Week 33: Tragedy

August 2021 and I look at the news where I see tragedy after tragedy but I’ll just focus on my Family Tree where I consider the great tragedy of men/ fathers dying too young. My Dad died at age 39 after decades of battling with diabetes. He died in 1954 when I was just 15, a sophomore in high school. My mother was totally heartbroken. My sister and I were lost.

Joan with Uncle Don Quist

My uncle Don, Mom’s younger brother, tried to help us out and be a male figure for the family. But he had his own young family of 2 little girls and his wife, Shirley. Don was 10 years older than me. He had always been a large part of my life. As a teenager he spent a lot of time at our house helping and watching out for me.

Don suffered from rheumatic fever as a young child when the serious effects of not treating it properly were not well known. So he had a damaged heart. I don’t recall if he had heart surgery but I know he was often ill.

Joan and Don graduation 1956

He missed a lot of high school and as an adult, along with my mother, he attended night school at Waukegan Township High School to get his diploma. Don and I graduated from High School in the same year…1956. He was a hard, conscientious worker and a fun loving family guy.

Don and Shirley bought a small fixer-upper house in Gurnee, Illinois. Unfortunately, Don became ill and was unable to continue work on the house. He died at age 29 in 1960 leaving his wife and three little girls.

Don was the first of the 5 Quist boys to die. In 1967 his older brother, Edwin, died at age 41 leaving six children and his wife, Bertha. Younger brother, Richard, died after a long battle with leukemia, in 1988 at age 53. All these guys, my uncles, were important in my life. Richard (Rick) was just 4 years older than me and was more like an older brother. As we married and had families we enjoyed playing cards, picnicking, badminton and horseshoes. Ed, who was 15 years older than me, married Bertha when she was 16. I spent time with them as a baby-sitter for their growing family. One of my fondest memories of my childhood and teen years is sitting around the campfire with these families singing country songs.

The Quist Brothers! Les, Carl, Richard, Edwin and Don! a rare group picture!

These men all left young children behind. That’s the tragedy. Lives torn apart, changed forever by the loss of their father. How different our lives might have been had these fathers lived to old age.

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