Monday, December 27, 2021

Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins

 While catching up on some emails over the Christmas holiday, I came across one about a blog post called "Aunts, Uncles and Cousins" on the Family History across the seas blog by Australian Pauline Cass a/k/a cassmob. It inspired me to write this post.  You can check out her post here:  (Yes this post was written August 1.  I did say I was "catching up" on emails!)

My father had two sisters and eight brothers.  My mother had one of each.  So I have/had plenty of aunts, uncles, AND cousins.  Let me explain that I am about 20 years younger than my first cousins.  My father was 38 when I was born, and he was the youngest of all of those siblings, so I was baby cousin, Mary Elizabeth.  Unfortunately I have lost most of my first cousins, but with genealogy and Facebook, I have connected with some of their children, and I love it!  There are not many left of my immediate family.  So I am blessed to be able to connect with any family, even 3rd, 4th, and 7th cousins!

Some background here on my father's family.  His parents were Lusion and Nealie (Drake) Tapley.  Lusion was 25 years older than Nealie.  He had been married twice before, and both wives had passed away either in childbirth or from complications of childbirth.  He had one daughter with his first wife, three surviving sons with his 2nd wife, and five boys and one girl with Nealie.  The boys from his 2nd marriage were 10, 7, and 5 when my grandparents married.  So Grandma Nealie raised them.  

My father's oldest sister was Annie Jane.  Her mother died when Annie was only 2 months old.  Back then, the men had to go to work, so Annie was raised by my Grandfather Lusion's parents, Jim and Becky Tapley.  I guess because of that, she never seemed part of Lusion's family.  My father talked about going to visit her, but I think that was more to visit with her husband and his family than it was to see her.  They just weren't close.  She passed away in 1960, so I never met her.  

This is a picture of my grandmother, Nealie Drake Tapley, standing right in the middle (with the hat) of all of her children, even the three that were not biologically hers.  They were her sons in her mind and heart, I am sure. This picture was probably taken in the 1960s.  (As you can see, I colorized this picture at MyHeritage, and that will be very helpful in identifying folks.)

First row, on the left in the white shirt and regular tie, is my Uncle James.  Everyone else called him "Fella."  He was the oldest of the three boys my grandma Nealie raised.  Uncle James and his wife, Aunt Reida Mae, would give you the shirt off their backs.  They lived in Macon and would invite in and feed anyone who arrived at their house.  I can remember being at their house and eating Sunday dinner with them a few times.  I can also remember playing in the front yard while the adults sat on the front porch and talked all afternoon.  Uncle James and Aunt Reida Mae never had children.  I was only 7 years old when Uncle James passed away.  As a matter of fact, he and his two brothers all passed away in a 7 month period between 1973-74.  

The gentleman on the far right of the first row with the white shirt and bow tie, is my Uncle Lamar.  He was the oldest of Grandma Nealie's children.  Because my father and him did not get along (I don't think Uncle Lamar got along with many folks.), I did not even meet Uncle Lamar until I was 6 years old.  I think that may be the only time I ever saw him, and he passed away when I was 18.  He and his wife, Anna Lois, lived in Jacksonville, Florida.  They had two children, Mary Anne and Buddy.  I only met Mary Anne once when I was a child as she lived in central Florida, but we have been in contact in the last few years.  Mary Anne is 80 years old and just had surgery due to a cancer diagnosis.  I wish her the best.  She is one of only two first cousins I have left.  I have become very good friends with her daughter, Sheri, on Facebook, and am also Facebook friends with her other daughter, Denise.  

My parents and I lived in Jacksonville for 4 years in the early 1970s.  Uncle Lamar's son, Buddy, lived just a few blocks from us.  (That is Buddy in the picture - kind of back row on the far left with the white shirt and a bow tie like his father!)  I worshipped Buddy.  He was fun and he didn't ignore me like some adults may have.  We hung out at his house a lot and did things with them.  He had a step-daughter, Rhonda, who was my age.  I loved playing with her!  Buddy has two sons, Steve and Russ (who goes by Thomas now).  I lost touch with the family when we moved back to Georgia, but as an adult, I finally got back in touch with Buddy and was able to visit him once before he passed away.  He was just as great as I remembered.  Rhonda and I have reunited, so to speak, on social media  I am in touch with Russ (Thomas) some.  I was never close to Steve, so we have had no contact since we became adults.  

Rhonda celebrated my 6th birthday with me!

The first person on the left in the 2nd row, is Charles.  He is also one the of the three Grandma Nealie raised.  

The tall gentlemen next to him is my Uncle Hugh.  Everyone else called him "Dorse."  See, he was named Dorsey Franklin at birth. He didn't like that for whatever reason, and he later changed his name to Hugh Dorsey.  He introduced himself as Hugh from then on.  But the family still called him by his nickname.  Uncle Hugh was my favorite uncle.  I was his favorite niece.  Sorry to all the others, but that's just how it was.  He was gruff and squeaked when he walked (in other words, he was stingy with his money!), but he was never that way with me.  Uncle Hugh was in a car accident long before I was born, and one leg was damaged so that he walked with a limp forever afterwards.  One of my early memories is telling someone that they would recognize Uncle Hugh by his limp.  And I proceeded to demonstrate it!  I'm sure my parents worried it would hurt his feelings, but Daddy told him anyway, and Uncle Hugh loved it!  He mentioned it many times over the years and would just laugh.  

Uncle Hugh was married to Thelma.  They went their separate ways and reunited too many times over the years to count.  They were a toxic combination.  They had five children:  Carolyn (who passed away as a baby), Ronnie, Gary, Beverly, and Denise.  Ronnie is another cool cousin that I worshipped.  While life gets in the way, we are still close, and I just talked to him on Christmas Day.   (That's him lurking in the very back of the picture.)  I was also close to his brother, Gary, at one time.  He loved to  hear about my genealogy discoveries.  However, since I moved to North Carolina, we had lost touch, and tragically he was killed in a house fire just six months ago.  I never knew Beverly very well.  Mom and Dad hired Denise to babysit me once, but she was a teenager and more interested in having her boyfriend over than watching me!  Both Beverly and Denise have passed away. 

Here I am with my favorite 1st cousins: Buddy (on the left) and Ronnie, 2009.

 The jaunty looking gentleman next to Uncle Hugh with the plaid shirt, hat, and shades was my Uncle Russ.  (I have written about him before, and you can read that post here:  Family Legend.)  He was the glue that held the family together.  He was everyone's favorite.  I remember both Uncle Hugh and my dad saying right before they each passed that they were ready to see Russ again.  His wife was Elizabeth.  I was named for her.  The sweetest, kindest soul there ever was.  We lived near her in Jacksonville, and I would get to see her all the time.  She took me to the beach.  We also lost touch after we moved back to Georgia, but I reconnected with her as an adult, and visited her every time I was in town.  I lost her, Uncle Hugh and my dad within two years' time.  Uncle Russ and Aunt Elizabeth never had children, but they were parents to almost every niece and nephew.  Ronnie and his siblings practically lived over there.  My brother broke his arm in their front yard.  I cannot stress enough how much the entire family loved and depended on Russ.

Aunt Elizabeth and me at Jacksonville Beach

On the other side of Russ, also in a hat, is my Uncle Champ.  (That's really his name!) He was the last of the three boys Grandma Nealie raised.  I remember visiting Uncle Champ as a child.  He lived right in Kite.  He was married to Pauline, and they had six children:  Hubert, Doris, Edna, Richard, Jackie, and Joann.  We didn't hang around them.  I remember Hubert, Edna, and Richard from when I was a child, and we would run into them around town or something.  I speak to Joann occasionally by phone.  When I was a teenager, I hung out with Richard's sons because they ended up going to my high school.  I have connected with Doris's girls and Hubert's daughter on Facebook.  Daddy always said that Uncle Champ looked the most like their father.  

Next to Buddy on the third row is my father, Gilbert.  He's the one wearing a jacket with his bow tie.  

Next to Daddy, is my Uncle Dempsey.  He's the one with the goofy smile on his face.  He wore that same smile a lot as I remember.  Uncle Dempsey lived with us for a while while I was child, so we were especially close.  Uncle Dempsey was another one who would give you the shirt off his back.  He was very soft  hearted and kind.  I never saw him angry.  However, he could spin some tales!  Let's just say... if he told you it was raining, you had better go look outside!  Uncle Dempsey was married to Blanche and they had two children, Jearl and David.  Let's just say Blanche was not a good person, and she taught her children her ways.  Once Uncle Dempsey and Blanche divorced, their kids really did not have much to do with the Tapleys.  I was never close to either one of them.  They would visit occasionally when I was young, but that was it.  I do not have contact with their children.

On the other side of Grandma Nealie, is her only girl, Aunt Irene.  She lived in Macon near my Uncle James.  We visited her sometimes.  Aunt Irene was stand-offish so we were never close.  I think there was some falling out with some of the brothers, including my father, about Grandma Nealie's sewing machine after she died.  Perhaps she standoffish because of that.  Aunt Irene was married to Bart, and they divorced before I was even born, I think, but the rest of the family remained close to him so I remember him being around often.  I absolutely loved my Uncle Bart, and I still kept in touch with him as an adult.  Aunt Irene then married Alton, and he was very nice.  She had one daughter, Betty Jean.  I knew Betty Jean when I saw her, that's it.  I was a child and she was busy living her life.

Here's my Aunt Irene and Uncle Alton, circa 1980s.

My mother has one sister, Evelyn, and one brother, Bob.  

Aunt Evelyn is the only aunt I have left.  I have only met her once in my life because she has always lived on the west coast, first California and then Arizona.  Mom and I went and visited her more than 10 years ago.  We have become very close since then.  We talk on the phone often.  She is over 80 now and her memory is failing.  But she never forgets who I am or that she loves me!  I never knew the father of her children, Norm.  They had three children, Drina, Rick, and Linda Lee (Kim).  I did know Aunt Evelyn's last husband, Ted.  He was a wonderful, Christian man with a beautiful smile.  Now that he's gone, Rick lives with Aunt Evelyn and is her caretaker.  I've only spoken with Rick on the phone, and that's usually just long enough ask how he is and can I speak to my aunt.  I have become very close (long distance) with Drina.  She lives in Oregon, and we message or email when we can.  I have never spoken to Kim.   

Aunt Evelyn (on the left) and my mom, 2009

Lastly, there is my Uncle Bob.  Listen, it is no secret that my family is and was dysfunctional.  I probably saw my Uncle Bob one time after I was 6 years old.  My father saw to it that the relationship between my mom and her brother was severed, due to his own insecurities and need to control the people around him.  I am sure my mom never saw her brother again after their parents died.  Uncle Bob passed away in 1999, I just took my mom this past June to visit his grave near Atlanta.  Uncle Bob was married to Louise, and I remember her being very sweet.  Uncle Bob had two sons, Robert Jr and David.  I made contact with Robert Jr once, many years ago, but then he just disappeared.  I wouldn't know either one of them if they showed up at my door.

I was blessed with many uncles, aunts, and cousins.  Through my genealogy journey, I have added many cousins to my life, and I am thankful for each and every one.  If you have a cousin you haven't connected with in awhile, give them a call or send them a message.  Cousins are the best kind of friends.  

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