Today marks the 2-year anniversary of my Grandma Rise’s death. In honor of that anniversary, I want to share the story of one of Grandma’s sisters, Maria Amelia, who died too young, but left an impression on my Grandma.
Maria Amelia DeTevis was a young, beautiful 17-year-old when she got married in Las Vegas to Simon Bustamante. Thinking back more than 70 years, my Grandma remembered her younger sister’s wedding dress, and a horse-drawn carriage. She said the wedding was a big deal in town, and was mentioned in the newspaper. My Grandma said she was closest to her sister, Amelia.
Soon after the September wedding, the worst kind of tragedy struck the young bride. On Oct. 25, 1941, as my Grandma recalled, her sister’s husband went to get what he thought was kerosene. But it was really gasoline. When Amelia lit a match, the gasoline exploded and she died as a result of the fire.
My Grandma didn’t tell me much more than that, other than emphasizing how beautiful her sister was. She told me there was a photo of her on her headstone in the Las Vegas cemetery. During my next trip to Las Vegas, I located the headstone and snapped a photo. I didn’t show my Grandma, because I wanted to wait until I wrote about it. But I waited too long.
My Grandma married my Grandpa Carlos only a few months after that terrible tragedy – on March 14, 1942. The timing was terrible because the family was still in mourning over the death of Amelia. But I assume it was unavoidable because my Grandpa was preparing to head overseas to fight in World War II. He and his brothers had to leave their training in Texas to attend the wedding in Las Vegas.
Since the family was in mourning, my Grandma didn’t get the horse-drawn carriage and the big, fancy wedding, though she didn’t express any regrets to me. The one thing that bothered her was that her mother-in-law took a lot of the food that was meant for the wedding and used it for another family event scheduled the next day. My Grandma recalled the bridal party having to scrounge for bread and meat for some sandwiches the night of the wedding.
Despite the circumstances, my Grandpa remembered her own wedding fondly. She had a large family with many sisters, but it made me wonder how she really felt at the time after losing her closest sister. I know they had to deal with many hardships back then. Still, it’s difficult to comprehend. I only wish I could have shared that photo of the headstone with her. I know she would have said, again, how beautiful her sister was.