Monday, August 18, 2014

Mom's Haley Family Memories, part 6: her big brother, OUR Uncle Bill

Baby Uncle Bill
Uncle Bill 

Uncle Bill was the eldest of you and your siblings. What are some of your first memories of your big brother?  

Mom’s big brother, “Uncle Bill” Haley

My first memories of my brother Bill?  I guess it’s when my Dad was taking him for a haircut when we lived in New Toronto and I wanted to go with them.   I was three years old.  (1937) Dad said “No," but I must have been a headstrong little gal because I started to follow them, thinking I knew the way they walked. But I DIDN’T know and I got lost.  A kind lady saw me cross the busy highway to Toronto a couple of times and figured I was lost and she took me in and called the police to let them know. I had messed up my clothes and she cleaned me up. By the time my frantic Dad arrived I was really worried that I was in deep trouble.   But he was so glad that I was okay that I didn't get punished.   But I NEVER wandered off alone again!
Trailer park in East Holden Maine
Our trailer after a blizzard, 1961

This story is so darn cute! Remember how I disappeared in 1961 when I was 4?  We were living in Maine, it was winter and I had crawled into the neighbor’s doghouse and just fell asleep for several hours. It was cold out and the dog was warm! Your story reminds me of that.

Back yard of our trailer 1961
MK and I sitting in a duck boat

(I remember that VERY well. It was a scary event when we lost you that day. It was while we were still living in the trailer park at Holden Maine. It was very chilly outside. You kids always played near the trailer with all the other neighbor kids. Gene was home from work and I was cooking supper.  I called you in to come in for supper,  but you didn't answer.  We searched all over, even looking in the dumpsters and down at the lake.   Finally one of the guys saw you crawling out of the neighbor's  dog house where you had fallen asleep hugging the dog.  We were so happy to find you. I remember you couldn't see why everyone was so upset. We sure were happy to finally move into base housing where it was much safer.)

So what was Uncle Bill like as a kid? How did you guys get along?
Bill and I were never very close, just the usual brother sister relationship.   He found school a bit hard and so my Mother gave him a lot of attention with homework.  I never minded that as I liked school and did okay on my own.  He always wanted to please the folks I think.  He was always saying, “I'm just like my Dad!"   He always had a lot of respect for Dad.   He tried football when he went to Saginaw High but quit school in the 10th grade, or at least I believe when he turned 16. 

When he got drafted, how did everyone react?   How is it he ended up working for Kroger his whole life?

He went to work for Kroger’s at that time and worked there all his working life except when he was drafted into the Army in 1953 and sent to Korea during the war.  He was a big help to Mom and Dad financially and they really missed that while he was gone.  I on the other hand was in nurses training and couldn't help them at all; they were still raising five more children.
My mother is bottom left,
Her sister Helen in the middle sitting on lap
Uncle Bill back right

Why did he never get married?

I asked Bill once why he never married and he said, “I can't handle all that responsibility"   I guess he had quite a few girl friends but I never met them, but, he found other outlets to keep busy with.  He is and always had been very active in the Knights of Columbus and that is mainly most of his social life.  

So that is about it.  Right now he is trying to stay well enough to have surgery on his left eye. The doctor hopes to fill the hole in the retina so his vision will improve.  Hopefully that will take place on October 8th.   So keep him in your prayers.
The entire Haley family

Uncle Bill died years after you provided that last comment regarding his eye procedure. Could you talk about his battle to recover from his years of not paying much attention to his cardiovascular health and his final passing?

When Uncle Bill got busy exercising I was busy taking care of your dad who needed care for longer than most people were aware of. I do know that Bill did try to walk and ride his stationary bike to regain his strength but his breathing was a problem for quite a while. Win (Mom’s sister) did a lot for him then. After he couldn't see well enough to drive he finally gave it up and she took him to his doctor appointments. About the time Gene died he was already using O2 but not out in public. It seemed like it progressed very fast after that.
A WHOLE lot of Haley's in one place
Uncle Bill in the back next to Uncle Jim
Aunt Helen & Aunt Winnie top left
Uncle Art & Aunt Eleanor and LOTS of cousins
And lets not forget Grandpa n Grandma Haley center left

Bill finally passed away on February 28, 2010. He was 77 years old.  He died sitting on his couch with his 02 (oxygen) running. Evidently he must have had a heart attack; he had his emergency bracelet on and didn't even hit it.  He had COPD and emphysema, coronary bradycardia, and coronary artery disease. 

He’d had a stroke about 20 years before he died. That is when he quit smoking, too late though as the lung damage had already been done.  His death certificate also says he had Type 2 diabetes.  He never told Winnie or I about this diagnosis and he certainly didn't watch his diet, probably because he didn't want us watching what he ate.  
Uncle Bill all the way in the back in the kitchen w a beer
Lots of Haley's in the house on 12th Street, Saginaw
This is the house that I remember

His vision remained very impaired, macular holes in both eyes finally to the point that he couldn't drive anymore. He drove much longer than he really should have.  I had called him from Florida around 7 pm   and he said he was doing fine. He didn't seem distressed then. Gail called him a little later and asked if there was anything she could do for him.  He told her, "No, I'm okay."   After Mass on Sunday morning Vana stopped at his apartment, (where he had moved after selling his house to Gail) and found him dead, still sitting on the couch.
Uncle Mike, Aunt LaLa n Uncle Bill
good times down in the basement,
the scene of MANY great parties!

You know Mom, that's the first I'd heard those details on Uncle Bill's passing. It seems that he didn't want to trouble anyone too much with his physical problems. I can respect that. A lot of folks end their days whining and moaning. Like a lot of folks who were born in the 30’s and 40’s, he “undid” himself almost unknowingly, though a lifetime of smoking, poor diet and a lack of consistent exercise. 

My OWN memories of him in stream of consciousness style: early 60s in the house on 12th Street, Uncle Bill coming and going, Kevin and I sleeping up in "the top floor barracks room" with all the other "Haley boys (our uncles)." Uncle Bill coming home at odd hours due to his job at Kroger’s (not to mention he WAS a bachelor!), trudging up the stairs and staggering around down by his single bed by the stairway; the sound of his coin change falling out of his pockets onto the floor when he took his pants off for sleep, coins rolling all over the place. (Later I’d crawl around on the wooden slat floor and retrieve them under the beds. How many beds WERE there up there? At least 8 or 9 single beds I think). 

Uncle Bill (and he wasn't the ONLY one!) crossly telling Grandma, "MA! Get off my back!" when she'd ask him to do something he didn't want to, like getting up for work or having a bite to eat. 
Uncle Mike, Uncle Bill. Uncle Keith Spear (my dad's brother)
Another Haley basement party, this one in the mid 60s

And then years later, when we moved in with them for that year in Birch Run on Oak Street, Uncle Bill would come home from work, have dinner and then fall asleep on the recliner, usually with a lit cigarette in his hand, sometimes with more than an inch of ash waiting to fall. 

I spent a LOT of time in that house over the years because my paper route papers were delivered there and during that time Uncle Bill made it WAY too easy for me to mess with him because he was always sleeping in the living room. I’d take a cigarette out of his open pack, carefully remove a half inch of tobacco put in some dirt and dust and then repack the tip with tobacco to make the cig look normal. I’d wake him up knowing that he’d reach right away for one and I’d watch him with a huge smirk on my face waiting for that moment when the fire would reach the dirt. I never got tired of watching his reaction when the cigarette would sputter and stink. He NEVER caught on. Shame on me! (God help me, recalling it as I type this I’m laughing RIGHT NOW!) 
Uncle Joe's 1st wife, Aunt Genie; then Uncle Joe and Uncle Bill
Early 70s at a restaurant

And Uncle Bill’s snore! He'd snore so loud that it would rattle Grandma's china. And you ARE right. I clearly remember him saying many times how much like his dad he was. When I became a know-it-all young teenager sometimes he'd have something to say and I must have given him a “you dumb ass look” because he'd look at me and chuckle, "You think I'm full of it, don't you, you young PUP!" 

More than anything else, Uncle Bill is the reason I never took up smoking. In early 1972 I stole a pack of his cigs and smoked two or three of them in that storage closet in Grandma's garage. The next morning I woke up with THE worst flu I've ever had. It was so bad that I couldn't go to school for three days. In my mind I associated it with those cigarettes I'd copped from Uncle Bill. Just the idea of smoking a cigarette after that turned my stomach. 

All in all though, Uncle Bill was a good feller. I remember that laugh he did; it was like he was surprised. It was a HEH! And that was usually it UNLESS he REALLY found something to be funny. I never saw him laugh more than when he was with Uncle Jim and another one or two of his brothers and Uncle Jim "let one go" inside his snowmobile suit, practically choking himself to death on his own flatulence. Uncle Bill laughed so hard, turned so red, that I thought he was going to pass out. To me, THAT was WAY funnier than what Uncle Jim did. I REALLY miss Uncle Bill, ....a lot.
Uncles Mike, Bill, Jim and Joe
Aunt Helen, My mom Mary and Aunt Winnie

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