Thursday, August 19

Great Lakes - Touching the Water

Touching the water of all the Great Lakes was done in memoriam of my father, Nathanael Kenneth Edward Paprock, who was born in Detroit, lived more than two thirds of his life around the Great Lakes, and, as a young man, he joined the US Navy. He loved the lakes and the water and the beauty.  He died in Texas 1st of April, 2009. 

These images are from two road trips taken in May of 2009 and July 2010.

In May 2009, we went from Madison to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Chapel Rock on Lake Superior shore - then to the Mackinaw Straits, which connect Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. The next day we went to Indiana Dunes on the southern shore of Lake Michigan.

In July of 2010, we went from Madison to Detroit, the Detroit River, Belle Isle and Lake St Clair - which is between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Then north to Port Huron then across Ontario's southern shores to Niagara River, the Falls and the Fort, which is on the southern shore of Lake Ontario. 

Then we went to Dunkirk, New York - a small city of my father's youth on the southeastern shore of Lake Erie.  On the route back to Madison along the southern shore of Lake Erie, we stopped at Erie, Pennsylvania and in Ohio: Cleveland for lunch (no pics), Marblehead and Kelly's Island, and the Glass Pavilion in Toledo.

These collages are from photos taken by John Brian Paprock (with those taken of John Brian by Teresa and/or Christopher).  All rights are reserved. 

Monday, August 2

Pilgrimage and Honoring Ancestors II

This summer afforded an opportunity to continue in honor and  remembrance of my father by visiting the remaining Great Lakes.  Shortly after his death in 2009, I was able to stop at Lake Superior, the Mackinaw Straits between Lakes Michigan and Huron, and the southern beaches of Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes.

This summer, I talked my wife into visiting three Great Lakes, two countries, significant stops in four states and several large cities in a circumnavigation of Lake Erie.  Preparing for this journey, I had the good fortune of making internet connections to some cousins and second cousins which led to some genealogical information.   There is no question that my great-grandparents (on both sides of my father's family) were immigrants from Poland.  Back then it was divided up - most of Poland came under Prussian dominance. Among the first waves of Polish immigrants were my ancestors, coming to America at the end of the 19th Century. 

One of them settled in Poletown, a very large Polish neighborhood in Detroit.  My grandfather was born there at the edge of the 20th Century.  My father was born there in 1938 and all of his pre-college education was in the Detroit area. 

Another of them came through Buffalo, NY - where my eldest uncle was born in 1920.  But that Polish family eventually settled in Dunkirk, NY - where four of the six children of my father's family were born.

I found this out from a photograph of my father when he was a boy, smiling and genuinely happy.  The single word on the back was "Dunkirk."  My father rarely spoke of his childhood and then with disdain.  Throughout my childhood, we never made an effort to see any of the places of his youth.  As far I can tell, he never visited those places intentionally as an adult.

When I was a child, his parents and siblings all lived in southern California (or moved there).  My grandparents are buried in San Diego's military cemetery.

Nevertheless, we made the pilgrimage to the few addresses I could find from internet research.  Some of my siblings and cousins were excited and ask for "lots of pictures."

But, the trip had to have some adventure for my wife and son, being towed along on this pilgrimage.  So, we added visits to Motown and downtown Detroit, Belle Island, Port Huron, across the Ontario peninsula, Niagara, Buffalo, Erie (PA), Cleveland, and Toledo.  Although the last four ended up receiving only passing nods on the return to Wisconsin.

In the midst of everything, I became aware of a strange connectedness to a history my father barely mentioned and I rarely considered beyond a random Pollock joke.  My father did not pass along any tribal or ethnic pride. I am still uncertain about what my ancestry has to do with who and what I am today. 

It seems so distant.  Lake Erie could be on the other side of the world.  If it was, perhaps the pilgrimage would have had some greater exotica, some greater panache.  It was still an adventure.  And my family, my son, knows.  And we have touched the water of all the Great Lakes in honor of my paternal ancestry.