Juanita (VilleMonte) Smith was the youngest sister of my paternal Grandmother – or my father’s aunt
(1919?-1920? – ?)
By George Schultz
She was only 12 or 13 years older than me. She’s the first “nanny” I remember ever having. Took care of me for a long time – dating back to when we lived on Manor Street (before we moved into the “Dream House” on Grandmont in 1935). I’ve always called her Juanita. Always called all the other aunts and uncles “aunt” or “uncle”. Don’t know why. I THINK I was “introduced” to her as just simply “Juanita” – probably because of the small disparity in our ages.
Her room in the “Dream House” was that corner bedroom on the second floor – just above the dining room.
She married Bob Lange – Patsy’s biological father – in 1938, while we lived in the “Dream House”. I’d always thought Bob was a cool guy – although (years later) Aunt Juanita told me that he was a sex maniac.
I remember a couple high-level conferences (I THINK before the wedding) that his mother and Grandma VilleMonte had – at the “Dream House”. I was never able to eavesdrop enough to know what they were all about. I probably wouldn’t have understood it/them anyway. I was only five-years-old.
But, later I was led to believe that people were worried about Bob being irresponsible – at least where finances were concerned. Family “legend” has it that he was going to buy a new ’38 Buick (or maybe a Cadillac or LaSalle), Apparently, SOMEONE laid down the law: He was to buy a Ford.
He DID! A 1938 Ford CONVERTIBLE – with every toy that they’d conceived in those days (which weren’t a helluva lot). Genuine leather seats. Even at that young age, I LOVED the smell of the leather, whenever I’d get in the car. I thought it was so COOL: He’d come barreling down Grandmont – and pull on the hand brake to stop! Was THAT great – or what?
He and Aunt Juanita got married – my memory tells me – on Thanksgiving Day in 1938. I was “ring burier” as I’d said it. They were married at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church – on Livernois and Burlingame, in Detroit. Same church in which, Grandpa Popnik and Grandma Choody were married – although it was a different building. (The old church was converted to the parish hall – where they played basketball and held dances, etc. etc.) I was baptized there – I THINK in the “new” church. Grandma and Grandpa VilleMonte had lived in that parish for YEARS. When we lived in “The Haunted House” on Prairie – when I was in my mid-teens — we were in that parish. Doug and Dan were baptized there.
I don’t know how long the marriage lasted – but, it wasn’t very long. A few months after Patsy was born, she and Aunt Juanita came to live with us in the “Little House” on Penrod – the one in which we lived when Aunt Dee was born.
When I got sick – with Rheumatic Fever – in 1941, I was in bed for the better part of a year. For the first six or eight weeks, I was to be flat on my back. Look Ma – no pillow allowed. I was 10-years-old – but, only weighed something like 51 pounds. Aunt Juanita used to CARRY me to the john. It SEEMS to me that Aunt Juanita stayed with us for virtually ALL the war years.
Some time in there, though, she wasn’t living with us. She was going with a MUCH older man – Frank Sales. I remember he had a new 1941 Pontiac that was painted two tones of blue. I thought THAT was really nifty. Aunt Juanita used to drive it all the time. I remember one time driving out to Runyon Lake with her – when Grandma and Grandpa VilleMonte still had their cottage. They’d just put through the new, paved, US-23 – and it made it much easier to get out to the lake. Didn’t have to take the back roads through Milford (where Edsel Ford had a HUGE home with a pond in the front). I was able to direct Aunt Juanita out to the lake. Frank had a really neat cottage on Lake Erie – on the Canadian side. We all went out there one time. Had a good time.
She threw Frank over. Couldn’t understand THAT! That neat Pontiac – and the cool cottage. She wasn’t living with us at that time. (Don’t know WHERE she was.) Frank used to come over – and bring a six-pack of Coke (25-cents) – and cry on Grandma Choody’s shoulder all the time. I guess Grandpa Popnik just got tired of it – and told him he wasn’t welcome there (on Penrod) any longer.
At one point – during those years (Patsy was born in 1940) and when Patsy was only a couple or three years old – Patsy had been put into an orphanage. Don’t know WHERE Aunt Juanita was – or with whom. It was – I’m positive – before she met Uncle Vince (whom Patsy has always considered her father).
Grandma Choody TOOK Patsy in from the orphanage – and Patsy had REALLY had some problems. She’d keep her head down to where it kind of “rested” on one of her shoulders. I’m sure that there were OTHER problems – but, don’t remember what they were.
Grandma finally gave up Patsy. I don’t THINK she went back to the orphanage – but, don’t really know WHERE she was. I THINK she went back with Aunt Juanita. But, the situation was PUSHED by Grandma Choody. She was ALWAYS crying. I don’t recall things being THAT bad – but, obviously, they WERE in Grandma’s eyes.
Aunt Juanita met and married Uncle Vince in the mid-forties. They moved into a little house – a REALLY little house – on Lenore Street in Livonia. They lived there till the late-fifties, when Aunt Juanita threw Uncle Vince over – for Uncle Ray. (They’d just moved into a new house out in that same vicinity a few months before they separated.)
Uncle Vince is the biological father of Dennis (who died of burns incurred when he apparently fell asleep while smoking, and, I guess, was pretty high on dope, in 1978. He’s also the biological father of Jackie.
It was 1959 or 1960 when Aunt Juanita and Uncle Ray married. She had a real THINK towards “our” Ray. He was always “Little Asshole” or some other such loving, caring nickname. Aunt Juanita was ALWAYS throwing him out. (There were other “considerations”. According to Grandma Choody, Uncle Ray was always patting Patsy on the fanny.)
SOMEONE should have taken “our” Ray. It would’ve made more sense had it been Aunt Juanita’s two siblings – Uncle Paul or Grandma Choody. We were probably – hell, undoubtedly – the least able to afford to take him. It is to your mother’s eternal credit that SHE stepped up – and we took him. At that point, I’d just gone to work for Liberty Loan for 325 glorious dollars a month (which, in 1961, was STILL not that much money). Liberty screwed me out of being vested in their wondrous profit-sharing program that first year. Our house – on Forrer – was under foreclosure, and we were really in a financial bind. (What else was new. We LOST the house to foreclosure.)
I suppose that you know that Ray led us a merry chase – stealing cars, etc. etc. etc. I was ready to give him up – a couple or three times. One cop from the Schaeffer Precinct told us that if we kept him, we’d be screwing up YOU kids. You were six and Doug was five, I think.
I KNEW that I’d had to do SOMETHING. The answer was to pick him up and set him down somewhere else. The answer turned out to be San Marcos – of which I’d never heard, till the sainted Liberty Loan told me I was going there.
We’d had a BIG problem with Aunt Juanita, though, once we’d taken “The Little crap”. She and Uncle Ray were STILL his guardians – and Uncle Ray (in those days anyway) had absolutely no balls. NO one would’ve been able to call ANY of you kids “pieces of crap” – without all kinds of hell breaking loose.
There came one point where Ray and a couple or three other kids stole a car in Detroit – and left it in Toledo. Across a state line. Was now – literally – a federal case. They’d stolen a car down there and (I think) left it in Tennessee. Anyway, they’d stolen three or four cars – and Ray and this other kid were picked up in Tampa. (The other kid or two had bailed out – somewhere along the way – and had, I guess, returned to Detroit.)
I’d had to go down – with the other kid’s parents – to Tampa and bring Ray and the other kid back. (They deputized us – the whole ge-schmear.) We left on a Friday night. Got there Saturday night. Got them out of jail on Sunday – and got back to Detroit late Monday evening. We’d had to turn the boys over to the people at the Juvenile Detention Home.
A week later – well, the following Friday – the other kid’s mother called me at the office (I think our phone was disconnected – it was ALWAYS disconnected) and asked me why I wasn’t showing up at the hearings at “Juvenile”. I, of course, didn’t KNOW about them. They’d sent the notices to Aunt Juanita – and she’d, of course, not advised us.
We went to the hearings on Monday – and Ray and the other kid were put on probation. Your mother had WRITTEN to him EVERY day – but, they’d not GIVEN Ray ANY of the letters. And we’d not shown up for the hearings. He’d had a whole week to think that your mother and I had “abandoned” him. (They deigned to GIVE him the letters, when he checked out of jail.) He’d gotten into trouble – was with a bunch who were lifting wheel covers – later (which upset me, because you’d have THOUGHT that, since he’d been scared into thinking we’d abandoned him, he’d have kept his nose clean). ANOTHER incidence where I was ready to give up on him.
We figured, though, that we’d better do SOMETHING – to get SOME kind of control over Ray’s situation. We WERE, after all, taking care of him.
His biological mother worked for a really nice attorney – Mr. Oglesby. He took our case pro bono. To this day I have no IDEA what he did. I was CERTAIN that Aunt Juanita would have him assassinated. But, what EVER he did, he spiked her guns! She and Uncle Ray signed over the guardianship. Technically, he was made a ward of the State of Michigan – in my custody. (We’d had to ask his probation officer for permission to move him to San Marcos.)
Aunt Juanita kind of cut us off after the court action – which was a bitter disappointment to me. We’d always been quite close. When I’d lost my job (what else was new?) with Detroit Mutual Insurance (we were selling overpriced, not-very-good, “insurance” to blacks in River Rouge – and I wasn’t selling enough, and so I got cut) I’d called Grandma Choody – to whom I’d owed twenty bucks (ALSO what else was new?) to tell her that I couldn’t pay her back. From Grandma I got The Sermon On The Mount – about honoring my obligations. When Aunt Juanita found out, she came over with a pound of bacon a pound of coffee a pound of butter, etc. etc. etc. THAT always struck me as being AWFULLY kind. So, I’d regretted being shut out.
My main reason, though, for putting in for Texas (Liberty had just bought a chain of small loan offices down here) was your mother. I’m sure that she’ll dispute this: But, she thought that everyone in Detroit was AGAINST her. Didn’t like her. Put up with her. Etc. etc. etc. There was beginning to be a little trouble in the marriage. I really felt that I needed to pick HER up and set her down as close to her parents as possible. (If it would’ve been El Paso to which they’d sent me, she’d have been as far away from Grandma and Grandpa Castillo as she was in Detroit.)
We lost track of Aunt Juanita and Uncle Ray, pretty much – once we’d moved to Texas.
You pretty much KNOW the story from there on. You vass dere, Charlie.
We got to see Uncle Ray and Aunt Juanita a few times, when we’d go through Detroit. (I think when we’d schluffed you kids off on Uncle Jerry, Uncle Dale, Aunt Dee and Uncle Noel. And a few other times.)
Never really got back with her/them – till they moved down to Houston in 1977 or 1978.
There’s not much else I can think of to tell you about Aunt Juanita – except that, for most of my illustrious life, we WERE very close. When I was a little kid, she used to take great delight in spanking me. But, she also EXPLAINED a lot of stuff to me – having to do with just about EVERYTHING from laundry detergents to what was happening on the latest episode of the various soap operas on the radio.
Grandma Choody always spoke of the time when she came home from work one evening – and found me in tears. One of the characters on one of the soaps had died – and I’d been TERRIBLY upset over it.
When I’d gotten Rheumatic Fever, Aunt Juanita told me that “Pinky” (on, I think, Road Of Life) had “Infantile Paralysis” – which is what they’d called Polio back then. And, if “Pinky” could make it – then, by God, I’d make it too.
When I was in the Navy, Grandma VilleMonte – “instructed” to do so by Uncle Paul and Grandma Choody – sold her little “Dog House”. And, at the time, it was decreed that Grandma VilleMonte could live with Grandma Choody or Uncle Paul. But, under NO circumstances, would she be able to live with Aunt Juanita.
THAT wore off awfully fast. Before I was out of the Navy, Grandma VilleMonte was LIVING out there in that dinky little house on Lenore Street, with Aunt Juanita and Uncle Vince. (She moved with Aunt Juanita, when they moved to the new house – and Uncle Vince was dispatched. Then, she moved with Aunt Juanita and Uncle Ray, when they bought the house on Coyle – about a half-mile from where we lived on Forrer.)
Grandma VilleMonte actually NEVER got over selling that little house. It WAS in a rotten neighborhood – and it wasn’t getting any better. But, it was HERS. She’d always thought that she was “living out of a suitcase”. It wasn’t QUITE true – but, I could SEE her point.
In a way, Aunt Juanita was more charitable that either of her siblings. She was, I think, more genuine. (Don’t tell Uncle Jerry or Uncle Dale I’d said that.) Even when she was pissed off at your mother and me – for taking “The Little crap” – that WAS a genuine emotion. Grandma Choody and Uncle Paul had no BUSINESS forcing Grandma VilleMonte to sell her little Dog House. Not unless they were going to back up the “You cannot live with Juanita” edict. Grandma Choody was ALWAYS complaining about Grandma VilleMonte. I THINK Grandma VilleMonte was living with Grandma Choody – when she’d passed away, in 1965. (I’ve NEVER gotten a really straight answer as to what happened when Grandma V. passed away.) She was always my “best buddy”.
Juanita VilleMonte Smith
By Patsy Weise as told to Carmen Schultz
Juanita Ville Monte was born March 5th. 1919 the youngest of three siblings, Dolores, Paul and Juanita. The family considered her Grandma VilleMontes favorite and she was spoiled thusly.
In 1938 Juanita married Bob Lange and on January 2, 1940 they had a baby girl who they named Patricia Ann. The marriage didn’t last long and after the divorce, Juanita put Patsy into an orphanage when she was about 2. Dolly (Choody) and grandma Ville Monte took turns getting Patsy out on week ends and having her play with Dee, (Duane’s sister). She says she remembers even at that young age, how well young Duane took care of her and his sister Dee while his mother slept in on Sundays. She felt though Dolly and Grandma Ville Monte wanted Patsy away from the orphanage, Juanita was quite content to have her stay in the orphanage. Patsy also felt the main reason Vince Weise and Juanita got together was because he wanted a home for Patsy and felt the orphanage was not the place for her. Vince was from a rather large family himself, (10 children) but when he was very young, there was a bad fire killing all but a few of the children. They were all put into orphanages. Vince went into a working farm orphanage but left when he was 16. When he found out that Patsy was in an orphanage as well, he immediately took to her and soon after the marriage adopted Patsy as his own giving her his name… Juanita and Vince both shared the same birth day, March 5th. though Vince was probably 8 or 9 years older than Juanita. Juanita and Vince than had two children of their own, a boy Dennis (now dead) and a girl Jackie (who now has two lovely children of her own) but he always treated Patsy just as though she was his and to this day Patsy carries his name in remembrance of a real fathers love.
The family was together for several years though Juanita always wore the pants in the family. She didn’t show much love to any of the family but a lot of discipline and much criticizing. Since Dolly and Juanita (the two sisters) never got along and all their lives were fighting, or screaming at one another, there were seldom many good memories when the Ville Monte extended family got together. Patsy said there was seldom a gathering (Thanksgiving, Christmas etc.) that one of the sister families wouldn’t walk out of the gathering because of some screaming dispute with the other sister. She felt so very bad for Grandma Ville Monte because of this as all grandma ever wanted was to have her children love one another. Whenever Juanita was angry at Patsy for something she would always say, “You are just like Dolly or you look just like Dolly” in a derogatory manner.
On the other hand, Vince had found his sister, Nelly, who lived with her husband and 10 children on a farm in Michigan a few hours away from Detroit. Patsy said that the only really happy memories she ever had of the family were when Juanita and Vince took their kids to the farm and she was allowed to play with those nieces and nephews there at the farm. Several of the children knew how to play the piano and so many pleasant hours were spent standing around the piano singing to the songs being played. Patsy really felt wanted there as the children would fuss over whose room she was going to be in. They all wanted her in theirs. Later in life Vince also found a brother and was so pleased about knowing two of his siblings again. When Patsy was engaged to be married it was this family who had a bridal shower for her and it was one of the girls that offered her, her own bridal gown to wear at the wedding. As the children grew, the older sister sent several of her brothers and sisters to college and 4 of the nieces became nurses. These people were dear to Patsy and this is where she felt truly loved.
When Juanita started working at Cunningham’s, and Grandma Ville Monte was caring for the kids, she once again made contact with Ray Smith who she and her first husband Bob had been friends with. A relationship developed there and unfortunately became more than it should have. Patsy said she can remember going to the bus stop and shortly there after seeing from a distance Ray pull up in his car and Juanita jumping in and them taking off. This upset Patsy very much because she dearly loved Vince who was so good to her. A priest talked to Vince about the affair. When he found out and Juanita wouldn’t stop, he started drinking more and more. Later there was a divorce and shortly there after Ray and Juanita got married. There was a new addition to the family, Ray Jr. from Rays first marriage. Patsy had very little respect for Ray sr. as she felt him quite the sneak. During this time and most of their marriage, Juanita and Ray lived a rather Bohemian style life.
Patsy was working as a teller in a bank in her later teens and one day a customer named Mrs. Lange came into the bank and in idle conversation mentioned her two sons one of which was named Bob. Patsy asked if her other son was named George and when Mrs. Lange said yes, Patsy said “I believe I might be your granddaughter”. Mrs. Lange was overjoyed and made arrangements with Patsy to come to her home the day that her son Bob was going to come over to take her shopping. That’s what happened, and that’s how Patsy was introduced for the first time to her biological father. He took them both out to dinner and later took Patsy over to his home but Patsy felt a bit uncomfortable (since he had known of her and her whereabouts all these years and made no contact with her) so nothing too much resulted in the meeting. They did keep in contact but it was only through Christmas cards etc. and finally that too stopped.
When Patsy met Chris Magnusson (a recently divorced gentleman) and fell in love with him, there was some problem because he was divorced and Patsy had been raised Catholic (mostly from her grandmother Ville Monte who was a devote Catholic). Patsy wanted to be able to get married in the church and wouldn’t get married unless this was the case. The priests, after much discussions with relatives, other parishes etc. and Chris taking a years worth of classes etc to become a Catholic himself, invoked the Pauline Privilege. The two were able to be married in front of the alter on April 24, 1965, thus making Patsy a new bride and a new step mother to two little ones, a baby boy (Bobby) just learning to walk and a little 3 year old girl named Tina. Their marriage was a good one, and they had many common interests. Patsy said that she loved the week ends they were allowed to have the children and the children adored being with them as well. This marriage lasted exactly 10 years and 6 days until the divorce on April 30, 1975 because of Chris’s unfaithfulness. So now Patsy not only lost a husband, she lost two beloved children. In later years, Tina asked Juanita to come to her wedding but in the mean while Chris had been married 3 more times and Patsy felt it would not be right to do so though she wanted to be there and was warmed by the thought that Tina wanted her there, she felt it best to decline the offer.
When Ray junior moved down to Houston, Ray and Juanita did too and managed an apartment in the Montrose area for about 4 or 5 years. When Patsy got her divorce, she decided to move away from that area and also came down to Houston to be near her mother. Rays sister, recently widowed from a rather well to do architect talked much about the area and she helped Juanita and Ray a great deal during this time. Patsy said she was a very sweet and generous woman but Juanita was so ugly and mean to her that the relationship became quite strained. So much so that when Ray was dying in the hospital and his sister took Patsy up there to see him, she after the visit told Patsy that she would pay for Ray’s funeral expenses but wanted nothing to do with Juanita. After Ray died, Patsy and Juanita moved into a trailer just outside of Mesa. This was an especially difficult time for them as Juanita was going through stages of Alzheimer and it was left to Patsy to care for her mother. Juanita died, (1995) 6 months after her husband Ray. Patsy had to sell many of the furnishings etc. to help pay all the incurred bills at that time.
Ray Jr. moved to California, got together with his Aunt and ran a boarding house for awhile. Ray Jr. kept in contact with Patsy off and on until Ray Sr.’s sister died and left Patsy some money. Patsy was so thrilled that someone had actually remembered her and was telling this to Ray junior. It seems he was left nothing and was quite angry about it. After that Patsy was saddened that she heard no more from him.
These notes have been taken by Carmen Schultz (former) cousin and new found friend of Patsy Weise during many enjoyable days visiting her in the hospital. During the time since Juanita’s death, Patsy has gone through a bout of cancer, an apartment fire in which her lungs were damaged, and several illnesses.