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Memories of My Eldest Sister

Paul comes from a big family. He has three younger sisters and one younger brother who are all still living.

My Eldest Sister

The author with sister Beatrice in her home.  Taken in July 2018.

The author with sister Beatrice in her home. Taken in July 2018.

Beatrice Belle Kuehn is my eldest sister. Bea as my siblings and I call her was born in 1947 and is three younger than me. Bea and I are the two eldest siblings. Following us is Patty born in 1954, Philip in 1957, and Connie the youngest born in 1959.

While growing up, I was closer to Bea because there wasn't that much difference in our ages. We got along very well and helped mom care for our younger siblings. Bea and I also assisted with barn chores after we moved to a farm in 1954.

In this article, I initially remember Bea when we lived in West Allis in the early 1950s. Next, I recall our experiences living on a rented farm for three years. From 1957 until 1967, I then call to mind memories of Bea after mom and dad purchased a farm north of Honey Creek. Finally, I reflect on my relationship with Bea and her family up until the present after we both left home in 1967.

Remembering Bea in West Allis, Wisconsin: 1947-1953

My mom said that Bea was born in Deaconess Hospital in Milwaukee. The earliest memories of Bea are most probably from 1948 or 1949. When she was only a year or a little older, I remember mom having a baby buggy and wheeling it with Beatrice inside whenever she went shopping on Greenfield.

In 1950, I had an acute appendectomy. Within the next year, Bea and mom also had appendectomies. That is why dad had to drop out of college night school.

Although we probably played together in the backyard of our rented apartment on South 63rd Street, I don't recall anything until Bea went to kindergarten at Roosevelt School in 1952. Bea had a hard time finding her rug for nap time, so mom had to tie a big ribbon to it.

The next year 1953, Bea and I both attended Saint Mary's Help of Christians School on South 60th. I think we both walked together three blocks to school.

For extra-curricular activities, I took accordion lessons and Bea had either hula or tapdance lessons.

My Sister Beatrice at about Two Years of Age

Picture taken in probably 1949.  Beatrice was about 2 years of age.

Picture taken in probably 1949. Beatrice was about 2 years of age.

Our Home in West Allis--1947-1953

1338 South 63rd Street

1338 South 63rd Street

Bea at approximate age of 1 being held by mom

Bea at approximate age of 1 being held by mom

Life on the McNally Rented Farm--1954-1956

In March 1954, mom and dad moved out of West Allis to a rented farm three miles outside of Mukwonago. It was a new experience for Bea and me because we now had new responsibilities. While I assisted mom and dad in the hen house and barn, Bea helped take care of Patty who was born on February 27, two days before we moved.

Bea and I attended Saint James Catholic School in Mukwonago. Every day we had to ride a school bus to school. To catch the bus, we had to be out of the house by 7:20 and walk a quarter of a mile to Highway 15 where the bus picked us up at about 7:35. On the side of Highway 15 where we waited, there was a 10-15' ridge that Bea and I used to climb while waiting for the bus. I called the top of the ridge "giant land." As soon as I could see the bus coming, I would yell, "bus," and we slid down the ridge to meet the approaching bus.

At Saint James, Bea was a few grades behind me. One day she got sick during lunch and vomited at her desk. At that time, we both carried a lunch bag to school. Since I was Bea's big brother, Sister made me clean up her mess.

We had no indoor plumbing so we had to get used to an outhouse during warm weather and a chamberpot in the house when it was cold. When the weather was warm, we took a bath outside in a tub with a water hose. In cold weather, we bathed in a small tub with hot water that mom had heated up on the stove. For three years, we didn't have the comforts that we had had in West Allis.

The McNally Rented Farm

We lived on this rented farm 1954-1956

We lived on this rented farm 1954-1956

Life on Our Honey Creek Farm--1957-1967

In March 1957, Bea and I moved again to a farm that mom and dad had bought just north of Honey Creek village. We had even more responsibility here because, in addition to three-year-old Patty, we now had a two-month-old brother, Philip, and later Connie born in 1959 to help mom and dad care for.

I recall that during the summer, we used to go swimming in the creek which ran through our land near the farmhouse. In some winters, the creek froze and we could go ice skating.

During our first year at Honey Creek, we both attended Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in Waterford. Dad arranged a carpooling arrangement with Gordon and Martha Lewis. They had two boys, David and Terry, who also went to Saint Thomas.

After I graduated from Saint Thomas in 1958, Bea attended Honey Creek School until she graduated in 1962. Every Christmas, she performed in the school Christmas play.

I didn't see much of Bea and my other siblings after I went away to college 1962-1967. Some summers when I was home, I remember picking Bea up from dances in Burlington that she attended with her friend Judy Vasek. Judy's brother Paul would take Bea and Judy to the dances.

Patty recalls that Bea was a good horsewoman. In the early 1960s when we had our first horse Polo, Bea could jump on Polo just like the cowboys did in the movies. After dad bought Lily in the mid-1960s, Patty and Bea would ride Lily together across the field behind the barn. Patty remembers Lily running like the wind and Bea and Patty hanging on for dear life.

Patty also remembers Bea being an accomplished acrobat. When she was 12, Bea taught Patty how to climb a 40' barn silo. In 1957, Bea also climbed trees in our old apple orchard. Once when she climbed, Bea broke her arm.

Around the mid-1960s, Patty also recollects how Bea helped dad, Philip, and Patty plant thousands of trees across the creek near the barn and farmhouse. They took turns sitting on a tree planter while dad drove a tractor pulling it.

Bea standing next to mom in 1958

Bea standing next to mom in 1958

Bea standing in back next to Philip.  Patty and Connie are sitting in front.  Taken around 1962.

Bea standing in back next to Philip. Patty and Connie are sitting in front. Taken around 1962.

Bea with Patty in 1962

Bea with Patty in 1962

Memories of Bea -- 1967-1979

Bea and I both left home in 1967. After I went into the Navy, Bea got a job in Milwaukee and moved there,

Being out of Wisconsin for more than two years, I didn't have contact with my eldest sister until March 1970. At that time, I visited Bea at the Sydney Apartments on the East Side of Milwaukee before attending a Milwaukee Bucks game.

The next time I saw Bea was in June 1971 after I returned home from Taiwan. My sister was now married and had just given birth to a baby girl named Terry.

For the next several years, I didn't see Bea because I was going to school again and then living in Taiwan.

In 1978, however, I returned home for two weeks in July with my new Taiwanese wife and two sons Mike and Charles. Bea visited mom and dad at that same time, too. The farmhouse was now filled with Bea, her husband Ernest, and three kids. Besides Terry, Angie and Mary were born while I was living in Taiwan.

In July 1979, I returned to the States for good with my family. I saw Beatrice twice that year.

The first meeting was in July when I spent a night at Bea's apartment in Milwaukee before traveling to Madison.

The second get-together was around Christmas when I visited Bea and her family with mom, dad, and my eldest son, Mike. Mona and Charles were in Taiwan at that time. I recall presenting Bea with a popcorn maker, Ernest an Herb Alpert album, and the family with a cash gift.

Bea in 1967

Bea sitting on kitchen steps

Bea sitting on kitchen steps

Bea and Patty

Taken probably in late 1960s

Taken probably in late 1960s

Memories of Bea -- 1980-Present

After going through a divorce from Mona, I didn't see Bea again until July 1993. When I did finally see her, Ernest, and their family in Milwaukee, I was with my new girlfriend Danielle. I remember going to Summerfest with two or three of my nieces.

From 1993 through 2002, I visited Bea and her family in Milwaukee every summer when I came to see mom and dad.

November 2002 was a special meeting with Bea because it was the occasion of Connie's wedding. After a reception in Connie's home, we had a great wedding dinner in Milwaukee where I saw most of my nieces and two aunts from Marshfield.

After dad passed away in 2004, I remember taking mom and my son Charles to visit Bea and her family in Milwaukee in 2008.

My latest visits to Bea and Ernest have been in 2016, 2018, and 2019.

In 2016, we dined together at Old Country Buffet in Milwaukee where I also saw my niece Terry after many years.

July 2018 was a special visit to Bea and Ernest because we all went to see a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game. Bea and Ernest were living in West Allis having moved there from the east side of Milwaukee in 2017.

Bea and Ernest have always been very kind to me. Unfortunately, since retiring in Thailand in 2007, I haven't seen Bea, Ernest, and my five nieces Terry, Angie, Mary, Crissy, and Joy very often.

Mom and Granddaughters

Mom between Terry on the left and Mary on the right.  Taken on Patty's farm in the late 1980s

Mom between Terry on the left and Mary on the right. Taken on Patty's farm in the late 1980s

At Connie's Wedding in 2002

Bottom Row:  grandson Nathan, Ernest, Patty, and Aunt Mary.  Middle Row:  Bea, Danielle (Paul's wife,) Aunt Donna, and Angie.  Back Row:  Philip, Paul, John (Connie's husband,) Connie, Mom, and Dad

Bottom Row: grandson Nathan, Ernest, Patty, and Aunt Mary. Middle Row: Bea, Danielle (Paul's wife,) Aunt Donna, and Angie. Back Row: Philip, Paul, John (Connie's husband,) Connie, Mom, and Dad

Bea in 2016

Bea at Old Country Buffet in Milwaukee

Bea at Old Country Buffet in Milwaukee

Ernest in July 2018

Ernest in July 2018

© 2021 Paul Richard Kuehn

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