Sunday, February 12, 2006

Iron Pearl

Last Friday my family buried an incredible woman. Pearl Knox, aka Pearl Nespodjeinski aka Pearl Nakkakis (shortened to Knox by immigration) lived a hard life full of sacrifice, dedication and happiness. Her mother was a Polish immigrant and a very stern woman, and reinforced the traits that would make Pearl both someone you did not want to cross, and a person who would give you the shirt off her back.

Living in Pittsburgh, she did not reach high school education, she worked as a house cleaner at the age of 15, became a mother, and was divorced, taking back her daughter and raising her in a time when it was less than fashionable to do so. She worked as a potscrubber at US Steel, worked in a produce warehouse, and eventually as a supervisor at the Pittsburgh School of the Blind. When she worked these jobs, she often had one or two others-I know because I sometimes worked with her because it was the only chance I might get to see her. As she raised my mom, there was often little to eat in the house, but my grandmother always came through and provided for my mom and all of the other relatives and friends who depended on her. She often cooked lunches and dinners for my uncles that worked in the steel mills, she would bake a t Chirstmas for the neighborhood, she would paint your house, help you move in or out, shovel your snow, and nurse you back to health. How she did all of this for so many people, I have no idea.

My grandmother was an inspiration to me and when she retired back in the 90's I hoped she would be able to enjoy life and relax. It was then that she developed diabetes and was forced to sell her house on the South Side and move to Virginia with my mom. My mom has said that the last 6 years were the best. She said that it mattered most because now she could catch back up with her mom because she never really got to see her much as a kid.

I dedicated my masters thesis to her back in 1993 because she was the epitome of hard work. She and my relatives are the definition of tough. My troubles and sufferings are nothing compared to those they suffered and endured. Her legacy to me, besides showing me how to laugh, is dedication to family, perseverence, and never giving up.

She is buried high atop a hill over looking her beloved South Side and those that still walk the nieghborhood streets. Most of my family is there. I will miss her laugh, her endless swearing, her kind heart, her baking, and her love. If I am lucky, I will be able to emulate her to some degree and become as much of a success as she was.