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Memories of My Late Aunt Donna

Paul has four paternal and three maternal aunts. Two maternal aunts are still living in Wisconsin.

Memories of My Late Aunt Donna

Taken around 1949.  From left to right:  cousin Carol, Aunt Donna, Aunt Mary

Taken around 1949. From left to right: cousin Carol, Aunt Donna, Aunt Mary

Donna Schmidt Breu was one of my late mother's younger sisters. My mom had three sisters -- Anna more commonly known as Sissy born in 1924, Donna born in 1937, and Mary who came into the world in 1943.

My first impressions of Donna were in 1950-1953. Later, I remember Donna from her wedding in 1956 and visits to our farm 1956-1958. Finally, I recall experiences with Donna and her family in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1990s. My last visits with Aunt Donna were in 2002 on the occasion of sister Connie's wedding and in 2004 immediately following dad's passing.

Looking back on all of my visits with Aunt Donna, she comes across as one of my favorite aunts.

Remembering Aunt Donna -- 1950-1953

My memories of Aunt Donna start from around 1950. As a six-year-old boy, I remember mom, dad, and my younger sister Bea traveling to Marshfield each summer to spend time with grandma and grandpa.

Their home at 903 N. Walnut Avenue was occupied by six people. (Great-)uncle, grandpa's older brother had a small room off of the kitchen. Uncle Leo had a room on the first floor and aunts Donna and Mary shared an upstairs bedroom.

I spent most of the time playing with Aunt Mary. She is only eight months older than me. Aunt Donna was more like a big sister. On a few occasions, however, I remember Donna playing hopscotch with Mary and reciting rhymes.

Memories of My Late Aunt Donna

Aunt Donna in Marshfield, Wisconsin, during the mid to late-1940s

Aunt Donna in Marshfield, Wisconsin, during the mid to late-1940s

Donna in late 1940s

Donna in late 1940s

Attending Aunt Donna's Wedding in 1956

How can I forget attending Aunt Donna's wedding and wedding reception in 1956! Mom and dad couldn't attend so they sent my sister Bea and me in their places.

The wedding was at the end of May and I recall traveling by train for the first time from Mukwonago to Marshfield. We got to Marshfield early in the morning of the wedding. Someone who I cannot remember met my sister and me at the train station. We were then immediately taken to grandma and grandpa's house.

After taking a glance at Aunt Donna's wedding dress upstairs, everyone went to Saint John's Church a few blocks away for a 9:00 wedding ceremony.

I recall nothing about the wedding ceremony but do remember a little about the reception in the afternoon. Second cousin David a few years older than me was at the bar area. I was in awe at how he was drawing a glass of beer from a just-tapped keg. Later, I fell asleep and was awoken by grandma.

The following morning, Uncle Joe Breu, Donna's new husband, and Aunt Donna gave my sister and me a ride back to Mukwonago in a big Buick. One of Joe's relatives was also in the car and I heard a lot of spoken German on the way back.

After I arrived home late in the afternoon, Aunt Donna, Joe. and his relative spent the night in our farmhouse.

Remembering Aunt Donna and Uncle Joe's Visits -- 1956-1958

Joe and Donna visited our family twice during the period 1956-1958.

The first visit was in August 1956. Aunt Mary and grandma accompanied Joe and Donna on that trip. They only stayed for one or two nights. Mom, Dad, my younger sisters Bea and Patty, and I were very happy to have company for a change in the house. I still can remember Donna using the phrase, "youse guys" and joking with Aunt Mary that she would have to fry something in snot!

The second visit was in August 1958. We had moved to our own farm at Honey Creek and had a new member of the family with the birth of brother Philip in January 1957. On the trip, Uncle Leo, Aunt Mary, grandma, and grandpa accompanied Donna and Joe.

After Joe's Buick pulled into our driveway, I can still recall grandpa pointing to his wet pants and apologizing that he just couldn't hold it.

I also remember showing everyone our horse Polo and scaring the pants off of Uncle Leo.

Mom had to be creative in finding sleeping arrangements for all of our guests. I had to give up my upstairs bedroom and spend the night on a mattress in our upstairs library.

While mom talked with grandma and my two aunts, Uncle Joe, grandpa, and my dad went out to a tavern at night.

Visiting Aunt Donna and Joe in 1967

I didn't see Aunt Donna and Joe all through high school and college. Finally, in 1967, I saw them twice.

A few days before I entered the Navy in June 1967, dad drove our family up to Marshfield to visit grandma. The house on Walnut Avenue was almost empty now compared to the early 1950s. Uncle, grandpa, and Uncle Leo had all passed away. The upstairs had been remodeled into an apartment where Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim were living.

Aunt Donna and Joe were living just outside of Marshfield and running a bar in the small village of Hewitt. As I entered it in the evening, Donna and Joe were tending bar. After sitting down for a beer, I met Aunt Sissy's husband Lavern and cousin Darryl. Darryl and I had a good time that night on his motorcycle.

I saw Aunt Donna again in September 1967 after I finished Navy basic training. The only thing I remember about the visit is taking young cousins Stevie and Joey on the Ferris wheel at the Wood County Fair in Marshfield.

Visiting Aunt Donna and Joe in 1978

From 1967 until 1978, I had no contact with Aunt Donna. I was in the Navy until 1971 and then had lived in Taiwan 1973-1978.

In July 1968, however, I took my Taiwanese wife Mona and two sons to Wisconsin to meet mom, dad, and my siblings. While staying with my folks, they took us up to Marshfield to visit my mom's relation. Although grandma had died in 1973, my three aunts and a great-aunt were still living.

During a two-day period, we spent a day and night on Aunt Donna's and Joe's farm outside of Hewitt. They had a big farmhouse and two bedrooms upstairs for all of us to spend the night.

Half of Donna's and Joe's boys were almost grown up now. They had six boys and one stillborn daughter. The eldest, Joey, was 20 followed by Stevie at 18. The next four were Danny 16, Ricky 15, David 13, and Tommy 11.

I can only remember seeing Ricky while we were there. He was Donna's favorite and constantly joked with my aunt. Ricky was special because he was suffering from muscular dystrophy.

It was interesting to hear Donna explain how Joe had to bribe his sons with a pizza party to get them to help him make hay.

Aunt Donna and Family

Taken about 1986.  Ricky is the shortest and third from the left.  I don't know who the other sons are.

Taken about 1986. Ricky is the shortest and third from the left. I don't know who the other sons are.

Mom and Dad's Visits in the 1980s

I don't recall seeing Aunt Donna at all during the 1980s. Living in Maryland during the 80s, I only made a few trips to see my folks and none to Marshfield.

Mom and dad, however, made many trips to Marshfield after they sold their cows in 1985. While up in Marshfield, they would usually stay with Aunt Sissy but also visit Donna and Joe on the farm.

Ricky had died during the 1980s and on one occasion my dad took his younger brother, Dick, then partially paralyzed by a stroke, up to see Donna and Joe.

My Mother and Maternal Aunts

Left to Right:  Aunt Mary, Aunt Donna, Aunt Sissy, and Mom.  Taken about 1985

Left to Right: Aunt Mary, Aunt Donna, Aunt Sissy, and Mom. Taken about 1985

My Mother, Father, Aunts, and in-Laws

Aunt Donna seated in the middle.  Uncle Joe is the tallest on the right.  Taken about 1986

Aunt Donna seated in the middle. Uncle Joe is the tallest on the right. Taken about 1986

A Memorable Visit in 1999

I saw Uncle Joe for the last time in July 1999. In the last week of July, my second wife, Danielle, and I accompanied mom and dad on a trip up to Marshfield.

It was a beautiful summer evening with a slight cool breeze as we all sat on the farmhouse porch chatting. I learned a few new things about Donna and Joe in this setting.

Joe was now battling throat cancer and had two bad knees that needed replacing. Despite this, in good spirit, Joe let us taste some of his homemade dandelion wine.

Aunt Donna was talking about her work as a part-time waitress at the Ponderosa Restaurant in Marshfield. She also liked to go to casinos and had been to Las Vegas.

Joe and Donna were making plans to drive to the Silver City Casino in the Badlands of South Dakota in August before Joe's next scheduled medical appointment.

In September 1999, I was saddened to find out that Joe had died of a stroke while eating at the Ponderosa Restaurant.

Seeing Aunt Donna at Sister Connie's Wedding in 2002

My next meeting with Aunt Donna was in November 2002. It was the occasion of my youngest sister, Connie's wedding. Aunt Donna accompanied Aunt Mary to the marriage ceremony in Elkhorn and then to a dinner reception in West Allis.

Aunt Donna and Aunt Mary at Sister Connie's Wedding in 2002

Aunt Mary is in the front row on the right.  Aunt Donna is in blue directly behind Aunt Mary.

Aunt Mary is in the front row on the right. Aunt Donna is in blue directly behind Aunt Mary.

Last Visit with Aunt Donna in 2004

My last visit with Aunt Donna was in May 2004 a few days following my dad's death. I drove my mother up to Marshfield and we stayed with Aunt Sissy for one night.

A few hours after we arrived in the early afternoon, Aunt Donna came over to meet us. That evening we all drove to a casino south of Marshfield. On the way to the casino, I learned that Donna was doing well by collecting coupons and also by working as a maid for an elderly rich man.

Summary

I had no contact with Aunt Donna from 2004 until her death from a heart attack in 2015. Although I made a few trips back to Wisconsin while living in Thailand, I never made it back to Marshfield before my aunt passed away.

I will always remember Aunt Donna for her humor. She was very easy to get along with and always treated me well.

© 2021 Paul Richard Kuehn

Comments

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on July 05, 2021:

Thank you very much, MG! I wish I would have had more memories of Aunt Donna.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on July 05, 2021:

This was a wonderful article I loved reading it.

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