Tag Archives: Norman J. Charboneau

Norm: My thirtysomething dad #AtoZChallenge

N is for Norm: My thirtysomething dad. Fourteenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!

During my elementary years in Endwell, N.Y. my dad Norm was in his thirties. A Navy veteran of WW II and an electrical engineering graduate of Clarkson University, Dad was also a father of three and just starting out in his career.

So his job loomed rather large in the late 1950s to early 1960s — and that job was in Quality Control at General Electric in nearby Westover, a short drive from our house.

General Electric in Westover, N.Y. (1993). My dad worked in Quality Control at this GE plant from 1957-1969. Sadly, the building succumbed to flooding in 2011 and has since been torn down. Photo: Molly Charboneau

On weekdays I remember Dad donning his pressed shirts, skinny ties and suits — the ubiquitous corporate uniform — and heading out to the job, often after he and I had breakfast in the kitchen since I had to be in school early, too.

Enter the Fiat

When we first moved to Endwell, we had one family car — and Dad either drove that to work or had Mom drop him off. But soon enough it became clear that a second car would be needed. So Dad, who stood 6 foot 2, went to a new dealership in town and bought himself a little navy-blue Fiat 500.

My dad’s first Fiat 500. Deciding a second car was needed for his commute to work, Dad — who stood 6 foot 2 — went to a new dealership in town and bought himself a little navy-blue Fiat 500. Photo: Peg (Laurence) Charboneau

The other dads on our block were big on joking with each other — and as soon as they saw Dad’s tiny car they started in. Before long it became known as “Norm’s can of worms” — much to Dad’s chagrin.

Fiat 500 in profile. As a young father with a growing family, Dad believed in living on a budget — so every morning he folded himself up into the two-cylinder Fiat and off he drove. Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

But as a young father with a growing family, Dad believed in living on a budget — so every morning, despite the ribbing, he folded himself up into the two-cylinder Fiat and off he drove.

Mentoring and civic involvement

Dad was always one for getting involved in community projects, too. He had been on the school board in my early childhood, when I went to Altamont Elementary near Albany, N.Y.

Once we moved to Endwell, Dad was more focused on career networking,  joining the Endwell Rotary Club and becoming active in the American Society for Quality Control — known around our house as QC.

Dad and his mentee in a photo for the GE newsletter. Dad was matched up with a younger engineer at GE to serve as his mentor — and they developed a friendship that lasted for the rest of his life. Photo scan: Molly Charboneau

He was also matched up with a younger engineer at GE to serve as his mentor — and they developed a friendship that lasted for the rest of his life.

Weekend Dad: hobbies galore

Weekday Dad was a suit-and-tie guy — but Weekend Dad engaged in umpteen interests and hobbies. He raised tropical fish and (a camera buff since high school) built a small darkroom in the basement.

Of course he did the usual household tasks — painting, repairs and killing dandelions to achieve a perfect suburban lawn. But he did fun stuff, too — like hooking up a DIY coffee-can speaker under the outdoor eaves of our house to broadcast holiday tunes at Christmas.

Blue irises were my dad’s favorite flower and still remind me of him. Photo: Pixabay

On summer weekends, Dad drove our family to our camp on Page Lake so we could learn to swim . And ever the ice cream lover, he even found a country ice cream stand with what seemed like hundreds of flavors for us to stop at en route.

Dad also loved to garden. Under his tutelage, I planted my first potatoes in a small plot behind our house and learned how to separate the roots (corms) of our beautiful blue irises — his favorite flowers, which still remind me of him each spring.

Up next, O is for Overtown: An Endicott escape. Please stop back! 

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Fourth Blogiversary: Dedicated to my parents Peg and Norm

Sepia Saturday 416: Today is the Fourth Blogiversary of Molly’s Canopy, which I am dedicating to my late parents Norman J. and Peg (Laurence) Charboneau.

Reviewing the last four years of Molly’s Canopy, I can hardly believe what an incredible family history journey it’s been — filled with new research, ancestral discoveries, friends, cousins, and blogging experiences (like the A to Z Challenge and Sepia Saturday).

And I owe a debt of gratitude to my parents for accompanying me on my fledgling steps down this road.

Mom and Dad: The start of it all

My genealogy journey began in 1950 with my first road trip with Mom and Dad. That’s me in the cat overalls with my parents Peg (Laurence) and Norm Charboneau. Back row, from left, my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence, paternal grandfather W. Ray Charboneau and maternal grandfather Tony W. Laurence. At the far left, with just her elbow showing, is my paternal grandmother Mary (Owen) Charboneau. Photo by Rita Mary Laurence

Because in truth, my genealogy journey began long ago — with my first road trip with Mom and Dad, when I was six months old,  to move in with my maternal grandparents.

My early childhood in our shared farmhouse near Albany, New York, chronicled in Whispering Chimneys: My childhood home, planted seeds that grew into an abiding interest in my family’s history.

And decades later, when I was ready to start looking back, so were my recently-retired Mom and Dad.

They were happy to join me on family history road trips to their upstate New York hometowns — where they showed me around, introduced me to relatives, helped with oral history interviews, and shared the joy of discovering unknown family stories and documents.

They also enthusiastically embraced my subsequent genealogical finds about our common ancestors — whose stories have unfolded on Molly’s Canopy these last four years. So I regret that my parents are not around to read the stories their love and support engendered.

Dad, Mom and me in the 1990s on a Cape Cod family vacation. When I was ready to look back at our family history, so were my recently-retired parents — and they enthusiastically accompanied me on my fledgling steps down this road. Photo by Jeffrey A. Charboneau

Wish they were here

My dad — who was a blogger before mepassed in 2012 before Molly’s Canopy was launched. But our shared discovery that we had a  Union Army ancestor, Arthur T. Bull, was what led me to start this blog in 2014 during the U.S. Civil War Sesquicentennial. And Dad has appeared or been quoted in many blog posts since then.

Sadly, my mom passed last month — a loss I am still mourning. But I have also written about Mom and her family in numerous posts, which I read aloud to her over the last couple of years. And my most popular post continues to be A Valentine’s Day love story: My grandmother elopes about her parents’ clandestine marriage — which includes a story Mom prompted her Aunt Margaret to tell me.

Creating a legacy

So today, I am thinking of my parents as I head into year five of Molly’s Canopy — remembering what fun we had exploring our common heritage, recalling all the stories they told me about each of their extended families, and grateful for the many photos they lovingly preserved and passed on.

There is still plenty of ancestral history to explore on each side of my family. And although Mom and Dad are no longer physically present, they are definitely along for the ride in spirit — as memories of their enthusiasm, good humor and curiosity inspire me to continue researching and writing about our family’s history, and creating a legacy that would make them both proud.

Up next: A Spring Break for Molly’s Canopy. May will be a busy month, so I am taking a much-needed blogging break to refresh and recharge. Please stop back when regular blogging resumes in June — and in the meantime, visit my fellow Sepia Saturday bloggers here.

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1948: Liz (Stoutner) Laurence as mother of the bride

Sepia Saturday 394: Eleventh and last in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

Mother of the Bride (1948). My maternal grandmother Liz (Stoutner) Laurence (c.) was eye-catching as Mother of the Bride at my parents’ wedding. With her are  (l.) my dad’s brother and Best Man William Francis Charboneau (Uncle Frannie) and (r.) my maternal grandfather Tony W. Laurence, the Father of the Bride. Scan by Molly Charboneau

In November 1948, my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence, 43, appeared at my parents’ wedding as Mother of the Bride in a dress to die for.

Liz never had a bridal gown of her own, since she and my grandfather eloped — so she seems to have compensated by pulling out all the stops for my mom Peg’s wedding with an eye-catching outfit that made her a standout in the wedding party.

My grandmother looked pretty good as a Maid of Honor at her younger sister’s wedding, but Aunt Margaret would have chosen Liz’s dress for that occasion.

This time, the choice was up to Liz — and clearly, she aimed to dazzle from head to toe. She wore a black feathered fascinator hat at a jaunty angle and sported stylish eyeglasses that could be worn today. Subdued accessories — tiny watch, small drop earrings, wedding ring and corsage — meant her dress took center stage.

Stunning in copper and black

Parents of the bride and groom at my Mom and Dad’s wedding (1948). From left: William Ray and Mary (Owen) Charboneau; Norm Charboneau and Peg (Laurence) Charboneau; Liz (Stoutner) and Tony W. Laurence. Scan by Molly Charboneau

And what a dress! Shiny copper-colored stripes alternated with black matte at a bias angle on the sleeves and skirt and horizontally across the torso — so whenever Liz moved, the dress would pick up the light.

Normally, my grandmother wore flats when out with my grandfather since she was several inches taller — but she went ahead and wore strapped heels for this special occasion, which nicely complemented her dress. Long black gloves completed her stunning look.

Not to take away from anyone else in the wedding party. Everyone looked wonderful befitting their own personal styles — and it was my parents’ special day after all. But even among family, my maternal grandmother displayed a certain unique style that was all her own.

A shimmering dream

You may wonder how I know that my grandmother’s dress was copper and black, since the photos are black and white.

The explanation is simple — I actually saw the dress hanging in an attic closet during a visit to her house when I was in my twenties.

I may have asked her about it or recalled the dress from seeing my folks’ wedding photos — but what stays with me is the beautiful iridescence of the copper and the garment’s clean, tailored lines.

Years later, when my family closed out my maternal grandparents’ house after they both passed, I checked in the closet for the dress — but it was gone.

Yet its image still lingers like a shimmering dream — a beloved reminder of my maternal grandmother Liz who set a high bar for family style and lived by it all her life.

Up next: A family holiday get together. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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