When we are young, we are influenced by the adults in our life. They become our role models in certain respects and we learn from them. I was fortunate to have a richly diverse set of aunts and uncles on both sides of the family and we saw them frequently at family gatherings and on other occasions. Last evening, my brother Bruce and I talked about our Uncle Eddie, who passed away on Saturday after a long illness. Bruce asked if I'd write about him, as I did in a post last fall when my Aunt Carol passed. I was non-commmital, but as I've thought about it since, I realized that I did have a few words to say. Blame it on my Irish heritage if you will or think of it as a tribute to Ed himself, who was always quick to state his opinion on any subject.
Ed LeHane had a profound impact on our family even before it was formed. In the late nineteen-forties, Ed met my dad and at some point suggested that he might like to meet his sister Kathleen. My dad, Jim, was interested and the first date signaled the beginning of a romance that has lasted to this day. A few years later, my parents married and I'm sure Eddie was in attendance.
I probably had more contact with Uncle Ed in my childhood than at later times. It seems we were always meeting the LeHanes for a family gathering, usually in Bloomfield, Connecticut, where my grandparents lived. Ed was famous in our family for referring to my three brothers and I as the "rough Raffertys," likely referring to our enjoyment of scurrying about and treating these family occasions as good chances to play, regardless of what the adults were doing. A few years later, Ed married Marilyn and had a family of his own with three sons -- we heard no more comments about the rough Raffertys. My dad and Ed were both in Sales and they each worked hard to support their families.
The title of this piece refers to a voice. The voice was Ed's, a classic Irish tenor. Ed was a professionally trained vocalist and was by far the best singer in the LeHane family. I can remember Ed singing a few songs in the parlor of his Bloomfield home to the accompanyment of the family organ. His favorite was "Ave Maria." Over the years, we heard him sing this song many times, including at my wedding and at my parents' fiftieth anniversary celebration. On the latter occasion, I backed him up on my guitar.
Ed's family lived in several different places and we visited most of them. In the early days, they lived in a ranch on the Bloomfield - Windsor line, and I can remember running around in their yard along with my brothers and cousins. Later, they moved to the Barrington, Rhode Island area. In those days, our family vacation often consisted of staying with a relative for several days and so it was when we made the trip from South Windsor to the center of Rhode Island. If you look at a map of the state (RI), you'll see more water than land. Ed's house was on one of these patches of land that was mostly surrounded by water. Years later, my family moved to Massachusetts and we re-discovered the pleasures of the small towns which lined what later became the East Bay bicycle path and I suddenly remembered that childhood trip. We enjoyed our stay at the house and Ed took us out to the water several times. It was a great week.
As time went on, we saw the family less often, but Ed and his clan were regulars when we held our family reunions, typically in Ellington, Connecticut. His family had some challenging times, but they always showed up at the reunions and we'd all spend an afternoon together, exchanging tales and chowing down on the pot luck items of the day -- burgers, hot dogs, myriad salads (vegetable, potato and cole slaw), fresh corn on the cob and much more.
As I look back, it's been a while since the last family reunion -- perhaps a decade. More recently, family members have gathered at funerals. Several of my cousins are realizing this and we all see our shared past slipping away as these important people in our lives pass and join our ancestors in the family lore. My late Aunt Carol prepared a wonderful CD-Rom about ten years back, loaded with family pictures of reunions going back almost one hundred years. It's a rich history and one we're proud to be a part of.
Ed was the last of the LeHane brothers of his generation. Whereas Uncle Bob was studious and often tending towards formality -- though with a wonderful engaging smile -- Eddie was a live wire. He loved to talk and didn't mind if the talk turned into an argument. He shared that love of lively discussion with other family members and famously had an argument with his own uncle from the previous generation, George, the night before George left us. It all seemed quite fitting, as both Eddie and George loved to have the last word.
So I remember Uncle Ed, a man of passions, energy, words and one who could curl his voice around a set of lyrics just so. I'll finish with a photo and caption of Ed from 1997 as taken from the photo CD that Carol prepared. Ed, you will be missed.