Meet Mary Francis!

During times like these I often reflect on the hardships that previous generations have endured. More specifically I think back to what my Grandparents experienced along their adventurous journeys through life. It is in these reflections on their lives and what they overcame and endured that I find constant strength and confidence to persevere!!

MyBeautiful Grandmother Mary Francis

I believe the word Perseverance may be just one of the words that describes Mary Francis!! Also, she personified beauty, charm, grace with a twinkle in her eye and a smile that radiated fun and mischief!!

Just a side note that on any given day I can se this grin on both of my daughters and my granddaughters!!

I hope you are comfortable with your lovely cup of tea, coffee or my preference, Diet Coke because Mary Francis had quite the life. 

Let’s begin in Guadalajara, Mexico where Mary Francis was born the youngest of nine children. My Great- Grandfather and Grandmother owned a large ranch outside of Guadalajara. Great Grandfather Amador was also a City official in Guadalajara. My family are Spanish. 

In 1917 Pancho Villa and his bandits invaded my family’s ranch and hacienda and murdered my Great Grandfather and my Great Uncle (the oldest son) in front of my Great Grandmother and all the children including my three year old Grandmother. Can you imagine the horror? Your husband, your first born taken from you in the most brutal way!! Did I mention they all stole most everything my family had worked for their entire lives?

Let’s discuss the fortitude, strength and gumption of my Great Grandmother for just a second! The Grand lady had hidden a horse and  money on the third floor of their large home. She then took this horse and rode to a convent miles away to collect her oldest daughter. 

Subsequently, she and all now eight children and her spinster Sister made their way by train to the US border. At the border her brother who was also rancher in America was contacted. She and our family were granted Political Asylum after three months at the border. She managed eight children in a hotel that I can only imagine was not up to the elegant lifestyle that she had been accustomed. 

They were so Grateful to become Americans! You will never meet more patriotic Americans than families who are able to come to America,especially after experiencing such a traumatic event in time. 

My family then started over in Texas. My Great- Grandmother did not like the cold Colorado ranch life at her brothers ranch and feared Amador County and Ranch in California (owned by another brother) may be lost as their own. 

Fearlessly, she started over again in the burgeoning Metropolis of Houston. She purchased a Grand Victorian home in Downtown Houston which is now home to The Hyatt Regency Hotel.  

Mary Francis grew up in this house with all her brothers and her oldest sister. All the children started Catholic school immediately and learned English by being immersed in the all English speaking school. My Grandmother often told me that not being able to speak English right away was difficult at four and five years old and she was very shy at the time especially after the trauma she had witnessed.

Fast forward….she met my Grandfather, married and had my Dad. While my Dad was very young her husband suddenly passed away leaving she and my Dad alone. Back to the family home they went as was the custom in the early 30’s. 

Mary Francis was a proud lady and worked to help support her tiny family. Subsequently, at work she met a lovely man, fell in love, married a second time and gave birth to my Uncle Richard. It grieves me to tell you that she also lost her second love! Now a single Mother of two young sons five years apart in age she vowed never to date again.

Back to work she went and back to the family home where she would have plenty of help raising two young boys, one who was incredibly precocious and very bossy… Dad!

The years past quickly and she had raised two all star Athletes one football player and one baseball player for St. Thomas High School in Houston.  Mary Francis rarely missed a game and took such pride in her beloved Sons.

On an outing with friends to a dinner/ dancing club (don’t you wish these clubs would make a comeback?) she spied a beautiful new car in the parking lot and jokingly told the couple she was with that she might consider marrying the man that owned that car. This man was Valentine Yochum and he spotted my Grandmother immediately, pointed her out to a friend and said “ Do you see this beautiful lady? I am going to marry her!!” He was an Engineer for Cameron at the time and played several instruments in a big band at night! Guess who owned that beautiful car in the parking lot?

Grandpa Val was the only Grandpa I knew and he was just the best man!! Anything we wanted….he granted those wishes! Also he did the very same for Mary Francis….spoiling her in every way..because he just adored her so much!! She adored him right back !! They had the cutest joke about her shopping habits… he would say “Don’t spend too much today dear !”and she would say “Don’t worry dear I will just charge it!” Ha! 

Bunny and Mary Francis

I remember my brother and I loved visiting and I could not wait to visit. She made the best fried chicken in the world and also the very best ever lemon meringue pie!! We played many a board games and played endlessly in the treehouse built by my Grandfather but decorated by our Grandmother. 

I was six years old in First grade when Sister Mary Joseph came and got me out of class. My Grandpa Val had passed away in his sleep from a heart attack at 59 years old. My poor Grandmother was a grieving widow once again.

I believe this was the hardest time in her life. Both boys married with families of their own and busy. My Grandfather in is love and wisdom provided very well for her so she did not have to worry or work but she went right out and got herself a job!!

Nana as we called her wanted to be around people and be productive!! 

Did I mention that she made the very best tamales ever? Much like my Grandmother Tecla Helen, family and friends would pay visits, call and write letters to ensure a dozen at Christmas time! 

Christmas was always our family’s favorite time! Every year my Grandmother and my Great Aunt and Uncle would throw an annual Open House Christmas party! The house would be bursting at the seems with family and friends! 

The very best Mexican food you could possibly imagine would be served!! Did I mention my Great Uncle Martin and Great Aunt Marie owned a once famous Mexican restaurant where on the weekends lines would form around the building? Okay… this will be another post!!

Looking back this Annual party was truly the most fun! 

Once I married and had my girls… Mary Francis received her promotion to Great- Grandmother or Gigi as she is now and forever more referred!!! 

Bunny, Mary Francis and Bunny’s wonderful father David

Bunny was a working Mom and now a working Bunny. I was troubled with childcare options and Gigi said “Bring those babies to me!” So I did!! It was a blessing for us both. The girls kept her young and going. I was able to see my Grandmother everyday and my girls adored her so much! She spoiled us all so much! Often having dinner ready when arrived so I would not have to worry about cooking.

My Grandmothers loved one another even though they were fifteen years apart. They spoke a couple of times a week. They coordinated Holidays and included each other in every Holiday event and party. They prayed for our family together. When my Grandpa Val passed away she called Tecla Helen first. I never heard either complain about their work load or the trappings of day to day life. They took pride in their family and contributing their individual talents, thoughts and ideas. 

The joy of my life is my family and these wonderful Grandchildren! God gifted me with these two wonderful ladies. Their examples of living a life of faith, hard work and love of family is one worth following. 

Big shoes to fill!! Oh they both loved shoes!! Next up might be their superb taste and style. 0