Farewell, Auntie Lil

Lillian Elizabeth (Chomiak) Rioux (1915-2016)

Last autumn we lost our aunt, who lived to be 101 years old. The various stories behind the above drawing presented a puzzle for us but after comparing memories we finally decided that the sketch was probably drawn on one of Auntie’s cruises. She kept it hanging above her bed for as long as I can remember, flanked on either side with the senior high school pictures of my sister and me.

Following is the obituary I wrote for the newspapers:

Lillian Elizabeth (Chomiak) Rioux, 101, of Storrs, Connecticut, died on October 27, 2016, at Mansfield Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation, after a short illness.

Lillian was born on January 30, 1915 in New York City, the daughter of the late William & Katherine (Fusiak) Chomiak, both immigrants from Ukraine. She married Leo Oscar Rioux on November 30, 1934 at Montville, Connecticut. Her husband died on June 5, 1957, leaving her a widow for 59 years. Lillian was predeceased by their two sons, Leo Adrian Rioux (1936-1984) and Lance William Rioux (1950-1979).

Lillian was also predeceased by six siblings, Mary Riback, Jon Stephen Chomiak, Augustine Chomiak, Augusta Jean Hereth, Olga Chomiak, and Theodore William Chomiak. She is survived by her sister, Ludmila Sabatiuk of West Virginia, her grandchildren, Leo Rioux, Jr. of Montville and Sarah James of Tennessee, seven nieces and nephews, four great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandson.

Lil was a graduate of Norwich Free Academy and was a seamstress employed at Hendel Manufacturing Company in New London for many years. She was a long time resident of Montville and later moved to Juniper Hill Village in Storrs to live closer to her brother. An avid traveler, beach bum and shell collector, she loved to sew, cook, grow orchids, do jigsaw puzzles and work with her hands.

A memorial gathering will be planned for next spring. Memorial donations can be made to Mansfield Town Senior Center, 303 Maple Rd, Storrs, CT 06268.

We had our memorial gathering for her on May 6, spreading her ashes on the graves of her parents and her husband and two sons, as she had directed. My Aunt Em read to us her memories of Aunt Lil’s earlier years.

Grave of Aunt Lil’s parents, William Chomiak (1882-1965) & Katherine Fusiak (1887-1943), Comstock Cemetery, Montville, Connecticut

Every year on Memorial Day, my father would drive Aunt Lil to these two adjacent cemeteries, so she could plant geraniums in front of the headstones, each one a different shade of red or pink. When my father could no longer drive, my sister and brother-in-law stepped in to take her. As he has been doing for years now, John once again planted the geraniums that meant so much to her, this time with family spreading ashes and telling stories.

Grave of Aunt Lil’s older son, Leo Adrian Rioux (1936-1984), St. Patrick Cemetery, Montville, Connecticut.

The story Auntie told me was that it was not permitted for her to be buried in the Catholic cemetery with her husband and sons because she never converted to Catholicism. But she married a Catholic and had her sons baptized in the church. It was her wish to join them in the cemetery by spreading her ashes on their graves.

Grave of Aunt Lil’s husband, Leo Oscar Rioux (1913-1957), and their younger son, Lance William Rioux (1950-1979), St. Patrick Cemetery, Montville, Connecticut.

At the last grave Tim read a poem my sister Beverly wrote in memory of Auntie for the occasion.

They were worker’s hands, never soft, never still.
It took me fifty years to catch them, hold them, keep them safe and warm.
A thousand times I watched them go:
knit and purl
peel and chop
turn the pages
stir the pot.

If hands could talk what would they say?
It took me fifty years to hear them, know them, find out how they spoke.
A thousand times I felt their love:
show and tell
hug and pat
acts of kindness
pet the cat.

I’d come to love her knobby hands
that always showed me what to do.
How those hands have touched my life!
They’ve one more job before they’re through:
stitch and mend
my broken heart.

~ Beverly Chomiak
(Her Hands)

Then we all went to eat at one of her favorite restaurants, Old Tymes in Norwich, finishing the meal with dishes of Auntie’s favorite black raspberry ice cream. ❤

Neadom Rodgers & Hanorah O’Brien

Neadom Rodgers (1837-1897)

Tim’s 2nd-great-grandparents:

Neadom Rodgers, son of Jacob and Mahala (Bedford) Rogers, was born 11 June 1837 in Guysborough (Guysborough) Nova Scotia, and died 30 June 1897 in Provincetown (Barnstable) Massachusetts. He married 3 April 1866 in Boston (Suffolk) Massachusetts, Hanorah “Nora” O’Brien, who was born 12 December 1846 in Massachusetts, and died 16 January 1921 in Marshfield (Plymouth) Massachusetts, daughter of William and Mary (—) O’Brien.

Neadom was a mariner, and he probably met and married Hanorah, the daughter of Irish immigrants, in Boston after leaving Guysborough and before finally settling in Provincetown. They were married by Rev. Thomas Sheahan, and probably moved to Provincetown between 1867 and 1869, after their daughter Mary Jane was born in Boston. Neadom died of arterial insufficiency, and is buried with Hanorah in Gifford Cemetery in Provincetown.

Hanorah & Neadom were the parents of nine children:

1. Mary Jane “Jenny” Rodgers (Tim’s great-grandmother), born 7 June 1867 in Boston, died 10 July 1916 in Somerville (Middlesex) Massachusetts. She married (as his first wife) on 18 February 1891 in Provincetown, her first cousin, George Lincoln Rodgers, who was born 1 January 1865 in Guysborough, and died 16 July 1939 in Fall River (Bristol) Massachusetts, son of Elijah and Zippora Ann (Horton) Rodgers. Mary & George were the parents of one son. Mary Jane lies buried with her parents in Gifford Cemetery in Provincetown.

2. John Neadom Rodgers, born 14 February 1869 in Provincetown. He married Bessie Bennett, who was born 29 June 1893. John & Bessie were the parents of one son, named for his father, who was born and died the same day, 30 November 1907.

3. George J. Rodgers, born 3 July 1871 in Provincetown, died there 17 March 1872, age 8 months, of “putrefied congestion of the lungs.”

4. Georgianna Rodgers, born 4 May 1875 in Provincetown, died 27 May 1941 in New York City. She married 6 December 1911 in Chelsea (Suffolk) Massachusetts, Edwin Ambrose Webster, who was born 31 January 1869 in Chelsea, and died 23 January 1935 in Provincetown, son of Edwin and Caroline A. (Emerson) Webster. They had no children. Georgianna was a nurse, and would not agree to marry Ambrose until he was financially established as an artist. She was 36 when she and the Provincetown artist were finally married by R. Perry Bush, Clergyman.

E. Ambrose Webster (1869-1935)

Ever a modest person, Webster seems to have pursued his art and his teaching with remarkable talent, intensity, and intellect, but apparently with no bent for self-promotion.
~ Miriam Stubbs

He attended the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School, under Frank Benson and Edmund Tarbell, and Acadamie Julian in Paris studying with Jean Paul Laurens and Jean-Joseph Benjamin Constant. In 1913 he exhibited at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City, “Old Hut, Jamaica” and “Sunlight, Jamaica”. He started Ambrose Webster’s Summer School of Painting, and was a founding member of the Provincetown Art Association & Museum. After his death, Georgianna lived in New York City with her nephew, Karl Rodgers and his wife, Allegra, while she was in her final illness and while their daughter, Delorma was a small child. Georgianna left the house at 180 Bradford St. in Provincetown, where she and Ambrose had lived, to Karl when she died. The house remained in the family and was enjoyed as a vacation getaway until 2008, when unfortunately it had to be sold. Ambrose & Georgianna lie buried in an unmarked grave in the Webster plot at 2653 Hawthorn Path at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Timothy Webster Rodgers, Karl’s grandson, was given a portrait of Georgianna painted by her husband, E. Ambrose Webster, after whom Tim was named.

The following is from a booklet put out by Babcock Galleries in New York City, which still has many of Webster’s paintings:

Provincetown was already an established art colony in 1914 when the Art Association & Museum was founded with several prominent citizens and artists as its members:… E. Ambrose Webster and Oliver Chaffee, both Fauvist painters and exhibitors in the 1913 Armory Show….The summer art classes initiated by Hawthorne and Webster– painting outdoors on the beach with the model posed against the sun to teach the students to establish broad tone values and modeling with palette-knifed color– attracted serious students by the hundreds, taught them the fundamentals and gave the town new color….The beginning of the collection was five paintings donated in 1914 by Charles Hawthorne, Ambrose Webster, William Halsall, Oscar Giebrich and Gerrit Beneker.

The following is from the Provincetown Art Association & Museum, 460 Commercial St, Provincetown, Massachusetts:

If ever an American painter reveled in light and color it was E. Ambrose Webster. He was among our first and most forceful modern painters. After initial studies under Edmund Tarbell and Frank Benson in Boston, he spent nearly three years in Europe absorbing the latest developments in the Post-Impressionist art world. By 1900 he returned to the United States and, having developed his own original idiom, became a prominent member of the progressive art community. Over the years he traveled widely in France, Spain, Italy, Jamaica and Bermuda, seeking the sunlight heightened color which inspired him. In 1906 while painting in the Caribbean he exhibited a work which secured the Musgrave Silver Medal from the Institute of Jamaica. By 1913 he was exhibiting in Boston and Cleveland with Charles Hovey Pepper, Carl C Cutler and Maurice Prendergast. Webster also exhibited at least two pictures at the 1913 ‘International Exhibition of Modern Art (Armory Show).’ He later worked with Albert Gleize and exhibited with Demuth, Zorach, Spencer and Tworkov. Babcock Galleries’ first exhibition of Webster’s work occurred in 1965 and since then his paintings have been included in many shows including The High Museum of Art’s ‘The Advent of Modernism.’ Webster devoted his extensive travels to finding light enshrined color. When he found it, he painted with a force and vigor that even today is astonishing. RED HOUSE, PROVINCETOWN demonstrates the vitality and exceptionally modern vision Webster possessed. His work and its influence rank him along with Alice Schille, Alfred Maurer, Oscar Bluemner and John Marin among the important painters of his generation.

On 24 August 2001, Aunt Delorma, Jon & Jannai, little Ella Grace, Tim & I attended the opening night of an exhibition of Webster paintings at the Provincetown Art Association & Museum. Most of the paintings and drawings were from private collections, and we met the curator, Miriam Stubbs, a relative of Kenneth Stubbs who was one of Webster’s students.

5. Naomi Mahala Rodgers, born about 1876. She married 2 August 1896, Henry Scott Akers. Naomi & Henry were the parents of one son.

6. Elijah Jacob Rodgers, born 1878 in Provincetown, died 1960. He was a baker and married in Provincetown, 27 April 1898, Clara Louise Bangs, who was born there in 1879, daughter of Perez and Julia (Smith) Bangs. Elijah & Clara were the parents of one daughter. They lie buried with Elijah’s parents and his sister in Gifford Cemetery.

7. George Levan Rodgers, born 2 May 1880 in Provincetown, died 13 November 1967. He married Sarah Schneider, who was born in Austria [now Poland]. George lived at 64 Mason St., and worked for the Coes Wrench Co. in Worcester, Massachusetts. There is a picture of George at work with the caption, “I believe this is a pump which was the first engine I ever operated. It was here I was allowed to Blow the factory whistle.” George & Sarah were the parents of two daughters.

George & Sarah’s great-granddaughter, Stephanie Thibault, is Tim’s third cousin. We “met” her on the internet in 2010 and exchanged genealogical information and pictures.

8. Alvin M. Rodgers, born about 1882. He married Anne Kahn and they were the parents of two children.

9. Inez Mitchell Rodgers, born about 1890. She married Alton Phillips Stephens.

a joyful weekend

6.21.14 ~ Colchester, Connecticut
6.21.14 ~ Colchester, Connecticut

I’m using these photos from the summer solstice at Janet’s to illustrate this post because I didn’t take many usable pictures of the two joyful indoor events we attended this past weekend. It was a welcome change of pace to enjoy the associations and conversations without incessantly taking pictures. (And my indoor pictures never come out very well…)

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6.21.14 ~ Colchester, Connecticut

Larisa & Dima flew up from North Carolina to attend a baby shower I threw for her on Saturday in the clubhouse here at our condo complex. (With a lot of assistance from a few of her very creative friends!) So many of the important women in her life were able to attend, including some who traveled a great distance to get here! Larisa was glowing!

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6.21.14 ~ Colchester, Connecticut

And then on Sunday we drove up to New Hampshire to attend the wedding of Tim’s cousin, Allegra, and her new husband Dan. It was supposed to be outside, but there was a backup plan in case of rain, and it was needed, as thunderstorm after thunderstorm came rumbling through the mountains. We are so happy for the new families being created, and I was thrilled to feel a kick from my new granddaughter as I rested my hand on Larisa’s tummy…

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6.21.14 ~ Colchester, Connecticut

signs

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

On October 18th, the Rodgers branch of the family headed out to Provincetown, at the very end of the Cape Cod peninsula, where we spent many a vacation when our kids were growing up. We thought it would be deserted, since the summer season is well over, but it was Women’s Week, and the streets were crowded with visitors. Exhausted from the emotions and activities of the previous day, we had lunch and did some shopping, but didn’t stay too long. But before we left I kept taking pictures of signs – there were so many creative ones…

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
a couple enjoying Women’s Week festivities together ~ 10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts

An historic fishing port, Provincetown is situated at the tip of Cape Cod in an area of spectacular natural beauty, surrounded by miles of dunes and beaches. Provincetown has a diverse and singular history. The Pilgrims first landed in Provincetown in 1620 and signed the Mayflower Compact, a declaration of self-determination and radical thought that characterizes the history and people of Provincetown, even today. Provincetown has been home to sailors, pirates, fishermen, painters, and authors for centuries. In the nineteenth century, Provincetown, with the largest and safest natural harbor on the New England coast, was one of the greatest and busiest seaports in the country. The rich texture of cultural and social influences has produced a sense of place that is uniquely Provincetown. For over a century, these special qualities have attracted artists, tourists, and bohemians who have then blended with the local population and produced a unique community character. Provincetown is truly like nowhere else.
~ Town of Provincetown website

10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
looking towards Pilgrim Monument from out on MacMillan Pier, where fishing and whale-watching boats are moored in Provincetown Harbor ~ 10.18.13 ~ Provincetown, Massachusetts
10.19.13 ~ Harwich, Massachusetts
granddaughter Eliza found her own “sign” to bring home ~ 10.19.13 ~ Harwich, Massachusetts

dragonfly tidings

10.17.13 ~ Harwich Center, Massachusetts
dragonfly magic ~ 10.17.13 ~ Harwich Center, Massachusetts

On our mother’s birthday, October 17th, my sister Beverly and I went early to the cemetery in Harwich for some time alone with our parents and our memories, bringing along Papa’s ashes in a nature-inspired wooden casket. After we placed some flowers around the gravestones of our parents and grandparents, a small red dragonfly landed on our parents’ stone. Its presence was a special gift…

10.17.13 ~ Harwich Center, Massachusetts
more dragonfly magic ~ 10.17.13 ~ Harwich Center, Massachusetts

A little later, as we were remembering our grandparents, the dragonfly flew over to perch on their gravestone, too, just above the “E” in White.  And there was another special moment after the rest of the family started arriving. A small red dragonfly landed on my brother-in-law’s shoulder and stayed there for a long while. John was the one who was Papa’s primary caregiver for all these years, and it was good to have him appreciated and acknowledged in this meaningful way. I like to think it was the same dragonfly, but can’t know for sure…

10.17.13 ~ Harwich Center, Massachusetts
10.17.13 ~ Harwich Center, Massachusetts

When we had all gathered around in a circle, Tim read my little essay about my father – I knew I couldn’t read it without sobbing – and then my cousin Matthew read messages from his father (my uncle) and his sister (my cousin). And then everyone began sharing their own memories. After that, Beverly lowered the casket full of Papa’s ashes deep into the ground, and then most of us took turns shoveling the earth back over him. It was a beautiful autumn day and our little ceremony felt so natural and intimate.

10.17.13 ~ Harwich Center, Massachusetts
returned to the earth ~ 10.17.13 ~ Harwich Center, Massachusetts

Our parents are together now. The next thing I knew, everyone – there were 14 of us – wanted to go to another cemetery in Dennis, to see where our great-grandparents and two generations before them lie buried. (Swan Lake Cemetery) It was quite something to show my granddaughter the graves of her 5th-great-grandparents, who were immigrants from Norway and Ireland, and tell her how they met here in America and raised their family on Cape Cod, and how he was a sea-captain…

10.17.13 ~ Harwich, Massachusetts
favorite things, Papa was very fond of this baby lynx picture in his last years, we kept it hanging on the wall in his bedroom ~ 10.17.13 ~ Harwich, Massachusetts

After that little expedition we all made our way over to Yarmouth to eat at the Hearth ‘n’ Kettle, a favorite restaurant of the family. We toasted those who came before us with Cape Codders (vodka, cranberry juice, lime wedge) and enjoyed a delicious leisurely dinner. And then we returned to our rented house and had my parents’ favorite birthday cakes as we gathered around the spacious dining room table – lemon jello cake in honor of my mother and chocolate butter-cream in honor of my father.

10.17.13 ~ Harwich, Massachusetts
10.17.13 ~ Harwich, Massachusetts

In the evening we piled into the living room and watched a football game while shelling and munching on peanuts, and drinking Papa’s favorite beer. It was my kids’ idea – they have fond memories of shelling peanuts with their Grandpa while he was watching football on TV. It was good to be with family – sharing memories together – some of us had not seen each other in a very long time.

Whenever we were at a funeral, for people or pets, ever since I was a little girl, my father always advised us to remember the good times. And so we did.