Lo, Burn Brightly Thy Matriarch Candle

By Richard Mabey Jr.


There are ties that bind us to loved ones. These golden, sacred ties reach out beyond physical distance, the passage of time, and I believe the precious cord of love cannot even be broken when a loved one passes into the heavenly worlds. For my beloved mom and my dear Aunt Alice their golden cord of sisterhood was filled with mementos, memories of family events, and remembrances of heart-felt places. There was the memory of a stone wall, an old barn in the backyard, a steep hill, a stone schoolhouse, the staircase to the second floor, and the sound of wood crackling in a pot belly stove.


Alice Kemmerer Knothe was the eighth child and my mom, Janet Kemmerer Mabey, was the ninth child born to Edmund and Lydia Kemmerer. They grew up on the 600 block of Boonton Avenue, just a stone’s throw from the infamous Sheep Hill of Boonton. They knew the emotional whirlwind of having two brothers, George and Howard, serve in the United States Army in harm’s way during World War II. They knew the anguish and torment of knowing their brother, George, was missing action for a long period of time. Finally, George was found. Thankfully, both George and Howard returned home to Boonton, safe and sound, after having been in the midst of fighting of World War II.


Around Year 2000, all of Mom and Aunt Alice’s siblings had gone Home to be with the Lord. Mom and Aunt Alice were the last two surviving children of Edmund and Lydia Kemmerer. I think the realization of this fact, strengthened the golden cord between these two sisters. 


The similarities between my mom and Aunt Alice are mind boggling. Both of them married a veteran of the Second World War. Both of their husbands served abroad. Both saw, first-hand, the effect of man’s inhumanity to man. Both of their husbands, returned from the war, married the woman whom they wrote hand written letters to, from far-away places. Both men lived in the very homes that had been the family homestead for a long, long time.


My Aunt Alice now remains the last surviving child of Edmund and Lydia Kemmerer. I am sure that it brings a certain sorrow to her heart. Aunt Alice is now the matriarch of the well respected Knothe Family of Randolph. The family still owns and manages the large farm and produce stand on Millbrook Avenue, that has been in the family for many generations.


Life is so strange, with all of its detours, roadblocks, and sharp turns. For my Aunt Alice, there is an awareness, a responsibility, a certain sadness in the knowing that she is the last tie with Kemmerer heritage of another place and another time. I know that Aunt Alice deeply grieves the passing of my mom and it has left her with a certain sadness that looms deep in the crevices of her heart. Still, I am immensely grateful to Aunt Alice for her role as both the matriarch of the Knothe family, and in a greater sense the grand matriarch of the entire Kemmerer clan. 


Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at richardmabeyjr@hotmail.com. Please place the wording “My Life Weekly” in the subject line. 


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