Category Archives: memories

Great Aunt Grace

So, this is another story that actually happened awhile ago, but I’m only just now getting around to putting it on the blog. My grandfather (Rynkus) had one sibling – a much younger sister, named Grace. I keep in touch with Grace, talking periodically on the phone with her and swapping emails. I met her once previously, about twenty years ago. She has a husband, Bob, and they have a few kids too, out in California, though they’re about 10-15 years old than I am. Bob and Grace also gave Mary and I her parent’s set of silverware as a wedding present

Last spring, I got a call from Bob to ask me if I could give them some advice – they were planning a trip back to upstate New York in the fall. They wanted to see the leaves, the scenery, and stop by and visit us if we were up for it. Needless to say, it was exciting and we were happy to host. I helped them with some advice on some places and things to do, and they planned to stop and stay in Owego for an evening and they were going to come over and get dinner. 

There is some additional connection here for my Aunt Grace – as mentioned, she was quite a bit younger than my grandfather. My grandparents moved into this house in February 1960, and at the time my grandmother was pregnant with their second child. That child came in June of 1960 – and it was twins. Grace and her mother came out and stayed here at the house for the summer of 1960, helping take care of the twins. So part of this trip for her was to come and see us, and part of us was to just come and see something connected from her brother and reminisce. They did happen to snap a photo from then that I have on an old slide:

L-R in photo: My Mom (Lois Rynkus), Grace Rynkus, Laura Rynkus (my great-grandmother), Pearl Rynkus (my grandmother) – babies are Phyllis and Cynthia. 

They came in early October of 2016. We had a great time, visiting about the current things that were happening, getting more stories from the past, and giving Stephen a chance to have a visit with a relative who, because of the distance, will be difficult to get to see soon. As far as Stephen was concerned, she was “Grandma Grace.” Stephen had still not learned how to smile for pictures much at the time, but we did get a picture of everyone together:

You may notice those pictures are about five feet – and 56 years – apart. 

Random Trinkets

I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the cool things about living in the house your Grandparents and mother grew up in is that you end up with a lot of interesting stuff. My Grandfather, Arthur Rynkus, was a senior manager at the local IBM plant (new Lockheed Martin) here in Owego – he worked for IBM from 1951 (then in Binghamton and Vestal, then from 1956 or so on in the then-new Owego facility) until 1984.

As with many corporations at the time, IBM spawned a number of credit unions for employees (among many other things), normally wherever there were large sites. In our area, there was an IBM CU in Endicott and, separately, in Owego (though they were just 15 miles apart.) In the 1970s these CUs merged and became known as the IBM Endicott\Owego Employees Federal Credit Union, and in the 1990s when IBM downsized locally and\or sold plants (like Owego) to different entities, this credit union changed its name to Visions FCU and moved to what is known as a “community” charter – instead of having to be an IBM employee to be a member, now if you lived in the Greater Binghamton community you could join. Since then, Visions FCU has grown to become one of the largest CUs in the United States (No. 34 as of 2013) and has operations from New Jersey to Rochester.

My grandparents, parents, and brothers and sisters have all been a part of this CU, and the IBM CU in Austin (TX), and today I also volunteer at Visions as a Supervisory Committee member, assisting in overseeing the financial auditing process and helping to ensure regulatory compliance. It’s a big responsibility – Visions is a $3.4 billion financial institution.

But anyways, back to the story at hand: My grandfather was an employee of IBM for 33 years, and a member of the CU, probably from it’s inception, until he passed away in 2007. So he managed to collect a few trinkets along the way, like these:

IBM Owego Open House 1969 Key Chains – this facility is still around and part of Lockheed Martin.

IBM Owego Employees FCU coasters – red, white and blue in celebration of America’s Bicentennial in 1976.

IBM Owego Employees FCU ash tray – definitely don’t receive these as free gifts anymore.

I even have this book of IBM matches – the match heads are IBM blue.

I’ve shared other memorabilia that I’ve had before as well – you can see it here and also here.

I will give a plug here at the end: If you aren’t a member of a credit union, you should be. It’s the best financial deal you’ll get since the members literally own the place (it’s a cooperative) and it is non-profit (meaning lower fees, better loan rates, and higher savings rates.)

Grandma Rynkus’s Birthday

It’s been a little over a year since Grandma passed away. Today is her birthday, and she would have been 90. A year ago at this time, on Facebook and before I started this blog, I wrote a note describing some of my feelings and observations about the handling of her death. I think it’s appropriate to also memorialize that here, on this blog that chronicles so much about not just this house, but the lives of many in my family. I offer no commentary, besides sharing:

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.31.38 AM

OK, one small note: the picture in the obituary is her driver’s license photo (!). Here is a much better one, taken when my cousin Matt, my aunt and I took her to Buffalo in 2010 on a whim to witness the revived Dyngus Day celebration, something she partook in during her youth:

Grandma at Buffalo's Dyngus Day, 2010.

Grandma at Buffalo’s Dyngus Day, 2010.

I do promise that my next post will be about happier things. Thanks for reading.


The Family Silver

As regular readers of the blog are aware, Mary and I got married back in August of 2013. It was a whirlwind of fun, family and friends. When you get married, you are of course given gifts of all types. We received some very special ones from a lot of folks.

My Grandfather (the Rynkus one) has one sister who lives in California. She’s a number of years (12-14) younger than he is. I’ve met her only a few times in my life, but she makes appearances in the family slides I have on several occasions and I speak to her periodically by phone and email. Leading up to the wedding she gave me a heads up that she would be sending along a special family gift – the silverware set belonging to her parents (my Great Grandparents.). My Great Grandparents are Stephen and Laura Rynkus, married November 29th, 1922:


She also enclosed the following card:


The silverware set was a gift to them for their wedding – service for 12 at that. (For those thinking of a heist – it’s plated, not solid. Sorry to deflate your hopes.) The silverware is a 1919 pattern from 1847 Rogers Bros. called “Ambassador” that was very popular at the time:



This Christmas, we hosted Christmas Eve dinner with Mary’s family and got an opportunity to use this fancy set of silverware. We ended up making dinner for 11. We chose to make a Crown Roast of Pork, served with red potatoes, shallots and asparagus. To finish Mary made, among the usual suspects (cheesecake, pie) – Grandma Rynkus’ Polish kolache recipe. That Crown Roast? This is what it looked like:


So the short answer to my Great Aunt Grace is – yes, the silverware is seeing happy times, as you hoped. The roast? It was spectacular, too.

One Year

Today marks one year since we moved in. A lot of big stuff has happened for us and around the house in that year:

– We completed multiple major house projects: Living RoomKitchen (full before\after coming soon), Family RoomBedroomsLandscaping and a laundry list of all sorts of smaller projects. The work has been hard but it’s incredibly rewarding seeing the finished products. Our house will be featured in our community’s annual home tour, with the goal of “breaking in” Mid-Century Modern styles as a viable stop for a tour that has historically only included Victorian and Arts & Crafts style homes.

– We hosted a big housewarming party that we called Retro Martini Night. It featured martinis of all sorts and a big dance party in the living room to end the night. People were here until 2am.

– We were married in August. It was a lot of work but a lot of fun. We had a huge amount of family come as well as all our friends. It was a blur, but easily one of the most fun weeks we’ve ever had.

– Grandma Rynkus passed away in January, only a few months after moving out. She was experiencing steadily increasing heart failure, which severely impacted her demeanor and activity in her final months. This was sad in many ways – my mother and surviving aunt (the other died about 15 years ago), so the Rynkus children – have had significant troubles among themselves and with lots of others over the years, and unfortunately have directed their troubles towards those in my generation of the family. As the oldest, I have dealt with most of it, up to and including the two of them deciding to leave me out of my Grandmother’s obituary in a form of spite, which in a lot of ways overshadowed her passing. Fortunately, the rest of the family on both sides is filled with great people, and Mary and I are very excited to be preserving a legacy here in the house, however.

– Mary’s Grandmother passed away in September. Her passing was unexpected, but she lived a long and interesting life as well. We were happy she was able to be around for our wedding and be a part of it. After the services, family came here to the house for a long afternoon of visiting and catching up. Her family does not have the drama of parts of mine, fortunately.

– Mary and I are expecting – our first child should be arriving sometime at the end of April or early May 2014. (See how I just casually threw that in there last?)

More to come, as always!