I was born Mary Ann Abraham. My mother, Erna Surendorf, was an immigrant from Germany and my dad, Leo E. Abraham, was an immigrant from Persia.
Mother was a nanny and learned English from the children, as she was anxious to become a U.S. citizen. Dad knew English and was a maker of handmade Oriental rugs, not machine-made as they are now. Mother immigrated to Chicago, Illinois, and Dad to Indianapolis, Indiana. They met in Chicago where Dad was selling rugs.
They were married in Chicago where my brother Johnie Abraham was born. Dad wanted to move to California to find work, Mother said yes, as long as there were street cars for transportation. Dad, Mother, and Johnie moved to Turlock. No street cars then, no street cars to date!
Dad got a job working on a ranch for 25 cents an hour. Brother Robert Abraham was born in Denair, where they lived in a shack made of cardboard. Soon they saved enough money to buy a ranch, build a house and later buy a car. Dad worked long hours and was able to purchase more ranches.
Dad told my brothers in 10 years they would have a baby sister and 10 years later I was born.
I went to the same elementary and high school as my brothers, Vincent Elementary, a two-room schoolhouse, and Turlock High School. I went on to Valley Commercial College in Modesto, Fresno City and Fresno State colleges. Arne Nixon was my favorite professor. We both loved and enjoy books for children.
I worked for Turlock and Fresno Unified School districts and retired from Clovis Unified. I worked many positions that included: audio visual and library technician, attendance secretary, secretary to the school psychologist and the supervisor of grounds and maintenance, and the Westinghouse Reading Learning Corporation supervisor.
I worked for Ebell Insurance Marketing. I learned a new vocabulary of insurance terms. Gene Ebell made working a fun and positive experience. I worked nights and weekends for Macy’s in Fresno. I enjoyed helping brides and their families in fine China and later to meet again helping young mothers in the infant/children’s department. I retired 35 years and 10 months after working those wonderful years.
I met Stan Gamegan while dragging 10th Street in Modesto. Stan worked for Santa Fe Railroad. We decided to go to Reno, got married and lived in an apartment in Turlock. Stan was transferred to San Francisco where we lived in walking distance of the Presidio, looking toward the Palace of Fine Arts. We were young and enjoyed our time living in the city.
Stan was transferred to Fresno and we purchased our first home in Clovis. Since we were near Bass Lake, Stan and his dad built a home near The Pines. We enjoyed the cabin and boating on the lake. Fourth of July on the lake was fun with beautiful fireworks. Getting back home at night was another matter. No white lines to follow on the water.
In later years Stan was ill with a heart condition. On Valentine’s Day he had his first heart attack. Not too sure if he didn’t want to go to the dentist that day or to get out of getting a box of candy for me. He had heart surgery and was in ICU for 17 days. He later passed away with lung and brain cancer, 26 years ago.
When I retired I treated myself to a cruise of Australia and New Zealand, and trips to France and England, the Kentucky Derby and cruised the Mississippi River.
I met Gene Richardson and his wife when we arrived in Fresno where Gene also worked for Santa Fe Railroad. Gene would come to the house to visit Stan when he was ill.
When Gene’s wife passed away, I sent him a sympathy card. A few months later he called me asking what old people do on Friday night. I said, “I don’t know, I’m not old, but we could go out for dinner.”
After 10 years of living alone I was not too sure about marriage. Gene and I were married 16 years ago in the Grace Community Church in Sanger. Gene is the most caring, kind, wonderful man I have ever met, always with a smile on his face. I count my blessings to have him as my husband. We have a great life together. We have done cruises to Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, and Caribbean, many times never getting off the ship, as well as day and overnight bus trips. Life is good.
I belong to the following organizations: Native Daughters of the Golden West Morada Parlor, #199, Clovis Unified Retirees Association, Friends of the Fresno County Public Library, National Steinbeck Center, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Retired Public Employees Association, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Clovis Committee on Senior Activities and the National Association of Retired and Veterans Railroad Employees, Fresno Unit #60.
I attend the Clovis Stories of Service class each week with many interesting stories the veterans share, along with current affairs of the veterans and military.
Guy and Chrissy Gallinetti invited us to the Clovis Senior Activity Center. Gene and I have been coming ever since for lunch and now volunteering. We have made many new friends. I look forward to each day I can serve at the center.
I live in Stonebrook, a gated community in Clovis where the people are friendly and we have wonderful neighbors. I enjoy the clubhouse library, the potlucks, Bunco, bingo and canasta.
It is a privilege to live in America and to have the freedom we have that other countries do not have thanks to our veterans and military.