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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Surprises from Grandma Myrle

Silhouette of Man 1

If you are like me, many times you think the best portrait you will be able to see of an ancestor, even someone so close as a great-grandfather, is a silhouette. There are several people like this in my family tree. My paternal grandfather died many years before I was born so I have no memories of him. But I was fortunate.

My paternal grandmother, Grandma Myrle, kept a lot of memorabilia. I had seen some of it over the years and had even blogged about the Christmas letters she wrote.  Her Christmas letters told the story of the middle years of her life and I enjoyed reading and transcribing them, especially since she talked a lot about my family.

Grandma Myrle's Art Box  2

My father's only sibling, his younger brother, invited me to come to his house this past week or so. He and his wife were downsizing again, and he wanted to know if I was interested in any of my paternal grandmother's things. There were two boxes. The first was a large 15" x 21" x 3" very old cardboard box with metal edges at the corners that had seen some repairs over the years. Inside were several drawings that my uncle explained my grandmother had done over the course of several years in the 1920's and 1930's.

Drawing of Mr. and Mrs. John Puncochar 3 

Several of them had labels on the back with her name, student ID, assignment number and date. Ah, so she was in a correspondence-style art course; that was new to me. Many of the drawings were what you would expect to see in a typical art course. But there were a few surprises. One of the drawings was labeled with my father's paternal grandparents' names, "Mr. and Mrs. John Puncochar, Maple Lake, Minn, 1890".

The drawing wasn't of the best artistic quality but I was ecstatic. Here was a drawing of my great-grandparents! I had never seen a picture of Anna Pavlik Puncochar and had seen pictures of John Puncochar only as an older man. Anna Pavlik, John Puncochar's first wife, had died in 1903.  I quickly looked up their wedding date and saw they had married December 31, 1889.  So I surmised this was drawn from a wedding portrait.

I had long ago given up hope of seeing a likeness of my great-grandparents together. I assumed it would have surfaced long ago if it was still in existence. My uncle and I looked through several more of the drawings but I kept going back to the one of my great-grandparents. I pictured my grandmother staring at their wedding portrait and trying to get the details just right.

The second box my uncle took out was small and had just a few framed photos, most of which I had already seen. There was a framed baby photo of my grandmother from 1901. There were two framed photos of my grandmother as a younger woman, probably from the late 1910's or early 1920's. The last framed photograph was not familiar at all... yet it was.

Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. John Puncochar 4   
As I studied it, the realization hit me. THIS was the portrait that my grandmother had drawn of her husband's parents. My uncle and I pulled the drawing back out to compare and agreed - this was a picture of his grandparents!

My uncle's father (my grandfather) had died when my uncle was a young boy and his paternal grandfather (from the portrait) had died when my uncle was about 19, in the early 1950's. My uncle had only known his grandfather as an older man and had not recognized him as the younger man in the portrait. And because the drawing and the portrait were stored away in separate boxes, he had not compared the two previously.

I am so grateful that my grandmother kept her drawings as the original portrait was not labeled. Because she labeled her drawing, we were able to determine that this portrait was, indeed, John and Anna (Pavlik) Puncochar.

By Hannes Grobe (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons;, accessed 22 October 2017.

2, 3, 4  Photos and artifacts are in the author's personal collection.