Emily Bartko and Bartko Barn on the Old Mission Peninsula
Old Mission Gazette

Her name was Emily Bartko, but she was known among the OMP community as “Grandma Bartko.” When I was a youngster, she lived with her son, Joe Bartko, and his family on Old Mission Road, just down the road from where I grew up.

The Bartko kids were Greg, Gloria and Gary (and Betsy, who must have been younger because I don’t remember her). They lived on Old Mission Road, in the first farmhouse on the right when you turn off of Center Road and head east on Old Mission Road. According to Ancestry.com, Joe passed away in 2017 in Kingsley.

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Here’s a present-day photo (well, last winter) of the barn near the house where they lived on Old Mission Road.

Bartko Barn on the Old Mission Peninsula
Bartko Barn on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo

Sometimes I would get off the bus at Grandma Bartko’s and she would look after me until Mom came to fetch me. She was a woman of many talents – quite skilled in the kitchen and well known for her beautifully decorated Russian Easter eggs.

Emily Bartko of Old Mission Peninsula | 1971 Ogdensburg UMC Directory
Emily Bartko of Old Mission Peninsula | 1971 Ogdensburg UMC Directory

She taught me and other folks in the OMP community how to decorate those eggs – a process which involved melting crayons on the stove (seems to me we used muffin tins with a different color in each space), then gently applying the colored wax onto the eggs using a pin with a little head on it, like you’d use for sewing. You pricked holes in each end of the egg and carefully blew out the yolk, leaving a hollow egg ready for decorating.

I still have one of those eggs, carefully preserved through the years, and found when I cleaned my parents’ house out a few years ago. Here’s a Record-Eagle story dated April 11, 1966, about an Old Mission Women’s Club meeting where Grandma Bartko displayed some of those eggs and talked about her Russian heritage.

Emily Bartko Old Mission Women's Club, Old Mission Peninsula
Traverse City Record-Eagle story dated April 11, 1966 | Newspapers.com

As mentioned in the story, Grandma Bartko also played the guitar and sang. I especially loved it when she sang songs in Russian – so exotic for a kid growing up on a cherry farm in Old Mission.

Here’s another story dated Jan. 21, 1976, which notes that she played her guitar for the Old Mission Women’s Club (along with others, including my mom, Mary Johnson, who played a piano solo).

Emily Bartko Old Mission Women's Club, Old Mission Peninsula
Traverse City Record-Eagle story dated Jan. 21, 1976 | Newspapers.com

Grandma Bartko was great with kids, and in many ways, seemed like a big kid herself, always smiling and ready to give and get hugs. She went to our church – Odgensburg United Methodist Church – and she always had fun little tricks to keep the kids entertained. I remember one where she fashioned a handkerchief into a mouse and somehow made the mouse jump out of her hand. So mysterious!

In later years, she took care of Mrs. Murry (Lou) Tompkins in the farmhouse on Old Mission Road where Lenny Ligon lives now.

Mrs. Murry (Lou) Tompkins of Old Mission Peninsula | 1971 Ogdensburg UMC Directory
Mrs. Murry (Lou) Tompkins of Old Mission Peninsula | 1971 Ogdensburg UMC Directory

I wish I knew more about Grandma Bartko’s life before she arrived on the Old Mission Peninsula. According to Ancestry.com, her maiden name was Emily Stavisky, and she was born in Pennsylvania on Jan. 12, 1900 to parents Joseph and Anna Stavisky, both born in Austria.

She married John Bartko in 1919 in Connecticut. According to Ancestry.com, he was born in Austria, served in WWI, retired as a machinist from Transamerica DeLaval, and died in New Jersey in 1985. They had six children: George, Irene, Pauline, Daniel, Joseph and Harold.

Grandma Bartko died on Jan. 7, 1983, and is buried in Ogdensburg Cemetery. If anyone has more info about her life before she arrived on the OMP, feel free to tell us in the comments section below.

Here is Grandma Bartko’s recipe for Deep Dish Apple Cobbler Pie, from the 1960s “Community Cookbook” by the Mary-Martha Circle of Ogdensburg Methodist Church.

Grandma Bartko’s Deep Dish Apple Cobbler Pie

Prepare one favored recipe pie crust. Roll out on board into 24″ x 8″ rectangle. Cut into one-inch strips and bake all but enough to cover top.

Cook enough apples to fill baking dish for 10 minutes. Put a layer of baked strips in bottom of dish. Add a layer of apples. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. sugar and a little cinnamon.

Lay another layer of strips the opposite way. Add more apples; and so on. When dish is full, put unbaked strips on top to form a lattice crust. (Or, instead of the strips for the top layer, use uneven cut pieces chopped with 1/2 cup sugar). Sprinkle with more sugar and cinnamon.

Bake in mod. oven 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until top is brown. May be served warm or cold.

Is good in lunch boxes.

– Emily Bartko

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for these old recipes. I love reading them and their history. So interesting that, obviously, their friends would know things like: what size pan; what temperature; in this case, how many apples; etc.

  2. “Grandma Bartko” was my Aunt Emily, My father’s older sister. My son stumbled onto your website and recognized her picture. It was in my parents living room for years until their house burned in 1982. It warms my heart that you knew her. She was really something and we enjoyed her very much when we were kids in the 1960″s. She was raised in Lopez PA on a farm, then spent much of her married life in New Jersey, then went to Mi, probably sometime in the late 60’s or early 70″s where she finished out her life. She was great with kids, magic tricks, stories, songs, just very entertaining. I loved her. Probably the last time I saw her was in the middle 1960″s. I thoroughly enjoyed reading what you wrote about her. It made me shudder with nostalgia. I’m in my middle 70’s and my brother and I are working on a flow chart for our family tree. We’ve lost contact with the Bartko family. If you would know any of them who still live in that area, we would greatly appreciate if you could have them get in contact with me so that we could update the Bartko branch of our family tree. My son will be creating a website for it and it could be available to them also. My name and email address appears below. The saying I remember most from her was, in her older years, “I’m still kicking but just not raising much dust anymore”

    • I’m so delighted to get this note, Mike! Thank you for filling in more info about Grandma Bartko. She really was such an iconic person on the Old Mission Peninsula – legendary! Seeing pictures of her and writing about her brings everything right back to when I was a kid. I believe there are still some Bartkos in the area and will see what I can do. Feel free to shoot me a note at jane@oldmission.net to remind me!

  3. I was friends with Gloria when we were grade school. I remember that Grandma Bartko used to make a green tomato cake that was delicious! That would have been in the early to mid 1960’s.

    • Nice to read your comment. Would you have any contact with Greg, Gloria, Gary or Betsy? Their dad, Joe Bartko was my first cousin. I’m working on our family tree. I need info on the Bartko branch. My father was Grandma Bartko’s brother. To me she was “Aunt Emily”. She was raised in Lopez PA. Before she moved to Michigan, she lived in NJ, and she would visit with us. I’m 74. Besides Joe, she had sons Dan, George, Harold, and daughters Pauline and Irene. Thanks

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      • Sorry, but I haven’t had contact with any of the family in many years. I used to go to their house for slumber parties! What fun we had. Hopefully someone else will see these comments and put you in touch with family members.

        • Thanks anyway. Jane Johnson Boursaw said she’d try to help me out also. They also have some cousins in Alaska. I’ll try to make contact with them. I’m glad you responded.

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