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Mary (Lubovic) Lu Bois

by Jill Nierman

My grandmother Mary, 1919, Rockaway Beach, NY. Mary Lu Bois (born Lubovic in Hungary) on the right, with her friend Lillian who died of influenza shortly thereafter. 

I know that the woman in the picture was born in Hungary in 1898. I come from a family of long generations. My grandmother Mary didn’t have kids until she was in her 30s (in the 1930s), then her daughter didn’t have me until she was in her 30s (in the 60s). On Mary’s grave there is no 19--. She was born in 1898 and died in 2000. Her life spanned three centuries. You’d think I’d have more stories!


I tried you know. What was the most amazing innovation you experienced in your life grandma? “Saran Wrap.” At this point, I’m not sure she really said that, or is that from some crappy comedy album I listened to as a child? Everyone I know seems like a hallucination.


She was born, though, in Hungary. Her father was a translator for the King. So she said. Her father’s name was Ignats Lubovic. Ignats was the name I used for my imaginary boyfriend in Highschool, when I had no boyfriend and people kept asking. “Yes, I have a boyfriend. Ignats. He is great.” Ignats spoke seven languages, so they say. I’m not sure I believe anything anyone has ever said.


Mary came to America when she was six years old. She was on a boat without her father, and some of her eleven siblings were not with her either. The captain treated her as special. Mary remembered throwing oranges “down to the people in steerage.” I have to look up what “steerage” means. OK, the people in the cheap seats. Which is odd, as she landed in Hoboken without a cent. Boats from eastern Europe landed in Hoboken as well as Ellis Island.


She quit school at 13 to work in a factory. Her education by 13 somehow made her more literate than most Americans are after college. After that things get hazy. I tried to interview her a few times but there was always family around who could not stand a pause. While she was thinking of answers to my questions, they answered for her, or made a noise or filled in that space in a million ways that shut her down. My mother, mostly. I don’t think Mary minded! She was probably relieved.


Pictures were a great prompt. They were proof that she was there, at a time, with a person, like Lillian in this picture. She didn’t say much about Lillian, but I’d like to think she really loved Lillian. And misses her, and mourned her death.


So even though Mary lived a century, I don’t know much about her. How can a century be considered an interrupted life?  Then there is Kamala Harris getting shut down in the senate and called “hysterical.”  There is nothing special about me or my family. Nothing noteworthy about Mary. But she was here. There is a picture to prove it.


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