Ione ‘Glee’ (Wasbotten) and Albert ‘Al’ Nagahashi

(1933-1993)                             (1915-2000)

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Aunt Glee and Uncle Al were Joel’s quintessential ‘cool’ aunt and uncle. Having no children of their own, their home in Villa Park, Chicago provided an oasis for the six Sauer kids. It’s where they learned the ritual of cocktail hour where Glee drank her red wine and Al his Early Times with two ice cubes, never more, never less. Two of their many schnauzers are depicted at their place setting. These could be Brunhilda, Diablet, Schnapsy, or Anka…a few through the years, always a pair. They are eagerly awaiting any scrap of food. No luck with Glee. A little luckier with Al.

The Sauer kids played ping pong for hours on end, learned that the card game of bridge was complicated, and the game of golf an art form. Glee is most remembered for talking. Not just the rambling on sort of talking, but talking with big colorful words and conversation that sparkled like her ruby solitaire ring catching the light as her hands helped her tell the story. She was a master of words, filling in every square of the Sunday Chicago Tribune crossword puzzle before getting dressed for the day which is why it serves as their placemat.

There’s a great story that’s been told through the years involving Grandma Louise and Aunt Glee. These two women were from opposite sides of the Sauer family tree so were rarely together, but when they were they truly enjoyed each other’s company. One of those times together occurred in Uniontown, Missouri to celebrate the birth and baptism of Joel’s eldest sibling, Sue. When together that time, they took a side trip to the Mississippi River with Joel’s Mom and Dad and baby Sue. The four of them stood on the banks, watching the flow of the river, dreaming of how exciting it would be to float down to New Orleans in Tom Sawyer-esque fashion. With Glee’s gift of words, Louise’s wanderlust nature, and Dad’s love of literature, they concocted quite the detailed scenario. Mom’s practical nature and the reality of holding a newborn baby didn’t allow her the freedom to explore such frivolity. Understandable, yes? Nonetheless, the Tom Sawyer book is between them as a reminder of Glee and Louise’s joint love of adventure and fun.

Al was quieter, that is, unless you could get him to put on his pathologist’s hat and talk about his theories on curing cancer. Or if he really got going, a hearty ‘discussion’ on politics would light him up. Mostly though, I remember Uncle Al standing with his glass of bourbon held close, his shoulders hunched a bit, his mouth turned up slightly into a closed smile, and his eyes twinkling at me as though I had just lit up his day. The first time I met him was at my first Sauer family Christmas when I was just stopping by as Joel’s girlfriend and not really part of the festivities. When I arrived and met him, he pulled me to the side and quietly handed me a gift to open. It was a small crystal cat that I can’t for the life of me find or else it would be on the table at his spot. What I’ll never lose though is the memory of his twinkling eyes letting me know without words that I hadn’t been overlooked.

It feels odd to talk about them separately though because for me they are remembered as a unit. Glee and Al. That’s it. Beloved aunt and uncle.


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