Snow, a Precious Diary and WWII Handkerchiefs

A Departure from Sewing

The intent of this blog was to share information about sewing and to learn from you.  But, since I haven’t done any sewing, I’ll follow the last post with what has filled our lives this week.

Just a week ago I posted a brief tribute to my mother-in-law who died unexpectedly.  Thank you to all of you who sent such kind comments about the tribute.  The seven days which have passed have been full of challenges, stories, fun and sharing of endless memories.  I’d like to share a few:

Challenges:

  • As we received the news of Rhoda’s death, the snow started to fall, and this wasn’t just any snowfall.   We couldn’t get flights out of Philly because of what would become a 26″ carpet of  beauty however it incapacitated our city.  Plan B was to drive as soon as the snow stopped falling.  Kevin, our son Shaun and our nephew Brian, drove straight through the night and arrived in Wisconsin with only a single interstate mishap – a deer ran into our car.  Unbelievably, there was a loud thunk but no damage to our car (who knows about the deer?).

    Deck – Feb 6th

  • A funeral in the midst of a major snowstorm was another of our challenges but Wisconsinites took it in stride, came out to support a relative/friend and even brought apple pie and brownies for the luncheon.

    Wisconsin Snowstorm

  • The family sorted and divided 60 years of family mementos, personal belongings, household goods,etc.  Amazing as it may seem, this was done without a sore word or disagreement among the sisters and brothers.
  • We then cleaned the family home to ready it for sale and at 3am on Friday, we left for our return trip to Philadelphia.  As everyone knows by now, the East Coast and Philly had another record snowstorm.   We faced the remains of this storm as we arrived home – after hours of travel there was no where to park.  Finally in the house, we realized that we’d inadvertently turned the furnace off while we were away.  In case you’re wondering, 53 degrees is pretty cold for the interior of a home.

Philadelphia is a beautiful city but we don’t do so well with snow!

Memories:

  • The Diary: When going through the house and sorting through the memorabilia, one of the most romantic, insightful and relevant finds was Rhoda’s diary which began two days before her wedding.  Last week I mentioned that Rhoda and Bob had 2 days to plan their wedding.  In case that seems like an exaggeration, here’s the evidence.  This family treasure which was previously unseen by her children details their wedding and their experiences being re-united after  a war kept then apart for 16 months.  Respecting Rhoda’s privacy, even after death, I must resist my urge to post the full loving account of Bob and Rhoda’s life.  That said, the opening statement in the diary is so humorous or cute that it’s hard to refrain from sharing it.  I can hear my father-in-law say “…breezing in Friday late”.  Most of us can’t imagine planning a wedding in 2 days but they did it.  BTW, July 19th was a Thursday and they married on Saturday.

More than a page in a diary: The beginning of 60 yrs of marriage

  • World War II Hankies: One of the sweetest memories was Rhoda’s collection of hankies (handkerchiefs) she received as gifts from Robert while he was in mainland Europe.  These were another treasure which family members knew about but really hadn’t seen often.  We learned from Rhoda’s cleaning person that Rhoda recently brought them out, laid them on her bed and told her the story that went with each one.  Unfortunately those stories are now lost forever.  Most of the handkerchiefs seem to have been souvenir quality – made of rayon or ? shiny fabric.  Possibly some of you are more familiar with this WWII phenomenon of sending handkerchiefs to one’s loved ones – if so, please leave a comment below.

WWII Souvenir Handkerchiefs

In a future post, I’ll also detail the wedding dress, which 25 years ago was re-fashioned and worn by my sister-in-law,  which has it’s own story, and is more consistent with the purpose of this blog.

Whether your interest is WWII history, fabrics or another related topic, please add your notes about souvenir hankies.

A Tribute to My Dear Mother-in-Law

Love for Husband and Family

We are very sad tonight as we received the dreaded phone call, especially when you live a half-country away from your family.  Kevin and I learned that his mother died this evening.  Rhoda was a lovely woman and for me, was like my own mother.  She met my father-in-law in Ireland during WWII, married him 18 months later and was in the marriage for nearly 60 years until Robert died about 5 years ago.  Rhoda left her family in Ireland and came to the US at a young age, learned the American ways, became a nurse, and EMT and raised 7 children.

After being apart for about 15 months, Rhoda received a “We can marry on Saturday” telegram on a Weds.  And here they are several days later.  What a beautiful couple.

A war bride and her handsome soldier - 1945

It was another 9 months before all the war brides were shipped (literally) to the US.  Here they are soon after they were finally together.

After moving to the US - ~1946

Bob and Rhoda raised seven children who birthed 19 grandchildren who had 8 great-grandchildren (thus far).  She adored every one of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and they loved her.   We are blessed with many photos of her holding them in a loving way.

As the years passed by Bob and Rhoda’s love for each other was always so obvious – very endearing.  Even in her last months when Rhoda’s memory was failing, she loved to tell the story of the day she met Robert and how she went to dances in Ireland with her mother watching them from the balcony (that’s one’s tough, huh?).

As they became old together, we most often saw them together. Here are several photos of those later years.  After Bob died, Rhoda was lost.  Tonight she joined him again forever.

~2004

Fishing together

Rhoda, you were a wonderful and loving wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and great-grandmother.