Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Mother told me why she had two names,”Billie” and “Josie.”

Grandfather Rosenbalm was a man of great humor. He had jokingly told Elizabeth (Goodrider) Rosenbalm that,”no matter if you and Andy have a boy or a girl, I will call that child,Billie. I like that name.”

The day of the baptismal the proud new grandfather held baby Josie in his arms and when the pastor asked, “What name do you give this child?”

He answered, “Billie Josephine Vera Rosenbalm.” Her baptismal certificate reads this way and her birth certificate read Josephine Vera Rosenbalm---this was always a little problematic.

She always thought of herself as Billie and she chose to use it when she was in nurses training. I think she thought it to be more modern.

Billie graduated from High school and went to Sparta,Wis. to enroll in their nurses program. In Sparta she roomed with Frank and Tillie Umphries. The Umphries had a large home and no children so they opened their home to the girls from the nurses program. They requested that the girls be serious about their studies or they could not stay. The Umphries loved my mother and she was an intelligent and serious student. My mother remained good friends with the Umphries ,writing and visiting them over the years.

In 1939 we visited the Umphries and they took us to their cabin. My brother and I slept on their screened in porch and I remember waking up to a deer licking a salt block about 25 or 30 feet from us. I was so excited. My brother had to keep shushing me. It was the first time my brother and I had ever seen a deer outside of a zoo.

When my mother passed away we tried to remember the large circle of friends she had. Tillie Umphries was one we had never contacted. We did not know whether she was alive or not.

In 1972 I went to Sparta Wis. in search of Tillie Umphries. ( I knew that mother had said that Frank had passed away several years before.) I looked in the phone book and there she was Mrs. Frank Umphries. I called her told her who I was and ask was it convenient for me to stop by? She promptly said, “Oh Yes!”

I found her living in a charming small two bedroom home. She had given up her big beautiful house about two years after Frank died.

I spent an hour and a half visiting with her. She told me about how she and Frank loved my mother. She was one of the finest young women they ever had in their home.
She told me that mother had never missed sending them a Christmas card and a letter. And she wondered what had happened when she didn’t hear from her.
She recalled the morning at the cabin.”I never saw a child so excited over seeing a deer. But then I remembered Billie had lived in Chicago and that probably a zoo was the only place you would see them.”

She thanked me for coming and telling her about my mother’s untimely death. She said, “You know when you get to be my age you like to keep track of all the friends you have had along the way and find out about them.”

She hugged me hard when I left. I knew my mother would be happy to have me make this final connection on her behalf. Tillie was 82 at the time.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Andrew Rosenbalm (continued)

During the years that followed I was to learn many things about “my
hero in a homburg hat,” Andrew Rosenbalm.
Bob and I had a step-grandmother we did not meet until later in 1942
We had 2 uncles,7 aunts (3 of the aunts were younger than I.) My hero in the homburg hat fathered his last child at age 65.

My Mother eventually revealed the destruction of the relationship between she and her father:
Her Mother, Elizabeth Goodrider Rosenbalm died when her son, Marlyn (Poge) was born. There was 12 years difference between Billie(Josie) and the infant Marlyn.
Andrew was grief stricken over the death of Elizabeth and he drank and gambled their money away and eventually lost their home. He took the children to his mother’s and father’s because he no longer could take care of them.

In the interim the children's grandfather passed away. That left an aging grandmother trying to raise Andrew’s two children. They lived mostly out of the garden grown by their grandmother. Both children remained there until Josie enrolled in nurses training at Sparta, Wis. and then eventually transferred to Cook County Hospital in Chicago. Marlyn stayed until age 12 when he moved to Chicago after my mother and father married.

My Mother was raise in a refined upper middle class home. The Goodrider family provided Elizabeth,Andrew, and Josie with all of the extras in life and Andrew with a good future if Andrew “behaved himself.”

Andrew’s sister, Eunice told me many years later: The Goodriders were wealthy farmers and they had a large grain and feed business. She told me that Andrew went through a kind of “hell” that he brought on himself.

Mrs. Goodrider died not long after Elizabeth. Mr. Goodrider may have helped Josie go to school. Mr. Goodrider left no inheritance to the children because he was bitter over the death of his daughter and the immediate and untimely death of his wife that he also blamed on Andrew. Mr. Goodrider apparently banished Andrew, Josie and Marlyn from his life.
It is hard for me to understand how this grandfather could turn his back on these children.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My Hero in a Homburg Hat

We traveled from Northern Illinois each year 140 miles to Wisconsin and I knew Grampa lived there. We visited other friends and relatives but we never went to Grampa’s house.

My Mother always spoke very sparingly about her Father.

When my brother and I ask why we never saw him, ”Well, he broke my heart when I was a little girl.” In my young mind I thought,”Yeah,but...” and I would wade right in with more questions. So it went with me pecking way like a little chick getting very few answers.

I could tell she still loved him because I just believed she did. She would smile and get a soft gooey look in her eyes. It was the same look she got when she looked at my brother and me and told us she loved us. Yeah , I knew she loved him. But why did he never visit......? Why did we never visit him.....? Why did Poge live with us instead of Grampa?

We totally forgot about grampa when we were reintroduced to our cousins
and we were allowed to roam in and out of the bluffs and caves that surrounded their home. How I loved an outdoors that was so exciting ; we could run and play like wild indians and then drink from a sweet water spring that flowed from a rock.

It wasn’t ‘til we were back in the car and we would set out for a long ride that I would think and say,”Why didn’t we visit Grampa?”

My Mother would turn in her seat and say firmly,”We just didn’t. Weren’t the Dells pretty and didn’t you have a wonderful time with your cousins? I think you better be quiet now and try to take a little nap-----it is a long ride home. We will talk about Grampa another time.”

She was right,of course but she still couldn’t hide that soft look in her eyes when she said,”grampa.” I tried to talk to my brother(he was thirteen and should know about things) but he told me to, “be quiet and take a nap.” He acted like a grown-up more all the time! My cousins Evelyn’s brother was the same way!!! I was mad but I soon fell asleep.

A Year later I never lost my natural curiosity about grampa,my preparation for being a writer. I gleaned those little bits of information that were exciting to me : my mother had gone camping when she was a little girl and when she woke up with a snake wrapped around the leg of her camp cot. Pretty exciting stuff in my little sheltered life. My mother never went camping again.

Grampa was trapper,a hunter and a fisherman (I pictured him in a coonskin hat,tramping those beautiful hills and bluff in Wisconsin.) That was not much for a little girl of nine to know about her grampa but I held on to those few scraps of information and I wrote them down.
I began to write in earnest when I was nine. My father was a flaming alcoholic. I clung to my pencil and paper like as a drowning person clings to a life buoy. I spewed hate and venom on my paper. Writing about things that were pleasant or curious took me away from the problems of an alcoholic home.

Those words that I wrote about my grampa were few but I remember how I would look at them and smile. I liked to imagine I was out there walking with him. Once I showed my friend Aggie what I had written my grampa. She said, “That’s not much, I know a lot more about my grampa than you do yours.” I was hurt. It had taken me so long to find out his little bit. I never showed her anything again.

In November of 1941 my mother received a telephone call from her father. He had trapped two young bears. He found the mother bear dead with the poor little creatures trying to nurse from her dead body. He was going to sell them to the Brookfield Zoo, in Chicago. He would come to Harvard, Illinois and there was a three hour delay before another train would be available going into Chicago and everything had been arranged to transport the bears from the train to the zoo. Could she or my father pick him up at the Harvard station so he might visit? The village of Chemung is five miles west of Harvard.

When I arrived from school my mother told me my grampa was coming for a visit. I was elated I was prancing around the kitchen with my usual exuberance, “ Grampa is coming, grampa is coming.” My mother began to cry,not just cry but sob and sob. The kind of sob that seems to take over ones body and make it shake.

I was subdued now. “Don’t cry Mother. Won’t you be happy to see him?”
“Yes,yes,” she tried to answer. “It has been so long.” she sobbed.
My father came in and he was sober. I was thankful.He flashed his great grin. “ What is going on here?” He looked at my Mother crying. His concern for her was real. He put his arms around her and her head rested on his shoulder and she sobbed out her story.
He listened through every sob and finally he held her at arms length and said,” Sweetheart, this is wonderful. Maybe you two can talk and get all this stuff between you ironed out. Don’t you think it is time?”
“ I don’t think I can.” She sobbed.
“Yes you can and you have to start somewhere.” My Dad was so great in so many ways. I was glad to witness this because sometimes during those days we all needed to have him remind us of his best qualities.
My brother got off the school bus and I ran to greet him and tell him the news. “Hi Squirt,” he said. I’d even overlooked this nickname he and my cousin,Bob had chosen for me.
“Grampa’s coming and he’s got two bears and he’s going to sell them to Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.”
“Oh, he is not, Squirt!” He grinned as I gave him my best cross look about that nickname. He still did not believe me as we entered the kitchen door. My brother drew up short when he saw my mother had been crying---he always figured that my father was at the bottom of it.

He was relieved to hear my father say,”Isn’t that great news? I’m so happy you are going to finally getting to meet him---Andy is quite a fellow.” There was that big grin again.

My eyes flew wide open. “You have met him? How come you never told me?”
He leaned over and winked, “Cause you never asked me. All this time he knew something about grampa and he never told me. He saw the hurt look on my face and said, “Your mother asked me not to and it is up to her to tell when she chooses. Your mother and I need to talk. You two find something else to do and we’ll let you in on all the plans."

Mother seemed to come up quickly with the grocery list and we were sent to pick up a few groceries at the store that was two blocks from our house. My brother seemed to feel just fine not being included in the plans but I felt left out.

The plans were made. My Grampa and the bears would be on the train very early and would arrive in Harvard about 9:30 a.m. He would spend about two and a half hours with us and be back in Harvard about 1 p.m. to board the train for Chicago.

There was much discussion as to whether my brother and I would be kept home from school. I could not believe that my mother was even considering sending us to school. I begged and pleaded and finally our father sided with us and he said he felt the only fair thing was for us to meet our grampa.
I could not sleep that night for thinking about my grampa. What he looked like ; what his voice was like and would his voice sound deep like Poge’s?Poge was my mother’s brother. Poge was 12 when he came to live with Mother and Dad in Chicago. Poge advanced from fifth grade to the 7th grade. Poge was smart. He was 12 years younger than my mother. Their mother had died when Poge was born. He was wonderful and was like a much older brother to us. Poge had been raised by his grand mother until the time he came to live with my folks. He was a sweet man........but you couldn’t get him to talk about much of anything. He read ,read and read. I saw a light under his bedroom door.
I tapped softly. I said,“Poge.”
He opened the door,”Sis, what are you doing up?”
“I can’t sleep,I am so excited about seeing Grampa. Aren’t you?”
“Well,sure I guess I am,” he said. He smiled.
“Do you and Mother love grampa?”
“Sure we do. We have been a part a long time. Sometime it takes along time for each of us to heal. Do you know what I mean? Sis,you better get to bed or you won’t be able to get up early to meet my dad.” He smiled again.
“Ok.” I walked down the hall to my room thinking that grownups were hard to understand sometimes. I crawled into bed thinking of baby bears and grampa.

The next morning the house smelled of cinnamon and coffee. I still love that smell. Mother had made on of her wonderful coffee cakes.

“You kids eat your cereal and toast and we will save the coffee cake for when my dad gets here.” The word “dad” fell naturally from her mouth. My brother and I shot a look at each other and smiled. She hustled and bustled around the kitchen making everything look nice. It was the way she looked when it was a holiday. She loved holidays.
“Poge, you drink all the coffee you want. You too,Honey. I’ll make a fresh pot right before Dad gets here.” Wow! She did it again. This time Poge winked at me and I winked back. My brother was off getting cleaned up--I couldn’t wait to tell him. We all went in our different directions to get dressed and ready. My Dad went out the front door to head for the train depot.
“Their here.” I called. I watched from our sun room window as a tall man in a homburg hat and long black coat emerged from our ‘39 Ford. I watched and tried to figure out why this man could have so much mystery about him. My brother pulled me back so mother could go around and greet her dad.
Grampa and Dad were chatting as they walked up the sidewalk. Grampa stepped in and removed his hat and said,”Josie, it is so good to see you.” They stepped into our kitchen and they embraced for several seconds and Poge walked over and they hugged. The tears ran down my father’s face and Bob and I stood there knowing we were watching something wonderful but we didn’t know what. Grampa had brought mother a box of chocolates and a book for Poge.
My Mother dried her eyes and regained her composure and said, “Dad, let me take your coat and hat. Come in the living room and have a seat, we will have some coffee and coffee cake in a bit. This our son, Bob and our daughter,Gloria Jean.”
“Yes, Hello,” he said in a soft,deep voice that could have been Poges. We both responded with quiet "hellos." I could not take my eyes from his face. Poge had deep set blue eyes; a broad but pointed nose and my mother had sharp chiseled features,the same blue eyes,chestnut hair and she was very beautiful. His children did not seem to share any of his face but Poge had his voice,his slender body and his very quiet strength.
I thought his face was the best face a grampa could have. His face was tan and quite long. His brow had scraggly eyebrows,only a slight bridge to his nose, and a scar that showed his nose had been broken and was flat; when he smiled it was as if what was left would melt into his face. It was that smile that seemed to be cheering on the rest of that face. I fell in love with that face.
He saw me looking at him so intently and said,” Gloria Jean, why are you looking at me so hard?”
“Grampa, you have a nice face.”
He laughed and slapped his leg,”You do too,honey.
“Grampa, will we be able to see your bears at the zoo?”
“Sure can. Do you get to Brookfield Zoo?” he asked.
“Yes,we have a field trip at the end of the year and we always go to Brookfield Zoo.”
“Then you will see them,”he said.
“Grampa did you ever kill a bear?
He looked at mother very cautiously, and answered,”Yes, I have.”
“Gloria Jean, please no more questions.”
“Ok” I said. I probably would never find out if he ever ate any bear meat.
We had our coffee cake and drinks. Mother packed grampa a lunch to eat on his way to Chicago. It was time for grampa to go. Grampa put on his hat and coat. He smiled and I thought he looked handsome with that tan,strange, chiseled face that looked like it had been formed by the cold Wisconsin wind.
We hugged and had a tearful goodbye.
Mother put her arm around Poge as Grampa and Dad climbed into the car.”Dad looks good doesn’t he?” she asked.
Poge chuckled,” Andrew looks mighty fine in that homburg hat.”
I repeated longingly,“Yes, Grampa you do look mighty fine in that homburg hat.”

In the spring of 1942 I saw my Grampa’s Bears. It was a thrill and I’m sure every kid in school got sick of me talking about my Grampa’s bears!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


July 3,2007

Lady Love had packed 7 pieces of art to take back to each member of her daughter's family. She put 7 pieces of paper in a bowl ; each piece of paper was numbered from 1 to 7. She had each person draw a number and they would choose in that order. This was the night.
"It was the Luck of the Draw."

Everyone had been excited about the unpacking of the pictures on Tuesday July 3rd.
The pictures were placed on couches,chairs and the floor. All so each one could be seen with ease. It took almost two hours for them to all make their choices.

The choosing of these pictures was not easy for anyone, except (#1)Her oldest grandson. Lady Love had given him a wildlife picture of a raccoon so his logical choice was the matching bunny.

(#2) Her daughter had a great deal of difficulty choosing because there was more than one picture that held particular memories for her. She kept deferring to her children and they would not tell her which picture "they" like until she chose. I kept encouraging her to pick the painting she liked and she finally chose the begonia.

(#3) Her oldest grand daughter liked "The House that Jack Built"but knew that both the other grand daughter and grandson liked it so she also liked "The Cow." She had picked " The House that Jack Built" but she saw her sister's lower lip come out and she deferred to her and picked "The Cow."

(#4) Her second grandson always looked at all the other paintings and came back to "The Apple Tree." He thought their was something special about that picture and there is, Lady Love's second daughter, died of lukemia and her grave is beside that tree. This is a tree that Lady Love planted.

(#5) Her third grandson was next. He was really torn between "The House that Jack Built" and "Jumping Through Hoops." He went back and forth and finally picked "Jumping Through Hoops."

(#6) Youngest grand daughter picked "The House that Jack Built" and she wanted it hung up right now!!

(#7) Dad was left with "Sunday Afternoon" and it was the one he wanted. So they were all happy with their choices! (Well, almost.)

The next morning her daughter told us that after we left to go to bed that her youngest grandson said he didn't know if he had made a good choice or not and he was having anxiety attack!!! Mother talked with him and ask him what made him choose that picture the first place and he said,"I liked the strong colors and it is so powerful!" Mother ask him if he would like to trade it for anything else and he said calmly,"No,I really do like that best!" And he went right to sleep.

Lady Love and I had no idea that there would be such drama and great side comments. This was a very open and honest feeling of what they think about their grandmother's art.
It was such a pleasure to be an observer of this very important evening.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Minnie A. Moore was always know to us children as Great Aunt "Dot"Moore. I never knew what her real name was until she died. She was such a beautiful little woman and she loved children and always fussed over us like she was just meeting my brother and I for the first time.
My father's parents were both deceased so we did appreciate this woman that seemed like
a warm, caring, grandmother. We couldn't get enough of her.

She wore ankle length dresses and smelled of lilac water. Her fine,curly white hair was pulled back and always piled on top of her head and curls were always trying to escape. Her face was full of wrinkles but it seemed the perfect place for her wonderful smile and her twinkling blue eyes.

Great Aunt Dot was very fond of my dad and mother. My mother had gone to school and lived in Chicago and Dot appreciated her interest in music and literature. Dot was a avid reader and was happy to see my mother encourage reading and music in our home. She had one daughter, Elizabeth unmarried and employed as a private secretary. They both doted on my brother, Bob and myself. My cousins were all boys--I was the only girl in my generation so I was spoiled even by the boys. They included me but, they all called me "Squirt".

My mother took me to see her at least once a week, my brother would go to a movie with his friends but I usually chose to stay with Aunt Dot. She would read to me and as I got older, I read to her. One of the best things about her was she never talked down to children, she always visited with us as if were grown. She answered questions the same way.

I stayed over night with her several times and none of the boys were ever allowed that privilege. I would sleep in a small folding bed that had been Elizabeth's in Aunt Dot's bedroom. In the morning she would sit at her dressing table let me brush her beautiful long white hair and then she would put it up. She showed me how she could sit on her hair. Very few of the family ever saw her with out her hair being that wonderful, curly, pile of white hair pinned up in that very fluffy manner.

The first time I told my dad about brushing her hair. He responded with,"Wow,Sis, I don't think I have ever seen her with her hair down! And she let you brush it,too? I think that is special don't you?" I nodded in the affirmative.

She and Elizabeth continued over the years to hold us close. Elizabeth chronicled all of the cousins growth by taking loads of pictures of all of us. Then when my children were born Elizabeth continued by doing the same thing with my children--even during her long battle with multiple sclerosis.

After World War ll, Aunt Dot and Elizabeth wanted to have a large family dinner to welcome the boys, (my bother Bob and our cousin Bob) home. In all of her pictures she could not find a picture of the boys together without me in it. So at this special dinner the place cards had a picture of the three of us all looking like three little ragamuffins!

More on Dot and Elizabeth another time