My husband, Dean Hesse, has never been curious about his ancestry, but he proudly told our grandson, Teddy, about his father, Robert, being in Okinawa in WWII and how he painted art on the Navy pilots leather jackets. Later, he was a printer and an artist. Dean’s third great-grandfather fought for the Union in the Civil War, and Dean possesses his forefathers’s legacy, a 1852 Sharps Carbine rifle used in the capture of New Orleans in 1862.
His mother’s father, John, was born in Hungary. He came to the U.S. in 1899 and worked as a printer, sent money home, and brought his ten brothers and sisters to America. His bride, Mary, migrated to America through Ellis Island from Scotland in 1901. They met in the stockyards in Chicago where she was working as a secretary. Dean has memories of her Scottish brogue, being a devote Catholic, a lover of bull fighting, and telling him not to put cats next to his throat because as she said, “You’ll get tuberculosis.”
John cooked dinner, baked pork chops or chicken, mashed potatoes and corn every Sunday, and the meal became Dean’s favorite for life. Neither grandmother ever cooked. His mother raised him on Stouffers’. As a result when I met Dean, he preferred the taste of frozen dinners over a home-cooked meal.
Teddy and Dean are proud left-handed people like their forbearers on both sides of the family. They have similar mannerisms, linguistic rhythm, and love cats, not genetic proof, but enough to make me smile.