Grandfather fondly remembers Emile and Molly.
Grandfather first came to know Emile when he was Grandfather’s supervisor at the US Patent Office.
Emile and his wife Mollie were Jewish; Mollie from Chicago and Emile from Eastern Europe. He had escaped the 1930’s horrors there, emigrating with his father, a cabinetmaker, through France to Canada.
Grandfather and Grandmother used to visit with Emile and Molly many a Saturday evening during the 1960s. Emile and Grandfather would play chess before dinner and the four of us would play bridge afterwards. Emile and Grandmother were pianists and they played JS Bach’s inventions and preludes.
We discussed our backgrounds from time to time, whence Grandfather observed that, in his opinion, Emile was ostensibly Jewish in the same sense Grandfather was ostensibly Christian — that is, Grandfather’s parents were Christians; Emile’s were Jews. Religious dogma didn’t determine who we are in our generation.
Emile was deeply skeptical of Christian’s goodwill toward Jews generally and was deeply affected when Grandfather said he heard his father crying in the night over the plight of the people trying to travel from the diaspora to Palestine as they faced British warships in their boats. Grandfather’s father was a true Christian; he lived the torments of his conviction.
It was the time of Joseph McCarthy, Senator from Minnesota, who was finding and browbeating communists behind every tree.
Sometime in his youth, Emile had travelled to the Soviet Union, hoping to contribute to its grand dream of utopia. He was disillusioned, of course, and re-escaped that part of the world with his hide intact. But, as is inherent in the Jewish soul facing anti-Semitism from time immemorial, he was fearful of McCarthy’s pogrom, should it proceed down to his level.
He and Mollie were childless and once again, Emile was profoundly affected when Grandmother and Grandfather assured him that he and Mollie would always find refuge with our family.
Emile’s health broke not long after Grandfather moved to West Virginia. Grandfather visited him once after that. Mollie cried bitterly as he left and wrote soon afterward that Emile had died.
About the Author: RD Blakeslee is an octogenarian in West Virginia who built his net worth by only investing in that which can be enjoyed during acquisition and throughout life, as opposed to papers in a drawer, like stocks and bonds. You can read more about him here.
Photos: Courtesy of the Blakeslee Family
Thank you for sharing. It’s tough when people we love move away or pass away.
This triggered so many memories for me.
I miss my Jewish friends that have gone on. One elderly couple were holocaust survivors. They still had the giant numbers tattooed on their arms. They did not cover them. It was kind of an in your face reminder that the holocaust was real. They were distant cousins. They were the only two members of their family not killed by the Nazis.
I was friends with the local Rabbi’s wife. I was friends with most of the local Jewish families in this small community.
Love knows no religious or social borders. God bless you and keep you.
I look forward to your next column.