Saturday night is upon us, so it is time for SNGF with Randy Seaver. Here is this week’s mission:
1) Memories of the ancestors we knew and loved need to be told to the younger generations.
2) Tell us about your memories of a grandparent that you knew and loved. If they all died before you knew them, tell us about a parent or a favorite aunt or uncle.
I grew up with three of my four grandparents. My maternal grandmother and grandfather, who went a bit formally by Grandmother and Grandfather, lived in Massachusetts. However, I saw them at least once a year for a couple of weeks in the summer and more often as I got old enough to travel from New Jersey to Boston on my own.
My paternal grandmother, Nana, lived with us for my whole life growing up. Nana owned my first home in Passaic and shared ownership with my parents when we moved to Wayne.
However, instead of writing about one of three grandparents I knew, I’d like to write about the one I never knew, George Kucharik aka Sabo, who died at the young age of 43 of a disease rampant among those working in the Passaic factories – tuberculosis.
George Kucharik aka Sabo
George Kucharik was born on 24 May 1893 in Delano, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania, the sixth of seven children to Stephen and Mary (Kacsenyak) Kucharik, Slovak Rusyn immigrants who came to America in search of a better life in the 1880s. He is the first child of theirs proven to have been born in the United States, having been baptized at St. Mary’s Church in Mahanoy City when he was a couple of days old.
Life in America might have been easier than in Slovakia, but it still wasn’t any walk in the grass. Stephen, and probably Mary, worked to support the family. Nana told me that great grandfather Stephen worked for the railroad as a ticket taker, but it is likely that his first job was working in the anthracite mines.
George probably attended school in Pennsylvania, as the family didn’t move to Passaic, New Jersey until shortly before the 1900 census. His education continued through the eighth grade, when he received his attendance certificate in May 1907.
Somehow, the school had his date of birth as 18 May 1890, but church records and censuses say otherwise!
George, like his elder siblings, went to work in the factories along the Passaic River. In 1910, Nana, born in Passaic, moved back to America. Her family had returned home about 1898 or 1899, but I don’t think the Kuchariks knew the Scerbak family. If they did, Nana was too young to remember.
What I know about George’s personality comes from Nana’s stories about him. I wish I had paid more attention to the details.
George and Julia met sometime between 1910 and 1915, when they married at St. Michael’s Church on 6 September.
Wedding Party of George and Julia (Scerbak) Sabo
Although the couple married under the Kucharik surname, socially the Kuchariks began going by Sabo around this time. By the 1920s, Kucharik was becoming a thing of the past.
Nana shared that George was an absolutely wonderful man. He was kind and hard working and wanted to live the American dream. Unlike his father (and many other Slovaks), George was not a drinker. Perhaps seeing how difficult his father was said to be was a deterrent. He also never took up the fashionable habit of smoking either.
In 1920, George was working in the mills, as was Julia, but they aspired to owning both a business and a home of their own.They rented a house in Garfield in the early years of their marriage.
No children had yet come along and Nana never said if she had any miscarriages. In the meantime, they worked towards their goals.
By 1925, George and Nana, along with Nana’s brother, Peter and a friend, Andrew Lengyel, had opened Central Meat Market in downtown Passaic. All worked hard and the butcher shop, as Nana called it, was successful. George was not only industrious, but he was a saver, too. George was able to put away enough money to afford to buy a house on a pretty street not many blocks from the Clifton border. In 1926, my dad was born at home, all 10+ lbs. of him, in that house at 49 Summer Street, also in Passaic.
The Depression began in October 1929, and in spite of the hard times, the Central Meat Market stayed in business, due to a lot of hard work keeping the company afloat.
George loved his family and was a terrific father. My father lost his dad when he was only ten years old. As he was growing up, he had nothing but fond, loving memories.
Although George and Julia were fortunate enough to be financially secure during the 1930s (Nana never trusted banks and I think they hid all their savings in the house), sad times loomed ahead.
In the mid 1930s, George began to experience the scary symptoms of tuberculosis, which everyone knew all too well. TB was quite contagious and, although he hadn’t worked in the mills for years, many of the butcher shop customers did.
By 1936, George’s health had declined so much that he was admitted to a sanitarium, where he died the day after Thanksgiving, 27 November 1936. Dad and Nana didn’t have much to be thankful for that year.
Nana had a beautiful gravestone made and it was quite over the top given that the Depression was still going strong:
I wish my grandfather had lived well into my lifetime so I would have had a chance to know him, too. Since my grandmother was Nana, I am thinking that he would have been Papa.
My grandfather was buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Garfield. Nana not only regularly tended to the care of the grave, she never took off her wedding band. She commented a few times that she probably should have remarried, but had turned down suitors, I think out of love for George. Nana always spoke lovingly of my grandfather and I know both she and my dad missed him a lot.
Nana lived a long life, passing away on 29 May 1985, almost half a century after George, but I think she was happy knowing that she would be laid to rest next to her beloved George.