Saturday, July 3, 2010

Love Stories: Kay and Warren

Girls growing up in the 1950s thought a lot about love, and being a McNally was perfect since there were so many love stories told about all those aunts and uncles. No valentine was better than the story of Kathryn and Warren, teenage sweethearts who absolutely adored each other all their lives.

Warren was a formidable man to us short little kids (even shorter than him, we always teased.) He was brusque and pugnacious, but he wore his love for his wife and kids on his sleeve.

January 1946. Steve is a few weeks old.

His family were Swiss watch manufacturers and importers.

 A watch on eBay with the word Gisiger on it

The business, Fabrique d’Horlogerie B. GISIGER-GREDER (Gisiger-Greder Watchmakers), was located in Selzach, a municipality in the district of Lebern in the canton of Solothurn in Switzerland.

Emma Catherine and a granddaughter in 1958 when Emmy was about 58.

Right after World War I Warren's father Walter and uncle Hans came to New York as watch importers. Emmy---family history says she was Walter's French tutor when she was 16 years old--- followed him here. They were married in 1920 and lived first in Jersey City where Warren was born in 1921. (Jersey City seems to have had a lot more to do with his persona than any Swiss heritage.)

The Gisigers spoke French at home and Emmy did not learn English until Warren went to school. They moved to Jamaica where Warren went to high school and met Kathryn, a year younger than he. That was it.

Kathryn in 1938 when she was about 16.
Poor Warren.

Kay was born on July 6, 1922, her grandmother Elizabeth Valentine's birthday.
This week she'd be 88.

Lorraine found this photo in Jack's things. It may be Kay & Warren's wedding photo.

Another photo from Jack's pictures. It's inscribed:
"Kay's New Feather Cut, 1943"

When the War began Warren enlisted in the Air Force. Kay joined him in Baton Rouge while he was waiting to be shipped out and they married there in January, 1943. Cece says she was told often that when Warren asked permission to marry Grandpa’s ninth daughter, “he said something to the effect of, ‘Oh, you're gonna do whatever you want to anyway, so go ahead….’ " (Grandpa seems to have learned a lesson from his previous futile experiences in marriage prohibition.) Kay was 20 and Warren 21 when they married.

Warren at 22, home on leave in summer, 1943

Warren was a navigator attached to Air Force bombardment groups stationed in England. An online history of the 390th Bombardment Group (H) group mentions him with an accounting of their service:

During 31 months beginning in January, 1943 “the 390th [flew] 301 missions, dropping 18,755 tons of bombs, destroying or damaging 454 enemy planes with another 57 probable destroyed. These war-time achievements come with a price for both men and machines. Only fifteen of the original thirty-five flight crews returned home.”

The planes were B-17s

We were all raised on stories of Warren’s war years---how dangerous the bomber runs were, how frightened the family was for him and Kay, and how he was (fortunately) badly injured in the forearm by a piece of shrapnel, which allowed him to come home before he was killed. Cece wrote: ”He spent some time in an English hospital before being discharged. I have the piece of shrapnel they removed from his arm, and his purple heart.” We really are lucky he survived.

Warren may also have flown with the 569th Squadron

In the history of the 390th they list all the runs each crew member made. Warren’s missions date from October, 1943 through March, 1944 and include flights to Frankfurt, Paris, and Rjuken, Norway. The unit’s

“missions included attacks on marshalling yards at Frankfurt, bridges at Cologne, oil facilities at Zeitz, factories at Mannheim, naval installations at Bremen, and synthetic oil refineries at Merseburg.”

Read more about the 390th here:
And specifically about Warren here:

Read more about B-17's here.

Pat B. in her Uncle Warren's lap
 from Jack's photos, inscribed "Pat's Birthday",
probably when she was 3 in August,  1943

After the War, Warren joined the Gisiger family business, located on Nassau Street in the Wall Street area. Due to the depression and also probably to wartime trade restrictions, his father had switched his focus to stamps, philately. Walter Gisiger became one of the important dealers in the stamp district on Nassau Street. Ten years after the war he died suddenly and Warren took over the business.

Kay after the War on a camping trip to Montauk in 1945.
This is one of my favorite photos.
That woman knew how to camp.

Steve and Susan were born a little over a year apart soon after the war.

Steven's First Communion 1953

Cecelia surprised us all nine years later. Her older cousins  were thrilled (most of the time) with new babies Cece and Kathy B.

Uncle Ben with the three kids in October, 1956

The family moved from Long Island to New Hampshire, building a replica of the Parson Capen house, one of the oldest surviving structures in New England.

The original Parson Capen house

1983 in Palm Springs
Cece's husband Kim, Bill B, Kay, Jane, Barbara, Barbara's ex-husband and Cecelia.

Kay, like some of her sisters and nieces, suffered from an auto-immune disease that affected her lungs. She and Warren spent time in Southern California, where they hoped a climate warmer than New Hampshire would help. They also sought experimental treatment there for scleroderma. Their motives for spending winters in Palm Springs may have been sad, but their presence pleased their California niece and their youngest daughter.

Kathryn, aged 61, died during the treatment in 1984 and Warren a little over a year later. None of us could really imagine him living very long without her.

Below: Kathryn Rosemary, born in 1987, and her grandmother (in 1944) whom she never met.

Like her mother Cecelia Jane, Katy Rose is a singer.

1 comment:

  1. Hello all,
    I'm not part of this handsome clan, but Cece is my sister in law, Katy Rose my niece. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about this family & seeing all these wonderful picture.
    thank you so much for sharing - great website! well done!
    amy bullard