For the past dozen years or so, for a week in February, I have been accompanying my husband Arnee on business trips to southern Florida. After the morning conference sessions he attends, we are free to travel about. Coming from the Northeast, we use the time for fun in the sun adventures but always take time to fit visits in with various friends and relatives.
Part of the week entails visits with cousins, some of whom we never even knew growing up. Over the years, we have solidified a friendship with our recurring visits, which include discussions of family, intermingled with tales of our Florida adventures.
We first met Nita and her husband Jerry in 2008, along with their son and his three children. I had worked hard to find Nita with the few clues I had from my mother-in-law. My husband’s dear mother, with whom I spent countless hours discussing family when we lived downstairs in their two-family house in Elizabeth, New Jersey, while Arnee was at graduate law school, knew that her mother’s brother David Bloom in New York had a son Irving. With such a common name, it took me years of patient perseverance and honed genealogical tracking skills to make the meeting with Irving’s daughter Nita come to fruition.
It’s too much to get into in a blog post but meeting Nita was a genealogist’s dream come true, not to mention the start of a meaningful and lasting friendship, which we all cherish. While Nita did not know of her grandfather’s sister’s family (Arnee’s grandmother died just nine months after Nita was born) in Linden, New Jersey, she knew her grandparents and has the most comprehensive photo collection of her grandparents’ generation of family members. It includes many pictures of nieces and nephews of her grandparents, with some of the children from the next generation, which I could never have hoped to uncover if I had not found Nita. (Refer to Who Is That Couple At The 1948 Family Wedding, blog post dated December 4, 2018)
Nita even showed me kitchen utensils she purchased when her father took her to his cousin’s store, Bloom and Krup in New York City, prior to her 1948 nuptials. You see, her father was a lawyer and an accountant who offered his services to the extended family. It’s just that Nita had no idea of the family connection with the businesses she frequented with her father until she met me and I presented her with the entire family tree, which includes seven branches from the generation of her grandfather and Arnee’s grandmother.
Most importantly, Nita remembers her father’s sister Mae and her family. She has tales to tell her Aunt Mae’s great-granddaughter Joselin Linder, author of the book, The Family Gene. In her best-selling book, Jos tells about a deadly family gene, which was passed down from her great-great-grandmother (who had been married to Arnee’s grandmother’s brother David). Nita remembers her grandmother’s swollen legs, now attributed to the gene, which Nita’s family, fortunately, did not inherit. Nita knew nothing about the family’s DNA until I found Joselin and her family. The remarkable part of the story was that I was only able to locate Joselin’s family with clues I had gathered from Nita. This is all detailed in my book, Kitchen Talk, currently at publishers for review.
Switching gears to my father-in-law’s side, the story of finding Frane a few years after the great find with Nita, resulted in sentimental family remembrances of Arnee’s paternal side of his family. Those ties, which were lost in the early 1950s, were expanded upon in my March 5, 2019 blog post, “Timing is Everything.” It was so rewarding to fill in pieces of the puzzle of the most basic part of the Cohen family tree when we learned from Frane that it was her father who made the shidduch (match) between Arnee’s paternal Aunt Ann and her husband, and that their marriage took place on Frane’s family’s land in Groveton, Virginia, in 1944. Frane regaled charming stories, which are included in Kitchen Talk. (see “Rejuvenating a Family Bond” - The Jewish Link of New Jersey, by Sharon Mark Cohen | April 19, 2018, in the articles section of my website at sharonmarkcohen.com)
This year, at Frane and Joel’s, we had the distinct pleasure of meeting the Bregmans. Jim, his wife Terry, and his brother Howard Bregman are first cousins of Frane. If anyone is tracking the relationships, they’re all second cousins of Arnee and my second cousins by marriage. This is a true story of champions. The crowning moment actually came after we were home and I posted about this magical day. In reply, an email came from Dr. Michael Cohen, a generation above (my father-in-law’s first cousin from his father’s much younger brother Nat).
“... congrats on your recent podcast re Jim Bregman... also really nice to see a recent photo of Frane... Aunt Celia and my Dad [Nat] would be soooo proud and happy that their offspring remain in touch almost 75 years after our much more frequent contacts in the 1940's; they (Celia and her daughters Gertie [Frane’s mom] and Etta [Jim and Howard’s mom] with Sam [Frane’s dad], Gertie's husband driving) coming to NYC to visit us or we heading down to Va. to spend time with them... best regards... Michael” The equally tantalizing story of finding Michael is detailed in Kitchen Talk and just may end up in another blog post.
Next week’s post moves from our time in Florida with family and friends and onto the entertainment by the conference sponsors. Aside from a cruise, we were guests at a party with a Mardi Gras theme and enjoyed other festive events during a wonderful week of seasonably warm Florida sunshine. We could have melted, however, with the deeper warmth of family and friends.