Remembering American Military Veterans on this Memorial Day (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

American Flag at Snellville, Georgia, May 26, 2014

American Flag at Snellville, Georgia, May 26, 2014

My son put out the American flag today, in special remembrance of America’s military veterans and in celebration of Memorial Day 2014.  Putting out the flag has become somewhat of a tradition for him throughout the past few years, particularly since it was a requirement for one of his achievements as a Cub Scout.  Today, he put out the flag as a new Boy Scout.  Last evening, my family also watched the Memorial Day tribute celebration on television, as broadcasted by PBS.  That has also been a tradition in my family for many years.  This year is the 25th anniversary of the annual Memorial Day broadcast.

In remembrance of military veterans in my family, I have authored this article, having arranged photos and/or memorabilia of all of those known family members and/or ancestors who have served in the American military.  I am thankful for those who have risked their lives and/or who have given their lives for the freedoms that I enjoy.

One important issue to keep in mind, however, is that our freedoms may be our right, but should also be practiced with appropriate reason and rationalization.  I stated this, particularly due to interpretations of the Second Amendment of our country’s Constitution, in regard to the right to bear arms.  We should all keep in mind that while we have a right to bear arms, that does not mean that we have the right to take another’s life, unless circumstances absolutely warrant it in matters of self-protection.  Let us not allow the right to bear arms, as well as monetary-backed interests to that aim, to remain more important than protecting people’s lives.

May we all strive to live together in peace and harmony.  Let us all remember the sacrifices of those who serve and who have served in our military forces so that not only our freedoms are maintained, but so that the spirit of democracy may infuse those in other countries, as well.  May our military forces stationed in Afghanistan soon return home, and back to our wonderful democracy!

Memorial Postcard in Remembrance of the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Memorial Postcard in Remembrance of the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Grand Army of the Republic Veteran's Medal from the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Grand Army of the Republic Veteran’s Medal from the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Fred Henn, Civil War Veteran, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

Fred Henn, Civil War Veteran, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

Harry H. Gale, Member of American Military in New York State, , Hamburg, New York, 1880s

Harry H. Gale, Member of American Military in New York State, Hamburg, New York, 1880s

John Briggs, North Collins, NY, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

John Briggs, North Collins, NY, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

John Hintermister (the Elder), American Military Veteran

John Hintermister (the Elder), American Military Veteran

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

Henry Curtis, World War II Veteran

Henry Curtis, World War II Veteran

Eugene Spires, World War II Veteran

Eugene Spires, World War II Veteran

James Kibbe, Korean War Veteran

James Kibbe, Korean War Veteran

Peter Krakowiak, American Navy Veteran

Peter Krakowiak, American Navy Veteran

Arnold Bennett, Vietnam War Veteran

Arnold Bennett, Vietnam War Veteran

John Nice, Jr.,  American Military Member

John Nice, Jr., American Military Member

I am also aware that one of the Tomaszewski men (formerly of Gowanda, New York, and now of Chicago, Illinois), a cousin to my mom, was a pilot in the Air Force, possibly in the Vietnam War.

These photos, information, and memorabilia represent all those known individuals within my family, and from my family ancestry, who have served in the American military.  I salute you for your risks, sacrifices, and in the case of David Briggs, his ultimate sacrifice, for the freedoms and protections of others.  While I have taught history, and honor and appreciate our military veterans, I am not one who has the will to risk my life in possible sacrifice in the military.  You all are a credit to our country for your service, and to the preservation of democracy.

Happy Mother’s Day! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Four Generations of my Family (My Son, Me, Lottie, Anna), 2006

Four Generations of my Family (My Son, Me, Grandma Babcia Lottie, Mom Anna), 2006

Happy Mother’s Day to all mom’s and moms-to-be, today!  Motherhood – and parenthood – are such wonderful blessings that are bestowed upon us.  We have so many wonderful opportunities as women and mothers to be the role models, protectors, guides, teachers, nurses, counselors, religious, safety officers, and coaches (and so much more) that our children and family members need in our lives.  As mothers, we wear so many hats in our lives.  Motherhood is definitely a blessing for me, and a vocation in which I always strive my best, as with everything that I do.

Bernice (Briggs) Babcock-Sprague with Grandchildren Michele and Charles Babcock on Charles' Second Birthday, Collins, New York, November 1974

Bernice (Briggs) Babcock-Sprague with Grandchildren Michele and Charles Babcock on Charles’ Second Birthday, Collins, New York, November 1974

May all women who are mothers remember, cherish, and practice with sensitivity, responsibility, compassion, and seriousness the gift that we have been given.  Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂

My Krakowiak Family Ancestry, Including Drewin, Tomaszewski, Babcock, Spires, O’Malley, and Clark (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

 

The Krakowiak Family (Lottie, Peter, Larry, Anna, John, and Maria), Gowanda, New York, 1958

The Krakowiak Family (Lottie, Peter, Larry, Anna, John, and Maria), Gowanda, New York, 1958

My mother, Anna Maria (Krakowiak) Babcock (born 1944) is from the Krakowiak Family; she was the middle child.  Her parents are Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak (November 12, 1914-December 13, 2007) and Janek “John” Krakowiak (October 24, 1907-December 1, 1967).  Lottie’s and John’s other children include Peter Krakowiak, Maria Anna (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, and Larry Krakowiak.

Lottie’s parents were Wawryniec and Katarzyna (Mordka) Bulera, and John’s parents were Walenty and Jozefa (Stepnion) Krakowiak.  Lottie had two sisters, Staca, and Marianna (Krakowiak) Drewin.  Staca did not stay in touch with Lottie after her family immigrated to the United States in 1950, so I do not know what became of her.  Marianna had three marriages, and had a son with each of her husbands.  I only know the last name of her third husband, and not the names of the previous two.

Marianna’s sons have several children between them, and they likely have grandchildren and perhaps great grandchildren by now.  Marianna and her family lived in Kielce, Poland, and I was able to visit and meet most of them (15 of them) when I studied abroad at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow Poland in 1992.  Once Marianna died, no one remained in touch with each other, as only Marianna and Lottie communicated with each other at that time.

John is one of about 10 children from his family.  As an adult, he had one glass eye.  I don’t know what experience or situation caused him to get the glass eye.  I do remember my grandmother telling about how John’s mother had told him that no one would ever want to marry him because of his glass eye.  Once John married Lottie, and the family later moved to Germany, and then on to the United States, there were no further contacts or communications maintained between John or any of his family members.

From what I understand, both Lottie’s and John’s parents were farmers.  When Lottie was a young girl, she herded geese on the farm – that was her job.  In bare feet and on frosty mornings, she herded geese.  My grandmother had about a third grade education, and was fluent in Polish and German.  She took some classes in English upon coming to the United States, though never learned to write more in English than her name.  She also did not drive and never had a driver’s license.  She walked to her places of work (or was driven by others), and she walked to stores and businesses in the Village of Gowanda.  She worked at the garden nurseries of Knowles and Fisher, and she also worked additional jobs, such as being a waitress at the local diner in Gowanda (now Olympia).

The Krakowiak Family came to the United States through Ellis Island, and to the Buffalo and Western New York State area, in 1950.  Cousins to the Krakowiak’s were John and Josephine Tomaszewski of Gowanda, New York.  John Tomaszewski secured a guarantee of employment for John Krakowiak at the Moench Tannery in Gowanda.  Thus, the Krakowiak Family was guaranteed a sponsorship by the Tomaszewski’s, a condition that was required of immigrants for entry into the United States at that time.  The Krakowiak Family (all but John) moved to Germany from Poland in about 1948.  The reasons for the family’s move were to escape the effects of World War II, and to seek a better life in the United States.  They did not want to experience another war in Europe.

As a result of their citizenship in Poland, Germany was the best route out of Europe for them.  So, Lottie and her young family traveled on foot and by train to Germany where she worked at two or three large corporate farms, particularly in the kitchen.  (In her later years, Lottie was able to secure a number of financial security payments from the German government due to proof of her work at the farms.)

For about two years, Lottie worked on the farms until the Polish government allowed John to leave Poland.  Lottie and the children were forced to wait those two years because the Polish government had desired John to remain in Poland.  It was a tense situation during the wait because the family worried that John might not be allowed to leave Poland.  Once he died and reunited with his family, they sailed to the United States from Germany.

Once in Gowanda, the Krakowiak’s lived with the Tomaszewski’s until John was able to purchase a house.  The Krakowiak Family then remained on Union Street in Gowanda, often experiencing flooding in the basements of the two different homes in which they had lived due to rising waters and/or flooding by the Cattaraugus Creek that runs through the center of town.

For about the last one to two years of his life, John developed and suffered from cancer.  My family believes that the cancer was caused by John’s handling of the many chemicals at the Tannery without any protections.  John died from the cancer in 1964 when he was 60 years old.  My grandmother, “Babcia,” as we called her and is the word for “grandmother” in Polish, was healthy and well, living independently until she was 86 years old, at which time she was placed in the Gowanda Nursing Home.  She died as a resident of the Nursing Home when she was 93, about seven years after moving there.

My father, Bruce Babcock, married my mother, Anna (Krakowiak) Babock in 1963.  In 1971, I was born, and the following year, my brother was born.

My aunt, Maria (Krakowiak) Spires (and later, Walker) was already married to Eugene Spires (May 7, 1919-November 7, 1993) when I was born.  Maria and Gene had two children, Desiree “Desa” (Spires) O’Malley and Phillip Spires.  Desiree is married to Joseph O’Malley.  They have one son, Joey, and live in Connecticut.  I met Joey when he was a baby.  Phil married Dawn (Clark) Spires on October 17, 1992.  They have one son, Benjamin – named after his great grandfather, Ben Spires.  Phil is a Corrections Officer.

After my uncle, Gene, died after struggling with cancer for two years, Maria met Roger Walker.  Gene was 25 years older than Maria, and had been previously married.  Gene’s first wife died from cancer. Maria then married Roger; they live in Florida.

My uncle, Gene, was also a veteran of World War II, having served in the US Army, fighting in France during the war.  Gene worked for the State of New York at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center in the maintenance department, and as a painter.  Gene and Maria also operated a farm; and Gene owned a gun shop for many years, being a licensed firearms dealer.  My aunt also worked for the State of New York at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center, as well as when mental health patients were transitioned to community housing, then still being employed by the State through J.N. Adam Developmental Center.  She retired from there after about 27 years of State service.

To my knowledge, Peter Krakowiak never married, nor had any children.  Once he graduated from high school, he went into the Navy.  Once he completed his service in the Navy, he moved to and lived in Chicago for the remainder of his life.  My family has not heard from him in many years; he had kept in touch with my aunt, but she stopped hearing from him many years ago.

Larry also moved to and lived in Chicago for several years, where he was married to and divorced from a woman named, Pam.  Sometime following the divorce, he moved back to Gowanda, where he has lived and worked since then.  He does not have any children.

Much of the Tomaszewski Family still lives in or near Gowanda, though I am aware of John’s and Josephine’s oldest son and his family living in Chicago.  John and Josephine had three children, including two boys and a girl.  When the boys became adults, they married and had children.  The daughter, Gloria, is single and does not have any children.  The eldest son of John and Josephine is an airline pilot, likely long retired by now.  He may have also served in the Vietnam War, as I recall.  The Tomaszewski’s, therefore, are cousins, far-removed, from me; they would be considered my third cousins.

Other family related to the Krakowiak side of my family include the Covelli’s from Buffalo, New York, and the Turdly’s from Brooklyn, New York City.

John and Lottie Krakowiak, and John and Josephine Tomaszewski, are bured in Holy Cross Cemetery of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Gowanda, New York.  Eugene Spires is also buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Gowanda.

To follow is a collage of photos that I have of the Krakowiak’s, Drewin’s, Babcock’s, Spires’, O’Malley’s. and Clark’s.

Author’s Note: Information and images identifying my brother have been removed from this post as of April 27, 2016 as a courtesy per his request.

Four Generations of my Family (My Son, Me, Lottie, Anna), 2006

Four Generations of my Family (My Son-age 3, Me, Lottie, Anna), 2006

Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock as a Girl

Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock as a Girl

Wedding of Bruce and Anna Babcock, Gowanda, NY, 1963

Wedding of Bruce and Anna Babcock, Gowanda, New York, 1963

In this photo, my grandfather, John, is at the far left.  The fourth person inside from the left is my aunt, Maria.  At the far right are my newly-wedded parents, Bruce and Anna.  And, standing next to my mom is my grandmother, Lottie.  I do not know any names of the other people in the picture.

Bruce and Anna Babcock, and Parents at Wedding, July 1963, Gowanda, New York

Bruce and Anna Babcock, and Parents at Wedding, July 1963, Gowanda, New York

This is a photo of my parents on their wedding day in July 1963.  From left to right are Emmett Sprague, Bernice Gale (Briggs) Babcock Sprague, Bruce Babcock, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak, and John Krakowiak.

Baptism of Michele Babcock (-Nice) at St. Joseph Church, Gowanda, New York, August 1971

Baptism of Michele Babcock (-Nice) at St. Joseph Church, Gowanda, New York, August 1971

This is a photo of me when I was about two weeks old, just after I was baptized at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Gowanda, New York.  In the photo are: front, left to right: Phil Spires; Desiree Spires, Me (the baby), Maria (Krakowiak) Spires, and Eugene Spires; rear, left to right: Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Emmett Sprague, Bernice Gale (Briggs) Babcock Sprague, Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak, and Fr. Rog.  My dad took the picture.

Michele Babcock on her Third Birthday with Cousins Desiree (Spires) O'Malley and Phillip Spires, Collins, New York, 1974

Michele Babcock on her Third Birthday with Cousins Desiree (Spires) O’Malley and Phillip Spires, Collins, New York, 1974

(L to R)-Michele Babcock (-Nice), Maria (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, Desiree (Spires) O'Malley, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R)-Michele Babcock (-Nice), Maria (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, Desiree (Spires) O’Malley, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Bruce and Michele Babcock with Phillip Spires, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Bruce and Michele Babcock with Phillip Spires, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Michele Babcock with Peter Krakowiak and Maria (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Michele Babcock with Peter Krakowiak and Maria (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Eugene Spires and Charles J. Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992 (3) - Copy

Eugene Spires, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R) Peter Krakowiak, Desiree (Spires) O'Malley, Joseph O'Malley, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R) Peter Krakowiak, Desiree (Spires) O’Malley, Joseph O’Malley, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R)-Joseph O'Malley, Larry Krakowiak, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R)-Joseph O’Malley, Larry Krakowiak, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

All photos of my cousin’s wedding reception were taken by family friend, Alice Tschopp.

Dawn Clark Senior High School Photo, Gowanda, New York, 1985 (From Gowanda High School Yearbook, Jostens, 1985)

Dawn Clark Senior High School Photo, Gowanda, New York, 1985 (From Gowanda High School Yearbook, Jostens, 1985)

Sisters Lottie Krakowiak and Marianna Drewin, Gowanda, New York, Approx 1985

Sisters Lottie Krakowiak and Marianna Drewin, Gowanda, New York, Approx 1985

Me with the Drewin's, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Me with the Drewin’s, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Michele Babcock and Lottie Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Michele Babcock and Lottie Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Lottie Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Lottie Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Maria (Krakowiak) Spires, Roger Walker, Larry Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Maria (Krakowiak) Spires, Roger Walker, Larry Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

I hope that you have enjoyed my information and photo record of the Krakowiak side of my family!

Sources:

Eighty-five: Valley Bugle (1985).  Gowanda Central High School Yearbook.  Gowanda, NY: Jostens.

Photos and information of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014), 1974-1992.  Snellville, Georgia.

Photos and information of Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak, 1950-2007.  Gowanda, New York.  Now the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014).  Snellville, Georgia.

Tschopp (1992).  Photos of wedding reception of Phil Spires and Dawn (Clark) Spires.  Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (1992).  Gowanda, New York.

Other photographers of other professional photos, unknown.

 

Collins, and Villenova or South Dayton, New York School Photos of my Babcock Ancestry (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

In one of my earlier posts, I included a few photos of several of my ancestors on the Babcock side of my family.  In this post, I have included school photos that reflect Jonathan Babcock (my great grandfather); Charles A. Babcock (my grandfather) and his sister, Louise (Babcock) Heppel; and Bruce Babcock (my father).  These are antique and/or vintage school photos from the Western New York State communities of Collins, and Villenova or South Dayton, New York that are near Buffalo.

School Class of Jonathan M. Babcock with Miss Barnes, Villenova or South Dayton, New York, Circa 1890

School Class of Jonathan M. Babcock with Miss Barnes, Villenova or South Dayton, New York, Circa 1890

This photo reflects the school class of my Great Grandfather Jonathan M. Babcock, probably in Villenova or South Dayton, New York from around 1890.  Jonathan is the boy whose head is circled in the picture.  The teacher is Miss Barnes, and some of the students include: Winnie Hale; Gertrude Williams; Myrtle Pease; Gertrude Hollister; Atta Pease; Ethel English; Ortie Beach; Tom Simpson; John Rugg; Vern Peterman or Peterson?; Ray Pormer?; R. Hollister; and Jonathan Babcock.  There are no other names recorded on the back of the photo.

Elementary School Class, Possibly in Collins, New York (Including Charles A. Babcock), 1922

Elementary School Class, Possibly in Collins, New York (Including Charles A. Babcock), 1922

This is another school photo, likely in Collins, New York, that includes my grandfather, Charles A. Babcock.  He is standing, the third from the right, the boy wearing the tie.  This photo was taken in 1922.  Names of the other children in the photo, in no particular order, include: Warren Fritz; Annabelle Bartow; Harry Kerr; Martha Demerale; Joseph Birtch; Virginia Zilmer; Mary Weber; Lester Andres; Bill _?; Walter Willet; Dorabelle? Bartow; F. Smith; Les Wittman; and Eslie? Fritz.

Collins, New York School District No. 3, 1922-1923

Collins, New York School District No. 3, 1922-1923

This is a picture of Collins, New York School District No. 3 from 1922-1923 in what is now known as the L.K. Painter (Community) Center.  This building served as the public school in Collins, New York for decades.  In this photo is my Grandfather Charles A. Babcock.  He is standing in the second to last row, near the left, the sixth boy inside from the left, and is wearing the neckerchief.  His sister, Louise, is also pictured, but I’m not sure where she is located in the photo.

My Great Grandmother Bertha B. (Gould) Babcock wrote the names of everyone pictured in the photo on the back of the photo, though I cannot read all of her writing.  I will do my best to transcribe the names that she wrote, here, in no particular order: E. Taber; M. Willet; J. Johnson; E. Willet; A. Mendonsa; M. Demerale; L. Babcock; C. Squire; M. Metzger; _ Myrtle; K. Andres; T. Babinger; R. Willet; R. Bentley; C. Gerfel; R. Hire; C. Cunningham; F. Smith; L. Andres; H. Squire; R. Willet; C. Babcock; G. Phillips; E. Castle; A. Metzger; _ Unknown; R. Mendonsa; E. Fritz; H. Taber; E. Cook; B. Long; C. Powers; A. Bartow; D. Bartow; G. Johnson; D. Tarbox; A. Johnson; L. Dittiman; W. Fritz; C. Demerale; C. Taber; L. Blakeley; H. Kerr; K. Schuele; N. Johnson; D. Bettecker; R. Andres; W. Willet; B. Lauman; C. Tarbox; M. Barr; F. Snynder; C. Schmitz; L. Bartow; L. Curtis; M. Barr (twice or a different one?); Leslie Platz; C. Johengen; G. Taber; J. Squire; J. Metzger; L. Metzger; R. Deet; B. Deet; Roy Zilmer; R. Smith; B. Law; L. Powers; Agatha Platz; H. Schuele; R. Weber; E. Weber; A. Law; K Earl.

Collins, New York School Kindergarten and 1st Grades, 1949-1950

Collins, New York School Kindergarten and First Grades, 1949-1950

In this photo, pictured are the kindergarten and first grade classes of the Collins, New York School in 1949-1950.  My dad, Bruce Babcock, is seated, in the third row from the front, and is the boy wearing the neckerchief and standing next to the teacher.  I can also identify Robin (Johengen) Mentley in the photo – she is seated in the front row, the second girl from the right.  I am familiar with her because her daughter, Heather, went to school with me in Gowanda, New York.  Unfortunately, no one identified any of the people pictured in this photo – I know of only those two individuals.  Additionally, the teacher might be Ms. Schuele, but I’m not sure.  She was one of my nursery school teachers when I was four-years-old.

Collins, New York Fourth and Fifth Grade Classes with Marion Dunlap, 1954-1955

Collins, New York Fourth and Fifth Grade Classes with Marion Dunlap, 1954-1955

This is a photo of my dad’s fourth and fifth grade classes in Collins, New York with Teacher Marion Dunlap from 1954-1955.  My dad, Bruce Babcock, is seated along the front row, the second boy inside from the far side of the photo.  My Grandmother Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague wrote the names of everyone pictured on the back of the photo.  Sideways, by rows, proceeding from front to back include: row 1: Beverly Martindale; Margaret Armbrust; row 2: Karen Langless; Cary (Cory?) Baldwin; row 3: Shirley Horth; Lavern Parsell; Janet Cohen; Victor Johnson; row 4: Bruce Babcock; Sharon Robeson; Ruth Metzger; Douglas Glass; row 5: Dick McKeon; Paul Meyers; Gary Stewart; Joyce Kerr; Jean Smolarzk; row 6: Rosalind Babinger; Charles Krebs; Larry Frenkel; Bill Baldwin; Herb Simmons; Roberta Erhing; standing, left to right: Marion Dunlap; Lee Fraser; Robin Johengen; Sharon Farner; Warren Farner; Wayne Farner; Mary Alice Carlson.

This summarizes the school photos that I have of several of my ancestors and extended family members, going back three generations to my great grandfather.

Sources:

Family photos and information of Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague from 1860-1987. Collins, New York.  Currently the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014). Snellville, Georgia.

 

Some Photos from my Briggs, Staffin, Ritter, and Gale Family Ancestry (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Nearly all of my vintage and antique family photos are from my dad’s side of the family.  Because my mother’s family were immigrants from Poland to Germany to the United States through Ellis Island around 1950, I have fewer than a hand full of vintage photos from my mom’s side of the family, the Krakowiak side, though I do have a few.  Photos and tin types from my dad’s side of the family include those from the following families: Babcock, Briggs, Gould, Hoyler, Staffin, Gale, McEwen, Crawford, Cole, Ritter, Henn, and Goetz.  And, those are just the images, while there are other families who are part of my ancestry, including Rump, Rodgers, and others.

My direct ancestral heritage – in addition to that of Poland from the Krakowiak family – reflects people from England, particularly the families of Gale, Bulson, and McGee; the French and German ancestry of Adelia Staffin; and the German ancestry gained from the families of Gould, Rump, and Henn; and both Hoyler and Ritter (through marriage).   The Briggs’ and Babcock’s were also from England, but had been settled in the United States prior to the Gale’s.  My ancestry can also be traced back to England’s King Henry VIII, as a result of his many marriages; and Clement Briggs, one of my ancestors, who traveled to Plymouth, Massachusetts from England in 1621 on the Mayflower.  The name “Briggs” has many variations; and is believed to have been derived from Saxon William atte Brigge of County Norfolk, England in the 1200s.  That is the furthest back in time that I have been able to trace some of my ancestry.

The following photos and tin types are those that I have selected to reflect some of the many images of my ancestral heritage from the Briggs, Staffin, and Gale families, as I know it, so that the richness of culture, values, and family can be shared and enjoyed outside of my family, as well.  The photos were taken in North Collins and Collins, New York, near Buffalo.  I will make additional posts with pictures reflecting the other families identified in the near future.  Note that for photos that have estimated dates, I have tried to date them as best as possible to reflect an accurate time of when they were taken.

Wallace Briggs and Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, North Collins, New York, Possible Wedding Photo from Arranged Marriage, Circa 1840

Wallace Briggs and Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, North Collins, New York, Possible Wedding Photo from Arranged Marriage, Circa 1860 (Tin Type)

This is the oldest tin type that I have that reflects ancestors of my family.  The tin type was in the condition seen in the photo when I got it from my grandmother, Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, so I have carefully preserved it as best as I can.

Adelia Briggs, my Great Great Grandmother on my Dad's Mother's Father's Side, North Collins, NY, Circa 1845

Adelia (Staffin) Briggs, my Great Great Grandmother on my Dad’s Mother’s Father’s Side, North Collins, NY, Circa 1865-1875 (Tin Type)

Adelia was said to have been a short, but fiery and tough woman.  It is possible that she was married through an arranged marriage to my great great grandfather, Wallace Briggs, because they married when they were kids.  It does not even appear that Adelia is 13 years old in the first picture in this post, however it is believed that she and Wallace were married at about that age.  Adelia and Wallace had five boys (Clarence, Howard, Harold, Sumner, and John); and while I am unsure about how Adelia died, it is possible that she died in childbirth.  She would have been 26 when Clarence was born (the second oldest son) and 37 when John was born.  The oldest boy was Sumner, born in 1879 when Adelia would have been 23.

No one in my family seemed to know how Adelia died, or if they did, they did not talk about it.  I know that she seemed to have died at a young age (possibly under 40 years old), and Wallace married a second wife, Veronica, having four boys (Ivan, William, Lawrence, and Leo) with her.  Therefore, nine Briggs’ boys grew up and at least seven of them (all but for Howard and William “Bill”) had families in North Collins, New York in the 20th century.  Birth and death dates that I have, as recorded by my grandmother, for Adelia’s and Wallace’s sons are as follows: Sumner (1879-1939), Clarence (1882-1953), Howard (1886-1944), John (1892-1934), and Harold (1893-1965).

Sumner Briggs married Frances Creed, and they had four children, including Rexford, Emerson “Coon,” Harriet, and Buddy.  Howard Briggs was a bachelor.  John Briggs married Ella Rieckhof, and they had one child, Lois, who married Harold Rodgers.  Lois and Harold had a daughter, Margo, who had a son, Eric, who would be about my age.  Harold Briggs married Emma North; they had a son, James, who married Mabel Orton.  James and Mabel had three children, including Beverly, Barbara, and Bruce Briggs.  I know that Ivan married Louise Gullo, and they had three children, including twin girls and a son, David (who died in the Vietnam War).  Bill married Ruth, but they did not have any children.  I don’t know about descendants of Lawrence or Leo.

Adelia (Staffin) Briggs was the daughter of John Staffin and Phoebe (Wilcox) Staffin; and she was the sister of Mary Ann (Staffin) Smith (who married John Smith) and William Adam Staffin (who married Cora Wickham).  John Staffin was born in 1830 to Adam Staffen (1804-1869) and Anna (Mathias or Mathis) Staffen (1807-1886), and was brother to 10 siblings.  Anna’s father was Johann Mathis, who was a blacksmith, and her mother was Anna Maria (Schmitt) Mathis.  Adam and Anna sailed to the United States through Ellis Island from France in 1840, purchasing land in Collins, New York.  They had left their home in Saarlouis, Germany to sail from the Port of LeHarve in France, coming to the US with $800.

Adam and Anna were schoolteachers, teaching in a large room of their home; and Adam was also a stone mason and farmer.  At that time, the Staffen’s school was the only one in the area, and young men traveled from miles around to be educated by them.  They taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, and were paid in kind with raw materials rather than money. When Adam and Anna Staffen came to the United States, they spoke fluent French and High German.  They were Roman Catholic, and are buried in the Langford Catholic Cemetery in Langford, New York.

Adam Staffen was one of three sons (Jacob, Adam, and Nikolas) of Johann Steffen (1748-1814) and Susanna Girlinger (1766-1833).  Susanna’s parents were Phillip Girlinger and Maria (Bauer) Girlinger.  Phillip was a farmer in Germany.  Johann Steffen was the son of Simon Steffen (1716-1771) and Catharina (Schwartz) Steffen.  In 1741, the marriage record of Stefan Simon (who changed his name to Simon Steffen around 1847) reflects that he married Catharina Schwartz, and that her parents were Franz Schwartz and Apollonia (Everhard) Schwartz.  Simon’s parents were Dominicus Simon and Catharina (Corsain) Simon.  Around 1838, Simon and Catherine moved from Longville, France to Ittersdorf, Germany, although rule changed from German to French rule at that time.  It is possible that the move and name change were due to political reasons.

Thought to be Edward C. Ritter, Husband of a Descendant of the Staffin's

Thought to be Edward C. Ritter, Husband of a Descendant of the Staffin’s

Cora (Wickham) Staffin’s parents were Chauncey L. Wickham and Rosene (Spaulding) Wickham.  Cora married William Adam Staffin – brother to Adelia (Staffin) Briggs.  Cora and William had (I believe) four children, including Marion Staffin, Charleton W. Staffin, Burton W. Staffin, and Burnell E. Staffin.  Somewhere along the line, I do not have an exact record of at least one generation of the family, somewhere in-between Anna Staffin marrying Edward C. Ritter.  I do know, however, that Cora (Wickham) Staffin’s grandchildren included Sara Jane Staffin, Mary Ann Staffin, Robert C. Staffin, and Norman R. Staffin.  I just don’t know whose children they were – Charleton’s, Burton’s, or Burnell’s.

Marion Staffin married, though I do not know what her married name was.  I believe that they had a daughter or granddauther, possibly named, Anna, and she married Ed Ritter.  Ed Ritter, to my knowledge, had several siblings, including Fritz Ritter, Herbert Ritter, Mrs. Hoyt Prince, Mrs. Guy Hickey, Mrs. Clarence Simmons, and possibly another sister and another brother, though I am unsure of their names.  Ed and Anna Ritter did not have any children.  To my knowledge, Ed was a butcher, and I have a tin type of him reflecting that.

My Great Grandfather, Clarence Briggs, standing at left; Others Unknown. Circa 1870-1880.

Tin Type of my Great Grandfather, Clarence Briggs, Standing at Left; Others Unknown, North Collins, New York. Circa 1900-1910.

This is a tin type that shows my great great grandfather, Clarence Briggs, as a young man, possibly around 1900-1910.  I do not know the identities of the other young men in the image.

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

This photo shows my 15 additional tin types from my Gale, Briggs, and Henn ancestry that were accidentally discarded by my parents during my family’s move from Collins to Gowanda around 1992.

Clarence Briggs Ice Carting, North Collins, NY, Circa 1930-1940

Clarence Briggs Ice Carting, North Collins, New York, Circa 1930-1940

My great great grandfather owned and operated an ice carting business in North Collins, New York.  He transported blocks of ice to people’s homes for their use in refrigeration, such as in their root cellars.

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1890

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1890 (Photo Taken in Springville, New York)

This is a photo of Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and possibly Howard Briggs, from North Collins, New York around 1890.  It is the best photo that I have of them as young boys.

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1900-1910

Clarence and Sumner Briggs, and Possibly Howard Briggs, North Collins, New York, Circa 1900-1910

From what I understood from my grandmother, this photo was supposed to be a silly picture of three of these Briggs’ young men.  They went on an outing and had several different photos made on this day, reflecting different backgrounds and venues.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague as a Baby, North Collins, New York, 1912

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague as a Baby, North Collins, New York, 1912

This is a photo of my grandmother, Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, as a baby in 1912 in North Collins, New York.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, 1914

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, 1914

In this photo, my grandmother was about two years old.

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, June 1930

Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, North Collins, New York, June 1930

This is a photo of my grandmother either on the day of her engagement or wedding to my grandfather, Charles A. Babcock.

Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, Collins, New York, 1946

Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, Collins, New York, 1946

This is the only photo that I have that shows both of my great grandparents, Clarence and Julia (Gale) Briggs, in the same photo.  This was taken in 1946 in Collins, New York at the childhood home of my father, Bruce Babcock.

John Briggs, North Collins, NY, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

John Briggs, North Collins, New York, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

This is a photo of John Briggs, a brother of my great great grandfather, Clarence Briggs, from North Collins, New York in 1917 before he went off to fight in World War I.  There were several Briggs’ brothers who fought in the War, and they all returned home alive.

Marie and Veronica Briggs, April 1941, Daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs

Marie and Veronica Briggs, April 1941, Daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs

This is a photo of identical twins, Marie and Veronica Briggs, from April 1941.  They are daughters of Ivan Briggs and Louise (Gullo) Briggs of North Collins.  David Briggs was the son of Ivan and Louise, and died while serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War. For many years, there was a memorial to David outside the front of the Catholic Church in North Collins, New York.

Twins Veronica and Marie Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1944

Twins Veronica and Marie Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1944

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Bill and Ruth Briggs, Collins, New York, August 1986

Bill and Ruth Briggs, Collins, New York, August 1986

Here is  another photo of the twins.  They were about three-years-old in this picture. Veronica was named after her grandmother, Veronica.

I hope that you have enjoyed viewing these photos.  I will make additional posts with photos that reflect the others of my ancestral families that I identified, shortly.

References and Sources:

Anna Emerling Spengler (~1980).  The Emerling Family Tree: Chapter 7 – The Staffins.  Springville/Collins, New York.

Family tin types, photos, and information of Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague from 1860-1987.  Collins, New York.  Currently the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014). Snellville, Georgia.

The Name and Family of Briggs: Manuscript Number 341 (1984).  New York, NY: Roots Research Bureau, Ltd.

Wentland Funeral Home (1968).  Funeral Card of David I. Briggs.  North Collins, NY: Wentland Funeral Home.

“Poland and my Polish Heritage” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Four Generations of my Family, 2006

Four Generations of my Family, 2006

My grandparents (now deceased) on my mother’s side were pure-blooded Poles, having left Poland and immigrating to Germany before coming to Ellis Island around 1950.  My Polish-American grandmother was Władysława, or “Lottie,” and my Polish-American grandfather was Janek, or John.  I never knew either of my grandfathers as they both died before I was born.  Grandfather John died following a two year battle with cancer, possibly brought on by working with the many chemicals at the Tannery in Gowanda, New York, where he lived.  Both of my grandparents worked very hard to put food on the table and keep a roof over the heads of four children, one being my mother.  Sometimes, my grandmother worked two or three jobs at a time, such as waitressing at a local restaurant and tending plants at a local nursery.

Life was not easy for my Polish-American grandparents who left Europe after World War II.  But, they left because they did not want to take the chance of experiencing another Great War, and they wanted better opportunities for their children.  After all, America was the country that was flowing with “milk and honey,” as they had heard.  For two people who did not have more than an elementary or middle school education, nor knew any English upon setting foot in the United States, they certainly worked hard and did the best they could.  Sponsorship of their family by cousins already in America helped pave the way for a different fate for their family than occurred for the siblings of my grandparents still in Poland.

My grandfather was one of about 10 children in his family.  I remember being told that his mother apparently told him when he was a young man that no woman would want to marry him because he had a glass eye.  In those days in Poland, being poor and having a disability meant having fewer opportunities, as well as potentially being a societal outcast.  When I think of such a statement, now, I think of how ridiculous it sounds, particularly with so many people who have disabilities making the best of their lives.

Me with the Drewin's, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Me with the Drewin’s, Krakow, Poland, 1992

My grandmother was the middle child in a family of three daughters.  Her sisters were Staca (pronounced “Stashia”) and Marianna.  Many years ago, Marianna visited and stayed with my grandmother for three months in the United States on a temporary visa.  And, many years following that, I had the privilege of studying at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and seeing her again!  As a senior at the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, I participated in the popular study abroad program to the Jagiellonian University in 1992.

In the midst of studying intensive Polish language at the Jagiellonian – with the intention of being able to properly communicate with my Polish relatives in Poland – I sent a postcard to Marianna.  A few days later, Marianna and her family arrived at my dormitory building, surprisingly unannounced, and took me out for the day.  I then made plans to visit them for a weekend, and got to meet 15 of my Polish relatives in Poland, including Marianna’s family, the Drewin’s, who lived in Kielce.  It was wonderful to see and visit with them all, and to provide monies to them that I brought specifically for them from the family at home.

Jagiellonian University Study Group at Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Jagiellonian University Study Group at Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Studying in Poland at the Jagiellonian University was a wonderful experience.  If I could have the opportunity to do it all over again (and at the same age as I was at the time), I would.  Studying abroad in Poland was highly recommended to me by my fellow student colleagues who were members of the University at Buffalo Polish Club.  Many of them lauded praises about the program.  Because so many of them said such great things about their experiences, I decided to apply for the opportunity to go.  It was very exciting to be accepted into the program, and to have taken the opportunity to go there.

Tapestry in Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Tapestry in Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland, 1992

While in Poland, I did much sight-seeing with my English-speaking (mostly composed of Americans) study group at the Jagiellonian University.  We visited the historic Wawel Castle and Cathedral, the amazing Wieliczka Salt Mines, the religious pilgrimage destination of Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa,  and had regular opportunities to see Krakow’s St. Mary’s Basilica and visit Krakow’s main market square.

Entrance Building at Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

Entrance Building at Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

On my own, I also traveled to and visited Berlin, Germany during one weekend; and with a student colleague, I went to Prague in the former Czechoslovakia, for another weekend.  On yet another weekend, the same student colleague and I visited Vienna.  I found Berlin to be a historic city, one in which a person could still obviously observe the differences between the former West and East Germanies.  And, Prague is just an amazingly beautiful and historic city, with many historic structures still standing, having not been demolished in previous wars.  Vienna was an incredibly beautiful city, also being extremely modernized and commercialized.

Life-size Madonna and Child Statue in Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

Life-size Madonna and Child Statue in Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

I have many memories of my time spent studying abroad and travelling in Europe.  I had such a wonderful experience in studying abroad that I returned to Europe two years later.  At that time, I travelled with my mom through the British Isles, including England, Scotland, and Ireland.  Following that, I went solo, traveling through many European countries.

St. Mary's Basilica, Krakow, Poland, 1992

St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow, Poland, 1992

While in Europe in 1994, I used my Brit Rail and Eurail passes to travel by train, everywhere.  I traveled lightly with only a couple of bags, and remained in Europe for about one month.  In all, it was a fabulous experience, and I highly recommend it.  I would definitely do it all over again if I ever had the opportunity.

I am very proud of my family, my ancestors, and my Polish-American heritage.  While there are additional nationalities in my make-up from which I am descended, the Polish part of me is the strongest next to that of being American.  I am thankful that my Polish-American grandparents had the fortitude and courage to come to America, where they succeeded in creating a better life for their family, and their descendants to come.

“A Golden Fifty Years of Marriage” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary, Dad and Mom, July 2013 (Photo by Emmett Clower, July 2002, Snellville, Georgia)

Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary, Dad and Mom, July 2013 (Photo by Emmett Clower, July 2002, Snellville, Georgia)

What does it mean to be married for 50 years?  My parents can tell you!  This month, July 2013, my parents are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary!  All I can say is, “Wow!” 

My parents are a living and true example of what it means to be married to each other for fifty years.  My parents were married in July 1963, very shortly after they both graduated from high school in Western New York State.  They have lived and grown together in married life during these past 50 years.  They have experienced many ups and downs in their lives, and have weathered and survived them. 

My parents are a true example of people who are meant to be together.  They seem to balance each other in personality; what one may lack, the other makes up for, and vice versa.  It has always been interesting to me that they both share the same astrological sign, though they seem to get along with and understand each other very well. 

My Parents on Their Wedding Day, July 1963, Gowanda, New York

My Parents on Their Wedding Day, July 1963, Gowanda, New York

I can say that, throughout the years, I have witnessed much love and forgiveness of my parents toward each other.  This, I believe, is the glue that has held their marriage together.  They have forgiven each other for the wrongs that they have done to each other – whether realized or not – and this outlook has helped them to reach such a monumental achievement.

In this age when most marriages likely don’t make it to a silver anniversary of 25 years, my parents have doubled that!  My marriage lasted 7.5 years, and the relationship, itself, endured for 9 years.  I have said to my former spouse that my parents experienced alot worse things in their lives than he and I ever did in our marriage, and my parents have remained loving, committed, and bonded to each other.  I asked my ex why we couldn’t achieve that, however it was just not possible.  People have to be willing to be open, loving, understanding, and forgiving of each other; some people simply are unable to be that way, and so, their marriages do not last. 

My parents celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary, July 2013, Snellville, Georgia

My Parents Celebrating Their 50th Wedding Anniversary, July 2013, Snellville, Georgia

In good, strong marriages, those who benefit the most from the stable and loving union are the children and grandchildren.  My parents have been wonderful role models for my brother and I, and also for my son – my parents’ only grandchild.  My parents’ strong, loving union has served as a beacon of hope for our family, in good times and in bad.  It is a great comfort to know that whatever happens in our lives, our parents (and grandparents in the experience of my son) are always there for us. 

Thanks, Dad and Mom, for remaining loving, committed, and loyal to each other through these many years.  You have achieved an amazing accomplishment, one that I never will and can only imagine and experience as an observer.  Congratulations and best wishes on celebrating your Golden Wedding Anniversary; and may God bless you!

“Two Days at Disney” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

View of EPCOT with Flower Show, Monorail, and Spaceship Earth, Disney World, Florida, April 2, 2013

View of EPCOT with 20th Anniversary Flower Show, Monorail, and Spaceship Earth, Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, April 2013

During Spring Break 2013, in the first week of April after Easter, my son and I spent two days at Disney World.  I have visited Disney world numerous times throughout my life, and have taken my son there on some occasions, as well.  He and I enjoyed two wonderful days at this wonderful, get-away paradise, wishing that we could have stayed longer.  For a single parent on a limited budget, even two days was financially difficult to do, though it was important to get away and enjoy some refreshment even for a couple of days.

Flamingos at Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

Flamingos at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

On our first day at Disney World, we visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  My son had not visited the Animal Kingdom for the past seven years, and I promised him that we would go there on this trip.  I am so happy that we went because it turned out to be the absolute perfect day!  The weather was great, and while it was toasty, it was not too unbearably hot outside yet.  The shade of the many trees in Animal Kingdom also helped to keep us cooler.

African Dance Party at Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

African Dance Party at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

The highlights of our visit to Animal Kingdom were going on the safari ride, eating lunch at the Tusker House Restaurant with some Disney characters, and viewing the Lion King Show.  Each of these activities were wonderful, and we really enjoyed them!  On the safari, we saw many animals, including elephants, lions, giraffes, monkeys, crocodiles, and more.  During lunch, Mickey Mouse visited with us, as well as other Disney characters.  And, the acrobatics, songs, and costumes of the Lion King Show were amazing!  Additionally, in the African section, we did some shopping and enjoyed African culture, including music and singing.

The Lion King Show at Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

The Lion King Show at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Florida, April 2013

On our second day at Disney World, we went to EPCOT.  It was another beautiful, yet humid day, and we often got refreshed in the air conditioned buildings or drank water or juice to cool down.  At EPCOT, we visited different sections, including Canada, England, France, Morocco, and Japan.  We were privileged to see and hear three marching bands troop past us.  We also had our pictures taken with many characters, including Alladin and Princess Jasmin.

A Marching Band from Ohio, Performing at EPCOT, Disney World, Florida, April 2013

A Marching Band from Ohio, Performing at EPCOT, Disney World, Florida, April 2013

Also at EPCOT, we rode on the newly upgraded and more modernized Test Track, at which my son designed his own red sports car on the computers there.  We extremely enjoyed the 20th Annual EPCOT Flower Show, particuarly with flowers arranged on the ground in the form of flowers and butterflies.  While we did not stay late into the evening to see the fireworks, we still had a fabulous time!

Beautiful Flowers at the 20th Anniversary EPCOT Flower Show, Disney World, Florida, April 2013

Beautiful Flowers at the 20th Anniversary EPCOT Flower Show, Disney World, Florida, April 2013

My philosophy about children is that they grow up very fast, and it is important to provide as many fun, interesting, and memorable experiences for them as possible.  Disney World is a place where I have vacationed very often, having first visited when I was about three or four years old.  Now, I have the pleasure and satisfaction of taking my own son to Disney World for his enjoyment.  I am happy to have the opportunities and ability to provide for such family enjoyment, and look forward to more visits there in the future.

This blog post is a tribute to all those who lost their lives or who were injured – especially children – in the bomb blasts at yesterday’s Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts.  May God bless you all and keep you close.

“In Celebration of Spring and Easter” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Easter Chick with Easter Eggs, Easter 2013

Easter Chick with Easter Eggs, Easter 2013

Spring has sprung, and Easter is again upon us!  There is much to be thankful for in celebrating another Easter – Christ’s ultimate sacrifice in giving his life for us, dying a horrible death beyond words and resurrecting his spirit for us.  Jesus is the God who continually forgives our sins and is our ultimate savior, unable to be replaced by anyone or anything.  And, though there are many things in our world by which we may attempt to replace our Creator, what it all comes down to in the end is that God is the ‘be all and the end all,’ the first and the last, the alpha and the omega. 

So, while many of us are spending additional time at church during this Easter season, reflecting, praying, and meditating on Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection, we must always remember that we are all His children.  With that in mind, those of us who have children of our own must be mindful of not only teaching them about our religious values, but also participating in fun Easter events, such as getting pictures with the Easter Bunny, going to Easter Egg Hunts, or enjoying other fun Easter or Spring activities, including something as simple as walking in the park and viewing the flower blossoms on the trees.

Easter Egg Hunt at St. Oliver's, Snellville, Georgia, March 30, 2013

Easter Egg Hunt at St. Oliver’s, Snellville, Georgia, March 30, 2013

I hope that everyone enjoys a beautiful, wonderful, rejuvenating, and refreshing spring.  And, regardless of the religion that you may or may not practice, hopefully, you will take time to reflect upon and be thankful for all that has been bestowed upon you in your life.  For me, as a Roman Catholic Christian, celebrating Lent with the culmination of Easter in spring is a wonderful time of reflection and renewal.  I hope there are events and celebrations in your lives in which you experience the same!  Happy Easter!

“Success, Sacrifice, Blessings, and Thanksgiving” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Thanksgiving Roses and Pumpkin

There are so many things for which to be thankful in our lives.  In getting older, my views of what to be thankful for have expanded, and surprisingly, have gotten somewhat modified.  I believe that some of the things for which to be thankful go hand-in-hand, such as success, sacrifice, and gratitude.  While each of these areas mean something different, they ultimately embody similar qualities for me.  Perhaps with age has come greater wisdom and insight about what it is in life for which we should truly be thankful.  It being Thanksgiving Day, it is the perfect opportunity to express and share the meanings and associations between success, sacrifice, blessings, and thanksgiving in my life.

Success, sacrifice, and thanksgiving are all connected in my life.  They each have a very special meaning in my life, and have grown stronger and more intense throughout the passing years.  Firstly, my personal meaning of success has changed throughout the years.  When I was younger – say, a college student or recent college graduate – success meant getting and maintaining a great career position, along with earning a comfortable salary and benefits.  It made me feel secure, stable, and accomplished to achieve that. 

Roses in Georgia, October 2011

Roses in Georgia, October 2011

As the years have passed – such as the past 20 years or so – success for me, personally, now means doing all I can for the benefit of my family, particularly for my son.  For me, success involves “being there” for my son as much as possible, providing him with the most and best possible quality time, and being a compassionate, sensitive, nurturing, caring, and loving mom for him.  To me, that is my greatest success – “the” greatest success – raising, caring for, loving, and being there for my son.  I invest all possible social and emotional understanding, compassion, and nurturing into my son, and I am also thankful and grateful to be able to do so on a regular and consistent basis.

So, for me, success no longer necessarily means having the best job or career position or earning the most money possible.  Although it is important to have a stable and enjoyable career, as well as to earn money in order to live and provide for my family, my highest priority and greatest success is in mothering my son.  So many jobs and career positions demand that people give their lives to their employment; I have given my life to being a mom, and being a sensitive, caring, loving, and nurturing one at that.  It is my hope that in the future, my son will remember all of the time, compassion, care, love, and nurturing that was invested into him, and invest that back into his own future family, as well as to others with whom he comes into contact.

Success also involves doing what I can for my son, my family, myself, and others.  Sometimes that also involves sacrifice – sacrificing my own selfish needs or desires for the benefit of others.  As the years have passed, I have realized that I truly do not need everything that I think I do.  And, when I look around, I see that I, indeed, have more than I need, materially.  It has helped me to refrain from satisfying a compulsive impulse to buy something that I don’t really need by telling myself that I have everything already and that I don’t need it. 

It also helps to remember that my main priority is in providing an outstanding education to my son, and that is where the money must go.  Thus, a wonderful education for my son is the top priority of sacrifice for me to him.  I strongly believe that such an excellent education is the best course of action for him, considering all other circumstances.  Of course, there are also expenses for maintaining good health, well-being, and extracurricular activities, as well as for having a vehicle and driving it, however my son’s schooling helps me maintain my focus of investment in him and in his education.  This is my gift of sacrifice to and investment into him.

Sacrificing and giving to others is also important to me.  When I can, I drive my parents to where they need and/or desire to go.  For one thing, this helps save on gasoline, though it also provides company, comraderie, companionship, and fellowship, not only for me, but also for my son.  I do what I can to give back to my family for all the good that they have done for and provided to me, even in the little things that others may think are insignificant, such as buying some groceries, taking packages to be mailed at the post office, or taking items to the trash pick-up or recycling center.  That stated, I know I could never in my entire life return to my parents all that they have provided in support and assistance to me, and for that, I am also extremely thankful and blessed.

Sacrificing also means giving back to the community, serving others, and helping those who are in need.  I regularly do that as a volunteer in many capacities, including at two churches as a lector and lay minister, as a writer for a church newsletter, donating food and clothing for those in need, volunteering as a spiritual leader at my son’s school in activities that assist local families in need, assisting as a parent helper for school activities, organizing food for and delivering it to local families in need during the holiday season, volunteering my time, talents, and efforts in Cub Scouts whenever possible, and giving of my time by volunteering at the local religious-affiliated thrift store.  Though my desired, intended, and enjoyed career path in teaching has not proceeded as planned, I am rewarded by being able to give of my time and talents to help and assist others – and, in turn, it is also spiritually, socially, mentally, and emotionally fulfilling for me.

So, what I am most thankful for are God, my son, my family, my friends, and the good, competent, caring professionals who are in my life.  Without God, I would be nowhere.  With God, I have, maintain, and develop my strong faith, even when things are not going well.  I believe that there is a reason for everything, even though I may not know or understand what those reasons are.  I also believe that God has our lives mapped out for us, and knows everything that will happen in our lives long before it happens and prior to us even making a choice on what to do. 

Thanksgiving Pumpkins

Thanksgiving Pumpkins

I try my best to be thankful to God everyday and for everthing, both good and bad, because I believe there are learning experiences in everything.  Of course, it is extremely difficult and challenging to be faced with bad, trying, or traumatic situations, though with God as my strength, I know that goodness, love, and mercy will prevail in some way.  With God, for whom I am thankful, I am blessed with the hope and faith that He will guide and show me the best way in which for me to travel.

Thanksgiving is also important in association with my son.  I am thankful for my son because he provides me with the greatest meaning in my life, he gives me the strength and fortitude that I need to live and enjoy each day, he fulfills that place within my soul that has the innate need to mother, nurture, care for, and love him.  I am thankful for my son because I often believe that he is my reason for being, for living, and for sharing and enjoying the most in life that is possible.  I am so moved and thankful to God for my son; he is my heart.

My family are also those for whom I am thankful.  Without my family – my parents in particular – I would not be where I am today.  When I was in need, it was my parents who were there for me and my son.  My parents have been that strong, stable, unyielding rock of strength and persistence throughout my life, showing me that nothing is too great to overcome, that nothing is too great to bear, that nothing is too severe to integrate positively into my life in some way.  Having been married now for nearly 50 years, my parents are wonderful role models for me, and for them, I am extremely thankful and indebted.

I have a few wonderful, close friends, and for them, I am also very thankful.  One is lucky and blessed in their lifetime to find, acquire, and maintain friendships with those who are kindred spirits, sharing similar values, beliefs, and backgrounds, and I am blessed and thankful to have found such friends as these.  Typically, I gravitate toward friends who are slightly older than me because I believe that they are more mature, experienced in the world and in their lives, and can also be wonderful mentors for me.  In fact, there have been a couple of colleagues in my life who have also become wonderful friends, particularly for those reasons.  It is such a blessing to be able to share an understanding, flexibility, and sensitivity with friends who hold similar outlooks, philosophies, and perspectives, and I am thankful for those people in my life.

Also of great importance in my life are those professionals who have been helpful and supportive of me and my family, and who have made our lives easier and more enjoyable.  For these folks, I am extremely thankful and grateful, and for some, I will also never be able to fully express or show my gratitude if it takes me the rest of my life.  Currently, a few of these people in particular include my attorney, a school superintendent, and physicians and healthcare professionals who doctor and/or otherwise assist me and my son.  In the past, such professionals have also included college professors, instructors, mentors, and coaches; and professional peers and colleagues.

Of course, I am also thankful for nature, the environment, animals, flowers, plants, food to eat, shelter, safety, freedom and democracy, diversity, and different peoples, cultures, religions, languages, and customs.  I am also thankful for opportunities, growth, development, life experiences, and being able to live my life.  I am thankful to travel freely and to where I choose.  I am thankful for having sight, hearing, touch, taste, intelligence, honesty, persistence, and a whole host of other qualities and characteristics.  I am also thankful for being female – being a woman, for with that has come pregnancy and giving birth to my son, and enjoying experiences and intimacies that are understood only by women.  Even so with all of these things for which I am thankful, I am most thankful for people and God.

My son and children, in general, are those people in my life for whom I am most thankful because they bring so much joy, happiness, innocence, and fulfillment into my life.  Had I an enjoyable, stable, and loving relationship with a partner, I would also find great fulfillment in sharing such thankfulness and love with him, as well.  I know, however, that a relationship of that nature is in God’s hands, and if such a relationship never presents itself, then I will know and accept that it was not meant to be, however discouraging and disappointing, perhaps it would be for the best.  My love and compassion for children, children’s rights, and children’s welfare would also be high priorities for me to share with an intimate partner, as I am sure he would find similar enjoyment and fulfillment in this, as well.

Westward View of North Carolina Toward Tennessee from Cherokee, North Carolina, October 2010

Westward View of North Carolina Toward Tennessee from Cherokee, North Carolina, October 2010

While this post will end up being published and dated in the day following Thanksgiving this year, it was on my agenda to accomplish on Thanksgiving Day, though other things came up that needed attention.  I hope that you who are reading my article will be able to reflect upon what it is that you are thankful for, and perhaps, also find some correlations between success, sacrifice, gratitude, and blessings in your life. 

Sometimes, we just need to stop and smell the roses, or – before you know it – those roses are gone and we are left wondering what happened.  I took a few moments this evening to cut some roses from the backyard garden and to smell and enjoy them.  Please also take time to be thankful and share all wonderful things on this Thanksgiving.  Take time to “smell the roses;” enjoy all that is good; share with family, friends, and loved ones; and be thankful for all that our wonderful Creator has bestowed upon us.  Give extra hugs and more quality time to your children and family.  Take a moment to appreciate everything, and not take it for granted.  Enjoy it now – it doesn’t last forever!