MA TANTE JOSEPHINE

1865-1937

by
Olga S. Hardman
 
 


This great-aunt of mine must have been named for her mother, Josephine Passefort, who was born on June 2, 1822, in Fumay, Ardennes, France. Her father, Jean Baptiste Caussain, was also born in Fumay on October 1, 1823. There were 8 children in the family. 

Aunt Josephine was the sister of my maternal grandfather, Julien Caussin, and the aunt of my paternal grandmother, Titania Caussin Stenger. This connection between my parents, by blood as well as by marriage, caused a stir when they fell in love. Leahís father, Julien, did not want them to marry, but Frankís father, John B. Stenger, thought it was just fine, since the royal houses of Europe did it all the time -- married cousins, once removed, i.e. Perhaps because they were "family" even before marriage, the relationship with all the relatives on both sides was stronger than it would have been normally. I know for certain that both my parents loved this aunt of theirs, paternal aunt of Leah and maternal great-aunt of Frank.

Unfortunately, I had but a brief time to get to know her. At the age of 72, as a result of stroke, she died on September 24, 1937. I was only 9 years old at the time, but I remember the funeral well. Both my cousin, Jean, and I were allowed to stay home from school that day. I remember feeling that we should not have been enjoying the holiday from school so much and that we should be expressing more grief than either of us was able to muster as 9-year olds.

Although my memory of her is a chair-bound stroke victim, her influence on me was great. During the time she lived with her son, John, and his wife, Lula McClain Caussin, at 2303 Hamill Avenue, we walked down to visit her almost every evening after dinner. (John had lost his first wife, Mary Moine, and he had married Lula late in life.)

Before her multiple strokes and while I was still a pre-school child, Aunt Josephine took me for evening walks up to the Ice-Cream Cone. This was a building which looked like an inverted ice-cream cone. It was located on the corner of the western end of the 1500 block on Hamill Avenue. It was the same beige color as a real ice-cream cone, trimmed in brown, and just large enough to dispense those wonderful, sweet, frozen delights. In those days (1932-35) an ice-cream cone cost 5 cents.

I donít remember this, but my mother told me that I always wanted a drink of water after I had eaten my cone. Aunt Josephine was apparently appalled that I should want to wash that wonderful taste from my mouth. I often think of this great old ancestor of mine, especially when I have a drink of cold water after eating ice cream.

It was she who filled my ear with the beautiful French language while I was still young enough to really absorb it. Unfortunately, after her death, my parents had no further need to speak French, and therefore, I rarely heard the language spoken again. But to my good fortune, she had already planted those lyric sounds in my head, never to be erased.

While enrolled in French I, as a sophomore at Seton Hill College, the Sister of Charity who taught first-year French was simply thrilled with my ability to speak the language. It mattered not that I didnít know what I was talking about most of the time. I could roll my rís as well as any native Frenchman and I had a real flare for the nasal n.

I have a lovely little jewelry box inlaid with ivory that was bequeathed to me by Ma Tante Josephine. She must have liked fine jewelry for she left several pieces. There was a beautiful white sapphire solitaire ring which I was to receive after my 16th birthday. I suppose she presumed that by then I would be sensible enough to take care of it. Before I was 17, however, I accidentally flushed it down the toilet. I still cringe at that loss some 50 years later. She also left me a lavaliere (a pendant made of gold filigree suspended on a thin chain.) It has a small pink cameo in the center, with three hanging mother-of-pearl "tear drops," 4 small in-laid pearls, 4 smaller in-laid pearls, and a small diamond centered at the top. My sister, Marie, inherited from Aunt Josephine a lovely ring with 2 red garnets and 2 diamonds set in the form of a cross. After Marie died in 1964 and my mother had given the ring to me, I had it cut down to pinkie size for myself.

On June 4, 1885, Josephine bore a son and named him August John. The child was conceived just before the father went off to war. There was no chance for a later marriage because the father was killed in battle. The child, August John, was given Josephineís maiden name and I always knew him as John Caussin.

I donít know when Josephine and John came to America, but it must have been sometime between 1895 and 1905. Josephine didnít marry until she was 49 years old. On March 25, 1914, she married Adolph Delbauve (in Clarksburg, WV.) He was 50 years old at the time and had 1 daughter, Celina, by a previous marriage. Delbauve, in addition to working in the American Window Glass Plant in Arnold, PA, as a glass blower, also managed a large farm, and owned the Edna Hotel. Many of my relatives worked in one capacity or another in that old Edna Hotel in Arnold, PA - my father, his sister, Julia, and, of course, Aunt Josephine, who managed the whole thing, as well as working on the farm. I donít recall that anyone had anything nice to say about Delbauve. He was always referred to by his last name only. Most references to him involved his size -- "he was a huge man" and his temperament -- "he was a real devil."
 
 

Picture taken behind Edna Hotel in Arnold, PA, in 1910. L to R: 
Josephine Caussin, Celina Delbauve (daughter of Adolph,) Marie Antoine, 
Eugenia Monier (mother-in-law of Aunt Julia,) Augustine Rapp Caussin, Julia Stenger Monier.


From what Iíve learned by hearsay about Adolph Delbauve, Ma Tante Josephineís lot with him could not have been a happy one, but I only remember pleasant and happy things about her. Some pictures I have of her confirm my memory of a large, pleasant, buxom woman with whom I loved spending time. Only lately, while looking at her picture, have I realized that I myself bear some resemblance to this great-aunt who added such joy and security to my early years.
 
 
 

© 1990 Olga S. Hardman