This week’s prompt is called, “Invite to Dinner,” and the person I would most like to invite to dinner is my maternal great-grandmother, Mabel (Griffith) Mandigo. She was short in stature (only 4 feet 8 inches tall), but had a big personality. Mabel was fierce, passionate, bold and had no problem speaking her mind to whoever was in front of her. She was the sixth of eight children born to Edmund W. Griffith and Mary C. Roberts. Mabel came into this world on December 23, 1901, in Castleton, Vermont.
When she was just 14 years old, Mabel’s father, Edmund, died of ‘Lagrippe’, known today as Influenza or ‘the flu.’ Four months after the death of her father, her brother William died in a mill accident. He was only 24 years old.
Mabel and her siblings continued to live in Castleton, Vermont, through 1920. On June 21, 1921, She married Francis “Frank” Mandigo in Rutland, Vermont. In May of 1922, Mabel gave birth to her first child, a daughter, who she named Anne Elizabeth Mandigo, in Castleton. By 1923, the family moved to the small town of Tinmouth, Vermont, where she would reside for the next 11 years and give birth to the following children:
- Marjorie E, born on November 3, 1923
- Edmund Walter (my grandfather), born on April 5, 1926
- Janice Louise, born on November 23, 1928
- Barbara Lois, born on December 19, 1929
- Richard Mesach, also born on April 5, 1934.
Sadly, Richard died at 2 months old from malnutrition and tetany, as a result of surgery to correct a birth defect called pyloric stenosis. Pyloric stenosis is a rare condition in infants where the muscular valve between the stomach and small intestine (called the pyloris) thickens and actually blocks food from reaching the small intestine (which is where most nutrients get absorbed for our bodies).
In 1935, the family moved to Danby, another small town nearby. Mabel gave birth to her youngest daughter, Sylvia Carolyn, on December 11, 1937. They would remain in Danby through 1940.
By 1943, Mabel, her husband Frank, and their six living children had moved across the state of Vermont and settled in Springfield. Mabel would work cleaning houses and offices, and also worked as a nanny of sorts for her husband’s boss’s children.
On February 6, 1943, at the age of 41, Mabel gave birth to her last child, a son, and named him Francis Jeremiah, in Springfield.
Over the years, Mabel became involved with the Democratic National Party. My grandfather would call her on the telephone, disguise his voice by putting a handkerchief over the receiver, say he was calling from the Republican National Party and asked if they could count on her vote in the next election. Mabel yelled into the phone, “I wouldn’t vote for God if he was Republican!” Then she would slam down the phone. My grandfather was quite the practical joker and would do these kinds of things just to get a rise out of his mother.
I recently learned that her son-in-law once gave her an 8×10 photo of Ronald Reagan, and even went so far as to “sign” the photo, “To Mabel, with Love, Ron.” Well, Mabel told her son-in-law she had the perfect place to hang it–right over her toilet!
Mabel and Frank were married 45 years when he passed away on May 30, 1967, of congestive heart failure. Several years after her husband’s death, Mabel had developed quite a crush on the actor Burt Reynolds, and actually hung a centerfold (he was wearing shorts) of him on her wall.
In September of 1987, Mabel was admitted to the hospital. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and the level of care she needed would require her to go to a nursing home. My mother went to see her in the hospital, and Mabel, wagging her index finger with vigor told my mother, “I’ll die before I ever go to a nursing home!”
Mabel died the very next day at the age of 86. I was 10 years old at the time, and I wish I could have gotten to know her a bit more, especially as a teenager and young adult. I would have enjoyed her sense of humor and zest for life.