Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Virginia Ryan at St. Margaret Hall

Virginia Vonderheide Ryan moved into St. Margaret Hall in Obryonville in 1973.  In October 1976 they published a newsletter where Grandma was featured as the Resident of the Month.  It held some interesting information that I'm sure we would have never known otherwise.  Here is what it said:

Many people have bad habits:  most people have good habits, but few people make habits!  It all started when she was eight years old.  her mother gave her a piece of material, a needle and some thread . . . and she's been sewing ever since.  She has designed and made everything from wedding dresses, band uniforms, school uniforms, altar cloths, priests' vestments and nun's habits.

Her name is:  VIRGINIA RYAN

Virginia was born in Covington, Kentucky to Mr. and Mrs. Vonderheide, who also had a son . . . but Virginia was definitely her Daddy's pet.  And she loved to ride.  When she wasn't riding her father's knee, she was riding her St. Bernard dog, Guy, or their horse.  She still loves to ride.

When Virginia was five, the Vonderheide's purchased a home and shoe store in Elmwood.  One of her classmates all through St. Aloysious School was a certain Roy Ryan . . . but it took an "old maid" Sodality President to make the young couple realize they were meant for each other.  They have 44 wonderful years together.

Life in the Ryan home was a picnic!  Just about every Sunday, weather permitting, they would pile children, food and drinks in the car, and away they'd go.  They lived in a huge house in Wyoming with three girls and a boy:  Jim, Virginia, Evelyn and Florence (who died and left 6 children).  When the grandchildren came, they even would charter a bus for a family outing.

The Ryans were avid card players, and belonged to several clubs, but most of their efforts were geared to children and ultimately, 25 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren (the record here at St. Margaret Hall). 

Their downstairs playroom was fully equipped to cook for and serve at least 35 people, which happened at least every holiday, and sometimes between.  Then Virginia would back 100 rolls not to mention the other goodies.  She had one certain basket, and when the grandchildren saw that, they would squeal with delight, for it always held pecan rolls . . . 10 dozen!!!!

Christmas was especially outstanding.  There was great excitement when erecting the crib set (hand made by Roy) on the front lawn.  The figures were 6 ft. in kneeling position.

After 25 years in Wyoming and when all the children were married, the family moved to Amberley Village for another 25 years, but the family rituals continued.

Virginia came to St. Margaret Hall three years ago.  She still makes all her own clothes, not to mention wedding dresses for her grandchildren, Purcell band uniforms, vestments and nuns' habits.  She also does all the mending for the residents on the third floor.  If her hand is not holding a needle, it is holding a rosary or a telephone, for she keeps in close touch with her God, her family and her friends, many of whom are nuns.

Virginia is just about the busiest resident at St. Margaret Hall and just about the most giving.  That's why she is just about the happiest and also just about the nicest!!!!

Pictured here are Virginia, Evelyn and Florence showing off the three different styles of bridesmaids dresses Grandma made for the three girls' weddings.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Virginia Ryan - Celebrating the Holidays

Virginia Ryan was a matriarch -- and I mean that in the best sense of the word.  In the eulogy I prepared for my mother's Celebration of Life, I wrote the following:

You were born a Ryan.  Remember how we would joke about coming from a long line of strong women?  Your mother shaped our family identity and participation in family life was not an option.  My childhood is filled with the memories of large family dinners on each of the holidays, visions of a beautifully set table with Grandma’s crystal and china, and the cousins singing as we did the dishes.  How many hours we could spend watching old movies which recorded the ever-increasing size of our families as we scurried about on the front lawn collecting Easter eggs.  Who can forget the aroma of the freshly baked pecan rolls or the trip to Clifty Falls?
I know that it is not unusual, if a choice has to be made, for husbands to defer to their wives and spend the larger part of the holiday with the wife's family.  However, in this family, it didn't make any difference if the wife was a Ryan or the husband was.  You just knew where you were going to spend the holiday.  No questions asked.  I used to wonder about this as a child, but there was no place else I'd rather be.  Where else could all of us spend the holidays with cousins of the same age -- we came in "cohorts".

Every Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years (until that became too much) and Easter was spent at Grandma and Grandpa's.  I often think that not everyone would be so welcoming to families that arrive with 4 - 8 children.  If I had to pull something like that off, I'd shudder.

Until Great-Grandpa Vonderheide died in 1959, he had the prize position at the head of the table.  Grandpa inherited it after that.  All of us share common memories:
  • red or black cows made with vanilla ice cream and either red "pop" or root beer
  • butter cookies made with a cookie press that had little sprinkles on them
  • presents for each of us grouped by family
  • a group picture of each family to give testament to our ever-expanding family sizes
  • the bottom drawer of the buffet that held toys -- but whatever you did, you were not to touch the dining room table
  • sneaking into Grandpa's workshop in the basement which was off-limits
  • singing as we did the dishes and cleaned everything up
  • believing that Grandma had "eyes in the back of her head" and that she'd catch you for sure.
  • knowing you "belonged" and were loved
I was able to dig up one picture of a typical family dinner.  See who you recognize.  I noticed right away that my mother was pregnant. 

Easter was another special occasion.  My brother, Dan, told me on the phone last night that he remembers the annual Easter egg hunt.  As one of the younger ones, he remembers being "coached" by his older cousins on finding the eggs.  We all knew that after we found two eggs, it was up to us to assist the younger ones.  We all remember the family movies of us coming into the house in family groups and parading around wearing our Easter best.

I was happy to find a picture in my photo album that was labeled "Dan".  Notice the age of the cars in the background.  You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

Nothing would give me more pleasure than my dear siblings and cousins adding some of their remembrances in the comments box.  They will then become a part of "our" record.

We had an unmatched childhood -- one that has served me my entire life.

Virginia Vonderheide Ryan - II

Raising Children

Virginia Ryan loved being a mother.  She had four children in very short order:  Virginia, Evelyn, Florence and Jim.  All four children were born in five years.  As children, Grandma had a desk in a little alcove off of the living room (I have it now), and this family portrait was on it.

Pictured from left to right:  
Florence, Virginia, Jim, Evelyn, Roy and Virginia

Virginia was protective of her family.  Aunt Evelyn told me that when they were growing up, St. James School was located just on the other side of the fence in their backyard.  Grandpa had installed a gate making it easy to get to school.  When Jim was in the 8th Grade, the school relocated to a new facility on Springfield Pike.  "Poor" Jim had to walk to Springfield Pike for school as he was in the first 8th Grade Class to graduate from the new school.  Grandma did not like this one bit.

 You can bet that Grandma sewed all of the girl's dresses and probably made their hats.


I recently called Uncle Jim because I realized that he "came of age" during World War II and I knew he had been in the Navy. He told me that he was going to be drafted when he turned 18 in July 1945. Not wanting to be in the Army, he made the decision to enlist in the Navy in June. He attended basic training and then was scheduled to go to Hawaii following a week's leave at home. Meanwhile, the war ended and his orders were changed. I will tell his story in another post.

Jim never saw a day of combat, but that does not mean he was exempt from the "horror" of war. He was assigned to the "cleanup" crew assigned to the Pacific. Need I say more. His mother was understandably very distressed at the thought of her only son going off to war. They lucked out.

Note the picture on the desk!

As I type this, I realize that today is the 16th Anniversary of my mother's death.  I dedicate the page to her memory and the sense of family that she instilled in me.

Virginia Vonderheide Ryan - I

Virginia Vonderheide Ryan - The Early Years

I love this picture!  Once again Roy's gaze upon his bride is priceless! Roy was of German/Irish descent, but Virginia was of German descent.  For the second time in two generations there was a German/Irish union in our family.

In those days, it was common for the bride and groom to pose for a formal portrait.  I love Grandma and Grandpa's picture.  The witnesses to the wedding were the brother of the bride, Val, and the sister of the groom, Florence.

Before Virginia was married, she worked as a "milliner."  A milliner is someone who makes hats. Given this history, I assume that Grandma made the two hats in this picture.  How beautiful!  Her ability to sew and create is something that somehow did not find its way to me, despite having women who loved to sew from both sides of my family.

As mentioned earlier, the "Ryans" purchased what would become the family home when Aunt Evelyn was three years old.  Pictured below is a proud woman behind the wheel of the family car.  The second picture has Florence, Virginia and Evelyn on the running board.  I remember Grandma saying that when she started driving you did not have to have a driver's license.  I love the confidence she seems to display in these pictures.  I've always said that I am descended from a line of strong women.

I don't have a lot of pictures of Grandma in her younger years, but here is another one of my favorites.  Virginia is the one on the left.  Aunt Evelyn is fairly certain that the woman pictured on the right is Roy's sister, Florence.

The pictures seem to be representative of a beautiful family.  But one thing was missing -- she had yet to have a son.  It wouldn't be long before James August Ryan was born, making the family complete. I'm assuming that Jim was named after both of his grandfathers -- James Hugh Ryan and August Henry Vonderheide. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Virginia Vonderheide

Virginia Vonderheide was the first-born child of August Henry Vonderheide and Anna Catherine Moser.  She was born on May 1, 1899 in Covington, Kentucky.  Her place of birth is listed on the Covington birth record as 1711 Holman Street.  Her father's occupation is listed as "shoe cutter."

Virginia Elizabeth was baptized at Mother of God Church in Covington and her Godparents were listed as Gerhard Woehrmann and Elizabeth Vonderheide.

Mother of God Church played a big role in the early Vonderheide family history -- both Anna and August lived on the same street as the Church and got married there.  I visited it about a year ago and it still serves a vibrant, active congregation -- many of whom live in the suburbs and choose to drive to this historic Church.

On December 23, 1900 the Vonderheides added a younger brother, Val to the family.  It wasn't long before the family relocated to Elmwood Place, Cincinnati. August Vonderheide opened a shoe store there.  Anna occasionally worked in the store.  The family eventually lived in that beautiful home on Springfield Pike.  Aunt Evelyn said that a relative, who she believed was named "Mary", assisted in the care of Virginia and Val.  Life was good for this young family living the American dream.

It was traditional in the early 1900s for children to make their First Communions at the age of 13.  Here are the First Communion pictures of Virginia and Val.

As a young woman, Virginia was uncomfortable with her rather pronounced "overbite".  These were the days before orthodontia and you had no choice but to live with it.  Both Aunt Evelyn and my mother have told me that Virginia was actually glad when she had to get dentures, eliminating this problem for the first time in her life.  Here is a picture of Virginia when she was about 16 years old.

Luckily for us, Virginia must have taken a second look at "that old Roy Ryan" leading to the next chapter of her life.  I will discuss the young wife and mother in the next post.

Grandpa Ryan

Later posts will discuss Grandpa as a father (in the context of posts about each of his children).  But for now, I want to write about Grandpa.  Grandpa reveled in the role.  In the end there were 25 grandchildren:  7 Joneses, 4 McCaffertys, 6 Hansens, and 8 Ryans.  Grandma and Grandpa loved their family.  When I was young, Grandma and Grandpa sold the family home in Wyoming and built a two-bedroom ranch on Galbraith Rd. in Amberley Village.

Their new home was perfect for what was to come.  Each holiday we would fill the basement with long tables that were able to seat everyone by family.  In the beginning, Great-Grandpa Vonderheide had the place of honor at the head of the table.  Following his death, Grandpa held that seat.  The table was set with crystal and china for the adults -- I am the proud owner of all of it.  We had a routine for doing dishes following each holiday dinner.

Every Christmas each grandchild (with the assistance of parents) was allotted $10 to buy gifts.  Evey tells the story of wanting some special material that was going to "break the budget".  After searching for material that fell within the guidelines, Grandma went ahead and purchased what Evey really wanted.  Evey was spending the night at Grandma and Grandpa's house and heard them discussing this budget dilemma.  She recalls Grandpa saying that she (Evey) was worth it.  What a memory.

At Christmas Grandpa would put up two displays in the yard.  One would be of Santa, his sleigh and all of the reindeer.  He had constructed all of it.  The other was of a life-size manger.  It was surrounded by fir trees.

Luckily for us, Grandma Ryan wrote the date and names of everyone in this picture.  The picture was taken on January 2, 1955.  Uncle Jim is on the left holding Terry.  Moving to the right is Jim, Patty, Tom, Kathleen, Chuck, Bill, Carol, Evelyn, Tim, (front row - Diane, Mary Ellen, Karen and Steven).

Every Easter found all of us in our Easter best, often with the girls wearing hats, out in the front yard for the Easter Egg hunt.  From the very beginning, we tended to be born in groups of three:  Year 1 - Kathleen, Chuck and Bill, Year 2 - Tom, Evey and Carol, etc.  We had built-in cousins who were comparable in age.  What a childhood!

When we were older, I remember a trip to Container Corporation on Wooster Pike where Grandpa worked as a machinist.  This particular business produced corrugated paper boxes, among other things.  Grandpa arranged for all of us to tour the plant to get a better feel for what he did for a living.

Eventually Grandpa was diagnosed with cancer.  A tumor had grown into his jaw.  The surgery was intense.  They literally had to remove his jaw and try to fashion the semblance of a jaw with a rib they removed from his rib cage.  Cosmetically, it had to be hard.  He was unable to eat solid foods and had to hold a tissue at the corner of his mouth to catch saliva.  If his situation got him down, I was not aware of it.  Knowing he was not going to survive this, Grandma and Grandpa hired a bus and took the entire family for a day at Clifty Falls State Park in Indiana.  I'm sure my aunts and uncles were aware of just how ill Grandpa was -- to some degree I am sure I was aware.  However, our grandparents gave us one more priceless childhood memory on that bus.  Grandma made her famous pecan rolls and Uncle Jim tried to "steal" them before we got there.

Here is a picture taken with Grandpa with all seven Jones kids from what looks like the view of Cincinnati from Devou Park in Kentucky.  He is holding Don.  Sometimes I am sad that the "little kids" do not share the same memories as the "big kids" in our family.  Hopefully they will know that they were loved.

Royal Joseph Francis Ryan was died on October 26, 1965 at the age of 65.  He is buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Montgomery, Ohio.

Roy Ryan - Part II

The Look of Love Is in His Eyes

I love this picture. Look at the way he is looking at her. I have another picture with the same kind of look in his eye. He was in love.

The morning we had breakfast together sharing recollections, Evey reminded me that apparently Virginia didn't have love at first site for Roy. She went to a dance and Roy walked her home. When her mother asked her who walked her home, she is alleged to have replied "Oh, that old Roy Ryan." Her mother asked her what was wrong with Roy Ryan?

One thing for sure, Roy was not the greatest financial prospect as we discussed before, but he must have been persistent. On September 7, 1921 the two were married. Roy was 21 and Virginia was 22 years old.

They initially lived with her parents in the lovely home where they celebrated their wedding. Again, look at Roy's gaze! He certainly looks like the contented groom.

Given the difficult family situation Roy found himself in with the death of his father, it amazes me that he could grow up and become such a wonderful husband, father and provider. My experience of my grandfather is that he was a "family man" in every way. He had three daughters and one son -- Virginia, Evelyn, Florence and finally a son, Jim. Here are some of my recollections (and I hope those reading this add their own recollections to the comment section. I will incorporate them into the blog).
  • There isn't a Jones alive who doesn't remember Grandpa telling us that ketchup was made from "old socks and dirty rags." Don't ask me to explain this.
  • I remember being held by Grandpa and having him sing "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" to me as he stroked my arm. Aunt Evelyn said that was one of his favorite songs. He also like the "Old Rugged Cross" and Aunt Evelyn said they wanted it as part of his funeral Mass. The request was denied because the song was not considered to be "Catholic".
  • Tim told me that Grandpa had a habit of "tipping his hat" anytime he passed a Catholic Church.
  • He was very religious and attended Mass every day in his later years. He was also a Knight of Columbus. You can read about the Knights of Columbus by clicking on this link: Knights of Columbus

I had the opportunity to have breakfast with Jim and Carol Ryan, Evelyn and Charlie McCafferty, Evey and my husband a few weeks ago. I was trying to verify some information before I wrote recent Ryan posts. I asked Uncle Jim how he was like his father. You may enjoy his response, as well as Aunt Evelyn's response in the background.

In the next post, I will focus on Grandpa's role as a grandparent.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Roy Ryan - Part I

My Grandfather, Roy Ryan

Roy Ryan holding me (Kathleen)
 I was able to write all about the Ryan family during April, except for Grandpa. It wasn't from a lack of materials -- conversely, I think it was from too much material. Where do you start writing about someone you loved so much?

Grandpa was born on April 10, 1900. He was the 7th of nine children of James Hugh and Mary Rose. It was the beginning of a new century -- full of promise for the Ryan family. He was my Godfather, following a sort of family tradition of making grandparents the Godparents of the first-borns. My Godmother was my grandmother, Norine Jones. I was the "first" grandchild, beating my cousin, Chuck McCafferty by 18 days.

Roy is a role model to me in so many ways. His father died of pneumonia when he was only 13 years old. In the days before any kind of Social Security, he was forced to drop out of school to help support his mother and two younger siblings. Last Saturday, I had the privilege of meeting my Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Charlie, Uncle Jim and Aunt Carol for breakfast. My husband Bill, cousin Evelyn and I got to hear some of the stories.

With little education, young Roy tried to make money in any way that he could. He had many odd jobs. Uncle Charlie recalled many stories that Grandpa had shared with him when they were working together on projects. Charlie said that there was a business in Elmwood Place where Grandpa was able to work with a variety of tools. Charlie said that Grandpa was a great "duplicator." He apparently could analyze how almost anything worked and make copies of it. This led to his eventual employment as a "machinist."

Aunt Evelyn recalled the difficult times of the Great Depression. Grandpa was unemployed. He supported his family by accepting any odd jobs he could get. At the time, many homes were heated with coal. She recalled that Grandpa could earn 25 cents for moving a TON of coal! Grandma put her sewing skills to work and was paid for clothing she made, including suits. (Interestingly, I remember asking my mother about how the family survived the Depression and she didn't feel like the family suffered. She made the comment that Great-Grandpa had a shoe store, and that shoes are a necessity regardless of the economy. She felt that they were in a much better position than many other families).

Aunt Evelyn said that due to Grandpa's ability to fix almost anything, they weren't the recipients of "new" toys. She said that he would see all kinds of toys thrown out in the trash and that he would bring them home and fix them up.

When first married, Grandma and Grandpa lived with her parents, as did Grandma's brother Val, and his wife, Clara. They lived in a big, beautiful home on Springfield Pike in Wyoming that was torn down and is the current site of the Wyoming Board of Education. The arrangement continued until Clara gave birth to Dolly and Virginia (Grandma) gave birth to my mother. Aunt Evelyn said that Roy wasn't really too excited about the prospect of moving out because his mother-in-law, Anna, was a fantastic cook.

The young family lived in Elmwood Place. The 1923 City Directory lists their address as 158 W. 73rd St. Roy's occupation is listed as a "machinist." About 1925, the family purchased the family home located at 415 Worthington in Wyoming. Aunt Evelyn said that they purchased the home for $7000 in 1925.

When I first started writing about Roy Ryan, I commented that I suffered from "too much" material. I put together a photoshow that includes some of my favorite photos of Grandpa. You can view it (and I hope you do) by clicking on this link.