Week 7: #52 Ancestors – Love
By Eilene Lyon
A long marriage doesn’t necessarily an indicate a deep love and respect, but it’s a good start. I chose this couple, my great-uncle and great-aunt, Norman and Delores Gusso, because not only did they have a long marriage, but they also have a large, close-knit family demonstrating a loving life together.
When I started putting my family tree on Ancestry.com some years ago, I assumed that everyone in my grandparents’ generation had passed on. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was wrong! My uncle encouraged me to call Norman and Delores out of the blue. As a bit of a phone-phobic person, that was way outside my comfort zone.
But I called, and after explaining who I was, I was further astonished that Delores remembered in detail the one time my family had visited them back in 1970! She described the event and it all rang true. I don’t remember the occasion aside from knowing we went to South Dakota.
I finally got to meet Delores and Norman in person in 2012. Delores was in the hospital at the time, so I don’t have any photos (I wouldn’t want to be photographed in a hospital gown, either). They were such a delight – eminently huggable! I never saw Norman again, though we stayed in touch by phone. I had another opportunity to visit Delores in 2015.
I’ve also met two of their five children (presumably I met them all back in 1970). Though they are my dad’s first cousins, they are closer to me in age (three older than me and two younger).
Norman Gusso was the youngest child of Walter and Stella (Crandall) Gusso, born July 5, 1923 in Florence, South Dakota. He grew up on the family farm and did some farming himself for many years. He later went to work as the gas-delivery man for the local co-op. He was an avid participant in baseball and fast-pitch softball and a life-long sports fan. He also enjoyed dancing and playing cards.
Delores Thayer was born December 22, 1925 on a farm near Cogswell, North Dakota, to Lea and Mable (Meeker) Thayer. After high school, she moved to Watertown, South Dakota, to train as a nurse during World War II. The young nurses were needed to replace the women who had gone to serve in the military. After completing her training in 1946, she worked as a registered nurse at Watertown Memorial Hospital.
Norman and Delores married on September 23, 1946 in Watertown. They lived for many years in Florence and later in Watertown. Delores told me she didn’t know how to cook when she got married, but her brother-in-law and sister-in-law (Bud and Lois Gusso) gave her a Betty Crocker cookbook as a wedding gift and she made an effort. Cooking never became a great love, though.
Over a 17-year span, the couple had four sons and one daughter. Norman passed on his love of sports. Norman and Delores both loved telling stories and had great senses of humor.
They celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1996 and went on to have 17 more anniversaries. Norman died January 21, 2014 at the age of 90, and Delores lived another four years, going to meet Norman on April 4, 2018. I’m so grateful I had the chance to get to know them while there was still time. That’s one of the beautiful benefits of researching your family tree.
Norman and Delores Gusso on Ancestry.
P.S. For the record, I still have one living great-aunt (by marriage). She’s 92 and lives in South Dakota. We met in 2015 and stay in touch. She is the last of my grandparents’ generation.