By DIANE R. CHODAN
OBSERVER Staff Writer
The Abram family is large but closely knit. When they have reunions, between 60 and 80 people attend. This year, two pillars of the family - a set of fraternal twins - celebrated their 90th birthday at the reunion held in Cassadaga on July 4.
John "Jack" Abram and Mary (Abram) McNeight Marsh were born in Brocton, on Lake Avenue and Smith Street on July 6, 1922. The Abram family later moved to Cassadaga. Ten years after the birth of Jack and Mary, another set of fraternal twins, Donald and David, were born. In all, the family consisted of three girls and six boys. The youngest sister, Kathleen (Abram) Zembryski was born 20 years after the first set of twins.
Jack recalled the night Kathleen was born.
"I asked my dad what was wrong with mother."
Mary interjected, "I told him she was going to have a baby."
A lively pair, Mary and Jack have many interesting stories to tell. They graduated from Cassadaga Valley Central School in 1940. Jack recalled that instead of taking a class trip, the class put the money into a podium, something that would be lasting.
Mary recalls that she picked on Jack during their school days.
"I was the tattletale," she said. "I would tell Mother and Father when he got into trouble or didn't do his work."
With a chuckle, Jack recalled that when he graduated, Mr. Olmstead told him, "Miracles do happen, Jack."
Mary went on to attend college at Fredonia and received her degree. In 1943, she married Fred McNeight, a military man. They had four children - Tom, Joe, Bill and Mary Kay. They were married for 21 years. After she became a widow, she married Ed Marsh. Mary currently lives in Sterling Heights, Mich.
Mary described herself as a military wife. She followed her husband and made a home in Texas, Oklahoma, and Maryland. She and her husband were also in Germany for three years. She explained that at the time, "If you were married, you couldn't teach."
While being a military wife was not easy, Mary said, "I liked it."
Jack enlisted in the Marines in 1942. He married his wife Fern in October 1945. They also had four children - Dale, Dan, Terry and Kathy.
Jack was stationed in the South Pacific during World War II. One of his war experiences occurred on a ship in Okinawa Bay (called Suicide Bay by members of the military). His job was to assist the navy gunners. He recalls the black puffs of smoke followed by a vivid orange color.
"We could hear the shell whistle," he said. Then he saw something that looked like a flock of geese.
"Then all hell broke loose," he said. "They were all kamikaze. Each one had picked out a ship. I could see the young Japanese pilot. He missed us (ship 598) but hit 599 our sister ship."
Jack said 599 continued firing. Then suddenly everything got quiet and he saw clouds of black powder. Men started swimming toward his ship and "we pulled them up."
Another story Jack told was that he met his brother Bill who was in the navy and serving on a destroyer in the Pacific during the war. Because of wartime security, he had no idea where his brother was, although he said, "Mother knew the (general) area we were."
Jack and Mary's dad was also a military man serving in France during World War I. The Abram brothers all served in the military in different branches of the service. Bill served in the navy and Dave and Bud in the Air Force. Dick served in the Army in Korea.
The Abram family has other characteristics in common beside military service.
One is longevity. Their dad died 10 days short of 100 years. As he got older, his joke was, "I just don't buy green bananas anymore."
Another characteristic of the family is twins. Both Jack's and Mary's great-grandchildren include a set of fraternal twins, a boy and a girl.
As Jack's daughter, Kathy Veith, pointed out, there are some interesting parallels in Jack's and Mary's families. Both had four children in a pattern of three boys and a girl. Mary's son Bill's first born (Jerry) is the father of a set of twins, Andre and Mary McNeight. Jack's daughter Kathy's first born (Colleen) is the mother of Kieran and Evalene Veith.
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