I have a lot of “Characters” in my family so, I had to make the tough decision of which one to write about. I decided to feature one that I had actually met. My Great Aunt, Rosemary Asenath McGowan was born in September 1898 in Lexington, Lafayette County, Missouri. She was the 5th of 8 children born to John Henry McGowan (1863-1957) and Asenath “Dolly” Walt (1863-1921). After High School she moved to Kansas City to pursue a career in Music. She had learned to play piano and the harp as a young girl and wanted to play in a professional orchestra. She also loved art and fashion. These were lofty goals for a young country girl.
She met and married Louis John Bauerle (1920-1991) on March 1, 1919, in Kansas City. She was 20 years old and Louis was 18. By the next year they had their only child, a daughter name Louise Joy. Rosemary was accepted into the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra in 1927 playing the Harp. Over the years she played in many diverse orchestras and musical performances. She also took painting classes and became a pretty well-known artists in the area. Having only the one daughter, she made all of the clothes for both Louise and herself.
When I first met Aunt Rosemary, I knew nothing about her nor her life. We were at a small Smith/McGowan family reunion in Oak Grove, Missouri. I was amazed at this older woman (she was 67) who got out of a very large car, along with a tall, bald man who had a cigar in his mouth. She was dressed in a what I believe was a deep purple silk dress, and matching high heels. I say “believe” because I was 12 years old and I had no idea about fabrics. The best part of her outfit was a mink wrap! She was so excited to meet me and my sister that she literally ran to us. She picked me up and swung me around laughing the whole time. I laughed because the mink tickled my face. I watched in amazement as she flitted around, talking to everyone. Then, as fast as she had arrived, she and Louis climbed back into their car and left.
A couple of months later we drove into Kansas City to have dinner at Aunt Rosemary’s House. When we drove up to the house, I could hardly see the front door because of all the plants and trees in the yard. When we went inside, once again I got picked up and hugged so tight, I thought I was going to pass out. When she finally put me down, I looked around the room and it was filled with so many items! There was a large collection of Hummel’s, art deco clocks, and Niloak Ozark Tourist Pottery. There were about 5 curio cabinets with miscellaneous glassware, and other collectibles. We then walked into the “dining room”. There was only one item there, a white grand piano! It was so large we had to move sideways to get around it. In the den was 3 beautiful harps, along with some comfy over stuffed furniture.
We made our way into the kitchen where the table was set with china and crystal glasses. After we ate Aunt Rosemary took my mother, sister and me into her bedroom. She and Uncle Louis had separate rooms so hers was completely purple with the biggest bed I had ever seen. She opened one closet and it was filled with furs. The other had fancy dresses and more shoes than any one person could possibly wear.
I was enthralled with her. She told stories about her days in the orchestra, and she took us into a third bedroom that was covered top to bottom with her paintings. Every inch of the walls was covered. She said the art museum in Kansas City had asked her if her paintings could be donated to them after she dies, and she said they would be.
Then came my favorite part of our time there. We went back into the dining room where she sat down at the piano and began to play. It was so beautiful. Then over my mother’s objections she let me sit at the baby grand and try to play it. She sat beside me and taught me a couple of simple songs. I was in heaven!
We soon said our goodbyes and we headed home. I never saw my Great Aunt and Uncle again because about a month after this visit my mother began her descent into her mental illness, and she methodically disowned all of her side of the family. By the time we left Missouri both sides of the family were cut off. However, I will always have my memories of this extraordinary woman, who was like no one else I ever met.