After my Aunt Mary’s memorial service everyone was welcomed to a dinner reception about which were placed photographs of my aunt’s life and family. When I saw the two of these posed together I whipped out my cell phone to take a picture of them doing my best to hide the glare of the Tucson sun shining on them. Aunt Mary’s neice was behind me as I took the picture. She hadn’t seen them before so I told her their back story.
A few folks have no doubt stumbled upon my old web page with the pictures I took with my new Yashika Camera of my Grandmother’s Topeka home after it was blown off its foundation by a 1966 tornado. It flattened the neighborhood and six people died on her block as I recall.
The picture on the left side was taken by one of my uncles when they went to salvage things from the debris. You can see the top of a poster posed in front of the wreckage. That poster was blown up from the picture to its right of my Aunt Mary when she was a May Queen candidate at Topeka’s Washburn College. I used to marvel at this eight-foot tall poster every time I went to my Grandmother, Ruth Welty’s, basement where it was retired after Mary’s successful campaign. In the aftermath of the tornado its a little worse for wear.
My Dad was nine years older than his little sister. He had given up the life of being a bank clerk for his Uncle by the time of the May Queen festivities and was enrolled at Washburn to earn a law degree. I was in the picture by this point and vaguely remember the “barracks” (WW 2 army recruit housing) that we lived in on campus for all the newly married parents of the baby boom. While at law school my politically savvy Dad realized he could be of help to her campaign.
Any Washburn student was eligible to vote for May Queen but the older law students had little time for undergraduate hijinks and never bothered to participate. My Dad was determined to change that. He put the publicity poster for his little sister in the law school and began rounding up votes. This fetching poster was a big hit and he was wildly successful.
I had seen the ruined poster’s picture years before but had no idea I would get to see it again or that I would see the original 8 by 10 inch photo beside it. I should add that my Aunt Mary was a stunning woman even at age 82 and every bit as svelte as she was in her collegiate days.
When I was born my Aunt Mary called me “Treensie.” Every year on my birthday she would call and ask if Treensie was home. The last time was December. She was calling from a hospital where she was about to undergo a major operation although she did not yet know this at the time. Shortly afterword I learned that she was in grave condition. Coincidentally, I was scheduled to be in Northeastern Arizona shortly to visit my Brother-in-Law who would be wintering in Bullhead, City. I bought a ticket to fly to see her in what would have been the middle of this last week. That would end up being two days before what would become Aunt Mary’s memorial service. I just missed her but she would have been pleased by the memories her grandchildren told the gathering at St. Albans Episcopal Church about their “Grandmary.” What a perfect name for her.