It was only two months ago when I mentioned the 10-year anniversary of my great-grandma's death, my G.G.  Well, out of all the siblings G.G. had, she was particularly close with her younger sister, Angeline.  So close that they lived together back in my hometown of North Riverside, Illinois. Today I salute my “Auntie” on the 10-year anniversary of her death. She died exactly two months after my G.G. passed away.

Not many people can say that they have met their great-grandparents let alone their great, great aunts and uncles.  I have met not just one but two great-grandparents and one great, great aunt. The best part was all three of them lived just a few blocks away from me.

Angeline (or as I previously mentioned "Auntie”) was my dad's great-aunt and my great, great, aunt.  G.G. and Auntie lived six blocks away from my house.  Auntie was a tremendous part of my life and of course, my sister’s life since the day my parents brought us home from the hospital. Auntie would come over to our house every Tuesday and spend the day with us.  When we were infants, she would help my mom take care of us and pIay with us.  As Katie and I grew older, Auntie would take us for walks to the park and Mother’s Day for lunch, our favorite neighborhood restaurant. Just like G.G., we would see Auntie almost every single day!  Auntie was also part of our weekend family dinners. She was even one of the weekly “Mystery Readers,” in my kindergarten class! I’ll never forget how surprised I was that day! Needless to say, Auntie was a huge part of my life just like my G.G.  It's truly hard to believe that she has been gone for 10 years.

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Colleen Manika

Similar to the way G.G. liked to cook grilled cheese or polish sausage dinners for us, Auntie loved to bake for my sister and me! Auntie knew how to make the perfect homemade brownies! The whole town of North Riverside knew about her brownies.  When it was our turn to share birthday treats with our class, she would always get the pan and just ask how many we needed.  Naturally, she made a ton because why not have a few extras!?!

My Auntie once owned her own hair salon too!  She really loved doing hair.  In fact, she even cut my hair when I was a kid.  Auntie's hands weren't the best, so she stopped cutting my sister’s hair and my hair when we were about 8-years-old.

James Manika

Probably one of my favorite memories with Auntie was visiting the gas station around the corner from her house when we went for walks. Going to the gas station only meant one thing...JUNK FOOD!  Our parents rarely gave us cookies or chips.  Therefore, naturally, my sister and I basically bought the entire store.  We would stock up on Cheetos Puffs, Tootsie Rolls, and cans of 7-Up soda.  Auntie would always get so concerned about what our parents would say! This was like the best field trip ever!

Besides trips to the gas station, Auntie taught me how to tie my shoes when I was home sick from school.  She also always had Cheerios in her container as a little snack for us whenever we were over for a visit. Sometimes...she even had little chocolate bars as a special treat!

10 years today without my Auntie...not a day goes by that I don't think about her.  I always wonder if she knows I am realizing some of my childhood dreams. I often wonder if she is proud of me.  It would have been amazing to have shown her everything I have accomplished so far as well as my life in Sioux Falls.  I know wishing all of this may sound selfish. However, if you had an unbelievably special great, great aunt like my Auntie, you couldn’t help but feel like a very important part of your life was missing.

One more thing...I actually still have some of her little notes that she gave me.  So Auntie, now it's my turn to leave you a little note.  We love you and miss you so much.  I know you’re always here and cheering us on in everything we do!

James J Hill House