Family Fables

I’ve already written about my great grandmother. Her story is entitled, “Grandma”. She’s my life inspiration.

But I guess it’s time for the tale of Grandpa Brophey, her husband.

He wasn’t inspirational, but definitely interesting. My great grandfather was Patrick Robert Brophey. Pat Brophey was as Irish as the name sounds. He was a heavy drinking rascal, an alcoholic. Drinking messed up his life, but his stories still need to be passed on.

I remember the tale of how he’d had the first car in Midland County. Our family album has a picture of that vehicle.

I never knew if I should believe the claims of having the “first” motor car, but John and I have a good friend, Jerry McCullen, a 92-year-old member of our music club. I happened to mention that my grandfather claimed to have the first car in Midland County. Jerry asked if my grandfather was Patrick Brophey. He said his mother always told him about Pat Brophey coming to Coleman, MI, and taking all the ladies for a ride in the first car in the county. She was impressed.

I thought the car was DeSoto. (I could be wrong about the make because DeSotos weren’t distributed until about 1929 and I thought the car was purchased and Grandpa drove it into town about 1923.)

But the legend that he had the first car has been confirmed. Jerry McCullen’s memory has proven that it was true.

Another story was told by several relatives. It seems when my grandfather was young and successful, before alcohol had taken over, he was recognized in the community of Midland (MI) as a prosperous business man. One day he was approached by the town eccentric. The fellow wanted to know if Grandpa would like to go into business with him for $1,000 for a 50/50 ownership of a company he envisioned. My grandfather said no. The fellow countered with another offer, “$500, Mr. Brophey and we’ll be 50/50 partners.” My grandfather still declined and said, “No, Mr. Dow, I’m not interested.”

The eccentric fellow, Mr. Herbert Dow, went on to build the Dow Chemical Company – without my grandfather’s financial help.


The other stories Grandpa told were of the “old country.” He told of Irish “wakes” which were traditional when someone died. Those occasions became heavy drinking times where the deceased was often taken from the coffin and propped up at the table to be “part of the party.”

Yes, my Grandpa Brophey was an alcoholic who was responsible for lots of unpleasant family situations. He was the opposite of Grandma who was a saint. But at one point Grandpa had earned respect as a Midland, MI, businessman and he was loved by Grandma, even if she didn’t approve of his drinking. When I asked her once why she didn’t “leave him” she just replied, “He’s my husband.”

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