Sunday, June 3, 2012

Omer Joseph Brisson, Jr.

Omer Joseph Brisson, Jr.

Born 30 March 1918 in Providence, RI to Omer Joseph Brisson, Sr. and Julia Anne Plante. He was the first male child to this large family of 16 children.

Omer was known as "Red" for his hair color. After finishing his senior year in high school, he started bodybuilding to improve his overall appearance and for entertainment around January, 1937. This was commonplace for this time period as it was during what was known as the 'Great Depression' which began with the stock market crash in 1929 and continued throughout most of the 1930s. With money short and jobs difficult to find, individuals found other ways to get by; body building required a lot of structure and discipline but no money and he became very good over time.

Together with friends, he developed moves, positions and routines and they eventually formed an 'Acrobat Troupe.' In February, 1939 he competed in Mr. America and received an honorable mention and in the spring of 1940 he competed in Mr. Rhode Island and was the runner-up with the following pose:

In April, 1939, he injured his right ankle at Hugh B. Bain Jr. High, Cranston, RI and landed in the hospital. Over a long period of time, he had 10 operations, a bone spur removed and eventually had tuberculosis set it to make matters worse. To aid his walk, his right shoe heel was much thicker than normal. Because of this injury and the number of surgeries, he never served in World War II, however, many of his brothers and friends had enlisted and he did what he could in support of the war.

During these periods of visits to St. Joseph's Hospital, he met his future wife, Claire V. Marotte who was a nurse at this hospital. He also worked at the Sheraton Biltmore Hotel as an accounting clerk for a time, he was very good with numbers.

Omer and Claire were married in 1950. He fathered six children and attended Bryant College where he graduated with a degree in accounting and spent the rest of life working in the accounting field. He worked for the State of RI as the Assistant Property Manager for many years along with multiple jobs often times to support his large family.

Later in life, he became a member of the Lincoln chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America (S.P.E.B.Q.S.A. ) and enjoyed all that this organization had to offer.  He loved to go swimming and did some traveling with the Barbershop groups and even had the opportunity to travel to California in 1975. He passed away on March 16, 1984.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mary Isabella McEwen Banks

Mary Isabella McEwen was born 3 February 1895 to William McKidd McEwen and Catherine McNicol as the 3rd of their 4 children in Kenmore, Perthshire, Scotland.

The 1901 Scotland census is the first census record where she is listed with her family. Her father, William, is listed as a Wood Forester and they lived at Comrie Bridge Cottage, Dull, Perthshire, Scotland. Dull is a village located in Perth and Kinross in the highlands. By the 1911 census the family had moved to Oakhouse in Kenmore where he is now a gardner and is most likely the area she grew up in.

On 16 August 1916, at the age of 21, she married Alexander Crombie Banks in Dunblane, Perthshire, Scotland. Together they had two children, William Alexander and James Watt Robertson Banks. Her husband, Alexander, was a painter by trade.

When James, their youngest, was one and half years old, they emigrated to New South Wales, Australia where they settled to raise their family. Here they are listed as passengers on the ship called the "S.S. Ballarat" on the 6th August 1925.

The first location we find this family is in the 1930 voting record which shows the family living at Colinton Dell, Oatland in Seven Hills as shown below.

They stayed in this area and for awhile and were connected with the Burnside Homes where her husband was a painter while Mary did some mending and knitting for the occupants as services provided through St. Andrews' church. Mary was a keen knitter and crocheter and would make clothing for the children.

The Burnside Home was an orphanage for young migrants and those needing a home according to their website. They eventually settled on Rosehill St., Parramatta in the early 1940s according to their voting records.

During World War 2, Mary participated along with other women, through St. Andrews Church, in making camouflage netting to cover the weapons on the ground so they would not be seen from the airplanes above. This required the use of a special oblong tool which I'm told was very difficult for the women to use. These women did many different tasks to assist their men in the battle fields.

Together they belonged to the Highland Society in the area and participated in all their celebrations. She was well known for her 'Haggis' which the two of them would make for 'Burns Night' celebrations. In fact all who knew her and her family would say she was a wonderful cook, no matter what it was; fancy foods, vegies, scones, cakes, etc. they were the best and she so loved her gas stove. The highland dancing was always delightful as she was from the highlands herself. She would dress her very best at these functions and included a hat and gloves to match.

She enjoyed her grandchildren immensely and had many a family gathering at her home. Mary and Alexander would go to Manly during their summer holidays and stay in a granny flat of their friends. Their children and grandchildren would come to visit by ferry and have a grand time.

They never owned a vehicle and traveled everywhere by bus, train or simply walking. Over a period of time her feet were giving her problems and she would go to a foot doctor to take care of them. On the 25th Sept 1964 she wasn't feeling well after returning from her visit to the foot doctor so she took the bus to the hospital and passed away later that evening at the age of 69.

She was definitely one who shared her talents with many and served others so willingly whenever needed. Her legacy of service to others lives on through her children and grandchildren along with her love of cooking, highland games and dancing and all things Scottish!

Mary Isabella McEwen Banks: 1875-1964

Monday, January 16, 2012

Elzear Brisson

My Great-Grandfather, Elzear Brisson was born on 25 Aug 1853 in Rimouski, Quebec, Canada to Ludger Brisson and Henriette Fiola/Vignola. He was the 2nd child of seven children all born in Rimouski. On the same day of his birth, he was baptized as is shown in his baptismal record below in the parish of Ste. Cecile.

The 1861 Canadian Census has the whole family living in St. Germain Parish, Macpes, Rimouski, Canada. Their father is listed as a 'cultivateur' which is some one who grows crops. While this section of the census is only of his immediate family, at the top of the census page on line 6 are his grand parents and additional family members from both sides of their family. Elzear is on line 40 and is 8 years old.

The family stays in Rimouski according to the 1871 and 1881 census but by the 1891 census he is living with his wife, Florentine Soucy and two children, Joseph and Omer in Hull, Ottawa, Quebec. According to his naturalization petition papers, he immigrated to the United States on 14 Sep 1893. 

The family settled in Providence, Rhode Island where Elzear is listed as a railway worker. The family stayed in this area for many years and Elzear continued to work on the railway until his death on 21 Feb 1924. By this time all his children were married or on their own. Together, Elzear and Florentine had 9 children and many grandchildren who in turn have married and spread out throughout the United States. Of those 9 children, 5 died was still very young.

His death certificate states he died on 21 February 1924 and is buried in St. Ann's Cemetery in Cranston, Rhode Island. According to the cemetery records he and his wife are buried in Section 6, grave marker # 676 as shown below.

As I ponder the above marker it helps me to understand more clearly how difficult times were then. His dear wife, Florentine, had purchased the plot and she herself would be buried there in 1937, just 13 years later.

Being an immigrant family with many children often made it impossible to afford more than a marker. Each of their own children had large families too, and so this is the way it was at this time in Providence, Rhode Island.

Elzear Brisson: 1853-1924