Harry Amirault was my maternal grandfather who I never met because he passed away many years before I was born. My grandmother, Mary Griffin Amirault, told me so many detailed stories about how wonderful he was and showed us so many photographs of him that I feel that next to her, he is the one I know best! He should have been one of the first ancestors who I wrote about, but I wanted this story to originate from one of his five daugthters. His now 83 year old daughter, Geraldine Amirault Mortland (Aunt Geri) was gracious enough to share her memories. Harry must have been the perfect dad because these memories of Harry were of when Aunt Geri was a mere 9 year old! So here are the wonderful memories of her beloved father.
My 83-year-old memory recalls firstly Dad's taking us all to the beach or a country area for a picnic. We all wore swimsuits to the beach and his was what was worn by men and boys in that era (1930s) - a one-piece suit that went over the shoulders with shoulder straps. Ours were the same style. He tried to teach us to swim but we were not good students at that time. Perhaps I was three or so.
Being gifted musically to no end, he would tap dance on the hardwood floor for us, play the piano which he played 'by ear' whenever he had a little time, and was also very adept at playing the banjo and fiddle. He could not read a note of music but when I took piano lessons at age five, he could tell from a different room when I had struck a wrong key. He headed up a musical band that would practice at our house for playing at weddings and such, and I would sit unseen at the top of our stairs just to listen to him and his fellow musicians play great stuff.
|Harry with three of his 5 daughters about 1935 |
(Joan (L), Marilyn (center) and Geri (R)
Dad patiently taught me to ride a two-wheel bicycle in the garage. His nature was such that he didn't get excited when I did the wrong thing, he just corrected me and had me try again. The lesson was a success. In our home, my sisters and I never ever heard a cross word spoken, any display of temper, or a cuss-word spoken. At the time, we didn't realize how blessed we were, but as we matured, it became obvious. Our kitchen was small, so Mum would feed us supper first so she and Dad could eat together and talk over the day. While we were at the table, he would come in to Mom greeting him at the kitchen door, lift her off the floor in a hug, and proclaim, "This is MY mama!", to which we would all chime in to say, "No, she's not! She's OUR mama!" His Tante (Aunt) Anty once told me that in her life, she had never met a better-natured person than Dad and his sister Grace (who also died young). I can see why she thought that.
|Mary kissing Harry (early 1930s)|
Dad learned to pray in French, and every morning after breakfast, just before he left for work, he would kneel, work hat in hand, by a window in the kitchen to say his morning prayers - in French.
Dad had several French-Canadian cousins and friends in the Boston area, so every Sunday afternoon, we were all guests at one of their homes or they came to ours. mom would dress us in pajamas and our host would offer the big bed to us so we could sleep while they visited and talked. On going home from a visit, Dad would carry each one of us and place us in the back seat of his big old Dodge, where we slept, and carried each of us to our beds upon arriving home.
While Joan and I were still small, we would flank each side of Dad on the divan (couch), armed with combs, barrettes and ribbons. We would each work a side of his head and do our thing while he went fast asleep. He loved it.l When we were in grammar school, we had to walk past the garage where Dad worked and he would come out to greet us on the way. it never failed, we always asked him if we could have a penny (for penny candy, plentiful then). While fishing for pennies in his coveralls, he would say, "For crying out loud, you kids must think pennies grow on trees!" but we got them - every time!!
|Harry - I believe while still in Pubnico|
On Sunday mornings, when he didn't have to be at work, I remember his tapping out musical rhythms with his fingernails on the headboard of the bed before he had to get up.
Dad loved and respected his entire family and it was a lesson to me that you start with family and end with family. Two of his sisters nursed him day and night at home during his worst and final days before passing away (from cancer). He was part of a very loving family, and a large one at that! My sisters and I, as did he and Mom, spent some wonderful time with them over the years and now stay in touch with their families.
|Harry's obituary - Weymouth News & Gazette - October 10, 1941|
Last, but not least, Dad had a great sense of humor and a hearty laugh. He had a great smile, though photos that we have of him do not show that side of him. It is a huge pity that his baby daughter Judy never got to know him at all as she was an eight month old infant when the Lord took Dad. He was only 40 (d. 3 Oct 1941); Mom was 36 and left with five girls to raise, and without the only love of her life (she always said there was no one for her when she had already had the best guy). He has been so missed. Tante Augusta, Dad's eldest sister, once said to me of my children, "Wouldn't Harry have loved those boys!" He died when I was nine." He really was a perfect dad!
|Harry's Prayer Card - 1941|