Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day: the distant memory of Donald A Messier from Watervelit and his widow, my "Aunt Lucy"

Memorial Day was called Decoration Day when I was a small fry.  I don't exactly recall when the name was changed but it definitely has held many meanings to me as I have grown older.  It used to mean marching in the town parade and the beginning of warmer days. Later, it was about remembering those who died in the wars Americans fought.  Born seven years after the end of World War II, I didn't know anyone who died in it but I did grow up knowing widows with their children.  This Memorial Day I would like to say I remember Donald Messier but I cannot.  However, I  can vividly recall his widow, my "Aunt Lucy".

Donald Messier was from Watervelit, n the US Naval Reserve. He never made it out of the war to meet his namesake, young Donald Messier. I think he died on an aircraft carrier in the US Navy.  I found information about him on the New York State Military Museum site:

There is his "next of kin", his wife, who I  always called "Aunt Lucy". Aunt Lucy lived in Green Island during the world and my mother and she became close. I am not certain how they met, perhaps she started going to my mother's beauty salon on Swan Street in Green Island.  When my mother married dad at the end of the war, in 1945, Aunt Lucy was her matron of honor and witness.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of Donald Arthur Messier but I have many of Aunt Lucy, her son "young" Donnie and later her second husband, Bill Bossidy. Aunt Lucy and Uncle Bill had one daughter, Patricia Bossidy.  Aunt Lucy was a petite but strong woman, always kind, sweet and content with her home and family. When my mother got pregnant soon after Patty was born, the pact was sealed and although one year apart Patty and I would be best friends. 

Aunt Lucy Messier nee Ryan (left), Dorothy Mylott nee Wills (right)

"The Gang"
Young Donnie Messier is sitting on the left side of the group
Back row, left to right: Claire Rivet Yetto, Lucy Messier, Al Rivet
Mid Row: Arthur Mylott, Doris Laurent, Robert Wills
Front: Donnie Messier, Marguerite Yetto, Sonny Yetto

A gold star wreath for Aunt Lucy

Aunt Lucy met her soon to be second husband,  Bill Bossidy, at a VFW convention in Plattsburgh after the war.  I think Uncle Bill was the best man Aunt Lucy could ever find. Uncle Bill adopted young Donnie Messier and was a great father to him. He made everyone, especially Aunt Lucy, smile and laugh whenever he was around.
Arthur Mylott, Lucy Messier Bossidy, Bill Bossidy

In this series of photos below, you can see Uncle Bill clowning with my mother. He was always a joker and I came to love his teasing which was never mean ....just fun!

Donnie was 7 or 8 years older than me and always made me wish I had an older brother like Patty had. I remember the time Donnie was visiting with his family and he brought along a girlfriend. I was suppose to be asleep in the sofa in the front "parlor" room where Donny escaped with his girlfriend. That is when I saw, for the first time, how young boys try to woo and kiss young girls! Later Donnie would go on to serve in Viet Nam piloting missions in the 89th special air missions in the US Air Force.

Patty and I were friends, even though she often lived overseas because Uncle Bill was in the US Air Force and stationed for, what seemed to me like, very longs periods in Turkey and Europe.  When she came home we shared sleep overs and even a New Years celebration that we both stay awake until midnight.

 But in 1969 the unbelievable occurred. Patty was killed in an automobile accident in downtown Troy. She was 18 years old and was just starting classes at Hudson Valley Community College.

I remember Patty well to this day though I haven't seen her in forty years. I remember how I couldn't believe that the world could be so unfair and so unkind to Aunt Lucy, the war widow who had suffered so much. And now Uncle Bill, the man who always smiled and made me laugh, suffered too. For more than ten years or more after Patty died, I never heard my Aunt Lucy mention Patty's name. Finally one sunny day, my mother and I paid an unannounced visit to Aunt Lucy and Uncle Bill's in Poestenskill. While we sat in the yard all afternoon, we shared laughter and smiles. I went inside the house to use the facilities before leaving and was shocked to see the interior walls and tables covered with pictures of Patty. It took about five more years until we could talk openly and remember Patty with Aunt Lucy. She grieved in her own way and finally made some peace with her circumstances in the years before her own death. Donnie and his wife had a wonderful baby boy and I think the presence of a grandson in Aunt Lucy and Uncle Bill's life was ultimately restorative. We shared many stories and memories of Patty.

Memorial Day for me is remembering the randomness in war and peace, life and death. There are no guarantees or bargaining. Aunt Lucy survived widowhood and the loss of a child and with her kindnesses she overcame bitterness.  She made the world a better place.  Uncle Bill did too.

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