She was my Grandparents’ daughter. She was my Mother’s younger sister. She was my cousins’ mother. She was a wife then a divorcee and then a wife again. She was my Aunt Mary Ellen.My dear Aunt Mary Ellen lost her battle with cancer today. She had two types of cancer – breast cancer and lung cancer. Both had metastasized into bones and brain. She also had an infection. She was very sick.
It’s an odd coincidence that she died nine years after my mother. They were nine years apart in age. My Mom died one month before her 82nd birthday. My Aunt died one month after her 82nd birthday.
My Aunt was tall and skinny. I hope my cousins forgive me if I get any details wrong. When my Aunt was young, she stood 5’11”. Her shoe size was a 12 AAA. She had very long, skinny feet. She also had long, thin fingers. Her arms and legs were very skinny, too. She was a striking woman.
She played the piano, and she had an upright piano in her house on Sheppler Street. She was a bowler. She was also artistic. She painted holiday scenes on the insides of the windows of my Grandmother’s house every Christmas season.
Her laugh was loud and boisterous. She was a bit of a rebel. I remember my Mom telling me the family was all registered Republican. When it came time to vote, my Aunt registered as a Democrat. My Aunt was a smoker. She liked her meat rare (usually red).
She was also divorced at a time (the 1960’s) when that was not all that common. She would end up moving back home to live with her parents so that my grandmother could help watch her three children while she went to work. My Aunt was the “man” of the family for a good many years. As part of their upbringing, my cousins became more self-sufficient at younger ages than I did. They would fix meals, do dishes, do laundry and pick up the house. They all had chores to help out my Aunt.
My Aunt worked the switchboard for Burroughs Corporation in Rochester for a good many years. I remember visiting her one day at work when I was a child and listening to her answer the phone. She sat at an old-fashioned switchboard – the kind where you plugged and unplugged the lines as the calls came in. My Aunt had a “telephone operator” voice with the exaggerated pronunciation when she was at work. I was proud of how professional she was.
We celebrated most holidays together and took vacations together as a family when I was growing up. I have many cherished pictures of us all together. My Aunt bought a pop-up camper after spending many years of camping sleeping in a tent.
My Aunt was the family’s genealogy expert. She spent many, many years researching the Places – her side of the family. She knew a lot about whom was related to whom.
My Aunt was a dog lover. She had a beagle named Heidi when I was small. She had a dog named Angie who I remember taking bites out of the dashboard of one of her cars! Most recently she had a devoted Lab named Penny. Penny was with her when she died.
My Aunt moved away in the mid-1980’s. Her oldest daughter had moved to Texas. My Aunt would move there, too, to be closer to her grandchildren. She swore she would never return to Upstate New York to live. She did come a few times to visit.
While she was in Texas, she would be visited by my Uncle – her ex-husband. He was the only man she had ever loved, and she welcomed him back and they would remarry. He passed away several years ago, but she would be glad for the years that they had together at the end of his life.
My Aunt – in so many ways she was larger than life. She was unique. She was different. As you can see from the pictures I selected, my Aunt was very much about family. I will miss her very much.