Delia “Di” Gaffney
(1864 – 1952)
|Delia “Di” or “Deal” Gaffney. This is part of
a group portrait of the six Gaffney sisters.
There seems to be an impish expression behind
those innocent eyes, as if Di had to stop whatever
mischief she was up to to pose for this portrait.
One story went that when Delia was a toddler, one of her sisters (no one would say who) was carrying her around in the field when she stumbled into a ditch and fell, dropping the baby. Delia’s back was injured, causing her to walk with a limp all her life.
The other story was that she was deaf in one ear, a possible result of childhood scarlet fever.
Due to one or both of these incidents, Delia, variously nicknamed “Di” and “Deal,” turned to humor as a way of deflecting attention from her physical challenges. She loved playing practical jokes on her family and many of the townspeople of Conneaut. She told colorful stories and had a wicked sense of humor that kept people wondering what she would be up to next.
Di was born at home in Conneaut on June 23, 1864. She used to say she was born “during the dog days of summer.” She attended Conneaut High School as far as her freshman year.
For reasons unknown, she seems to be the only one of the sisters who never held a job outside home throughout her life. One would think that as a single woman, she would have had to support herself. She, did, however, contribute a significant amount to the household by cooking and cleaning while her sisters worked. She also looked after their mother, Bridget (Quinn) Gaffney, when Bridget became too old to care for herself.
She followed the same pattern her sisters had, living first in Conneaut and then moving to Cleveland, where all the sisters bought a house on Rocky River Drive.
In October 1952, Di was diagnosed with uterine cancer. It progressed rather quickly over the next month, and she entered Longview Hospital in Kingsville, Ohio, in mid-November. She died there, two days after Thanksgiving. She was 88 years old.
|This cookbook, given to my great aunt Detty in
1921, made its way to my mother, Joan (Schiavon)
Huesca and then to me. It is now in the possession
of my cousin, Suzanne, Benita’s granddaughter.
Di left behind a small memento for us to remember her. It was a cookbook published by a women’s group from the Congregational Church of Conneaut. Aptly called Congregational Church Recipes, the hardcover book, published in 1917, measured about 6″ x 9″ inches and contained about 100 pages. The aged-gray cover is simple with black writing. The inside first page has two inscriptions, both dedicated simply:
August 25, 1917
With love and kisses
I would love to know who “Mary” was. She might have been Di’s eldest sister, Mary Jane Gaffney, or she could have been a friend.
In 1921, Di gave the book to her niece, Benita “Detty” (McGinnis), as a wedding gift for her marriage to Phillip C. McCormick. Her own dedication is as simple as the one made to her a mere four years earlier.
To My dear
The cookbook itself contains advertisements from local businesses and recipes compiled by the women’s club of the church. The recipes are simple and encourage thriftiness; some of the cakes are “eggless, sugarless, and butterless.” Delia herself handwrote some of her favorite recipes on the back pages of the book, including the one below for “Millionaire Steak.”
Wait – Millionaire Steak in a cookbook that encouraged thriftiness? Maybe it is not so odd. After all, as a Chicago millionaire once said to one of my ancestors, how do you think the rich get that way?
1 ½ – 2 ½ lbs. sirloin steak, cut thick
1 cup carrots
1 cup celery
1 cup peas
1 can mushrooms
3 tbsp. butter
1 lg. tbsp. ketchup
3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Cook carrots, celery, peas, mushrooms, butter, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce together in a sauce pan for 20 minutes. Pour vegetables and sauce over meat and bake in oven for ½ hour. Serves 6.
Copyright © 2013 Linda Huesca Tully