See these people? They just look like any other family – any other large, Catholic family from the last generation. Don’t let them fool you. They were superheroes. In a time when it must have been a total struggle to feed all those mouths, this family made certain that each and every one had a good education, that they contributed to their community, that they had impact through their actions and their families and their volunteer contributions and their very lives. They were just plain good folk. They made the world truly a better place.
They went off to school, and excelled, or so my mother told me! They gained early acceptance to college or teachers college or university or the seminary. In every choice they made of career, they excelled. They chose life partners well, too, people that they loved with all their hearts, that they supported through difficult times and good, that they nursed or fed or supported to the best of their ability. Most of them stayed in New Brunswick. It’s like the tide going out now that they are gone. Others moved here and there, some all over the place. Everywhere they went, they left their mark – not just a little mark, either – but significant contributions to Canada or the US or the world.
I remember when my mother passed away being astonished at the sheer numbers that turned out for her funeral. To me, she was mom. At her funeral I saw what she was to everyone else. They crowded the church, they spilled out onto the street in front. My MOM? Hard to understand when I spent so much time telling myself that she really didn’t know what she was talking about…mothers and daughters, you know.
The last member of the family, my Aunt Eileen, passed away this week. I remember such wonderful stories about my aunt – tales of wild adventures with her sisters, outsmarting the nuns at school, her strong and abiding love for Bliss, her aptly named husband. I always loved the Aunt Eileen stories – I wish I could have heard more of them. I rather suspect she was the sense of humour of the family, the one looking for a chuckle wherever she went, the one providing a welcome respite from the stresses of everyday life. You could always see that mischief shining out of her eyes, yet she was also so kind and giving – a lovely blend. She. too, was the heart of her community, her church, and her family.
The Warners were a tight-knit family, caring fiercely for each other and just as fiercely offering opinions to each other. I remember loud discussions, enwreathed with howls of laughter. I remember serious phone calls through life crises, and the warmth they all extended to we, the offspring. I’m sure we were all the objects of much discussion back and forth and I know we are the better for it.
So, Superheroes, wherever you are, thanks. You probably never knew the effect you had on the places you lived, the hearts you touched. But we know. Bravo. And love to all the families you’ve, alas, left behind. We miss you, always.
Could hardly agree with you more about the Warner family you were born in and that married into. Yet, while they were of my generation, this is not as significant to me as it is was as a family that they were so different. Generational behaviours patterns, I would argue, explain more things postwar than prewar. One important factor you do not mention is that they were Irish, through and through. That, combined with the Irish brand of Catholicism would explain an awful lot about their circle-the-wagons attitude to foreign criticism and the mixture of love, tolerance and aggression that characterized relations within the family. It is only since my Dorothy Anne died, for example, that I have learned in talking with some of her bridge partners how aggressive they considered her to be as a player; something I was vaguely aware of as her spouse but never paid much attention to. And, therein lies a lesson for all of us in genealogical terms; we are seen in a very different light after we go – something for us all to remember as we grow older. Nice going! Dorothyann.
What a wonderful tribute and rich heritage you have.