The People of Pancho

At Play In The Archive

Poems By My Bisabuelo

For the next several weeks I’ll be writing about my Great-grandfather, Franz Georg Leopold Lessiack, or just plain “Leo” to those who knew and loved him. He died when I was only nine years old, but I remember him so fondly and am really enjoying learning more about his life and times. He and my great-grandmother, Margaret Spielmann Lessiack — who died long before I was born — left behind many photographs and papers, some of which I’ve already shared in my explorations of my Spielmann ancestors, and more of which I’ll share in the coming weeks. I have several research tasks in progress with regard to my Spielmann people, but while those are simmering, I want to focus on Great-grandpa Leo.

Here we are in 1967 or ’68, when Leo was in his late 70’s, and I was just a goober. Nowadays, I call that hand gesture a “qui-ote” (rhymes with coyote); the qui-ote is a very shy animal that is terrified of loud noises, so when children see it, they know to become very quiet. I don’t know exactly what Leo meant by the gesture, but I was clearly mesmerized.

Great-grandpa Leo flashes the Qui-ote. 1967 0r 1968. The photographer is probably my mom.

Great-grandpa Leo flashes the qui-ote in 1967 0r 1968. The photo was taken on my grandparents’ back porch in Balboa Heights, Canal Zone, Panama, and the photographer was probably my mom.

The really important detail about this photo, though, is the pipe in Leo’s back pocket. The man loved his pipe, and I loved it right along with him. To this day, if I smell pipe smoke, I am instantly two years old again, helping Great-grandpa Leo pack his tobacco. He lived in New Jersey, but he often came for long visits to the Canal Zone during my early childhood.

Though Leo’s first language was German, he frequently wrote poems in English. Isn’t that amazing? I could no more dash off a poem in my rudimentary second or third languages than I could do back-handsprings. Here are some poems that he wrote for my mom and my aunt Polly about me and my younger cousin Jenny. As you will see, my interest in Grandpa Leo’s pipe was rather obsessive — I really did believe that smoke was magic.

Ocean Grove N.J.


For Susan and Polly:


Have talked to my friends

About Pancho and Jennie

The two little girls –

Their likes are not many

To tell you the truth

I like them a lot

And I certainly miss them

Believe it or not.



Here’s Pancho who thinks

Is quite a joke

To watch Papa Leo

Enjoying his smoke

She gets all excited when

The time is ripe

For Leo to sit down

And smoke his pipe

She brings the tobacco

Pipe and all

In fact she seems to

Have quite a ball

“Harder-harder” says Pancho

When helping to press

The tobacco into the pipe

Her hands now a mess

She’s not discouraged, however

To her it would seem

Holding smoke in her hands

Will keep them clean

I can’t live without Pancho

Because now in my haste

All the smoke I am blowing

Is going to waste



And Jennie, the little one

How well I remember

Her weight and her birthday

The 23rd of November

She’s tiny and cute but

Can’t as yet walk

And making things worse she

Can’t even talk

Down in her crib and

Surrounded by toys

She’s having a good time

Not yet dreaming of boys

However when the time comes

For taking a nap

She’d much rather get up

And sit in your lap

When Leo comes over to

See her a while

She will always greet him

With a great big smile


As I have quoted before

There are not many

Little girls as sweet as

Pancho and Jennie



(“Bisabuelo” is Great-grandfather in Spanish. Many thanks to my mom for transcribing these poems for me — they’re glued into an album that resides with her in Panama. )

The back of the photo says

The back of the photo says “Early March, 1973.” I’m on the left, and Jenny is on the right.

Among Leo’s things, I found a beautiful Meerschaum pipe. It’s not the pipe I remember him smoking, but it’s very special, and has clearly seen a lot of use. My daughter Grace, taken with the lovely dragon carved into the bowl, sketched it one afternoon.

Franz_Georg_Leopold_Lessiack (1)

I can’t help but think that Great-grandpa Leo would have gotten a tremendous kick out of that.

13 comments on “Poems By My Bisabuelo

  1. Amy
    September 23, 2014

    What wonderful stories, poems, and photos! You are so lucky to have had a great-grandfather until you were nine years old. My great-grandparents were long gone by the time I was born despite the fact that my parents were only 21 and 25 when I was born.


    • Pancho
      September 23, 2014

      I was fortunate to know several of my great grandparents. My great-grandmother Dorothy, on my dad’s side, actually lived until I had kids of my own. She died shortly after her 101st birthday. I have a few treasured “5-generation” pictures that I’ll share when I get around to writing about that branch of the family. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. thegenealogygirl
    September 23, 2014

    I really enjoyed this post. I love that he wrote poems for and about you, what a sweet token of his love.


    • Pancho
      September 23, 2014

      I really treasure them, and I especially admire his facility in his second language. He was a dear man. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fran
    September 25, 2014

    Ahhhh,, Pancho, a person couldn’t meet your Grandpa Leo without liking him enormously. He was a kind and unique man. I so enjoyed reading the poems he wrote about his two granddaughters! Those are treasures. I had no idea he spoke several languages. Wow! The portrait your mom has hanging in the living room captures him with the twinkle in his eye…a dear man.


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