A few days ago my friend, Rose, whom I "met" at ancestry.com when I first started researching the Newton/Villeneuve and Jablonski family trees (three-four years ago now), sent me a jpg of a very precious photograph. The photo was identified (helpfully!) as my paternal grandfather, Frank C. (Chester) Newton, taken sometime between 1900 and 1910.
Rose is married to a gentleman whose grandmother was Myrtle Agnes Newton, one of my Grandpa Newton's older sisters. The jpg she sent was one of Myrtle's family photos.
Myrtle was my great-aunt. She married Forest Edward Sensiba in Iron River, Michigan, on July 19, 1915 and, as far as I know, lived in Iron River thereafter until her death. Great-aunt Myrtle was the last of the children of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother, David Newton/Villeneuve and Laura Ruth Bailey, to pass away, in 1976. My Grandpa Newton died in 1964, and it was a traumatic experience for me, because we were very close.
Grandpa Newton was born on January 2, 1894. I am a very poor judge of how "old" someone is, I always guess wrong! I know Grandpa fought in WWI, I believe he was drafted sometime in 1917. He received a 21-gun salute at his funeral. I remember how very loud it was. Of course, 1917 was seven years after this photograph was taken. Do you think he is a teenager in this photo? In 1904, he would have been 10. I think he looks about 12, which would make the year of the photo 1906-1907.
He is sooooo handsome! And as a young man (in his wedding portrait, for instance) very very handsome. When I saw this photograph for the first time a few days ago, I thought how much my youngest brother, Jeffrey, looks like Grandpa Newton.
Here is a photo of Grandpa Newton about two years before he passed away. It was taken in the summer of 1962 in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, at my Aunt Laurel's house on Racine Avenue (old Highway 11).
Can you see the resemblance between the young Grandpa Newton and the 68 year old Grandpa Newton? I do! Here, we were getting ready to listen to a Cubs game on that newfangled invention, the battery-operated transistor radio! See how big and bulky it is, in it's leather case!
At the time, I was living at the house where this photo was taken for a year in order, so I was told, to make my Confirmation (Roman Catholic faith). It was the house where my Aunt Laurel, Uncle Verne, Cousin Kathy, and Grandpa Newton lived. Grandma Newton had died in January, 1962 and Grandpa Newton had come to live with Aunt Laurel, his oldest daughter, after the house, further down Highway 11 was sold. But after Rose sent me the picture of my young Grandpa Newton, as I printed it out and pondered where to add it to my gallery wall (in a constant state of flux right now), I began wondering if I may have been sent to live with my Aunt for another reason, too.
As the oldest daughter of Grandpa Newton's oldest son, perhaps I was sent there as an experiment to see if I would be able to "cheer up" Grandpa. Of course, as an 11 year old, that would never have occurred to me; I was just so happy to be there! But now, looking back at age 61, I think it could very likely be true that there were more things at work behind the scenes, so to speak.
I'd always been close to both Grandpa and Grandma Newton, staying with them for weeks every summer for - I don't know how long! From age 5 or 6, I think. One summer, my sister Debbie, next to me in age, came along, but she was very homesick and she only stayed a few nights, and then mom and dad came to take her back home, and I once again had the front bedroom and that roomy bed that squeaked every time I moved all to myself. I remember a night - isn't it funny how our memories work? -- my sister Debbie and I were laying in the double bed with the iron bedhead that was shoved up underneath the double window at the front of the house, overlooking the front yard (with a colonade of massive trees down the driveway to old Highway 11). It was the first time Debbie was staying at Grandma and Grandpa Newton's too! The windows were open. In the distance, I could hear the whistle of a train, and all around, the sounds of night were there: crickets, animal calls, the sound of tires on blacktop as an occasional car passed by on that old narrow highway. I would fall asleep looking up through the window at stars, every night. So many stars. Back then, Sturtevant was a tiny village on the road to Racine, with no street lights! In Milwaukee where I lived, one could not see such a sky at night. And one never heard all of those sounds of "silence."
I remember how safe and snug and secure I felt in that bed, that night, with the windows wide open to balmy night air, snuggled underneath the blankets that smelled of fresh air and sunshine (line dryed), and for every night I stayed there, for years! But my sister Debbie, nope, she was crying. She was scared. She just wanted to go back home. And no matter what I said, she wouldn't stop crying until she finally fell asleep. My poor sis cried herself to sleep.
I was sad to see her go, a few days later. I don't remember crying. Did I? What I'm thinking now is that I was thinking then that even though I was sad to see my sister go home, I would now have Grandma and Grandpa all to myself. And so it was; but there was one summer when my next in age sister, Darlene, came to stay, and my recollection is that she loved it. Darlene is about 3 1/2 years younger than me. She wasn't home sick at all. But it was only for one summer. That was the last summer I remember spending at the old house on Highway 11, so perhaps the following January (1962) was when Grandma Newton died, the house was sold, and Grandpa Newton went to live with Aunt Laurel and Uncle Verne. And then I came to stay for a year.
Maybe some day some distant relative will come along and stumble across this blog post, for as long as it exists, and will appreciate these recollections. In my heart, these things seems like they happened - yesterday. But they were over 50 years ago, now...
Oh, how I miss you, Grandma and Grandpa Newton.
December 4, 2016: Hola everyone! Winter has arrived in Milwaukee and there are snow flurries today. Despite several hard freezes remarkably my "spikes" in two of my patio planters have absolutely refused to die. The rosemary and thyme plants I nursed inside the house through last winter spent the summer in their pot outside next to the side stoop off the driveway, where they get plenty of sunshine all day long. I transplanted them into a cozy sheltered spot right next to the stoop in October and they are still green and growing, too! With the delay in getting the drywall patching done in the relatively minor "reconstruction" work I had done in my kitchen, I am way behind my time in getting the house decorated. But yesterday I got my wreath decked out with extra lights and dressed the front door of the house, and my battery-operated traditional candles were put up on the window sills all around the house Friday evening. It becomes a ritual to go around at dusk and turn the tops to the right to turn the candles "on" and at bedtime to go around and turn the tops to the left to turn the candles "off." Today I put some "glittery" throw pillow covers purchased new last month from H&M on three of my sofa pillows to glam things up a bit in the living room and add some sparkle. Later on, after I sufficiently fuel myself up with wine and snacks and probably to distract myself while I listen to the Packers game on the radio, I will huff and puff and pull my artificial tree up from storage in the basement. I will decorate it simply this year. Every year I say that, and every year I end up throwing just about everything except the kitchen sink on the tree. I am very proud of myself this year, though. I did not buy a single new ornament or Christmas doo-dad for the house (throw pillow covers don't count!!!) Happy Holidays to all, with hope and fervent prayers for 2017. I've a feeling we're all going to need a lot of help from Goddess in the coming year. Jan