That was what they used to call her, that barely five-foot tall bundle of life and laughter, the warm and winsome wonder whom I knew better as just “Aunt Agnes.”
She was the wife of my dad’s oldest brother, Joe Kandra; that’s the two of them, above, a decade or so ago, shortly before he died. Over the weekend, Aggie finally went home, to join him. She was 92.
The obituaries put it plainly:
Born in Taylor, Pa., Agnes was a lifelong (Trenton) area resident. She was a homemaker, a member of St. Anthony’s-Our Lady of Sorrows Church, its Altar Rosary Society, and its Senior’s Club.
Daughter of the late George and Barbara Nagy Malosh, wife of the late Joseph J. Kandra, sister of the late George, John, Joseph, and Francis Malosh, and Anna Kippycash, Verna Kopack, Margaret Olexovitch, and Elizabeth Leshnaski, she is survived by nieces and nephews, including Barbara Lettiere of Columbus, and Marge Parrish of East Windsor, and great-nieces, and great-nephews.
That doesn’t tell the whole story, of course. Aunt Agnes and Uncle Joe were always a familiar fixture at weddings, graduations, reunions, funerals. They were the ones who could always be counted on for a laugh, a joke, a smile, a warm hug. There’s a great shot of the two of them on my wedding video, 25 years ago, gently two-stepping their way around the dance floor, as the disc jockey played some long-forgotten tune from the ’50s. They enjoyed the dance of life.
Uncle Joe was a lot like me — the guy who always looked for the silver lining, even in the middle of a torrential downpour. And like most people, he and Aunt Agnes had their share of storms. But they were steadfast in their faith. It was their umbrella. Uncle Joe was a devoted member of the Knights of Columbus, and the Serra Club, and the two of them were what you might call Old School Catholics. The Church was where they went for dances and dinners, prayers and pot luck suppers, for decade after decade. It was woven into the fabric of their lives.
They never had kids of their own, but they did have a large and loyal group of nieces and nephews they doted on (I was one of those). And it wasn’t until the last years of her life that Aunt Agnes revealed to me and my sister that she had once, early in her marriage, suffered a miscarriage. She named the baby Barbara. It was a tragedy she never talked about, and most of us never even knew about, but I’m sure it was never far from her mind.
When I got the news that Aunt Agnes had died, and told my wife, I said, “She’s back together with Uncle Joe.”
And my wife smiled. “That’s not the biggest news,” she said. “The big news is that she’s finally able to see her daughter again.”
Bless you, Aggie. And Joe. And Barbara.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord…