Katherine’s Children

Katherine Fusiak (1887-1943) and three of her eight children: Augusta Jean Chomiak (1913-1986), Theodore William Chomiak (1922-2013), and Lillian Elizabeth Chomiak (1915-2016).

It’s simply amazing what comes into the light when cousins start exploring family history, too. Several weeks ago I shared a picture one of my maternal cousins discovered and today I’m sharing a portrait found by one of my paternal cousins.

The woman is my grandmother, Katherine, who died long before I was born. I’ve always been curious about her because she is the one grandparent I never knew.

Катерина Фюшяк (Kateryna Fusiak ~ my Aunt Lil showed me how to write her name in Ukrainian) was born on 19 November 1887 in Luzok Horishni, Ukraine, when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She died on 22 October 1943 at New London, Connecticut.

Katherine’s parents were land-owning farmers. When her husband William, the son of peasants, left for America, she was pregnant with her second child and they already had a small daughter, Mary. According to my aunt Mary, who grew up with her grandparents in Ukraine, Katherine’s father, Konrad, who did not approve of his daughter’s marriage, was furious about not hearing from William, and with great resentment sold a cow to buy passage to America for Katherine and her new nursing baby boy, Jon. At the tender age of 22, on 19 February 1910, Katherine and 5-month-old baby Jon sailed to America on the SS Finland from Antwerp, arriving in New York City on 4 March 1910. She had no ticket, but was in possession of $19 which she used to pay passage for herself and her son. She was 4’11” tall with a fair complexion. She was identified as a “Ruthenian” on the passenger arrival record, a term used to refer to a group of Ukrainians living in Ruthenia and eastern Czechoslovakia.

Mary stayed behind with her grandparents and so Katherine did not see her firstborn daughter again until Mary was 18, when she finally joined her family in America after World War I. By then, Katherine and William were living on a farm in Montville, Connecticut.

Katherine was a devoted mother who admonished her eight children to stick together no matter what, as she believed that family was all they would have in this difficult world. Her grandchildren called her “Baba.” Katherine died of a strangulated hernia at the age of 55. She lies buried with her husband in Comstock Cemetery in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Three of her children did not survive into adulthood. Jon Stephen died when he was 9 years old, of appendicitis. Augustine was about two when he got into some pills or something that poisoned him. Olga, a toddler, met her death by scalding when she pulled a pot of boiling water off the stove, a horrific accident that my aunt Lil was old enough to remember first hand.

In the portrait above, daughter Mary is missing because she was still living in Ukraine. Jon had already died. My Aunt Jean is on the left, my father is the little boy, and my Aunt Lil is on the right. My Aunt Em was not born yet.

Katherine had a very hard life as a farmer’s wife who made it through the Great Depression living off the land. Her husband was a harsh, bitter man, who regretted leaving Ukraine and apparently hated this country. I admire her courage and fortitude.

My father always spoke of his mother with great fondness and missed her dearly. Even during his last illness he asked for her. He had enlisted in the army during World War II on 4 February 1943. Sadly, only eight months later, on 22 October 1943, his mother died. Only 22 years old, he came home on leave for her funeral and then returned to duty. I am struck with a little synchronicity here because Katherine was 22 when she saw her mother for the last time, and my father was 22 when he saw his own mother for the last time.

My father often credited his mother with raising him to respect women and appreciate their strengths. As an example, he often told the story of her ability to drive a hard bargain. A butcher came down from Norwich to the farm in Montville three times trying to buy a calf for less than the price Katherine wanted to sell it for! But she got her original asking price, impressing her son, and the sale was finally made!

little fellow identified

Albert E. Weekes (1907-1991)

My cousin sent me a little puzzle I enjoyed solving. He is also going through boxes from the grandparents! Along with the front and back of this postcard he sent a question, “My middle name is Weekes and I saw this post card from Weekes to Swift… may be of interest to you and also I don’t know who the kid is on the photograph, might you?” It took me a couple of hours, going over my data stored away at Ancestry, to find someone who fit.

So finally I could write back:

My best guess for the identity of the little fellow in the picture would be Albert E. Weekes (1907-1991). He is our 2nd cousin, 3 times removed. The postcard was sent in July 1911, when he was 3 years 9 months old, and the message says the picture was taken when he was 2 years 9 months old, which Albert was in July of 1910. He was 10 years younger than his next older sibling, his sister Bertha.

The post card is from his parents, Mr. & Mrs. G. A. Weekes, George Albert Weekes (1849-1917) & Mary J. (Hilliard) Weekes (1867-1952).

The post card was sent to George’s first cousin, Mrs. Edward E. Swift, Susan Flora (Freeman) Swift (1864-1963). She is our 3rd-great-aunt, Aunt Flora, of Woods Hole.

Our ancestors in common are my 4th-great-grandparents, Isaac Weekes (1780-1841) & Elisabeth (Allen) Weekes, profiled here. The cousins, Mr. Weekes and Mrs. Swift, were their grandchildren. They have many descendants and I haven’t found all of them yet, I’m sure!

reflection

“Reflection” by Odilon Redon

So, I was walking at the beach last night when there I spotted my gull friend with the mangled leg sitting on a post, one of the posts he used to sit on while Tim & I were eating. !!! After chatting with him for a minute I took out my cell phone. But, my cell phone skills are limited and it was set for taking a selfie and I was at a loss for how to change the setting. Grrrrr… The gull looked puzzled by my not eating and not having the regular camera. He might even have been wondering where Tim was. Then he flew off. Sigh…

I always had the feeling he was a bit smarter than most of the other gulls. He must be learning to ignore the fake gull alarm noise. So when I was finished with my walk I sat down and figured out how to switch the selfie setting on and off. I will refresh my memory before I start my walk tonight. I hope I get to see him again.

It’s feeling very good to be walking again. Surgery and radiation interrupted my morning walks but it’s kind of nice now having a fresh perspective and a different routine, evening walks. My body feels so different now. Much better. Even the things I reflect on while walking are a little different.

Last night I had a new thought to add to my tired story of having too much stuff to sort through from the ancestors. Tim’s father and my mother died before their parents (our grandparents). All this stuff would have gone to them! Our parents never had the chance to go through their parents’ things. Realizing this makes me forgive myself a little more for being so overwhelmed for so long.

Wonder what new perspectives might come to me tonight. 🙂

 

almond self-enclosed

“Almond Blossoms” by Antonio Mancini

Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed and growing sweet —
all this universe, to the furthest stars
and beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.

Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rose and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,

a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
(The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke)

Caher Conor (Fahan Beehive Huts)

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ not sure if the 2,000 BC date is accurate ~ other sources suggest the 12th century

Sunday happened to be Imbolc, Groundhog Day, Candlemas or Brigid’s Day, about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It marks the beginning of spring, which I now see comes a lot sooner in Ireland than it does in New England. Our first stop was at these fascinating beehive huts.

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the canine proprietor greeting us was eager to sell us tickets
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the ticket booth was a bit run down but Larisa found him friendly enough
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ Dima, Katherine and Tim had already started the 2-minute walk up the mountain path
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the path narrows
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ stone wall path boundary
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ looking back down at the sea behind us
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ I loved the lichens on the stones and the little green mosses and plants
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland

Also known as the Fahan Beehive Huts, Caher Conor (Cathair na gConchuireach) is located on the south side of Mount Eagle west of Dingle. The complex consists of five structures.

The clochan (beehive huts) in Caher Conor were probably single family dwellings and were attached to each other with a doorway leading from one to the other. They were built in the form of a circle of successive strata of stone, each stratum lying a little closer to the center than the one beneath and so on up to a small aperture at the top that could be closed with a single small flagstone or capstone. No mortar was used in building, which is called corbelling.

The hillside at one time had over 400 of these drystone, corbelled huts surviving, prompting one antiquarian in the 19th century to refer to the area as the “City of Fahan”. Dating the huts is difficult because the skill of corbelling has been used in Newgrange (3100 B.C.) and as recently as the 1950s. The huts at Fahan along the Slea Head Drive may well date to the 12th Century when the incoming Normans forced the Irish off the good land and out to the periphery of the Dingle Peninsula.

~ Saints & Stones website

2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ this enclosure didn’t have a roof
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ Larisa coming through a doorway
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ Katherine going through a doorway
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ orbs ~ I found the one with the bright center very interesting
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ it was so cold that Katherine finally relented and put her coat on ~ notice the pink plastic spoon in her hand ~ it was with her most of the day
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ Larisa and a gorgeous view
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ Dima and another view
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ this cross would make more sense being here if the wall was built in the 12th century
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ Barbara & Tim with orbs ~ Larisa knit the hat from Irish wool ~ at first she let me borrow it but then she gave it to me ~ now I have wool hats from Ireland and Norway!
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ I think Ireland may have even more stones than New England does!
2.4.18 ~ view from Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ coming around a corner
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the walk back down to the parking lot
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the canine proprietor keeping tabs on our departure
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ a door on a nearby building
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the side of the same building, set well into the steep mountainside
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ the narrow, one-lane road between the entrance and the tiny parking lot
2.4.18 ~ Caher Conor, Mount Eagle, Kerry, Ireland ~ view looking down from the parking lot ~ yikes!

It was good to get warmed up in the car and drive off for our next destination.

The Plough Bed & Breakfast

2.4.18 ~ view from The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ morning light and the moon

After our long afternoon at Coumeenoole Beach we found our bed and breakfast, The Plough. The hostess, Beatrice, made us feel right at home. When we got warmed up and settled, we headed out again for dinner at Lord Baker’s, Dingle’s oldest gastro pub and largest restaurant. Tim & I had one of that night’s specials, Slow Roast Shank of Kerry Lamb & Red Wine Sauce. (local and grass-fed lamb) It was so delicious that we are still talking about it!

2.4.18 ~ view from the The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland

When we returned to our B&B I was feeling chilled so Beatrice warmed up a hot water bottle with a faux fur covering to take to bed with me. I warmed up quickly and slept very soundly. 🙂

2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland

Sunday morning Tim & I woke up before the others and took a morning walk. The surrounding scenery was soothing and pastoral. We were overlooking Ventry Harbour and the moon was still in the sky.

2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ some whimsy in the garden

When we returned for breakfast we had a pleasant surprise. The first thing offered was porridge and was it ever tasty! Beatrice said the “secret” ingredients were local, sweet cream and a little shot of Bailey’s. 🙂 Then we had a choice of various egg, ham, and sausage breakfast combinations.

2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ beautiful stone wall and daffodils!
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ the plough
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ Ventry Harbour
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ daffodils in February!
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ a very cold me!
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ whimsy at the front door
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ reading nook

I loved the pillows Beatrice used in her sitting room! This was our first time ever staying at a bed & breakfast ~ thank you Larisa & Dima for the special treat!!!

2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ deer pillow
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ woodsy pillow
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ robin pillow

We had a long day ahead of us and so we were then off for the next adventures.

persistently, abundantly, miraculously

1.22.18 ~ Cork, Ireland ~ Katherine has been taking good care of her beloved Purple Penguin ♡ photo by Larisa

One morning you might wake up
to realize that the knot in your stomach
had loosened itself and slipped away,
and that the pit of unfilled longing in your heart
had gradually, and without your really noticing,
been filled in — patched like a pothole, not quite
the same as it was, but good enough.

And in that moment it might occur to you
that your life, though not the way
you planned it, and maybe not even entirely
the way you wanted it, is nonetheless —
persistently, abundantly, miraculously —
exactly what it is.

~ Lynn Ungar
(The Way It Is)

After recovering from surgery and the bad cold I then had about a week of feeling good. I couldn’t wait to get back to my chores and even happily spent a morning giving the bathroom a thorough cleaning. It was fun to go food shopping with Tim, run errands together, cook a few meals, do some laundry, and enjoy a lovely long walk on the beach.

Then Wednesday I had my first radiation treatment and it went very well. But the predicted side effect of fatigue hit the next morning and I wound up sleeping most of the day. If that is the only side effect, though, I am grateful. I still feel sapped. Being a morning person usually full of vim, vigor and vitality, I woke up this morning wondering why on earth I felt so sluggish and it took me an hour or so to figure out that it must be lingering fatigue from the treatment. (And why was I looking for the eggs in the dishwasher?)

So Tim volunteered to do some food shopping today. And I am going to make a packing list!

Tim and the kids planned visits to fill the two week period between my 2nd and 3rd treatments! I will be getting my 2nd treatment (at Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven) on Wednesday and then going straight to Providence to catch a flight to Ireland to see Larisa & Dima and Katherine!!! And then the next week we will go to Georgia to see Nate & Shea!!! We will arrive home the night before my 3rd and final treatment.

I may be a tired blob but at least these trips will help pass the time and my radiation oncologist thinks they are a great idea. I do hope I get to see Blarney Castle and more of Cumberland Island National Seashore. But whatever happens it will be wonderful seeing the kids again. ♡