Somewhere I read that we should all learn to live like we only had today. It would result in lot less anger and resentment in the world. I learned yesterday morning from a woman I have spoken to by phone, for years my aunt’s nurse aide – that my elderly maternal Aunt died last week. Not that I could have really done anything to prevent it, as I was two thousand miles away at a time when the COVID virus had only just started to quietly infect many in the city of New York. However, the only family, a thousand miles nearer, my Aunt June’s nieces (my cousins), and I have not been close in several decades. I tried to reach out to the younger cousin last night to offer support. Via an Internet obituary, I learned she, also, has passed away – a month ago. Looking through photographs of Aunt June, my mother, and other family member long deceased, I still feel a connection to them, to places they described.
My aunt, Kathleen Anne June Dismore was born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, U.K.,in 1930. She was named for her mother, Kathleen E.B. Dinsmore (nee Ward), and for her father’s mother, Annie Dinsmore (nee Cowan). The Depression was a difficult time for Northern Ireland as it was for the rest of the world. My maternal forebears were middle class merchants, specializing in candy-making. At the time their business was recovering, the Second World War and the bombing of Belfast substantially changed fortunes.
After the war ended, my grandfather decided to emigrate to New Jersey in the United States where other family members had been living for the last half-century. Having already completed her secondary education, Aunt June began working at the United Nations. A picture I have, about the time my parents married, has Aunt June and her husband, my mother and father all dressed up at some dinner. Though she never talked about it, sometime around my birth she had become a widow, and poured herself into her work with UNICEF, eventually becoming a senior executive. It was with UNICEF, she went to Geneva, New Delhi, Nairobi, and elsewhere. All the while she sent her nephew colorfully stamped postcards. A life-long golfer, she had lived for more than thirty years in the Stuyvesant Town – Peter Cooper Village of Manhattan. She would travel every four or five years back to see childhood friends and places in County Antrim, but as her health declined, her trips were fewer. It was at her suggestion several years ago that we were going to make a trip to Northern Ireland together, to visit old friends living at her former childhood home, other relatives and to actually see the places that I had been researching as part of my genealogy search. As we finalized plans, it was then that my wife and I learned of her treatments for Parkinson’s disease. And her inability to travel. We went without her company but returned with great pictures and stories to share with her.
When I think of Aunt June’s legacy, I will always consider her affection for her nephew (me), nieces and their children. And of her love for golf, dogs, travel and friends. Years spent among diplomats gave her an ardent response of “No politics!” when anyone would bring up the subject of conservative and liberals, or Republicans and Democrats. She was a kind soul, and though she had not attended a church service in her faith for many years due to her health, she always had a kind word for everyone she met, her neighbors, and always, a dog-treat for their dogs. Perhaps we may again encounter her, walking some Heaven’s road, with her faithful terrier Kristy by her side.