Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Margaret Marie Leary Brandkamp April 14, 1908 - February 9, 2008

Margaret Brandkamp passed away peacefully on Saturday morning after a very short bout with pneumonia. She would have been 100 in April and lived longer than anyone ever had in her family. Both her parents died relatively young. She was the youngest of two children (she had an older brother named Frank) and grew up in Rochester, New York.

I absolutely loved this picture. One of the things about my mother in law is that she was obsessive about always having her purse at her side. Even when there was very little mind left, she would go nuts if the purse was not right there. Warren bought her several purses as she would wear them out just holding tightly onto them. I was amazed when I saw this picture for the first time about ten years ago and here at age 2, she is holding a purse!!

She attended Nazareth Academy and graduated from Nazareth College in 1929. This was the second graduating class at this very new college.

I believe this picture was taken at the time of her graduation either from high school or college.

At the time, according to her, George Eastman was intent on keeping not only the ethnic populations of Rochester out of his factories, but was also interested in keeping them from attending the University of Rochester. My mother in law was primarily of Irish descent and definitely had a twinkle in those blues eyes when I first met her forty years ago.

She left Rochester as soon as her father died in the 30's and moved to New York City to seek her fortune and to teach school which she did until her retirement at age 62. She met Warren's father, Fred, in the late 30's and they were married in 1941 (after he begged her to).

This is a picture of my mother and father in law about 1943 with their first son Fred. Warren obviously was not in the picture yet!

I can honestly say my mother and father in law were almost total opposites. She was a story teller and had a wonderful sense of humor while his father was very disciplined, organized and had relatively poor sense of humor! Add onto that the age difference (he was five years younger than she was), their educational difference (he never finished college), religious difference (she was Irish Catholic, he was a devout fundamental Baptist), it was a wonder they stayed married for 57 years! They bought their first house in the late 40's on Staten Island. This house came with a barn filled with junk from the previous owner as well as about 2 acres of land and was the beginning of their rather good luck with real estate over successive moves. Her husband Fred was a fireman on Staten Island but studied nuclear physics in his spare time which led to a job as a health physicist in Massachusetts at one of the shipyards and later as an inspector for the Atomic Energy Commission (now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission). They ultimately moved to Bricktown, New Jersey where they stayed after they both retired.

They traveled extensively in retirement first sailing their tri-moran sailboat (Talitha) and later visiting South America, the Carribean, Australia, New Zealand and other islands in the South Pacific as well as a trip to East Africa.

Margaret survived a bout with colon cancer when she was 83 and a minor stroke in her early 80's. She definitely had an iron constitution and was still doing the New York Times Crossword puzzles when she was 90 and her husband Fred died. She lived by herself for the next five years before falling and breaking her hip. At this time she had to move to the Maplewood Nursing Home where she lived the last 5 years of her life in extreme comfort as this was a lovely nursing home.

Her biggest gift was her wonderful son Warren who I have had the great pleasure to be married to for 35+ years. She also had another son Fred and several grandchildren.

Her granddaughter Zann wrote this about her:

Found out my Gramma died on Friday - she was 99 (woulda turned 100 on April 14th). She lived a nice full life so I'm surprised I'm even
upset by it, but I still find myself moping about my apartment a day
after the fact.

I haven't cried for any of my other Granparents who are all deceased
now because I never felt close to them, but my Gramma (Magee) made me feel special.

For years she has been mentally out of it, but I have warm memories of her from my childhood in which she would sneak me chocolate,
encouraged me to write poetry and piled extra blankets on my bed on
cold nights.

Magee was a great story teller. As a young girl she had her love poems published in magazines and "love" seemed to be her greatest
inspiration. All her stories revolved around men who had loved or lost her; the ones that had been "too fresh," and the ones that had entered the priesthood after they had unsuccessfully chased her.

The greatest love story of all was how my Grandpa proposed to her -
the way she would describe it, I could only imagine it in black and
white...like the ending to a beautiful old movie.

"He chased me to the station. I told him to get away from me, that he was too young for me (Magee was 5 years older than my Grandpa). But he was standing there with these two little German dolls he had bought me. He wouldn't leave the train platform until I promised to marry him when I returned from my trip. So I promised, even though I was convinced he was too young - and I was and old woman about to ruin his life!"

Magee and Grandpa were married for 50 + years until my Grandpa's
death. I love ya Magee - wherever you may be

This picture was taken as part of a dress up day at the Maplewood Nursing Home. They took wonderful care of Margaret and she loved being all dressed up and I thought she looked so nice in this picture.


Lisa Jane said...

You haven't been married to dad for over 40 years ... you've been together 39 and a couple of months. Only married 36 this year ... but who's counting?

kenzdmotte said...

I've worked at Maplewood in dining services for over a year and a half and without question Margaret was my favorite resident. She made me smile even when she wasn't in the best of moods and would constnantly remind everyone how beautiful they were and how much she loved them. Her givng nature was apparent in her constant offering of her supper, you could tell she was a mom. It breaks my heart to go to work without Margaret. Know that in her final days she was surrounded by people who really cared for her. Thank you for this page. It's great to learn who she once was.