The Family Letter Blog

Connecting Generations


Method to my Madness

I wonder if my grandfather – Joseph Bush Kingsbury – was organized? Could he find things on his desk? Did he misplace bills and get past due notices? Could he stay on top of the grading and lectures that were required of a college professor but run out of milk?

From the volumes of meticulous diaries and financial ledgers that I have inherited, I imagine that he was completely organized. And yet – he was a Kingsbury and I know from my own experience and that of my father’s – he might have suffered from some of the same organizational challenges we face.

My husband calls it – “a German mind trapped in an Italian body.”(No offense intended to the thousands of organized Italians out there.)  I can’t blame it on the Italian genes (although I do have 7% Italian DNA that I cannot begin to explain) but I understand what he means. I crave organization and efficiency -but I often let mail go piling up for WEEKS before I open it. Since I’m the only person in my family who knows how to open mail – that can create problems.

Any other Kingsburys out there who want to ‘fess up?

This is a segue into a post that will probably appear tomorrow about something my grandfather and his older brother did almost 100 years ago that I would like to do some day. Stay tuned and weigh in on the question – what sort of organizational skills are imbedded in the Kingsbury DNA?




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A Significant Weekend

One of the biggest challenges I face in compiling family history is figuring out what to do with random bits of information. The first weekend of 2015 offers a perfect reason for a short post about two significant dates in the life of Joseph Bush Kingsbury. He’ll be featured in a longer post later this week that I’m working on for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge.

For the last several years of his life, JBK lived in Saginaw, Michigan with his youngest son, Preston Deane Kingsbury (Deane) and his family, which includes Deane’s wife Nancy and daughters Peggy and Stacy. My father Bryant Kingsbury and I visited Saginaw for JBK’s 92nd birthday in June 1982. That may have been when we helped build a wooden ramp to make it easier for JBK to get in and out of the house with his walker.  He liked to walk to the mailbox everyday.

By late December JBK’s health began to fail and from a recent conversation with Nancy, the family knew that he was approaching the end of his life on earth. On January 3, 1983, just before dinner, JBK laid down for a nap.  According to Deane there was nothing unusual about him taking a nap before dinner. Nancy recalls that he had not been eating much the previous two days, maybe just drinking a little water, another sign that his body was shutting down.

Stacy, who would have been 15 at the time, went to check on Papa Joe and discovered he was dead. Stacy had been spending a lot of time with Papa Joe in the previous months since her older sister Peggy had just started college at Michigan State University.

Other than how my 3 G grandmother Betsy Williams Bryant died (in her rocking chair on her front porch with her knitting in her lap), I can’t think of a better way to go. Nancy remembers that in the days before January 3 Papa Joe commented, “The light is so bright.”

Ninety-two years, six months, eleven days – not a bad run. RIP Joseph B Kingsbury

Had he lived but one more day, JBK would have celebrated the 55th anniversary of his marriage to Katherine Gertrude Bryant (Kitty).  Kitty died in December 1959 so they had almost 32 years together.  I know from his letters, they had a tumultuous relationship. I also know from his letters, especially the early ones, that he loved her very much. He admired her for her intelligence, beauty and poise.