The first type of orphan refers to those ancestors or relatives who lost their parents when they were young.
The second type of orphan would be those siblings or cousins of our ancestors who could be called “reverse orphans.” They are the relatives who, for whatever reason – death at a young age, never having married or had children, or having children who did not survive to provide descendants – have no direct descendants of their own, so it falls to us, their collateral relatives, to learn and write their story.
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For my orphan, I choose, Patricia Mildred Bell Croskey Lombardini. Pat was born September 22, 1941. Her mother died about 16 days later. Her father did not die, so in this respect, Pat was half an orphan. For the first 9 years of her life, Pat was raised by her mother’s parents, Fred and Lilly (Gerth) Gehrke. When she was 9, her life made a drastic change, as she was “abducted” by her father, and a nasty court case followed. Eventually, Pat stayed with her father, which was a hard experience, even living in his car at one point. By the time she was a teen she was living with the Croskey family. During her high school years, Pat discovered music, a discovery that would become her greatest gift from God and to all who would come to know and love her.
She entered the convent two weeks after graduation. She studied and became a teacher by 1972. Her years in the convent and religious homes were very trying for her and by the 1970's she realized she had to leave the sisterhood and her life took another new course.
On 24 Jul 1978, in a civil ceremony, Pat married John Anthony (Tony) Lombardini, her soul-mate, an ex-priest. They were devoted to each other, but Tony desperately missed being a priest. Eventually they converted to the Antiochian Orthodox Church and in 1983 they were married in that church, a service that Man and I were honored to have attended. The ceremony was performed by Bishop Malatius Barnaba, Archibishop of Homs and Hama, Syria.
Above: Tony and Pat at their religious marriage, 1983.
Both Pat and Tony spent the last years of their lives serving their Lord and the Antiochian Orthodox Church, he as a priest, she as a gifted organist and vocalist. She even wrote hymns for funerals. She wrote more than 50 songs based on the Sunday gospels. Man and I have tapes of Pat singing, she had the voice of an angel, sweet, pure and true.
Above, Pat and Tony, serving their Lord, together.
Pat fought cancer, won the first few battles, but, lost the last one on May 16, 1997. Pat was laid to rest at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield, Oakland County, Michigan, where in 2001 her beloved Tony joined her.
Pat and Tony left no blood children, no heirs. This makes Pat a reverse orphan, per the description of this challenge. After Tony’s passing, his family returned many of Pat’s photo albums and family heirlooms to Man’s mother. We now have them, scanning many of the photos. Pat was also the subject of my post on October 28, 2009, a photo which I discovered while scanning her photo albums, I love the subtle sense of black humor it represents, the fun that she and Tony enjoyed together.
I am always touched by Pat’s life story, her mother’s death, the formative years with her mother’s family, the custody battle, the dark years after, her difficult teen years, her years of learning and sisterhood, her love affair with Tony and her fight with the cancer demons. Through it all she sang and played and stayed a sweet loving creature.
Therefore, Pat is my “Orphan and Orphans”.
Patricia Mildred Bell Croskey Lombardini
* Antiochian Orthodox Church is also known as the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch.