One of my loves other than making art is genealogy, and one of my big “discoveries” has been that my grandfather Stanley Thomas had parents and siblings in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania that my father never knew about. Grandpa Stanislaw Tomaszewski came from Poland, but until I started piecing things together, I didn’t know that he came with a sister to join his father in 1899, who was already here with Stan’s brother Leo. From ship records I think Grandpa Stan went back to Poland and returned to the US with his brother John and his mother in 1901.
John and Stan both enlisted in the army in April of 1905 (so 112 years ago!). John was killed in action in fighting with guerrillas in the Philippines in 1906 during the Spanish-American war, and is buried in a military cemetery in San Francisco. Leo become a bartender/ owner. He led a “colorful” life, and showed up in the local paper for various reasons. One of those reasons was his marriage to Cecilia Paszkiewicz, who was also a Polish emigre from a big family in the neighborhood of Kingston. From looking at her family records, I feel Celia and her sisters considered having an easier to pronounce name an important gain in marriage. Or maybe it’s that most names are easier to spell and pronounce than “Paszkiewicz,” and Leon changing his name to “Thomas” was certainly less noticeably ethnic.
I recently connected with my second cousin Ruth Thomas Sachs, who is the granddaughter of Leo and Celia, daughter of their son Ralph. Ruth remembers Celia’s sister Thekla, whom she knew as Aunt Kitty, a glamorous woman with an exciting life who had lived in New York City and was married to a wealthy businessman. Kitty’s life, which I am still researching, was untraditional, but I will omit all the details for now, and pause with a photo of her that I found on another genealogy site where Paszkiewicz descendants have been sharing information. It’s a professional portrait of young Kitty wearing a turban and strapless dress, posed in side silhouette holding an urn, like a modern Greek Goddess.
I love this picture, and I love what I know of the story of Thekla Matilda Kitty Paszkiewicz Reardon Weston.
At this point I will turn back to my own recent work to say that I have been using photos of an angel statue in Vilnius in several pages of my art journal for a “webinar” I am taking called Wanderlust 2017. Vilnius has become known for its multiple angel statues sprinkled around town, and this angel is fairly well-known. He shows up in multiple places in the city. Here is one of my pages spreads using the angel.
This angel is both cute and ugly, and I find him quite endearing, but I also feel like I need to have my OWN angel and not use a photo of another artist’s angel all the time. So I think that Kitty is going to be the genesis of my “art design angel” as my sister described it. Since I did not know her, and only know a partial version of her life, I cannot say Thekla Weston is “my angel” but visually she is definitely the beginning of that symbol for me. Using her portrait, I created my own initial image of Kitty, my art design angel…