Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Grave memorials for great grandparents

March 27, 2007


I probably mentioned that I was in the process of getting headstones for each of the great grandparents graves this summer. This project is moving along and it looks like a go. The picture at the left is an example of the stone provided by the firm I am working with to get the job done.

For those of you that may not be aware of the history of this endeavor, here's the short story. Back in 1993 or thereabouts Maureen and I started doing some research in terms of what was available. We ended up contacting the 2 local mortuaries in Kittson County (Hughes and Collins). Neither seemed all that business like or interested in helping us get it done. We continued exploring alternatives and tried to raise a few dollars in the mean time. Since our family was in charge of the 1994 reunion at Lake Bronson, we decided to use any proceeds we had after expenses to go toward those headstones. FYI, we started with a balance of zero as we accepted the responsibility of hosting that year's reunion. So, we didn't raid any existing pot of money in the process. I would be remiss if I didn't mention we also got a contribution from descendants of Sam Wilebski's family (Kathy Schafer).

Although we continued talking with the 2 mortuaries through about 2001, we finally decided to put the project on hold. At that time, we gave the limited funds we had raised to the Jerome Family who agreed to host the 2003 reunion for seed money.

While time passed, we continued to think about proceeding with the project. As fate would have it, our delay has probably worked in our favor. Initially, we had envisioned a brass plaque with a narrative on each of the graves. Now however, the technology such as laser engraving, allows us many more alternatives.

It is our intent now to install a headstone much like the one above at each grave site with a laser etched copy of the Frank & Antonia (Januczek) family picture. We believe the photo will be approximately 12 by 12 (inches). In addition to the picture we will put on the birth and death dates and perhaps some verbiage on the base to the effect "Pioneer, Husband, Father". On Grandma's grave of course would be "Pioneer, Wife, Mother".

Some of you had asked about the grave sites. Well, Grandpa Frank is buried at Kroze, North of Lancaster. A wooden cross marks his grave and is near the front of the cemetery. Grandma Antonia however is buried in the Florian cemetery. It is not clear why the were buried at separate locations. However, Antonia died in Warren, perhaps when she was visiting or staying with some of her children in the area. So while we do not have an answer to this mystery of the separate burial locations, it does necessitate the installation of 2 headstones.

Anyway, I hope this gives you all a little more information about the grave memorial project. The estimate provided by Stennes Granite comes to just under $4,200 at this point. I have decided to pay for them initially to get it done finally. And, if the family wishes to help defer the cost or reimburse me, that would be fine too. I already have almost an extra hundred dollars as a result of the contributions for "flowers from the cousins" at Aunt Ella's funeral. Thanks to all of you that donated to the cause.

If you have any other questions, suggestions, or comments, let me know. In fact, responding to this blog would be the best so that others that want to stay in the loop on this project can see what has been decided or other changes.


If you are interested in seeing some of the other memorials available, you can go to the following link. According to cousin Phyllis and the sales person, the black marble above appears to be the best choice for laser etching.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The story behind the flower and hams - a Wilebski family tradition

While many of you, perhaps most of you, are familiar with the Wilebski family tradition of the ham and flowers at the funeral, I thought it may be worthwhile to share with you its start and how it continues today. Of course its a story according to my recollection, so if it's not correct historically, I am to blame.

The first "ham and flowers" were part of Grandma (Mary) Wilebski's funeral back in July of 1961. It was Grandma's request that at her funeral there be ham and flowers for the family and mourners. In fact, she provided funds in advance to ensure this. The instructions to the children were very clear to "have enough ham for all the guests and some flowers for a proper send off". However, at a kitchen table meeting at the old Frank Wilebski farmstead, the 12 children took up an additional collection to make sure there was enough for everyone. For those of you old enough to remember, Grandma's wake was held at this residence and in those days it was the job of a family member to stay with the body all night. Hence the name wake I guess.

After Grandma's death, the tradition took on a life of its own with each passing of her children. By this time of course the remaining siblings took up a collection at each death to ensure there would be ham and flowers for the funeral.

Well all went well with this scheme until about 15 years ago. One sibling, Auntie Ella, starting getting worried about her funeral and the shrinking pool of siblings that would be responsible for getting her ham and flowers. Although it was brought up occasionally by her, it was at Uncle Frank's death in 1992 that it became more of an issue with her. Then in 1993 when her brother Walter passed away, she knew there were only 2 siblings from the original family of 12 left. Ella and her sister Aunt Gertie.

As the story is told by numerous cousins, Ella's obsession with the ham and flowers seemed to increase exponentially. Lon recalls driving from the Twin Cities with Ella in the car and he claims that she brought up the subject and her concerns a minimum of 50 times during the 5 hour trip. To hear him tell it, he eventually could not contain himself any longer and let go with an outburst which may have even included some profanity. In a nutshell, Lon promised Aunt Ella in no uncertain terms that The Cousins, and he himself if need be, would ensure that there would be plenty of ham and flowers for her funeral.

At this event or others, the same concerns were voiced by Ella and there were additional promises by other Wilebski Cousins, some of which were Frankie Jr., Joey, and Johnny Michalec.

As such, the hams you see in the pictures above were from those cousins and were used as a centerpiece at the lunch following the funeral. The Wilebski Cousins also made sure Aunt Ella had flowers. The arrangement below was one of 2 at the wake and funeral courtesy of them.

And so now you know the story of the Wilebski Family tradition of Ham and Flowers. God bless you Grandma Wilebski for starting it, and the same to you Auntie Ella for making sure none of us ever forget about it.