Category Archives: Stories

Opa’s Eulogy

I didn’t realize when I put together my photo tribute to my grandfather that I would be asked to give his eulogy. My aunts put one together for me, but I added some of the stories that I had collected about him and made it my own.

Below is the eulogy that I read on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at the funeral of Joseph Francis Eiswerth at St. Boniface Catholic Church.

(Photo taken in 1939. Deer head was mounted and hangs in my parents’ home.)

Our family would like to thank all of you who came out today to honor Joe. We appreciate, too, all of your comforting words and many kindnesses toward us during this difficult time. Thank you. Joseph Francis Eiswerth was my grandfather and he was always Opa Joe to me.

Those who knew my Opa well, would know that he would be embarrassed by a lot of fanfare and praise. He was a simple man, a humble man, who is probably muttering right now, “Let’s get this over with!”

We loved him and all his simple ways. He was a man whose faith in God and his church was strong. A man who was proud of his wife and family too.

Opa would never say no to anyone asking a favor of him, no matter how busy he was. Our family has heard many of your stories of favors he’s done for you, never asking anything in return.

Opa was a man who was not afraid to apologize if he thought he had hurt your feelings. A man who was a good listener, offering advice or an opinion, only if asked. Most of all, he was a man who was full of gratitude. He often sent thank you notes for gifts and favors, and he always could be heard saying, “Thanks for all you do. I really appreciate it.”

Opa Joe loved baseball. He was introduced to the game through his Aunt Agnes. She worked for a wealthy doctor, who had connections with the Williamsport Grays ball team. Ballplayers were invited over to the farm for a good home cooked meal and to taste some of my great- grandfather’s home-made wines. There always seemed time for a game and that was how Opa learned a lot about baseball. He taught his children to throw balls in the backyard and occasionally he would round up the kids and go over to Curtin’s softball field. They would spread out on the field and Opa would hit grounders and flies. It was his favorite sport, and he often caught a good nap watching the baseball games on TV.

He loved telling stories of his Navy days and his many hunting adventures.

He had some great stories of job-site experiences too. The young fellows he worked with entertained him on many of his jobs. His former workers loved and respected him and some are here today to serve as his pallbearers. Opa always insisted that the work be done the right way the first time and their work was recognized for its quality.

Opa never thought he would live to be 91 years old. Both of his parents died in their 60s. But his time wasn’t up and he was able to spend many years of his retirement staying active with golfing, volunteering, spending time with his family and still doing odd jobs and consulting work.

Opa was always a strong man. He was never afraid of hard work and challenges. He was a man who worked full time yet still managed to build his own house in the evenings.

His last years, however, brought some senior challenges. Being a senior wasn’t easy for him. When Opa was faced with failing eyesight and hearing, with slower steps and speech, he went forward to love each day full of gratitude for all those who cared for him. That was how Opa showed his true strength.

We were lucky to have him in our lives for so long. The longer he was with us, however, the harder it was to let him go. But we know now he’s telling all those stories to his ancestors.

He left his legacy on all those who had the privilege to be his family, his crew, and his friends. He shaped all those around him though his own example. He showed others how to care, respect, and help people and do the right thing for the right reason.

We’ll miss you, Opa Joe! Keep smiling down on us, and we’ll meet again someday in that great baseball diamond in the sky.

RIP Opa – Joseph Francis Eiswerth (1921-2013)

My grandfather, Joseph Francis Eiswerth, passed away on Friday, March 1, 2013. This is my tribute to my “Opa Joe.”

Joseph Francis Eiswerth was born 18 September 1921 in East Palestine, Columbiana County, Ohio. He was the only child of Edward Charles Eiswerth and Angela Catherine Kavcic (anglicized Couchie). His father, Edward, had traveled west from central Pennsylvania to find work.

When Joseph was a few years old, the family moved back to Limestone Township, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, where Edward had been raised.

Joseph attended school in a one room schoolhouse run by the nuns at Immaculate Conception Church in Bastress, Pennsylvania.

Joseph stayed on the farm with his parents until his 21st birthday when he enlisted in the United States Navy. He served at Quonset Point, Rhode Island and in 1945 on the inaugural voyage of the USS Helena (into a hurricane). He was discharged on 29 October 1945.

After WWII, he moved to Williamsport, Pennsylvania to get a better education and life than he could have had on the farm. He met and married Evelyn Marie Eck on 5 November 1946 at St. Boniface Church. The video below is from their wedding day (with Oma’s graduation at the beginning).

He worked 2nd shift while attending Williamsport Technical Institute. There he met Guy Reeder and Art Shaw and together they formed a construction partnership called Eiswerth, Reeder and Shaw (names listed in alphabetical order to be fair.)

He even built his own house in 1954. Here it is in 1971 getting a new roof.

Joseph and Evelyn had 7 children in the span of 6 years (the first two were twins).

My family lived in Ohio, so we always spent a week at Oma and Opa’s over the summer and had another visit at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Below is a picture of my brother and me with Oma and Opa. Opa loved to wrestle with his grandkids.

Dinner at Thanksgiving of 1989.
The whole family at Thanksgiving 1990. (The youngest grandchild is missing from this photo since he wasn’t born yet.)

Between high school, college and moving to Fort Wayne, I haven’t seen my grandparents much over the last 15 years. But I was lucky to have a change to visit my grandparents during the summer of 2010 and 2011.

Opa will be buried on Tuesday, March 5 at St. Boniface Cemetery.

You might not have wanted to answer my genealogy questions, but I’ll still miss you, Opa.

You can read other blog post about Opa that my dad wrote for my blog a couple of years ago:
Sentimental Sunday – What My Dad Learned about His Dad – Part 1
Sentimental Sunday – What My Dad Learned about His Dad – Part 2
Sentimental Sunday – What My Dad Learned about His Dad – Part 3
Sentimental Sunday – What My Dad Learned about His Dad – Part 4
Sentimental Sunday – Grandfather in WWII
Sentimental Sunday – Horses and Baseball

Eiswerth Family Story Book Project

I spent 2012 gathering family stories from my dad and his brothers and sisters. I previously wrote about the process in three posts:

For most weeks between January and September, I requested stories from my family. The project evolved over the year from attempting to fill in the holes in my grandmother’s stories to asking my family to write any story they had about a certain topic. It was great to see how one person’s stories made the others remember other things about their childhoods.

Each week I edited the stories submitted that week together and sent it back to my family for review. Sometimes I would get a few corrections or even a few more stories. By the fall, I had 29 Word documents that needed to be corralled into chapters and finally into a book.

In the end, I had a 100 page book with 15 chapters. The chapters were:

  1. The Eiswerth Family (summaries of the main characters in the book)
  2. Eiswerth Homes
  3. Eiswerth, Reeder and Shaw (my grandfather’s construction company)
  4. Running the Eiswerth Home (stories of my grandmother’s struggles raising 7 children, gardening and cleaning)
  5. School
  6. Fun and Games
  7. Spring
  8. Summer
  9. Fall
  10. Winter
  11. Childhood Trouble (yes they needed a whole chapter for this)
  12. Illnesses and Injuries
  13. Pets (also know as dinner)
  14. Other Stories
  15. Sayings (a list of things my grandparents said to their children and when they said them)

I used to publish the book and sent my family a private link in order to order as many copies as they wanted. Since this book is about the living, I didn’t want to make it available to the masses. Plus, if you’re not in my family you might get nightmares from reading the stories (as my husband tells me that he has after editing the book).

I’ve received many positive comments about the book. My grandmother read stories that she had never heard before and I’m sure some of the children will be in trouble the next time they see her. My aunt says that I know too much about the family now. And my cousins are excited to read the stories and can’t stop reading. I’m glad that I took the time last year to preserve these stories for years to come.

Covertly Gathering Family Stories – Part 4

Just because some family members won’t share their memories with you, doesn’t mean they have to be lost forever. You just have to go around them and find the stories another way. This week I’ve shared the stories that my grandmother recorded, my plan to expand on them with my aunts, uncles and dad, and the results thus far.
Now to show the treasure my family has given me.
Here’s the story written by my grandmother that I sent the family for week 4:
Whenever something was needed at school, my kids volunteered to bring it. Cakes, pies, bread, cookies, costumes – you name it! Once I had to take a sheet off the bed and wash it, so it could be used for a movie the next day. Once they even brought a guest speaker home without telling me first. El had been working on a science project and had papers and leaves all over the dining room. We had to seat our guest at the kitchen table that day.
And here is what it became (I turned the names into initials here to protect the innocent):
Whenever something was needed at school, the nuns would volunteer the Eiswerth children. They knew how creative E was and how she would get things done, so they kept asking her to do more. It was a compliment, but all the work made it seem like a punishment.
The Eiswerth kids would come home and tell their mom that they needed all kinds of things for school the next day. Cakes, pies, bread, cookies, costumes – you name it! Once E had to take a sheet off the bed and wash it, so it could be used for a movie the next day.
About every year in May, E would cut bunches of flowers off the lilac bushes and the kids had to walk them down to the nuns to put in the church.  They always made the old church smell great on Sunday when the family went to mass.  
El once brought a big jar of beans to school. The kids would guess how many beans were in the jar–a penny a guess–probably to make money for a “mission baby”. On the way to school, she dropped it, the beans went all over the place and she bawled her eyes out all the way to school.
Every year at St. Boniface Junior High, the students had to do a science project. Then they would set it up in the basement of the school on Washington Boulevard for guests to come and admire their good work. One year, El decided to do “Leaves of Pennsylvania Trees” for her science project. She had the whole family collecting leaves. They even went to state parks. She had several leaf and tree books to look up what she found and categorize them in a big scrapbook.
El won a prize at St Boniface and was invited to display her charts and leaves at the Bucknell University Science Fair in Lewisburg, PA! The family loaded up the car and while they were on their way, J almost hit a bicyclist who came out in front of us at Brandon Park. El won “Honorable Mention” there. She kept the leaf scrapbook during her 35 years of teaching and only threw it out when she retired. The leaves were still intact.
The Eiswerth dining room table was a place that was always loaded with homework papers, school projects, wet winter clothes, etc. They family only ate there when company visited. One time the Eiswerth children came home with a guest speaker from school without telling their mom first. This was at the same time that El had been working on her leaf science project and had papers and leaves all over the dining room. They had to seat their guest at the kitchen table that day.
When MJ was supposed to play an angel in a Christmas play, E made her the best wings in the class. The base was 2 wire hangers, so they were nice and even, too. They were so nice that the nun asked MJ to let the smaller girl in the front wear them. She really didn’t want to do it, and told the nun that. But the nun won and MJ had to give up her beautiful wings. When she came home from school that day, MJ told E what had happened. E shared that the same thing had happened to her when she was a child. Her mother made her a gorgeous set of wings, snowy white trimmed in tinsel. Five minutes before the play started, her wings disappeared, probably given to someone in the front row.
Eventually, E asked the kids not to volunteer HER for much as she was very busy.  The nuns knew that and would send a paper home asking her for what she could do in the future.  
I am truly amazed at how just a few lines from my grandmother can expand into a rich story of my dad’s childhood. I was even able to add my grandmother’s memories of her childhood angel wings when I aunt remembered hers and her mother telling her the story of when she had to give hers up.
Tomorrow I’ll send out story #6. I can’t wait to read their memories. It’s going to make an amazing book at the end of the year.

Covertly Gathering Family Stories – Part 3

On Tuesday, I wrote about the stories my grandmother wrote (even though she tells me that she doesn’t remember anything). On Wednesday, I wrote about my plan to get more out of those stories from my dad, aunts and uncles. Today I’m going to share some of my results.

So I had this wonderful idea and plan to circumvent my grandmother and still get the family stories. My dad lives in Ohio, one uncle is in Alabama and the rest are in central Pennsylvania. I lucked out that 6 of the 7 siblings have email. I knew that some of them would share more than others and that was perfectly fine.

But would it work? I can’t even begin to describe how amazed I am with the returns so far.

On Thursday, January 5, I sent out an email warning my relatives of my new, brilliant plan to get the family involved in my genealogy adventures. I received a few positive responses and started thinking that this just might work. If I could just put names with the stories, I would be happy.

On Friday, January 6, I sent my family the first mini story:

We had worn out furniture too. I remember when a priest dropped by for a visit, I tried to hide a broken spring and by standing one of my children in front of it. To my surprise, the priest picked up the little one and sat down on that chair. The spring always let you know it was there!

The responses started coming back. Not only did I learn who the priest was (my great grandmother worked as his housekeeper) and how my grandmother was embarrassed by that chair’s broken spring and would often make the kids sit in it when they had company over, I also started getting stories about the kids visiting their grandmother when she moved to Susquehanna, Pennsylvania in order to continue working for the priest.

Those 3 lines became over a page of family memories.

The next week I sent out another story:

Once my family made a trip to Susquehanna. After getting 7 kids ready for the trip, I forgot to change my shoes. As we sat talking in the rectory, one of the kids asked, “Why are you wearing your dirty sneakers?”

The first week I only received memories from 2 of the 7 siblings. The following week I received 10 emails from 4 of the siblings. Story number 2 became a collection of stories about visiting Susquehanna (and how they never visited as a family since it took too long to get there). They even incorporated another of my grandmother’s stories about leaving my uncle at home because they thought he was in the car with the rest of them.

Once again a few lines turned into a page of memories.

My aunts are sharing these stories with my grandparents and sending me their responses as well. As for my uncle who doesn’t have email? My aunt called him to get the scoop on when he got a gash in his head at school so we could add his side to the stories.

Tomorrow I will share one of the stories that we created. Stay tuned.

Covertly Gathering Family Stories – Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the stories my grandmother wrote in a family history. Since my grandmother won’t answer my questions about her family, I was happy to discover these stories and learn more about her life. But the problem with the stories was that she never identified who she was talking about. She would just refer to other people in the story as “her brother,” “her daughter,” her “uncle,” etc. Since I knew if I asked her directly, she would tell me that she didn’t remember, I had to find another way to get the details.

That’s when I decided to crowd source the stories. Who else would remember these events? My dad, aunts and uncles!

Here’s what I did:

  1. I typed up all the stories from the book.
  2. The whole narrative is just a collection of random mini stories. They aren’t in any chronological order ans she skips back and forth between her childhood and raising her own children. So I split the narrative into the little stories and put them into a spreadsheet. (I am only using the stories of her children for this project since they obviously won’t remember their mom’s childhood.)
  3. I added a column to the spreadsheet for a date.
  4. Each Friday I send a mini story out to my dad and his brothers and sisters.
  5. Over the weekend, they send me back their version of the story and other memories that the original story triggered. They give me all the details that I was missing. They also use “reply all” on the email so that they can build off of each other.
  6. On Monday, I write up the new story that we have created from just a few lines.

I have enough stories to get through the middle of November, which is perfect because at the end of the year, I’m going to put all the stories together in a book along with some family photos. It’s going to be an amazing family heirloom.

Now you might be wondering how effective this technique has been. Stay tuned to tomorrow’s post when I share how 4 lines of text turned into 2 pages.

Covertly Gathering Family Stories – Part 1

In the late 1990s, a cousin published a family history on my paternal grandmother’s family. It included entries for all of my great-great-grandparents’ descendants. Everyone was supposed to write an entry about their lives and send in for the book. 

There are many mistakes in the book regarding dates and places, but the best part are the individual entries. During my 2012 organization project, I went back to the book and added source details from the book to my database. I was amazed at all the stories that my grandmother wrote about her childhood, grandparents, parents, and children. Whenever I ask questions, this grandmother says she doesn’t remember. So I was so happy to find these stories again. She tells stories about her childhood, her parents, her grandparents, her children and more. What a treasure trove to have these stories.
She states that she was inspired to write down her stories for her children after reading Asafetida: That Was My Bag by Peggy Masters Hobrock published in 1973. So of course I had to purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.
This book is a collection of stories about life in the early 1900s. The author compares her childhood to her current life. They are very witty and entertaining and the book takes you back in time to a life before modern conveniences. The stories are all less than a page and include titles such as:
The Beer Man
The Telephone
Wash Day
The Parlor
The Outhouse
The Honeydippers
Sex Symbol
After reading the book, I can see that my grandmother was inspired by these stories and used a similar writing style. (Of course, she didn’t write anything about sex.) The author didn’t give names of the people involved in her stories so neither did my grandmother. 
That’s the biggest problem I have with these family stories. My grandmother came from a family of 7 children and then she had 7 children. So when she says her brother did this or her daughter did that I have no idea who she is talking about. But I found a solution to my grandmother not giving me the names and not sharing her stories with me. Stay tuned to tomorrow’s post.Disclosure: The above link is an Amazon affiliate link to a book that costs 25 cents used. If you purchase through that link, I’ll get a small portion of your sale at no cost to you. (So about 1/10 of a cent.)

Current Project – Recording My History

Over the past few years, I have research my family history, recorded family stories, scanned family photographs and shared what I have found with others. But there has been one area of my genealogy that has been lacking: the part about me.

I’ve scanned photographs of myself growing up. I’ve recorded the important dates of my life in my genealogy program. I’ve recorded a few of my memories.

One of the problems with recording my own history is that I took all my personal history items from my parents’ house when I starting getting involved in genealogy. So then when I scanned what my parents had my stuff wasn’t there. Of course there were photographs, but no report cards, no awards, no baby book, no yearbooks, no Puffalump. All of my stuff has been buried in my closet. I knew I wanted it. I knew I need to preserve it. I just never did anything useful with it all.

So now I am on a mission to record “my history”. I pulled everything out of my closet so that I could get to the good stuff. I am scanning photographs, photo albums, yearbooks, report cards, and everything else I forgot I had.

Here are my tools:

Hopefully this won’t take too long. I mean there is less than 30 years of history to record. And I’d really like to be able to get to my bookshelf without tripping on all the stuff that should be in my closet.

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links were used for the tools I am using.

12 Days of Family and Genealogy – 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy – Grandma Edition

This post is part of my series of the 12 days I spent with my parents visiting family and doing genealogy research.

I dropped off the first of Amy Coffin‘s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy questions to my grandma when I visited in June. She had them all filled out for me when I visited her at the beginning of the month. Although most of her answers were along the lines of “I don’t remember,” I did gather a few new details about her life.
Here’s what I learned:
  • Her first car was a green Chevy Impala.
  • She had a white mouse as a pet, but she doesn’t remember its name.
  • My grandfather was apparently in the newspaper working on the Ohio River Front. I’d love to find that. Someone needs to digitize Cincinnati newspapers.

I already knew about grandma’s love of dark chocolate But she really wanted me to know since she wrote it twice for her favorite sweets.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History

I haven’t been posting my responses to Amy Coffin‘s wonderful weekly prompts for 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History. But I have been sending the questions off to my parents to get their answers. This month I have finally gotten around to saving them all to my computer and taking the time to read them. I have also answered the questions myself. But it’s not really interesting for you all to read when I still own my first car. I have learned a lot about my parents’ childhoods though.

From my dad I learned:

  • He once had a fever and hallucinated that the room was closing in on him and his mom put ice packs on him.
  • The bunk beds in the boy’s bedroom (there were four of them and 3 girls) had wagon wheels on the ends.
  • He sat in the middle of the dining room table and was exposed to all the types of food offered.
  • He really did take his dog to a farm when my brother was born.

From my mom I learned:

  • The family’s 3-legged dog slept at the end of her bed.
  • She watched the clouds starting to swirl before they became the F5 tornado that his Xenia, Ohio. Her dad was mad that they didn’t take any photos.
  • My grandfather would fall asleep and snore during movies. Drive-ins were wonderful for the other people watching the same movie.
  • She’s not looking forward to her own obituary.

I have printed all the questions to give to my grandma for homework this weekend when I visit her. Hopefully I learn some interesting things about her life too.