then there was Jack, the first-born of Bertha's six children, my second-cousin, but really more like an older brother, living off and on with our family as I grew up. He was one of my favorite relatives, an interesting and creative guy who died suddenly just over a year ago at age 66. I will return to him later as he is a significant character in this Wisconsin French connection.

My mother, Betty, remembers the many summers she spent in Marquette as a child in the 1930's and 40's. She tells me that she was always happy to see her grandparents and her aunts, uncles, and cousins. When she was old enough she would ride the train alone from Milwaukee to Marquette where relatives would be waiting. Remembering Jules and Anna as always kind and welcoming to her, she shares with me a few memories of those times. She remembers them as good-natured, easy-going people, well liked by all their children and grandchildren. According to my mother, and from all other accounts, Jules and Anna set rules and limits but never used physical punishment and never abusively raised their voices. Betty remembers it to be a peaceful and warm environment where everyone seemed to get along.

My mother relates one incident she recalls with humor. Her cousin Jack and she were about the same age and best-buddies, often playing together during my mother's visits. Once, when they were about 8 or 9 years old, they found a can of red paint and decided to repaint their grandparent's house. They managed to paint a large area before they were discovered. Jack was sent home where he was put to bed. Betty remembers her grandparents being upset but cannot recall that she received any punishment other than a verbal reprimand and a lasting memory.

Anna's little store, in the rear of the house, stands out clearly in my mother's memory. She remembers that Anna was well liked in the community and she would often chat and laugh with many of her French-speaking customers. Apparently Anna's little entrepreneurial enterprise turned out to be a rather lucrative supplement to Jules' income, so much so that they even bought a neighboring house later as an income property. Through hard-work and resourceful spirit, my great-grandparents succeeded to elevate from their rather impoverished origins to a fairly upper middle-class security.

Jules was a soft-spoken and gentle man as my mother remembers her grandfather. Between his very limited English and my mother's rather weak knowledge of French, the two managed to have a special rapport. My mother tells me that relatives would often teasingly say that she was "Grandpa's girl" and that he paid her special attention. Jack, on the other hand, was called "Grandma's boy." My mother says that while her grandmother was loving towards all her grandchildren, Anna shared a special closeness with her grandson since, while growing up, Jack lived much of the time at his grandparent's home.

In fact, I do recall Jack fondly mentioning has grandparents. I know he felt especially bonded with Anna and I remember him saying he thought she was so intelligent. Perhaps too, Anna recognized, as did I, Jack's creative individuality. I know also that if anyone was likely to have asked them questions about their lives in Quebec, about their inner thoughts and feelings, it was Jack who spoke French quite well. About 1984 Jack moved from his Wisconsin residence to Mountain Home, Arkansas, with his wife, Andrea (Andee), and somehow the years flew by, with me, always believing I had lots of time to talk with him again. There is so much I would have liked to have asked him about Anna and Jules and about life growing up in Marquette. Jack was extremely proud of his French blood, and he had a very French romantic nature--a true bon vivant. His sudden death on December 9th, 1996, buried not only a good-hearted person, but forever buried with him too is the rich input he could have added to this work. I know Jack would have offered me great support as well as invaluable collaboration.

In recent conversation with Jack's widow, Andee, I made an interesting discovery. She told me that Jack had conveyed to her that his grandparents had owned a grand piano. I did know that Jack was talented at playing the piano and also developed an ability to play by ear. What I didn't know was that his grandparents encouraged his musical pursuits and possibly may even have instructed him. Since I've always felt an artistic affinity with Jack (more than with any of my other relatives), learning that my great-grandparents encouraged Jack's creativity increases my sense of connection with Anna and Jules. Andee also told me that Jack had related a story about Jules working as a musician at a dance hall in Montreal in the early 1890's. While the details are foggy in her memory, she thinks that Anna may also have been somehow musically performing and that she and Jules met in a dance hall. The accuracy of this account is unknown and rather questionable. But the piano is an interesting fact that even my mother remembers.

Jack [Gauthier] Wright: 1930-1996
While speaking of Jack, I wish to mention his Wisconsin connection. In the early 1950's, Jack attended Northern Michigan College where he studied Liberal Arts. He never completed his degree and spent several years traveling extensively before marrying his wife Andee in 1967. Jack had a keen interest in the motion picture industry and accumulated an extensive film collection. During his 16-year residence in Genesee Depot (Waukesha County, Wisconsin), he opened a small movie theatre there where he showed his films. He and his wife also had a good friendship with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine, the famous Broadway-Stage couple, then also residing in the area. During his later residence in Mountain Home, Arkansas, Jack had his own bi- monthly radio show where he told anecdotes and discussed film history. He also wrote a weekly newspaper column, reviewing classic films.

In Memory of My French-Canadian Great-Grandparents
Jules Gauthier died on December 21, 1943, at 75 years of age. Anna Desjardins-Gauthier, lived to the age of 81, dying on September 15, 1955, when I was 3 years old. They are buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Marquette, Michigan. After leaving their Terrebonne homeland, Anna and Jules discovered a new home on the shores of Lake Superior. They were pioneers. They were the offspring of New France.


Jules and Anna in their later years

Anna
The Eight Gauthier Children: Brief Histories
Amongst the descendants of Anna and Jules, the French-Canadian tradition of large families did not continue. Relatively few grandchildren were born. Here now is a brief history of the eight Gauthier children and their offspring (or lack of). According to their birth order:
           *Eva (1900-1988) remained in Marquette, married Jim O'Donnell, and gave birth to one daughter, Lois. This daughter is now age 72 and also the mother of one daughter, Lynn, who herself is the mother of two young sons, Shane, and Cory (representing great-great grandchildren of Anna and Jules). All are Milwaukee area residents. Since Lois did not express interest in being involved with this project, I will leave it at that, respecting her privacy.
           *Irene (1903--1975) died in Bloomington, Illinois) moved as a young woman to Chicago, Illinois, where she owned and operated a restaurant for several years with her husband (Patterson). She had no children.
           *Alma, born August 27, 1906, is still alive and residing in Milwaukee. She raised my mother (her niece) but had no other children. I will elaborate more on her life in the upcoming section on Wisconsin connections.
           *Bertha (1909-1994) remained in Marquette, married Jesse Wright, and was the only one to have several children, giving birth to six children. Besides Jack (her already-mentioned, deceased, oldest son), the five surviving children are: Jim, married and living in Marquette. No children. Judy (married Noyes), retired elementary school teacher, now living in Florida. She has two grown children; Jesse Jr., Ph.D., is married and working in the country of Panama. No children; Carol remains in Marquette where she owns and operates a boutique. She is the mother of two grown children, Tina and John-Paul; Tom was Bertha's last-born, being born two months before me, in 1952. He operates a heating and electrical-contracting business in Marquette where he resides with his wife and his three children.
           *Florence (October 19, 1912--January 31, 1998) was a long-time Milwaukee County resident. Florence passed away recently as this work was in progress. She gave birth to one daughter, my mother, Betty (the mother of four of us). This story is forthcoming.
           *Albert (February 26, 1913--February, 1977) is survived by his widow, Bertha, and two daughters, Marilyn and Christine. They live in Texas and I'm not sure how many children his daughters may have had.
           *Edward (October 5, 1915--July, 1977) died in Plaquemine, Louisiana. He had married a Cajun woman while in the military as a young man and stationed in the South (Louisiana?). He fathered four children: Doris-Mae (married Guillory), Edward Jr., Allen, and Roger.
           *Bernadette (December 21, 1916--May 14, 1962) was the last-born. She remained in Marquette, never married and had no children.


Bernadette
about 18 years

Bernadette & Anna (1955)
Bernadette: A Tribute
I remember Bernadette fondly. I was only 9 years old when she died of cancer at age 45. Knowing she was soon to depart, I remember she paid a last visit to Milwaukee to say good-bye to everyone. I remember feeling very sad for her. But I recall, too, her peaceful presence as she smiled warmly. I recall she had such pretty eyes. Bernadette was very devoted to her mother, remaining at home to care for Anna in her old age. After Anna's death, Bernadette remained at the house on Spring Street where she continued to operate the little grocery store.

The Wisconsin Chapter
I have been speaking of my mother Betty. But now it is time to make the connection, the story of how she came to be my Mother. In 1929 Florence Gauthier married Floyd Larion at St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church, known as Marquette's "French" church. The couple was very young--too young as it would prove--at only 17 and 20 years old respectively. On March 25th, 1931, Florence gave birth to my mother, Betty Lou May [Gauthier] Larion, baptized a few days later as "Belle Noeme Marie Lou Larion."

I know very little about my biological grandfather. I'm told Floyd Larion was tall, dark, and also bilingual, being of French descent. The fact that he could speak French leads me to wonder if he was also a member of the many first-generation French-Americans born in the area at that time. I heard that he died in Detroit in the 1970's. Perhaps someday I will attempt to learn more about him. Although I don't know the circumstances, I do know that Florence and Floyd separated when my mother was just a few months old. I know also that he never again saw his daughter.

[Update: I have learned that Floyd was born in Manistique, Michigan. His father, Jean (John) Larion came to the United States as a young man. Jean Larion was born in Dundas, Ontario, in 1864, to Casimir Larion and Philomene Daneau.] Part of my motive in setting this story down on paper goes beyond mere historical preservation. If history has a tendency to repeat itself, so too must it inevitably reveal itself, its lessons--speak its truth. It is time to set the record straight. Time to tell a complex story of secrets and silences --a story silent no more, unraveled and revealed--released from repetition. It is an incredibly quick history--a story of three generations--starting with Florence's birth in 1912 and concluding with my arrival in 1952--all of this happening within 40 years. And just as Florence gave birth to my mother at a young age, so too, I was the product of a short-lived marriage, being born in my mother's 21st-year. Two generations of actions taken without sufficient maturity or reflection, finds me now, the one who reflects upon this journey through time. And if Time has come to share with me its wisdom, it is by traveling and unraveling this maze of deception, that I see all the pieces of this puzzle now falling into place within my heart.

And so is written the story of how my mother, Betty, came to be transplanted from her birthplace in Marquette to her new home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As stated the marriage of Florence and Floyd was short-lived. When my mother was about 7 months old, Florence came to Milwaukee with Baby Betty. The arrangement was made with her older sister, Alma, and her husband, Al, that Florence would stay with them, caring for her baby, as well as performing housekeeping and cooking duties, in exchange for room and board, while they were busy with their professional careers.

To come to the point quickly, this arrangement did not last long. Within a couple of months Florence met a man who would, before long, become her new husband. It is said that he refused to have her child, my mother, in the picture and consequently Florence made a decision. When my mother was barely one year old, Alma and Al became Betty's parental figures. My mother did not learn the truth of these actions until she was 18 years old. A difficult truth it was for her, not only to learn that Alma and Al were not her biological parents and that Florence was her actual mother, but also that Florence simply abandoned her, leaving only a note to say she could no longer care for Betty. Speaking of perpetuated secrets, I too grew up believing Alma and Al were my real grandparents (which in spirit they will always remain).

Although I find it hard to understand Florence's choice, I do not wish to judge her, especially in light of her recent and unexpected death on January 31, 1998, at age 85. For several years she had been afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease but had otherwise seemed in good health.

Florence (age 33)
This past Christmas season, when I paid her a visit at the group home where she had been living, she seemed content and it gives me a sense of peace that I had a chance to say good- bye. Florence's sudden death evokes in me the wish to remember her positive attributes. She was always a hard-worker and was employed for many years as a Supervisor with the former Milwaukee-based chain of Wm. H. Heinemann Bakeries. In fact, when I was 15, she helped me obtain my very first job, where I worked part-time as a clerk in a busy downtown bakery. Bringing to mind the old days of family get-togethers, I recall her fun-loving nature. She was also a generous hostess and a very good cook. Too, Florence possessed a special love for animals and enjoyed caring for her pet parakeets and later on her dog.
I backtrack here, presenting the story of Alma Gauthier, my now 91-year-old "grandmother" --my Grandmother. As mentioned, Jules and Anna made great financial advances in Marquette and were able to afford to send their most academically inspired daughter, Alma, to college. Becoming the first Wisconsin resident of our French descended family, in 1924, at age 18, Alma came to Milwaukee to attend Marquette University where she majored in Business Administration. Alma was very strong-willed, ambitious and charismatic. She procured a position with Columbia Pictures, the former movie production company, that once had a branch office in downtown Milwaukee. Alma advanced quickly within the company and served as the Chief Executive Secretary and Office Manager until her retirement in the late 1960's when Columbia Pictures closed their Milwaukee Branch. I remember as a child and teen I often received movie passes to invite friends for free films. This was fun.

In the late 1920's Alma met and married Alexander E. Morstad, ten years her senior. With an M.A. in history, he was well established as a history teacher, and later to become a long-term Principal, at Milwaukee's South Division High School. In any event, both Alma and Al were very involved with their careers when suddenly they had my infant mother to care for. I must commend them in their efforts to provide her with a good home, raising her as their daughter. For many years they had a live-in housekeeper and care-provider for Betty, a woman named Beatrice, of whom my mother was very fond. My mother recalls Alma and Al being good parents, somewhat strict, but they never hit her or yelled. She especially recalls her father often taking the time to play and to take her on outings such as to the movies or to the zoo. All-in-all, Betty was content and well cared for as a child. My mother was an only child.


Alexander Morstad (about age 25)

Betty & Alma (about 1936)
I mentioned that my mother did not learn the truth about her circumstances until she was 18. She recalls it being very emotional for her father as he told her. My mother does not speak much of her feelings but she has shared with me that this revelation was both painfully shocking and deeply unsettling for her. I had thought that Alma and Al had officially adopted her, since she grew up using the name "Morstad" in school and on all her records, but I just recently learned this was not the case, with "Larion" remaining her official name. Although these secrets and silences were undoubtedly well intended, exposed now, the consequences. The lesson is that truth will always triumph.

Betty has told me that, after learning this, she suddenly felt her world fall apart, feeling that she should leave her home since she wasn't their "real" daughter. She understands, in retrospect, that Alma and Al still considered her their daughter and never gave any indication that she was no longer welcome, but in my mother's young mind, she construed things this way. I have little doubt that the aftermath of this shock led to my mother's rather rash decision to marry my father, Larry, when she was barely turned 20. Between Larry's persistence and my grandparent's liking him, seeing him as a stable young man with a good trade, my mother allowed herself to be swept up into a marriage she was not ready for.

                  Betty then
Betty and Larry met at a dance at the former "Eagle's Club" ballroom on 24th and Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee when she was 19 and he was 23. In fairness to Larry, I am aware that he was much more committed and in love with my mother, than she with him. I also know that Betty wanted to get away from Milwaukee and that she was enticed by Larry's talk that they would travel to Alaska together after their marriage. And so Alma and Al threw a large, extravagant wedding for the young couple in May of 1951. Soon after my parents set out on their Alaskan pilgrimage with a small trailer attached to their car. Betty tells me the trip was fun; they would laugh often and sing songs as they drove along.

Arriving in Great Falls, Montana, my parents heard that the Alaskan Highway was not in good shape, washed out and impassable. And so it went that they decided to settle in Great Falls. My mother tells me that these eight or so months they spent there were fairly happy times. Larry was hard-working and employed in his trade as a jeweler/watch-maker (later on he worked as a firefighter for several years in Minneapolis where he still resides). They discussed having children. My mother informs me that he preferred to wait but she didn't and tells me that she secretly hoped to have a baby girl--probably some unconscious desire to rectify history--be a better mother. In any case, I was glad to learn that she was happy when she became pregnant with me. And so I spent my first five months in the womb, there in the little city of the Great Falls, before we moved back to Wisconsin.


me
Returning to Wisconsin in time to claim my title as the first Wisconsin-born descendant of my French family line, I was also the first-born great-grandchild of Anna and Jules. I was born on June 28th, 1952, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. They named me Deborah. And now continues a story of historical repeats for, so too my mother's young marriage, as that of her own mother, was not meant to survive. I can only imagine what might have gone through Alma and Al's minds when Betty arrived home with me, only about 7 months old, just as Florence had arrived with my mother, 21 years earlier.
I was very happy during that year and a half while my mother and I lived with my grandparents. I loved my grandparents and I had become especially close with Alma. However, when I was barely 2 years old my mother married my stepfather, Dan. Enough to say that I was not happy about this, being yanked away from my happy home with my grandparents. I have strong memories of early events but I was too young to make sense of these transitions. Larry relinquished his paternal rights and Dan adopted me when I was only 3 or 4 years old. I grew up being told he was my father. I always suspected something wasn't right but it was not until I was about 14 that I learned that Dan was not my biological father. But this is not a story about him except to say that his attitudes about male authority, within the family structure, represented a major cultural shift.

Alma & Deborah
I can say with certainty that in the family dynamics of my French-descended relatives, I've always observed strong woman-figures who seemed to be more the leaders, or at least equal, never subordinate to the men. Also it seems there was no legacy of physical punishment. My mother was never physically punished by either her parents or her grandparents, nor did my mother ever hit any of us, her children. Jules and Anna did not respond in violent ways, suggesting that their French-Canadian parents taught them gentler modes of child rearing. The entrance of Dan's philosophy, that "children should be seen and not heard" and that I must snap to his commands, was a blow to my free-spirited nature. The positive part is that my opposition to his oppressive presence encouraged me to work for justice and equality on many fronts.

Betty had three more children (my half siblings) during the course of her 15-year marriage to Dan. In 1955, Kim was born. Scott was born in 1962 and Rick in 1963. Kim moved to Orlando, Florida, several years back where she continues to reside with her family. Scott had been living in Florida until his recent relocation back to Milwaukee this past summer. Rick is married and lives with his wife and children in the Las Vegas area. In 1994, my mother left Milwaukee and bought a house in Florida (near Orlando). My mother and I maintain a bond, one that moves beyond some major personality differences, mainly her rather pragmatic nature versus my idealistic and adventurous inclination. In tribute to my mother's resilience, she maintains a positive outlook, remaining active and healthy at age 68.

The Legacy
As I begin to bring closure to this effort, I think again of my great-grandparents, Anna and Jules. Although I never met Jules, Anna lived long enough to see the birth of a "new generation," myself being this representative, a bridge to the future. In fact, I was the only great-grandchild she lived to meet. I retain vivid memories of those train rides that fascinated me, traveling from Milwaukee to Marquette, with my grandmother, Alma. While these were Alma's last journeys to say good-bye to her mother, for me they were my first journeys to meet and greet my great-grandmother. To come together in this brief and ephemeral Present--finding this fragile space that bridged past and future--this was a special moment indeed. And special all the more because, amazingly, I remember it well.

Yes, I remember. I remember being really small. One very poignant and clear memory stands out: I see myself sitting on Anna's lap. She smiles at me quietly. I remember her eyes, intense upon mine, her presence peaceful, somehow satisfied with her life. In a language transcendent of words, Anna spoke to me in that moment, leaving a message embedded within my heart--just a feeling of faith and hope--a gift given me to carry forth.

I heard it then and I understand it now--this distant communication--this connection awakened, moving me now to rescue this story, to reach back and remember, to listen and to write it. I did not fully grasp until recently, here in this Present, the legacy of that moment--a gift that connects all the pieces, opening now into a Future that carries on the best of the Past--the best of our collective heritage. This was Anna's gift to me and now this record is my gift to her--to let her know I was listening. I am listening still.

 

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Last updated: 12/10/98