A new obituary for my Mom

My mom died a year ago today.  Needless to say, it’s been kind of a rough year.  Throughout my genealogy research, one thing I have learned is that obituaries used to be much more personal and interesting to read.  While attempting to put together my mom’s obituary a year ago, we made sure to get all the “important” stuff in there; but there were a lot of family names we had include, and not enough space to mention how unique of a person she really was.

So for my post I would like to write a much more personal obituary for my mom.

Linda Lee Kinsley Shaw Jennings Brown Kelley (as I used to call her when I was being a brat and she would refer to me as Erin Elizabeth) loved music.  She used to ride around in her car with CDs that were especially made by her children with all of her favorites, dancing the Linda dance.  This dance took on three different forms.  There was a fist shake.  There was the flat hand thrust.  Then there was the combo of the two.  She loved all kinds of music.  She even loved disco.  Every time some cheesy disco song would come on an oldies station she would remind us about how disco was a “real art form” and that she took disco lessons back in the 1970s, and so did A LOT of other people.  She loved Motown.  She obsessed over Michael Jackson’s live performances, especially when he was young.  She hated John Mellencamp because he was “too country” but loved Kenny Rogers.  She loved films, and therefore loved soundtracks.  A year later and I still can’t listen to You Can’t Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones without bursting into tears (as The Big Chill was her favorite movie).


Linda Kelley in her senior portrait, abt. 1960.

Linda loved movies.  She claimed to dislike violent films that didn’t have any moral value, except she loved Die Hard (and many others that didn’t fit her description of moral).  She loved watching movies about the persecution and hardship of groups of peoples.  Anything civil rights or Holocaust-based was right up her alley.  In fact, when she was in the rehab hospital just a month before she died she told me all about how she had watched Fiddler on the Roof the night before and how she just cried and cried.  “Isn’t that the best movie?”

To my mom, everything was the best or the worst.  It was always, “Wasn’t that the BEST cheeseburger you’ve ever had?”   Yes, mother.  I remember all cheeseburgers in my history and that one was THE best.  “Isn’t this the worst winter EVER?”  Yes.  The worst.  Ever.

Linda had six children.  She was their biggest fan and most vocal advocate, especially to each other.  Within sibling relationships there will always be strife, but my mom was the peacemaker.  She tried to make us realize that we are all so completely different.  We shouldn’t try to change each other, but accept each other as they are.  One thing I heard from my mom often was, “You’ve got to get over it.  That is how _______ is. “  This was easier said than done, but I understand what she means.

She finally got to do what she really wanted to when she started her company, which eventually became Healthcare Professionals.  But she always worked, before and after Healthcare.  I mean…she took vacations and whatnot.  But I never remember my mother taking much of a break.  She never really retired.  When she “retired” she continued to work on her booth and work for Alliance Home Care.  When she got sick she was so upset that she wasn’t working, and couldn’t wait to get back to it.  She gave that work ethic to her kids.

She always thought I was better than I was and tried to be a cheerleader for everything I was interested in doing.  When I moved away from home she demanded a phone call every other day or so.  If I didn’t call her, she would call me.  If I didn’t return calls, I would get an earful and a guilt-trip.  This usually wasn’t so hard for me, considering during my entire childhood my first move when I got home from school was to call my mom.   It is still hard for me to pick up the phone after an interview or a really good movie and realize she isn’t the person to call anymore.

She loved to travel, but refused to leave the country (“There’s just so much to see here!  Why would I need to leave?”).  She loved having a place to get away.  They had what we called “the metal tent” at Lake Lemon for years.  Her other favorite places to visit were Las Vegas (because she loved the nickel slots), French Lick, Indiana (a place we went as a family for years), and pretty much anywhere else with Fred.

On a short weekend jaunt to Lake Lemon, (near Bloomington, IN) with the whole fam.

She loved her husband, Fred.  She took care of him and probably drove him insane.  I can still hear her in my head screaming, “Frederick!  Get In Here!”  She nagged him, but I am convinced that he liked it.

Linda was sick for years, but kept most of her health problems a secret from her children.  She had a heart attack at 57. She had diabetes for years before she told us she had it.  She had congestive heart failure for a long time before she told us she had it.  Her kidneys were failing when she attended my wedding and never mentioned anything about it.  While she cared for everyone else, she did not take care of herself.  I never saw her eat a fresh vegetable or a piece of fruit…in my entire life.  When she finally got outwardly sick, it was too late.

My mom was in the hospital for a few weeks, and then in PT rehab a few weeks.  Things were looking up when she was finally sent home to continue physical therapy from there.  She seemed upbeat and happy.  She had started dialysis, which she hated.  The last time I talked to her we were making plans for me to take her to dialysis and then hang out and have dinner at her place.  I never got to pick her up.  She went to the first treatment of dialysis that week and had a heart attack as she was waiting.  She never woke up again.  I am at least grateful that our last conversation was a good one, and she was in good spirits.  We didn’t bicker at all, which is mildly shocking.  But I didn’t get to tell her I really did enjoy her, or tell her I liked seeing movies with her (even really bad ones), or that I always liked her spaghetti the best.  Or goodbye.

My mother was not a saint.  There are things that she did in her life that I would not consider commendable.  She was stubborn as anyone I have ever met in my life.  Sometimes when I talked about my mom the word “infuriating” would slip out….regularly.  She was often close-minded about the weirdest things.  “I could never date a bald man.”  But she was nice.  She was SO nice.  Anyone who ever met her could never say otherwise.  These are the things she should be remembered for.

My mom, after letting her gradndaughter Remy work on her hair.

I really miss her, more than these (or any) words can say.


Fun with Google Maps

I am a huge fan of the writer, Bill Bryson.  He used to write primarily hilarious travel books.  However, he seems to be interested in EVERYTHING now , and therefore has to write about everything.  I just recently finished his most recent book, At Home.  In this book he talks about history, but using the things that you find in your home.

A little, seemingly insignificant event happened to me in college that really made me more interested in houses and the histories within them.  I used to live in an off-campus house when I went to school at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.  I LOVED my house.  It was 5 bedrooms, hardwood floors, dining room, garage (without functional doors, but a garage nonetheless), and a small yard.  I had great roommates too.  I have nothing but fond memories of my time there.  One of my roommates my senior year was dating a fellow named Zack (whom she eventually married).  The two of them were visiting with some of Zack’s family one day when Zack’s grandfather was asking her about college life.  When he found out she was living off campus, he asked her where abouts.  She told him it was south of town.  He said, “Oh!  I used to live south of town.  What street?”  She said, “2nd and Fess.”  He said, “Wow!  That’s near where I grew up!  I grew up ON Fess!”  He asked her what the address was and she told him his old address!  We were living in Zack’s grandfather’s house!  WHAT?!

That one experience left me so interested in the history, not only of our own home, but of homes in general.  I wonder what life was like for Zack’s grandfather in Bloomington in the 1930s.  I can’t even imagine.  I am guessing there were less couches on front porches.  I am guessing there was much less frisbee played down the middle of the street in the summertime.

So one of the things about genealogy that has me most interested is using Google Maps to see where my ancestors are from.  Using the census records (usually starting in 1900) on Ancestry.com you can find the addresses to anyone you’re seeking.  One problem I have come upon is that there are never addresses for farms (mostly because there weren’t really addresses for them).  Sometimes you can work out a nearby intersection, but that’s about it.

It’s interesting to see what the landscape looks like.  Even if it’s obvious that the home is no long on the property, you see their proximity to other places within a short walk.  Streetview, in Google Maps, has made it possible to even see what the exact home looks like from the front.  Even if some of the houses addresses may not be lined up EXACTLY with the homes, you can generally get the feel of the street.

Some homes are amazing, glowing in the sun on tree-lined streets.  Some houses, as I have stated in an earlier post, look like total crack dens.  Some houses look like they were probably once amazing…and are now homes to the animals and intravenous drug users, hiding from the cops.

I have included here some of my favorites so far.

My Fam

1910 Home of Bascom Taylor Lacey at 1559 Washington Street in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

This is the home of my great great great grandfather, Bascom Taylor Lacey.  Here is an example of a time when I was like, “I wonder if there’s any way to prove that I should have inherited his money.”  Amazing house, right?  And that name….Bascom Taylor Lacey.  A man with that name SHOULD live in that house.  A fun little sidenote about B.T.  (a nickname he often used), he was the President of the Green Ridge Club, which was a cycling club in the Scranton, PA area.  I learned recently from American Pickers that biking was a rich person’s hobby back in the early 1900s.  Bikes were VERY expensive.  Very.

The parking lot for this theatre seems to have taken over my great great uncle's home.

So, I have a great great uncle named Allison Kinsley.  It took me quite awhile to come to the realization that this man was actually a man.  Allison?  Yeah, he was a guy.  He moved to Denver, far far from the rest of my Kinsley family in Pennsylvania and New England.  He lived here in 1920 (I don’t know till when because I still don’t have a death date for him) and the Esquire didn’t open till 1927.  It was redone in the 1960s, as you can tell by its ugly boxiness.  But how about that Old Timey font on the front!  Capitol Hill is supposed to be one of the cooler and trendier ‘hoods in all of Denver.  I’m proud of my Uncle Allison.

Tucson home where my great grandparents lived.

You may be thinking, “Are those cacti in the front yard?”  That’s what I was thinking, and yes…yes, they are.  This is the house (or at least right next to the house) where my great great grandparents John Darl and Eva (Hill) Munn, moved in their middle life after their kids had grown.  They ended up moving back to Ohio later in their lives, but they spent quite awhile in Arizona when there was still not much going on there.

Andrew’s Fam

East 12th Street in Indianapolis, Indiana. There is really a house behind this.

When we were growing up we lived in a neighborhood for a few years where there existed an urban legend of a man.  His name was Weedy Man.  We called him that because he lived in a house that was so surrounded by weeds and foliage that you truly could not even see it.  When I looked this house of Andrew’s great great grandmother, Fannie (Galloway) Bastion Johnson, I was brought back to my childhood of terrifying neighborhood characters.  It looks like it was quite a large house and was probably quite lovely in 1920.  It is currently a hot mess.  This neighborhood is known for being in the middle of Sketchyville.

2021 Nowland Avenue - The home of many generations of Andrew's grandmother's family.

This house, on the near NE side of Indianapolis is where Andrew’s grandmother lived as a child.  I saw a picture of what this house looked like back then and wish I had it to post along with all this.

Friends’ Fams

4054 Saint Ferdinand Ave in St. Louis, Missouri. This was the home of Mary Margaret Hardin in 1930.

The one on the left is the home of my friend Ragin’ Nortron’s great grandmother.  You may remember a story I recently posted about Ragin’ and his family in Wabash, Indiana.  Much of his family is also from the St. Louis area.  This was one of my favorites.  You can tell that these houses were probably amazing when they were built and before they started becoming vacant lots.  I LOVE that this home still has shards of glass sitting in the frames.  I can just imagine the exciting adventures that go on behind those empty window frames.

This used to be a house.

As we can see from the steps, this used to be a house, and was most likely the house of Andrew Brosman in 1930.  He was the great grandfather of my friend C-Dogg.  He only lived for a very short time in Indianapolis, but when he did he was located at this home at 2546 N. Harding Street.  It was probably a great place to live then, within a short walk of Riverside Park.

Illustration of Riverside Park from an old postcard.

I am a traveling fiend, and sometimes I feel like Google maps lets me take little trips to the places where my family comes from without ever leaving this great. comfy, green chair.

Any genealogists out there enjoy this little mini-hobby as well?  Anyone have another fabulous use for Google Maps?