Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy birthday, Grandma (+ 1 day)!

Yesterday would've been my grandmother's 81st birthday - my father's mother, Helen Meta Stutzmann Gorry.

Helen was born on Feb. 10, 1932 to Frederick Casper Stutzmann and Helen Meta Haase - she had an older sister, Faith, and was followed eventually by brother Frederick and little sister Dawn. She was 100 percent German and her family was fairly well off - her father was the son of Rudolph Stutzmann, founder and president of Ridgewood Savings Bank, founder of R. Stutzmann & Son Funeral Homes in the Brooklyn-Queens area. Unfortunately, of Rudolph's two sons, Helen's father Fred was not the responsible one. He was the one who was kicked out of Dartmouth, who gambled at the horse racing track, who sold his share of the business to his brother Rudolph. I actually don't know that much about my grandmother's childhood - she lived in Queens Village but her parents eventually divorced and I believe she was sent away to a nearby boarding school. She also dealt with some mental problems that from what my father told me, doesn't sound like they were ever properly addressed when she was young - from what I can gather, her childhood was pretty tumultuous and when I think about that, my heart goes out to her. My grandparents lived only a few blocks away from us in Freeport when I was growing up, but again, because of some of her mental health issues, there were long periods I didn't really get to see her, and so I still really don't feel like I ever got to know her all that well. When I think of my grandmother, I think of my grandfather of how he related to her, and of how much he obviously loved her. They knew each other as children and actually lived around the block from each other - my dad tells me a story of how Grandpa used to throw snowballs at her when they were kids. They were married in 1951 in Queens Village and eventually had five kids and moved to the suburbs. Grandpa was always lovingly teasing Grandma, I remember that, and she put up with all his silly jokes with a smile on her face. I ran away from home once when I was a kid, and I ran away to their house. My most vivid memory of my grandmother, who always seemed quiet and reserved, as Germans often are, compared to my loud, gregarious Irish grandfather, is actually a funny one - we were over their house and she was talking on the phone, probably with one of my aunts. She was sitting in the rocking chair in the living room and right in the middle of her conversation, the chair tipped over backward. Somehow Grandma was still seated in it, and she just kept on with her phone conversation, as if nothing was out of the ordinary at all. That memory still makes me laugh. I also believe my father told me that the artistic bent that runs on his side of the family comes from his mother. And she was very beautiful - I love looking at old photos of her.

My grandparents were married for 50 years and after Grandma died in 2002, my grandfather was never the same. I know part of him died that day as well.

But this is supposed to be a happy, not a sad post, so happy 81st birthday in heaven, Grandma - I know you are surrounded by loved ones there and remembered by many loved ones here!

So cute!

Grandma at 6 months and her older sister Faith, 1932.

Grandma and Grandpa on their wedding day, 1951.
Grandma at the beach.


  1. Oh, she was super cute, Mary. Mental illness is a sad struggle for every person who suffers it as well as every family that owns it; but its a wonderful thing that it no longer hold as much of a social stigma as it once did. I like to explore aspects of it in my own family history, as you know. Despite that, I think this is a very happy post. Not everyone gets to experience a love like that of which you describe between your grandparents and though it ended through death, i don't think it ever really ends...and that's a happy thing. What happened to rich Uncle Ruddy??

    1. Great Uncle Rudy moved to Roslyn, joined a country club, and sold the funeral homes for way more money than it took to buy out my great-grandfather! You know how it is - there are rich branches to the family tree, but they ain't ours! :)

  2. It was really nice to read this post about grandma. I think I was so young when we would go over there that I forget a lot of the funny moments. Thanks for reminding me how great our grandparents are.