My maternal grandmother, Leokadia Weronika Pellowska was born on 16 November 1892 on the family farm in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin. She was the fifth of eleven children born to Jakub (1859-1937) and Franciszka nee Zabinska (1862-1938) Pellowski. By the time Leokadia was five, the Pellowski family had moved across the river to Winona, where her father Jake operated a saloon at 769 East Fifth Street. The saloon was evidently a family business: Jake's brother Anton Pellowski and his brother-in-law Joseph Olszewski also lived and worked there. Joe was the husband of Anna Pellowska Olszewski (1871-1844), who is the main character in Anne Pellowski's First Farm in the Valley.
But life in the big city must not have suited the Pellowski family,
because Jake and Franciszka were back in Trempealeau County in time for
the 1905 Wisconsin Census. By 1913 or so, Jake Pellowski was still
farming, but he also operated a sawmill in Dodge. When he purchased a
piece of woodworking equipment from a factory in Winona, the factory
sent one Karol Bambenek (1864-1937) to accompany the equipment on
the train to Dodge, and teach its new user how to operate it. For
company, "Charlie" Bambenek brought along his son Jan Karol Bambenek
(1891-1966); as luck had it, Leokadia Pellowska was hanging around with
her dad at the sawmill. On November 17, 1914 they were married at Sacred Heart-Saint Wenceslaus Parish in Pine Creek.
I know only a few stories about Grandmother Bambenek; she died of a heart attack in 1946, when my Mom (who was named after her) was only thirteen. As long as I can remember, we had these two pictures in our living room; looking back on it, it was weird that our only pictures of Grandmother Bambenek were taken while she was in her coffin. But that just means I have Mom to thank for my Wisconsin Death Trip streak.Just before Mom passed away in 2003, I took the time to scan some of the family photo collection and discovered this missing gem. It was taken in the Bambenek family home at 578 East Fifth Street, and I was able to date it to February 1942 from the calendar in the background. Grandma actually looks in very nice shape for a fifty year old woman with six children ranging in age from five to twenty-seven. Grandpa looks, well, hirsute for a fifty-one year old man from whom (I am told) I inherited my own distinctively receding hairline. I could also swear that he is photobombing Grandma.