Saturday, August 11, 2007

Uncle Bruno

I pay great respect to my Uncle Bruno (Bronislovas), my mother’s brother, who passed away on Thursday, 9 AUG 2007. In May of this year he celebrated his 94th birthday! and was vibrant and healthy throughout most of his life, with the exception of this past year. What an achievement that is! We should all be so fortunate.

Bronislovas is a Lithuanian name which has its origin in the olden Slavic words braniti, meaning to defend or guard and slava which signifies glory, thus the glorious defender/protector. It is fitting that yesterday his son wrote, “…he was a good father and husband and led a very long and full life”.

His parents came from Lithuania to coal country in the United States, Juozas in 1909 and Tekle in 1911, and he was born two years following my grandmother’s arrival. One of eight children, immigrant parents who spoke very little English, the struggles were many in order to simply feed the family, especially as his father died when Uncle Bruno was 15. They all worked at what was available, without much schooling, but he was able to work his way through those obstacles and at least finish high school.

As a young man he gave his service to the Civilian Conservation Corp... he called it the CCC camp or Roosevelt's tree army... a work relief program designed to both help young men and renew the nation's land and forests. In 1941 he entered the United States military and served his country honorably in both Korea and India. Upon discharge, he returned home and married Theresa. At age 6, I was a flower girl at their wedding and still remember tossing the rose petals upon the rolled out carpeted aisle of the church. They moved to Washington, DC, and for the next 30 years he was employed by the same major corporation from which he retired.

He wanted his family to visit him, his mother, his brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and was successful in convincing at least one of his siblings to move to that area in search of a better future. We were invited to stay during summer vacations from school so he could show us our nation’s capitol and history, all the while broadening our life’s perspective.

Their son was born, Junior we still call him, and we were all so excited with the joy it brought to the family. When they would come home to visit, we were energized by the occasion. A handsome man, he charmed us with his infectious smile and laughter. My grandmother would always cook some favorite Lithuania dish he liked. The fun we had sitting in the kitchen, one uncle playing harmonica, all of us gathered around, singing some Lithuanian song, and then the treat was to hear my uncle sing.

When I first got married, he sang at my wedding. What a gift… that beautiful and compelling tenor voice. I close my eyes and can still hear him sing the “Ave Maria”. No doubt he is the influence for my love of opera.

My memories of him are fond ones: affectionately he always called me "Lanny”, a nickname from whence it came, I have not a clue; he encouraged us all, my brother, sister and cousins, to do the best we could, further our education, to go far beyond and excel at what we chose despite adversity in ones life. He loved and provided for his family, and he was proud of us all.

This tribute, Uncle Bruno, says “I love you”. You gave us much to hold dear.

I hope someone is singing to you now.