The Musician

By Eilene Lyon

A Photo Restored and Colorized

Recently Val Erde made a wonderful offer to do free digital colorization for eight people who use vintage photographs in their blogs. I quickly volunteered, and was so lucky she selected one of my images. I first posted this photo of the Gusso brothers last July in my 52 Ancestors prompt for “Music.”

Gusso Brothers 3rd draft

The Gusso brothers about 1917. Bill is on the left, Walter is center, and Henry on the right.

Val did such a fabulous job coloring this image, though my scan was not high-resolution. Part of me was even hesitant to see a colorized version – it’s delightful even in sepia tone. But I am glad to have this new version. Besides coloring, Val repaired the damages and the tape marks.

I placed the date of this image at 1917, because the very next page in the album has a picture of Henry in his doughboy uniform and he looks about the same age in both pictures. However, you will see that Grandma Reatha (Gusso) Halse was not particular about putting her photo albums in any sort of chronological order.

Here are the two consecutive pages in the album. The photo of Walter with the violin I would certainly date much later than the image of the three brothers. And on the second page, immediately after the World War I image is Walter and Stella Gusso in 1959!



It’s possible the trio were photographed even earlier than 1917. I determined that they were sitting in front of their parents’ home as seen in the image below. In 1917, Walter was 27, Bill was 25, and Henry was 23. What do you think? Do they look younger than that?

Home of Olive and Charlie Gusso, parents of Walter, Bill, Henry, and Katie Gusso. Taken about 1911, the image shows Walter at left, Katie, Olive, and Charlie. (Courtesy N. Gusso)

If you’d like to see more of Val’s work or have her do restoration or coloring, visit her blog at  Her rates are very reasonable and it’s easy to make payment via PayPal. I had her do a restoration for me as well and it is fabulous!

Great-grandpa Walter Gusso

Walter has a singular distinction in my family tree: going back at least to my 3rd-great-grandparent’s generation, he is the only ancestor who was born and died in the same county. My forebears were people on the move!

Walter arrived on May 28, 1890 in Codington County, South Dakota, the first child of Charles Gusso and Olive Springer. Charlie was a farmer, and Walter followed suit, buying a parcel on the edge of the new town of Florence.

What currently remains of Walter’s farm in Florence, South Dakota. Much of it is now a lake that formed when the water table rose over the past few decades. (E. Lyon 2012)

On June 10, 1914 Walter Gusso and Stella Agatha Crandall married. Family lore suggests that their first child was either stillborn or died soon after birth. My grandmother, Reatha came along on March 5, 1916. Two sons and another daughter followed over the years.

Wedding portrait of Walter Gusso and Stella Crandall.
Stella and Walter with baby Reatha.

The South Dakota plains can suffer severe weather events and in 1944, a tornado demolished part of Walter and Stella’s farm. They rebuilt. Also during this period, Walter spent some time on the west coast working in a shipyard for the war effort.

Rebuilding the granary and repairing the house after the tornado. (Courtesy N. Gusso)

According to my great-aunt, Walter in his later years was a bit of a curmudgeon, but with a “heart of gold.” She remembers his fiddle-playing, too. One thing I find in stories about my paternal side of the family is people loving to dance and having a real good time. I don’t encounter that on my maternal tree for some reason. The Smith side tended to be more serious, studious, and religious.

The Gusso family. Back: Bud, Eleanor, Norman. Front: Stella, Walter, Reatha.

Though Stella passed suddenly in 1961 from a heart attack, Walter had a long life. I met him only once, but I barely remember the occasion. This photo provides the evidence, however.

Walter and Eilene
Eilene with Walter about 1967.

Walter spent his final years in a nursing home in Watertown and died at the age of 90 on September 22, 1980.

Walter Gusso on


62 thoughts on “The Musician

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      1. Hahaha! Oh, I’ll bet they were all jumbled in a drawer and she just pulled them out and stuck ‘em in. They aren’t even in straight. My other grandma’s albums are exactly the opposite – very precise and chronological, too. U.S. Army regulation standards. 😆

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks for taking part in this and posting the colour version, Eilene.

    I understand about a photo album out of chronological order, some of my big family album is like that. Not just the older pics (dating back to the early 1930s – my very much older photos from my own family never made it into an album and as most are board backed, probably won’t in the future) but ones from my own time. I find a good way to figure out dates is from the clothes – not just the period but whether the same people were wearing the same clothes.

    To me, the boys look younger than they’d have been in 1917. Maybe go on Walter’s wedding photo and try to decide if it was taken before or after that? If it were here, I’d have said later because of the clothes, but I think we were rather out of step with America, fashion-wise, around that time.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow, Eilene. I love this photo anyway, but the colorization makes it seem as if they are sitting there in real time, as if I can hear them play. Maybe people dancing or clapping their hands to the music. I love it!!!! Val does such fabulous work, doesn’t she?!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I wish I could have gotten to know him, but I never lived anywhere near South Dakota. He died the year I graduated from high school and was the only great-grandparent I ever met (the others all being long gone before I came along).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Val’s work is impeccable and although I do love black and white and sepia toned photos, I think the colorization really breathes life into them. It pushes your imagination just that little bit further when trying to picture these people in real life. I think the boys look younger, more in their teenage years than their twenties.

    Liked by 2 people

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