Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Common Man - Joseph Nadon

JOSEPH NADON, in silhouette
And thoughts on who bestows immortality on whom,
at least for a while.

Preservation of this little scissor-snipped silhouette is thanks to one Miss Mary O'Connell, Race Street, Philadelphia, deceased about 1981 or 1982. No known relatives. Her priest from Harrisburg managed her estate, such as her belongings were, and this was among the discards he was not interested in, as he salvaged what he could for sale, to pay for her burial and a marker.

Someone cared enough to save this little hand-cut memento after it was made, and Mary kept up the care. Joseph Nadon. His name is apparently French; her father would have been Irish or such, with the O'Connell. As far as we knew, she lived in Philadelphia at least her whole adult life.

We lived on the floor below her apartment in a venerable solid house near the University of Pennsylvania, three sets of renters and the landlord below. We knew her as a friend, an elderly lady making her way up the stairs and down, past our door, with shopping bag, woolen coat, sensible black shoes, and ancient black hat flat on top, hair in a bun behind. We miss her. But who is Joseph Nadon? His name is written in pencil there on the right side, going up. Look closely. There he is.

Women and immortality:  men may make buildings and things, and carve their names on; in an effort not to die. Women may pass on recipes with the name on it, so that Mrs. Stafford's 5-day pickles live forever (they should); or Mrs. Henry's fast non-gourmet tasty aspic from the 1970's, duly passed down to This Hus, gets remade every so often. She also added dollops of cream cheese at the end to hot spinach.

 Immortality. The recipe card.

How many of us keep keepsakes carefully in trunks, an immortality as lasting, is that so?

Silhouettes: named for an 18th Century French minister, of finance: in 1759. See the rise of this art, at ://  they became part of Americana and folk art, see ://

Handsome fellow. So we googled him:

  • There is a Joseph Nadon, son of Jean-Baptiste Nadon and wife Dormie Rochon. That Joseph was a carpenter, and he married in 1973, roots in French RC. What is that? He married Emma Ranger. They had a daughter, Marie Anne Nadon born 1885 and died in 1967, so she is not our Mary, See ://
  • There is another Joseph Nadon, who married Melanie Chevalier in Quebec in 1833, see ://
  • There is another thread for a Joseph Nadon at; and posts with at least one connection to New England
So we stop. To me, an unknown silhouette is someone's memory to be cared for in turn. So we do.

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