Former Mendotan remembers Thanksgiving tradition

The Cassidy family, 30 years ago

The Cassidy family celebrates Thanksgiving at the VFW hall, a tradition that would continue for more than 30 years. Family members, left to right, front row, are Marty, Nancy, parents George Sr. and Betty, Pati, Julie; middle row, Jeff, Jim, Kevin, Bob; back row, Den, George Jr., Rich, Jerry, Don, and Tom. (Photo contributed)

MENDOTA – For the first time in over 30 years, the Cassidy family will no longer be gathering at the Mendota VFW hall for Thanksgiving. “We had a good run,” said Jerry Cassidy who now resides in Georgia.

Every year, George and Betty Cassidy of Mendota (now both deceased) would celebrate Thanksgiving with their 14 children at their home on Main Street. As the children grew older, got married and had children of their own, the home became over crowded. George and Betty realized that they would have to find somewhere else to gather.

That was when they began renting out the VFW hall to celebrate Thanksgiving. With the larger space, anyone was welcome to attend. Betty always told her children that if they knew of anyone that had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving dinner to extend an invitation to join their family. “There is always another seat at the table,” she would say.

Betty, her three daughters and daughter in-laws would prepare three large turkeys and all the side dishes for a group of over thirty family members, plus friends that would stop by.

Betty always felt that her family had a lot to be thankful for and insisted everyone celebrate the day together. The event was mandatory, Jerry joked. “If you were going to miss it, you better have a good excuse to give to Momma,” he added.

Jerry recalled each and every Thanksgiving as special. “Sometimes it was the only time you saw your siblings. And when you arrived, Momma would run out of the kitchen to hug everyone.”

Activities continued throughout the weekend. On Friday, the family would go bowling at the Elks, on Saturday they would all go out to eat, and finally Sunday they would gather to say goodbyes.

As the years have passed, it has been increasingly harder for everyone to return to Mendota for the weekend. Children now have children of their own, and are anxious to celebrate Thanksgiving with their own families, and in doing so start to make memories of their own.

“I am going to miss it,” Jerry said.