A Letter to Julia

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Chapter 2

Where Mary Came From

My father, James John Francis Locatelli was born in Butte, Montana in 1907.Family lore has it that his father, Stephen, was so overjoyed that he finally had a son after seven daughters that he used all the boy’s names he’d been saving up on my dad.My dad’s mother, Martha Calagari, had immigrated to Butte from a small Italian town close to the French border.Her passage had been paid for by a wealthy man in Butte with the understanding she would marry him soon after arriving.However, after she met him in person, she changed her mind and refused to marry him.Instead she took a job in a Butte hotel so she could pay him back.Interestingly, my maternal grandmother, Kate Wagner Schwarz, was also living in Butte at that time.She remembered much talk in Butte about the beautiful young woman from Italy that refused to marry the man she had promised to marry.Grandma actually went to the hotel out of curiosity to meet her.What a pleasant surprise for Grandma when Dad married her daughter Wilma Wagner Schwarz and Martha became her in-law.

My father was only five when my grandfather Stephen died from what was called at the time “Black Lung Disease”.As were most of the immigrants, Stephen was a miner in one of Butte’s deep gold mines.He worked for shares.My father was too young to remember, but his oldest sister recalled when Stephen came home one evening very excited.He had uncovered a rich vein of gold ore.However, the next day he discovered that the owners of the mine had moved him to another shaft and were mining the vein for themselves.Such was the life of the immigrant miners.The miners had a saying that in an accident the owners would try to save the mules that pulled the ore from the mines first, then the miners.After all, the mules were more valuable than the miners since they had to be trained and were less numerous.There were always new immigrants.Because of the ill treatment he received, Stephen hoped to get out of the mines by starting a small store catering to the Italian immigrants.He started the store, but his dream was cut short by his early death.

Eventually my father’s older sisters married and moved away from the mines to Seattle, Washington.Western Washington’s forests, lakes and salt water sound were a paradise compared to Butte’s mining devastated countryside.Later, my father, his mother Martha and the younger siblings also moved to Seattle in search of a better life for all of them.My father was only a boy when he was put behind the wheel of a large Cadillac touring sedan and trusted with driving his mother and sisters to Seattle.I liked traveling to Butte from Seattle with my Dad since he could point out the traces of the old road from the new freeway, and I enjoyed hearing stories of his trip.My father had to grow up fast and take on adult responsibilities to help his widowed mother.

My maternal grandfather, Frank Schwarz, was raised outside of Chehalis, Washington on land his parents settled on before Washington was a state. That distinction makes it possible for my family to join the Pioneers of Washington State.While my mother’s sister Carolyn was still alive, she was always very careful to keep me enrolled. My grandfather and his brothers built the original homestead house which was still standing a few years ago, vacant, but with the original hand-carved shingles intact.My grandfather had a clear memory of carving the shingles as an after school chore.

My grandmother married Frank Schwarz in Chehalis.At first, Frank and Kate ran a small restaurant in a local hotel.Later they moved to McCleary, Washington where Frank found work logging.Grandma raised her three daughters there, my mother Wilma and her sisters Carolyn and Franketta.My grandparents were hoping to have a boy to name after my grandfather, but made up the name Franketta when the third daughter came along. Grandma did skilled work in the factory and I can still remember, as a little boy, Grandma proudly showing me a sample piece of plywood where she had replaced a knot with an insert. Grandma excelled at telling stories of her childhood and of imaginary characters she made up.My brother and I and our cousin Kathy would pile in bed with her in the morning and listen for hours to her tales.What great memories for us to have.

After graduating from high school, my mother Wilma moved to Seattle to attend a business college.My mother and her sister Carolyn graduated first and second in their high school class.Mom had really wanted to go to the University of Washington, but as for many people of that era money was too tight.During the depression she worked for a bus company.One of her jobs was to sort the bus tickets.After she finished sorting her boss would have her scramble the tickets and then sort them over again so that he would have an excuse to keep paying her salary.How is it that the owners of the mines in Butte valued the mules over the miners, but my Mom’s boss made work for her so she could stay employed?How can some businesses care about people, but others not?

Dad was going to Broadway High School in Seattle when he had to quit school to find work to support his mother.Like my mother, Dad always regretted not being able to go to college.He eventually found work in a Seattle Oldsmobile agency and on a blind date met Mom.They begin their life together in a rumble seat and were never separated until Mom died in her seventies. After they were married they lived with my Dad’s mother in the University District taking care of her until she died.Most of Dad’s family was living in the University District, but my parents broke tradition and in 1949 built a very modern view home in West Seattle that overlooked Puget Sound and further westward, the Olympic Mountains. The first floor of the house was cantilevered over the basement.I can still remember visitors being afraid to stand in front of the floor to ceiling view windows for fear of falling. West Seattle was where I grew up.

January 4, 2008: Mary has been slowly getting better, but still hasn’t been able to drive without getting hopelessly lost.I’ve been driving her to work and on her errands.Mary still has occasional seizures, but they are not as bad as the ones that put her in the hospital.The seizures seem to come at night when the events of the past three years become clearer to her.Mary tries to put such thoughts out of her mind, but can not always do it.She is able to work at our flower shop, but still has trouble focusing on her tasks.Before Christmas, we were afraid that we would have to have her institutionalized, but now I don’t think that will happen.But, will she ever be OK again?We fervently hope so.

I can understand that all medications come with risks.Even the common over-the-counter drug Aspirin has the risk of internal bleeding.Common side effects of other popular drugs are sleepiness, nausea, and itching.More serious side effects can be life threatening such as heart and breathing problems.However, all these side effects can be evaluated by the person that takes the drugs.They can then decide if the beneficial effect of the medication is worth the drawbacks of the side effects.But, what about a medication like Mirapex that robs a person of their mind so that they cannot make rational decisions?Even with her world crashing down around her, Mary thought everything was fine, even better than ever.Mirapex made her incapable of deciding if the side effects of Mirapex were too awful to continue taking it, or, even if there were any side effects.Such a medication is more insidious than other medications with more serious side effects.At least with those medications one can quit if the side effects are too onerous.Our family tried to get Mary to stop taking Mirapex, but the effects of the drug made it impossible.By the time we realized the extent of her problems the damage was already done.

My wife Helen’s grandparents on her mother’s side came from Sweden, and Norway.Even though Helen’s mother, Gudrun, was born in West Seattle, Gudrun could only speak Norwegian and Swedish when she first started school.Her maternal grandfather worked in the local brick factory.He walked to work six days a week, several miles each way.Helen never knew her father or her grandparents on his side.They were Poles that lived in Kiev, Russia, and her father Leo Verbon and his brothers escaped from Russia during the Russian revolution.Leo was the best educated of all Mary’s grandparents.He was a nationally known Naturopath that was the director of Spaulding General Hospital in Portland, Oregon.Patients would come from out of the area to be treated at his clinic, one of whom was Walt Disney’s mother.Helen’s family still has the cartoon of Mickey Mouse, drawn by Walt Disney, thanking Leo for curing Walt Disney’s mother of cancer. Gudrun told stories of Walt Disney coming to visit them in Portland and bringing Disney character toys for the children.Leo was also an ordained minister and traveled weekly between Portland and Seattle to deliver sermons.He combined his faith with his medical practice.

After Leo’s premature death when Helen was ten months old, Gudrun moved to West Seattle to be close to the rest of her family.So my future wife and I grew up together in West Seattle only a few miles apart, but as I was four years older than her we didn’t meet until I was senior in college at the University of Washington and Helen was a senior at West Seattle High School.My father’s family, like my mother’s, had always valued education, but because of their circumstances higher education was not always possible.My brother, Jim, and I were never told directly that we were expected to continue on to higher education, but both felt that since our parents never had the opportunity to go to college it was an opportunity we could not squander.Because of this both my brother, who was four years older, and I were pretty bookish and finished in the top of our high school classes.Neither of us had much time for social activities, especially in college, so by my senior year I hadn’t really dated much.

In 1966 my friend Karl was playing basketball on a local church team, and I believe he was required to attend some other church activities to remain on the team.While there he took a liking to the daughters of the minister.The senior youth group was going camping over Labor Day at Twin Harbors State Park on the Washington Pacific Coast.Karl thought if we went camping at the same park we might have a chance to meet up with the minister’s daughters.I was game since I was finally determined to find a girl friend.We ended up camping not far from the church group.Karl and I tried spotting the minister’s daughters, but we couldn’t seem to find them.Ironically, the minister had just left to take a new position elsewhere and he and his daughters were not there.At that time Karl and I didn’t know this so we kept looking.Karl and I were out on the beach scouting for the daughters and we noticed two young women leaving the church group so we caught up with them and tagged along.The women were Helen Verbon and her friend Beverly.Helen and I hit it off immediately.A few days later I went to see Helen in West Seattle along with Bill, another friend of mine.We all talked for awhile on her front porch.After we left Bill predicted that Helen and I would eventually get married.Bill said it was because Helen liked to kid around and I could take it. I guess Bill was right since forty years, four children and three grandchildren later our feelings for each other haven’t diminished.There is so much chance in life, some of it good and some of it bad.The lack of the minister’s daughters turned out to be good luck for me and bad luck on the beach for Karl. Things did turn out OK for Karl as eventually he did get a blond girl friend and he ended up marrying her.

Both my family and Helen’s were very family oriented.Helen was related to (it seemed) half of West Seattle and I had lots of relatives in the North Seattle area.Both families were always visiting back and forth and some of mine and Helen’s fondest memories involve getting together with family on holidays.After Helen and I got married we settled in West Seattle so we could be near my parents and Helen’s mother.Helen was only nineteen and I was twenty three.I was a scientist at the Atmospheric Sciences Department at the University of Washington and Helen settled into homemaking.We decided to have children right away since both our parents were (or, so we thought) getting older and we wanted our children to have the experience of grandparents and our parents to have plenty of time to enjoy them.Now that I’m 63 I realize that our parents in their early 60’s and late 50’s were not as old as we thought.

Helen and I were pretty naïve when it came to life.We were married in Helen’s West Seattle church in September.Helen loved holidays and was really looking forward to our first Thanksgiving together, especially having dinner at both our parent’s homes along with other relatives and our siblings.Helen started not feeling well just after we arrived at her mom’s house, and spent most of the dinner laying in one of the upstairs bedrooms.I can still remember Helen’s mother and her Aunt Edith exchanging knowing looks after they checked on Helen.We were surprised, but happy to learn that Helen was most certainly pregnant. We found out soon enough that nausea is one sign of a coming baby.

Helen was very athletic when I met her.When she was younger her older brother Richard taught her how to lift weights, throw the shot put and run. It’s a shame that she was born too early to make use of the blossoming of women’s sports that happened in the 70’s as she could have been a star athlete in several sports.Helen and I hadn’t finished childbirth classes when our first daughter Amy was born.Helen was only in labor for a few hours and she delivered an hour after we arrived at the hospital.Helen hadn’t yet turned twenty.A few days later Helen didn’t even look like she had ever been pregnant.The others in the child birth class were really surprised when Helen showed up at the next week’s class with a baby instead of a fat stomach.

Three years went by before Helen became pregnant again.During those three years we had moved out of a small apartment into a house built in the 1940’s. It was on this house that we started what was to become a lifetime of house remodels and new constructions.Because our first daughter had come so fast with minimal labor we rushed to the hospital when the first signs of labor started.However, this time the labor was quite long and finally the doctor decided to induce the birth. The doctor predicted that the baby would come at 5:30 p.m. and at 5:29 on April 29th, 1972 our second daughter Mary was born.

There are many, many interesting stories and anecdotes that I could tell you about Mary’s grandparents.Mary came from solid working class stock, but also from people that badly wanted to continue their education and encouraged their children to do so.But, if there is only one impression of her grandparents that I would like you to come away with, an impression that explains the essential Mary, is it is this one.Never from anyone, have I heard anything bad ever said about Mary’s grandparents.On the contrary, they were well liked by everyone.

Mom was the hub of my father’s family.Many mornings in the summer when school was out and I could sleep in I could hear Mom talking to one or the other of my father’s many sisters. They all confided in her because she was a good listener and non-judgmental.I never remember Mom speaking to me in anger.She was everyone’s friend.Years after my mother died, people still came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed my mother.These were relatives, people that knew Mom through PTA and friends from church.

My father worked over forty years for the Oldsmobile agency in Seattle.That was long enough for anyone to get a reputation, good or bad.My brother and I would frequently buy auto parts at various parts stores around Seattle.Invariably, when we gave our name, they would always ask if we were related to Jim Locatelli.Since we were the only Locatelli’s in the Seattle area, being his son was a foregone conclusion.Then we had to listen to a story or two of how fairly Dad treated them and how much they liked him.Then they always gave us a big discount on the part’s price. Children don’t always appreciate their parents until they become parents of their own.I was always embarrassed when this happened, but now I realize how proud I was to be his son.

Helen’s father, Leo, was very charismatic in his medical practice.His reputation was widespread for his ability to heal people, not only through his medical ability, but as much through his force of personality.He had tremendous empathy for his patients.It’s said that he lit up rooms every time he walked into them and his presence was immediately known.Helen’s mother, Gudrun, never said anything bad about anyone, not even to her children or closest friends.Before I met Gudrun, I had never met anyone like that. My parents were extremely well liked, but on occasions they did complain about other people.Gudrun never said anything about other people unless she could say something good about them.Even her later years as she grew more dependent on her family for help, she retained her good nature.Sometimes I wished she had been not as nice to everyone, as I felt people took advantage of her kind and forgiving nature.But, that was her nature.

Mary is very much like her grandparents in temperament.Mary loves everyone.When the other grandchildren were off playing, she could spend hours sitting with her grandparents and listening to them telling stories of their childhood.Mary wasn’t just doing it to be nice; Mary loved being with them and hearing their stories.Even when the drug Mirapex had stolen her mind that part of Mary’s personality didn’t change.Mary is kind to everyone, even people she shouldn’t be kind to. Mary, like Gudrun, can be taken advantage of.She also has enormous empathy for others like her grandfather Leo had.Everybody gets a hug, especially those that don’t often get them.Parents of a daughter that had recently died came into the flower shop where Mary worked to arrange for funeral flowers.As they were leaving, Mary felt compelled to follow them outside.She hugged both of the parents then gave the mother a single lily relating to them that she had a strong feeling that their daughter wanted her to give them that single lily.They both broke down crying and told Mary that lilies were their daughter’s favorite flower.Such is Mary.

Everyone loves Mary.If I included all the testimonies on Mary’s character from all her friends, those testimonies alone would fill up this book.If I listed instead all the bad things said about Mary this book would be totally blank. I’d like to end this chapter with a cute story from Mary’s early childhood.Mary was still in grade school when we told her we would be moving to a new address as we had outgrown our second house with the promise of more children in the future.I kidded her by saying that in addition to learning a new address she would have to pick a new name for herself.She became very quiet; then after a few minutes thought Mary said, in all seriousness, that she would like her new name to be Gloria.If only life was that simple.

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