Happy Birthday Antonina Liro Jakiela – my paternal grandmother born on this day January 10, 1891. She was born in Wielepole, Podkarpackie, Poland, daughter of Wojiech Liro and Mary Zahara Liro. She had an older sister Aniela born in 1871 and a brother Bronislaw born in 1881 so it appears she was the baby of the family. Various records show her name as Antonina, Antonia and Antoinette but I’ll stick with Antonina since that’s what her ship passage record says.
She arrived in New York on September 12, 1902 and headed up to Thorndike Massachusetts where her sister Aniela and brother in law Josef Mikula lived and worked in the fabric mills. They had been in the United States for a few years already and Josef paid her passage according to the ship records.
She met her husband Charles Jakiela working in the mills and they were married on June 24, 1912 in Palmer Massachusetts. This is one of two pictures that exists for Antonina and Charles and it’s on their wedding day. It looks like something from the carnival that you put your heads into because her arms are unnaturally long and bendy for being 4’9″ tall! Nevertheless, it’s a treasure.
Their first son, Steven came along less than a year later in May of 1913, followed by Edward in November of 1915. There’s a five year gap in children due to Charles heading off to World War 1 but they picked right back up with Helen in March of 1920, Walter in November of 1921 and John in June of 1924.
By the birth of Helen in 1920, they were living in Southington Connecticut.
I interviewed my Uncle Eddie one Sunday afternoon (he used to drive through the neighborhood and one day I flagged him down and invited him in) and asked him about the family. These are some things he had to say:
“mom was a nice dresser – not dumpy, frumpy Polak”
“she was very short, black black hair, alot of gold teeth and father would get mad as hell at her for spending a lot of money on clothes”
“she had a fur jacket! A Jewish guy from Hartford would come with clothes for her to buy and she’d pay him once a week”
Sadly on April 1, 1927 while pregnant with her 6th child, Antonina began hemorrhaging and was taken to the hospital. Uncle Eddie recalls: “she asked me to stay home that day so I did. A half hour later she was screaming for me to get my father and run and get the midwife on Water Street.” If I remember correctly he said his father came home from the hospital and said they would see her in the morning but in the morning the hospital called for them on the neighborhood store telephone to say she died at 3am.
Their father was heartbroken. She is buried in St. Thomas cemetery in Southington CT. Charles made a cross out of wood and carved a heart along with her name and date of birth and date of death on it. Years later Eddie had a headstone made for her at which time the wooden cross disappeared.
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to have a reading by a medium. I was so impressed I went back again armed with questions. When I asked about Antonina, Phil’s immediate response was “she’s beautiful”. I wish I got the chance to know her. Rest in Peace Antonina Liro Jakiela.