Thankful Thursday: From the Angels in Heaven

Joan Joyce (Schiavon) Huesca 
(1928 – 1987)

It was still early morning on the Fourth of July, 1928, when my grandfather, Ralph Schiavon, still half asleep, rolled out of bed to answer the telephone.  Doctor Thomas Doyle, the McGinnis and Schiavon family physician, was calling with good news.


My mother, Joan Joyce Schiavon, Chicago, Illinois,
about five months old, 1928

“Well, Ralph, you’re the lucky father of a beautiful baby girl,”  he announced.

Ralph, a big man who seldom showed his emotion, felt such a surge of happiness that he thrust his powerful arm forward in triumph.  The force of his fist put a hole through the wall.
Meanwhile, John McGinnis, Alice Gaffney (McGinnis) Schiavon’s older brother, was already driving through the streets of Chicago, celebrating the birth of his new godchild, Joan.  Unable to wait for the city’s fabled fireworks festivities to begin that evening, John stayed at the hospital just long enough to see his tiny niece and left soon afterward to buy himself some firecrackers.  He was so excited that he set these off under several overpasses in the neighborhood to announce his Yankee Doodle niece’s birth.
Meanwhile, back at the hospital, my mother was making her own mark. Born one month premature and weighing slightly over two pounds, little Joan Joyce had the distinction of being one of the first babies to be born at Woodlawn Hospital.  A couple of days after she was born, a serious infection swept through the hospital nursery, and as a precaution the nurses moved Joan out of her bassinet and into Alice’s room, where she spent the rest of her two week stay swaddled in the top drawer of the dresser next to her mother’s bed.  It probably saved her from the deadly infection, which took the lives of all but two of the newborns.  My mother was one of those blessed miracle babies.
Joan at about a year old,
Chicago, 1928

Joan’s arrival was great cause for celebration in the Schiavon and McGinnis households.  Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis, her maternal grandmother, was beside herself with joy.  Looking at Joan’s fair face and tiny brunette curls, she concluded that her beloved husband, Thomas Eugene McGinnis, who had died in 1927, had chosen my mother specially from the angels in heaven and sent her to his grieving family.  The thought of this was a great comfort to Mary Jane, and it formed a special bond between my mother and her Grandma McGinnis that would endure for the rest of their lives.

Fast forward to a warm afternoon in late July, 1987, some 59 years later.  A month earlier – and only two weeks before what would be her last birthday – my mother had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.  She and I were having lunch together in a small cafe near my office in Los Altos, California, having one of our memorable heart-to-heart mother-daughter talks.  It was a luminous day, and the midday sun reached through the wide window, its rays enveloping us reassuringly in their gentle warmth.
We were all too aware that our time together had become precious and short.  We talked about many things, one of them being husband’s and my decision to finally have our first child.  We had delayed this for the first three years of our marriage, but my mother’s illness had put things in a new light.  As we sat at our table, drinking Diet Cokes, I confessed to my mother the sadness I felt that she might never know her grandchild.


She said nothing for a moment and then took my hand in hers.  Looking me straight in the eye, she said, “Linda, not only will I know your children, but I’ll go up to heaven and find them among the angels there.  I’ll play with them, and then I’ll send them down to you.”
My husband and I now have three wonderful children, and to this day, I believe my mother did just that.
Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully

Did you know Joan (Schiavon) Huesca, her parents or children, or are you a member of the Schiavon/Schiavone, McGinnis, Huesca, or Tully families?  If so, share your memories and comments below.

2 Thoughts to “Thankful Thursday: From the Angels in Heaven

  1. The sweetness of your mother's family story coupled with the pain of her early loss are so poignantly portrayed here. No wonder you have always been so fascinated with these stories!

  2. Thanks, Jacqi. I'm glad you enjoyed my mother's story. She told us these stories and many more, over and over again. Sometimes I feel as if I'm bursting with them. They deserve to be shared with family and others, and it's so good to be able to do that here.

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