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Monday, October 31, 2011


Happy Halloween!

Halloween comes from the saying and/or Scottish 16th Century tradition of "All-Hallows-Even".  Yes, I found it as "even" or evening.  All Hallows Day is the next day on November 1st.  Known as All Saints Day in Western Christianity and was once a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church,  All Hallows Day is the solemn day following Halloween.  November 2nd, is also a rather solemn day known as All Soul's Day celebrated in the Catholic Church for those faithfully departed.  Halloween, October 31st, leads off these days as a bit of a celebration.  Is and was Halloween intended to be a big party day?

Now, I am big into understanding history, religion, and people.  Most of my curiosity and understanding of history and theology came from what I learned in Catholic high school.  I provide this disclosure so that you know the source of my learning and experience when I discuss pagan festivals or something more controversial (or perceived to be as such).  My education was as honest and true as it comes which may surprise people where the Catholic Church is concerned.  Facts and history demonstrate the evolution of society, including something as basic as a holiday or celebration such as Halloween.

The Celtic festival of Samuin (sow-an or sow-in) is historically given the credit of where Halloween comes from.  The word is derived from the Old Irish meaning "summer's end".  Celtic people lived mainly in the British Isles and the northern part of France.  They were most certainly pagans that included animal sacrifice as part of their Samuin celebration on October 31st.  Their new year started on November 1st.  Is that a coincidence that it matches some very important days for Christianity?

Now, it should come as no surprise that the Roman Empire had influence over the conversion of pagan believers to Christianity.  Many of the pagan festival days were converted to Christian holidays.  I look at this as a way of making a belief transition easier.  I'm not sure how easy it really was but the Roman Empire and the Church worked to retain and replace some of those pagan holidays with something equally palatable and more "Christian" like.

Many holidays, including Halloween, still pull tradition from those old Celtic Festivals.  Where do you think carving a pumpkin comes from?  Turnips were carved to honor soul's that had passed on.

The story is changed and more elaborate from the Christian stance. There is the legend of "Stingy Jack".  In Ireland, the story goes that Stingy Jack tricked the devil into becoming a coin and also climbing into an apple tree.  With the coin, Jack was able to buy a drink and the story goes on.  Jack tricked the devil again a year later (presumably on Halloween).  The deal that Jack made with the devil was one that prevented him from going to hell.  When Jack died, God did not want Jack in heaven because of his previous unsavory dealings with the devil.  As a result, Jack is stuck roaming the earth forever with a lit coal that God gave him to light his way in the dark. 

Over the years this story evolved to create "Jack O' Lanterns" to light Jack's way on Halloween.  I guess Jack's in purgatory walking the earth and on Halloween his ghostly figure needs light to see his path.

I must admit that the stories of Halloween, and there are many more, are so much more exciting than reality.  The use of our imaginations now and thousands of years ago make this tradition fun and exhilarating for all ages.

My own children look forward to decorating with "Jack" and pumpkins plus dressing up and collecting some candy just as I did as a child as did my own parents.  Imagine that, the children are really enticed by the sweets.

So, share your stories and traditions of "All-Hallows-Even"....Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Richard Joseph Flanagan - Part 11

On October 29, 2000, Richard "Dick" Joseph Flanagan passed away.  I certainly have more to say about this and let me see if I can pull it all together.

Dick turned 88 years old on this day.  His family had gathered at his home in Napa, California for the celebration of his birthday.  The menu for the mid-afternoon dinner was one of Dick's favorites.  Fresh leg of lamb with gravy, potatoes, a salad and a vegetable awaited the family at the table.  There was also a wonderful bottle of Pinot Noir red wine to accompany the meal.

At around 3pm, Dick had just finished telling everyone a story about his father, Jack Flanagan, when it was announced that dinner was ready.  Everyone headed to the table.  Prayer was said, then everyone tasted and sipped the wine in honor of Dick's 88 years.  A few minutes later, Dick was enjoying his food and sipping his wine but it was apparent that he could not move his left side.  Soon after, 911 was called and Dick was headed to the hospital.  I recall saying goodbye to him in the emergency room.  He died a few hours later from a major brain bleed.

Dick had made the decision long before his final day that if something of this nature happened, he was not to be saved but allowed to pass in peace.  In my opinion, time did stop for him at his dinner birthday celebration where he was surrounded by his family enjoying the food, company, and his glass of wine.  I always say "What a way to go, and that is the way to go."  As a witness to this, sitting next to Dick at the table and hearing him say "I'm fine", I could see his joy and calm.

On a beautiful Fall day in Napa, California, Dick was laid to rest with his wife, Dorothy, at Tulocay Cemetery.  As several of us walked up to the grave site, leaves came slowly trickling down from the oak tree that shades the site.  Another family member said that was Dorothy welcoming him home.

Happy Birthday Grandpa!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Richard Joseph Flanagan - Part 10

After almost 57 years of marriage, Dick lost his wife, Dorothy, on October 24, 1997.  She passed away from lung cancer.  She had been diagnosed around 1993 with the disease.  It was most certainly caused by her chain smoking.  Her cancer was treated only to return again in 1995.  On a beautiful Fall day in Napa, California, Dorothy Marie Borchers Flanagan was laid to rest at Tulocay Cemetery.

Dorothy Marie Borchers Flanagan, Napa, CA - 1921-1997

Dorothy had been ill for a number of years and it did take its toll on Dick.  He still hung in there though.  Over the years, Dick would say that he had suffered many health issues.  I recall him saying once that he was not the most healthy child.  In in his twenties, he suffered from stomach ulcers.  The pain would sometimes make him roll on the ground.  As he got older, the ulcer problem subsided.  I truly wonder if it was ulcers.  He had a doctor who recommended a glass of red wine with dinner every day.  He followed doctor's orders. 

When Dick was around seventy-nine, he had open heart surgery to repair his descending aorta and to clean thinks up a bit. It is interesting to note that Dick suffered from low blood pressure and had low cholesterol.  He still did after surgery.  They removed his gallbladder during that surgery too.  It had golf ball sized stones in it.  It does make you wonder if that was his pain back in his twenties.  I could go on about the gallbladder but will refrain.  Needless to say, there are countless many in my family who have theirs removed, including myself.

Dick did not have the best eyesight.  I'm not sure if that was a life long problem for him.   He suffered from cataracts in the 1960s.  He had surgery to remove the cataracts and ended up with hard contact lenses.  He went from wearing glasses that were as thick as the bottom of a coke bottle to no glasses needed except for reading.   As technology progressed, he was able to use soft contact lenses.  I still remember (when I was a kid) watching him put those hard contact lenses into his eyes in the morning.

Ironically, by the time that Dick was 87, his eyesight had deteriorated again.   He elected to have Lasik laser eye surgery done.  At age 87, Dick was back to having 20/20 vision again.

To be continued...............

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Richard Joseph Flanagan - Part 9

I could probably write a novel about Dick Flanagan.  I've written down my own memories of him and there are plenty more.  I have oodles of photos of him.  I also have papers, yearbooks, and other information that I have yet to delve into.  I wonder what I might find.  I know so much already.  There are a few other tidbits that I do want to share here before I wrap this up.

One of his favorite sayings was "wait awhile".  He usually said this when someone, like myself, was being impatient.  I find myself using this phrase today.  Instead of flat out telling someone to "be patient".  Saying the words "wait awhile" in a calm soft spoken fashion seems to have a pleasant effective impact on youngsters.

When Dick returned from WWII, he and Dorothy had a daughter, who is a living Flanagan and my mother.  I can't specifically identify her and write about her for privacy reasons.  Let's just say that gardening and baseball are definitely hobbies that they shared in common.  By about 1960, Dick had season tickets (box seats) for the San Francisco Giants games.  They even went to the 1962 World Series, 7th Game, at Candlestick park and watched the Giants lose to the Yankees.  When Dick and his daughter went to leave after the game, they couldn't remember where they had parked the car.  Retelling that story always got a chuckle out of Dick. 

Dick also belonged to a deer club.  Yes, he'd go hunting for deer.  The club was near Lake Berryessa in Napa County.  I do not remember the name of the club.  In his older years, he would just go up to the deer club to hang out with the group.  He did not do much hunting once he was in his late 70s.

Richard J. Flanagan
Fishing was also a fun past time for Dick.  Once he retired, and even before that, he'd go fishing with his brother-in-law who was one of best friends.  That brother-in-law, my uncle, is still living.  For privacy reasons, I am not able to talk much about him here.

In Dick's younger years, he and my uncle would go duck hunting off Grizzly Island in the Suisun Area.  They also went duck hunting somewhere along the Napa River.  There was some sort of shed that they had and would use as accommodations.  They had plenty of duck decoys.  Dick's brother, John Maxwell Flanagan, had made plenty.  Dick used them for his own duck hunting as his father Jack had before him.  You could link a chain of the decoys together and float them in the water to attract other ducks.  I've even got a decoy that has its head turned looking back over its proverbial shoulder/wing.

Random Duck Hunting Photo - Richard J. Flanagan is second from the left.  Unknown others in the photo.

It seems odd for me to talk about hunting.  I am certainly not a hunter nor a firearm person.  Dick did use a Winchester shotgun for duck hunting.  The shotgun belonged to his own father, Jack Flanagan.  Because Jack's arms were so long, he had modified the recoil pad at the end of gun to extend further for comfort and reach.  Let's just say that shotgun is well used, over 100 years old, and you wouldn't want to fire it today if you ask me.

To be continued...............

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Richard Joseph Flanagan - Part 8

I never realized how hard it is to write about someone you knew.  The emotional response makes me stop and pause often.  Lots of memories have come flowing back to my mind.  I think to myself, should I write all of this down in such a public forum.  Yes, "write it down, I say!"  It may not really be so public.  People have to be looking for my blog to find it.

As for Dick, he was a quiet, patient man.  When he spoke, people did listen.  He did not "gab" on and on as I sometimes do.  I'm still wondering where I got that gift of gab.  I did receive so many other gifts from Dick.  Maybe my desire to garden came from him.  I find it a relaxing outlet in my life when I have the time.

Dick's own vegetable garden was pretty amazing.  At least a quarter of his backyard was his vegetable garden.  From green beans (bush and pole) to squash and tomatoes, this Flanagan home had fresh vegetables at least 6-7 months out of the year directly from their backyard.  Let me not forget to mention that Dick's wife, Dorothy, was an amazing cook.  She was not a baker but did make tasty, delightful dinners.

From the time that I could walk and recall the backyard of Dick and Dorothy Flanagan's modest home on Spencer Street in Napa, California, I can remember the vegetable garden.  Dick tried growing peas when I was quite young.  We'd go out into the backyard and pop open a peapod right off the plant and nibble on the fresh pick.  The pea crop never produced much in the way of a meal for maybe more than two people but that memory has stuck with me all of these years.

As a young adult, I can remember picking pole beans in the backyard with Dick.  Even on the day before Dick's funeral, my mom, my aunt (from my Napa Borchers family) and I picked a huge amount of green string pole beans.

I must admit that gardening may sound so mundane.  To write about it may or may not be the most interesting topic.  What is interesting, is the story, memories, and feelings that it generates.

To be continued.......................

Friday, October 21, 2011

Richard Joseph Flanagan - Part 7

Finding a job can be hard for some people and easy for others. Dick seemed to be able to always find a job but a career was still looming in the distance for him.  When Dick returned from the war, I think he worked at various jobs here and there.  He definitely worked for the Ghisletta's.

Ghisletta's Dairy is located near the intersection of Highway 12/121 and Highway 29 near the Carneros Area of Napa.  It is actually located in the area of "Rural Foster Road".  Even today there is talk about annexing the area for houses.  For now, you can drive along highway 29 and still get a glimpse of the stucco buildings with red tile roofs that make up the Ghisletta property.  The dairy does not appear to be in operation any longer.

Dick worked out at the Ghisletta property but I'm not sure for how long.  He was friends with Joe and his wife, Billie.  He was also friends with Steve and his wife who is still living.  At Dick's rosary, Joe and Billie's daughter said that her mother wanted to be there but she was in the hospital at the time.  When the news was broken to Billie that Dick had passed away, she said that she just lost her best friend.  I asked my mother about that later.  She said that Dick was a great listener.  He was, at that, and a very patient supportive person.  Anyone who had him as a friend would agree.

Richard "Dick" J. Flanagan

At different times, things were lean for Dick and Dorothy.  They owned two lots in town in Napa.  The intent was probably to build a house in the future but they ended up selling the land for financial reasons.  Sometime in the 1950s, Dick did get a job working for the Napa County Treasurer's office.  He was the Assistant Treasurer for a time.

I believe that it was 1959 and the Treasurer of Napa County passed away while in office.  The job fell to Dick for the rest of the term.  At the next election, Dick ran for Treasurer and won.  After that, no one ever ran against him again.  He always ran unopposed.  He retired in 1979-80 with over 25 years of service to Napa County.  Now that was quite the career for him.

During his time at Treasurer, his goal was always to make sure that Napa County was financially sound and investing its money appropriately.  To his dismay, the job of tax collector was combined with treasurer during his time in office.  That was not always a title that he admired about his position.

The irony of Dick's job would hit him when he went to mass on Sundays.  At least once a year, he would hear the following reading and shrink a bit in the pew.

Luke 19:1-10

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
 1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.  5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

I must say that Dick had no reason to be shrinking his pew.  He could always hold his head high as an honest, upstanding man with the respect of probably everyone he ever met. 

To be continued....................


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Richard Joseph Flanagan - Part 6

At different times in Dick's life, he worked on farms, in road construction, as a truck driver, and a few other miscellaneous things.  I am not sure of the exact timeline of the various occupations for Dick throughout his life.  He definitely worked on the Flanagan Ranch as a teen and may have actually helped keep the books for the property later in his life as the older generation of Flanagan's (Pat and Kate Flanagan's children) aged and still lived there.

Dick did get paid to play baseball.  Just after high school, he played in the minor leagues around Northern California.  This would have been the 1930s.  His pay check was rather lean in those days.  I seem to remember Dick telling me that he worked on road construction at one point down in the hot desert of Southern California.  I'm not sure what roadway or highway that he might have worked on.  He recalled that it was hot and the asphalt that they were pouring made it even hotter.  Another job that he had was as a driver for Basalt.  Basalt was a rock company in Napa. 

I do know that Dick joined the U.S. Army during WWII.  I'm not sure of his exact enlistment date.  I have looked over his military paperwork in the past.  As many young men at this time, it was an important commitment for many to enlist in the military and not just be drafted.  Dick was 32 years old and married when he joined the Army.

While I was never in the military, I did essentially work for them.  It was very much an important part of my job to know the rank of an individual and how to address them.  After Dick passed away, I remember looking at his military paperwork and taking notice that he was a Staff Sergeant.  Knowing that not everyone can be an officer, especially if you don't have a college degree, entering the military at the level of Staff Sergeant is pretty impressive.   I recognize that it was war time and the military needed everyone that they could get but most people went in at the entry level as a Private.

My mother's response to my inquiry about how he ended up with the rank of Staff Sergeant when he had just joined the military was simple.  He was not a kid.  At 32 years old, his previous jobs and life experience made him a candidate for higher than average enlisted ranked position.  I believe that he worked in he motor-pool and drove a truck during WWII.  He was stationed in Nice, France.  He also seems to have gone by the name of RJ while in the military.

Dick Flanagan circa 1944

Dick did tell me only passing bits and pieces of his time in France during WWII.  He said that he'd go to church on Sundays where the priest would say mass in more than one language.  It was war time but he did mention that Nice was a beautiful place.  Dick was near the action during the war but never really talked about it.

At some point, I need to go through Dick's military papers again.  When the war ended, he was honorably discharged and went back home to his wife in Napa, California.  He did not choose a military type burial or even a color guard at his funeral.  That was certainly his choice.

More to come on Dick's occupations.....................

Monday, October 17, 2011

Richard Joseph Flanagan - Part 5

On December 28, 1941, Gary Richard Flanagan was born in Napa, California to Dick and Dorothy.  I've seen photos of him as a baby and toddler.  He was a cute toe head and looks almost dead on like my mother did when she was a child.

When I was a child, Dorothy used to let us (her granddaughters) play in her jewelry box.  I know that may sound funny but most of that jewelry was just costume items that were mainly beaded necklaces an a few other things.  I found a ring in that box one day as a child.  It had the initial "G" on it.  I brought it out to my mom and grandma, Dorothy, and asked about it.  I was quickly rushed away and told that had been the baby ring for my mother's brother, Gary.  Mind you, I must have been about 10 years old and never had heard of a brother or heard Gary's name before.  There were no photos of him around either.  Later my mother would fill me in.

Dorothy, Dick, and baby, Gary, Flanagan on his baptism day.

Gary was my mother's older brother.  In February 1943, it became obvious that something was not right with Gary.  He had taken ill.  Dick and Dorothy took him to the hospital where he as diagnosed with a bowel obstruction.  My understanding is that his intestines had grown inside one another.  Just as today, this problem required surgery.

From what I can recall of the story, they were sent from Napa to Vallejo and back to Napa again.  There was apparently some confusion as to where the surgeon would be to perform the operation.  Time may not have been on their side in this.  Gary passed away on the operating table at the age of 13 1/2 months, on February 9, 1943.

It was not until recently that I found an entire stash of Gary's photos in a box at my mother's place.  There are at least a dozen or more.  At some point, I really need to go through those photos.

To be continued...............

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Richard Joseph Flanagan - Part 4

I have had some hesitation in posting such an personal account of my grandpa but he was such an important person in my life that I could not let the opportunity to "write it down" pass me by.  So,  I continue with Dick's story............

I must admit to not really knowing how Dick got to know his wife, Dorothy Marie Borchers.  They were both born and raised in Napa, California.  As Napa natives, they probably had people that they knew in common plus Napa was a pretty small place.  What is curious to me though is that they did get together at all.   While Dick was born in 1912, Dorothy was not born until 1921.  Dick was just over eight years her senior.  In addition, Dick came from an Irish Catholic family and background, while Dorothy was German Lutheran.

They didn't go to the same church, although I always find it interesting that their churches had the same name.  St. John's seems to be a popular saint name for many Christian churches.   Dick went to St. John's Catholic Church in Napa while Dorothy attended St. John's Lutheran Church in Napa.  In fact, Dorothy's Vienop family helped start St. John's Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), Napa, California.  I am talking about the one on Linda Vista in Napa but also the original St. John's, too.

Dick Flanagan and Dorothy Borchers were married on November 7, 1940, in Reno, Nevada.  They eloped to Reno and were married in a Catholic church there.  After being married, they came home to tell their families.  The big deal was telling Dorothy's parents.  Now, I knew them.  Neither were prone to losing their temper and not surprising at all, they were rather shocked about the elopement.  If you'd have ever met Herb and Mary Borchers, though, you'd know what even temperaments they had and how accepting of everyone they were.  From the sounds of things, all was well after the initial surprise announcement of their marriage.  (I'm not sure how long the shock and surprise lasted though.)

Something that I do find interesting is that they did receive wedding gifts.  I wonder if they had a reception after the fact.  They had fine china, silverware, and other types of kitchen items and giftware that one receives as wedding gifts.  In fact, I have their china - Bavarian China from Germany pre-WWII.

So was life easy for Dick and Dorothy?

To be continued......................

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Richard Joseph Flanagan - Part 3

Growing up and into adulthood, Dick's hobbies included baseball, gardening, hunting, and fishing.  His passion for baseball may have originated with it's popularity in American culture.  Dick's interest in gardening likely originated in the fact that he spent so much time on a farm and lived on one during his teens.  I do know who to attribute his love of hunting and fishing to though.

Dick's father, Jack Flanagan, was an avid hunter and fisherman.  I have photos of Jack fishing and deer hunting with friends.  I also have newspaper articles about Jack's duck hunting successes.  Of all three of Jack's sons, Dick was the one who would go along on the treks and trips to hunt deer, fish, and duck hunt.  The fishing and duck hunting were mostly done along the Napa River.

I am not sure if Jack's other two son's were interested or not into hunting.  My mother does not have the whole story on that subject.  I just know that for these trips to be successful, one must have skill, patience, and a natural gift for being an outdoors man.  While, Dick's younger brother, John, may have had the gift of carving and creating duck decoy's (and what an amazing talent at that), he may not have been the hunter and fisherman.  I wonder if anyone knows the whole story.

Deer Hunting in California, Richard J. Flanagan

In any family, there are times when you have to ask if there was a favorite son.  Was Dick the favorite son of Jack?  I suppose when it came to hunting and fishing, he was.  I have poured though the many photos that I have of Jack with his friends in the woods camping.  I have only spotted Dick in amongst the men who is a relative.  The rest of the men appear to be of no relation to Jack.  It would be interesting to know who everyone was.  I'm sure that they were from Napa.

To be continued.............

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Richard Joseph Flanagan - Part 2

I have written about a historical home in the Carneros Region of Napa, California, a few times.  It was and is still known as the Flanagan House.  You can read all about in this very blog.  To hear Dick talk about it when I was a child, teen, and young adult offered a different perspective as his Flanagan family home.

Dick grew up in Napa, California.  His family lived in town on Stockton Street (which is now Palmer Street).  The house is still there but I can never seem to pinpoint it exactly when I drive by.  Dick's grandparents, Pat and Kate Flanagan, owned the house on the corner of Seminary and Stockton Streets.  Jack Flanagan, Dick's father, grew up in the Seminary Street home before the family's home in Carneros was completed.  It is not clear when the Seminary Street home was sold by the Flanagan's.

In about 1918, Dick's uncle, Ignatius (Nash with a long "a"), passed away.  He had been running the Flanagan Ranch for his mother, Kate.  When Nash died, it was Jack's (Dick's father) turn to run the ranch.  It does not sound like Jack and his family moved out to the ranch immediately.  Since Kate lived there, and that was her home, it was not until some time in the 1920s that Dick, his parents and siblings moved to the Carneros home.  Kate died in 1928.  By then, Dick was living at the Flanagan house in Carneros.

As one can envision, the Flanagan Ranch fields were dominated by vineyard.  Dick recalled his younger years at times when he would help maintain the vines.  This included fending off birds and other small creatures from attacking the grapes and future harvest.  Armed with a firearm which could have been a BB gun or something more powerful, Dick would have the opportunity to keep these animals at bay.

Richard Joseph Flanagan being held by his mother Mary Elizabeth McLaughlin Flanagan in the vineyard at the Flanagan Ranch, Carneros, Napa, CA - Circa 1913

Other memories of the ranch itself seem to evade me, except one.  Dick's father, John "Jack" Francis Flanagan, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).  I am not sure when it was determined that Jack had this terminal illness or how long it took for it to progress.  What is interesting is that Dick was on the road playing minor league baseball when he received word that he needed to come home to say goodbye to his father.

Upon receiving this news, Dick immediately headed home to the Flanagan house in Carneros.  He did, in fact, make it home to say his goodbyes to his father.  Word in the family has it that Jack held on so that Dick could see him one last time before he passed away.   Jack died on May 20, 1936, in the Flanagan house on the Flanagan Ranch in Carneros.  As part owner, Jack had held responsibility of and managed the Flanagan Ranch for eighteen years (1918-1936).    My mother recalls being told that Jack passed away in a first floor bedroom of the house.  The current first floor of the house does not really resemble its original appearance at this point in time.  Upon the death of Jack, his ownership in the ranch passed onto his surviving siblings.  Mary (Aunt Mary), Richard (Uncle Dick), and Louis (Uncle Louie) were the living children of Patrick and Kate Flanagan by 1936.

How close was Dick to his father, Jack?  They were close.

To be continued.......................

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Richard Joseph Flanagan - Part 1

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about my grandpa, Richard Joseph Flanagan.  In trying to figure out the best way to write about him, I've decided to write a bit of a bio that includes my own memories of him.  My own memories include things that were told to me by him and my mother, his daughter.  I have other historical paperwork to look through in the future but I thought that I'd write down what I know before delving into newspaper articles and other documents that may or may not have as much personal meaning.

The other point that I'd like to make is that I'm writing something based on my perspective and experience that tries to demonstrate his character and to honor him.  This means that my choice is not to paint only the rosy picture of which some would prefer.  Our lives are filled with imperfections and flaws.  It is from missteps and decisions along the way that make us who we are.  Our character is built from what we learn from each experience and carry with us during our lives.  These experiences can lead to wisdom for those who pay attention.

Richard Joseph Flanagan was born on October 29, 1912, in Napa, California, to John "Jack" Francis Flanagan and Mary "Minnie" Elizabeth McLaughlin.  Richard would refer to his birth year as the year the Titanic sank.  His living grandparents at the time were Kate Flanagan (Catherine Mary O'Brien) of Napa, CA; and Thomas Michael McLaughlin and Ellen Maxwell, of Napa, CA.  His grandfather, Patrick Flanagan, had passed away in 1896.  Pat never did meet any of his grandchildren.

Richard, who was nicknamed "Dick", was the fourth child of Jack and Minnie.  His older siblings were Ellen, Kay, and Robert.  His younger sibling was John Maxwell Flanagan.  It appears highly likely that Dick's namesake was his Uncle, Richard "Dick" Austin Flanagan, Sr, of Napa, CA.  In my own research, I have discovered that there are many important Richard Flanagan's in my own line, each with their own story and a family line that connects them.  Uncle Dick's (Richard Austin Flanagan, Sr.) namesake is almost undoubtedly Fr. Richard Flanagan who is interned in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Termonfechin, Louth, Ireland.

Dick's younger years found him attending St. John the Baptist Catholic School followed by Napa High School.  While Dick was left-handed, he was forced by the nuns to write with his right hand.  He still played sports and did most everything else left-handed.  He told me that he spent 5 years at high school.  In his first senior year, he did not pass a math class that was required for graduation.  The reason for him basically repeating his senior year of high school was two fold.

First and foremost, it should be noted that he was a bit of a math wiz.  He certainly could pass the tests with flying colors.  The teacher did not pass him because he did not apply himself in turning in the homework and other assignments that were required to pass the class.  While he knew the answers and could pass the test, he did not pass the class.

The second part of repeating his senior year of high school was his involvement in sports.  Dick was on the basketball and baseball teams.   He was a great basketball player.  It never really occurred to me just how much he enjoyed the sport until he passed away.  At his rosary, the vigil before his funeral, a very tall gentleman and his wife showed up to offer their condolences.  He carried with him a photograph of the high school basketball team that he and Dick had played on together.  It amazed me that after all of those years, a high school classmate and teammate came to honor Dick at his rosary.  That experience really took me aback and has stuck with me all of these years.  
When it came to baseball, it was his passion.  I'm not sure that I can stress that enough.  The position that he played was catcher.  If I remember correctly, his all time favorite player was Bill Dickey who played catcher for the Yankees.

Richard Joseph Flanagan

As a teen, it must have been obvious to everyone that Dick wanted to play baseball.  He actually received a scholarship to play baseball at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California, but turned it down so that he could play minor league baseball touring around California just after high school.  It is interesting to note that he never did take the scholarship offer or attend college.  I often wonder what his parents and siblings thought of that.  His mother had been a school teacher before she married and had children.   His siblings all attended college with Kay graduating from Cal (University of California, Berkeley).  His oldest sister, Ellen, graduated from Heald Business College.  This would have been the late 1920s early 1930s.  Both if his brothers also attended college.

Formal education aside, was that the only place Dick learned how to make his way in life?  Maybe his siblings did take the easier path.  I know from own experience that having a college education has made my life better, easier in some cases, and given me a broader perspective on life in general.  Imagine finding this on your own through life experience.  I suppose that is how people used to do it and some still do.  Success may be right around the corner but sometimes you might have to "wait awhile".

To be continued.........................

Friday, October 7, 2011

What To Write About

Sometimes, I wonder what I might write about next.  I certainly have a plethora of family surnames for which I can rehash my research on each up until this point.  That fills up my blog for most part as it is.  I often wonder if I will run out of things to write about.  Then, I remind myself that I certainly haven't run out of genealogy topics to verbally talk about.  I also haven't finished going through the information that has been handed to me in yet another box of treasures.

While I try very hard to keep living people out of my blog, I find that I would have even more family history to write about if I could.  I will hold off since those living people do want their privacy.   I also find that I must be cautious in writing about those who came before that I personally knew.  I would never want to dishonor them and want to get their story correct.

I could definitely write some historical fiction to fill in the blanks.   That would make things a whole lot easier and quicker.  Of course, that is not genealogy.   I might someday attempt to write some historical fiction for that very reason.  I could fill in all of the blanks!

Some stories do abound within my family history while other lines have produced a basic family tree with dates, locations, and people who happen to be my ancestors.  Again, I search for my ancestors but also their stories.  I can't wait to find more.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Window In Time

Photographs are like small windows in time.  You can look at the photo and get a quick glimpse of the people.  I love photos and wish for more old photos.  It does help if we know who's in each photo.  I realize that is not always possible though.

A photo can share some information about people including what they looked like.  Most photos were taken on happy occasions when people were enjoying themselves.  I find it interesting that in many photos, no one is smiling.  I suppose that was not the practice in the 1800s.  It does help when those in the photos don't look like they're frowning though.

Below are a couple of my favorite photos.  I only wish that I had a true copy of the original for the second photo.

4 of Jack and Minnie Flanagan's Children - Circa 1913-1914 Carneros, Napa, CA

Katie Duffy and Ellen McLaughlin - A.K.A. Catherine and Ellen Maxwell - Circa 1915 Walter Springs, CA
Photos still leave much to the imagination.  I still have to wonder what my ancestors were like.  A photo can't tell you about their personality.   You might be able to pick out some emotion.  Joy, for example, can show through in a photo.  I think that I spotted some joy in these.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Quick Story - The Hickey's Circa 1950s, NYC

Sometimes in life, you take what you can get in the way of stories.  Even if they are anecdotal, they can still be very telling about someone.  In a recent short visit with my aunt, I asked her about her grandmother/my great grandmother, Johanna Coughlin Hickey, and her grandfather/my great grandfather, Patrick Hickey.  She said that they were quiet people.  She added that Patrick had such a thick Irish brogue that it was hard to understand him at times.  As for Johanna, I wonder how quiet she really was.

My aunt said that she did get to visit them in NYC as a child.  She lived on Long Island (as did my dad, her brother).  It sounds like on occasion, she had the opportunity to stay in "The City" (specifically, Manhattan, New York City in Greenwich Village) with her grandparents.  She mentioned Christopher Street as a street they lived on.  I threw out Bleeker Street and Charles Street and she agreed, too, that they had lived on each at different times.

She said that with at least one of her visits, a trip to the A&P was needed.  That is one of the grocery stores in New York.  I wonder if they are still in business.  The official name is The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company.  I must admit that after over 100 years in business, I am not sure the name exists any longer.

The trip to the grocery store was a bit of a walk.  Johanna and Patrick Hickey lived in the city with their mode of transportation on foot.  Even today, most city dwellers would agree that is how they get around - on foot and with the assistance of public transportation.

My aunt indicated that during their walk to the A&P, Johanna chatted it up with everyone that she knew along the way.  This seemed to be everyone.  They even knew her by name at the grocery store.  She introduced her granddaughter to all that she encountered.  Let's also just say that the trip to the grocery store took quite a while.  I'll sum it as "social hour" from the sounds of it.  I also think that is wonderful.  She had the fun of visiting her community and friends along the way and involving her granddaughter in what was probably one of her favorite outings.

I love quick stories like this that get thrown out by my relatives of those who came before us.  I can now wonder if my gift of gab, social interaction, and just a "hello" to others comes from my great grandmother.  Thank you, Johanna Coughlin Hickey.  Your warmness and friendly spirit lives on!