Family History

Aunt Lillian is the family archivist and has tons of old photos and documents stored away. She is losing her sight and being practical-minded wanted my help in going through it to make sure the cousins can get the stuff that belongs to their own families. One of my projects this year is doing a family tree so we happily spent the day together and I scanned in a bunch of old stuff.

Aunt Lillian in a redwood

Meanwhile, Danny did this, just like his Grandpa Sam before him:

Aunt Lil said he did an excellent job 🙂

My dad lived the last few years of his life in an apartment in Aunt Lil’s house in Martinsburg. After retirement he lived in India for a few years, and when he came back to the States we were all glad he had a nice place to stay. In both of my parent’s families, sibling support and love have been very strong — it’s wonderful to see and also makes things easier on the younger generation.

Speaking of Dad, here is his high school portrait:


Now that I’m older, this picture breaks my heart in many ways. I miss my dear dad, who was tender-hearted and emotionally available in a way unusual to men of his generation. He looks so very handsome here — excellent hair, glasses and tie. Sensitive eyes and sensitive mouth. The family resemblance is strong. I wonder what he was planning at this time?

Uncle George

Then there is this photo of his brother George, my uncle — so charming and always popular with women.

Aunt Lil told a story that George had taken typewriting in high school because the class was practically all girls. Flash forward to his time serving in the Navy during the Korean War: “Can anyone in here type?” was the question from the commanding officer. George’s hand went up and he spent the rest of the war typing in an office.

Family traits

My mother would say that the Sablacks are “always arguing” and she’s not wrong. In my opinion many of us also share:

  • A fondness for story telling
  • A great sense of humor
  • A deep curiosity about the world and people around them
  • Immense pride in coming from humble roots and making their own way
  • Experiencing joy in things they find beautiful.

Less happily, some key traits also include:

  • A proclivity for mental illness and/or substance abuse (not all but a significant some)
  • Heart disease
  • And, at least for my dad and Danny and me, a nervous stomach and a tendency to stub ones toes painfully.
My grandma, Catherine Colundjia

I’ll wrap up with a story about my grandfather, who I never knew. He was a foreman at the coke plant, an immigrant from Yugoslavia, and died young (age 59) from a heart attack. He fathered nine children and I never heard a good word about him from my dad (who adored his mother, pictured above).

I asked Aunt Lillian about him and she said they had always gotten along fine — she felt like Daddy’s girl. She told me that he used the very little extra money he had to educate the older girls of the family. Her older sister Helen went to secretarial school, while Lil got a year of college. She suspects he figured that the boys could always find good paying work, and he didn’t want his daughters on their feet all day, “working for pennies at the five-and-dime.” We agreed that this was awfully thoughtful and forward-thinking for a man of his time, especially one from the Old Country.

I don’t see much of a resemblance in most of the pictures I’ve seen of him, but this one feels right — he looks like one of my uncles, happy and comfortable in the presence of small children. This is Anthony Sablack, along with (we think) Helen and George.

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