Leo Darius Thesier
It is going to be djfficult to write a story about my dad in 2-3 pages. It would be easier to write a book.
He married my mother, Katherine Sauter, in 1919. After their honeymoon my father
went to work for a farmer in Turin, NY. He worked there a year. They then moved to a farm outside of Lowville, NY where he worked for about a year or so until he could buy the farm. This farm is where his 14 children all were born. The last child was born in 1944.
Dad ran this farm with the help of a hired hand (We had a tenant house where the hired man and his family could live), He spent a lot of time doing things for us kids when we were growing up – played games with us, bought us a Shetland pony, took us with him when he took milk to the station. He and Mom took us all to church together on Sundays. He spent a lot of time teaching us how to do many things. Also he had us helping with anything being done, whether it was planting the garden, turning over wet hay, painting the house.
Dad was very strict as far as us kids minding him. He expected obedience
“immediately”. He was our disciplinarian. His razor strap had a special place in the kitchen. It was a great deterrent to keep us in line. Mom took care of us, but Dad was our “boss”. Even though he never gave us praise, he expected us to do things right the first time. That was a big issue with him. But we knew he cared about all of us even if he never said so.
Life was like this until things became rough financially for him and he had to do something about it. In 1936 Dad started up a farm machinery business in Carthage, NY, 11 miles from our farm. He worked at the store during the day, came home for supper, some times on time, other times he worked late. As us kids got older, the boys worked at the store with him. My sister Margaret Rose kept books for him. My job was to stay home and help Mom. He still maintained the farm with the help of a hired man, but life for him became much busier.
When the war started, my brother Roger enlisted. I think it was very hard for Dad to have his first son in actual combat and in danger. When Paul, my next brother, turned 18 and wanted to enlist, Dad decided to go with him. In 1944 Dad enlisted in the Navy with Paul. The Navy sent Paul to school but not Dad. They put him on a ship as a mechanics mate and sent him out to sea. After a year at sea, he had to get a medical discharge. His legs were bad and also he had developed Angina. He was not in very good shape physically considering how physically sound he was when he went in.
A year later, in 1945, he purchased a farm outside of Carthage and moved his family
there. By now there were 14 of us children. He was the same dad, teaching as much as he could, spending as much time with the kids as he could. But life was busier, two farms now, a business to run, and Dad was always thinking of more he could do. He joined the Lions club, the Elks club, and other organizations. He decided to start an airport in Carthage, mostly to give Roger and Paul a job teaching there. Talk about mothers who won’t let go of their kids, well Dad was a lot like that. He wanted them all around him, working with him and for him. This was his goal, even if they were married. But, this goal never came to place. Dad died 5 years after he got out of the army, in 1950 of a heart attack. He had gone with some of the boys to the sugarbush to tap trees, and had a heart attack while in the woods. He was getting ready to make maple syrup.
There is so much more about Dad that I feel I should tell, He was once a barber and
always cut our hair. He knew how to play the fiddle. He even got a neighborhood band together and they played at events in our one room schoolhouse down the road, when we were small kids. He made us take music lessons when we went to high school, and as soon we could play, for years we would have a Saturday night festival in our living room with dad on his fiddle, Roger and I on fiddles, Margaret Rose on the piano and later Paul on the drums. It may not have been the greatest music but it was a lot of fun. I still remember the songs that dad taught us.
Whenever any of his brothers or sisters came to visit, it was a big party. Us kids got to
sleep on the floor, the grown-ups got the beds. We had a great time with our cousins, and the grown-ups sat and talked and laughed.
Projects at home were always a family thing. Whether it was putting in a bathroom
downstairs, planting trees, building a bam, the family all helped. He taught us how to do so many things. And made them fun most of the time.
Since I was the second child and a girl, I spent most of the time helping my mother and
not working with dad. I was married in 1945, the same year that Dad returned from the Navy and the year the family moved to Carthage, so my memories of my father are different than those of the younger children. My brother Pat, who was only 6 yrs old when I was married, has written an account of his memories.
My Memories Of Dad
by Pat Thesier
Dad was around for the first 11 years of my life. Until I was 6 years old, we lived on the
Lowville farm. Consequently, I can place memories of him during that time period by that location. There are not too many.
Dad was away during his Navy tour during the years leading up to 1945 when we moved
away from the Lowville farm. When he did return, he was away from the home much of the time managing the farm implement business in Carthage.
I have memory snippets of him returning home from the store in Carthage with boxes of
groceries. Sometimes I would be allowed to help bring them in from the car. One time I carried a jar of mustard, swinging it back and forth in front of me calling out, “Here comes the mustard!” One of my sisters (Marge maybe) was busy ironing a shirt in the kitchen. The cap came off the mustard and a ring of yellow spread all around leaving a band right across the shirt .. But I don’t remember Dad’s involvement in that.
I do remember one time there was a jar of brightly colored candy balls in a pretty jar.
Dad told me not to get into them and set them high up over the sink. I couldn’t resist and
climbed up there and got some. This became one of my first memories of Dad the disciplinarian. I got rebuked by Dad rather sternly but evidently not too badly since, as I recall, I went right back and did it again. And Dad rebuked me again.
I remember when George Shaftic came and visited us on the Lowville farm. This was a
man he’d met while in the Navy. I sense he seemed very pleased by the visit though I don’t recall any details except for the display of brightly colored lollipops that his wife Alice passed around. I can still see her moving thru the doorway from the kitchen into the living room holding that tray of candy high in the air, too beautiful to imagine. (the candy that is)
Something that happened during this time frame that I do not remember and only found out in my adult years was that Dad wrote me a letter while he was away. I came into possession of this sometime in the 1990’s and still have it somewhere though I can’t find it at this writing. But in the letter Dad wrote to me as if I was his only child and expressed an interest and loving concern in me and what I was doing. He ended with his warmest well wishes. I must have been 4 years old or very close to it. I do have a memory from that time period of trying to read handwriting and wondering how it worked. It just looked like so much scribbling to me. I suspect that Mom showed me the letter, told me it was from Dad, and allowed me to try to decipher it.
I have more vivid memories from after our move to Carthage. After Dad built the new
bam, he would come to the bam right from the car when he would return home from work at night. He would ask us about how we were coming on our chores. He often would ask us if we had done something that we had not gotten to. He hated it if we answered “Not yet”, which we often did.
On occasion he would take all of us boys that were big enough to the shop on a Sunday to
help on something that really needed doing but that couldn’t be gotten to during the normal 6-day work week. On at least one of those occasions, I remember he rewarded us all by letting us have a drag on a cigarette, or maybe even having a whole cigarette. It seemed such a privilege just to be included on his team on those occasions.
On one occasion, he purchased a 20 gauge shotgun for the family. It may have been a
Christmas gift. (this gun still can be found in Rick’s possession at the Carthage farm). He took it and all of us boys on an expedition to the snow-covered woods where we set up a target and we all got to shoot the gun. We built a fire and heated up the coffee and ate the sandwiches that Mom had packed. It was a most memorable occasion and the only one of it’s kind with a gun I can remember.
But I do remember that on a number of occasions he would take us all trout fishing.
Seems so he would watch the weather and liked to go just before a rain. I can still see the fresh trout in the sink after we got home as Mom started preparing to cook us up a trout feed.
During the last year or so of his life, I remember that during lent we would say the family
rosary. I can remember seeing Dad on his knees at his chair as we all prayed. Sometimes he would be so tired that he would fall asleep before we were finished.
He often would have left the house in the morning before we were up, and likewise often
didn’t arrive home until we were in bed. We used to joke about how he would always burp on the same steps as he came upstairs at the end of his day to go to bed.
On occasion, he would decide to drive out to see one of his customers after dinner. And
sometimes, he would take one or more of us along with him to spend some time with us. I remember how his car always smelled of tobacco smoke and what a comfortable and secure feeling that smell provided. We usually got into some kind of trouble while we waited for him in the car. On more that one occasion one or more of us burnt our fingers on the cigarette lighter we somehow couldn’t resist firing up. Or taking the car out of gear, causing it to move forward or backward with all of us inside it. I don’t remember his reaction to all this. I just remember that we always liked to go with him.
One time I decided to build an airplane out of wood scraps in the garage. He came home
one day and saw me and the mess I was making and, getting out of the car came over to check it all out. He asked me what I was doing and I told him. I was expecting a scolding but he didn’t say a negative word but turned and went into the house and let me go about it as if it was the right thing to do.
I especially remember one birthday when I went to the store during the lunch hour as we always did, waiting for the store-workers and school members of the family to load up and go home for lunch. I was looking at the toy farm equipment that Dad had for sale on the store shelves. I started begging him for one of these for my birthday. He was very non-committal and discouraged me from asking him any more. (As I recall I still got a few more begs in). That night, he gave me the toy manure spreader that I liked best of all the pieces.
There were a lot of us and Dad was very busy providing for us. Consequently, we didn’t
each get an awful lot of one-on-one time with him. But I distinctly remember having a terrific amount of love and respect for him, even when he had to show his disciplinarian side.
My brother Paul’s comments about Dad are different that Pat’s. Paul actually got to work
with Dad, which neither Pat nor I ever did.
Paul said Dad was a joy to work with. He saw to it you had everything you needed. And
if you were married, you had a home and a car and if he had his way, you had a job working for him. He was aware of the situation of all of his kids and made sure they were all doing good. Dad never let up on his kids. Everyone’s time was to be utilized. He expected more from his own, and he never gave praise.
At the time we were growing up, Dad did not believe in us going to college. He felt he
could teach us all we would need to know. Paul said that the night before Dad died, Dad spent hours talking to Paul. He knew he had taught us how to work and how to play, but he felt he had missed out on teaching us many other important things, like how to manage. I am sure that all of us, as we have grown older, have wished that we had done things different especially if we have had the job of raising children. But we do the best we can and we don’t get a second chance. That is the way it was for Dad. He did the best that he knew how. He taught us to work, to love, to be caring people, to watch out for one another. He taught us so much-for that I am so grateful.