A Generation Fades

Last night, I received some very sad news. My Aunt Clare passed away at 85 years of age. Slowly but surely, the very roots of my childhood, my aunts and uncles, are regrouping for a spectacular family reunion in God’s kingdom. Although it gives me solace that Aunt Clare has been reunited with my Uncle Hank and our entire departed Hunky Clan, the sense of loss for her children and her entire extend family will be deeply felt.

Aunt Clare was my Godmother. We had a very special connection. Although we haven’t talked or visited in some time, she has always held a special place in my heart. From a very young age, I always felt “special” in Aunt Clare’s eyes. The truth be known, I think she made all of her nieces and nephews feel the same way. It was just her nature. However, I prefer  to feel that as her Godson, I was the singular recipient.

I remember that I would always receive an extra gift at Christmas from Aunt Clare and Uncle Hank. That’s what Godparents did back then. It certainly made me feel special since my brother and other cousin’s weren’t as fortunate as I with another gift to open when we visited her home. Aunt Clare was always sensitive to that fact and would quietly present the gift to me when others were not around. No pomp and circumstance….. just a quiet token of her love.

Aunt Clare had four children, two girls and two boys. Cheryl is the first born. She is about the same age of my only brother, Steve. Tommy was her first son, and he and I are about the same age. Etta, her third child, was her second daughter and the person who has been caregiver to Aunt Clare. Finally, Aunt Clare’s youngest child is Jerry. All of her kids live in the area and have been a constant part of her life.

Aunt Clare had that innate hunky ability to make everyone immediately feel welcome and part of the family. No truer examples of this exist than with the special relationship she had with her son-in-law Mike (Cheryl’s husband), and her two daughters-in-law, Marianne (Tommy’s wife) and Linda (Jerry’s wife.) Aunt Clare was an equally loving Grandmother and Great-Grandmother. As her family expanded, the love just grew and grew. The joy she felt when they were all together had to have been immeasurable based on the huge smile on her face.

Although those special times with Aunt Clare when I was a very young child will always be a part of my memory, our relationship blossomed even more in my teens.

Aunt Clare was ALWAYS COOL! She was “the aunt” in the family that understood trends, music, fashion, movies and all things important to the teenage mind. You see, Aunt Clare managed the concession stand at the South Hills Drive-In on Rt. 51 in Pleasant Hills. Along with her own children, I was also hired as part of the crew that worked at the concession stand. I think I worked there for 3 seasons, 1968, 1969 and 1970.

Working conditions were ideal for a teenager at the drive-in. Aside from the obvious….free movies, free popcorn, free pops…. was the fact we didn’t begin working until about 6 in the evening until about 2 in the morning. As any teenager will tell you, being able to sleep until 2 or 3 in the afternoon was near nirvana!

In addition to those perks, was the fact that Aunt Clare was my boss. Yes, she was very focused on providing great food and service, but she was always fun to work for and a blast to be around.

Each evening, I would make my way to her home on Lindberg Ave in Munhall to hitch a ride to the drive-in. I never minded the ride to work since my “Cool Aunt Clare” always drove the neatest cars. For two of the years that I worked at the drive-in, I was driven back and forth in a 1968 or 69 GTO convertible! It was a bright lime green with a white convertible top, white leather interior AND an 8-track player! I’m sure you can get the picture, a carload of teenagers (seatbelts didn’t become “law” until 68 or 69, but no one really paid attention to it) and the sounds of the Beatles, the Jackson 5 and the Beach Boys blasting as we tore up the road.

Most adults complain about the musical tastes of their teenage children. I know I did (with just cause!) Aunt Clare never complained about the music, she embraced it and pumped up the volume whenever we were together. When we were done with our workday at the drive-in, she’d suggest that we all jump into her above ground pool and swim for an hour or so. I’m sure the neighbors didn’t like it, but we were living and loving life.

I suppose that is how I choose to remember Aunt Clare. She was my one aunt who lived life to the fullest! In the words of Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” There should have been no reason for Aunt Clare to have regrets when she left us yesterday. She HAD lived life to its fullest as well as positively impacted those that surrounded her with the love she craved and the love she gave.

I love you Aunt Clare, rest in peace.

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14 Responses to A Generation Fades

  1. John {Eddie FEketi says:

    I did not know your aunt Clara but knew your uncles Joe,Mike, and Peggy..i lived 2 houses from them in NuMine I was born Dec.1939 In the Smeltzer Hotel . I used to sit with your grandpa Volk and 2 other one Named Zemko,and forgot the other and they played their Fiddles on his porch,,Your Grand pa used to fix myshoes too..

    • Jim says:

      John and/or Eddie, I will let my Aunt Peggy know you and I have connected. She is living in Munhall, Pa and is the last surviving Volk sibling.

  2. Paula Goldman Smith says:

    Jim, your comment about losing the very roots of your childhood brought tears. Your Aunt Clair was quite a lady. She was the swinger of your family, and the kids always loved to be around her. Yes, the aunts and uncles are re-grouping, getting ready for a big hunky reunion. God bless them all.

  3. Vickie Brady says:

    Jim, you have my deepest sympathy. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. May your Aunt R.I.P. now.

  4. Frank Mullen says:

    The really nice, precious thing about having people like your Aunt Clare in our lives, Jim, is that they never quite leave us. Oh, we may not be able, any more, to jump into a GTO convertible alongside them and enjoy a top-down ride, but the joyous ride through life we have taken since we were able to sit alongside them continues to be a gift from them. They gave us joy. That never leaves us.

    I used to think that when we lost someone the pain lasted for a time, but then faded. Not true. We lose them little by little, but never altogether. I lost my father when I as ten; I can still feel the pain of missing him these fifty-seven years later. I wish I could still sit next to him in his ’54 Mercury, or sit next to him as he reconstructs another Christmas model-train layout. Yet, I still remember the joy of havng been with him when it was still possible to reach out and touch him. There are folks who say they can see some of his ideas and mannerisms in me. What a joy it is to be told that!

    So, Jim, I am certain, if you take a quiet moment and look inside yourself, you will see your Aunt Clare present, looking back at you and saying, “See, that’s me in there, still with you. I am a part of you.”

    With much respect and sincere sympathy,

  5. Bob Chermonitz says:

    Sorry to hear about your Aunt, Jim. They say you’re never really gone as long as someone remembers you. Seems like your Aunt will live for awhile longer, if only in your memory. God Bless her and all of the faithfully departed.

  6. EK says:

    I believe my grandparents owned and operated the Kovac Restaurant and Cafe on 2nd St. I’ve been trying to get info on when the place closed and if they, indeed, were the owners (Andrew and Mary). I was told in the the early 60s. Because all of the photos are on slides, I don’t have any photos I can share at the moment (the slides are in storage), but they are from the 60s and 70s. If I can find them (and sort them), it would be nice to have them posted.

    Great website. I remember some of Duquesne when I was younger (I was born in ’69), but they are merely bits and pieces of my memory in the early 70s.

    Any help or old pictures of the Kovac R&C would be great.

  7. Frank Gricus says:

    My condolences on the loss of your aunt, Jim. You wrote…”We had a very special connection. Although we haven’t talked or been visited in some time, she has always held a special place in my heart.” Although at first blush your statement seems hypocritical, it is often, whether by will, by fate or just with our busy world, that we lose touch with those that have been an important part of our lives. This should be a reminder for your readers to visit, call, or even write those that hold “a special place” in their respective hearts. Tomorrow, a special connection may only be a memory.

    • Beryl says:

      Hi Frank,
      Condolences on your loss.
      May I take this opportunity to tell you Lucy and I have just returned from a Baltic cruise, we visited Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia (this was fabulous and we had our own guide, driver and car for two days, which was not enough time to see much at all of their great treasures), then back to Sweden and finally to Estonia, then back home.
      Unfortuneately we did not have time to visit Lithuania and I know this holds a special place in your heart..

  8. John (Jack) Berta says:

    My sympathy to you Jim in the loss of your aunt.
    “Thy Kingdom Come”

  9. Diann M. Topley says:

    Every time I am convinced that I imagined something you write that my memories were true. My parents loaded all five of their children into a station wagon to see “Moses and the 10 Commandments” sometime in the mid-sixties at the drive in on Route 51 in Pleasant Hills. We had a blast.
    Keep up churning out the memories
    Diann Topley

  10. Claudia Repko Misage says:

    Jim, so very sorry to hear about your Aunt Clara. She sounded like she really loved life and enjoyed it to the fullest. May she rest in peace. Jim remember now she is only a thought away, God Bless. Claudia

  11. Eileen Plescia says:

    you have our sympathy Jim. It’s so true when it is said, “you just can’t put a price tag on memories”. We’ll ALL be together one day, in God’s great kingdom.

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