Grandma Josephine

My Great Grandmother’s name was Josephine. Up until now, I didn’t know a whole  lot about her, but after a chat with my dad, I learned a whole lot about  my dad’s grandmother on  his mother’s side.

Having just lost my grandmother last fall, my dad and his brother were reminiscing the other day, and I was keen enough to take notes.

Dad  said that his grandfather, Josephine’s husband and my dad’s namesake, died at a very early age. Apparently Henry Sr had been on a hunting trip when he had gotten lost in a winter storm. By the time he made it home, he had gone several days without food and had gotten wet, and then ended up with severe frostbite. Pneumonia set in and in a few days, he passed away. He was just 41 years old. He left Josephine to raise seven kids on her own in a time that the Great Depression was upon  us. My grandmother, the oldest  of the children took care of her siblings while Josephine worked to put food on the table.

Dad said that his grandmother Josephine would have to walk over eight miles just to go to work each day, where she cleaned the homes of the wealthy. She made less than fifty cents per day, barely enough to make ends meet. She made a bit of extra money selling fresh vegetables from her garden. Dad said that his grandmother was the kindest person he ever knew. I guess this explains why my grandmother was so kind, and why my dad is such a super dad.

There was much hardship in Josephine’s life, such as losing her oldest child to Tuberculosis. Ralph served in the big war, and upon his return home, he contracted TB. He was in a hospital in St John’s where he supposedly made a brief recovery. There he met a woman  named Mary Foley.  The two of them were engaged, but before they could marry, he had a relapse of the disease and died. His body was never sent home, the hospital never kept a record of where he was buried. There was no record of his fiance.  My great grandmother never knew what happened to her son, and in her long life, she never received any closure from his loss.

Josephine passed away when I was seven years old,  I remember sitting in the garden  of  my grandmother’s house eating peppermint leaves. She used to tell me to chew the leaves and when my mouth filled with minty goodness, spit the leaf out and eat another one. I always had a fresh breath as a child and this is why. Grandma Josephine used to live with my grandmother when I was little because that was the way things went back then. Kids took care of their parents when they could no longer take care of themselves.

I still remember how she would sit in her rocking chair and sing hymns to praise the Lord for all  the goodness she had in her life. I wish I would have known  her a bit better, but I am thankful to my dad for his story today.

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