Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Day Trip to Herkimer

At the grave stone of my grandfather and grandmother, George and Florence Mumford, at the Calvary Cemetery in Herkimer, New York

Last Sunday Ted and I drove up to Herkimer, New York, upstate for the day for the memorial of my mother's cousin Katie Border who recently passed away. A service had previously been held for Katie in North Carolina, but her daughters, my second cousins Mary, Ginny and Patty, wished to disperse ashes in Herkimer in the cemetery where many of the family lie.

Herkimer you may remember is where my great grandfather Dan O'Donnell settled after coming over from Ireland, married my great grandmother, and raised my grandmother and her nine siblings in a big Victorian house at 611 West German Street, now the Bellinger Rose Bed and Breakfast. Last summer we found our kitten Bell in Herkimer, who is named after the Bellinger Rose.

When we were young we went often from nearby New Hartford to visit my great aunts at 611 including Milly, my grandmother's sister, the first girl to go to Cornell on a scholarship, and the grandmother of the Border girls. 611 and my O'Donnell ancestors greatly influenced my life and the things I love – antiques, books, old-fashioned gardens, travels, candlelight and fireplaces, and a Romantic way of life. Of course they're all gone now so the world lives in my memory.

The three Borders girls were always the same age as my brother Thom and I, so when we got together we had a lot of fun. We didn't see them often because they lived in different places but we really grew up together, in the way that cousins can. After college Mary and I went to Europe together. We went to Ireland, England and France for six weeks, and I spent only $1,500.

Last Sunday Ted and I got up early and drove straight up the Thruway to be at the cemetery by noon. Thankfully he came with me to share the driving. We got there in time to stop and have a look at 611. The owners now, Chris and Leon Frost, are taking wonderful care of the house and have been generous to the family; in fact, in 2005 I organized a big O'Donnell reunion at the house with more than one hundred relatives attending.

Across the street from 611 and up a hill is a park where Thom and I and the Border girls went as kids and walked along this creek on hot summer afternoons when the air was heavy and even the bees were sleepy. We were like characters out of Tom Sawyer, exploring new adventure around every bend and turn.

The Calvary Cemetry is on a hill overlooking the Mohawk Valley and offers a scenic spot for a final rest. Many of the O'Donnells are buried there.

It seems like it would be a refreshing spot with cool breezes blowing but it was hot! It must have been a record for Herkimer. We met up with Patty and Ginny with her husband Ron and daugher Johanna. Ashes were dispersed and we talked about Katie who was a lovely person with a dry sense of humor. Afterwards we went to the home of my mother's cousin Philip and his son Philip and Diane and their children who blessedly offered us a swim in their wide swimming pool and a wonderful lunch where we talked more about family stories and histories.

But before we left the cemetery we took this photo at the family stone – Ginny, me, Patty.

And here is a photo from 33 years ago. This was at the funeral of our great aunt Zibby and we are in the sitting room at 611 at one of the last family gatherings there – Ginny, Mary, Thom, Patty and me.

Time passes but love remains.


An Aesthete's Lament said...

Don't you love cemeteries and churchyards? I could spend all day wandering around them.

Laura said...

What a wonderful family you have, and if I were to be buried somewhere that is most certainly the place I would like to rest. Gorgeous and peaceful...exactly as a final resting place ought to be.

Mr. Peacock said...

I love this posting! Your family is wonderful, and what a great summer visit. I love the 33 year old photo at the end too—wonderful!