Stasia Foley lived a beautiful life. She was born on May 22, 1916, in Connecticut, right before World War I began. She vividly remembered being a teenager during the Great Depression and the hardship that came with it. She left school at just 13 years old to support her family. With five brothers and sisters, everyone had to pitch in. Stasia spent her days on a farm planting and harvesting crops to help feed her family.
Family was everything to her.
Stasia was highly athletic and was a part of the Hazardville R.C.A. Girls Baseball team, a team that would go on to win numerous championships. This eventually led her to being inducted into the Enfield Sports Hall of Fame. Throughout her life, she watched some of the sport's giants play, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig in Yankee Stadium. Stasia received signed baseballs and loved to tell stories both about her time in the dugout and in the stands.
Stasia met the love of her life, Edward Foley, and married him on Oct. 8, 1938. Life was good, for awhile. World War II would soon come calling.
Edward was drafted into the Army as a medic on Feb. 7, 1942, and was quickly sent to Europe – right in the middle of combat. She missed him desperately and relied on infrequent postcards and letters from his stops throughout the war.
While Edward was gone, Stasia went to work for Colt Firearms in Hartford. The company's workforce grew by 15,000 in three separate factories to keep with the demand for the war effort.
Eventually, the war ended and Edward came home safely toward the end of 1945. The couple had two children, Gail and Daniel. Stasia worked for aerospace companies and spent 25 years working for Travelers Insurance Companies until her retirement. Stasia and Edward were married 51 years before her soulmate died in 1989.
Stasia loved her family, especially her three grandchildren. One of her grandsons would go on to serve in the United States Coast Guard. Sunday dinners in her home, surrounded by all, were the highlight of the week. In 2001, Stasia's son Daniel and his family moved to Texas. Eventually, Stasia moved in with her daughter, Gail and her husband, William.
When Stasia turned 100, she was still highly independent, active and as sharp as ever. She had just started using a cane at her family's insistence. At 102, things started to slow down. Her granddaughter, Tara Bars, decided to make a legacy video.
"She had always been such an important woman in my life," Bars explained. "I feel like the time in her life that she lived, she saw so much. Living through the wars, the Great Depression – it has always fascinated me but the fact that my Nana lived that, saw that, witnessed it and was part of it… Once that line is gone, it's very difficult to ever figure out or hear those family stories," she said.
Following the completion of that video, Bars saw how frail her grandmother was becoming. In December of 2018, congestive heart failure made its presence known, causing her once-independent grandmother to become weak and easily winded. Stasia was with her daughter and her husband in their Florida winter home when she was eventually put on hospice care. When the nurses met with her in the home, they asked her what her goals were.
She told them her dream was to go to Tara's wedding.
"When I heard that, it just broke my heart to pieces because I just knew she wouldn't make it," Bars said in between tears. Bars' wedding was set for June 1, 2019, and Stasia was medically unable to fly, with her health rapidly deteriorating. Bars said she turned to her fiancé one day in January and told him she was going to Florida.
She would make her part of her grandmother's wish come true.
"I looked up photographers and the first one I talked to on the phone was Red Door Photography and they just made me feel like it was going to be perfect," she shared. Bars then went on to book hair and makeup, keeping everything a secret from her family. She made up a story about needing one last interview with Nana for the legacy video so her aunt and uncle wouldn't suspect anything. They got Stasia ready and downstairs – telling her there was a surprise. When the doors opened, her beloved granddaughter was waiting for her.
In the car as they were driving to the surprise, she told her grandmother that she knew how much she wanted to be at her wedding and so she decided to bring the moment to her.
The memory of Stasia's face lighting up with joy is one Bars will carry with her forever.
They arrived at the location and Bars went to change into her wedding dress. She said as she came around the corner, she could see her grandmother sitting in the chair, her arms opening as soon as she saw her. "She held her arms out to me so I just plopped down right there. She kept hugging me and kissing me and telling me how beautiful I looked. It absolutely meant everything to me that it meant everything to her," Bars shared through tears.
Bars said that as soon as the photography session started, something changed. It was like her grandmother became a young woman again, said Bars, "She was no longer the fragile and frail Nana I saw a moment before. Something inside of her just lit up, it was incredible." She continued, "I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend my last day with her. Our hearts spoke together that day."
Stasia passed away at 102; only 27 days after that beautiful photoshoot with her granddaughter in her wedding gown.
On her wedding day, Bars finally revealed the photoshoot surprise to her family. The tears and joy were overflowing. Her wedding photographer was there to capture the moment and shared it on social media. It went viral.
"Don't be scared to show your love and express it. We're losing this generation. Once they are gone you can't go back," said Bars.
In a world where everything moves so fast; take a moment to pause. Savor the special moments and people in your life. You never know how much time you'll have left.