Thursday, January 26, 2017

Remembering My Uncle

My uncle, Frank George, died on January 4, 2017. He was 95 years old and had lived a full and rich life. My cousin, David, and I were privileged to speak at his memorial service. I'd like to share what I said about him.

My earliest memory of my Uncle Frank was of him teasing me. I must have been around a year old. I toddled into my grandparents’ breakfast room where Uncle Frank was eating. He handed me an olive and told me it was candy. I took a big bite. I must have made a face and started to cry because my grandfather, who arrived just in time to see my response, scolded Frank. He, of course, thought it was funny. To this day, I can’t stand olives, and Frank continued to tease me and everyone else.

Frank was a big kid who always had the best toys.

His favorites were cars. My mom told me about my Aunt Evelyn hanging out down the street at Frank’s house when they were in high school. She would return with grease on her face and clothes. Grandma’s response was predictable, after scolding her, of course. “What will the neighbors think?” I always suspected they thought Evie was crazy about Frank. They would have been right, and she remained crazy about him for another seventy-five years.

They were engaged the night of my parents’ wedding and married a year later. Frank had just turned twenty-two, and Evelyn was just short of her twentieth birthday.

This was during WWII, and Frank was in the service. After their marriage, he was stationed in Washington D.C. as a Link instructor. This blue box was the original virtual cockpit with which he trained pilots. When the war ended, they returned to California. Since housing was in short supply, they moved into my grandparents’ house.

Frank bought a gas station with a repair facility nearby. His love of all things cars continued.

My cousin, David, was born in 1945, just ahead of the Baby Boom. I came along in 1946 in the vanguard. In 1949, all three sisters contributed to the boom. Mom gave birth to my brother, Ron, in May. Aunt Muriel had David's sister Eileen in August, and the twins, Kathy and Karen, came along in December.

They were quite a challenge since they were on different feeding schedules and had different food allergies. Frank was busy with his business, and Grandma helped out, but the situation was stressful. According to my mother, they sought counseling and were told to schedule a date night once a week. They left the kids with a sitter and spent an hour or so alone together. Their date nights lasted the rest of their lives.

They loved dancing. This was the era of the jitterbug. You’ve probably seen films of guys lifting girls over their heads and tossing them through their legs. Since Frank was at least a foot taller than Evie, he was able to execute these maneuvers easily. Mom told me about Evie returning home with her chin rubbed raw from scraping against Frank’s suit.

They continued to take lessons for years and to go dancing once a week. They joined their dance group on a dancing cruise, and they had a ball. At our daughter’s wedding reception, they dominated the dance floor.

In 2011, Aunt Evie had a stroke one evening when they were out dancing. They told me the first time she was allowed out of bed, Frank took her in his arms and danced her around the room. At our fiftieth anniversary celebration in 2015, we invited them to join us for a short dance. They still put us to shame.

When I was about twelve, they hired me to stay with the twins during their Friday date nights. I always appreciated this because they provided spending money I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

The routine was always the same. They picked me up in the evening. The kids and I ate dinner. I put the kids to bed, watched 77 Sunset Strip, and spent the night. They drove me home the next morning—after breakfast. Uncle Frank sometimes cooked. His specialty was pancakes. I learned to love yogurt and fruit on my pancakes from Evie and Frank.

They had installed a great pool in their back yard, making their house a favorite place to visit. For my fifteenth birthday, they conspired with my friends and David to throw me a surprise pool party. What a terrific occasion.

After they moved to San Mateo, Larry and I visited often. Aunt Evie always found a cool new restaurant or tea room or place to visit. Sometimes she and I left the guys and Kim at home and went shopping. On one occasion, we returned and the guys told us about “fixing” the ski boat. The rope in the bow had broken and required a new eyelet. Since Kim was the only one small enough to fit in the bow, she was elected to crawl in and help secure the new eyelet. She still remembers the incident and the fiberglass cuts she got. She had a ball.

Both in Monterey Park and San Mateo, the garage and driveway were filled with cars and car parts. Frank’s non-operational Cushman motor scooter and the Metropolitan moved with them. Frank said he’d get them operational, but not until a couple of years ago was the Metropolitan finally restored. It's still in the garage. I don’t know if the Cushman ever ran. [Their son-in-law, Jay, told me he found the Cushman when he cleaned out under the house. It still doesn't run.]

In addition to the cars Frank collected over the years, he also loved cameras. He always had the latest and greatest—as well as all the accessories: lenses, filters, tripods, monopods, etc. When they lived in Monterey Park, he created a dark room where he printed his own photos.

He had one of the first movie cameras I remember seeing. He started with a sixteen millimeter, then graduated to 8 millimeter, super 8, and finally to digital. We loved it whenever he brought out the projector and showed us the old movies. He always said he’d convert them to video, but I don’t think he ever did. He later became a wedding videographer, and he did a great job.

Evelyn and Frank loved to travel, and Uncle Frank always took lots of slides. We visited often, and Frank saw us as a captive audience for his latest shots. Whenever they showed them, Evelyn complained because he took few landmarks and never included people. He took lots of bridges—without any identification of location. He also loved to stand in the center of little European villages and shoot he main street in one direction and then the other. No signs identified where he was. Aunt Evie’s kibitzing provided the most fun.

On one visit, I woke early to find Uncle Frank in the kitchen with a thermos and disposable cups. I asked what he was doing. He said each week during the winter he took a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee to the curb for the trash collectors. A small gesture, but such a thoughtful one.

For most of their marriage, Evelyn took care of Frank. Following her stroke, he became her caregiver. I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was. I think the girls were as well. Yet, he took this role seriously.

We visited them about six weeks later, and I was stunned at the amount of progress she had made. I give Uncle Frank a great deal of the credit. He watched her every move and made her do her physical therapy. He also cared for her tenderly and with patience and good humor.

When I was preparing Uncle Frank’s video, Karen sent a photo of Evie saying good night to him in the nursing home. Karen said her dad wanted to come home so he could tuck his sweetheart into bed. 

That pretty well sums up their relationship. All of us would love a relationship with the same devotion. They lived it, and we are all better off for having known them.

Here is the link to the YouTube video I created for the service: 


  1. This is beautiful, Lorna. I sent the YouTube link to my Mom's neighbor so she could play it for her. My Mom very much enjoyed seeing the slide show you put together. She has good memories of time spent growing up with your Mom, Eveyln and Muriel.

    1. So glad your mother got to see it. I was telling Evelyn that I had been in touch with you girls. She was so happy to know your mom was still living. Evie remembers your mother fondly.

    2. Thanks,Lorna, for sharing this moving story of family love and devotion. I enjoyed your reference to TV's "77 Sunset Strip," recalling the song from the show "Kookie, Kookie Lend Me Your Comb," so popular when we were students at Alhambra High. I'd almost forgotten the cute little Nash Metropolitan autos from that same era. The Lyons who lived on Ramona Road had one (Sharon Lyon was in Larry's and my class, and her brother Wayne was a year or two behind, maybe in your brother Ron's class).

    3. I remember Sharon Lyon. Her brother, Wayne was in my class. Glad I brought back some memories.