Sunday, January 28, 2018

52 Ancestors: Who would I invite for dinner

52 Ancestors copy

I’m a little late to the party but I’m joining in Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge – 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks.  I won’t necessarily get 52 but this challenge will be helpful in prompting me.  This weeks prompt:  Who would I invite to dinner.

I know it seems strange but not only would I invite this person to dinner but I did invite this person to dinner.  My dinner guest would be my paternal grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy.  I’ve written a lot about Grandma Loraine (she never used the name Mildred) and I probably know more about her than any other ancestor, other than my parents.  She has left me so much information about her life as a child; unfortunately, I didn’t learn any of this until long after she was gone.

One of the greatest discoveries was finding my grandmother’s scrapbook HERE.  Yes, my grandmother (and grandfather and father and uncle and mother and, and, and….) was a packrat and here I am over 100 years later actually THANKING her for it.  How many people are able to see into the daily life of their ancestor all these years later?

If only I’d known about these treasures when she was still alive.  Every time I find something else of hers I come up with tons of questions I’d like to ask.  And the hardest parts is knowing that I actually knew her, spent a lot of time with her, and had her to my house for dinner on my more than one occasion.

I vividly remember our first Christmas after we’d moved from California to Washington.  My parents made the trek the day after Christmas and brought Grandma along with them.  I can see it vividly in my mind but back in those days, we didn’t always have a camera handy (and film was expensive to develop) so I, apparently, don’t have any photos.  But they were here and I will hold that memory forever. 

I do have a photo of a Christmas before that – maybe 1977 or so?  As usual, we gathered at our childhood home and for the last several years of her life, Grandma was there.

Gordon Levy_Gerry Martin_Loraine Gunzendorfer 1977
Geraldine Martin, Gordon Levy, Loraine Gunzendorfer

Grandma never seemed to smile much but I know she loved being with us!

If had just one evening to sit and talk to her.  I’d ask her questions, take photos, and even record her voice.  I can hear her like it was yesterday – hard to believe she’s been gone almost 36 years! 
I’d go through every letter she wrote to my grandfather, Sig Levy, from 1916-1919 and stop to ask her questions as I read the letters aloud.  Think of the memories she’d have.  And then I’d read the letters that Grandpa wrote to her and ask her more questions.

Oh wait, I’d go through the scrapbook with her and ask her why she kept certain things.  I’d ask her about her collection of cigarettes.  And, who was Earle?  Was he a beau?  And then I’d ask her if this was Earle – I’d like to move at least one photo from the unidentified folder to an identified folder.


My grandmother was a beautiful little girl.  I had this photo of Loraine and her mother, Birdie Schwartz, framed years ago and have had it sitting in my living room for probably 25 years.  I’m so honored to have been told my entire life that I look like both of them.

Bertha and Loraine 5_1896 cropped

I even found her diary!  It haunts me to this day – what did she mean when she said “Ernest broke me in”?  On second thought, maybe I wouldn’t ask her about that!

Growing up, I always thought of my grandmother as annoying – she always expected us to behave, she ‘clicked’ her teeth (dentures?  I should have asked about that), and she consistently wanted to be early to wherever we were going.  Who knew I’d inherit that gene from her?  And until I found all of her things stashed in a storage garage, I wouldn’t have known her as anything other than an old woman.  Weren’t grandparents always old?

I have some not-very-good photos of her at the end stages of life, as well as lots of snapshots etched in my brain.  But I enjoy seeing the ones of her taken by a photographer and wonder what was going on in her life that prompted a professional photo.  This photo from my wedding 8 years before she died might be the latest one I’ve found of her – but you never know, something else might turn up.

Loraine, Ron, Debi
Yikes, we were YOUNG!

So that’s who’d be sitting at my table.  There are so many I’d like to invite to round out the evening but my grandmother, Loraine, would be the first invitation I’d extend. 


  1. Oh yeah, we need to know about Earle and those cigarettes! It is ironic how now we realize we don’t know the people we knew.

    1. While I'm so happy I was able to know Loraine, I sure wish I'd known her better.

  2. They say youth is wasted on the young, and this is just another way. Oh, how I wish I'd asked my grandmothers questions when I could have. Great post, Debi---for some reason I did not get it by email today but only saw it on Facebook. Maybe there's a delay in the email distribution?

    1. Not only our grandparents, but there's many questions I wish I'd asked my parents. Not sure about the e-mail - my husband usually gets it the day after I post it so I'll have to ask him when he got (or gets) the e-mail.

    2. It just arrived! :) Just figured I should alert you in case there was a problem.

    3. Thank you - glad to hear that!

  3. Debi - I know what you mean when you say you can hear your Grandma's voice all these years later. I blogged about inviting my grandmother to dinner, and yes, 28 years later, I can still hear her voice! And yes, I find that the email comes a day later than the RSS feed.

    1. It's crazy the things I remember from so many years ago while things from yesterday are a little fuzzy :-)

  4. I remember reading about many of these stories. If you could invite her to dinner today, wouldn't it be neat to record HER reading the letters? :)