The woman in these pictures is Julie. In childhood, her Hungarian-born coal miner father nicknamed her Juliska; she helped deliver her mother’s ninth baby on the family farm before the doctor could be summoned; she played high school basketball and dreamed of becoming a nurse. She modeled hats in Manhattan. She never used the term housewife. Eventually, she would become a self-described “domestic engineer” par excellence. She was a world traveller who climbed the Great Pyramid of Giza and once found buried treasure on a beach in Belize. In Tunisia, a trader in the bazaar offered her husband one hundred camels in exchange for such a strong woman.
I knew her as Grandma, maker of delicious cinnamon toast.
She loved kids. You can see the pride and joy on her face as she poses with her firstborn, Marge, who would eventually have six more siblings (including my dad, who was born a year after these photos were taken).
She lost her sister Irene, their brother Harry, and his son Adrian to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Then, she herself fought multiple myeloma for five long years of ups and downs before it took her in 2003. Thanks to medicine and many loving caregivers, she made it to my wedding on a walker just three months before she died. I cannot tell you how much it meant to have her sitting next to me on that special day, and how sad I still am that any children I have someday (God willing) will never get to meet her.
The little girl in the photos, my aunt Marge, succumbed to an aggressive form of lymphoma in 2013. She was also amazing in her own right, and I’ll tell you more about her in an upcoming post.
Julie, Marge, Irene, Harry, Adrian – these are just a few of the people I’m running to honor on May 24. You can lend your support here.