A Newsletter Concerning the Genealogy of the
Southern New York Wolfes—compiled and edited by
Michael Wolfe, 90212-7356 or firstname.lastname@example.org / (310) 288-3621
A New Year, A New Guy (Gal)
I’m happy to belatedly announce an addition to the topmost branch of the tree—Alexa Lindsay Guy, daughter of Ginny Wolfe and Bill Guy, born on January 18, 1995 in Palm Beach, FL. Alexa weighed exactly 6 lbs. and I’m told all did fine.
I'd like to welcome my grand aunt Rita Dreizler-Lindell, who also lives in Florida. I’m very happy to have the Dreizler clan on board. After all, one-half of this particular genealogy is theirs. A big hello to her daughter Regina Lindell as well, and I have some exciting news for you (see below).
I'd also like to welcome our cousin Barbara Grenier and her husband John Hulse. Barbara is descended from my great-grand aunt Albertina Wolfe (Charles Wolfe’s sister). That makes her third cousin to my generation. And don't let me forget to thank Eleanor Turner (my fourth cousin twice removed) for sending me their address in the first place. Danke schön, Eleanor.
Barbara and John both live in Albany, and John is an avid genealogist. He has, without even being asked, produced tons of research on our genealogy, including the Cary family, which is especially promising. Charles Cary has also been hard at work on this line, and although it is not yet confirmed, if it should pan out as we suspect, it goes back to the original Massachusetts Bay Colony (yes, the Pilgrims, but not the Mayflower), and then back to England as far as the Middle Ages (around 1170 A.D.). That’s a mere hundred years after the Norman Conquest, the better part of a millennium (825 years, or 27 generations). The Carys were nobility when they lived in England, so their genealogy was well-documented (by order of Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife). How’s that for old and respectable?
I also have hopes for a breakthrough on one of my grandma Charlotte’s lines. Charlotte was descended from the Skinner family. Her grandpa Ed Skinner put down on his marriage certificate (1909) that he was from Rockdale, New York. Rockdale is in Chenango County, up on the Mohawk River. My research indicates that the Skinners in Chenango were descended from two brothers (Jacob and Joseph) who settled there in 1790. These guys were descended from one of the founders of Hartford, Connecticut. The line is traced back to England in the late 1500s. It also involves the Porter family, another pioneering Connecticut family whose pedigree also traces back to England (1379). So this might finally break open Charlotte’s side of our genealogy. More on this as it develops.
And here’s a bit of an oddity: Barbara Grenier’s mom is descended from Skinners as well, which means that in all likelihood my grandpa Vincent married a woman who was distantly related to his first cousin twice removed. I suppose this made my grandparents possible "cousins-in-law," but please don’t ask me how. It also means that Barbara is related to our branch twice. This happens a lot in upper state New York.
I had a very pertinent question from my first cousin "Tommy": am I interested in information about in-laws? Of course! This genealogy is not just for our generations, but for the ones to come, so any information about in-laws matters very much. If any of my first-cousin-in-laws wants to add information to the database—even just a generation or two, please send it on right away, and thank you for your help.
In this issue there’s a piece from my Uncle Frank about his dad, Vincent, a tribute to Charlotte Dreizler from her daughter-in-law Barbara Burgoyne, an article by me about our oldest known Wolf ancestors, Teunis and Catherine, and a memoir from my cousin Tommy. But first, a word to anybody who’s shy about writing . . .
ø ø ø
Family History Questionaire
By Michael Wolfe
In this issue of "Wolfsbane" there are three excellent examples of family history writing from our contributors. Some folks have asked me, "What do I write about?" My wife Sam has been researching her own genealogy, and she received this questionnaire from an organization called the "Family Resource Service." I hope it will help you get started on your own contribution to our family history. You certainly don't have to limit yourself to the questions included here.
Where and when were you born? Where did you live when you were growing up? What was your home like? Your yard? Your neighborhood? What was your favorite thing about where you lived?
What were your parents like? Where and when were they born? Where did they go to school? Did they serve in the military? Where did they work? What do you know about their life together before you were born? What are your strongest memories of them? How are you alike or different? What was the most important thing they taught you?
What do you remember about your grandparents? What did they do? Did they serve in the military? Where did they live, and what did you do together when you were young?
Did your parents have any brothers or sisters? What were their names, and those of their children and spouses?
Did you see these aunts, uncles, and cousins often? Where did they live, and what were they like?
What stories did your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles tell about other family members? What do you know about your great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents?
Do you know when and why your ancestors came to the United States? Where did they come from, and where did they settle? What were their occupations? What language and customs did they bring with them?
Do you have any brothers and sisters? When you were growing up, did you get along with your brothers and sisters? Did you play together? Did you tease each other? Can you think of any funny stories about the time you spent together? What were they like then, and what are they like now?
What was your school like? What did you learn about? What subjects did you like and dislike? Were you a good student or a troublemaker? What did you want to be when you grew up? What did you do during summer vacations?
How would you describe yourself as a child? Did you ever have any nicknames? Why did people call you that? What games, toys, and activities did you enjoy while growing up? Did you have any pets? Who was your best friend? What did you do together?
What chores and responsibilities did you have when you were a child? What was your first job? How old were you? What did you do with the money you made?
Did you participate in religious services or organizations? What religious celebrations or events do you remember?
How did you celebrate holidays? What family traditions did you observe? What did you do on birthdays? What was the best present you ever got?
What kind of music did you like when you were young? What dances, clothes, and hairstyles were popular? Who were your favorite movie stars? How old were you on your first date? What did you do? W o was your first boyfriend/girlfriend? Did you play any sports or belong to any clubs? What did you do after school and on weekends?
Did you serve in the military? What branch and rank were you? Where did you serve? What did you do? If your family members or partner served, what was it like at home?
Did you go to college or have any vocational training? What did you study? What was it like?
How did you meet your husband/wife? How old were you? What was it like when you dated? Why did you fall in love? How did you decide to get married? What was the wedding like? What did you wear? Who was in the wedding party? Where did it take place? Did you have a honeymoon? Where did you live when you were first married?
How old were you when your children were born? How did you feel? How did their childhood differ from yours? What were your children like when they were small? When they were teenagers? What were holidays like then?
Where did you live when you were raising your children? What was your home like? What housework did you do? What was your neighborhood like?
Did you work outside the home, including as a volunteer? What were your best and worst jobs? What do you do in your present job or the one you had when you retired?
What hobbies have you had over the years? Have you ever belonged to any clubs, unions, organizations, or community groups?
Have you done any traveling? Where have you been? Where were you during historic events (the end of World War II, JFK's assassination, the first moonwalk, etc.)? How did you react? What do you remember?
What are the most important lessons you've learned so far? What were the happiest days during your life? What are your proudest accomplishments?
Now get to work!
By Frank Wolfe
I can describe our apartment in the Bronx in detail. However, I only have one memory of my father. When I was three years old I had to go to the hospital for a hernia operation. There I was, this small boy in a huge bed, scared and alone. My father came in with a present. My eyes lit up as I exclaimed, "Tiger!" I named the tiger Danny, after the character in Mr. Rogers' neighborhood. Less than a year later my father was gone. Danny became a symbol of my father and his feelings toward me. I never needed to ask if he loved me. Something about that one moment, that fragment of a memory, has let me know that he did. Needless to say, I still have Danny. He's a little worn around the edges but he still has the magic from the love of a father for his son. My own son knows Danny by name and that he is special. Someday he will hear this story and many years after that he will understand the feelings a parent has for their child. It took thirty years for me to appreciate what my father must have felt.
By Barbara Burgoyne-Wolfe
It was August 1942 and I had just turned six. My parents moved from Woodlawn to 184th Street and Park Avenue in the Bronx.
During the summer I had been to visit my grandparents in New Haven, CT. Now I had returned to my parents’ new apartment on the ground floor tenement building of 442 East 184th Street. I had just gotten acquainted with some of the local young girls and was playing jacks on the curb in front of the apartment. I looked up as I saw feet approaching to look into two of the brightest blue eyes I had ever seen and a head of bright red hair that glistened in the sun. He was about eight and asked, "Are you the new kid that lives on the first floor?" I said yes and he said, "I’m Red Wolfe and I’ll look after you—these kids can be tough sometimes. I’ll wait until you finish your game and then I want you to come with me." I finished—he took my hand—and proceeded up the street to 450 East 184th Street to a door which entered an apartment on street level. He explained that if I ever had trouble, I should go to his mother.
He opened the door and a pretty lady emerged. She had a big smile and sparkling blue eyes. She shook my hand as Red introduced her as "my Mom, Charlotte." This was my first meeting with Charlotte Veronica Dreizler-Wolfe. Little did I know that at age six, I had just met my future husband and mother-in-law. Red Wolfe did look out for me from that day forward even though we never officially dated until I was seventeen.
Of course I saw Charlotte from time to time but my next real communication with her was after Tom called me for a first date and I called back. She told me not to take too seriously—so I didn’t. We started to date and then one day Charlotte called me in to the apartment. She disappeared into Tom’s bedroom and with a bright smile, she said she knew we had gone to pick the setting out for my engagement ring. Then she appeared with a little box and showed me the ring. She said it would be our secret and she was so excited, she could hardly contain herself. I never told Tom I saw the ring but that day we truly bonded, Charlotte and I.
After that day, I shared wedding plans, and all the things that women share—our thoughts about life, recipes, sewing, child rearing, etc. I learned a lot from Charlotte.
For the wedding she did not buy a new dress. She wore blue and silvered her shoes. She wore a fur and I thought she looked elegant.
I visited Charlotte at her apartment more often than mine as she had cardiac problems and going up two flights of stairs were hard for her. I picked up groceries and ran errands if she needed anything. She taught me Tom’s likes and dislikes, recipes, how to make a pie crust (which took many visits and much exasperation on her part). She always had a cup of tea and something she baked ready when I stopped in. She thanked me for being a good wife and for starching Tom’s shirts and keeping him so nice. Can you imagine! She was very special.
The memories of living close were many. Her leg had varicose veins and when one ruptured one day, I held a quarter on it as Tom summoned the ambulance. She called the doctor when my water ruptured with the birth of my first child. She always waited for me to walk past with Tom, Jr. Her favorite thing was to let him jump on her bed while she held his little hands outstretched. She would cry every now and then and when I asked her why she would say "I probably will not see them grow up," (meaning all the grandchildren). She loved them so—she would sew gifts or them for Christmas. She worried that Mrs. Marano gave them so many things that she could not afford to give and I would say, "But you give them love." She would sneak chopped meat and diapers into my carriage if she thought we were having rough times.
She never complained about the tough life she had raising her children alone; doing splits for the telephone company or being a superintendent for the apartment building even though she scrubbed floors on her hands and knees. She always found a way to make ends meet, see that her children had a good home, decent clothes and a good education and love.
She arranged through Monsignor Brown for the boys to go away through Catholic Charities to McLaurey’s farm so they’d be off the street in the summer. She yielded a tough wooden spoon but she basically was a pussycat.
When Charlotte gave birth to Robert, the children had to go to a shelter until she came home. They were all traumatized by this. They had always been a unit. They cooked and cleaned and helped with the building so they could be together. To be split up devastated them. But they persevered, and today the family is close.
When I think of Charlotte I think of honesty, perseverance, dignity and a good heart. She was beautiful inside and out. She could have easily been a woman of the 90s as she was totally proud and self sufficient even though she had been emotionally and physically abused. She rose about it all. I loved her with all my heart and will never forget her.
A Place of Their Own:
Teunis & Catherine Wolf
By Michael Wolfe
They say the winter of 1709 was so cold in Germany that sparrows dropped from the sky, frozen to death. People and cattle were found in the same circumstances. The oldest members of one parish said they could not remember a colder winter—and they had lived through 80 winters. The rivers froze, and with them, the mills. So corn did not get ground, and people starved.
The "Palatines" is the name given to a group of peasants who hailed from the Palatinate, a group of provinces spread out along the Rhine River. This was some of the richest farmland in Europe, and bad weather was a terrible hardship for these simple farmers.
The weather was not the only headache for the Palatines—central Europe was wracked by chronic warfare as France and Spain tangled with each other over the succession to the Spanish throne. At that time, Germany was a patchwork of little fiefdoms and principalities—duchies constantly duking it out with each other. Add to that invading French (and Swedes), who, when they weren’t trying to kill each other, were only too glad to sack and burn the little villages along the way. War costs money, of course, and the local princes made sure the peasants paid for it. Your average Palatine farmer was saddled with a crippling tax burden.
So there the Palatines were, huddled around the fire, their stomachs growling, wondering how they were going to make it through the winter, and if they did, how they were going to get crops growing when spring brought new armies raping and pillaging. These were not happy people.
When a book arrived from England promising milk and honey in America, it quickly had everybody’s attention. This was the so-called "Golden Book," circulated by the government of Queen Anne of England. Queen Anne’s ministers were in need of cheap labor. The Royal Navy needed naval stores, principally tar, which was made from pine pitch. Since the colony of New York had plenty of pine trees, and Germany had plenty of poor, freezing farmers in need of a break, a happy bargain was struck. If you wanted to emigrate to the new world, Queen Anne would pay for your passage. You contracted to work for a certain period of time (making tar) to pay off the debt. It was called indentured servitude, and it was in this state, I believe, that the Wolfs first arrived in America.
Most people did not use surnames before the 17th Century unless they were nobility. Folks were referred to by where they lived, or by whose child they were. It was enough in most communities to say "Joseph by the apple orchard" or "Jacob from Schermerhorn," or "Barent, Peter's son." Then, as populations grew, it became necessary to be more specific. So families took the name of the men, the heads of the households at that time, and Joseph became Joseph Applebee, Jacob became Jacob Schermerhorn, and Barent became Barent Peterse, or Peterson.
So where do you get Wolf? Well, once upon a time one of our male ancestors must have dealt in wolf pelts—hunting wolves, skinning them and tanning their hides. When the time came to take a surname, the "Wolf Skinner" or "Wolf Hunter" became "Wolf."
There is still one mystery, though. The "e." I don't know why we have an "e" on the end of our names. It shows up as a misspelling at first, but then, after the Civil War, it became a permanent fixture. I can’t figure out why. It's the damnedest thing—it just sort of happened.
We don’t know, at least not yet, the names of the first Wolfs to set foot in New York Colony, but since we know they were Palatine Germans, they probably got here around 1709-1710. And waiting for them with open arms was Robert Livingston, Lord of Livingston Manor. Actually, Robert Livingston was "lord" of 160,000 acres of wilderness across the river and a ways south of Albany, and that was a problem for him. Nobody was living on this land, and if nobody was living on it then it was not making any money for Lord Livingston. So when he got wind of 3,000 Palatine Germans headed for New York, he cut a deal with Her Majesty’s Governor, Robert Hunter. In exchange for 6,000 acres of pine tree-laden Livingston Manor, Livingston would undertake the care and feeding of the 1,800 Germans who settled there—and reap the profits from their government contracts.
Governor Hunter was so glad to hand the Germans off to Livingston that he did not listen to various warnings from those who knew Robert Livingston as "a very ill man . . . guilty of most notorious frauds." There was no doubt in the colony or England that Livingston was an unscrupulous character who would feed the hapless Palatines as little as possible and charge the Crown as much as he could. The Palatines, of course, had no say in the matter. They got off the boat and settled on their allotted portion of the manor.
The entire deal quickly went sour: Her Majesty’s ministers lost interest when it was discovered that the pine trees on Livingston Manor were not suitable for making tar. The government became lackadaisical in reimbursing Livingston, so the burden of feeding and housing the Germans fell squarely on his unwilling shoulders. The Palatines, for their part, were trying to make up their obligation to Her Majesty by manufacturing stores other than tar, but this left them precious little time for raising crops, which meant they relied more than ever on a resentful Lord Livingston for food. Rebellion broke out. A group of intrepid, hungry Palatines raided the manor storehouse. Livingston stepped up his appeals to Governor Hunter, but the Governor turned his back. In 1712 Her Majesty’s government proclaimed that although the Palatines were still contracted to provide naval stores, their subsidies were at an end—an unbelievably cruel and misguided move coming just a few days before the first killing frost. For better or worse, Livingston and the Palatines were on their own.
Some Palatines defied the Queen and took off for Pennsylvania (becoming Pennsylvania "Dutch"). Some broke their contracts and skedaddled down to Duchess County. But some of them remained, and signed on as Livingston’s first tenant farmers. The Wolfs were evidently among these, "the least resourceful and most wretched of the lot. . ."
After many years of tenant farming (a miserable, hand-to-mouth existence that would best be compared with serfdom), the Wolfs somehow managed in the 1760s to break free of their bonds and move north to "freeholder" territory in Kinderhook, on the eastern side of the Hudson River. There they counted as friends and neighbors the Moors, the Jakobis, the Havers, the Zitzers, the Troumans, and most importantly, the Wolfroms.
The church records in Kinderhook and Livingston Manor tell only a sketchy story, but my best guess is that the parents of the Wolf family at this time were Michael and Catherine Wolf, and that their children were: Juriann (George), Margareta, Marytje (Maria), Pieter, Teunis (Anthony), Christinje, Christaen and Johannes (John). But I must caution you that this is only hypothetical. For now, the only three Wolf siblings we are absolutely certain of in this generation are Pieter, Teunis and Johannes. Pieter, the eldest, was born about 1759. Teunis, who is our direct ancestor, later made it a matter of record that he did not know when he was born, only that it had been on Livingston Manor, probably @1762. John was probably born in 1771.
The boys had little or no schooling, and never learned to read or write English. For that matter, they probably only spoke German fluently. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, Pieter served in the local militia during the Revolution. Not much else is known about their years in Kinderhook. I think it’s safe to say they were true to their farming roots—probably leasing and/or working on farms.
But fortune looked up for the Wolf brothers in the early 1780s. First of all, on 30 Sep 1783 Teunis married Catherine Wolfrom, whose family was also from Livingston Manor. And Teunis and Peter were able, somehow, to buy land in Lot No. 2 of the tenth allotment of the old Coeymans Patent over on the west side of the Hudson River. The Coeymans Patent was a vast stretch of land that covered a good 125 square miles of the area south of Albany. It had originally been granted by Governor Francis Lovelace to another ancestor of ours—Barent Pieterse Coeymans—back in 1673. Barent had bought the land a year before from a tribe of native Americans, the Sachamoes, and when he died in 1710 the land was subdivided by his heirs. Eventually parts of it were sold off to land speculators, and that is probably how it wound up in the hands of the brothers Wolf.
So it’s safe to say that by 1784 Teunis and Catherine were clearing a plot of 100 or so acres on the shores of the Hannacroix Creek, running through what was then Albany County in what is today the town of New Baltimore. Farming has always been hard work, but you can imagine the back-breaking labor that went into taming what was then wilderness. The farm was bounded on the south by lands belonging to the Armstrong family, on the west by Peter Wolf’s land, and on the north and east by Teunis Van Slyck’s property. The Van Slycks own that land to this very day.
Although the Wolfs had the benefit of a fresh water supply, family tradition has it that they also had mosquitoes and malaria to go with it. They had first built a house down by the creek, but malaria drove them uphill to where the present-day house stands. It was probably built sometime in the early 1800s (perhaps 1802) on a foundation of uncut field stones, and is a classic "two-by-two" variation on the Dutch Colonial style: two rooms on each side of the ground floor with a central hall between them, and the same on the top floor. Two chimneys brace the building—one for the parlor and one for the kitchen. True to the building practices of the time, the frame consists of hand-hewn oak beams, at least eight inches thick.
This is a house built entirely by hand—you had to cut down trees, peel off the bark, use a broadax to square the beams, then a foot adz to finish them. You needed a whole slew of tools—augers, chisels, mallets, knives and saws, and draft animals for the heavy hauling work (preferably oxen). You needed all the help you could get—every one of Teunis and Catherine’s ten children probably pitched in, as well as Teunis’s brothers. And it took time—it might take as long as two years to erect a house, depending on the materials and labor available.
The massive beams were carefully cut to make mortise and tenon joints, and then pegged together. When the frame was ready to raise it meant a big party for all the neighbors, as you needed the muscles of quite a few men to raise the heavy oak timbers into vertical positions. The neighbors and family would gather very early, and there would be food, drink and music. In addition to the house, several outbuildings were erected, including a barn which was later expanded (there’s a hump in the roof that indicates where the addition was made).
Catherine and Teunis prospered in this place. Of their ten children, only one did not survive to adulthood, a very good ratio for those days when infant mortality was high, and it was common for couples to lose as many as four or five children to disease or various other tragedies. Their children were Lana, Eve, Catherine, Matthias, Henry, Teunis, Jr., Helena, John T., Philip and Polly.
New Baltimore’s first town meeting was held on April 2, 1811 "at the Dwelling House of Peter Wolfe now occupied by Matthew Setts in said Town. . ." This was Peter’s "public house," a tavern, and since it was at a convenient intersection, Frances Dietz theorizes that this made it a good place for a town meeting. At this meeting Peter was named the Town Pound-Master (sort of like Animal Control, his duties included impounding any stray livestock). April 2nd was a Tuesday, and New Baltimore town meetings are still held on Tuesdays.
Being a numerous family, the Wolfs had a little influence in local matters. When Teunis’s brother Johannes (John) was sued by his French landlord (Honoré Chaurand) for damages to the farm John was leasing, Chaurand was only able to come up with three witnesses. Wolf, on the other hand, had ten. One gets the sense that these folks stuck together. I should mention that in 1794 Johannes married at Kinderhook a woman who was also named Catherina Wolfrom. We have no idea if she was related to our Catherine Wolfrom, but I have to suspect that the chances are good that they were cousins. How confusing that must have been at family gatherings! John and Catherina went on to have 15 children(!)
Teunis and Catherine’s children grew up, got married and moved away, but usually not far away. Our ancestor, John T., married Phebe Cary, who was from another numerous family down the road (the eldest girl of 12 siblings)., They wound up on a farm in Bethlehem, next door to James Selkirk. Teunis and Catherine got older, and it seems that the aches and pains of old age beleaguered Teunis. "Frances thinks he must have been racked with rheumatism since his orders for rum from the local trading store became quite voluminous in his last years!" He died July 11, 1834, and left the farm to his eldest son Matthias, with instructions that "my wife Catherine and my daughter Polly shall after my decease reside with my son Matthias at my present residence on the farm aforesaid" and that Matthias would support and maintain Catherine and Polly as long as they lived. From this we can guess that Polly may have been feeble-minded, unable to care for herself.
Unlike Teunis, Catherine knew when she was born—22 Mar 1761. She stayed on the place, no doubt a force of nature, until she was 95 years old. She died on 22 Oct 1855 and was buried, along with Teunis and Polly, on the farm.
Matthias faltered at keeping the farm in business, so it wound up in the hands of his more capable younger brother, Henry, and since then has been handed down through the generations to Walter Dietz, son of Hattie Wolfe and Paul Dietz. Today it is called Meadow Falls Farm, and Walter and his wife Frances Kniffen have two daughters, Margaret and Ellen, who were the seventh generation to live there. Walter and Frances are Town Historians Emeriti of New Baltimore, and everything we know about the history of the farm is a result of their diligence.
Over the years the family gravesites fell into disrepair, and today their exact location is unknown. Walter suspects that they are on a hillside where wild field lilies now grow, where his father Paul said there had been some field stones that he had plowed under in the course of working the soil.
Where the Daylilies Grow
Who will ever know . . .
where the daylilies grow?
From a furrowed field
springs the harvest’s yield;
After yesterday’s seed plowed under
souls lie in rest asunder.
Today’s fleeting tender blossoms yield
to signal yesterday’s perennial field;
Who will ever know . . .
where the daylilies grow.
The remains of Teunis and Catherine, our oldest known Wolfe ancestors, lie somewhere under rolling hills of Meadow Falls farm, land that is still in our family’s hands after 210 years.
One Cousin’s Recall
By Thomas Wolfe
After reading my Dad’s (Vincent Wolfe’s) memories in Wolfsbane, I’d thought I’d try to capture some random memories of my youth. At the ancient age of 40 I’m not sure my recollection will be as accurate as I’d like. They say your memory of your youth gets better as you get older. So my Dad’s was pretty descriptive but he’s always had an excellent memory for detail and that kind of shoots down my theory.
I truly enjoy Mike’s publication because it gives me a lot of information about my family and roots. I had a very close relationship with my maternal grandparents for years and my Mom’s Dad, Jerry Starr, is still alive at 88. Unfortunately, I really only have one or two strong memories or images of my grandparents, Charlotte and Vincent Sr., (or Mamma and Pampa as I called them back then). My memory of Mamma is a single visit with my Mom to her apartment in the Bronx probably about one or two months before she died. I vaguely remember a sparse living room and I seem to recall she was in bed and not feeling very well. She was extremely sweet to me but even at the age of three and a half years old, I can still remember how ill she looked. My brother Rick was with us but he was only one year old and so he has no recollection of that day. I left feeling loved but not totally sure why—as I didn’t really know her like I wanted to. Sometimes I wish that the Back To The Future car was available and really worked so I could return to the early 50s and see her again and really get to know her. From that brief visit I’ve always felt that her general traits (voice, appearance, mannerisms, humor) tend to live on in my Aunt Marie Marano, but I’ll let my Dad and Aunts and Uncle Robert debate that for me. I stopped to see Mamma's grave this past Christmas. The wreath cousin Charlotte put there made it really nice.
Fortunately, I have a much stronger and good memory of my grandfather Vincent. I know he came to my first holy communion in May of 1963, since I have the picture of him standing with me as I sweated profusely in my dark blue woolen outfit on a 97 degree day. I remember chatting with him politely about the mass and how the day was but it’s not as strong a recall as I’d like. Of more impact to me was the visit with him a few years later. It was either the summer of 1965 or 1966 and took place in Yorktown Heights, where Uncle Tom (and Michael) lived. It was a hot day and I got to talk to Pampa a few times throughout the day. Most of the day my brother Rick and I played with my cousins Tommy and Ann Marie in the yard. I remember their huge German Shepherd dog (Rex??) [Shep—M.W.] barking incessantly in a cage that Uncle Tom had set up for him in the backyard.
Towards the end of the day, as the sun was getting lower in the sky, I walked toward the front yard and I remember watching my grandfather with his two sons gathered around him, just talking. I was old enough then to realize it was a special moment, because they had not gotten together many times in the years before that, and probably very little, if ever, after that. As they stood there talking I was able to see the strong physical resemblance of the sons to their father. They talked in turn with the sons granting respect while a soft spoken father looked to bridge years of separation. It was a rite of passage and the way it should be as a father gets to pass on knowledge or his thoughts or share in the joys of his growing family. My Pampa got to see eight of his grandchildren that day and at least knew his name would live on for years to come. Shortly after he left quietly in a white car (possibly a Ford?). I never saw him alive again. Just where is that movie car to go back in time when you need it?
I do recall Pampa’s death. I can never forget the pain on my Dad’s face as he stood in kitchen of our house in the Bronx and talked to the hospital. They were not allowed to tell him over the phone that he had passed away but Dad needed to know since he was a police officer in the city and getting time off was going to be difficult. The nurse told him and he wept strongly for one of the few times I had ever seen (only being twelve at the time). It was the pain and tears of a man who had desperately wanted to know his father better and now couldn’t accomplish that. When I look back, the funeral was impressive but overwhelming and confusing for me. My brothers and I recall our young step-uncles Frank and Joe trying to listen to their Mom and sit still as the Knights of Columbus paid homage with a large display of members and swords, which seemed to be flashing everywhere. I think Joe broke out some small Matchbox cars and was racing them on the floor at one point. But I still recall all three of my Uncles visiting the coffin for a final prayer and my Mom’s hand on my Dad’s shoulder for support.
For various reasons the twenty Wolfe cousins (children of Marie, Betty, Vinny, Tom and Robert) only got so much time together during the growing years of the 60s and 70s. Uncle Robert lived way out on Long Island so Dad kept those treks to a minimum. Since my cousins Bobby, Mike and Chris were younger I also did not get to relate to them as much as I wished I could as well. There were enough visits to Uncle Tom’s to get to know Mike, Susan, Anne Marie and Tommy. I think we saw slightly more of the Maranos and LaCostes although I didn’t keep track.
My first introduction to tomato soup did come from lunch one day at Aunt Betty’s (LaCoste) house in Dobbs Ferry, NY. I still can hear the train coming up the track along the Hudson right below their place. Some years later, I remember my family huddled around a black-and-white TV one night watching cousin "Rusty" as he appeared as a Boy Scout on the TV show To Tell The Truth and hearing my Dad bet whether he would use his full name of "Russell" at the end of the show when he revealed whether he was a really a Boy Scout or not. (He didn’t—he said "Rusty.") Sometime later we huddled again to watch a commercial for life insurance, I think, which had a 1.3 second glimpse of Uncle Russ at a desk. I also remember a New Year’s Eve spent out at the LaCoste house in Norwalk, Connecticut that was a lot of fun as Uncle Russ made his usual jokes and worked very hard at embarrassing Rusty’s girlfriend, Beverly. Funny, I really got to know my cousin Russ much later when he painted my parent’s house in Rockland County (probably around 1971). Until then I only knew that Rusty was good at tennis and was a huge fan of Al Kaline of the Detroit Tigers. He also had a foul ball from Ed Brinkman of the Washington Senators (Uncle Russ and Richard showed me). Why I remember this useless information is beyond me but I guess I always admired my cousin back then as he was a few years older and pointing the way that life ahead of me would bring (e.g.; high school, college, work, etc.) Anyhow it took about three days to paint the house and all the boys helped him a lot and just got to talk about all kinds of stuff including the memories of those earlier days. Watching Rusty get those ladders strapped to his Volkswagen Bug was fascinating since they were far and away longer than the car.
During the early 60s the Maranos lived on Pennyfield Ave and were probably less than a mile and a half away from our house on Blair Ave. We got to stop by there often enough and just have some nice times. They say you always remember certain critical or important events, and I remember my cousin Mary riding her bike to our house in November, 1963 to tell us that President Kennedy was shot. We had just heard something about it on the radio but then ran to the TV to see more. When the Maranos moved to Wagner Ave in Mamaroneck (NY) I remember the first time I went to the house, little (in size) cousin John killed me in this Nerf basketball game he had set up in the basement and had played for hours mastering the "layup-under-the-defender’s-arm" maneuver. Look-ing back, I should have dunked the hell out of the 6-foot basket, but then again I always really liked John. As I got older I remember trying to get to see John when he went to college in Jacksonville and I was on a business trip there (when I worked for General Foods) but it was during finals week and just didn’t work out. I also recall talking to cousin Charlotte when I went on a business trip to Houston while she lived there, but the problem was on my side as my schedule and car situation didn’t let us meet. I did get to help Mary out when she took a nursing exam in Albany though. I was a student at SUNY and impressed my friends by having a female sleep over in the dorm. When I told them it was my cousin that made it a little worse as a few wanted to possibly date her (which I never told her) since I knew them too well.
A few reasons (close in age, close in location) have made it easier to relate and stay close to cousin Linda Suraci (LaCoste). I remember going to her wedding and laughing as I watched young John run outside to listen to the Yankees in the World Series game against Cincinnati on a portable radio. She married Richard one month after I married Ginny and we’ve ended up having daughters very close in ages with Kristin (16) and Keri (14) really having fun when we get together with Heather (15) and Emily (13). My favorite memories of the Suracis was our first visit to their house at the base of Elk Mountain in Uniondale, PA in February of 1989. It was awesome watching the lighted ski trails at night from their living room and the skiing the next day was great. I still feel good when I think about taking a younger Emily, (8), up to the top of the mountain for her very first time and skiing down with her along Tioga Trail. Now she’s a pro but still has her innocent smile when she flies by me. We see the Suracis a lot as we try to go to West Point football games in the fall each year and see the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Baron Triple-A baseball team in the summer, complete with tailgating. Of course, the annual ski weekend is the highlight.
It was a lot of fun seeing all the cousins and their spouses and children those few times at Uncle Tom’s and Aunt Barb’s in Cross River back in the mid-80’s. The last get together in Fairfield, Connecticut that Richard and Lauren LaCoste put a huge effort into was equally fun. Maybe Linda and I will be able to coordinate something soon where we can all get together in 1995 or 1996.
Welcome to WolfeNet
By Michael Wolfe, with helpful suggestions from Tommy Wolfe
Many of my cousins are now on the Internet, and in the interest of fostering closer family relations, I hereby publish the First Official WolfeNet directory:
John Hulse (NY)
Anne Lemieux (CT)
Charles Lemieux Jr. (CT)
Charles Lemieux Sr. (CT)
Jim Selkirk (WI)
Laura Guyol Wolfe (NH)
Kristin Wolfe (NY)
Michael Wolfe (CA)
Pat Wolfe (FL)
Thomas F. Wolfe (GA)
Thomas M. Wolfe (NY)
You have to admit it: this family’s wired.