Return home

KELLY'S KORNER: Learned a lot from watching grandmother

Joe Kelly
Sentinel columnist
Posted 5/21/23

This is being written on Sunday. This past Sunday was Mother’s Day. On Mother’s Day my mind was on my grandmother.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

KELLY'S KORNER: Learned a lot from watching grandmother


This is being written on Sunday. This past Sunday was Mother’s Day.

On Mother’s Day my mind was on my grandmother. Bertha Warren was born on Nov. 4, 1900, died on Nov. 29, 1959 and was buried next to a tree in Utica’s New Forest Cemetery.

She died young, but in the short time we were together I learned much, mostly by watching her.

Although she didn’t finish high school, she was smart, at least in the ways of life. I learned many things by watching her example.

My grandmother oftentimes spread butter on a slice of Wonder Bread and sprinkled sugar on top. This was served to me as a snack in the afternoon with a glass of milk. 

I’m not sure if she did this because we didn’t have money or because she knew I liked it. Maybe both.

Once she found a wallet in the lobby of the Olympic Theater. It was rare for her to go to a movie, but she wanted to see “Around the World in 80 Days” with David Niven. 

She stood in the theater lobby holding up that wallet until someone came and claimed it. They didn’t give her anything for turning over the wallet. She didn’t expect anything. She was happy the wallet got back to the right person.

She taught me not to complain. She never complained about anything, not even about her terrible headaches. Only when it was too late was her brain tumor diagnosed.

Like many people who lived during the Depression, she knew what being poor was all about. Being poor was something she never forgot. 

I’m sure that’s why she would shut off lights when nobody was in the room and turn down the heat and put on a sweater.

Which reminds me. When she was a young girl, she walked the railroad tracks that cut through South Utica and picked up pieces of coal that had fallen off coal trains. This was used to help heat the house.

She knew the value and joy of reading. Before I knew how to read she read to me at night before bed. I remember many of the titles. “Treasure Island” was one. “Robinson Crusoe” was another.   

The dishes must be done immediately after dinner. No waiting. The water needed to be hot to get those dishes properly clean.

My grandmother had a thing about germs. She was always washing her hands and the water had to be as hot as she could stand.

She died decades before the invention of hand sanitizer, a product she would have loved.

Speaking of which, she always gave me tissues for my pocket, never handkerchiefs. Tissues could be thrown away after use, she said, and thus more sanitary.

She had incredible patience. Never once in her life did she yell at me or anyone else. Although yelling would have been more than justified on many occasions.

She was a great cook and an even better baker. She never used recipes or measured. She just knew. 

She never insisted that I clean my plate, but always insisted that I at least try things. But if I did leave food on the plate she reminded me of starving people in other parts of the world.

There are many other things I remember about my grandmother, including about playing outside. There was never a question about when I had to go inside. When the street lights came on, I went in. 


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here