Sunday, January 17, 2010

Project 365 - Sweet Grandma Louise...

Our family has a new angel... I used to tell Grandma Louise that she was the happiest old lady I had ever known... and she would giggle and giggle... she was one of those REMARKABLE people that always saw the glass FULL... not just half full, but full and overflowing.  She had an incredible life (as you can read below) and lived everyday to the fullest... even at age 96, she wrote letters to friends and family around the world EVERY DAY... and at the end, she was more concerned about the family and how everyone ELSE was doing than the fact she was living her last days.

During her viewing, she looked beautiful... so peaceful... my mind played tricks on me and I swear I could see her breathing softly and I almost expected her to open her eyes and give me one of her trademark smiles.  She is one lady that I know had no regrets... she lived... she loved... and she was soooooo loved in return.  Grandma Louise's final home is beautiful... next door to her husband who has been waiting for her for almost 35 years... a beautiful tree right in front of her, and a view of the Disney Imagineer Studio and the Valley in the short distance... she has some impressive neighbors like Bette Davis and Michael Jackson... and I know she is happy.

My Granddaddy and "adopted" Grandma Louise
(although, she has been my Grandma since I was 5 years old)

Grandma Louise is also making it known that she is watching over us... she has come to see me and she played with Puppy Abby for about a half an hour this week... I just watched in amazement as Abby bounced and barked and wagged her tail... a big smile on my face as tears flowed... and, somehow, the unmistakable and beautiful scent of roses filled the room.  (Roses were her favorite flower.)

I can already see Grandma Louise, setting up a new lunch counter up in Heaven... catching up with the neighbors, making sure everyone is full and happy... and, of couse, there is a vase of roses on the counter... beautiful roses that will stay in bloom forever... I love you, Grandma Louise!


December 20, 1913 - January 6, 2010

A long time resident of Santa Monica and various Southern California communities, Louise died peacefully at her daughter Christina’s home in Encino, CA on January 6th after a short, but valiant effort against esophageal cancer... only a few short days after her 96th birthday.
 Louise called many Southern California communities her home, but was originally born in Crestmore, Riverside County on December 20, 1913. Her mother, Emma J. Esposta, had emigrated from Genoa, Italy as a young woman, and met and married Louise’s father, Henry M. McNeill. Louise was raised by her Grandmother Eva Borel, until such time that she was sent to the Mission San Louis Rey to complete her formal primary schooling. After graduating from Fairfax High School in 1931, she began her career as a cosmetologist in the Hollywood area, often counting among her clients various stars and technical people from the nearby movie studios. When she met and married Monson Keith Thompson, a restaurateur in the San Fernando Valley in 1933, she joined him as an owner, proprietor and maitre’d to the restaurant’s clientele. They owned restaurants in Beverly Hills and Burbank, but eventually settled in central Glendale as the owners/proprietors of "The Maryland Grill," located at the old Maryland Hotel, a block or so above the main merchant community on Brand Boulevard. Here began her lifetime role as “social director and gossip columnist to the town of Glendale.”

Many sports celebrities ate at The Grill for over 40 years. This was partly due to the fact that the hotel owner was related to Casey Stengle, then manager of the New York Yankees, who brought his team and other farm teams out to California for Spring Training. The Grill was also the gathering place for the town’s doctors, merchants, sales people and politicians, who made it a point to eat breakfast and lunch there in order to pick up on the news of the day. It’s also where Louise organized charity events, advised people of who was in the hospital to arrange visits, set up the betting pools for the sports events, and put people in touch with others in the community to plan social and political events.

Although their business was in Glendale, Louise and Keith settled down in Burbank , CA where they raised two girls, Penelope Ann, born in December 1938 and Christina Louise in October 1943. The girls finished Burbank High School and graduated from U.C.L.A. Keith and Louise were avid supporters of all things “Bulldog” and attended the Burbank High football games and other events with their children. They also enjoyed the great gifts living in So Cal afforded them, often attending the horse racing at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. They attended Dodger baseball religiously after the club left New York. They cheered the Rams and Bruins and Trojans, and even rooted for the heavy weights down at the Jim Jeffries Gym. They enjoyed good times at the great restaurants… The Smoke House, Musso & Franks, Chasens, and they loved dancing at Lick Pier to the Lawrence Welk Band.

After retiring to Newport Beach in the 70’s, they decided it was too far away from their grandchildren, so they moved back to Encino where they lived happily, traveled often, and visited many old friends. When Keith died unexpectedly in 1975, Louise had the good fortune to spend many hours at her family’s house where she discovered that her son-in-law’s father, Frank Donnelly of Santa Monica, (recently widowed), enjoyed many of the same things that Louise did. Slowly but surely, they began to venture out to dinner dances, concerts, and eventually cruises, where they enjoyed years of cruise travel to exotic places around the world. When Frank passed on in 1998, Louise continued to live in Santa Monica, and joined the Women’s Auxiliary of the Santa Monica Salvation Army, her favorite charity. She lived close to her daughter Penny in Santa Monica for ten years, then moved to Christina’s in 2008 to experience the joy of her newest great-grandson, Zachary. Her last two years were spent in the delight of watching the youngster crawl and walk.

She leaves behind her daughter’s families, Penny and Richard Donnelly of Mar Vista; their son Bret Kendall Donnelly of Salt Lake City, UT and their daughter, Kyle Lynn Donnelly of Alhambra. Also Christina and John Jaskiewicz’s of Encino, daughter Jennifer Jaskiewicz, and son Christopher and wife Jamie Jaskiewicz and their son Zachary. Also Louise’s “adopted family” (children of Francis H. Donnelly) his son Joel King Donnelly and his wife Susan Donnelly of Mission Viejo, their daughter Tracey with husband Jeff Locher and children Jessica, Christian, and Anna Grace of Escondido; and daughter Mary and husband John McWilliams of Monarch Bay, and their children Sarah and Matthew.

1 comment:

Tracey's Father said...

Thanks for this tribute to Grandma Louise. She was something else. I am a little jealous of that picture of her kissing Jeff... ;-)