Missive Monday

missive035This is a vintage postcard that I inherited from my Aunt Sadie who inherited them from her mom (and my paternal grandmother) Beatrice Irene (Repsher) Strait Guirreri. They were too beautiful not to share.missive036


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #48 – Lorraine (Verdi) Strait

Relationship: Step-mother

I got the sad news that Lorraine had passed away on Thanksgiving Day, 26 November 2015.

Her obituary was published in the New Jersey Herald on 01 December 2015 and reads as follows:

ANDOVER TWP.- Lorraine “Rain” Verdi Strait, 88, of Andover Township, died Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015, at Barn Hill Care Center in Newton.
Mrs. Strait was born and raised in Bloomfield. She graduated from Bloomfield High School and went on to work at the Prudential Insurance Company in Newark. A resident of Newton since 1953, she worked for John Coats Jewelers in Newton, Midlantic Bank in Newton and Sparta, and was a long-time volunteer at Newton Memorial Hospital. She was an avid reader of history and non-fiction, an even more avid basketball and tennis fan, and had an enduring fondness for American collies. She will be greatly missed by her family.

Mrs. Strait was the daughter of the late John and Evelyn (Casazza) Verdi and was also predeceased by her former husband, John Boheim, and by her brother, John Verdi and his wife, Dolores. She is survived by her husband of 34 years, William Strait; three children, Stephen Boheim and wife, Angela, of Acton, Mass., Kristi Boheim Wiswell, of Melrose, Mass., and Peter Boheim, of Brooksville, Fla.; three stepdaughters, Jodi Strait, of Tucson, Ariz., Jill Ray, of Randolph, and Jenni Ogar, of Swartswood; four grandchildren, Andrew Wisell, Kaitlin Boheim, Madeline Sofio and Alexander Ogar; and a niece, Andrea Faith.

Services and interment are private and are under the direction of the Smith-McCracken Funeral Home, 63 High St., Newton.
Memorial donations may be made to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, 375 Kings Highway North, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034 (msaa@mymsaa.org) or to the Collie Health Foundation, c/o Nancy Van Note, 827 Bowman Road, Jackson, NJ 08527-3553 (www.colliehealth.org).
Online condolences may be offered at www.smithmccrackenfuneralhome.com.

Again, obituaries are great for getting some sense of a person and their family structure. But I got to know a little more about Lorraine over the 34 years she was married to my dad. When I would go back to visit my family in New Jersey, Lorraine and Dad and I would sit in the living room and have great discussions about a varied range of topics.

As the obituary states, she loved to read and one of her favorite authors was Sharon Kay Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 12.42.06 PMPenman who is is an American historical novelist. Penman is best known for the Welsh Princes trilogy and the Plantagenet series. Lorraine and I discussed The Sunne in Splendour and Here Be Dragons books in length and were always waiting for her next book to come out.

Lorraine also loved the New Yorker magazine. She would read it from cover to cover, devouring it all: articles, cartoons, reviews, opinions and everything in between. She would set aside some articles for Bill to read if he was interested in her short descriptions of what she’d read. She got me hooked on it for years until I became too busy to keep up with the time commitment that reading the New Yorker entails.

During one of my last visits, I was surprised to learn that Lorraine and I shared an affinity for horses. She looked over from her chair at me sitting on the couch and said, “I rode horses when I was younger. I have the pictures in an album.” I was hooked. “Would you show them to me?” I asked. We got up and walked into the office where she pulled one of her many scrapbook albums out. There in the pages of the book, were her memories of her horse riding days.

Screen Shot 2015-12-25 at 10.12.11 AMWhen I first met Lorraine, she had a house on Skytop Road and an furry orange cat named Jiggs who made the eventual move over to the house on Pierce Road. Lorraine and Dad had a few cats over the years. Jiggs gave way to Malcolm who gave way to Shadow.

Collies were also a favorite in the Strait household. Brandy, a rough-coated variety of collie, was their precious and had her nighttime crate in the middle of the kitchen. It was built into the island so that Brandy could be in the middle of all the “action” in the house. Brandy had a run out back to enjoy the sunshine when the weather was good.

I wasn’t a sports fan so my discussions with Lorraine rarely ventured into that arena. But when I walked into the house during basketball season the TV was always turned on to the latest game, particularly college games. Lorraine could tell you the statistics of both the teams and individual players. Tennis got the same treatment and attention from her.

Lorraine will be missed by her family and friends.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #47 – Craig Douglas Begraft

Relationship: 1st Cousin
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I have lots of first cousins on my mom’s side. Based on age, we fell into two age groups. The older cousins were the children of John and Marge Westra (Gary, Sharon, Kevin and Susan)  and those of Ewald and Betty Westra (Albert, Jerry, Patty and Kathy). The younger cousins were the children of Bill and Martha Strait (Jodi, Jill and Jenni) and those of Doug and Lena Begraft (Craig, Cary, Christa and Catherine).

Craig was the first of all the Westra first cousins to leave this world behind. He passed away on 03 January 1994 in Vernon, Sussex County, New Jersey, at just 29 years of age. Craig is buried in the same cemetery where my dad and I will be after we pass, the North Hardyston, Cemetery on Rt. 94 in Hamburg, Sussex County, New Jersey.

BEGRAFT Craig D. footstone

Born in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey, on 17 October 1964, Craig was first child and son of Douglas Begraft and Lena Hilde Westra. He grew up in and around Vernon and Hamburg.

Craig ski footstoneAunt Lena put some personal details on his foot stone so that people who had never known him would understand just a bit about him. In between his birth and death date, there are a pair of skis. Skiing is a popular winter activity in northern New Jersey and Craig liked to hit the slopes at the Vernon Valley ski area.

Craig drum footstoneIn the top left corner of the foot stone is a drum. Craig was an avid drummer and I’m sure there were plenty times when everyone except Craig in the Begraft household would just want peace and quiet.

Craig airplane footstoneIn the top right corner of the foot stone is an airplane with a cloud. Craig was learning to fly but in 1984 he was beginning to get into some trouble and airplanes figured into those problems. Our grandparents, Albert and Etta, wintered in the St. Petersburg, Florida, for long time, certainly during the time we were growing up. At 19 years of age, Craig made his way to St. Petersburg where he made the newspaper when he stole an airplane. He flew the airplane north from St. Petersburg towards a point on Florida’s western coastline called Cedar Key.

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Published in the Gainesville Sun on Tuesday, March 27, 1984 in the left column of page 14A

This incident happened when I was a senior in high school and I knew Craig was having some trouble but nothing like the newspaper article. I had overheard  Grandma Westra was talking to my mom about the money Craig had stolen from the house, but had no idea that he was being charged with grand theft and kidnapping.

Craig was married very briefly but things didn’t work out with her and he struggled with problems in his life. Even though it’s been years since his passing, the wounds are still there for the family members he abruptly left behind.

Jodi with cousin Craig

Craig and cousin Jodi in jail at the Westra’s house

I prefer to think of him when we were young and playing in Grandma Westra’s side yard. One summer evening, Craig, Jill, Cary, and I were all outside just when it was starting to get dark. The trees were casting shadows as the sun sank behind Grandpa’s wood shop. We were over by the lilac trees when Craig brought up the subject of bats. “You know, bats are blind. If the bats fly low enough, they’ll get stuck in your hair.” The Strait girls all had longish hair; it was the style at the time. Our eyes widen as Jill and I looked at each other wondering, “Is that really true?”

The boys looked up and then it seemed like we were all intensely concentrating on trying to pick out the bats against the darkening night sky. “There’s one!” An arm went up, a finger pointed towards some fleeting movement. Suddenly, there’s tickling on the top of our heads. Jill and I started to shriek at the top of our lungs figuring the bats have got us in the grips of their claws! Craig and Cary collapse onto the grass lawn in fits of pure laughter. We punch the boys in the arms and the laughter soon releases the tension. All of us are rolling around in the soft grass, laughing hysterically until we can’t breathe. It was a good summer night to be with cousins.

Aunt Lena told all of us to think of him every time we look up to see the bright sun in the sky. Out here in Arizona, that’s a lot of remembrance for Craig.

Craig Begraft

Craig Douglas Begraft

[1] North Hardyston Cemetery (Rt. 94, Hamburg, New Jersey), Craig D. Begraft marker; photo taken by author, July 2006.