Third-generation Lithuanian-American Joan M. Naumovich is Patient Advocate/ Director of Patient Relations at St. John’s Hospital. She began her medical career in high school as a volunteer or “candy striper” before earning her R.N. and then serving many years as a bedside nurse, always at St. John’s.
Joan says she gets a lot of satisfaction from her “healthcare ministry” helping patients navigate an increasingly complex medical system, which often involves a daunting number of specialists and a dizzying array of high-tech tests and treatments.
The third of 10 children born to Leonard and Jean Naumovich, Joan says her grandmother Josephine Deresker Naumovich immigrated from Lithuania in the early 1900s. And, like so many of us, Joan faced surname mutilation by teachers all through school at St. Aloysius, Ursuline Academy, then St. Louis University, where she earned her B.S. in nursing. She laughs: “It is amazing how many ways there are to put the 9 letters in Naumovich together to create a variety of sounds.”
Joan’s two daughters, Katie and Missy Dodd, come from a double-Lithuanian background. Their paternal great-grandmother was Springfield-area Lithuanian Marcella Yuscius. Joan has a fond memory of Grandma Yuscius assessing Katie as an infant in diapers and pronouncing Lithuanian words that sounded like “subikis paklis,” which she translated into English as, “butt like a stove.”
Did that make you laugh out loud, like it did me? Do any readers recognize that phrase—or can you correct it for us if it’s a bit off? (Sounds like a keeper for some of life’s special occasions.)
It seems only natural, after speaking of butts, to transition to the subject of Lithuanian food. Joan remembers going as a child with her dad to a local grocer to buy the ethnic cheese called suris, sometimes with seeds and sometimes without. She liked the creamy, rich texture and recalls her dad eating only that for his lunch, especially during Lent.
Do any of our readers remember—or eat suris? And, if you eat too much, will somebody mumble in Lithuanian that you have “a butt like cheese?” And, if they did, how would you know? (I must be channeling Joan’s humorist brother Dan here.)
An annual Christmas favorite for Joan’s daughter Missy to this day is kugelis, a grated potato-bacon-onion casserole topped with sour cream that grandmother Dodd makes. Both sides of Joan’s extended Lithuanian family love Kielbasa and serve it as a side dish every Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
GeorgeAnn Madison said:
Oh, a “fun” story….loved it. Brought back fond memories of my Grandma, Antonia Yanor; she called me “cabbage head” in Lithuanian. I can say it like my Grandma, but
I cannot spell it in Lithuanian. I enjoyed reading this article so very much.
Romualda Capranica said:
I saw Andrulis Lithuanian cheese here in Springfield at Meijer’s a while ago.
Good tip, Romualda. Maybe I will bring some to the Lithuanian picnic on the lake June 2
I always buy Andrulis cheese at Meijer’s – it reminds me of Lithuanian sūris. I I go to Chicago, I never miss a Lithuanian food store – rye bread, dairy products, smoked fish, mushrooms, etc. – a lot of variety to choose from.
By the way, Lithuanians of Springfield, are you accepting new members to your Lithuanian community?
Yes, Irena, we would love to have you! I’ll e-mail you our most recent newsletter, and remind you about our picnic June 2 on the Lake. Thanks for getting in touch. Sandy
Cindy Baksys said:
Thanks for the story. I didn’t know these folks were out there.
There are so many, many more. Found a new Fr. Yunker photo with four more people who are probably still in the Springfield area…