Eva was my great aunt, my dad's uncle's wife. Aunt Eva and Uncle Frank had eight children. Seven sons and finally a daughter. They named her Joyce, but I think it's because they were RE-joicing that, at last, they had a girl. I want to say she was "Eva's Diva," but I don't really remember that Joyce was spoiled. Probably was, but I didn't really get to know her until she was in college, and she was a lovely, admirable girl with high moral standards without being a snob.
Aunt Eva and Uncle Frank Nickel travelled often with their whole family in a hearse, which is I guess the closest thing to a limo or van they could get back then without appearing to be materialistic Baptists or wayward hippies. They were a singing group, and their music took them all over the United States. They could turn four-part part harmony into ten-part harmony by simply opening their mouths. I remember when they came from Illinois and pulled into our long, gravel driveway one hot, summer day. As they emerged from the hearse, I believe there were only four kids. There weren't ten Nickels left (or, as Uncle Frank said, "fifty cents") by the time Joyce was in grade school touring with them, but as I recall, at least a sextet from the Nickel Family Singers' Hearse/Limo.
Every meal started with prayer and/or a sung prayer. Every after-dinner conversation seemed to make its way to the piano for a hymn-sing. Every farewell was set to beautiful music. You would think you'd been transplanted onto the Austrian Alps alongside Julie Andrews and those drapery-clad Von Trapp kids. The hub of this family wheel was Aunt Eva, smiling at Uncle Frank and the almost-all-male brood with them while they sang, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again."
What a sweet memory. Aunt Eva left a legacy of music in me. And she also left an unforgettable image of a singing hearse parked at our house in Maryland countryside.