You can tell a lot about a person by the house they’re sorted into at Hogwarts, or so I’ve been told. Back in December, I sorted my family members–Gramps, Grandma, Mom and Aunt Holly–into Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Slytherin, respectively, and I’ve decided to sort the previous generation of Kuznicki’s and Zielinski’s this month. There’s Grandma Hattie, the only great-grandparent I’ve met on my mother’s side; Stanley, a former railroad employee; Grandma Bea, the youngest of the close-knit Peterson clan; and Tom, Sr., the dashing Navy sailor and football star. Here are their stories:
Hattie Adrianna Marczynski
I don’t know for certain when my great-grandmother, Hedwig (Marczynski) Zielinski, was born: her mother couldn’t remember if she had arrived on the ninth, tenth or eleventh of July, but she ultimately decided on July 9, 1913 as her third daughter’s birthday. When Hedwig was a few years old, though, she told her mother that she wanted her birthday to be celebrated on the tenth, and it stuck. My great-grandmother lived to be 90 years old, and we threw a party for her each year on July 10, as per her request.
Hedwig maintained that same fire all her life: as a teenager, she decided to legally change her name to “Hattie” (she had always hated “Hedwig”), and in her early twenties, she worked as a bartender at her friend’s restaurant in town. Hattie also dedicated herself to everything she did, from making pizzas in a factory assembly line to sewing women’s lingerie at Van Raalte. After work, she would manage the family farm or help her husband build an addition to their home, and she encouraged that same work ethic and devotion in her children and grandchildren.
Grandma Hattie was undeniably a Gryffindor; like her daughter, she was headstrong, fearless, confident and bold. She considered her work to be a reflection of herself, and she and her husband worked tirelessly to ensure that their children had access to education and opportunity throughout their lives. Hattie was also witty, sarcastic and sharp, and although I was only able to visit her a few times growing up, I remember how much she would make my sister and I laugh. In the end, Grandma Hattie was a Gryffindor through-and-through.
Stanley Adam Zielinski
While Grandma Hattie was determined and reserved, her husband, Stanley, was warm and kind. The pair were a perfect match: Hattie was easily flustered, and Stanley was constant and calm. Of the two, she was the strict parent who encouraged their children to work hard, and he was the patient parent who supported his children in everything they set their minds to–the crazier the better. I never had the opportunity to meet my great-grandfather–he passed away a few years before my mother was born–but I’ve always been told that he was a loving and understanding father.
My mother is a Hufflepuff, and she must’ve inherited her selflessness from her grandfather. While he wasn’t quite as fearless and bold as his wife, Stanley stood up for the people he loved and could be strong, protective and daring when he needed to be. My favorite memory of him, though, is from a home video recorded on Christmas morning sometime in the 1940s. Stanley and Hattie are sitting on the couch together, and he reaches his arm around her and gives her a kiss. Hattie slaps him away and turns bright red before hiding her face from the video camera. This is who Stanley was, and Hufflepuff is where he belongs.
Beatrice Maude Peterson
My aunt–a Slytherin herself–is the most like Grandma Bea. Beatrice Maude (Peterson) Kuznicki was born on February 19, 1914 in Fredonia, New York to John and Celestia (Merrill) Peterson. She was the youngest of seven children–Frances (b. 1902), Matilda (b. 1903), Alberta (b. 1906), Margaret (b. 1908), John (b. 1910) and August (b. 1912)–and the family was close-knit. Grandma Bea and her older sisters, especially, were all fiercly loyal, and they supported each other as their husbands, one-by-one, left for war. Each of the Peterson sisters took turns watching the kids as the others went to work, and they would alternate between houses for family dinners and game nights.
In addition to being loyal, Grandma Bea was also cunning and protective, and she had a bit of a mean streak. When my grandfather (her only child) met my grandmother and decided to propose, she vehemently opposed the match. She had always been protective of her son, and they were very close; she couldn’t imagine her son getting married and moving away from home. Grandma Bea was mean to my grandmother at first (to say the least), but she eventually came around to the idea. An incredible woman, to be sure, but with a touch of the Slytherin bitterness.
Thomas Michael Kuznicki, Sr.
I’ve shared my great-grandfather’s story many times on the blog before: Dziadzia was born on November 27, 1916 in Dunkirk, New York to Michael and Victoria (Drag) Kuznicki. He excelled in football and baseball–one local sports columnist even described him as “nothing short of sensational”–before being expelled from high school at the age of 16 for selling his parents’ moonshine around town. He then enlisted in the U.S. Navy and took up boxing to pass the time; when the crew began sailing across the Pacific, he purchased a teacup from each country he stepped foot in and sent them back to his wife to remind her of his love.
Dziadzia was a loving and supportive grandfather, but to me, he was imposing and larger-than-life. A quarterback, boxer, first baseman, businessman and World War II sailor would have to be tough-as-nails, and my great-grandfather certainly was. I’ve always wondered if I resemble Dziadzia in any way; he passed away about a decade before I was born, and everything I know about him is from someone else’s story. I’m a Gryffindor like him, though, and I hope I inherited some of his strength, bravery and courage–I know for sure that the sports gene did not come my way.