While cleaning my studio, I came across a box of old sketches and found this watercolor study of my grandma Dewey that I painted from life at her home in 1995.
Watercolor is an unforgiving medium—typically I draw with a brush without any preliminary pencil work. I didn’t want to make her sit long so I worked quickly. My drawing is a bit off but the main thing I wanted to take away with me was the gleam in her lovely brown eyes and her dignified demeanor.
She was 86 when I painted this sketch a few days before the 24th anniversary of grandpa Dewey’s death. He died on Valentines Day when I was 13. She was 60 then and never remarried or dated anyone afterward. Valentines Day defined the meaning of bittersweet at an early age for me. I remember my grandpa Dewey as a tall man, with square shoulders, long elegant fingers and a large American eagle tattoo emblazoned across his chest. I keep his memory embedded in my mind like a beloved flower pressed between the pages of an old book.
Now, my other grandpa D’Ambrosio lived until I was 40, and I learned more about his history than I did grandpa Dewey’s. Because grandma and grandpa D’Ambrosio immigrated from Italy around 1900, I always thought my American roots ran shallow. I’m an early American history buff and thought it would be cool claiming kinship with the hardy stock of our early settlers.
Imagine how stoked I became recently to find grandpa Dewey’s ancestry going back to Thomas Dewey who landed with the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. After a few years, Tom seemed to have a disagreement with some of the other Puritan leaders and sold his property in what is now Boston and trekked with a small party to Connecticut. He is listed among the founding fathers of Windsor, Hartford, Connecticut. Further down the line, William Dewey fought the British during the revolutionary war, and was with General Gates at the Battles of Saratoga. William’s grandson Julius was the father of Admiral Dewey, and the brother of my ancestor Osman Dewey.
Before this glossing about my family’s history gets to shiny, I’ll scuff it up and tell you that the great grandmother of William Dewey’s wife, Martha Allen Carrier (my 8th great grandmother) was accused of being a witch and was hanged on Gallows Hill in 1692 during the Salem witch trials.
Grandma Dewey was my grandpa’s second wife. Together they had one daughter, which is why I along with my 3 siblings are here today. Now at age 104 grandma Dewey is still with us, unfortunately very little is known about her parents. Strangely, both of my great grandparents were divorced.
How about you? I would love to hear about your family.