Tuesday, August 26, 2008

John Foster Duncan

In all of my reading in how to do a family tree has been the one key thing... interview your older relatives. I don't have any available to me, our family unit is very small, so I thought I would pick a person and give my perception of this person with the memories I have.

I will start with my maternal grandfather, John Foster Duncan. I am not sure why, I so adored my grandmother (Elizabeth Dewar Spalding Fender) and she many times was my lifeline but I will start with my grandfather. He was not a large part of our lives but we saw him regular enough.

He was 6'7". His entire family was tall, even his sisters were 6' and I remember being afraid of their size when I was little. They were so nice and I adored them even if intimidated by their height. John had large feet and if I remember correctly, he had basketball shoes made specially for him because he didn't fit in regular shoe sizes. I almost want to say he had size 13 feet. He played basketball in college. He was thin and a very good looking man and I think he looked a lot like his father, David Washington Duncan. He was born and raised in Bradley County,Tennessee. John went to College and moved to Akron Ohio (he lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a short period of time). He was a rubber chemist and loved the country club life. He separated from my grandmother when my mother was about 15. They never divorced but did live apart for over 25 years.

He was a storyteller. Boy was he a storyteller!! We lived in Rochester, NY and when we would go to Akron for visits to my grandmothers apartment, he would come for a visit while he was there. The evenings were usually him visiting with me and my sister then he would take my mother out for a night on the town. He loved the night life. During our visits he would sit in this chair that was round with a round back but left the arms free. Almost like a 60's version of a fabric barrel chair. He would take us up on his lap and tell us these stories about being poor and working the farm, school was so far away and they had no shoes. You know the drill. He would have us in tears over how he suffered as a child. He would kiss us on the nose and put us down and rise, taking my mother out for her well deserved evening with him. We were never close but we seemed to accept him as he was. He loved us but was more a loner.

He called us his "lil pea pickers" in that southern drawl. He always brought us a little box each of the Brach's chocolate samplers for the sweetest girls ever. He was always that southern style, mannered and friendly. I don't remember ever hearing anything mean, or rude being said by him.

He wrote stories. Short stories and I remember my mother said he was a very good writer. He should have been with the stories he could turn. I don't know if anyone ever kept anything he wrote. He loved to read. Westerns were his favorite genre.

He could cook.. goodness could he cook! He was very comfortable in the kitchen and very particular about burning his salt in his cast iron frying pans.

For a lot of years he lived the high life and found that more interesting than family. While it was a sore point for my mother, she was the child not getting his time, still he seemed very hard to hate for it. He was very charming, I knew this even if I was in my single digit years. That high life did end though and he ended up living in a boarding house and I remember him coming to visit in a sling, he had been mugged on the street in his neighborhood. But still he was dignified and took that in stride. I think his shoulder was hurt, not sure if broken. I don't remember.

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