Saturday, October 24, 2009

Aunt Vera

Veronica Agnes McNally December 27, 1909-May 13 1990

2009 is the 100th anniversary of Aunt Vera's birth. It's hard to believe she would be 100 years old in December.

Peggy 34, Lora 37, Cele 38, Vera 40 and Billie 41 in 1950

Vera was the third child of William and Anna McNally, born when Marie was almost 3 and sister Billie was 16 months old. Cele, Lora and Peggy came along soon after. The group of Billie, Vera, Cele, Lora and Peggy seemed to me to be a gang of five who spent a lot of time together.

Vera, Ben and Cele at a cabin at Eagle Bay in 1935

Cele and Vera in September, 1942 with a lot of guys at Finnegan's in Huntington. Finnegan's Pub, opened in 1913, is still in business. I have heard that the reason everybody left Queens to move to Huntington was to be closer to Finnegan's---and to the golf course there. I recall sitting at the bar drinking Shirley Temples and eating peanut butter sandwiches made from a jar kept behind the bar just for me (and maybe Joan and Pat).

Vera was my godmother and since she never married and had kids of her own, I always thought we had a special relationship in the huge McNally scheme of things. She shocked me when I was about 40 years old by telling me she was also godmother to Nancy Dorr. Up till then I believed I was an only child. I didn't even ask if there were any others.

As a single working woman, a social worker, she always appeared quite glamorous to me. And I wanted to be just like her, which I have indeed become, down to her acerbic tongue (my sister says I might have avoided that role model.)

I used to visit Vera in Queens when I was in my 30s and 40s and remember her watching the Mets games at night with a tumbler of scotch (I hope there was some mixer in there too.) She knew I liked corn toaster muffins, which you could not get in Kansas, so they were always there for breakfast.

Ann and Vera in 1976 at Vera's apartment. Below: Billie and Vera outside the apartment in June, 1978.

I vaguely recall that in the 1940s and 50s Vera ran around with Tom Berry, a friend of my father's from the phone company. Tom Berry was a good looking guy, but my mother told me he drank too much and that's why he and Vera never married. Neither ever married.

When I was young I heard that Tom Berry was from Wichita, a place he hated so much that when he flew across the country he took a route that went north or south so as to avoid visiting the old home town, even at 20,000 feet.
Tom Berry and Cele

I later had cause to spend a lot of time in Wichita and I often thought of Tom Berry.

Vera died when she was 81. She is buried at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.

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