About a month ago, several members of my family met for a socially-distanced get-together at the home of my first-cousin, Pat Hanna, near Kalamazoo, Mich. We all gathered to spend some time with my Uncle Mike McDonough, who was visiting from St. Pete Beach, Fla.
My uncle, who is now 86 years young, is unfortunately the last remaining relative of his generation on the McDonough side of my family.
A tall, thin man, my uncle was career military, serving in both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines. He flew jets in Vietnam, and retired in the late 1970s with the rank of Lt. Col. During his time serving our country, he traveled the world and made friends everywhere he went.
Following his retirement from the military, he moved to Florida, where he went into real estate and made a very nice life for himself, along with his wife, Kay, and his children, Shane (Michael) and Tara.
Growing up, I didn’t spend a lot of time with my uncle and his family, we would see them occasionally, so to be honest, I didn’t know a lot about him. I was close, however, with his sister, my Aunt Joyce Hanna, who moved to Defiance from Toledo when I was 10.
It was mostly at family events at my aunt’s house where I had the chance to spend some time with my uncle and his family, and get to know them better.
What I love about my uncle is his zest for life, that he’s always quick to share a story, and that he loves to laugh. He’s always emailing something funny he’s come across to his nieces and nephews, and he always signs the email, “Love, your favorite Uncle Mike.”
When we got the invitation for the get-together from Pat, and his wife, RaeAnn, my wife, Connie, and I were excited. It had been some time since we’d seen my uncle and other family members, and the invitation stated that my uncle would be sharing family stories.
In addition, RaeAnn had asked my brothers, sisters and I, to bring family photos for a genealogy book she was working on about the McDonough family. She had already put together books about both sides of the family of my Uncle John Hanna, and had started the project on the McDonough book.
In attendance that day were all but one of my siblings, a few first cousins, some second cousins with their kids, and my uncle.
We all listened to my uncle tell many stories, including one when he made his way to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., following high school to be a cabana boy at a club on the beach. We heard all about that exciting summer, and about the sporty little convertible he bought to drive home to Toledo.
My grandparents, Norman and Bea McDonough (his parents), had told him when he got back from Florida that he couldn’t go back there the next summer to work. That next year, however, while working for my dad, Bill, as a furniture deliveryman, he got a call from the club owner to come back for the summer.
“Your grandparents were on a trip to New York when I got the call, so I told your dad, ‘I quit,’ and I went home to pack,” said my uncle. “A buddy of mine had said if I ever go back there to let him know. I called him and said, ‘I’m leaving in an hour.’ I picked him up and away we went to Fort Lauderdale!”
I can’t tell you how blessed I felt to have the opportunity to hear his stories, ask him questions, and learn more about the older generations of my family.
There was plenty of food, laughter, a few tears and a lot of love.
For those of you who have older relatives, take time to hear their stories and learn about your family history.
You never know when it may be too late.
Thanks again for the stories Uncle Mike. Love, your favorite nephew.