My family history research would not be possible without my grandfather’s sister Dutchie Guy. When I resumed my research in the fall of 2008, she was the last surviving sibling and thus, was the most important source of first hand family information. Born Frances Ann Kolavic in 1921 in West Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, she was the youngest daughter of my great-grandparents Stanislaw and Aniela (Kadłub) Kulawiak.
No one ever called Dutchie by her given name, Frances. She told me that when she was a little girl, she had to memorize a poem about a Dutchman and she went around the house reciting the poem over and over again. Her brother Frank started calling her a little Dutchman and the nickname eventually became Dutchie. From then on, no one ever used her given name.
Dutchie was a war bride. Her husband, Frank Gajewski, was also from Aliquippa and in the early 1940’s he was part of the Army Air Corps 33rd Air Depot Group at Robins Army airfield (later Warner Robins Air Force Base) near Macon Georgia. They became engaged with the intention of marrying after the war, but when Dutchie and her sister Irene took at trip to Georgia to visit Frank, in May of 1943, they suddenly decided to get married that weekend.
During my Valentine’s weekend visit (2009) Dutchie showed me dozens of photos taken by the military photographer. Several times while we studied the photos, Dutchie mentioned that her sister Irene was wearing Miller Red Cherries shoes. I never heard of this designer, but figured that his shoes must have been something special back in those days. Finally, when we looked at the last photos and Dutchie said “There’ s Irene in her Miller Red Cherries shoes” I couldn’t stand it any longer and asked about this brand of shoes. With a laugh, Dutchie told me that Miller Red Cherries was a gentleman who was stationed at Robins Field when she got married. Dutchie and Irene bought their wedding and bridesmaid clothing at a little shop in Macon, Georgia, but they came up short on war ration coupons and didn’t have enough for Irene’s shoes. Miller Red Cherries came to their rescue and generously shared one of his ration coupons so that Irene could have shoes for the wedding. Ever since, they referred to Irene’s shoes as the Miller Red Cherries shoes.
Like many women, Dutchie went to work during WWII and worked at a plant making and inspecting 500 pound bomb casings. When the war ended, she and Frank finally began their married life together. A short time later, Frank had their surname changed from Gajewski to Guy. He was frustrated with so many people incorrectly pronouncing his name (correctly pronounced Guy ef ski). So from then on, Dutchie was a Guy and she’d say “You’ll remember me, I’m one of the good guys.” When Dutchie was in her 40’s, she went back to school and became a teacher at my elementary school. I was so excited to see my aunt every day at the school, and she was one of the most beloved teachers at Center High School in Beaver County, PA.
Earlier this year, I located the grandson of Dutchie’s uncle, John Kanty Kadlup, who was Aniela’s brother. Aniela also spelled her maiden name with a p on the end, but the records that I have found show that the original name was actually Kadłub. John’s grandson has a photo album with photos of his grandparents, but cannot identify many of the other people in the album. Dutchie suggested that we go see the album. We would also visit her birthplace in Aliquippa, catch up with Sis and the rest of our family, and also explore Export and Mt. Pleasant, the coal mining towns where our family first lived before Dutchie was born. But our trip back home never happened; Dutchie passed away unexpectedly on April 25th 2009, shortly after I purchased our plane tickets. I guess I just thought that she’d live forever because she was so young at heart and so very active. I had a hard time moving on with my research without her, but I am so thankful that her niece Sis is interested in my work and continues to help me work through some brick walls.