Saturday, May 15, 2010


One of my mother’s oldest and dearest friends died this week. Georgia Shearer had been fighting cancer and finally succumbed in her sleep.

When I was growing up we shared a cabin in the country with two other families; the Shearers and the Kornachers. The clubhouse was a small room with an L shaped room wrapping around two sides. The small room had a wood burning stove and bunk beds. My dad worked for Brunswick. My brother and I wrestled in the dark, under covers in our radioactive, glow in the dark painted PJs that depicted a bowling ball shattering pins at the end of an alley.

The adults stayed in the surrounding room. I never understood how they managed it. We sometimes spent winters there. The windows were screens with steel covers you raised with a rope. Our running water was stored in an old iron milk barrel with a tap welded at the bottom. We had to fill it at a nearby artesian well.

We were like one big extended family. If we weren’t at the clubhouse, we were hanging together at one of our homes in the Debaliviere neighborhood.

Georgia seemed like an aunt. She and her husband Bill had a small house on Pershing. They had a huge Great Dane named Leo who couldn’t contain his excitement. His tongue was always flying around the room spraying everything with saliva. He was always knocking my brother and me down. He scared the Hell out of us. Georgia had to lock him in her bedroom. I think she must have resented that.

Bill played piano and his baby grand filled their front room. I've heard he was pretty good. Georgia was a scientist at Washington University. My mother considered her the most intelligent person she knew and the only person who shared her cultural interests.

I remember Georgia wrapping a Christmas gift for Nick Jacovac when I was four. “Would you put my name on it too?” I asked. “Of course not!” she said. I felt like an ass. I’ll have to post a story about the Jacovacs one of these days. They are an interesting part of St. Louis' history.

Georgia and Bill got divorced after my parents did. Bill moved in with my dad for a while. He dragged a full sized upright piano into their small apartment. It was great. Then Bill died from throat cancer.

Under our Christmas tree a year later was a gift to me from Bill. It was spooky. It was an electronics hobby kit. Georgia thought I’d like it and I did!

In my early twenties I thought it was important to stay in touch with people from my past. I visited Georgia at her apartment across the street from Heman Park in University City. Everyone I did this with would pop open a beer. I guess they figured I was an adult now and it really loosened up the conversation. I got information out of my uncle Bud and my grandmother I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Years later after teaching a group of first time skydivers I noticed a woman’s who looked very familiar. “Are you Suzy Kornacher?” I asked. She said she had a different last name now and asked where I knew her from. I told her my name and we both stood there dumbfounded as our pasts rushed in. She invited me to a party at her house and insisted I bring my kids and my mother.

The party was great. A lot of my students were there. Even better her parents, Bob and Flo, and Georgia were there too. Everyone was much older of course. My mother was practically a shut in at the time and it was an opportunity to reestablish contact. They all began to talk on the phone and send emails.

My mother was just collecting photos to send to Georgia when Flo called with the news. The ones I'm posting are a few she was going to send.

This is one of those subjects that as I write, I realize there's more to tell than I can say here. I’ll have to do it in pieces I guess.

Rest in peace Georgia.

Pics of Georgia holding me in front of a laundromat across the street from the Wabash train station on Delmar- left to right----- Bill, Bob and my dad under a Lautrec at the clubhouse-Mrs. Trendle and my mom- Flo and Georgia - Christmas at the clubhouse (I'm wearing binoculars)


Anonymous said...

The Udells, Shearers and Kornachers shared the cabin at Giessows Cottage Farms for a few years in the late 50's and early 60's and I stupidly let my friendship with Georgia drift away - mostly our mutual divorces, I guess. Her death has been a struggle for me, as I realize what a sterling friend she was. A true friend in fun pursuits as well as once when I was in dire financial straits. When I'm having problems I tend to withdraw, but one day she showed up at my humble south side abode with $100.00 - a fortune in those days. She laughingly referred to me as a flower child. I wasn't really, just not particularly adept at keeping it together.

Telling about Georgia could take many pages,so I'll stop now.

I've been very fortunate that my good friends have been very intelligent, but Georgia was the most intelligent, I'm sure. Definitely the one with whom I had the most in common and with whom I had the most fun. Artsy fartsy movies, the museum, local bars on our nights out and just hanging out.

When David was beginning to talk he couldn't say Georgia so he called her Taj.

So long, Taj.

David's Mom

Anonymous said...

Addendum: The Shearers had attended the University of Texas in Austin. They came to St. Louis because Georgia got a job doing research work under Barry Commoner at Washington University. After some years he returned to New York but she worked at Washington U. all these years. One of her co-workers was Ali McGraw's aunt. Another was married to one of the Symingtons. The last few years she was pretty ill as well as being past retirement age, but she loved her job and was going in, working for free. Someone picked her up and took her to work because she was unable to drive, and, of course toward the end could not go in every day due to her illness.

When I married Jerry and came to St. Louis I met the Shearers and later the Kornachers (who weren't married then) because they, as well as Jerry, all belonged to the St. Louis Jazz Club. The Shearers were very fond of Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden, who sometimes played together. I never asked Bill or Georgia but I always suspected they probably performed at the university while they were students and which they probably had fond memories.

David's Mom

Dorothy said...

My sympathy to you and your Mom , David. Georgia sounds like an exceptional and well loved friend. Someone sent me a card recently that referred to good friends as charming gardeners, who help our souls bloom. I'm sure you were very special to her. Dede

Leah White said...

What a comforting and interesting experience it has been to read your comments on Georgia. Georgia was my first cousing. Her mother, Elsa and my mother, Agnes were sisters.
I only learned today (Feb 28, 2011) that Georgia died in May 2010. I'm still adjusting to that fact and your memories were helpful.