The Hawaii Years 1954 – 1955

Russell in Hawaii in 1954

This is a picture of my Uncle Russ when he was stationed in Hawaii at Hickam Field from February 1954 to October 1955.  He loved photography and was pretty good at it.  Most of his pictures from Hawaii were on slides.  I thought they were beautiful.  Unfortunately I do not have them.  In the 1980’s he was living in Arizona and and moved back to Illinois.  He left the slides with some friends who were suppose to send them, but never did.  So I am afraid they are lost forever now.  I remember he sent me a doll and a grass skirt from Hawaii.  In the picture he has the camera around his neck.  I love his crew cut and he wore his hair that way for many, many years after he was discharged from the Navy.

My son loves photography too and inherited some of his camera’s and lenses.  Below are a couple of more pictures from the Hawaii years.  In the one picture he has his camera in his hand.  Uncle Russ married three times and divorced three times.  He never had any children.  After the last marriage and divorce he said he was done and never married again.  He lived alone and became somewhat of a hermit in his old age.  Uncle Russ passed away on October 4, 2011 at the the age of 80 years, three months, and six days.  We all love and miss him.  RIP Uncle Russ!


The Navy Years

Uncle Russ in Navy 001

My Uncle Russ was 16 years old when I was born and oh how I loved and adored him!   When I was 5 years old he joined the Navy and the thought of him being gone for four years seemed like an eternity to me.  He was our mailman and I saw him everyday.  I would follow him down the street as he delivered mail to each house.  Before he left, he bought me a parakeet, and he sent me gifts from wherever he was stationed.  Of course, I saw him now and then when he had leave, but it was quite a change from seeing him everyday.  Here are a couple of pictures of my Uncle and me during those years.

Uncle Russ and me 1952
Uncle Russ and me 1952 at Great Lakes Naval Base
Uncle Russ and me 1952

Uncle Russ and me 1952 in front of Grandma and Grandpa’s house

Notice my sailor suit and I am wearing Uncle Russ’ hat.


Uncle Russ and me on September 7, 1953

This was taken in my grandparent’s backyard and that is my mother in the background.


Uncle Russ, me, and Grandpa 1953

This was in front of my grandparents house and that is my grandfather in the doorway. The dress I had on was homemade by my Aunt Frances. The shoes I had on were loafers. I remember how much I wanted loafers, but I had narrow feet and it was hard to find a pair that did not fall off my feet. My mother must have taken me to every shoe store in town and surrounding towns until we found a pair that didn’t fall off my feet.

Copyright © 2019 Gail Grunst

Buster’s First Car

Russ and his first car 1936

Russ (Buster) and his first car

This is a picture of my Uncle Russ in 1936 with his first car.  Seeing this picture started me thinking about my uncle and his cars.  He loved convertibles and had several throughout his life.  His first convertible was the best.  It was a red and white 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner hardtop-convertible.  I remember the day, he bought it.  My father and I went to the dealership with him.   I don’t think he went in with the intention of buying it.  He just wanted to buy a car.  The salesman showed us this red and white hardtop-convertible.  When I saw it, I immediately wanted him to buy it.  We sat there for what seemed like an eternity to a 10 year old, while he thought it over.  I kept thinking what is the problem? Just buy it!  I don’t know how much time really past, but my father did say that it took him a long time to decide.  It was a very unique car and drew attention wherever you went.  I remember that you had to be on a flat even surface for the top to go up or down.  If it suddenly started to rain, you had to drive to a level spot to put the top up.  Sounds easy, but it wasn’t always easy to find a level spot.  The slightest incline and it would not go up.


From: Bristol Courier News, Bristal Pennsylvania, December20, 1956

I found this ad in the  I tried to find a picture of his car, but I couldn’t find one.  I can’t believe no one ever took a picture of it.  At the time everyone was into slides and unfortunately the slides were left in an attic in Arizona when my uncle moved.  So maybe that is why I have no photos of it.  For those who are too young to remember, I provided a link below.

1957 Ford hardtop convertable

Copyright © 2019 Gail Grunst

Family Pictures: Smoking

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything.  I have been busy with other things, and I’ve been scanning family pictures that I inherited from my mother and grandmother.  Since I ran dry on family stories, I’ve decided to post a picture and describe it or tell a story that may go with it.  Sometimes no words or few words.  After all a pictures worth a thousand words.  Right?  Here is the first of many.

Russell and Barbara 1940

This is my Uncle sitting on the steps with his cousin smoking candy cigarettes.  The house was in Aurora, Illinois.  My uncle became a life-long smoker.  I don’t know if the cigarettes killed him or not.  He died at the age of 80 from a multitude of problems, but Cancer was not one of them.  Of course maybe the smoking caused some of the other problems.  I had candy cigarettes as a kid too, but never became a smoker.  So I am not saying that candy cigarettes cause someone to start smoking.  It is clear to me from this picture, that they were obviously imitating the adults.

Copyright © 2019 Gail Grunst


Father’s Day: A Tribute to My Dad

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My Dad and me

My Dad, George Philip Manfroid, Jr. was born to George Manfroid and Helen Desens on 26 October 1919 in Forest Park, Illinois.  Dad grew up in Forest Park and Elmhurst, Illinois.  He went to York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois.  He had a brother, Donald, 14 years younger than him.  He grew up during the depression and that made a great impression on him.  I remember the stories that my dad told me about the depression.  When I hear about the recent recession compared to the great depression on TV, I cringe because the recent recession is nothing like what my father described to me.  His father lost his business, then they lost their house, and they ate bananas for Sunday dinner.  There were no safety nets like there are today for the unemployed.  Because this made such an impact on my Father he decided that his children would not go without.  He went without lunch for weeks and saved his lunch money to buy me a doll for Christmas.  He made me a doll house with a hand saw (he didn’t have power tools at the time).   He gave me everything he possibly could.  Not only did he give me material things, he gave me his time, attention, advice, and love.  He gave me history lessons at the dinner table.  He loved history, and I learned about history and current events through dinner time discussions.  He had a great sense of humor.  Whenever my brother or I asked if he would buy us the latest toy or gadget, he would say, “Yes on the 42nd of July.”  Just in case they ever changed the calendar the 42nd had to land on the second Tuesday of the week.  In other words we were never going to get it.  He loved  gardening and painting the house.  He was always painting inside or outside.  He loved his baseball and the Cubs.   He was always there for me whenever I needed him.  If I just need to talk or if I needed a shoulder to cry on, he was there.  I loved him very much and I have no doubt about his love for me. 

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Dad walking me down the aisle

When I got married, he walked me down the aisle and gave me away.  He told my husband on our wedding day that if he (my husband) ever did anything to hurt me, he would have to answer to him (my father).  After we were married for several years, my father told some friends of ours that when their daughters grew up he hoped they found someone like my husband.  I picked a good man because I had a good father. 

My Dad worked hard and sometimes worked two jobs to make ends meet.  When I was born my dad was a bus driver.  He drove a bus for a suburban bus company, Leyden Motor Coach.  At first he worked nights and holidays, but as he gained seniority, he was able to work mostly days and had the major holidays off.  Sometimes he would take a charter on his day off.  He especially liked the ones to the ball games.  He would get off work from the bus company about 2:30pm, and go to his second job driving a mini bus for a nursery school, Jack and Jill, in Villa Park, Illinois.   He was with the bus company for 17 years when the company closed down.  My Dad then got a job with Burney Brothers Bakery driving a delivery truck.  He delivered to Jewel grocery stores in Chicago.   He also took overtime delivering wedding cakes on Saturdays.  After 17 years with Burney Brothers, they closed down too.  At 59 years old my father was without a job, no pension, and not old enough for Social Security.  He found a job doing maintenance work at the Wheaton Park District.  He worked there for the next five years.

We lived in an Apartment until 1953 when my parents bought their first house in Lombard (Villa Park was across the street).   We lived in that house until 1963 when they bought another house in Villa Park.   In 1968 they moved to a smaller house in Carol Stream, Illinois due to my father’s health issues.  My father lived in the Carol Stream home until his death.

In 1967, my dad was diagnosed with throat cancer.  He was given radiation treatments for six weeks.  The tumor was in his voice box, and he couldn’t talk very well.  The radiation shrank the tumor so he did get his voice back.  They wanted to remove the voice box to get rid of the cancer altogether, but my father said he would rather die than to be without his voice.  He lived 17 more years without a recurrence.  In late February or early March of 1984, we noticed my dad had slowed down.  He said he wasn’t feeling good, and my mother finally convinced him to see a doctor.  He went to the doctor and was sent him for some tests.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer. A few days later my dad was admitted to the hospital.  I went to see him and he had to cough a lot.  It was deep cough and it seemed that when he coughed he could not get his breath.  It was hard to watch.  My last visit with my father, I noticed he kept staring at me.  I thought to myself that he is studying me in case this is the last time he sees me.  When it was time to go, I said “Good-bye I hope you get better soon.”  He said, “Me too.”  We were holding hands and he did not want to let go and neither did I.  I planned to go back every day, but the next day I came down with a terrible cold that settled in my chest.  I did not go to visit him because I was afraid of giving him my cold.  I thought the last thing he needs is a cold.   The next day my mom called me to say that the doctor called her and told her to get to the hospital he was dying.  I couldn’t go because I had two small children at home.  My mother and brother were there with him at the end. My mom said he kept pulling the tubes out of his arms.  So I think he was ready to die. 

My dad passed away from Cancer on March 15, 1984 at 64 years, 4 months, and 18 days.  I wish I was there with my Dad at the end; however it is a comfort to know that my mother and brother were there for him.  He is loved and dearly missed by his children, grandchildren, family, and friends.  Happy Father’s Day to a great Dad!  If I could tell him one thing it would be this, “Dad, the Cubs finally did it and won the World Series in 2016!” 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks  topic this week Father’s Day

Copyright©2016 Gail Grunst

Thirty two Years Ago Today



On Saturday, May 9, 1987, I was in Phoenix, Arizona sitting at the kitchen table discussing with my Uncle and Brother what we were going to next when the doorbell rang, and  I answered  the door.  There stood a man smiling at me with a floral arrangement.  It was the florist delivering flowers for my mother.  I had ordered them the previous Monday for Mother’s day.  I took them to the kitchen with tears running down my cheeks and asked my Uncle and Brother, “What am I going to do with these?”  You see, my mother had just passed away an hour before.  My Uncle said, “Well, you can enjoy them, you are a Mother.”

It had been a horrible three days, and I knew there were more horrible days ahead.  It was funny how fast live could change in less than a week.  Last Monday, I ordered the flowers never knowing my Mom would never see them.  On Wednesday, it was a beautiful day in Illinois.  I was trying to start a home based business.  I was out delivering flyers for my business.  I was enjoying being outside on such a beautiful day and feeling good and excited about my business venture.  That evening, my husband, kids, and I went out to dinner.  When we came home there was a phone message from my brother.  He said, “When you get this message call me.”  I could tell by his voice that something was wrong.  I returned his call and he told me that my mother had collapsed that afternoon, and it was serious.  I didn’t know how serious.  What exactly did he mean by serious.  Serious like she will die, or it’s serious and she has a chance.  I didn’t want to ask.  So I said, “Do you think, I should come down there?”  He said, “Yes please!”  At that point I knew it was bad.  I got off the phone and tried to tell my husband, but the words were hard to get out.  My kids were little.  How do I tell them about their Grandmother?  She had just moved to Phoenix the previous year.  Until she moved, she lived nearby and my kids spent a lot of time at Grandma’s and were very close to her.  I went outside and sat on the front steps, I felt like I was dreaming.  My husband came out and sat next to me.  We talked and cried. There was a lot to be done, and I knew I would not sleep.  I thought about the day she moved.  We were at her house the night before.  I didn’t want her to go.  I sat in her house wishing this night would last forever.  I didn’t want to go home.  I now knew what a broken heart felt like.  I felt like my heart was breaking.  I even thought I might have a heart attack.  I never showed it, and I never said anything to her about it.  I don’t remember the reason I did not go over there the next day when she left for Phoenix.  At first we called each other all the time, but the phone calls were expensive and neither of us had a lot of money.  So we had to cut down on our phone calls.  We went down to visit her for two weeks that summer and she came up for Christmas.  She went back after New Year’s and my oldest son’s birthday.  When it was time for her to board the plane, she started to cry.  I thought then this is the last time I’m going to see you, and I believe she was thinking the same thing.  That was the last time, I saw her alive and well.  The last time I talked to her on the phone was Easter.  I was saving my next phone call for Mother’s Day.  I spent the rest of Wednesday night making plane reservations, washing clothes to take to Phoenix, and making plans for the kids and my husband.  I got on the plane the next morning for Phoenix.  On the plane, people are talking, laughing, and having a good time.  I listened to conversations about vacations.  I wished I was going there for a vacation, and I wished my husband was sitting next to me instead of some stranger.  All I wanted to do was cry, and I was holding it back.  I didn’t want to cry in front of strangers.  I also felt sick to my stomach.  I was hoping I really wouldn’t be sick.  It was the longest four hours of my life.  My brother and Uncle met me at the airport.  They wanted to know if I wanted to go to their house or the hospital.  I said, “Is she going to make it?”  They didn’t know, but said she had not regained consciousness and she was attached up to all kinds of machines.  I then said, “To the hospital.”  I could not believe my eyes when I saw her.  She was pale and she had all kinds of tubes attached to her, I took her hand and talked to her.  I didn’t know if she could hear me or not, but I hoped she could.  Then the doctor came in to talk to us.  He said that she had a brain aneurysm and she was brain dead.  He showed us her chart with a straight flat line.  He said, “She is being kept alive on machines. You will need to make a decision whether to take her off of the machines or not.  She is not going to get better.  If she lives, she will be a vegetable for the rest of her life.  I’ll leave you alone to discuss it.”  All three of knew what had to be done.  We didn’t want to do it, but we had too.  I remember before my mother left for Phoenix she had told me, “If anything happens to me, I do not want to be kept alive on a machine.”  I tried to make light of it because I didn’t want to talk about it.  She said, “’I’m serious.”  So I knew that this is what she would want.  When the doctor came back into the room, we told him to go ahead and remove the machines.  He said, “We will do it slowly, and wean her off the machines.  We will remove one at a time.”  We went back to the hospital later, and her breathing was harder.

Back at her house, I looked around and saw her everywhere I looked.  Her glasses lying out and things she had been in the process of doing when this happened.  I asked my brother and uncle if she complained of headaches or anything and they said, “No”.  That morning she mentioned that she felt like she had a hangover although she didn’t have anything to drink.  She went to sit outside.  The dogs started barking and looking out the window.  My brother looked out to see what they were barking at and saw her lying on the ground with lawn chair tipped over.  He went out there and tried to talk to her and she said, “Where’s my pillow?”  And that was the last thing she said.  They called 911 and she was taken to one hospital, but then air vaced to another hospital that specialized in neurology.

We went back on Friday she was still alive, and her breathing even more labored.  Some friends of my mother and uncle came by the hospital and then invited us over to their house.  It was a pleasant relief.  It helped to take my mind off of my mother dying.   They were telling stories about my mom and about life in Phoenix.  Then on Saturday morning we went to hospital again.  Her breathing now was really hard.  I thought each breath was her last.  Her chest would rise up and then nothing and then after what seemed like minutes, but probably just seconds, she would let the breath out and her chest would sink back down. And then this would repeat.  I held her hand and talked as if she could hear me.  I told her how much I loved her and how much the grandchildren loved her.  How my husband had said she was a great mother-in-law.  I told her she was a great mother and my uncle added “and sister”.  My brother said, “I guess were not going to make it to Vegas”.   My Uncle said, “Next time”.  We decided to leave, go get something to eat and come back later.  So we went to a restaurant and then back to the house.  We were only home a few minutes when the call came that she had passed.  Later that afternoon we went back to the hospital to sign papers and make arrangements for her.  We decided that she had more family and friends in Illinois so we would have her cremated in Phoenix and her ashes sent to the cemetery in Illinois.  We would have a memorial service in Illinois.  I had to get back to Illinois because my husband was taking time off of work to stay home with the kids. I made plane reservations for my brother and me to fly back to Illinois on Monday.  My Uncle came later in the week.  He could fly for free as he was retired from the airlines.  Later in the week we had the memorial service to have our final good-bye to Mom.  It was a horrible Mother’s Day that I will never forget, and I still don’t like Mother’s Day.  I don’t like celebrating it.   I felt like I didn’t have time to mourn her back then.  My brother had no family so I felt bad for him.  I tried not to let my kids see me break down.  I had made all the arrangements so I was busy.  My brother and I were now orphan’s.  My Brother, Uncle and I were the only ones left from our original family.  In the seven years preceding my mother’s death, I lost both my grandparents, and father.  My husband had lost his mother and a brother.  So we were feeling pretty lonely especially on holidays.  Recently, a friend who lost her father asked, “Does it ever get any better?”  The answer is, “sort of”.  I don’t think about it every day, but there are days when I want my mother.  I would love to be able to talk to her.  When I have had problems over the years, I wish I could ask her advice.  I have felt so alone at times.  That’s why I say it “sort of” gets better.  I have moments when I regret that I wasn’t with her at the end holding her hand.  Why did we leave her?  I don’t remember what our thinking was that day.  I feel guilty that we said remove the machines.  I think about the “what ifs”.  What if the doctor was wrong?  What if she wasn’t brain dead?  I know this is wrong to think about the “What ifs” and most of the time I think we did the right thing.  Life does go on and my brother and I often talk about our childhood memories with Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa and our Aunts and Uncles.  We have many good and wonderful memories of them all.  This Sunday is Mother’s Day so once again my thoughts are on that Mother’s Day thirty-two years ago.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you!

Side Note:  I originally wrote this in 2013 and since then my brother has passed away and my uncle passed away in 2011.  Now I am the only one surviving from my family of origin. 

Copyright © 2013 Gail Grunst