Sunday, January 4, 2015


Today is the 112 anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s birth. The fifth child of Marie (Vlasak) and Frank Mason, she was born in West Springfield, Mass. in 1903. Her mother was an Austrian immigrant, having been born in Vienna, Austria to parents (as oral history goes) who were teachers in the court of the Emperor Franz Josef and had an uncle who was lead violinist in the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Grammie's father was a native of North Adams, Mass, and per oral history was a childhood prodigy on double deck organ, giving lessons at the tender age of 9.  My grandmother trained as a Contralto Opera singer at the Boston Conservatory of Music, and was considering a professional career when she met my grandfather. They married in Nashua, NH, took the steamship, Governor Dingley to Eastport, Maine (where my grandfather was from), ultimately settling in Lubec and had a family. My mother was the first born, with my uncle following 3 years later.

To me she was known as “Gram” or “Grammie.”  To her great-grandchildren “G.G.” which tells something of what type of woman my grandmother was. She was a woman of elegant grace, who conducted herself well in any type of situation whether it be a formal occasion or camping, she was known for her graceful, polite manner. To others she was known as “Bug,” and collected lady bugs as a result.

One of the things I remember most about my grandmother was her love of the state of Maine. As we traveled downeast together she would remark on the beauty of the “skyline of spruce” so prominent in Washington County.  She loved to mow her lawn in Connecticut with a gas powered push lawn mower; then sit in the shade of a beloved ancient oak tree by the pond when the job was done. She loved to sing, and boy, could she sing. She loved camping, crossword puzzles and a good book, usually a mystery or western. I remember Grammie’s penuche, fudge, hard dumplings and hoska, an Austrian bread made for Christmas. And lastly, she loved her family… deeply.

There is so much more I could write about this woman but time and self-imposed space restrictions compel me to summarize my thoughts. Although physically not present with me any longer, my grandmother continues to influence me. Her legacy in my life shows up at the strangest of times. I baked beans today in her honor, for that was what she was doing the day I was born. Her love of Maine was passed onto my mother and then onto me; when I take the stage to sing she is there with me and is especially close when I sing “The Holy City” or some other classic style of solo. I can’t help but think of my grandmother while sitting at a campfire, for the fire was also something she loved dearly. I’ve included photos;  some of my favorites that hang on the wall of my house. This post has no moral, no witty ending, for this post is just a brief celebration of a life well lived, which endures through her descendants. Happy Birthday Grammie, I am grateful you were born; Love, your granddaughter, JJ.

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