Monday, January 17, 2011

Story of a Diamond Ring

It was unfair of me to ask you to guess my middle name in my last post, since I doubt any of you has ever heard of the name Zouri before.  I was named after my great-grandmother, Zouri Frances Colahan Gerstacker., that charlatan, lists her as both Louise Zouri and Frances Zouri, but a copy of the 1900 Cuyahoga County census gives the correct name, alongside her older siblings, Harry and Stella, and her parents, Solon and Lizzie Colahan.  It also lists Solon's occupation: Huckster.  A huckster???  Is that a real profession?

Family legend says that Solon chose his second daughter's name from a book about India he was reading at the time.  I have never found this book, so I'm not sure how reliable this information is.  All Google will tell me is that it is Japanese for flip-flop.

Zouri married Edwin Gerstacker, and they settled in Rocky River, Ohio, near Cleveland. When the Great Depression hit, they suffered some financial losses, so they relocated to a farm in Lorain County to raise their three boys, and moved into the house where one of them, my 92-year-old grandpa, still lives today.  My mom describes her Grandma Zouri as a country lady who was quiet, classy and refined.  A few years ago when I was getting married, she told me this story about her.

For a long time after they had moved to their new farmhouse on Baird Road, the Gerstackers were still viewed as "outsiders" in the Henrietta farming community.  Zouri had joined the Women's Guild of the local church and tried to participate in all of their events.  At one of these, a baking get-together at a neighbor's home, Zouri was helping wash the dishes, when suddenly she realized that her diamond wedding ring was missing.  She searched frantically all over the neighbor's home before coming to the conclusion that it had slipped off in the sink and gone down the drain.  She went home in tears, devastated.

Ed consoled his wife, and the next day, he went to visit the neighbor.  I'm told Ed was a gregarious fellow, a cigar smoker and big talker.  He politely asked his neighbor for permission to take apart their sink and examine the drain trap to look for the missing ring, promising to leave everything as he'd found it.  The neighbor said no.  I'm sure Ed tried to argue, but for whatever reason, the neighbor wouldn't relent, and finally Ed had to give up.  The ring was gone.  So he went out and bought his beloved Zouri a bigger, prettier diamond ring to replace what she had lost.

What happened to my great-grandparents is not the most original or surprising story, but I loved hearing it and knowing that these are the kind of people I come from.  I'm sure a new ring was probably something they couldn't really afford, but all Ed cared about was trying to take away the sadness and guilt his wife was feeling (and maybe a little f-you to the neighbors).  Great achievements earn awards, but it's the smaller, easily forgotten acts of kindness that teach us to be compassionate human beings. And so, today I would like to recognize my great-grandpa, Edwin Henry Gerstacker, as an Awesome Ancestor.  I even made a little art for the occasion:

(I feel I should mention that these are not the Gerstackers)
Do you have an Awesome Ancestor with a great story that you think deserves to be told?  It doesn't have to be as sappy as mine--maybe a funny story?  If you are so inclined, I invite you to copy this picture (or not) and tell their story on your blog.  If you do this, please leave a link in my comments, so I can read your story!


  1. I don't think I have an awesome ancestor, but then I've never looked before. You have a very unique middle name! Mine is pretty boring (Kathleen). Wanna trade?

  2. It took me a long time to love my middle name--in elementary school I thought it was soooo embarrassing :)

  3. Awesome name and awesome story! Hello Writing Wednesday topic!

  4. That's a great middle name and awesome story to go along with your awesome ancestors.

  5. What a great story! And I love this idea. I think I'm going to have to steal it. :)

  6. Zouri is very unique. I never would have guessed it. I was thinking Zelda until you said it ended with an 'i'. So...Zeldi? =P But Zouri--pretty name! And interesting history. =)

  7. Fun story!
    I think I should be a huckster when I 'grow up'. (which may never happen...and since I am now officially the ugly number 40, I am pretty safe in that thinking ;)

    I think Zouri a beautiful name.