Thursday, June 23, 2011

FrancoAmerican Legends in California

One summer day in 1976, I visited with two legends in California....

Below: Maire Claire Yetto neé Rivet and her brother Joseph Albert Rivet in a small town in the San Bernardino Mountains.  

I have written about Joseph Albert Rivet in several other posting on this blog.  In this posting I will write about his sister Marie Claire.

Below: Marie Claire Rivet

Marie Claire Rivet was born in Cohoes, New York in 1918. Her parents were Joseph Paul Emile Rivet and Marie Louise Lacasse.  She married Walker Yetto (origin of surname: Guertin).  They raised their family in her family home on Summit Street in Cohoes overlooking the Harmony Mill and the Hudson Valley.  Their situation was complicated after she was hurt in a serious traffic accident: a tractor trailer truck hit her vehicle and she sustained neck injuries.  Soon thereafter Walker was injured in a recreational vehicle.  Then in 1965, after several years of poor health, Walker Yetto died and Claire struggled to maintain her home and family.  As a widow, she came to a decision - leave New York and settle in California where her brother Al had moved years before.  She packed everything in her car and moved.  She found a job working as a rural mail delivery person.  Her work started early at the local airport where she picked up heavy sacks of mail despite her physical pain from the neck injuries.  She bought her own home and lived there until her death in 2003. She was my mother's best friend. She was my Aunt Claire.

She is a legend. Her life was not a was hard starting from her childhood with a very stern father who was never remembered for kindness. Her mother died when she was five years old. Her stepmother Malvina Hamel was remembered as kind and gentle. Claire birthed children who lived to become adults and she miscarried others. She worked all her life and she worked hard. When misfortune came into her life she never looked for pity. She was strong; perhaps the strongest.  When I visited her a few years before she passed on, she was happy, self-sufficient, and gracious despite the long oxygen tubing she trailed about her home as she conducted her daily chores.  That week I last visited, she asked me to make her vegetable stir fry, my specialty. I did and she loved every bit of it! Simple things made her happy.  She was tough. She never gave up her faith. She never gave in.  She loved her children and grandchildren. 

Here are a few more photos from that day at Aunt Claire's home including some of the Joshua trees surrounding her home:

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