My 12 year old twin nieces (S & R) and their 7th grade classmates were asked to write an essay about an interesting ancestor. Much to the delight of their father (my brother) the twins each elected to write about a paternal grandparent. S chose the life story of her grandmother (my mother) who had died when S was 6 years old. R decided to write about her grandfather (my father) who had died before the twins had been born. Both girls gathered interesting details by interviewing family members.
S. said she chose her grandmother because she thought it was “neat that Grandma Helen had been able to work and have a happy life at home.” She had a very important job in “what was then a male dominated world.” Imagine a poor girl from a large family, growing up in Brooklyn, graduating from high school at age 15 and working hard enough to become the President and CEO of Dell Publishing Company. R learned that their grandfather also had humble origins, and was the first member of his large family to attend college, graduating with honors before the age of 20.
These grandparents’ life story was not only about work and achievement. There was a romantic side to it. They met on a train when Helen was just 18 and traveling for business; and her future husband was a college student traveling home for vacation. Two years later they married, she, on her way to a startlingly successful career in publishing, he, a newspaper reporter, the couple beginning life together a month before the stock market crash of 1929. In the early days of the depression, Abraham Meyer was reassigned to the financial page of his newspaper. Helen Meyer got on the bandwagon of publishing successes during those hard times. She had a hunch that movie and romance magazines might be diversions from life’s real troubles. (Incidentally, once again in the current economic meltdown, movies have become a popular diversion.)
The twin grand daughters admired their grandparents for making the most of their talents in a tough time. “Grandma Helen reached the top of her profession, never forgetting her first life priority—her family, soon to include a daughter and son.”
Grandpa Abraham was a hard working man, earning his own way through college and beyond. “I am so proud of him” said one of the two granddaughters he had never met. “It makes me very sad that I didn’t get a chance to meet him because he seems like he would have been a great grandfather. I know that if I had met him I would have loved him.”