Early nursing homes. Mom gets Dad back in death. No Priest at graveside. How Mom survived.
In two parts, Part I & Part II. Part II contains two views of the famed DeHaviland Gypsy Moth.
Part I begins here.
Copyright 2013 Franklyn E. Dailey Jr.
Requiescat in pace.
May they rest in peace.
Dad was an 'early adopter' to an early AA. Mom had already let him know that sobering up did not restore those 'rights' of marriage. If you have read "My Times with the Sisters and Other Events," pictured upper left, you may recall that when he became reliably sober, my Dad became part of the Kelly family. Mrs Kelly had two very young daughters. In an event in which I had a rare connection with the Kelly years in Dad's life, I made a search with a now grown-up Kelly daughter for a nursing home for my Dad, once it became known that he had incurable cancer. Mrs. Kelly and her family kind of fell apart in shock as the death thing pursued my Dad. In an auto search trip to examine nursng homes, in Rochester New York, in 1975, one Kelly daughter kept proclaining to me that, "Daddy could never live in that!" After getting over the flash thought, to myself, 'whose Daddy is this, anyway,' my heart went out to this girl. Probably the Kelly children could have handled Dad's half-year losing battle with spine cancer, but Mrs. Kelly could not. Dad's last breath was announced when I was awakened by a phone call in the middle of the night by a caring Doctor in Rochester, telling me that Dad had just gone peacefully in his sleep at the nursing home I finally found for him ,and which haad become the site of my weekly visits with him over a period of several months..
Mom got Dad back in death after a separation of about thirty years. She buried him and there were no Kellys visible in the mourning party. Dad went to Mass every day of his life during those last thirty years, choosing one of three downtown Rochester churches. His favorite was St. Mary's. He sometimes went to St. Joseph's until it burned down. In his final years he attended the French Church downtown. He was laid out decently and on a cold, snowy November day in 1975, a few mourners gathered at the French Church. I could tell that the Priest knew nothing of Dad's life but the Mass, as always, was beautiful. I was informed during the after-Mass handshakes that no Priest could be spared to come to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. I was especially proud that a Rochester motorcycle policeman escorted us all the way to the cemetery. Before leaving the church, I managed to filch a few missalettes when I realized there would be no Priest for the committal service. These contained some hymns. Some wonderful cousins, Vinny, Billy, Bobby, Donald A. Jr., Georgianne and Kitty joined Sis and Mom and me. At the gravesite, I handed out the missalettes, opened to a song page and we sang together.
All the earth proclaim the Lord
Sing your praise to God.
Serve you the Lord,
Heart full of gladness,
Come into His Presence,
Singing for joy.
All the earth proclaim the Lord,
Sing your praise to God.
The Sisters were not physically present at the Mass but most of the Sisters of St. Joseph that had seen Dad and me through Parochial School were buried nearby his fresh new grave in Rochester's beautiful Holy Sepulchre Cemetery . It was their always alert sense of presence, their inspiration for improvised leadership when required, that had let my eye fall on those missalettes in the French Church and had given me the courage to appropriate them and use them for a worthy purpose. Besides, I was a little upset that no Priest could be found to make it to the burial site.
My father was definitely not a male chauvinist. I could cite his many more female friends than male friends. And I mean friends and nothing more. My birth coincided with the Suffrage Amendment giving women the right to vote in 1921. Dad took the time one day to advise me of his view of the suffrage change that many newspapers consistently referred to as the "emancipation" of women. Dad advised me that the right to obtain a driver's license was a much more liberating event for women than suffrage. That is the long pondered stimulus for another story in these web pages.
Born in 1897, my Dad was an acute witness to our nation's affairs as World War I was coming to an end. I have mentioned the Constitutional Amendments relating to the prohibition of beverage alcohol and the one giving women the right to vote. Dad did not handle the alcohol situation well and he had a lot of company. I had left his life when I entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1939. I know now that he was then in the throes of his life struggle with booze. Prohibition had failed the nation. The Women's Christian Temperance Union, the WCTU, had had little success. The Alcoholics Anonymous movement came along in the late thirties and it proved to be the changing event in Dad's life. I cannot verify when he joined AA but the next illustration from his Gladstone bag establishes the time to be about 1941. Page -2- of this 1953 newsletter, not shown, mentions the upcoming 12th anniversary of the establishment of this Rochester chapter of AA. Also not shown is the Guest Editorial's byline at the end of the opening article. It was "Frank D."
The year after Dad's death in 1975, I was fortunate to be able to re-visit the Sisters in their home territory. This came about courtesy of a letter from Noel Myers (Mrs. Raymond Myers), then of 27 Kimberlin Drive, Brockport, N.Y. In the letter, penned in a strong writing style with Palmer Method structure still evident, Noel thanked me for the check for my reservations to the Centennial Dinner for the School of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She informed me that Sister Lucida would be attending but that Sister Florentia could not attend as she was by then a patient at the Infirmary at the Mother House in Pittsford, New York. Noel had called the Mother House to see if I could visit Sister Florentia there and in her letter to me of May 11, 1976, I was told that Sister "will be expecting you." Noel also told me that my request that the organist play "Bring Flowers of the Fairest" at the Mass for the 100th anniversary occasion had been passed along to the lady organist. My memory is that it was not played but "O Sanctissima" was played at the Offertory. "Bring Flowers..." had been a great favorite during my stay at the school and Noel Myers seconded that sentiment in her letter.
If pressed, I do not know whether "Bring flowers..." or "O Captain, My Captain..." would be my favorite from those days in Parochial School. The Sisters constantly brought beautiful words to our attention. We sang, we recited, we read.
Before arriving at this wonderful 1976 celebration in Brockport, I stopped in Pittsford N.Y. at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph. I had brought two of my boys along to keep me company and to give them an insight on a great era for Catholic education, an education which some of my older children had enjoyed depending on what part of the U.S. we lived in when they were of age. The two children that came with me on that trip were John, number five, and Vinnie, eighth and last. Both were well over six feet tall when we headed from western Massachusetts to Pittsford, New York, located on the eastern fringe of Rochester.
The 320 mile drive from Springfield was uneventful and we arrived at the Infirmary at the Motherhouse in good time. The Sister's habits were still being worn. A smiling, young Sister at the Reception Desk welcomed us. Yes, we could go right up to see Sister Florentia as the staff had known of our coming and all was in readiness. "Just one matter, Mr. Dailey, that you may not have been made aware of. Sister has not known anyone for a few years although she is in reasonably good physical health. Go right up to her room." I was a little uneasy, not having thought out a protocol for this kind of meeting. I had not seen this lady for over 40 years.
We walked into her room. Immaculate, as was she in a modified habit suitable for a bed patient to receive visitors. Her head was on a puffed up pillow so that she was not fully reclining. She looked just like the Sister Florentia that I had come to love and to respect. I began a monologue about auto travel and weather (it was a beautiful day in spring) and her eyes opened slightly and fell upon my sons. I could see that there was no glimmer of recognition of these strange boys but blessedly no hint of alarm in her gaze. Finally, I moved the subject toward someone we both had known. "Sister", I said, "Do you remember Father Krieg?" I had used the "magic word" to borrow from an early television show.
"Frank", she said, "He was no good!" With that, the dialogue began at a furious pace. She had worked so hard to give every pupil a chance to learn and to increase their confidence that they could learn. Father had consistently failed to acclaim or even acknowledge the effort along this line. He directed that she stick to a policy of rigid number evaluations based on day by day school recitation and examination without regard to an individual's family background or living environment. Father wanted no unpleasant discussions with the civil authorities, one of whom actually countersigned every BVM school certificate of advancement before it took effect in the New York State education system. (I have my sister's eighth grade graduation certificate in 1935 and mine from 1932, both countersigned by the appointed state official of that period.) Sister told me of her repeated efforts to get her Superior in the Sisters of St. Joseph in Rochester to assign her to another parish school. Looking at the record, Sister Florentia served just three years in Brockport, two of them covering my last four grades in school. So, her entreaties to leave were finally successful in 1933, a year after I had left for high school.
Sister then told me the name of the family she had come from (Smead) and the town (Geneva, N.Y.) that she had grown up in. She had entered the Sisters of St. Joseph from the St. Frances de Sales parish in Geneva in 1909 and had a younger sister, Anna de Sales who was also a Sister of St. Joseph. Sister Florentia had served 60 years covering seven elementary schools in the Diocese of Rochester, the last being at Holy Rosary parish. For thirty minutes we talked together in an animated and at times tearful conversation. I realized finally, though I hated to leave, that I must not tire her out. I brought the dialogue to a close, the boys respectfully said goodbye, and we left and went back down to the lobby. The young Sister was still at her Reception Desk. I had the momentary thought that I might tell her that Sister Florentia had full possession of her faculties, but again, the Guardian Angel must have overcalled me. I left knowing that the young Sister would be able to go on with her duties without any unsettling thoughts.
An obituary in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle placed Sister Florentia's date of death on February 20, 1985 after 11 years in that Infirmary. The obituary notice stated, in part, "Sister Smead was one of those rare and dedicated teachers who had discipline when required, sympathy when needed; counsel when wanted and love at all times." Someone obviously knew Sister well. The right person wrote those lines. My sharp-eyed Mother, then 86 herself, sent Sister Florentia Smead's newspaper obituary notice along to me. Sister Florentia was 93 when she died. My Mom died in 1992 when she too had reached the age of 93. These ladies were of like minds in the discipline matter. Sister Florentia had a little the better of it with her Irish sense of humor.
Sister Lucida Rice passed on December 30, 1989 in the Sisters of St. Joseph Convent Infirmary in Pittsford, New York. She had been born in Ithaca, New York, and entered the order in Rochester in 1918. She taught at seven Rochester Diocese schools, including a term as Principal at St. John The Evangelist in Spencerport, New York. Her obituary declared her to be a lively person and an excellent teacher, concluding, "She always brought out the best in her students." Amen.
Isabel Lasher Dailey passed at the Eagle Pond Nursing Home in Dennisport, Massachusetts on May 9, 1992. (A Part II of this website page added September 5, 2011 will give the reader a little more on her life.) Her daughter, my 'Sis', Alma Dailey Valentin, passed at the Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Massachusetts on December 11, 1999. After forty years of geographic separation, Sis and her Mom had a couple of late years together in the same apartment house in Dennisport before Isabel's onset of memory loss, then dementia of four or five years required around the clock care. Sis told me that a week before Mother's death, during her last visit with her, Mother had said, "Tell Frankie I love him." Isabel recited the Our Father with me on the phone the day before her death at the Nursing Home, finishing it with the triumphant, "For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory of God, forever and forever, Amen." That exultant phrase was much preferred by her to the Roman Catholic Lord's Prayer that ended several words sooner.
The Holy Sepulchre Roman Catholic Cemetery on Lake Avenue in Rochester borders the Genesee River. Eleven bodies were re-interred in that cemetery when the Dailey plot opened in July of 1917. Among those brought from other sites were John and Mary Dailey who came from Ireland in 1836. (Mary from Rosscommon. We have yet to figure where John's Irish home was.) They were my Dad's grandparents. John was born in 1805 and is the oldest resident of the Dailey lot. The original lot was laid out for 50 gravesites. With infants, and now the permission for cremation in the Catholic Church, the population is already much larger than 50. There are still several open sites. The central message is one of couples. There are spinster ladies and second and third wives, but couples predominate. Where couples and children lie, a story is told on the unusually detailed inscriptions. Dad is there, but Mother is not. She chose to be with her parents in Riverside Cemetery, adjacent to and downstream of Holy Sepulchre. I have no idea where Mrs. Kelly is buried. Except for chance tellings in pages such as these, the story line in my Dad's marriage is broken. One piece of the tapestry will return in a few weeks. Sis will be buried next to her father.
Go back into your old Parochial School when all is quiet. Listen. Hear your Sister in the walls.
Part II: My Mother
(A Foreword: God has given me the gift of wonderful ladies. One of these is my own wife, Marguerite "Peggy" Parker. We are now in the 67th year of marriage. As was her custom, my mother stood aloof from any lady until she was very, very sure of her ground with that lady. My wife, of southern origins, came with different credentials. My mother never had a better friend than my wife and it probably took Mom only about 25 years to figure that out. My Sis was immediate in her recognition that she had found a lifetime friend in my wife. Sis accorded Peggy Sis' own special nom de plume, "Peggity.")
My mother was born Isabel Louise Lasher in 1899, to a Palatine father with family origins on the Hudson River and in Pennsylvania, and a mother who was an immigrant from Denmark. After "finishing school" at National Park Seminary in Washington D.C. (the school shared grounds with Walter Reed Hospital), the lady who was to become my mother returned in 1919 to her home in Rochester, New York. She then completed her piano studies at the Eastman School of Music. Her practice music was all Classical. The gift of a Chickering Baby Grand, as a wedding present in 1920, meant that the Sis who joined me in 1922, and I, would have good music to listen to, not just classical, but also popular as the Jazz Age of the Twenties was now in progress. With AM radio, Jazz's companion to my young mind, Mom could listen to a new piece just once, and play it entirely through, both hands. I've saved most of Mom's 'pop' sheet music. The top right corner of each page is dogeared from repeated 'turnings.'
Marriage, and then the death of her husband's mother late in 1921, took Mom and her now threesome family back to Dad' growing-up home in the Incorporated Village Brockport, just west of Rochester. Adult parties in the 1920s are a vivid memory, and were frequent in our small town. They took place, most often in winter, in our spacious, all California-redwood Victorian style home, where Dad had grown up, and which he had then inherited. Our family physician, Dr. John Hazen played the ukulele at these parties. Most sheet music was scored for piano and ukulele. "Bud" Bruce, who bought neighbor Fred Caswell's insurance agency, played sax, and Mom played piano. The Sis who had come along in 1922, and I, listened through the 'registers' that sent heat to the upstairs, until late in the evenings when the bootleg booze took hold down below, and the music began to falter. Two blue candlesticks that had given aura to the evenings had left wax on the mahogany piano and Mom was distressed that her distraction the night before left her a cleanup task the next day.
An early standup Victrola was a fixture in our playroom. Sis and I were allowed to play selected 78 rpm records. I can still hear Alma Gluck, singing in her very high soprano, "My Little Gray Home in the West." Live piano was much preferred.
Mom was style conscious and subscribed to Vogue, the high fashion magazine for women, and Delineator, the long gone five cent magazine that tried to compete with Vogue. Sis and I had the National Geographic to read, and I learned some things about life in its pages that Mom or Dad had failed to censor. When New York's Best & Company came to Rochester each year, it meant a trip to the city where mother would select our children's wardrobes for the coming year. I wore Eton caps, Mother liked wool and I wore breeches in winter. Mom was an Anglophile, but her only access to the British was Toronto, just across Lake Ontario.
Well, the alcohol did a number on Dad, so the folks eventually separated, but never divorced. The active 'coal and produce' business that Dad inherited from his father (the Erie Canal and the Niagara Falls branch of the New York Central RR provided transit for local produce and coal came in on rail) went broke. I was by then mostly gone, first school, then war. Mother got a job with the New Deal's FHA and the rest of her life was lived as a staunch and loyal Democrat. We had lost our Brockport home. Mom was now living and working back in Rochester, the city of her birth.
Isabel, nee Lasher, Dailey had to learn to be frugal. This was not easy for a lady who had grown used to better times. Her father had been a well-to-do leather merchant covering western New York.
Mother, though cautious with her money, still enjoyed a few of the 'good things' of her younger life. She was now leading the life of a middle-aged, very independent, lady, with many friends. She would walk to the Eastman Theatre on concert evenings, and the ticket seller would often waive her on in. Dad had helped found Rochester's first 'AA group' with the help of AA's famed 'Bill.' So, he now looked after her in the ways a man of the house would do, such as fixing things and making life easier for her. I became a regular visitor to her apartment, able to drive from Massachusetts up U.S. 90, in about five hours, to Rochester, to see her about once a month. The day chosen each month had to be a day for me to perform bank duty.
There had passed many years in which I saw her only on rare visits to Rochester. Our own children had grown up and departed. My own family was living in Western Massachusetts. Mother, in Rochester, had become a regular communicant at Christ Church on East Avenue, where she enjoyed the 'High Church' Episcopalian liturgy. She had begun life a Lutheran, tried Unitarian, and had raised her children Catholic as she had promised in a 'paper' she signed on a Saturday night in Brockport's old Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Once that paper was signed, Dad and Mom were married in a chill, late night Sacristy marriage, with just Dad's brother Oz, Mom's sister Martha, and Father Michael J. Krieg present.
In her own way, Mom was a 'pioneer.' She had been among the first to try frozen foods for her young family in Brockport. Mr. Davis ran a small grocery. Larger stores in the mid-1920s were already competing with him. IGA was one. Hart's Grocery was another, and Hart's also gave away durable steel roller-coasters for your children if you accumulated enough coupons. Mr. Davis' only way to survive was to be a pioneer himself. The first frozen foods were Birds Eye vegetables and Mom was quick to discover them at the Davis Grocery. (It was many years before I could accept that there had been a real Clarence Birdseye. I was also a little slow to realize the connection that Birdseye frozen foods had with our Kelvinator refrigerator, first in town, with its chlorine refrigerant.)
I have mentioned Toronto. English woolens were always on Mom's clothes agenda. Simpson's or Eaton's department stores were highlights in Toronto. Summers we would venture further north to Ontario's Algonquin Bay, and on to Petersburg, Ontario. From there we would drive on to a summer camp, on roads still full of tree stumps. That part of the journey, in our new Auburn car, slung low to compete with Cord, was a challenge. Dad would have begged off to pursue some drinking with his buddies. The camp was on "Lake Clear." (I have often wondered how many 'Lake Clears' there are in Canada.) Anyway, here are some memories of Canada. I was seven, and Sis was six.
The camp, named "Limberlost," had two DeHaviland Gypsy Moth biplanes. One of the pilots was "Major Wrathall," a title derived from World War I flying duty. Both pilots were still in Canada's Air Reserve. Mother was keen on flying, and despite her frugal nature, went aloft in the back seat of Major Wrathall's biplane for probably a dozen flights. One of those flights involved a lake search, leading to a sighting of one of the salmon trout troll-fishing parties, overdue from the day before. Waggling the wings of the Gypsy Moth told us back on shore that the boat had been found! (My first experience, with Search and Rescue.)
The first of these two photos shows one of the planes moored on the lake, with some swimmers on one of the pontoons. The second photo shows Major Wrathall assisting someone in the rear cockpit to get strapped in. This second photo has a tear.
Readers may see the letters, MOTH.
Now back to that 'bank duty' assignment, anticipated on what mostly were my Friday night car trips from Massachusetts to Rochester. Banks opened at 9 a.m. If it was Saturday, I would need the entire morning, before the banks closed at noon, to complete my rounds. Mom would put in my hands renewal papers for maybe four or five CDs. It was my introduction to CDs. I would proceed to visit the banks that had issued the CDs, eventually learning a preferred order of visits, not, I must confess now, to carry out Mother's wishes that I renew only after determining each bank's renewal rate that day, but to save me steps and street crossings. Still, it was the bargaining for rates that Mom had assured me was the task of the day. I had to have a good story to tell her on my return. I cannot really recall whether I triumphed to her satisfaction on those CDs. I can recall that she wanted me to improve on rates like 17% and 18%. It was Jimmy Carter time, and again, my Mother who had to learn to be frugal, was grateful to the Democrats, and didn't mind telling people so.
Mom eventually had short term memory loss (I found notes that she left on the floor of her apartment to remind her to do things).My son Michael, a physician, and I, persuaded her to move to Eagle Pond Nursing Home, in Dennisport, Massachusetts. It was near enough so my sister and I could visit her frequently. Mother enjoyed playing the piano there, and when she did always with no prior announcement, patients would come, even from the Alzheimer Section, many tip toeing, and just sit down and listen. And then, clap vigorously.
The fee at Eagle Pond was over $5,000 per month. Mom did very well there for about three years, when she passed peacefully at 93. There was enough left for her to leave Sis some money, and for Sis in turn to leave something to her own two children.
A morning headline in the Wall Street Journal of 08/22/2011: "Who Wins (and Loses) with Low Interest Rates" Mom, I hope you don't get the paper up there. This is not Jimmy Carter's Democratcy, but Barack Obama's.
My Times With the Sisters and Other Events, 134 pages, ISBN 0966625110; can be ordered through your local bookstore. Cover Price is $9.50.