For six weeks during the summers of 1949-1957, my uncle Gene’s daughter, Linda, came to visit us. In July 1952, Linda was accompanied by her 22-year-old aunt, Claire Schafer, a 1952 graduate of the University of Nebraska.
Claire stayed with us for three full days before leaving for New York City, where she would attend Columbia University in order to work toward a master’s degree in English. She wanted to go to New York City a month before classes began so that she could get the lay of the land, as she put it.
She had never been to Chicago, and when Gene and on the drive to our house from Union Station, Claire was amazed by the tall buildings and the traffic she saw as we made our way to Oak Park.
On the first full day Claire stayed with us, my mother and I took her and Linda to the Field Museum, the Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium. Claire loved baseball and, being from Nebraska, she told us she was a die-hard Cub fan.
It so happened that the Cubs were home while Claire was visiting us, so on the second day of her visit, Gene and I took them to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play the Dodgers. Claire had never been to a major league game, so she had fun rooting for the Cubs. The Cubs lost, but she got to see Hank Sauer hit two home runs.
On the third day of her visit, I asked her if she would like to play softball with the neighborhood guys. I figured it was a gentlemanly offer for a visitor. I should have asked about her background in softball before I made my offer. Linda told me just before the game that Claire had been an all-city softball pitcher in high school and an all-conference softball pitcher in college.
The team on which Claire played that afternoon beat the team I was on 16-0 and Claire struck out 18, gave up two hits, walked no one, and hit two home runs.
In the years to come, none of the guys ever spoke of this game.
When it was time for Claire to leave, Linda, my mother, and I took her to Union Station so she could board The New York Central.
Before we left for the station, my grandmother wanted to give Claire some money, but Claire told us that, with her two scholarships and money she had saved from jobs she had had in high school and college, she would be fine.
During her two years at Columbia, we received Christmas cards and letters, and when she traveled home for summer vacation in 1953, she called us from Union Station, and my mother and I met her for lunch at the station cafeteria.
The last time I saw Claire was when my mother and I met her at Union Station as she was returning to Lincoln following graduation. Claire sent Christmas cards and letters to my mother for many years, and she called my mother three or four times a year as well.
Claire married a fellow teacher, had three children, and taught English at a Lincoln high school for 40 years.
She and her husband retired in 1994 and moved to Phoenix.