Preserving the Past For Future Generations Through Photos

Monday, March 29, 2021

 Printed photos.....remember those....before cameras became digital and all of our photos took residence on our computers and phones?  I'm old enough to remember printed photos.  In fact I come from a long line of serious history keepers and I think most of you know that the love of photography didn't skip my gene pool.  And that love, that passion, like most serious addictions, leads to a rather large collection of photographs spanning decades.



Growing up, our house was often the Sunday afternoon gathering place.  On many of those afternoons, after dinner, and sometimes after a holiday meal, the family would sit around the dining room table perusing photo albums, reminiscing about the 'good 'ole days'.   The stories flowed and memories were brought to life, sometimes repeatedly over the years.  I'm thankful for those times, those family members, who not only took the photos but so generously shared the history behind each one.  As an only child, only grandchild and in some cases, only niece, I have been fortunate enough to inherit a large collection of photos from both sides of my family, many dating back to the early 1900's.  My great aunts (who were married to my grandfather's brothers) were both meticulous when it came to recording who the photo subject was, the year it was taken and sometimes even the place it was taken.  Neither of these women had children, so that probably accounts for their attention to detail (and available time).  My mom also took a great many photos over the years, as did her sister and her mom.  Unfortunately they were less dedicated to labeling... which in some instances creates a bit of a mystery-solving task.    Then when I was old enough to be interested, I also jumped on the photography wagon. 

 My interest included both people and places and my passion for landscape photography and sunsets peaked in my early 20's.  Over the last 40+ years, I've acquired a rather embarrassingly massive amount of photos - not to mention all those I've inherited.  To my credit, I'll say that my collection was housed in albums, chronologically beginning in the late 1960's through about 2012.  My albums (over 20, each housing 100-200 photos) were packed with thousands of captured milestones and memories but also a lot of mediocre, repetitious or irrelevant photos.  Ya'll know what I'm talking about.  Those inferior shots that we kept after developing - because they were 'better than nothing', the kid looked too cute to not save the photo, or that shot that I took several versions of, etc... Then there was the box of photos that contained duplicates from the days of 'buy one set, get one set free', and the random photos that got plucked from their sleeve for some project and were never refiled.  So you've got the idea.....I've amassed a ridiculous collection of photos that needed some serious attention.  That's where the first project began.







Pippa found the entire process exhausting.

First I went through every album and plucked the photos that weren't worthy of saving - the dups, the blurs, the multiples, the squirrel at the birdfeeder, etc. Once I finished going through all those albums,  I was left with hundreds (not kidding, 100's) of empty spaces throughout every album. Next,  I sorted all the duplicate photos and photos that needed to be rehomed and organized them all by date. I then proceeded to re-file them in their appropriate album, and true duplicates were set aside for each of our girls to add to their own collections.  Once all the orphaned photos were filed or discarded, I still had hundreds of empty slots in all of the albums.  Literally, I threw away hundreds of photos.  The ocd in me couldn't possible live with albums with so many blank spaces so next I began the job of shifting photos forward, slot by slot, so that no empty slots remained. This task, though long and tedious, allowed me to eliminate at least 4 small (6" x 6") albums that held 100 photos and 3 larger albums that once held 200 photos that had ripped sleeves or broken bindings.  Two tattered albums were replaced with new albums. Eliminating these albums freed up a lot of shelf space.  Once that job was finished, I added a label to each album indicating the dates photos within included.  Looking for a photo now will be easy peasy.  You can see my assistants were not exactly carrying their weight.



The next portion of the photo project involved all the inherited photos.   I sorted these into piles of each 'family member' ....




and then scanned them onto my computer (you know, to join the bazillion of other photos that already live there).  I restored a bunch of faded or damaged ones and then filed them all by 'member'.  I then saved all the originals photos in envelopes I purchased on Amazon, labeled each envelope and tucked them all in a pretty storage box for quick and easy viewing (the old fashioned way).








I also bought large, zippered envelopes (also on Amazon) to store all the 5 x 7" and 8 x 10" photos I had tucked away....having swapped them from frames for more current photos, or tucked in my hope chest, or in closets. I labeled these envelopes too so now when I have random photos they can be easily filed in their appropriate place. I purchased scrapbooking storage boxes from Michael's for under $6.00. The bags fit perfectly and the boxes can stack on a shelf.

This was a huge project and I'm grateful that I had some help from John and the girls. Finally I have all the old, cherished ancestry photos sorted and scanned, filed and labeled and my photo albums are filled with only the best, most interesting photos.  Currently I'm exploring the family ancestry and when that is complete, my plan is to print photo books that will feature the old photos along with stories of those that came before me.  My only regret is that I didn't get this job done while relatives were still alive to answer questions and bring their photos to life.  If, like me, you have a sea of unattended photos tucked away in various drawers and boxes, now would be a good time to round them all up and get them labeled.  I'd give anything to know who the men with my Great Grandfather are in the photo below.  He's the man with suspenders sitting in front.  I have to believe this crew has a story or two!  Our photos, our stories, our memories are all we have of our life story and the story of those who came before us.  If you're lucky enough to be the owner of someone's story, it's up to you to make sure that story lives on for future generation.  One day someone will wish they knew your story....start writing it now.  


Well, I hope this inspired you to tackle this or some other project that's been looming. This was a big job, one I'm thrilled to have finished but I have thousands of digital files awaiting the same process. If you need me.....I'll be at my computer deleting and sorting digital files.


Coming Out of My Hiatus After a Little Reboot

Sunday, March 21, 2021

 Sometimes the best way to recharge is to unplug.



Isn't that the truth!  I figured this out for myself recently and in the process of 'unplugging,' I learned that unplugging actually recharged me in a way I didn't even realize I needed to be recharged.  That says a lot, especially coming from someone who loves the connection that being plugged in allows - through social media, through my blog and through text.  After the holidays, after a year of Covid, after an election year...I found myself feeling deflated.  I had no emotions left; I'd used them up, every last one of them.  I know I was not alone on this emotional island but I felt like I was.  I'd even lost my passion for road trips and shooting photos.  We'd head out, and about 15 minutes from home, I'd want to turn around and come home.  I just couldn't find my mojo.  I recognized that when the things that used to spark my enthusiasm couldn't light me up, it was time for a reboot and that's when I decided to step away from what little outside stimulation I had left after Covid and take a break to look within.

Some might assume I spent that time quietly contemplating life or journaling or soul searching, but on the contrary.  It was pretty action packed and productive really.  I tackled a variety of those tasks that have lived on my 'to-do' list for too long.....you know, those things that you dream of doing laying awake late at night....the things that exist in your mind, in the dark, when other distractions aren't demanding your attention.  I crossed a bunch of those off my list, some big jobs like cleaning and reorganizing the basement, and some smaller tasks like cleaning out all the kitchen and desk drawers, reorganizing the bedroom closets, and a huge revamp of thousands of printed photos.  Everyone has their own personal way of recharging and refocusing and for me, this time away from social media and the frustration and distraction that came with that, gave me time not only to tend to neglected chores but time to look within and get back in touch with who I was before Covid. 

 This past year has been anything but normal for anyone.  It has challenged even the sanest of sane, the mightiest of mighty, the optimism of even the most optimistic.  While my life was pretty unaffected by Covid in a day-to-day way, eventually the global mood, the absence of normal life, the news, and the reality of life caught up to me.  The reality was.....none of it felt real.  The politics that were impossible to ignore didn't help.  I reached my breaking point, like so many.  I needed to step back, step away from the noise and reconnect with myself, not the person that 2020 had molded me into, but the person I was prior to 2020. 

I figured some things out during my hiatus from social media.  First, I really missed my Facebook friends and I missed sharing photos.  It's not nearly as much fun taking photos if there's no one to enjoy them with me.  Second, while I missed my connections, I didn't miss the noise, the negativity, the garbage that is also a part of social media.  I found that there's enough of that in everyday life without adding to it online.  I found that while it's not difficult to scroll past the junk, it's even easier to avoid it altogether by not spending so much time glancing at my newsfeed.  Like most things that were invented to make life easier, help us live in the fast lane, social media comes with its own flaws and blessings.

We took a ride yesterday, our first real road trip in ages, and as always happens when we drive around the countryside, sometimes without speaking, just taking in the view, each in our own thoughts, the barren landscape reminded me of something.  In the winter, the landscape (at least in NY) is covered in white.  The snow blankets the brown, dormant vegetation, covering what would otherwise look dismal and ugly with a bright, clean blanket.  We forget that life beneath this pretty disguise is actually quite a contrast to what is visible on the surface. Under that beautiful white facade is something more like this....


 Just like in life....what we see is not always the reality.  Often beneath the surface, the smiles, the outer appearance we let others see exists a reality that is not unlike the brown, barren landscape of early spring.  Reality isn't always pretty, yet society and social media encourage us to hide what isn't pretty, what isn't 'presentable' and put on a pretty face.  I think after 2020, we all feel a little barren and dismal, and a little dormant.  Maybe you've kept your mood to yourself, covered it with a blanket of forced smiles as you struggled to navigate, one day after the next.  Then it happens.  The snow melts and the truth is exposed.  It isn't pretty and initially it isn't looking optimistic. The veil has been lifted, and we can no longer hide behind it.  That's when we need a reminder, a reminder that this dormancy, this bland, brown landscape isn't permanent.  We aren't stuck in this reality.  There are reminders everywhere that there's life after pain, rainbows after the rain.  The brown landscape that fills our view will slowly come alive, the world around us is slowing beginning to pulse again.  Finally, after what seems like an eternity, we have a glimmer of hope that the storm cloud that has been hovering over us is slowly beginning to pass.  The brown, dormant world outside our window will soon do what it has done every year in history.  It will come to life again and before we know it, the view around us will be lush and green, brimming with new life reminding us that we must not give up. There is hope.  At this moment though, the brown landscape is a blank canvas.  It's a clean slate, a reboot of the next phase.  We get to be the artist on this canvas.  We get to choose the palette and decide what comes next.  I think if Covid taught us anything, it taught us not to take life for granted.  It helped us open our eyes and take inventory.  It helped us see what we could live without, helped us appreciate the value of a hug, the company of our friends, and the immeasurable comfort the closeness of loved ones provides.  It made us realize we are the Captain of our own destinies and it's time we take control. It's time we come out of isolation and embrace life.  I'm grateful to have emerged from my hiatus recharged and renewed and am so pumped about all I (we) were able to accomplish. I'm excited to get out and take photos again, and I plan to share them on social media but I plan to keep a low profile and limit my online activity going forward to a level that allows me to stay connected to my friends but doesn't overtake my time or sanity.  I hope that spring finds you feeling hopeful and refreshed and ready to take a deep breath.  We made it through another cold winter and now it's time to emerge and fly!  





God Winked and My World Was Changed - Remembering Edgar King

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

 


Some people believe in coincidences....not me.  I believe nothing in life is a coincidence.  I believe in what some call Godwinks.  Those times when unexpected things happen, with no rhyme or reason, out of the blue.  These things often seem unexplainable at first, but at some point later on, everything makes sense and it becomes crystal clear that God in His infinite power and wisdom placed His hand on a situation.  If we're lucky, we recognize this gift and embrace it and that's exactly what I did when God placed the gift of Edgar King in my life.

One of the things I like most about sharing my blog is the connections it has provided with so many wonderful folks who regularly email me after receiving and reading my posts.  I'm blessed to have several of them.  Last March, about a month after I did the story about King Brothers Dairy, I received my first email from Edgar King. Mr. King is the patriarch of the family and probably became aware of my blog from his sons Jan or Jeff.  His first email was in response to my blog post, Searching for Gratitude Amidst the Turmoil and Fear which was my first blog post written after the Covid pandemic hit.  Ed wrote:

'Gail,

Oh, how beautifully written. I can “feel” your emotions in that which you have written here.
May God Bless you and yours. Society needs more like you. While what you have written here clearly sends me, and hopefully many others, the message that your life is wrapped in Our Lord’s love, I hope your reader’s experience the same. Because, that’s what will see us through the present pandemic.
Again, May God Bless you and yours,
Ed King'

By the time I received his email, I had also received an email from a friend and former co-worker who, after reading the King Brothers Dairy story, reminded me that Edgar King was the Deputy Commissioner of NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets when she and I worked there back in the late 1970's.  He served as Deputy Commissioner for Governor Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo and I was secretary to one of the Assistant Directors of Food Inspection Services.   Edgar and I probably crossed paths back then, 40 years ago, but here we were in 2020 exchanging emails.   Some would imagine I wouldn't think too much about this,  that his email would be just like those from other subscribers, but there was something about his email that affected me differently.
I wrote back to Ed and told him of our previous connection at Ag & Markets and sent him the post I'd written about my boss there, a colleague of his.  To this email he responded,
'Golly Gee Gail, I love your writing style. You use words to convey feelings and imagination so very well. It’s a treat to feel something when you read about it. And, you have that talent.  
Now, please know that I don’t fancy myself as possessing any of your abilities and talents. However, I had to let you know what I think. 
Thanks for your lovely note. I dearly appreciate your nudge on my memory about our experience at Ag & Markets. And, yes I do remember you. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that your discovery of our farm and the King Brothers Dairy would evolve to our e-mail exchanges. I can’t wait to tell our sons of the connection. As is said, “It’s a small world”.
Keep applying your talents and bless mankind. 
Respectfully,
Ed King'
There was something about Ed's emails that struck a nerve with me, something that drew me to him, made me want to know him better.  Surely our re-connect after 40 years was no accident.   All I knew at this point, on March 20, 2020 was that I felt I had a new friend, a new mentor, someone who seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.  
I heard from Ed again in April after my Frozen in Fear post.  Ed's note was shorter and simply said,
'A realistic, yet compassionate view of our times.  Bless you and yours.'  He wrote again a few more short emails, each of them in some way illustrating his love of his Lord and Savior, even if in a small way.  His reaction to the post about my grandmother was longer and filled with enthusiasm.
'Gail, 
What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother. As I’m sure has been said by others many times in the past, “I wish that I had done that.”  I’m also sure that your mother and daughter will cherish the fact that you have taken time to record the wonderful memories that you and others have of your grandmother. Beatrice was indeed a wonderful woman. It’s tempting to say, One of a kind. And, I’m sure that she was indeed that.
I cannot imagine what happens to my time. Before my wife jumps in here to remind me that I allow too many interests and issues to distract my attention from subjects such as expressing my appreciation to you for your deep devotion to your grandmother.  
Thank you for continuing to share your experiences.
God Bless the memories of Beatrice.
Ed King'
Naturally I responded with my always too wordy emails.  Gracious as he was, Ed never complained and in this case he responded with his own rather long email.  Here's a portion of that:
'I only wish that someone in my family had taken the interest that you have with recording your lineage. And, not that any one (in my family) has a burning interest, at least at this time. My interests, like you, have warmed as I grow older. Since my Dad partnered with his brothers and two sisters in the family's businesses, both dairy farming and milk processing as well as distribution (back then it was called peddling). I spent numerous days peddling milk in Saratoga with my Dad listening to his life's stories. He grew up as one of ten and didn't marry until age 42. And, all of this is a whole other story. I should record all of it.
So, you can see why I, like you, might have a desire for setting my memories to paper. It would be difficult for me to imagine that anyone in the family might have an interest in my thoughts, at least at this moment in time.  You see, I'm known around here for talking too much. I think that is because I'm known for describing directions, thoughts, etc. in too much detail.  And, perhaps that's correct!  At least for their purposes or interests.
Anyway, I really like your writing style.' 
With each email I received, I grew more interested in learning more about him.  I admired his interest in my little blog and felt such humility and gratitude that a man of his accomplishments would take the time to read what I'd written and then take even more of his time to write to me.  I thought how lucky his family is to have this patriarch, so full of wisdom and generosity and so willing to take the time for others.  I also knew that Ed probably had no real idea just how much his emails meant to me, though I tried in each of my responses to express how blessed I felt having made his acquaintance.
When Ed read my Different Day - Same View post, he wrote a more personal and very humble note,
'Gail,
Well, another thought provoking message. I admire your ability to use your photos to perfectly backstop your thoughts. I don’t believe that many others possess that talent. Frankly, I’m a bit jealous. More importantly, you are completely and openly willing to share your faith with others. I admire that deeply. At times, during the stressful times we are experiencing, many do not have any connection to the power of the saving grace that our Lord and Savior Jesus offers. More of us should be willing to share our vision of the power of Salvation. I believe that those of us who “believe” are challenged to become his disciples by spreading the news of the power of salvation. The more of us who are part of his flock, the better our society. And, Oh what a need there is that exists. 🙏 
Well, Gail I’m proud to be a Christian. However, I’m oh so short on fulfilling my responsibilities as a disciple. 
All the best to you and your family. 
Ed'
I found this email surprising, not because I didn't realize how deep Ed's love of God was, but at how humble he was in thinking he, for even a second, might fall short of sharing that love with others.  In every email I received from him, Ed's Christian faith, his conviction to his Lord, was evident.  It stood out like the north star in the evening sky, even in the emails where he may not have said anything religious.  It was just there....in his thoughts, in his support, in his grace towards me...a relative stranger.  Yet this great man, this giant man who had done so much in his life, no doubt bringing joy and friendship to so many, felt he had fallen short on fulfilling his responsibility as a disciple.  What an incredible example Ed was for his children and his grandchildren and now for me.  How did I get so lucky?  
When in October I shared my From Drained and Disheartened to Hopeful Renewal, I received an email from Ed....
'Gail, 
God Bless you for having the courage to write this blog. Its certainly courage to put pen to paper and express your heartfelt convictions. At the same time, with Our Lord at your side, you can be assured that, as a Believer, he had his hand on your pen. That’s my belief.
Going forward, it will  become our responsibility to encourage our friends and contacts to evaluate each challenge as we believe Jesus would wish. Then, using his teachings it will  be incumbent upon us to share those with as many as possible. Once we develop the ability to couch troublesome issues such as we’re experiencing by using his teachings, perhaps we will serve as He would wish.
Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for having the courage to pen your “Hopeful Renewal” message. Continue to walk by our Lord’s side.
With hopeful wishes that He will approve of my thoughts, I remain,
Ed King'
I realized Ed was right, I did have courage - or appeared to - when I wrote that emotional post sharing what was perhaps too much personal conviction in the political arena.  I responded first by thanking him for his reassuring words and then confessed to him that I've never been good at keeping my thoughts to myself.  I often wear my heart on my sleeve.  And then I said, 
'You are surely one of my biggest cheerleaders and it's no question, God had His hand in connecting us after all these years rather than 40 years ago when we worked under the same roof.  He knew I would need you in my corner at this time of my life.  For that I'll always be honored and grateful.  Be well my friend.
In November I wrote, What to Do When the Road Ahead is Filled with Uncertainty, Ed responded as only he would,
'Gail,
Thank you for your last offering. I believe that you caught the essence of the moment wit your reflections. Yes, Praise God for being everything we’ve known he is.  We’re blessed to know him.'
Even when Ed received a fluffy piece featuring my decor, he responded - with humor, candor and sincerity.  My last email from Ed came in response to my Christmas piece, a piece most men would quickly delete, but not Ed.  Nope, because it wasn't about the subject of my latest post, it was about taking the time to reach out, to encourage and to put someone ahead of his own needs, his own fears, his own problems.  That's what my friend Ed taught me.  He said in that December email,
'Gail,
Thanks for sharing your Christmas past and your thoughts about the future, especially your reference to the birth of our Lord and Savior. That’s what Christmas is really all about. And, may we never forget that.
Sending my thanks for sharing your Christmas thoughts. They buoy my spirit.
May your Christmas dreams be everything you can imagine.
With God’s love,
Ed King'

There were other emails exchanged between Ed and I, each one filled with optimism and positive words and encouragement.  This past year, a year otherwise dark and troubling, felt a little less so because of my friendship with Ed.  During a time that was, at times, depressing and hopeless, Ed's words arrived in my inbox and his reassurance and reminders of God's love and guiding hand, carried me on days I might have otherwise been caught in despair and desperation.  Our connection was no coincidence.  It was a Godwink.  It was a gift, a precious gift timed perfectly to help carry me through an otherwise nearly impossible period of time.  I haven't heard from Ed since Christmas.  Yesterday, I received the sad news that Ed had passed.  My heart is broken to have lost him, the dearest friend, the wisest and most caring man who stepped out of nowhere and became my mentor, my saving grace during the hell of 2020.  I know with all of my heart that Ed is sitting today in the presence of our God, right where he belongs, His faithful disciple.
Ed is a reminder that in life, God winks.  He blesses us with unexpected, sometimes quiet little gifts, gifts we're often too busy, too distracted to notice.  Ed was one of those gifts and some would say our re-connection was just a simple coincidence, but I know better.  I know that the God Ed so believed in, so trusted, was behind our connection.  I also know the inspiration and care Ed shared with me will not be forgotten and that there are probably many others like me whose lives Ed touched and changed for the better, just like he did mine.
Ed....I'll be missing you and I know you'd probably downplay any accolades I share, but those of us left to mourn your passing know you were all this and more.  Godspeed my friend!
To read Ed's obituary and see what an incredible man he was:

A Love Story for the Ages - Harriet and George Durocher

Monday, February 15, 2021

Valentine's Day.....not one of my favorite holidays, but I love what it stands for and when I think of what it stands for - LOVE, I'm often reminded of one particular love affair that stands out.  That is the love affair, the marriage, the partnership of my Uncle George and Aunt Harriet.  Theirs was romantic and enduring....lasting 64 years, until death did them part. 
I've told Uncle George's story here on the blog and it would be impossible to tell Harriet's story without sharing their incredible love story, so what better day to do that but Valentine's Day.

Aunt Harriet was born in Cohoes, New York on June 9, 1911 to Robert Valentine and Harriet Ann Campbell.  Robert was an immigrant from Scotland who made a living as a loom fixer in the Harmony Mills in Cohoes.  He and Harriet were the parents of 8 children.  Harriet was the fifth born of those 8 children whose ages covered a 22 year span. When Harriet was 13 she became a victim of polio which had reached epidemic proportions in the US in the early 1900's.  Perhaps to lessen the risk of contagion and to provide better, one-on-one care, Harriet went to live with her oldest sister, Ruth, and her husband.  Ruth, then 26, was married to John King, an attorney in the city of Cohoes.  Harriet lived with her sister and brother-in-law for about a year of her convalescence during which time she recalled laying on an ironing board with weights on her one leg to encourage its growth.  During that year, she remembered her mother only visiting on a few occasions; her father visiting more often.  She assumed her mother was busy caring for her three youngest siblings who were 11, 9 and 4. 



Harriet recovered from her polio with a slight leg differential and an inability to conceive children but neither of those stopped her from living life to its fullest. Her sister Ruth paid for Harriet to attend business school, a privilege not available to many during that time. She made the most of her education landing a job as a Dictation Machine Transcriber for the NYS Department of Tax and Finance, in the late 1930's. She'd go on to be promoted to secretary to the Commissioner of Tax and Finance, retiring together in 1971. In her 90's, Harriet still made personal notes in shorthand.

I began this story promising a love story and that love story began when Harriet met my Great Uncle George (my grandfather's brother) in the early 1930's.  Uncle George was a quiet guy but excelled in speedskating and baseball.  He may have inherited that gene since Leo 'the Lip' Durocher was his second cousin. George and Harriet had a beautiful courtship and on November 16, 1935, they eloped.  It was during the Depression so after exchanging their vows, George and Harriet returned to their respective homes, keeping their marriage secret, so they could continue to help with finances.   Months later, they announced their news and moved out to begin their life as a married couple.

1935 Their Wedding Day


In 1939, George registered for the draft and in 1943, at the age of 36, George was drafted into the Army where he served in WWII in the Pacific Theater for three years.  Harriet did as so many women probably did during that time, she held down her job and maintained the homestead while George was off to war.  That may sound like an easy task, but it had its challenges.  Harriet didn't drive, or own a car.  She had to walk several blocks to take a city bus to Albany to work.  Often her walk home at night was in the dark, sometimes in challenging weather conditions.  She had to shovel coal through a window into the basement, where the coal stove for heating the house was.  Once her daily chores were done (hand washing, cleaning, preparing her clothes for the next day), Harriet ended her day - everyday - writing to her far away true love.  She recalled waking up in the morning, pen in hand, ink stains on her sheets. Three long years of this routine, I can't begin to imagine, but the time and distance did not diminish their love for each other. Theirs was a love I've not often seen or experienced.


George took hundreds of photos during his time away.  He'd write love notes on the back of them - all tiny prints about 2" x 3".  Harriet would do the same.  

 She'd share her everyday experiences, attest her love and assure George that their family members were taking care of her in his absence.  Finally George came home and their love story continued.  

In 1954, they built a small cape in Latham, NY.  George went to work for the Watervliet Arsenal.  Both George and Harriet loved to golf.  They shared household duties, inside and out and Harriet loved to share stories about things that most couples would consider mundane.  Her journals are filled with detailed descriptions of their weekends, who did which chores, Georgie making a delicious stew, how many geraniums they planted and other such activities which Harriet clearly relished as long as George was by her side.  After they retired, they'd lunch out most every weekday, either after golf or after chores.  Often they'd bump into George's brother, Harry and Antoinettte (Twin), who also dined out daily.  The four of them were very close; all of them wintering in Florida for many years.  George was quiet, much like my John.  I have such vivid memories of being at my parents home and George and Harriet would be there too.  George would begin telling a story and before long, Harriet would interrupt to add a detail and would routinely hijack the tale, as if it were her story to begin with.  George would just stay silent, sometimes playfully rolling his eyes until eventually Harriet would realize what she'd done - again. That realization would always result in her uproarious laughter at her own faux pas.  George never once displaying annoyance.  I think he enjoyed her version anyway.  

I don't remember them ever fighting but one day, probably when they were in their 70's or later, George needed to take the car for an oil change.  Harriet wasn't ready.  She had developed a habit of needing some coaxing.  Well George coaxed and prodded and that day, he had enough and he left Harriet home while he went for the oil change.  I'm not sure what the outcome of that consequence was, but I would guess it was more painful for George than Harriet and I'm doubtful it ever happened again.

Harriet lost her Georgie to lung cancer in February 2000.  All of us who knew and loved them, and knew of their deep and enduring love, worried that Harriet wouldn't be able to go on without him.  Their 64 year marriage was all she knew.  George was her rock, her best friend, her soul mate.  At 89, Harriet was tired and worn from the past months of watching her true love slip away.   The aides who had been helping them were not as reputable as we thought and my folks were not able to care for Harriet, so being ready for a change, I quit my job and picked up where the aides left off.

At first it was just a few hours Monday-Friday, doing chores, cooking meals, grocery shopping.  It was not my first experience with helping the elderly, but Harriet was definitely a dream to work for.  Sometimes people of that age can be cranky or fussy or nervous.  Not Harriet.  She was as calm as can be and so appreciative of every little thing done for her.  There was not a meal prepared for her that she didn't compliment.  "What a colorful meal" she'd say if her lunch happened to be a combination of colorful foods.  She savored and complimented every meal even if was something as simple as soup and a sandwich.  When she had regained her strength, once a week we'd go out to lunch.  Lunch didn't just involve eating.  For Harriet lunch meant a little shopping, a good meal and always, always dessert.  Harriet loved dessert.  I'll never forget this one day we were out to lunch.  As always, we ordered dessert, and on this day we ordered a slice of carrot cake to split.  Well, our carrot cake arrived and as the waitress made her way to us, every diner's eyes were peeled to our dessert as it was delivered.  Our cake, all 6 layers of it, was the size of a dinner plate!  We laughed till we cried over the massive, and undoubtedly calorie-laden dessert that cost more than either of our lunches.  

Another day we were sitting on Harriet's deck enjoying the early summer warmth.  I turned to go back inside to fix lunch when I realized the lock on her storm door must have been nudged on our way out and the door was now locked.  I immediately panicked.  I feared not only how she'd handle our predicament, but wondered how we'd get back in.  Harriet giggled and sat back, face to the sun, and just settled into her situation, unfrazzled in the least about her fate.  This would not be the last I'd witness Harriet's 'take life in stride' attitude.  Another day we were out for our weekly shopping/lunch outing.  We were driving through the Colonie Center parking lot when my cell phone rang.  This was before cell phones were common place.  My cell phone was an emergency phone; no one called unless it was an emergency and only a handful of people even had my number.  I pulled over and retrieved my phone from my purse in the backseat and answered.  It was my mom. It seems that Harriet had forgotten to do her weekly Lifeline check on her equipment so Lifeline had called to be sure Harriet was 'ok'.  When Harriet didn't answer, they assumed she must be on the floor unable to get up, or worse, and they proceeded to contact her 'first' emergency contact, her widower neighbor.  Bill dutifully unlocked Harriet's door and let the emergency personnel in to rescue their unresponsive victim.  Harriet was not unresponsive at all, in fact when she heard what was unfolding at her house, she laughed uncontrollably for a long time, stopping only to exclaim, "I'm glad we made the bed before we came out".  That was Harriet....never fretting or worrying.  Always seeing the bright spot in a situation.  Her mission was to savor life, every ounce of it.  And savor it she did.

One of our regular lunch destinations was the Scrimshaw Room at the Desmond Hotel and as much as Harriet loved fancy places like that and the Century House, she also loved more casual places like Friendly's.  There her favorite dessert was always a Happy Ending Sundae which she'd relish, as she carefully maneuvered long strands of drippy caramel into her mouth, rarely missing her target. She savored that like a gleeful child having a forbidden sweet.  Harriet loved her family, her friends and regularly kept in touch with so many.  For many years, George and Harriet attended George's annual reunion with his fellow war comrades.  Even when they were no longer able to attend, they exchanged cards and letters.  Harriet was a avid reader, loved Maeve Binchy novels especially, and loved PBS on tv.  She was a colorful storyteller.

Harriet was an expert seamstress and in her early adult years, she would order fabrics from New York City and make beautiful suits and dresses.  Her favorite magazine was Architectural Digest and though she lived in a tiny one-bedroom cape, she had fine taste in furniture and accessories.  She often made her own draperies.  George darned his own socks, a skill he learned while in the South Pacific when his soggy sock would wear thin.  She was also an avid gardener and tireless shopper.  Even in her 90's she loved buying new clothes.  Her favorite color was pink and when I once questioned why she buys so many pink tops, she answered, 'because as you get older, pink looks good and adds color to your complexion.'  She would sit in George's leather chair and roll her hair in pin curls - without using any mirror.  Her appearance never became unimportant to her.  When it became too difficult to do her own hair, she bought a wig.  Every morning before Harriet got out of bed, she did her morning stretches.  There were only two things in life Harriet couldn't do - complain and cry.  Even when George died, not a tear left her eye.  Her eyes would get red but not one drop would escape. Perhaps she used up her supply of tears those years when George was away in the war.  

I cared for Harriet for 5 years until it became necessary for her to have a higher level of care.  Again, Harriet accepted her situation and without whine or whimper, she moved into the same assisted living as her sister-in-law, Antoinette.  Later both of them moved to the same nursing home where Harriet lived to be 100.  Antoinette died a year later at 101.  I learned many things about and from these two ladies, too many to list.  Harriet, without being a perfectionist, was a role model when it came to doing what you love and doing it to the best of your ability.  I don't think I can point to anyone I know who embraces the joy of life more than Harriet. She harnessed joy, and happiness came naturally to her, or maybe she just wouldn't settle for anything less.  She focused on people's attributes and didn't acknowledge her awareness of anything beyond those.  She didn't sweat the small stuff but she embraced with open arms every big and little beautiful thing or experience life offered.  Perhaps it was her positive attitude that got her to 100.  








Twin, Leo Durocher, Harriet

Harriet and Jack Feeley (her boss) celebrating retirement

Self Portrait
My mom and Harriet, 2004

Harriet (l) Twin (r)
From their days as young women married to brothers, to the end of their days.....
Twin (97) and Harriet (96) - (2007) at Laura's wedding.


A love for all eternity.......George and Harriet......64 years of earthly love. 
Looking at her photos, Harriet's love of life is evident in every photo.  She was a shining example of confidence, style, enthusiasm, laughter (especially at herself) and a genuine embrace of all life had to offer.  Her love affair wasn't just with her Georgie, it was with everyone and everything life offered her and what more could any of us hope to achieve?

To read George's story:

and Twin's:


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