Wednesday, October 18, 2017

John P. Couture

John Couture Jun 29, 1972 – Oct 8, 2017 
In the course of our ordinary daily routines, we are sometimes thrown a curve-ball and are forced to face the fact that life is precious and sometimes, painfully too short. Last week - specifically Sunday, October 8th, 2017 – John P. Couture, my 1st cousin on my Mom's side, unexpectedly passed away at
the ripe old age of 45 – just 3 years my junior.

He taught English at Marquette University and was pursuing his doctorate in English. He was a lover of books, art, music, basketball, learning consummately, family and all people in general. He was intelligent, witty and kind-hearted. But for me, he was my mostly my cousin. Among his other titles of son, nephew, brother, friend and teacher, cousin is a humble title, but one I am so grateful he wore.

We, along with our brothers, sisters and cousins grew up together spending holidays, birthdays, family events and random visits with each other. He is part of some of my earliest memories. I remember being told Auntie Marianne was going to have a baby. While not completely understanding that at 3 years old,  I do remember meeting my new cousin who we called John-John for the first time. At family gatherings, we talked as kids talk – silly and giggling. Go ahead; imagine it. It sounded just like the silly kid-banter you had with your childhood loved ones – the memory of its content is long gone, but the sound of the giggling remains. At the time, little did we know one of us would grow to become a learned intellectual.
John on the Right w/Jimmy Danko (my Bro) &
Mark Couture (John's Bro) in 1978

As we grew older, the conversation changed to school, sports, music, teachers and random teenage topics. -- Go ahead imagine those conversations; you had them, too. Giggling was still ever present. After all, it was the 1980s which were immortalized by MTV videos...but so, too, we dipped into current events, our future plans and figuring our place in the world.
As adults, those conversations changed to things we learned and wanted to learn. The adult conversations continued to be sprinkled with giggles but were also filled headier topics. We still spoke of music for we had similar tastes -- admittedly through John, I did learn to appreciate Bob Dylan's lyrics in a different light. We had a long conversation about his father, my Uncle Will. Uncle Will passed away when we were just kids. Although my memories are through the eyes of a 10 year child, as a niece they were different from John's as a son. I remember when Uncle Will spoke to me, I felt like I was the only person on earth who mattered. He never spoke down to me, and never like I was only a kid. At one point, I told John that he reminded me so much of his Dad. I never did tell him that the biggest similarity was when speaking with John he made you feel as though you were the only person on earth who mattered.
So fast forward, to last week Monday, October 9th. The call came in the morning while I was at work. I could not believe John had unexpectedly passed. You can imagine there was shock, tears and questions. In what order, you ask? I don't remember. I do remember sitting outside the office building sobbing. Thoughts turned his brothers, sister, and my Mom's sisters. Before long, I was picking up my sister, brother and Godchild at O'Hare at different times over the course of two different days, but no matter. We just wanted to be together. Ironically -- or maybe not -- I am sure John simply would have wanted us to be together.
Over the next few days, there was time spent with my husband, parents, sister, brother, aunts, and cousins. This time included watching the Packer game on TV is Wisconsin ,and it is just what you do. The topic of conversation always turned to John, his life and our memories of him. Ultimately, it was time to celebrate his life during a funeral mass at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Milwaukee on October 16th.  Amid the hugs, kisses, and tears the words "Fog" and "Dream" entered each conversation. Together in that Church at that moment everyone present shared completely common ground no matter our walk of life or background -- family, friends, colleagues, and students. Disbelief. John so vibrant and present in our lives was suddenly just gone.
As we moved to the cemetery, there again we stood, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncle and the ever-present cousins all saying goodbye to John. We, the same cousins who grew up together, sometimes misunderstood one another, yet are bound by love for one another all stood together at the grave. This was different. At this family gathering, we were being forced to say final goodbyes to one of us with whom we never had enough hellos. I think we were supposed to disperse before the coffin was lowered into the grave (or maybe not, truthfully, it is an experience before now I never knew), instead, we all stood and watched. All silent. All still. Some close. Some not. We watched and said goodbye in what I can only describe as a fog on a beautiful sunny day.
The story of Monday doesn't end there. Monday's story ends with spending time together sharing toasts, food, stories, hugs, and giggles. There in that foggy unbelievable dream, were us cousins bound by love for one another and realizing perhaps for the first time we need to be there for one another even when time and modern life make it difficult. John was present the whole day, I am sure. He brought the sunshine, toasted and giggled with us...if only we could hug him. Throughout the day, each of us stated maybe this could be part John's legacy. A legacy of making sure we, as family stay, in touch and lean on each other. It is something I am fairly sure John wanted in this life, and a legacy of which anyone would be proud.
I am not certain any of us who knew John will ever make sense of his passing. We may know he is in peace with the Lord, but our human hearts need ample time to heal. I am certain anyone who knew John Couture simply believes he passed at least 45 years too soon.

RIP John. Love you, Cuz.
John and our Auntie Fay on 9.6.14 at my wedding

Some Cousins together at Christmas 2013. John is the tallest.

My Mom's side of the family on 4.22.16 at my sister's wedding.
John is directly behind my sister (Cathy Danko) and new brother-in-law (Chris Gloninger)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

March 30th - All Shapes and Sizes...

c. Mid-1860s

Women's History Month Day 30

The photo of this unidentified young woman has a modern twist. All we know about her is what the photo supplies. This c. mid-1860s carte de visite photo was taken in Lyons, NY at C.H. Ravell Photographer (Lyons itself had a population of approx 3,200 in 1860). She is wearing a simply styled pretty silk dress which is immaculately tailored. Next to her sits her paletot (coat) and hat. She appears to be comfortably middle class which fits with the descriptions of Lyons, NY I have found.

Now here’s where the conversation takes a turn and you gentlemen may become uncomfortable with the conversation or think its odd…but that's okay. Remember, this is our month not yours so you just may need to go on your merry way…

Although we know nothing else about her, she has played an important role for several of us well-endowed ladies who sport 19th c. period clothing every now and again. Again, she is wearing wonderfully tailored clothes and has a lovely shape.  She, of course, would have known nothing other than a corset as a foundation garment, but all of us who have known modern foundation garments may initially find a corset well a bit over-whelming as is drastically changes our shape.  The first time a well-endowed contemporary woman wears a 19th c. corset, she may be very self-conscious as our assets are - shall we say - greatly enhanced. It takes a little “getting used to” and after awhile is it normal and even enjoyable…but it is initially a bit odd especially if you are used to “minimizers”.  In the meantime, this woman helps remind us that 19th c. clothing can fit attractively well on a curvy figure and women have always come in different shapes and sizes. 

As a side note: for those readers who have never worn a corset, they are important foundation garments to 19th c. clothing. They were never to be tight-laced in the 19th, 20th nor 21st centuries.  They are to fit snugly but not tightly - in fact corsets which are too loose are equally uncomfortable. 

March 29th - Aunt Lerisa

c. Early 1880s

Women's History Month Day 29

The back of this photo is labeled "Aunt Lerisa". The front of this cabinet card shows where "Aunt Lerisa" had her photo taken: "Robinson and Roe, 77 Clark Street, Chicago" 

This very stylish young woman had her photo taken at a trendy photo studio in Chicago. Robinson and Roe. It was a high-volume photo studio with one of the posing rooms stated as being the largest outside Manhattan. Robinson & Roe became known to the theatrical community, and cast photos were often taken there. The photograpers would go on to open a successful studio in Brooklyn, but would remain partners and retain their Chicago studio until 1906. 

Knowing this, I now wonder who "Aunt Lerisa" might be. Was she a young stylish woman looking to have her photo at a trendy studio? ...or was she a performer? ...or?

I encourage you to go on to read the most interesting article I found:, Robinson and Roe | Broadway Photographs, Studio, Robinson and Roe, March 29, 2017

Friday, March 24, 2017

March 24th - TGIF!

Early 1900s

Women's History Month Day 24

TGIF! - Head out for a joy ride this afternoon. The scene doesn't exclusively feature women, but its hard to miss the levity...although, the gentlemen in this scenario from the early 1900s look more thrilled than the ladies.

This photo was taken in Chicago at the Chicago Photo Postal Studio. This particular photo was produced on a very inexpensive postcard which reminds me of photos taken in a photo booth.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

March 23rd - "Regular Fellers"

"Regular Fellers" - Aug 20, 1923

Women's History Month Day 23

The handwritten label on the back of this photos is: 

"Regular Fellers" 
Aug. 20, 1923

I wish these young ladies could tell us their story, but all we have is this photo I picked up probably a decade ago in Burlington, WI. We can, however, enjoy this summer day in 1923 with them. 

Note: As I mentioned in other posts, we cannot always trust handwritten labels on photos, but it helps that the hand-writing style on this photo is time period appropriate. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 22nd - Farm Journal

c. 1937

Women's History Month Day 22 

It's hump day. Take some quiet time for yourself.

Photo provenance: Purchased at Thoreauly Antiques, on Waldon Street in Concord, MA

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

March 21st - Strength

c. 1880s

Women's History Month Day 21

A few weeks ago, this portrait struck me while I was casually perusing through vintage photos at an antique store in Grafton, WI. Her eyes are piercing and there is strength in her appearance. Although we do not know who she is, she appears comfortable sporting her hair in an 1860s style while wearing 1880s style clothing. Her broach is pretty, yet inexpensive, and her garment appears to be a mid/lightweight wool.

How we relate to current fashion, has remained a constant between the 19th and 21st centuries. Like many of us, ladies of the 19th century became comfortable with a certain hairstyle or fashion and stuck with it only changing slightly. Others enjoyed updating as styles changed. Still others desired to update their hair or wardrobes, but do to extenuating circumstances, like money or health, were unable to do so as frequently as they wished. In regards to changing fashion, we ladies of the 21st century are still able to relate to ladies of the 19th century even if the styles themselves are vastly different.

Cabinet Card Purchased at Seth's Antiques in Grafton