Friday, March 12, 2010
For week 15 of Sepia Saturday I feature Lizzie, which is what everyone called her, my 2nd cousin who lived to be 102 years old. She was born to John Ostrowski, (Frank’s second son by his first marriage) and Frances Gapinski on October 18, 1903 in New Kensington, PA. There were 10 children altogether in that family; the only other one I knew was Annie Gorleski whom I’ll feature in another post. In 2006 Lewis and Raymond two of her brothers were alive, along with Eleanor Watson one of her sisters. The others Henry, Eddie, Ignatius, Annie Gorleski, Francie Slodowski and Margie Hancock had all died.
On May 31, 1923 when Lizzie was not quite 20 years old, she married Stanley Waskiewicz. Their wedding picture here strikes me as odd; Lizzie is expressionless with her arms at her sides, while Stanley appears to be holding her up with one arm. I wonder what she was thinking under that gorgeous hat. Stanley died after they were married 31 years when he was 59 leaving Lizzie to continue to raise the family alone. Well as alone as could be with all the Polish relatives in the area. They had five children; two daughters are still alive in PA, Dorothy Centazzo, and Catherine (James) Wencel; the other daughter Louise Bobonick is now deceased and two sons, Stanley Jr. and John died before Lizzie.
Lizzie worked as a seamstress at a sewing machine factory, as a waitress at the Alcoa Aluminum plant cafeteria, and at John F Kennedy School in Creighton, where she must have helped in the kitchen/cafeteria. She had 11 grandchildren, 14 great grand children and two great great grandchildren.
Lizzie had a small apartment upstairs in the house where she lived with her youngest daughter Catherine and husband. The day we visited Dorothy was there too. Catherine had cautioned not to question Lizzie too much, but Lizzie wanted to talk, she was excited about a visit! It was the treat of my life to meet her. Her mind was sharp and she was snoozing in her chair with a crossword puzzle book beside her on a side table; she looked absolutely wonderful, beautiful skin, white hair kept in curls with a perm. When she got up to go to the bathroom, we saw that she could hardly walk, severe arthritis had crippled her. Still she mentioned that she would like to go to the new Pittsburgh Mills Mall that had recently opened a couple miles from the home; I asked her what she wanted to buy and she said, “oh nothing just to look. I always like to shop for dresses.” Dorothy, her daughter rolled her eyes and clarified, “but she would never buy one because she always sewed better than what the stores sold.” Lizzie grinned.
Lizzie made quilts for the family until she was 99 years old, then she quit, saying her eyes didn’t work quite so good to sew like that anymore. She said she did not want to sew anything that would not be perfect! Oh this is an Ostrowski if I ever met one, I thought. She said today she liked sitting in her chair, looking out the window and working puzzles and watching the birds and the railroad cars go by. She didn’t care much about TV. She remembered me as Helen’s daughter, but mostly Roses’ granddaughter (I was always with my granma)and said, “Patty, you became a beautiful woman. Why did you move so far away?” We talked a little about California where I had lived but I told her we moved to Minnesota now and she shrugged, like “where’s that?” Lizzie said that her brother Raymond lived somewhere in California but nobody ever heard from him anymore and that California was a strange place where people go and disappear. Well she was right; it was and is a very strange place! People don't diaappear there but often they lose thier contacts with their families, with their souls.
When I mentioned that her birthday was coming up she said yes, that she was born October 19, 1903 would be 102 in another month and grinned. I told her that my husband and I married on October 19 and she acknowledged that with, “then you can always have a shot on my birthday for me!” I asked her what kind of shot and she responded, “Whiskey!” When I told her I don’t drink that she grinned and said, “Well you need to try it sometime! You are old enough to drink whiskey.” She had a beautiful smile and eyes that sparkled especially when she laughed. I thought how beautiful she was at this age and how wonderful that her daughters cared for her so well. Her voice was good, not raspy or wobbly like some elderly can get. I would have guessed her at maybe in her late 70’s if I’d met her elsewhere. Lizzie was an living example of the well aged ; she never grumbled, was most happy and gracious the entire time! What a testimony to life lived well!
Lizzie reminisced that things were not so much fun anymore. I asked her what were the most fun things she remembered, her favorite times, and she regaled us about the old times with family. She said how they would have big parties and oh she especially liked the picnics over the 4th of July, all the dancing. “Just real fun we had! Now these kids don’t do that! And Dorothy just said, “Oh, Ma!” Lizzie shook her head and said, “See what I mean they never dance anymore! People should dance!” Amen Lizzie! I couldn't agree more!~ Lizzie slipped into talking Polish sometime with my aunt and suddenly I was a kid again when the women spoke of what they didn’t want me to hear in Polish; imagine Lizzie at 101 speaking two languages. I recognized part of it as a cuss complaint about her arthritis that had her nearly immobile. She wanted to be able to move and do things; she said she missed sewing and crocething.
We only stayed for a little under 2 hours so as not to tire her out and then said our goodbyes with big hugs. Lizzie died on May 10, 2006 in a care facility after a brief hospitalization. She was only in the facility one day and I am glad that she lived at home comfortably till nearly the end. God bless her wonderful daughters who cared for her and made her comfortable.
PS I have been contacted by two of Lizzie's grand daughters, Melissa and Darcy, and her daughter Catherine through this post. Catherine gave me some corrections which I've made above. Thanks to Sepia Saturday I amcontinuing to learn more about family.