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.

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