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More Stories - The Way We Were
Jeanette Hine: Last Laughs
When I was three or four years old, I was madly in love with my mother's brother, my Uncle Bob. When we visited Grandpa's farm back then, Uncle Bob was just past his teens and by many accounts, including my mother's opinion, the handsomest young man in Newfield. I certainly thought so.
Jeanette sometimes baby-sat when my parents went out and, like everyone else that knew her, I loved her dearly. She teased me and made me laugh.
We had moved away when she and Uncle Bob wed and began married life in the farmhouse where my Aunt Amelia and Uncle David had lived for years, and where I was born. At first I was devastated. Uncle Bob was supposed to have waited for me to grow up so I could marry him! But Jeanette was so sweet that I got over it in a hurry, especially the first time we came to visit and she took my face in her hands and smiled that radiant smile; I knew she was delighted to see me. I promptly forgave both of them. And they were so right for each other, and so happy.
Before we left New York in 1949, we often visited Newfield. I remember Aunt Jeanette chatting with my mother, amid dirty laundry to be done, dishes waiting to be washed, a knee to bandage, a runny nose to wipe, a crying toddler to comfort or a diaper to be changed, gasping for air in the midst of an asthma attack with an inhaler in one hand, smiling, chuckling and laughing the whole time. Unbelievable!
My mother wrote me a few years back with the sad news that Aunt Jeanette was in failing health with a degenerative disease, and then wrote again in 1998 that she had died.
Dan Lummuka wrote an article in the Finger Lakes Community Newspaper on March 13, 2002, and he, the newspaper and Uncle Bob have given me permission to reproduce it.
Periodically, I write about a memorable person in my life. Everyone I have ever met has impacted me in some way. One person who added considerable joy and laughter to my life was Jeanette Hine.
I first remember Jeanette when I was just a young kid, maybe four or five years old. She was singing soprano in the Newfield United Methodist Church choir. Jeanette had one of the most incredible singing voices I had ever heard. She instantly became my favorite church singer. When my mother introduced me to Jeanette, I almost swooned. Not only did this great lady sing really well, she was very friendly with kids and laughed a lot. She fluffed my head. She then held my face in her hand, said hello and smiled a most awesome smile. I grinned from ear to ear. The lady with the fabulous voice had actually said hi to me and fluffed my hair. I fell in love with Jeanette Hine at that moment. This began a 40-plus years of a great relationship with a most admirable lady.
Jeanette graduated with my father in 1943 from Newfield Central School. That years' graduating class had a whopping 22 students receive their diplomas. Most of that class chose to remain in or around Newfield and continue their lives in this peaceful farming community. Jeanette married Robert Hine in 1944 and they began farming immediately.
The Hines' were good friends with everyone in the community. Lots of families bought milk from them and enjoyed visiting the farm. While they were busy dairy farming, Jeanette and Bob found the time to raise quite a family. First came David, followed by Marsha, Douglas and Virginia.
Doug went to school with my brother Mike, kindergarten through high school. Those two became good friends and worked many a summer making hay, hunting woodchucks (Note) and milking cows. As teenagers, Doug and Mike could devour three dozen homemade potato donuts in one sitting. I know this because I didn't get any donuts out of that batch. The two donut monsters had gobbled all the donuts and fled before I could say pass the platter.
I could write oodles of stuff about their shenanigans and shall in future stories enlighten you, the reader, on these two fellers' "mischievousness".
I met David in the choir and became an instant fan. Dave sang as well as his mom, only lower, and had her sense of humor. All you had to do was look at David and you couldn't help but laugh. This guy was always smiling a certain impish smile that was infectious. Today he continues to sport that smile proudly.
Marsha also sang in the choir as well, in an all-girls singing group, the Chansonettes, created and directed by John Emmons at the high school. Again, she had the voice of an angel, like her mom. I went totally "gaa-gaa" over Marsha. Jeepers, it was totally frustrating to have such a huge crush on a person in school that was four or five years older than you. I was such a kid and she was sooo pretty. Every few years I run into Marsha and my heart still flutters a bit.
Virginia was one year behind me in school. She inherited her mom's sense of humor and flair for life. You could always count on "Ginny" for a rousing bout of laughing and giggling. Yeah, she was beautiful too, and I was nuts about her too.
Before I was old enough to join the choir, I became an acolyte along with Roy Johnson. We would light the candles at the alter at the beginning of church service and snuff them out at the end. One particular time, maybe my last acolyte call before joining the choir, Roy and I walked up to snuff out the candles. This had been Holy Communion Sunday, so the collection plates were placed on the floor in front of the altar. I walked up to the altar, reached out with my "candle-snuffer" and proceeded to step on the collection plate with my newly grown size 13 feet. I realized immediately that I was in a fix and looked down to see the plate full of bills and change leaning at a precarious angle. I glanced over to my right at the ladies in the choir. I made one of those "oops" faces and the whole soprano and alto section began falling apart.
My mother, Jeanette Hine, Lyn Aiosa, Donna Jean Darling and Carol Riker along with others were trying very hard not to laugh but my "oops" face began a chain reaction. As they snorted and "hee hee'd", I carefully let the plate down slowly and didn't dump a dime. I then glanced at the ladies and mouthed "whew" in their general direction. That did it. Any chance for composure was lost and the whole choir fell apart. Jeanette laughed so much that she had an asthma attack and had to reach for her inhaler. It was one of my proudest moments.
I joined the Newfield United Methodist Church choir when I was in sixth grade. After six or seven years of waiting, I finally got to sing in the same choir as Jeanette. I sat next to David Hine. Sitting next to Dave was instrumental in my training for choral behavior. I became the inheritor of the "churchly" grins and good humor. I hope that I carried the tradition on half as good as Dave instilled it in me. Dave taught me to be humorous but not irreverent. Besides, his mom sat across the aisle from us and was always watching closely. She visually spanked the both of us if we got out of line the least little bit. Jeanette had a certain look when she was displeased that made you instantly behave. That look was more lethal than any verbal heck you could receive.
Jeanette sang in the choir for over 50 years. She was a devoted choir member her whole adult life. When she died in 1998, we lost a choral icon. The Newfield United Methodist Church Choir misses that voice. But, the Newfield choir's loss is the Heavenly choir's gain. Believe me, Jeanette is section leader for sure.
Most of the Newfield community remembers Jeanette, the bus driver. She gave new meaning to the word chauffeur. Jeanette, along with Betty P54akkala, were pioneers in the art of the short cut. They wouldn't hesitate to take a bus the full length of Bull Hill Road from Route 13 to Van Kirk Road, or cut cross lots down Stone Jug road to shorten the trip on Van Buskirk Gulf Road. The bus' shocks and suspension system got a major workout during these time of daring-do. Sometimes, I would ride the late bus the whole route. Jeanette would then park the bus in front of our house. She would come in and visit with my mother while enjoying a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. A bus driver that made house calls!
Boy, that doesn't happen any more.
One time, Jeanette's daring got her into a bit of a pickle. She attempted to drive a bus under the pedestrian walkway at the Co-op shopping center.
The bus exceeded the walkway's height by a few inches and the bus received a roof raising. I was told that Howard Nye, the superintendent of school transportation was very amused with the particular feat.
Jeanette was coined with the nickname "Crash Hine" after that incident. She was also famous for her Chinese fire drills at stop lights. She was so much fun!
Jeanette maintained her great sense of humor and blunt honesty, even through her last hours on this earth. Doug and Lynn Hine shared a story with me about an event that happened during those final hours. Jeanette's nephew Richard Daniel had come to see her. He asked her "How are you doing, Aunt Jeanette?" She replied with "Great!", feeling a bit miffed.
Richard then said "Oh yeah, stupid question." Jeanette then quipped "Yeah, family, what do you expect?" Doug said that what she was really saying was "How do you think I'm feeling, I'm dying!"
That's the Jeanette I shall always remember. She was honest and spoke her mind. We all miss the wit and the wisdom of Jeanette Hine. Life must be lonely for Bob without his companion of 54 years. Thank God he has the memories and a great family to remind him of the legacy that he and Jeanette gave to this world together. Bob, all four of the children carry on the very best of the Hine family tradition. They are all good people of good faith and good humor. You both did real good. Thanks.
Copyrightę 3/13/2002 Dan Lummuka & Finger Lakes Community Newspaper
Thank you, Dan, for a great tribute to, and a verbal portrait of, a funny, courageous, loving and altogether wonderful lady.
In this family portrait, Aunt Jeanette is the one in a pink pantsuit with the big grin, and Uncle Bob is at right with a blue & white striped shirt. Click photo to enlarge.
Woodchucks: For animal rights people and those who don't know what woodchucks are, they're a kind of marmot also known as a ground hog - that's right, like Punxetawney Phil. While cute, fun and harmless in most areas, they can mean death or injury to farmers who work fields that are on hillsides. Like the western prarie dog, they burrow and throw up mounds of dirt and rock. The unwary farmers who run over a mound with the uphill wheel of the tractor risk having it overturned on top of them. The husband of a relative of ours was killed this way. Hunting woodchucks isn't just a sport; it's a form of protection in hilly country like that around Newfield, and a good woodchuck dog is a prize beyond price.
For a woodchuck photo, a tongue twister and a fun article, see GetOdd.