I didn’t know my Great Aunt Julie very well. I met her a couple of times as a child. Then when I started doing my family tree, we shared a few phone calls and letters. But, what I knew, I admired.
My conversations with my Great Aunt took place while she was in her 80s. I can tell you she was quite a character. Never one to mince words. She told it like it was.
My Great Aunt had a rough life. She made many mistakes–something she freely admitted. She was married three times and had nine children by the age of 41. Her mother often took care of the kids while Julie was off drinking. She told me once that she had things all backwards. She got drunk, got pregnant, and then had to get married.
Sometime around 1947, Julie admitted that she had a drinking problem. She join AA and began working through her problems.
From there Julie began another life. She continued to help others recover from alcoholism throughout her life. She ran an antique shop. Julie remarried around 1964 to another recovering alcoholic. They spend over 40 wonderful years together.
I remember in one of our conversation Julie was critizing all the money spent on flowers for funerals. She said “I believe in giving roses while people are alive”. I thought that was a beautiful sentiment.
When I read her rather lengthy obituary, I realized I didn’t really know much about her. The woman who died at 92 was a fan of Wheel of Fortune, Indian Motorcycles, playing slot machines, and driving fast.
No wonder she was nicknamed “Big Julie”. She was larger than life, at least in my eyes, and I appreciate that she shared her story with me.
(This is my entry for the #12 Edition of Smile for the Camera–A Noble Life.)
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com