My father, George Robert Weiss, died in 1972, when I was 2 years old and my brother Dan was yet to be born. For years, I believed that he’d died of lung cancer. It’s probably the biggest contributing motivation to me never wanting to start smoking. I have no memories of him. My first recollections are from 1974 or early 1975 at the house in which we lived on Phinney Ridge.
Unlike the Hathaway side, information on the Weiss side of the family was a little harder to come by. First is that my father died and mom remarried. The second is that Grandpa Weiss divorced in the mid 1960s and we had no contact with my grandmother. I suppose that my aunts and possibly even my grandfather would have told me anything I wanted to know, but I was too young to know I’d ever be interested.
The key about all this is that mom never really talked about the Weisses all that much.
Daddy George was just a name growing up. We had various get togethers with my aunts and cousins, but my only contact with more extended Weiss family was with Steve and his wife Connie. Steve is my dad’s cousin who moved to Portland from the ancestral family home in Wisconsin.
About 6 years ago, my two Weiss aunts put together a book of information about the Weiss family. My grandmother died in 2001, and I think that spurred them to make this. I got my copy around Christmas 2004. It’s mostly a photo book with some information. There’s a photo of my great great grandparents, the Sorensons. There’s a few of my great grandparents, the Solles. There’s one of my great grandmother Weiss. Lots of photos of my grandfather, many of them taken in uniform. He was a navy enlistee in the 1920s and became an officer in the 1930s through World War II. Then lots of photos of my dad and his siblings, and their respective husbands and kids, and a sprinkling of Connie and Steve’s family.
It’s main purpose was memories for us. It has the only photos I possess of anyone in the Weiss family taken before I was born. But Aunt Jane and Aunt Sue did put some genealogical information in it too. There’s a copy of my great grandparents’ marriage certificate. There’s a list of my grandfather’s siblings. And there’s a couple of death certificates in the back.
The biggest surprise for me was that my father did not die of lung cancer like I believed. I’m sure he had cancer in his lungs and that was the proximate cause. The death certificate lists testicular cancer as the cause of death. And here I was avoiding smoking because I thought I was especially prone to lung cancer. I also found out that part of my family was Danish (the Sorensons), and part was French (the Solles). I knew the Weisses were German, because it’s a German name.
A couple of years ago, my great aunt Babe turned 100. This was right in the middle of the last months of mom’s life, so I wasn’t able to make her birthday party in Madison. I wish I could have. This year when I went to Wiscon in May, I paid a visit to her after the conference. She’s 102 now, and lives in the house where she was born (or moved to shortly afterward). That house will have to be torn down after she dies. It’s functional, but beyond repair or renovation. As of this summer, she didn’t even have 24 hour care. Just caregivers there during daylight hours. Her Alzheimer’s is pretty bad though. She didn’t remember me or my dad. She talked about Arch (my grandfather) some. But we had the same conversation about 10 times in the couple hours I was there. After a few minutes, she would start the conversation over where it began because she couldn’t remember what we’d talked about. I’ll stop by again this May around Wiscon again. She isn’t in great health, but she’s a tough bird, so I expect she’ll be around still. And hopefully she’ll have a little more lucid of a weekend. Armed with a few facts, I will attempt to get her to talk about old times.
I’ll write some more about the informational details shortly, but that’s the introduction.