TPG Blog #6: That Damn Bill
Posted on January 27 2021
Let’s raise our glasses to this group today!
The Dr. Pepper Christmas Party held December 17, 1949 in the Jade Room of Hotel Fresno, as photographer Henry Koch coxed everyone into looking his way as this was snapped. Beautiful table, holiday comradery, cocktails, cigars, fresh bread, bottles of Dr. Pepper on the table – and the faces of my mom’s parents, my grandparents, smiling for the camera too. Bill Farrow (grandfather) is seated, first on the right, and Kathryn “Kay” Farrow (grandmother “Mimi”) is seated in the 4th spot to the right. Bill operated a butcher counter in a Fresno market and I’m guessing that his grocery connection landed him an invite to this mixer. Mimi was employed at the Fresno County Recorder’s Office. I have a clear, glass paperweight on my desk that has a small piece of tape on the bottom with “Kay Farrow” written in her handwriting. I laugh at the thought of her co-workers being kleptomaniacs but honestly, it’s still around so – it worked! Both were very Irish and very Catholic and very social and humble – and what the next ten years would hold for them both earns them a glass raise and a hearty “Cheers!” from us all.
When my mom was a freshman at Fresno State, Bill died of cancer just a few weeks after being diagnosed. It was 1958. He died on March 31, recitation of the rosary was April 1, and his funeral mass was April 2. One day, about a week after the services, Mimi picked up his wallet from the dresser, opened it and sat down slowly on the bed, saying “that damn Bill” over and over. Apparently, he was 13 years younger than she was, but she never knew until the moment that she saw his driver’s license. They had celebrated his birthdays as if he was the same age as she was and at that time in the world, you just didn't think about opening your spouse’s wallet. My mom was in the room and as the story goes, Mimi said “I never would have married him if I would have known – that damn Bill.” My mom was an only child, Mimi was 38 when my mom was born and “that damn Bill” was only 25. And only 45 when he died.
Five years after he died, I was born and my brother followed a couple of years later, born on St. Patrick’s Day and Irish Mimi declaring his birth “a sign from God.” Beautiful Mimi - silver grey hair at age 19, widow at age 58, her home full of priests and friends that would stop by for happy hour cocktails and a delicious meal. She drove a 1959 Chevrolet Impala that my dad helped her pick out and would take her foot off of the pedals and let go of the steering wheel while going over the Clinton Avenue overpass, yelling “Weeeee” and impressing this girl! She lived a 45-minute drive from us and when she came to visit, my dad would tease her, calling her Fred in reference to “Freddie the Freeloader” as he helped unload her trunk full to the brim, all of our favorites to eat and drink. My first word was “Cheers!” and I was her namesake, the 3rd Kathryn in this lineup with my daughter being the 4th. I knew my grandfather as “that damn Bill” and would say it as a toddler while pointing to his picture and everyone would laugh and miss him.
I was six years old when Mimi passed away. She laughed big, made everyone feel welcome and loved the life she lived. We felt her love and knew she loved us. I have her funeral prayer card and seven priests served at her funeral. My wedding ring is a combination of my mother-in-law’s wedding ring set and Mimi’s stone from her wedding ring, a gift from “that damn Bill”. I wear it every day and remember how she loved us and how much they loved each other.
By the time this post is up, this photo will be framed and on our wall as a reminder of love and hope and life and camaraderie - and to “that damn Bill” holy moly – cheers!
Find a photo of your story, frame it and hang it on the wall. You’re bound to find a bit of yourself along the way.
Have a great week living your great big life with as much gusto as Mimi - we all have some catching up to do!
Kelly (formally Kathryn Leigh)