Tag Archives: aunt

My women of influence…..Louise

I’ve long been thinking about a series of posts on women, past and present, who have influenced my life.  Wrapped up in that word ‘influenced’ ……… inspired, nurtured, loved, set the bar high, blazed the trail, lived with grace, risen to the task, used their gifts, modeled kindness, exhibited joie de vivre………..

I awoke this morning, the 113th anniversary of the birth of my Aunt Louise, determined to begin….


Born to Italian immigrants in a tiny mining town in Colorado, she and her younger sister, my mother, Theresa

(see post ‘Mothers Day:  my definition…’)


were the first in their family to attend college, thanks to their older brother who sold his truck to make it possible.  Both graduated from Colorado State Teacher’s College.  Louise, after teaching for several years went on to earn a Master’s Degree at Columbia University as Teacher of Spanish


She studied Spanish in Madrid,  fearlessly traveled the world as a single woman


Piazza San Marco, Venice 1930


taught high school in what was then the Panama Canal Zone, worked in the Spanish Embassy in Washington D.C., as well as the American Embassies in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and La Paz, Bolivia.




Returning to the United States she taught high school Spanish for nearly twenty years, retiring in 1965 as her hearing was deteriorating due to an infection contracted while she was in Panama.  Wanting to add to her retirement income, she brushed up her typing and shorthand skills acquired at Woodbury College in 1942 and went on to work several more years.  In 1971 she traveled to Italy, for the last time, again visiting the Piazza San Marco


as well as the hometowns of her parents, Bosconero and Castellamonte.


Louise never married, never owned a car.  Always ready to travel, she organized trips to Catalina, San Francisco, Monterey, Disneyland, Olvera Street and Knott’s Berry Farm when I was a child; often including cousins and her sister, Nota.  At the end of the day, all piled into the bed that pulled out from the wall at Aunt Nota’s, ever the teacher, she would quiz us on current events as we drifted off to sleep. 

A beloved aunt, she influenced and enriched my life in so many ways.


Filed under Family history, Inspiration, Travel

Tales of the silver napkin rings

As with silver spoons handed down in my family, napkin rings also have stories to tell.  Some are quite straight forward:

Lemuel from Mother


Lemuel was Lena’s second born son – my father

 Lemuel Joseph Downs



Others have a back-story:

Mama from Evelyn    09



‘Mama’ refers to Lena, my grandmother, married to my grandfather George Wallingford Downs in in 1909.  Lena was 19; George at 35, a widower with an 8 year old daughter, Evelyn.  The hope for relationship expressed in the engraving was not to be.  Evelyn was soon sent to boarding school; Lena and George went on to have 3 sons.  The oldest, George Jr., had no children, my father only one daughter, and his younger brother, Bernard died in infancy.
Evelyn married and had four children.  Lena, to the end of her days, only claimed two sons and one granddaughter.  She was never ‘Mama’ to Evelyn.

Evelyn Elizabeth Downs

with her grandmother

Susan Eliza Houston Downs



Susan Eliza Houston Downs


my great grandmother, my father’s grandmother, his father’s mother – Lena’s mother-in-law

This napkin ring does not so much tell its own story, as gives confirmation of the one just told.  Indeed, I was named for the Susan of the napkin ring, so it seems to logically follow that it would come to me…..eventually.  Nineteen years would pass between Susan’s death and my birth.  I would think that it might have been passed first during that time to Evelyn from her grandmother.  Instead, it came to me directly from Lena……


Do you have family treasures with stories to tell???  Perhaps you have not yet listened……………




Filed under Family history