Friday, August 22, 2014

Mom's Haley Family Memories, part 8: Their Sister Helen

Sister Helen
Mom, did you get a chance to chat and "collect" memories about your sister, our Aunt Helen? What did you guys come up with?

I kept forgetting to ask Winnie if she ever remembered Helen (their sister) getting her thyroid checked.   She doesn't think so and I don't think so either.  She was always thin and never put any weight on until near her menopause years, then only for a short time (so she may well have had a hyperthyroid, like mine was). She was a good sister and I loved her dearly.
My cousin Brian is Aunt Helen’s oldest son and an air force retiree same as me. He now works in the Washington D.C. area. I asked him if he’d also like to get involved with this “Haley family story” effort particularly concerning his late mother’s part of “the story” as narrated by his Aunt Mary (my mom).  He readily expressed interest and wrote my mother to that effect. She responded to his questions about his mother, her sister:

On Wed, May 21, 2014 at 6:32 PM, Mary Spear wrote:

First of all Brian, I know who you are and have thought of you often. Whenever we have any family get-togethers we all hope to see you and Melinda there. Kevin had a Haley Family picnic at Laurie at his home on Freeland Road last August. The Kehoe family cousins came too.   It was great fun seeing everyone.
Aunt Helen is sitting in the middle w the long dress
Mary, my mom, is 2nd fm the left top
Cute lil Aunt Win is seated on ground middle

I was four years old when your Mom was born at home in the small town of New Toronto,  Ontario.  My Father was born in Canada but his father Patrick Albert Haley was born in Buffalo New York and never took Canadian citizenship. So Dad, your grandfather, was always an American. He came over to Flint to live with his aunt and work here.  That is where he met Mom.  After they married in 1930 at the height of The Depression they went to Canada where there were a few more opportunities for work.  They stayed there until 1940. Four of us were born there—Bill, then me, Pat, and your mom.  

Our Mom was expecting Uncle Mike and he was born about a month after we arrived back in the states.  Your Mom was 2 1/2 years old when we came over.  We moved to Midland, when your Mom was 4.  My Dad was always trying to better his job. Winnie was born in Midland.  We only lived in each city for 1 or 2 years.   Finally we moved to Saginaw and Uncle Jim was born there.  Six years later Uncle Joe came along in 1950.
Late 1950s with Uncle Art & Aunt Eleanor's "crew"
Aunt Helen is top left next to sister Winnie

Your Mom attended 12 years of school at Saint Mary's.   She took secretarial classes there and got a job on the West Side of Saginaw just over the bridge from Downtown Saginaw doing office work.   I think she worked there till she married your Dad.  I'll try to get with your Aunt Winnie for more stories.   She was going to sit down and write what she remembers about Helen.   I married the year your Mom graduated from High School and left 90 days later for Japan so I missed a lot of your Mom's early adult life until we retired in 1971. I will try to write more later as memories occur.    Love Aunt Mary

The following is by Aunt Winnie by way of my mother in reply to my Cousin Brian Kennedy’s request for information on his mother, their sister Helen. My mother was a bit older than her sister Helen, so Aunt Winnie graciously provides the following memories of her older sister Helen as well as what it was like in the Haley household back in the day. If you are a Haley or interested in Haley life in the 40s and 50s then the following is very powerful stuff indeed.
Aunt Helen (L) in her early 20s visited us
 in Maine 1960.
My sister Mary Kay (M) and Mom

Aunt Winnie: Hi Brian! Hmmmm - so much about our childhood growing up! This could take a while!

I was too young to remember your mom's younger years as she was four years older than me; but with your mom on down, we went to Emerson School; that was a block away from our home of 20 years, 1308 Merrill Street, Saginaw, Michigan. Our next door neighbors, the Ruckert's, were very much a part of our lives. Kathleen Ruckert was your mom's age and they were very close friends. Many hours of fun were spent on the Haley porch in the spring and hot summer months. The Frank Lagalo Family along with Grandpa Tony lived across the street on Weadock.

Grandpa Tony owned the Ice Cream Parlor and later one of his sons started Tony's Restaurant. Years later there were many Tony's Italian Restaurants in Saginaw. The Bay City "Grandpa Tony's” is still going strong. They were all well known for their Italian Steak Sandwiches and thick milk shakes
Aunt Helen (L) 20 yrs old Oct '58
Aunt LaLa with her brother George
 Kathleen and Dan, who was a year younger, and your mom would play jacks on the porch for hours. On many evening we recited The Rosary. There was roller skating, Hide-and-Seek and Kick-the-Can. As Uncle Mike and I got older we joined in on all the fun. The family had a wooden wagon and we would take turns getting in the wagon where we would be covered with a blanket and then have to figure out where we were going. We would do the same thing in the car when we would go with dad on errands. We would kneel on floor - cover our eyes and try to guess what street we were on. In the winter we would play outside for hours making angels in the snow, building forts. Your mom loved to ice skate - many weekends and Friday evenings were spent ice skating at Hoyt Park on Washington Avenue. Overall, unless people knew your mom she was very shy. She also had a very good friend, Janet Leachman, throughout her years at Saint Mary's.

Helen did a lot of babysitting in the neighborhood for the McMaster's, Fournier's, the Piliofsifis families and the Tom Slade Family.  We all went to St Mary’s grade school and high school which was next to St Mary Cathedral Church. Your mom was one of the only granddaughter's that was unable to wear Grandma Kehoe's First Communion veil as our cousin Mary Lou made hers on the same day, and they lived in Flint. So your mom was the only daughter in our family having her own veil.  

The Dominican Sisters taught at St Mary’s and your mom found some subjects very hard. I remember her studying diligently every evening. But she did excel in typing and bookkeeping, so after graduating from high school she worked several jobs. I remember Schaubel New's and Garber Buick with Great Lakes Express being her last office job. She had to go on maternity leave I believe in her 6th month of pregnancy with you. She then was a stay-at-home mom while you children were growing up; although I believe she did babysit for a family over on Michigan Road for a couple of years.
The Haley Family was a singing family.

The Haley Family was a singing family. We all had our jobs to do, so many evenings when doing dishes, we sang to pass the time more pleasantly. And oh how we dreaded Saturdays! Grandma Haley would bake all day long for our daily desserts - cakes, cookies, pies and butter tarts (that Dad would count to make sure we didn't have any more then we were supposed to!). It would take us hours to finish dishes due to all the baking dishes that accumulated.  Even so, poor mom would be baking again on Wednesday's as there would be no sweets left.
When this was taken Aunt Helen (holding towel) was just 18 years old
This was just a month after my mother's wedding

Your mom was very thrifty and so goodhearted, always with money put away. I remember both Aunt Mary, in nurses training, and I, in 7/8 grade borrowing her clothes when we had something special going on.  When I was in high school she was always there to buy my cheer leading outfits if I didn't have enough of my own babysitting money to pay for them. 

Saturday's were definitely cleaning day. There were no such things as electric vacuum cleaners until the early fifties. Wet news papers were put down on the area rugs, pulled up and then swept with a broom.  Washing was done in a huge kitchen with wringer washer and twin tubs.  In winter your Aunt Mary and your mom would take the wet clothes upstairs and hang them in the attic. I also remember we would sometimes have sock mending time. Mom would give us either a light bulb or a wooden bulb that we would put the sock on and weave the heavy duty darning thread through the holes making the sock's wearable for a few more months. The family always teased Helen about her red hair and a temper to match it at times; but she was a very loving and caring person. I have so many fond memories of your mom.

We didn’t have TV until I believe the fall of 1956 but my mom and dad would be invited next door on Sunday Evenings to watch the Ed Sullivan Show. Before TV our evenings were filled with sitting around the radio listening to shows like The Lone Ranger, Sky King, Ozzie and Harriet, and Father Knows Best. We would argue over what show we were going to listen to. Of course there was also The Rosary broadcast during Lent and The Bishop Sheen Hour that we listened to on Sunday evenings. Every morning Grandma Haley would have the Breakfast Club on and of course in the evenings Dad would listen to the hockey and baseball games and any other sports that he could tune in.
My mom & dad's wedding Feb 1956
18 year old Aunt Helen is 2nd from the right
Aunt Winnie is 15 on the right

Whenever Grandma and Grandpa and our aunt and uncles came in from Flint, we kids would be upstairs taking turns looking down through the vents watching them play cards and listening to all the fun they were having.

During many a supper time your mom, Uncle Mike and myself would find ourselves sitting in the closet because we would be giggling at the table, and when we couldn't stop, Dad would tell us to go into the closet until we could behave.  We would come back and sit down, look at each other and start laughing all over again. So right back to the closet we went.

Uncle Art Haley lived with us when he got out of the army (at the end of WWII). He was just like a kid also, chasing Uncle Bill and Uncle Mike through the house and jumping off the stairway landing into the breakfast room. All that craziness would only take place when Dad was out on the road making his sales rounds. He would come home on weekends. Mom was a saint to put up with all the shenanigans and racket every evening.
The entire Haley Family.
Aunt Helen 22 is next to my mom, 3rd from left

When it was time for bed Mom would sit in her rocking chair up in the hallway with all of us kids at her knees saying our evening prayers. After tucking us into bed she would rock there until we were all asleep. What a wonderful example she was to all of us. Mom was 48 years of age when Joe was born. At that time in 1950 Bill was 18, Mary 16, your mom 12, Mike 10, myself 8, and Jim 6.  

As a family we never went on vacations. In the hot summer months during the polio epidemic, if the weather was hot we were not allowed to go outside from 12 noon until 4 in the afternoon. I remember having to take salt pills during that time. I only remember one summer going on a picnic at Ojibway Island when I was about 8 years old.  We also went to Flint occasionally to see Grandma and Grandpa Kehoe, but on a few occasions, if the seven of us children were too rambunctious, Dad would turn around and go back home. So our Mom, because of us, wasn’t able to visit with her parents. (Funny what we remember growing up!) Poor Mom, and she never complained.
Aunt Helen (top center) is 24 during this photo
taken during our visit to Michigan

But we had a wonderful childhood growing up, no different than our neighbors at the time. We were poor but we didn't know it or dwell on it. Dad always made sure there was a roof over our head and food on the table. We were raised in the 30's through the 50's when most of the families that were our neighbors were going through the same hard times.

Our Christmases were magical. We never saw the Christmas tree until Christmas morning. The stockings were full of oranges, apples, and walnuts (no coal so we must have been pretty good!). We usually got one toy or game and Aunt LaLa and Grandma would send a huge box full of clothes.  Dad would go out with Mom on Christmas Eve to get one gift for each one of us. Mother would knit mitten's etc.  She also made a lot of our clothes, even our winter coats.
The Haley "girls!"
Aunts Winnie, Helen and my mom with Grandma Haley
I think all 4 have been drinking!
Probably sometime in the early 70s
We moved to 637 South 12th Street in summer of 1956.  Your mom met a new friend Pat LeRoux whom she became very good friends with. Helen loved to dance. She and Pat spent many weekends dancing at the Falcon's Club, also at the Four Aces and The Red Horse. I believe that is where she met your Dad. I also knew your dad when I was in high school at Holy Rosary; he and your Uncle Jim used to chum around in our neighborhood at one of my friend’s from Holy Rosary high school. It’s a small world; he ended up meeting your mom and the rest is history.
Aunt Helen foreground next to Uncle Jerry
late 1970s

Feel free to share this with Mark - Theresa and Karen.  I hope this gives you an idea of what our childhood was like and how much your mom meant to all of us in the Haley Family.

Aunt Helen’s passing was hard to bear. It took place over about a dozen years. At only 50 years old, Alzheimer’s began to conquer her body starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was horrible for her of course but it was also tough on all those who loved her, her family and close friends. The pain of her passing is still so strong, even until now, that I was not able to get anyone to reminisce about her final years. I will say though that she did not go down easy. She fought for life as hard as anyone can, right up until the bitter end. So, I will make this epilogue of her final years, months and days a spare one; although if anyone wants to add anything I will certainly do so.
Most of the extended Haley Family in the late 1960s
I look to be about 10 years old in this wearing striped shirt front right standing
Aunt Helen (Center) holding both hands of one of her brood, probably my cousin Brian

As you were! I was able to contact two of my cousins, make that three of them, just now on Facebook, Aunt Helen’s kids Brian, Theresa and Karen, who gave me their input on their mom's difficult demise. Theresa was particularly forthcoming:

Brian: My mother was born in May 1938 and passed 16 August 2001, same death date as Elvis, only 24 years later and only a few weeks before Sep 11th. That would make her just over 63 when she died. You are correct Phil that she started showing signs of the disease in the early 90s. My first experience was on leave from the Air Force in 93 when she didn't know exactly who I was except that I was a relative.

Karen: She was misdiagnosed for 4 years as having "healthy woman going through menopause.” She was finally correctly diagnosed in 1991.  She was 50 when she got it in 1988 and 63 when she died in 2001.

Theresa: Back then they didn't know what they know now with the progression. The meds even now just slow it down and cannot cure it. She progressed through her stages very quickly because she was a lot younger when this happened.

Phil: Oh, i didn't realize that’s how it worked... So, younger onset means quicker progression?

Theresa: Yes, she progressed very quickly.

Phil: Ah, you mean she kind of lost herself very quickly? Because she lasted a long time, more than 12 years.

Theresa: Correct.

Phil: I had only a few months left before retirement when she finally died. I remember she could no longer accept a feeding tube at the end.  That was a heartbreaking thing to contemplate, to finally go that way.

Theresa: Yes! It was very hard! She was on a feeding tube for 5 years. She was young and we loved her, so we did what we thought best.

Phil: I personally would never question such a thing.  You did it exactly correct. Always “err” on the side of life!

Theresa:  Alzheimer's is such a horrific disease. We lost our mom and then lost her again when she died! It was the hardest thing. When we knew that she only had days left, that’s when I found out that I was pregnant with Trevor, my youngest. I was so stressed and so scared because it took us so long to get pregnant again after having a miscarriage.  I miss my mom  everyday!  But we, her kids, are so close!

Phil: Were you already close when this happened? Did it make you closer?

Theresa:  It made us closer.

Phil: So, you could say THAT was your mom’s final gift to her family.

TheresaMy sister and I are 4 years apart. We fought growing up, like sisters do! We are best friends now!
Phil: Reading that I have to say that I’m touched. I hope you will allow me to include our conversation here as a fitting end to my mom's Haley Memoirs on your mom, my Aunt Helen?

Theresa: That's fine.
Mid 80s
All the Haley Siblings
Uncles Mike, Bill, Jim & Joe
Aunt Helen, my mom & Aunt Winnie

Helen Haley Kennedy, born in May of 1938 left this earth at the age of 63 in 2001. She is missed. She is loved. May God bless her and rest her soul.