Walter “Chum” Thursam, a cousin of my husband who died this past week, was an outstanding family historian, energetic and fun.
He, along with all the other Thursams, grew up in Tonawanda and even though Chum moved to Barker and later to Newfane, he always had Tonawanda at heart. Whether we enjoyed lunch with him and his sister Mary and her husband Fred, visited him at his home in Lockport, or enjoyed the company of his brother Chuck and his wife Petey, it was always a joy to hear how the Thursams grew up, no richer nor poorer than anyone else, but with a sense of family, community and religion that seems lost today.
Whenever the Thursams gathered (and it was often so the story goes) Chum would tell about the singing, family musicians who accompanied the singers, the card games and the great fun they all had together. In fact, Chum, when he was an adult, sang in the choir at his church. There are hardly any Thursams left in the area today, many are now in Florida and places south. But they all still call Tonawanda “home.”
After the funeral, our son, who teaches at Lockport High School, was talking about Chum, telling how much he enjoyed bantering with him and learning about the family. He commented on how today, the family structure is falling away along with important values of religion and communication.
“I asked my class how many went to church every week. Just one hand out of 25 went up. I asked who are your neighbors and many could not identify them,” he said.
“Teachers are surrogate families,” he added. “Schools provide breakfast, lunch, after school care and have a social network for the kids’ needs.”
Of course in today’s world, moms and dads have to work, many more than one job, just to keep their heads above water. The children are hooked on TV, X-Boxes, Ipads, cell phones and their own laptop computers, so conversation — actually talking — has become a thing of the past as are family dinners which gave way to sports’ schedules and practices, music lessons, etc.