If you ask many writers or actors, frequently they say they prefer writing about or playing the part of a “bad guy.” Those characters tend to be more complicated and interesting, compared to “nice” ones. Think Scarlett O’Hara vs. Miss Melanie, or Rhett Butler vs. Ashley Wilkes.

Family history isn’t much different, in that respect. It is much easier for me to find someone who did something “naughty” somewhere in their life, than to declare someone “nice.” To begin with, I don’t know personally the earlier ancestors, to know what they were like. While I may find newspaper articles or court documents about the transgressions of an ancestor in the mid-1800s (documenting “naughty”), “nice” really doesn’t show up with proof.

Back in Strong Woman you met my husband’s maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Nolan Kukler. She was the sixth child (of ten) of Patrick Nolan and Alice Needham, who you’ve been reading about the last couple weeks. In that earlier post, I described Elizabeth as

  • strong
  • feisty
  • resourceful
  • ready to have a good time

Another major characteristic, though, was that she was nice. Even with the little amount of time I was able to spend with her, I could see that. It wasn’t a superficial, sugar-coated “nice.” She was just a good person, plain and simple. What evidence do I have of that?

  • she named her oldest son William–the same name as the older brother who had died at age two. She never met that brother, yet she did something to remember him.
  • if she saw a stray dog, she’d put out some scraps for it. She was not an animal hoarder by any stretch of the imagination, but she did what she could, when she could.
  • similarly, if a stranger was walking by the house, in need of a meal, she would find something for him. With seven children to feed, it probably wasn’t much, but she would help out a little.

I never got the impression she did any of this with a lot of fanfare or attention. That wasn’t her style. But, yes, she was nice, and I am honored to have known her.


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