What Happened?

I returned from my reunion road trip to New Jersey a few days ago. I met cousins for the first time and connected with a few I had not seen in years, and I was able to see my two aunts. For that, I was happy.

My cousin Ellen and I planned the event. We picked a date seventeen months in advance based upon input from various family members, and we put a deposit down on a venue which could hold one hundred fun-loving members of our family.

I stressed that the church hall I rented was not large enough based upon the size of our extended family, which exceeds two hundred. I knew not everyone could come, particularly because we don’t all live in New Jersey. We don’t even all live in the United States. Still, we thought, it would be an epic event, wouldn’t it? After all, our family funerals are legendary in attendance.

Ellen and I contacted our cousins and started making plans. She reserved a block of rooms at Embassy Suites, and people booked flights.

As the date got closer, we decided to order sandwiches from a local venue, Jamie volunteered to make her famous pasta salad, and I made a non-mayonnaise-based coleslaw because our family all knows that we can’t serve Jamie any products with mayo. We purchased fruit, veggies, ice, drinks, and some cookies. I made the funeral cake.

While we were disappointed that we only filled a quarter of the room, I am looking at the positive side. I got to chat with my two aunts who I have not seen since my breakfast with them two years ago, along with three of their children and the grandchild and great grandchildren of my Aunt Peggy. Two traveled straight through from the mountains of western North Carolina, not stopping overnight like Ellen and I did. (They are younger!)

I met one of the children of the best member of our extended family—my cousin Meghan, whose dad is Tim from Texas. Tim visits Grandma often despite living in Houston and calls her every week. Tim is awesome, regardless of being a Texas A&M fan. (Go Cocks!) Meghan traveled from Scranton, even though she had to work on Saturday and Monday and to attend a funeral of a close friend that week. Thank you, Meghan.

I was happy to be asked by one of my cousins for the contact information of my cousin John, whose great grandfather, the brother of my grandfather, owned a huge ice house near Lake Hopatcong. FYI, according to the Landing, NJ historical site: At the time of its construction, its fifty-six-foot height made it the largest ice house in America. It was said to be able to hold 100,000 tons of ice. It was the largest single-span construction in the United States until Radio City Music Hall was built.

Cousin John introduced me to his wife and daughter. I am happy he came and made enough of an impression that another cousin wanted to meet him again.

I met a cousin who was a friend of my oldest friend, yet I never knew she was related to me. I spoke to another cousin who is an attorney in New York, who told me about going to the Texas/Mexico border in December to work with the immigrants. Cousin Jerry told me that “the stories we hear on the news are all true. I was there.” I met his sister and a few other cousins from that branch of the family—the descendants of my grandfather’s brother Joe. I chatted briefly with my cousin Christine, whose Carnival ship followed my Norwegian cruise liner around Alaska last summer.

I talked with two of my cousins who are the daughters of my mother’s oldest brother. I have not seen them since the funeral of my Uncle Bob three years ago. I used to play school in their basement as a child. Uncle Larry had somehow gotten actual desks from a classroom, which we all thought was so cool.

And last, but not least, I spent several days traveling with my co-reunion-planning cousin Ellen, who lives just outside Charleston. Ellen, along with her brother Eddie from Wilmington, left the reunion and returned to face Hurricane Dorian. Thankfully, they were spared the wrath of the storm felt by the people of The Bahamas.

In the end, I enjoyed the weekend. I hope that it was just a poor choice of date rather than apathy that resulted in the small turnout. In any case, I am glad I went, but I will pass the reunion planning baton to someone else next time.

P.S. Thank to my dear friend Mary, who helped me to look on the bright side.


Before the Next Funeral

When our grandfather Dan Carey was young, he would routinely visit his siblings and their growing families at their homes in Boonton. The one exception was his brother John, who lived too far away in Lake Hopatcong—at the Ice House—to join in those family gatherings.

Until his oldest sister Annie Carey Duffield’s death in 1932, Papa would take the kids to visit his family on Sundays at the Duffield house on Boonton Avenue. Grandma and Papa were living on Main Street near Boonton Avenue at the time.

He would tell Grandma that “We’re going to take a walk to Dublin,” and Grandma would stay home preparing Sunday dinner. After his sister Annie died, he moved the visits to his sister Nell and Pat Cooney’s Church Street house, which was across the street from his brother Joe and Lo Carey’s home.

As the families grew and lives got busy, those visits began to diminish. While I remember visiting Aunt Lo and Uncle Joe often, and their youngest daughter Betty was always part of our lives, I only knew of Uncle Pat because his was the home whose yard met ours—the house with the grape vines, cherry and pear trees, and the great yard for sledding.


I had little knowledge of the children and grandchildren of his sisters Annie and Nell, and even less of the families of his brother Jim and John, but I later learned that many of those descendent children did and still do know their second cousins.

Ours was the largest family, with Grandma and Papa eventually having thirty grandchildren, most of whom he never knew because he died in 1959. So he saw only the first fourteen of us, and these grandchildren probably have little, if not any, recollections of him.

Grandma with 14 of her grandchildren – 1957. On couch: Rosemary, Janice, Lois, Laurie on Lois’ lap, Bobby on Grandma’s lap, Nancy holding Gail, Alan, Tommy, Billy. On floor: Tricia, Timmy, me , Maureen

In the beginning, we’d gather at each other’s homes at Christmas or for birthday parties, but in time, no one’s homes was large enough to accommodate our growing crowd. We’d get together for play dates with the cousins who were close in age to us or choose a cousin for a sleepover at Grandma’s house.

We began to splinter off and gather for weddings and then the funerals of the aunts and uncles and even a few cousins like Daniel, Lois, Billy, and Shane. Even the wedding lists could not include everyone because we are just too large. Many of you were able to get together for my mother’s birthday in January, but for the most part it is now just the funerals.

Now there is a reunion unlike any other we have ever had, which is in good old Boonton on Labor Day Weekend. This is a gathering of all the descendants of our grandfather and his siblings. It is an opportunity to meet the cousins whose names you may have heard and wondered how they fit in, cousins you may not have seen since you were young, and cousins who are complete strangers to you.

Still, it is an opportunity to connect, and I bet all those “Careys from Dublin” (gee I wish I really knew where they originated) would be thrilled to know their grandchildren and great grandchildren were interested in keeping their memories alive.

And to those local cousins who still are not interested in meeting the “stranger cousins” I say this to you: Then come and gather to hang out at Johnny’s or the Fireman’s Fair or St. John’s Church on Sunday afternoon and share a few stories and a laugh or two with the cousins you all know, which are the grandchildren of Dan and Sis Carey—before the next funeral.

There is a Facebook page with the details called Carey Family from Boonton USA 2019 Reunion, or contact me at kwardamasky@hotmail.com for details.

If You Build It They Will Come

Our first house was far, far away from my family in New Jersey. It was all the way across the Hudson River—61 miles away from the center of the universe.

Dad took a new job working for a company in Dobbs Ferry, New York, and for a while, he carpooled with three other employees.  When the commute became too tiresome, we began looking for a house. We tried so hard to stay in New Jersey, but we just could not find a house we could afford. So I left my job at Bell Laboratories, where as you all know, I invented the cell phone. The group had to continue without me and I found a new job working at IBM.

We moved into that house in the autumn of 1980, and that is where Dad built his first deck a year or two later. The house had a walk-out basement, so the deck was about 8-10 feet from the ground. He did most of the work himself, and his friend Dave Clark from Vermont helped with some of the heavy lifting.

I put a lot of trust in Dad’s word that it was a solid deck. That is all I had, because he did not get a building permit until years later, so the structure was not officially certified by the town. I had so much faith in that deck that during the summer of 1983, we had a party and invited my family to our house for a barbeque.

This party was not just my siblings, but also my aunts, uncles, cousins, and their children. Even in 1983, which was before all of you were born, my family was still quite large. I love my relatives, so this was not my way of eliminating them in one fell swoop. Like in the movie, Field of Dreams, “if you build it they will come,” Dad built it and they came. I was so happy that so many of them took that long journey across the river to our party.

Breaking our tradition of never taking photographs of family gatherings, this time we broke out the cameras. There are only a few, but I was able to find them. You will see Grandpa but not Grandma, and Uncle Tony but not Aunt Marian. I don’t recall who else is missing. Thirty-two years ago we had this party. A lot has happened since then. I hope you enjoy trying to identify the faces.

Family Party-1983-3 - on deck                  Family Party-1983

kids in family room               Family Party-1983 in the kitchen