Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 18, 2018

Ione talks to us

Ione has been talking to us again. That’s not unusual this time of year. She’s pretty chatty in the fall too. Still, it’s a bit odd since she died 23 years ago.

Husband Art’s Vaughan relatives were the quiet and reserved type. But no one would accuse his Herrmann side, including Aunt Ione, of being either reserved or quiet. All of her siblings, including Art’s mom Donna, were somewhat larger-than-life.

Like the others, Ione was a woman of somewhat amazing contrasts. By some measures, she seemed to have been a real feminist. Art’s dad told him that one of his enduring memories was arriving at his in-laws’ home to see the back door fly open as Ione's brother Art made an exit at full speed. A step behind was Ione, yelling, “I’ll get you yet, by God!”

Right out of high school in the middle of the Depression, she went to work for a local drug store. She quickly moved from clerk to the cosmetics counter. She was cute, so acquiring a boyfriend was no surprise. But it remains a mystery how she convinced her pillars-of-the-church parents to allow him to move into their home. World War II took him out of the picture.

She was soon offered a position in charge of the cosmetics counter in neighboring Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers’ headquarters was a block away and players stopped by to eat at the lunch counter. She dated several and came to know many of the stars from the team’s glory days of the early 1940s.

Another cosmetics job prompted a move to South Bend, Indiana. Not long after, she accepted a position with famous cosmetics maker Revlon. She taught schools for the counter women, demonstrating how to use the company’s products. Chicago was her home, but she routinely flew to places such as Kansas City and Boston at a time when most women were homemakers and very few men set foot in a plane.

Ione had many suitors. Dropping into clubs to see performances by people like Tony Bennett was routine.

Art and family were visiting one time when they took a cab from a club back to her high-rise apartment building on Lake Shore Drive. The driver may have decided to pad the bill by taking these out-of-town hicks the long way. Art said he actually felt sorry for the poor cabby when Ione unloaded on him.

Yet for all of her “in-charge” nature, Ione never learned to drive. Politically, she was a staunch conservative. She frequently praised her religious grandfather until Art’s family research uncovered that his first child had been born out of wedlock. She never spoke of him again!

When the constant travel began to get her down, she quit and returned to her hometown. She and sister Arline briefly opened a small shop together. Everyone knew it would be a disaster as they were both strong-willed.

Art and his cousin Jeff were also sometimes victims of her contradictory nature. Jeff often helped Ione with household things, while Art only saw her occasionally, having moved to Kansas years earlier. One day, Ione asked the pair to put up a wall hanging. A loose part almost fell to the floor. Ione berated Jeff about not being careful while completely ignoring Art. The two cousins just looked at each other and laughed. After all, that was just Ione!

She frequently railed against abortion, but without a qualm, paid for one for a deceased friend’s unwed daughter.

Ione was a wonderful cook, when she wasn’t distracted. Then she might forget to put in an ingredient or double another not realizing she had already added it. She often made special dishes for people. Art loved her rum-soaked fruitcake made each Christmas just for him.

Ione hosted an annual family Christmas dinner at her apartment. Donna, Ione and their brother Art “got into it” in the kitchen one year. But when the food was ready, no one would know anything had ever happened.

Ione liked crafting and made tons of knitted ornaments and figures. Daughters Mariya and Katie each have a set of Christmas ornaments. Mariya also has a train, Katie, a village, and I, a nativity set - all painstakingly made by Ione.

One of my favorite Christmas memories happened when Mariya was about 3. Art was driving us around looking at the elaborate holiday lights and decorations. Mariya, who can be assertive too, was in her car seat between Ione and Donna. Whenever one of them would exclaim about a particular sight, Mariya’s arm would move out and push them back so she could also see.

In 1993, Art invited Ione on a trip to Germany, Austria and Poland to see the places her Herrmann ancestors called home. Many cautioned him about what he was letting himself in for. Art, who has an abundant supply of Herrmann genes himself, just chuckled and said, “I’m the one with the car keys!”

Ione frequently bought gifts for people and during that trip, she bought a cute dress for Katie, Russian nesting dolls for Mariya and items for all her great-nieces and great-nephews. Whenever a birthday came around, she always sent a card. She remembered each niece and nephew in her will, although Art’s brother Tommy’s portion was somewhat smaller as he had made her mad on one occasion. We all laughed about that too.

They say a person is not really dead as long as people remember and talk about them. By that measure, Ione is alive and well because family gatherings always include “Ione stories.” But Ione still speaks to us in another way. On her deck, she had a small, but heavy wind chime. After her death, Art hung it on our deck. Though quite weathered, whenever there is a breeze, she talks. And with Kansas being Kansas, she probably talks now even more than before - although that is hard to imagine.

Left: Ione, left, with Green Bay Packer guard Pete Tinsley and his wife Bernice in front of the drug store in Green Bay where Ione was in charge of the cosmetic counter; top-middle-left: Ione with Packers running back and future NFL Hall of Fame member Tony Canadeo; top-middle-right: Ione's senior class picture; bottom-middle: Katie, Mariya and Ione the summer before Ione's death; right: Ione's wind chime.

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