Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Call him Jack"

My husband Kem was at our home in North Carolina last week and returned to our apartment in the DC area with two boxes of memorabilia.

In these boxes is the flotsam and jetsam of several generations.  Precious tidbits from my maternal ancestry: Jeannette, Clara and Rita.  Pictures, letters, documents, receipts, notes, report cards, post cards, mass cards, love-letters, obituaries, birth announcements and cancelled checks which give me just a glimpse into the dramatic lives of these remarkable women.  Sometimes the item itself tells me very little and I have to wonder why this piece of paper was worth saving or why that letter was special.  There are more mysteries in these boxes than there are real answers, so when you come across something that tells a story you spend some time with it.

One envelope is addressed to Miss Rita Naddy, 7224 So. Chicago Ave. Chicago, IL.  The return address is The Colonial Hospital, Rochester Minn.  The post date is September 28, 1926.

 The letter encourages Dick Naddy's children Rita, Dick (Bud) and Tommy to be good for their grandmother (Jeannette Coleman), do their homework and not to go out of their yard.  He tells them he is better but not well and that he and their mother miss them.  He signs it with dozens of kisses for them.  He had turned 30 on July 10th of that year and he and Clara arrived at the clinic in Rochester the same week.  They had been in Minnesota for almost three months.  He wrote this sweet note about every day things on the day after he was informed that he would not survive his illness.  His wife was newly pregnant with their fourth child.

There are many documents relating to Dick's illness, death and burial and I will scan them all and post them for all of my Naddy relatives.  But there is one letter among the others that sticks out.

Dick Naddy had several brothers.  Mike, Bill, Tom.  During Dick's illness his brothers Bill and Tom were not connected to him.  I do not know why.  But Dick mentions that Mike, Bill and Tom have not returned his letters in a couple of pieces of correspondence with Clara's brother Frank.  He thanks Frank over and over again for being such a supportive and generous brother-in-law and is chagrined by his own family's lack of involvement.  Except for his brother-in-law (his sister Loretta's husband) Jack.  He mentions that Jack, who lived in San Francisco in the 1920's was soliciting Loretta and Dick's brothers for help via a letter campaign. 

Uncle Jack.  My mother's mysterious, bigger-than-life Uncle Jack.  He was  an executive with the Fireman's Fund Insurance of Newark, NJ.  He was promoted to the head of the Pacific Department in the mid-1920's.   When Clara's sister Anne and her husband needed to move west for health reasons, Jack  offered them both employment in his office and eased their ability to make the move.  Clara's sister Anne and Dick's sister Loretta were both in San Francisco during Dick's illness.  Neither of them could get back to Chicago for his funeral.  Their families mourned the loss together.

Clara gave birth to her fourth child and third son on April 14th 1927, five months after Dick's death.  Among the tidbits in these boxes is a letter on letterhead from Fireman's Fund Insurance, San Francisco, CA.

In this letter he does two remarkable things, one, he suggests that if she wants her son to grow up to be "a real big man" she should name him Jack.  And he "remembers" that he owes Dick $50.00.  It is doubtful if Dick was ever in a position to loan his big brother-in-law any money.  But Jack sends the "repayment" check directly to Clara in the hospital with his apologies for his oversight.

Clara named her baby John and called him Jack.  And he did turn out to be a "really big man" in many ways.

Jack Naddy, wearing his letterman sweater from Mt. Carmel, and holding Jimmy Householder in 1944.

My Uncle Jack was a big-hearted, sentimental, melancholy, hysterically funny, Irishman.  He inherited many things from his namesake.  The fall of 1953, four months before I was born, my father and my Uncle Bud were in a serious car accident.  My dad was hospitalized for quite a while and out of work for several months. Christmas was going to be a grim affair for the Householder kids.  My mother had made a few things for the kids and she knew that my grandmother would put a few presents under the tree for my older siblings, but is was a sad Christmas Eve morning when some ladies from their local parish showed up with a basket of groceries.  My proud mother was shocked that the family was perceived to be in such straights (not just perceived, they were in dire straights) and was humiliated when the women would not take no for an answer and insisted on leaving a canned ham and other holiday meal components behind them.  An hour or so later the doorbell rang again and as my mother told it, "there was Jack, with his grinning, Irish face."  My mother, nine months pregnant, stressed, humiliated and crying her eyes out, admitted that she did not greet her younger brother with any seasonal cheer, but snarled at him, "What do you want, Jack?" when she opened the door.

According to Rita, Jack stood there grinning for a minute or two and then said, "Dee, give me a hand with something in the hallway, will you?"  "Give you a hand?" my mother replied, "I am in no condition to help you with anything, Jack!"  but, Jack just kept grinning, annoyingly, at her.  She was frankly surprised by his persistence (Rita's temper was legend and her brothers usually gave her a very wide berth if she was cranky) so finally followed him to the hallway of the apartment and on the landing she found a pile of presents for her kids.  Jack, the father of two and not a guy with a lot of money, had received a Christmas bonus the night before and spent it all on his sister's kids.

"Dolly and I finished our shopping for the girls last week.  So I thought I would do some for your kids." he said.   My mother was astonished and grateful.  She had always thought Jack had gotten the short stick in life in many ways.  He was the baby that ended the tragedy of their father's death.  He was not his step-father, Ted's, favorite person.  When Clara married Ted, her father, Jim Coleman, insisted 4-year-old Jack, "the baby," remain in his house with him and not move with the rest of the family, and my grandmother allowed it.  So, Jack lived a couple of blocks away from his mother, sister and brothers for several years, until his grandfather came to live with Clara and Ted.

But, he was, according to my mom, the happiest little guy she ever met and he never lost his ability to bring sunshine into her life.  On that Christmas Eve he was Santa Claus.  

It appears my Uncle Jack inherited a generosity of spirit along with his name.

My mother's Uncle Jack remained a constant but mysterious figure in the family.  When my mother fell in love with my father, Clara was not initially pleased.  She wrote to her former brother-in-law, who was now a very wealthy man living in New Jersey, and he wrote to my mother offering to pay her college tuition to one of the "Seven Sisters Schools."    The letter arrived a couple of days after my mother eloped with my father.

Generous Uncle Jack did not end his life as a wealthy executive.  He was convicted of embezzlement after WW2 and spent some time in a federal prison.  He never wrote to the family during those years.  But, there is a little sympathy card, addressed to my mother in June of 1964, signed, Love, Uncle Jack.  There is no return address.


  1. Nancy - this is great reading. Very interesting history of the family. I really enjoyed reading it. One of my long time family questions had been who is Jack Naddy? My father, Michael, had always told me of an Uncle Jack who was a Mount Carmel alum like myself, but I never did get much more information on who that man was and how we were connected. Carmel is very much a family tradition type of school. My best friends there all had attended school there because their father, brother, or immediate uncle and cousins were students there as well. All I had was an Uncle whom I did not know was my family connection to the school. So I must thank you for the breif history on who Jack Naddy was. I really do appreciate it, and I look forward to reading more.

  2. Nancy, I hope Sean Naddy gets to read this comment as well (I do not have his email address). Yes, our Dad went to Mt. Carmel & played football there, as well. You know Grandma did not have much money to send him there so she paid part of his tuition by making the Scapulars (sp?) for all the boys there. She continued to do this long after my Dad graduated, as I remember the sewing machine she always had set up in her dining room of the house they lived in on Kimbark Ave. in Chicago. The little side table was always filled with the ribbon (string), pieces of brown felt and the Carmelite cloth picture (medal) that she would sew together to create these for all the Mt. Carmel students. I guess it is a Catholic High School guy thing, because my son went to Brother Rice, as did my son-in-law, and they always wore the "rolled" scapulars around their necks. Still do sometimes!
    I believe this is the big house that Grandma & Grandpa Youwer lived in and rented the downstairs apartment to Joe & Nadine, as Nadine was your Mom's babysitter for your older siblings, Nancy. Which is how they came to be our "Aunt & Uncle". John & Dorie Filpovich Smith live not far from us, their two girls go to school with my Granddaughters (Danny's girl's), Queen of Martyrs grammar school & Mother McAuley High School. They all get a kick out of telling friends that "They are kind of like my cousins, but they are not".
    Another small world tidbit is that my daughter Jennifer's girls go to St. Christina grammar school which is where Tim, Terry & Therese went to school. Aunt Margie lived there all her life. The boys went to Bro. Rice, as my son did and to this day, all students are taught about the beautiful stained glass window in the Chapel at the High School that was designed by Brother Jim Coleman. Yes, Grandma's nephew, her brother Jim's son. He died at a pretty young age, from colon cancer, but taught at the school for several years before he died.
    Small world, and so much family history to be told.