Sunday, June 21, 2015

Memories of Dad

Today is Father’s Day.  What to many is a day of celebrating dad, for others it is a time to remember and miss dad.  This is the 10th (I can’t believe it!) Father’s Day without my dad and I miss him as much today as I did on that first Father’s Day.  But what saddens me the most is that as time marches on, the memories seem to become more faded.  So in order to preserve as many memories as possible, here’s a little about my dad, Gordon Levy.

My beautiful picture

In 1982, my dad was awarded the Legacy Medal, an award given annually by the San Jose Hospital Foundation.  How exciting to drive down the street in San Jose and see my dad smiling down at me.  I like to think things haven’t changed all that much now.

Gordon Legacy Medal 1982
Gordon F. Levy
1982 Legacy Medal Award winner

My dad never met a person who didn’t quickly become his friend.  He loved to be around people and would often exclaim “let’s go where the PEOPLE are”.  He’d find joy in visiting with his seat mate on an airplane and by the time he landed, he knew pretty much everything about them – their name, where they lived, why they were going wherever they were going and, often times, he’d even have their phone number.  I think his great grandson has a bit of Gordy in him when he announced “strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet”.  Ah, dear boy, your great grandfather would have loved to hear you say that!

My beautiful picture
Dad and his new friends

My dad loved to take pictures.  His photography wasn’t anything out of the ordinary but boy did he have fun with it (as evidenced by the thousands of slides which have now been scanned).  I can’t remember ever going anywhere noteworthy with him when he didn’t have a camera (or three) around his neck and we’d have to stop so he could take one shot or another.  Since Dad was the photographer, there didn’t seem to be too many photos of him but after going through the slides, I’ve learned that he must have shared the camera with someone so he could be in at least a few photos.  Thanks for that, Dad!

By looking at the tree in this photo, I’d guess he was in Monterey or Carmel or somewhere near there.  Mom and Dad always went to the Bing Crosby golf tournament (now AT&T Pro-Am) in Pebble Beach every year so maybe this was during one of their excursions.  Note the cameras hanging around his neck. 

My beautiful picture
Looks like he’s checking his phone!

The photo above also reminds me that Dad loved to wear hats.  He was a stock broker for most of his career and off he’d go every day to work dressed to the nines in his suit and matching hat.  After his death, we donated all of those hats (remember, he never threw anything away) to the community theater group in the area.

Dad was a devoted and faithful Rotarian.  I remember the annual Father/Daughter luncheon where we’d get dressed up and go to the weekly Rotary meeting with Dad.  What a thrill it was in 1966 when Dad was the President of the San Jose Rotary – we were the guests of honor!  One of his proudest achievements in his life was his perfect attendance record for 51 years – if we were on vacation we always had to find a Rotary meeting so Dad wouldn’t miss a meeting.  And it looks like he found one here!

My beautiful picture

Dad loved to have fun and was always game to try new things, even if it involved riding an elephant!

My beautiful picture
Note the camera around his neck

Mom and Dad loved to travel.  And boy did Dad love to take photos of anything possible in whatever city of country they were in (did I mention Dad loved to take photos?).  When we went through the slides so that we could scan them, we found hundreds of photos of landscape, scenery, and buildings which, for the most part, we couldn’t identify so out they went.  But it looks like Dad might have given his camera to a passerby to snap this photo.

My beautiful picture
He didn’t give up the camera case, though!

Dad took a decade long break from the rigors of the stock market and worked for the San Jose Chamber of Commerce, Visitors and Convention Bureau, in the 1970’s.  It was a perfect job for him because he got to be around people all the time.  And when they traveled, he often times found the local Chamber of Commerce and stopped in to make some new friends.

My beautiful picture
What?  Nothing around his neck?

Mom and Dad spent their entire married life in San Jose, all in the same house after their first 7 years of marriage.  They were both sports fans and became quite friendly with Bruce Jenner, and his wife Chrystie, while he was training at San Jose City College for the 1976 Olympics.  So it was only natural that he’d buy a shirt from the Bruce Jenner Michelob Light Classic, which appears to have been a track and field event in 1982.  Dad was a former track star (Fresno High School and Stanford) so I can imagine he sat through every race of the event. 
  My beautiful picture
Wonder if that shirt would be worth anything today?

Dad was a loving dog owner.  I don’t think I remember a time when they didn’t have at least one dog in the house.  He loved these two little ones as it wasn’t too often he could pick up two of their dogs at the same time.

My beautiful picture
Tinka and Buffy

One thing Dad never wavered from was his devotion to Mom.  They did everything together – bridge, golf, travel, Rotary events, and Stanford sports to name a few.  There are so many pictures of them doing crazy things and all of those memories have now been laid to rest.  But at least we have some photos and our imaginations to try to determine what they were doing at any given moment.

My beautiful picture
They were together for over 60 years and married for 55!

The older Dad got, the more emotional he seemed to get, especially with something that was near and dear to his heart.  I can remember at their 50th anniversary celebration he got a little teary as he stood up and addressed the crowd (really just the family of about 13 people).  He was a great speaker but boy, sometimes it got a little tough for him to get the words out.  I didn’t remember any tears flowing at his Legacy Medal Award dinner but by the looks of this picture, I think there might have been a few.

My beautiful picture

Dad wasn’t just a great Dad but he was also a loving Grandpa and had a few years of being a Great Grandpa.  All of us have so many “Gordyisms” which remind us of him constantly.  He waited patiently for the big game to come on TV only to fall asleep once it started, his anxiety at getting to Fred Meyer when he’d come for a visit so he could get some tooth powder, his headphones during critical games so he always knew the score, his exclamation when his grandchildren would arrive at the door of “what are these KIDS doing here?”, to so many more which will forever be etched in our minds.  And as the little ones grow older, even they know some of his best one liners.  He sure would love to hear everyone mimic him.

My beautiful picture
“What are these KIDS doing here”
Nice curlers, girls

And that’s enough about my dad today because it’s getting a bit dusty at this computer.  I guess the emotional gene didn’t stop with Dad.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  We all miss you and love you – well we do!

Gordon Levy c 2005
Gordon Levy
c. 2005

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Family Photos – Hanging Around

I continue to go through photos, albums, and other family items in order to document things for future generations.  Next up, a family photo album that was stashed away in my parents’ home.  To start from the beginning, click here.

Next page includes our grandparents – we spent a lot of time with them when we visited Fresno.

Page 8 - Dig in Sig 1957
Dig in, Sig

This picture of my grandfather, Sigmund Levy, is just how I remember him – a little mischievous and quite a character.  That’s my sister sitting with him and looking like she’s thinking about digging in, too.

Page 8 - Dinner at the chicken farm
Dinner at the chicken farm – 1957
Sheldon Hunter, me, Clara Fitzgerald Martin Hunter (standing), Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy, Geraldine Martin Levy, Sig Levy, Sister Cary

I guess that empty spot would have been for Clara and my dad.  When I posted this photo before a fellow blogger commented about the pearls my mother and grandmother were wearing – can you even imagine that attire today?  We had a BBQ last night and we were all in shorts and t-shirts – no pearls in attendance!

The next two photos are fun – not only the photos but it looks like my sister wrote on the back so we’d know who it was.  Good thinking!

Page 8 - Our Mother
Our Mother

Page 8 - Our Mother back

Looks like she had no intention of sharing her mother with me!

Page 8 - The tall and short of it 1957
The tall & short of it

What’s really interesting about this photo is that my dad wasn’t very tall – maybe 5’9” on a good day.  I always knew my grandfather was short but he was REALLY short. 

And my sister wrote on the back of this one, too.

Page 8 - The tall and short of it back

Next up – random photos of cute little girls.

Page 9 - Oh, so sweet
Oh, so sweet

I wonder if he meant the girls or the goat was sweet.

Page 9 - Carys 1st school picture 1957
Cary’s 1st school picture

Now this is definitely one of the sweetest faces ever!  I was able to spend the day with my sister last weekend – she hasn’t changed a bit!

Page 9 - Grandmother back from Hawaii
Grandmother back from Hawaii

My grandparents did like to go to Hawaii.  They always took a cruise and as this picture shows, Grandma was always dressed to the 9’s.

Page 9 - Cotton what
Cotton what?

I always loved cotton candy but what a mess!  I can just imagine what our faces looked like when we were done eating this mound of sugar.

Page 9 - Cary on the shutter
Cary on the shutter

No selfies necessary when there was a big sister to take the photos!

Page 9 - Cary
No caption for this photo but I know it was 1957 and I know it’s my sister.  What I don’t know is where this dog came from as it wasn’t one of ours.  Maybe she was doing her best to look cute while she begged for a puppy?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Family Photos - Christmas and Birthdays

I continue to go through photos, albums, and other family items in order to document things for future generations.  Next up, a family photo album that was stashed away in my parents’ home.  To read part 1, click here.

The next page of the photo album shows us sitting with Santa.  Although we were raised Jewish, my mother just couldn't bear to leave Santa out of our lives.

Santa's Two Dolls
This was right about my 2nd birthday.

Santa Claus is Coming

Which one is Cary

Ha!  I think my dad's captions are almost as cute as the photos.

Merry Xmas

My mom used to tell me that she hated the letter I.  I'm not sure what the letter I ever did to her but this spelling of my name, Debbe, must have been her attempt to wipe it out of our lives.  She must have been crushed when I changed the spelling to Debi in about the 7th grade.

And then came my sister's birthday in April, 1957, along with a friend, Doug Montgomery.  

Cary's Party

Doug Montgomery's Party

Oh boy, look at that TV!

A helper with the candles
Look at that, it's the original photo of The Greatest Photo Ever Taken in the previous blog post.  It must have been quite an event, and probably pretty costly, to get the photo cropped and printed.  Now we would have it done in seconds.

Young Lady
Sitting Nicely

Wonder what we were laughing at.  Maybe we were reminiscing about The Greatest Photo Ever Taken.  

Looking behind

A big grin
Cary's Party

WAIT - what?  It looks like I'm opening the present while my sister, the birthday girl, looks on.  Was I one of THOSE kids?

And on to another Christmas.

Xmas Carolers
I think my dad must have some dates wrong because last time I showed this picture which was dated 1956 - looks like I'm in the same clothes.  I can't imagine I would have been wearing the same size one year later.

In other news, I was able to confirm where the photo of my parents at Comstock Bonanza (from part 1) was taken.

I wrote to the Virginia City Tourism Commission and asked about the photo and received this reply.

Yes, this was in Virginia City, the tour was of the old Occidental Mine off State Route 341 two miles off C Street, our main drag.  This was the first mine tour that we know of in Virginia City.  It was bought by a private citizen and opened up in the early 1950s.

And the she asked ME if I had any more photos!  You just never know what you have that might be of interest to others.

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Memoriam – William J. Brooks


William J. Brooks was my 2nd Great Grandfather and is the closest ancestor I know to have been killed in the line of duty.  On this Memorial Day, I honor him and his service to our country.

William J. Brooks, son of Bartlett Brooks and Monima Williams, was born in South Carolina in 1835.  He married Sarah Jane Miller (1836-1923) and together they had four children – Albert Preston (1857-1935), John B (1859-1935?), Frances Maria (1860-1936), and William W. (1862-1934).  On July 1, 1862, shortly after William W. was born, William enlisted for a 3 year term in Co. G, 3rd Regt., So. Carolina Volunteers in Columbia, South Carolina.

Battle of Fredericksburg

I don’t know much about William’s service in the Civil War until his company, commanded by Captain R.P. Todd, entered the conflict at Fredericksburg, Virginia where 163 men, including William, were killed.  Killed.  December 13, 1862.  Died in a hospital.  And that’s about all I know.  I don’t know how, I don’t know when, I don’t know exactly where.  All I know is killed.

Which might be all Sarah knew when she met with the War Department on February 10, 1863 in order to secure the money that William never received for serving his country.  5 months and 13 days fighting for his country which netted Sarah a grand total of $98.13.  Four small children, one of whom was my Great Grandmother, to raise with $98.13. 

I do know that Sarah came from an affluent family so I doubt that she was homeless but I can’t imagine the heartache and trials she faced as she went on with her life.  As the story goes (correct me if I’m wrong, cousin Terry) William left his pocket watch with his friend, John H. Anderson, and asked that it be delivered to his wife, Sarah, in the event of his death.  A romance blossomed between the two and they ended up marrying and having three more children.

William J. Brooks is buried in Dials Cemetery, Laurens County, South Carolina.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Family Photos

I continue to try to go through photos, albums, and other family items in order to document things for future generations.  Next up, a family photo album that was stashed away in my parents’ home.  It doesn’t look too exciting from the outside – just a plain album.

But open up the cover and the early years of my family start to unfold.  My plan is to go through the album page by page and document every photo. 

Someone took a lot of time and care in putting together the front page.  I’m guessing this art work was completed by my older sister – she has always been the artistic one of the bunch. ;-)

And then the photos start and, fortunately, my dad did a good job of providing captions and dates for the photos.  This is the first page in its entirety so you can get a flavor of how he mounted the photos with mounting corners (there is even a supply left for me inside the front cover of the album) and captioned them with silver ink on the black pages.

Here’s a close up of the photo – I’m the little one on my mother’s lap.

Page 1 - The 3 Girls - May 1955 - Quite a Family
The 3 Girls
May 1955
Quite a Family

The next page has a few random shots. 

Page 2 - Our Mommy
Our Mommy

Page 2 - Our Mommy June 1956
Our Mommy
June 1956

This one cracks me up.  Maybe I was stunned that my sister was spitting on the cake?

Page 2 - Greatest Picture Ever Taken - Carys 5th birthday - 1957
The Greatest Picture Ever Taken
Cary’s 5th birthday

On to the next page – these seem a bit out of order.

Page 3 - Carys 4th Birthday 1956
Cary’s 4th Birthday

That is my sister at the head of the table.  Look at the little blonde guy blowing on his party favor.

Page 3 - On the Capitol Steps 1956
On the Capitol steps

Check out my curly hair – that didn’t last long!  This would have been in Sacramento, California.

Page 3 - Chris Kringle and Friends 1956
Chris Kringle & Friends

We both look pretty excited to be holding hands with St. Nick.

Page 3 - The Gold Miners 1956
The Gold Miners

WAIT JUST A MINUTE!  When we were scanning all of the slides we ran across this photo – I smile every time I see it (which is daily since we printed a copy and have it sitting next to our TV).

My beautiful picture

Is this the same place?  I think it could be!  My best guess at this point is that it is some place in Virginia City, Nevada so I’ve written to the Historical Society in the area and asked if they could give me any information on it.  Hopefully they’ll have something to share with me – stay tuned.

I hope you’ll join me over the next few weeks/months as I continue to go through the family photo album.