Monthly Archives: August 2014

At Gma & Gpa Spencer's gravesAs we have traveled through six states in ten days, we have not only been connecting with family members, previously known and those previously unknown to us, but we have been somewhat following in the footsteps of our ancestors. Our travels have taken us to several of the places that our ancestors lived and died. Some graves have been easy to find, and some not so much. I think it is sad that more of the records have not been put into sites like findagrave.com, and I think I will set myself to the task of putting as many in as I can, so that more of my family members can find the graves of their ancestors, should they decide they would like to do that. The graves that had been listed and included the plot and block numbers, were so easy to find. Such was the case with my dad’s parents’ graves. We thought it was going to be hard to find them, even though Mom thought she knew where they were, and was actually very close, but in the end, Find A Grave told us exactly where it was, and we found it easily.

Our trek then took us to Webster City, Iowa, where my great great grandfather, Allen Spenser was buried. We aren’t sure why his stone spells Spencer with “s” or if that was simply an error that was made when the stone was placed, but it was definitely the wrong spelling, since his Allen Spenserwife, Lydia’s stone in Oklahoma is spelled Spencer. This grave was a surprising find in that while I had seen a picture of the stone, from when my Uncle Bill made the trip, I had no block or plot number. We started into the cemetery, and I remembered that the picture showed a building in the background. I saw a building and a hillside, and decided to take a little walk. I didn’t have to go very far before I found what I was looking for, Allen Spenser’s grave. The odd thing was that while the stone was standing up when Uncle Bill was there, it was laying down when I was there, and while the picture taken by someone else years earlier had an old house in it, Uncle Bill’s picture had none. Think what you would like, I personally think it was God’s guiding that found that grave at the first place we stopped to look.

The next memorial we found was the United Airlines Flight 232 Crash Memorial, and while it was not a grave, I must say it was beautiful. My Great Aunt Gladys Pattan Byer Cooper was killed in that crash, and since we were going right by there, I wanted to stop at the memorial the people of Sioux City put up in honor of the victims and the brave people who saved as many lives as possible. That memorial had a deep impact on me. Aunt Gladys’ tragic death was something that I felt deeply, because I had always loved her very much. To find a place that was dedicated to her memory was so heartwarming. It felt like a place of peace and reverence. No, the victims aren’t buried there, but they are remembered there, and it is a beautiful, well maintained place to remember them…and one I’ll never forget.

We stopped in Gordon, Nebraska and were again guided by Mom’s memory and a picture of At Gpa Byers graveAt UA Flight 232 Memorialthe stone. Before long, we were at my mom’s grandfather, Cornelius George Byer’s grave. The record I had also showed his dad buried there in Gordon, but we could not find that one, even with the directory, so the records I had found could be wrong. I really wished that we could have found that one too, because it would have cleared up some possible errors in the spelling of the Byer name too, but I guess that one will be a story for another day and another trek.

Lift BridgeOne simply can’t go to Lake Superior and not go to Canal Park. There is nothing quite like watching a ship go through the canal and under the lift bridge. There is such an atmosphere of celebration, with kids playing and the birds flying everywhere. Crowds wait patiently for the arrival or departure of the next ship. Anticipation fills the air. It’s like being a kid at the movies for the first time. You almost can’t believe you are really there.

As we waited for the next ship to go through the canal, I watched the people sitting around, trying to keep cool in the afternoon sun, while the little children tried in vain to catch the seagulls and pigeons that were flying around. The seagulls seemed to think it was a game of sorts, or maybe they were just hoping they would have some food for them. And lots of people did. It’s fun to feed the birds, even if the bread they were getting probably isn’t the best food for them. The seagulls would swoop over the people, and then almost hover in place, floating on the breeze, then they SeagullsChasing Pigeonswould glide down to fly over the water in the canal, before going back to see if anyone had food again. It was such a pleasant flight to watch.

Finally the moment came, and it was announced that a ship was coming in. The bridge started up and as many people as were able moved down to the side wall of the canal to get a closer look. The first ship to go under the bridge was a lake cruise ship. It was interesting, but it was not the spectacular sight I imagined. I just hoped that there would be a big oar boat coming through too. It looked as if I was about to be disappointed, then the announcer said that the Eeborg was about five minutes out. I didn’t see how he could possible make it into the canal within the allotted thirty minute window they had to keep the bridge up. Traffic was backed up from the island on the other side, waiting to come across. Nevertheless, the Eeborg moved much faster than I could have ever expected…especially for such a large ship.

Soon, there it was looming so tall in the canal. It wasn’t a luxury liner, and yet every person Eeborgthere felt the same sense of awe at this amazing ship moving gracefully through the canal, under the bridge, and into the harbor to receive it’s load, before turning around and departing the next day, or later that night. It didn’t even matter if they had seen it a thousand times before, this scene still held them in captivating awe. Some of the ships that come here go all over the world…and their journey starts right there at Lake Superior. The horn sounded, and the Eeborg passed beneath the bridge and eventually out of our line of sight. I felt like I had seen a bit of a far reaching commerce, and it was very exciting.

Dad and meAs my father-in-law’s life was winding down, we spent a lot of time together. It wasn’t always the perfect moments of his life that we shared, because he was in the hospital off and on during that time. He hated going into the hospital…hated the equipment he had to be hooked up to, food they wanted him to eat, and the constant waiting to get up, because he had to have help, but he liked the nurses and aides, and that made it tolerable, I guess. Nevertheless, he hated to be there, because life just seemed to pass him by when he was in the hospital. Still, since I needed to be there to talk to the doctors, and since I worked nearby, I went up several times a day. I know it meant a lot to him.

When we would first go to the hospital emergency room, my father-in-law would always ask me to take care of his watch and pocket knife. They were so important to him. That almost Dad's Knifeseems strange, because he normally didn’t have to be anywhere at any certain time, and he very seldom ever used the pocket knife. Nevertheless, they were very important to him, and I was always entrusted with their care, and because it was so important to him, it became important to me. When he passed away, the watch and pocket knife were not claimed by any of his children, so once again, I have been entrusted with their care. They are a treasure to me, and each time I look at them, I can see his sweet face, a little worried about what this hospital visit was going to bring, and yet still so protective of those two prized possessions.

I don’t know if they were given to him, or if they were just something he liked and bought for himself, but in his last days, and probably even longer than that, I know that they meant a lot to him. The knife is an Old Timer Knife. Old Timer Knives were manufactured by the Imperial Schrade Corporation, who closed their doors July 30, 2004, after 100 years of business. They were something he looked on as being of great value. It Dad's Watchmight have been just a guy thing to have a pocket knife or something, because it does seem that a lot of guys have and keep good track of their pocket knives. I don’t know the story on his watch either, except to say that the only time he was without it was when he was in the hospital, in bed, or the shower. That says that it was something he treasured too. Neither of these were very expensive items. The watch may have come from Walmart, for all I know. It’s monetary value isn’t important to me. It’s real value is in what it meant to my father-in-law. Today would have been my father-in-law’s 85th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. We love and miss you very much.

Galoshes and Port HadlockWhen my niece, Lindsay Moore was just a little girl, she knew when her birthday was, but there was a little problem with it. For some reason, August just wasn’t a fancy enough name for her month…or maybe she just couldn’t pronounce it. So, for whatever reason, August became Faugust. Even after Lindsay learned how to say August, the month just never got changed…at least not on the 29th. That was her day, and it would always be Faugust 29th. Lindsay has always liked the goofy things in life, so it’s not surprising that she named her day something special.

When the rubber galoshes phase came out, Lindsay was among the first to jump on that bandwagon too. We all thought it was the silliest look, but if anyone could Jogging Buddiespull it off, it was Lindsay. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she still wears them sometimes. And even if she doesn’t wear them often, I’m sure she still has them and would wear them if they fit into her new surroundings much. Lindsay and her new husband, Shannon, moved to Miami Florida right after their marriage because he took a job as the special teams coach for Miami International University. It is a new adventure, but I don’t know how often Lindsay’s galoshes will be used, unless she decides to go jogging through a swamp.

Lindsay has never been shy…not even for a minute, so I have no doubt that she already has a wonderful group of friends in Florida to spend time with, while Shannon is working, because Lindsay now has an online job that she does. That is kind of nice, because it gives her a little Excited about Lifebit more free time to explore her new surroundings. As an exercise enthusiast, she will most likely be scoping out the walking/jogging trails, or she might just do her jogging on the beach. And who could blame her for that. I love the beach, and if I were a jogger, I might love to jog on the beach, but since I love walking, I know that a long walk on the beach would be very appealing to me. But since this story is about Lindsay, I guess it would be jogging on the beach. Lindsay is and always will be excited about life, and wherever she goes, sunshine will follow, because she is a sunshiney girl. Today is Faugust 29th…Lindsay’s birthday. Happy Faugust 29th Lindsay!! Have a great birthday!! We love and miss you!!

Dad and Uncle BillHolyoke ParkOn our trek back into our past, we took a drive to see some of the places my dad’s family had lived, like the town of Holyoke, Minnesota…my dad and his siblings’ old stomping grounds, I felt as if I was walking in my dad’s shoes so to speak…or at the very least traveling along on the same journey he had taken as a young boy. As we drove into the area, I recognized the railroad trestle that my dad and Uncle Bill had played on as kids. We had just talked to Uncle Bill, who told us that when a train came, they would just drop down and hang on, because there wasn’t room enough to stand there while a train went over. They said it shook a lot, and I personally wouldn’t recommend such a thing to anyone.

Our next stop was at the park across the street. This park was a favorite hangout for most of the Holyoke kids, and was located just down the hill from the school, making it convenient for after school ball games or hanging out in the creek that ran through it. The park is in great condition, and looks like it is still used a lot today, but I could picture the little boys, who were my dad and uncle hanging out there with their friends and avoiding the chores that probably awaited them at home.

We drove past the old church that they attended, who’s alter had been built by my Aunt Laura Creek at Holyoke ParkRailroad Trestle in HolyokeFredrick’s ex-husband, Fritz. We were very sorry to see the state it was in. The front of the building looked pretty good, but when viewed from the side, we could see that the roof had caved in, and all that was still standing was three sides. That really made me sad, because it was the church they had attended for so many years of their lives.

Heading out of town, we came to a section of red dirt road that went for about a mile or so before returning to the pavement. Our cousin, Bill Spencer, who was our tour guide for the day, told us that his dad, our Uncle Bill and our dad had ridden their bikes to Superior, Wisconsin on this road. That was astounding, in that it was about thirty miles…one way…and they went to town and home in the same day, on the old clunky bicycles of those days. It was here, as we drove from Holyoke back into Superior, that I felt like I was traveling along the same journey that my dad had taken so many times. It was a lonely feeling, in that I really missed my dad right then, but it was also an interesting, in that they had gone so far in just one day.

I think that sometimes, we don’t realize just how amazing our parents lives were. We forget that technology and transportation have come a long, long way since their day. It seems like Little Church at HolyokeRed Dirt Road to Superiorthe work was harder and yet, the times easier somehow. I thought of my dad and Uncle Bill riding happily into Superior to spend the day, and what their plans might have been. Maybe it was just the idea of being free for the day…with no one to tell you what to do, or maybe they were meeting friends. I’ll probably never know, but I do know that it was strange to be traveling the same road to Superior, that dad had taken so long ago.

Jason and AuroraMy grand niece, Aurora…nicknamed Rory, is the daughter of my nephew, Ryan Hadlock and his wife, Chelsea. Rory is a sweetie pie of a girl, who loves making faces with her aunts, and playing with her older brother, Ethan. But when it comes to Rory’s uncles, she is the princess. Those girls have a way of wrapping their uncles around their baby fingers. Of course, the uncles have a great time with Rory’s brother, Ethan too, but Rory is the princess, and that is all there is to it. In reality, uncles just don’t stand a chance against the charms of their little nieces. Rory just gives them one of her sweet little smiles, and they melt. Then, she gets picked up, swung around, rides of all sorts…like piggy back and airplane. Yep, Rory’s uncles think she’s the cream of the crop. And she thinks the same of them. Of course, it isn’t just her uncles who think Rory is pretty special. Her great aunts and uncles fit in that category too.

Rory is good friends with her cousin, Aleesia too. They love to play together and get along famously. They especially love to dance the night away. And our little Aurora can sing with the best of them. She loves music, and just can’t help but sing along. Rory loves spending girl time with her aunts and her mom. Since she is the only little girl in her family right now, she is the focus of all the girly fun things…nail polish, pony tails, and girly clothes. Rory is her own girl, and I know she will develop her own style, but she will have been well trained in what looks good by her mom and her aunts. Nevertheless, it seems to be her uncles who Rory likes to play with the most.
Shannon & Rory
Rory is a little bit shy with people she doesn’t know very well, but once she knows you, she is more at ease and you never know what she might decide to do. Like most kids, she is pretty inventive with her play. She might be camping out with her brother or doing the baking with her mom. It just depends on her mood at any given time. Rory has a lot of years ahead of her, and I know she will have a lot of changes in her life. I hope she will always keep her sweet sense of humor, because it will take her far. I just think we are all very blessed to have little Rory in our lives. Today is Rory’s 3rd birthday. Happy birthday Rory!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Aunt Doris & MomWhen my mom was first married, she and my dad moved to Superior, Wisconsin. Dad’s brother, my Uncle Bill Spencer and his wife, my Aunt Doris lived there, and they had a rental house just across the back yard from their house. They rented the house to mom and dad, and the two young brides became fast friends. They did lots of things together, and since they lived just across the yard from each other, it was easy to touch base a lot. They spent some fun, and sometimes downright comical times together. They tried it all, from ketchup soup with crackers, to a single puffed wheat to hold them over, when they were dieting, but probably didn’t need to be. They were two young women doing crazy, goofy things, in the spirit of fun.

Then my parents decided to move to Casper, Wyoming, and the friends had to say goodbye. It was hard on both of them, but as the years went by, time and distance softened the sadness each had felt, and frequent trips to visit helped to keep them in touch. After a number of years, my Aunt Doris’ marriage to my Uncle Bill ended in divorce. Mom and Aunt Doris tried to stay in touch through letter writing, and did pretty well, until it became more and more difficult for them to write. Eventually they got to the point where communication was pretty sparse. I know they were both sorry that they had all but lost touch with their friend.

Then, my sister, Cheryl Masterson, my mom, Collene Spencer, and I decided to make a trip back to Superior, Wisconsin to visit relatives…previously known to us, and also not previously known to us. Upon our arrival, my cousins, Pam Wendling and her husband Mike, and Bill Spencer and his wife Maureen and daughter, Kristin got us together with their mom, and suddenly they were together again. Our moms were so excited to see each other. It was such a beautiful sight to see. I thought both of them were going to cry, and maybe they did a little bit. I found myself watching such a sweet reunion, and it felt good to have been a part of that joyful moment. We don’t know how many more times they will be able to get together like this, but they have had this time, and while they will have to part ways again, I know that both of them will cherish this little reunion.

It is always hard to leave friends behind, but it is pretty much inevitable. Sometimes, while it is a move in the right direction for you, it is heartbreaking for others…and even heartbreaking for you in some aspects of the move. That’s how it was for Aunt Doris and Mom. While the move to Wyoming was necessary and a good one for our family, it also left two friends to try to keep the friendship alive over time and distance.

Aunt Bonnie, Aunt Dixie, and Aunt SandyMy Aunt Dixie Richards was always a shy little girl…something many of us can relate to. The expressions on her face as a child depicted that a little bit. I have always thought that she had a little bit of a shy smile. But the one thing I did notice about that smile is just how beautiful it was. And that she smiled often. I have looked at the pictures of her, and she was always smiling…and her smile always seemed to show some secret delight or tidbit of humor that only she knew about. I always loved that about her, and in looking at her childhood pictures, I can see that it was always the case.

Aunt Dixie has a very loving heart, and her greatest joy is her family. She is married to the love of her life, Jim Richards and together they had three children, Jeannie, Jim, and Raelynn…who gave her six grandchildren. She loves being a grandmother, and wants her family close by and in her life. I can totally relate to that too. There is nothing more precious than family, and the more time you have to spend with them, the better. Aunt Dixie has been the transport person, babysitter, after school day care, and a multitude of other helper positions for her daughters, and she has enjoyed each and every minute of that time. It is simply the job of a grandmother…to be the assistant to the parents.

Uncle Jim and Aunt Dixie Aunt Dixie has always been such a creative person. Whenever she and her family have run the annual Christmas for the Byer family, the decorations have been so unique and pretty. Aunt Dixie has lived in the country for as long as I can remember, and she has raised chickens and such. When my mom ended up with a rooster chick from the fair, she planned to raise it, thinking it was a hen. When we found out that it was a rooster, we had to find it a new home. Aunt Dixie stepped up and took the rooster. We knew he would end up on the dinner table, but at least mom didn’t have to think about it…and that was nice. Today is Aunt Dixie’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Dixie!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

Learning to driveWheelchair racesMy cousin, Larry Cameron married his ex-wife, Kim about a year after she had her first child. Her son, Nehemiah was born with Cerebral Palsy. His biological dad was never in the picture, and that is definitely his loss, because Nehemiah is a very special guy. Larry was with Kim for the birth, and is the only dad, Nehemiah has ever known. Larry loved Nehemiah immediately, and after his marriage to Kim, he adopted him. Nehemiah loved Larry as much as Larry loved him too. They were extremely close from the very beginning. Nehemiah, who often goes by Neo, has two siblings…Moira and Conner.

Larry had joined the Army when he was 18 and spent 22 years in the service before retiring. For a time, was stationed in Korea. His kids were with him for a time after his divorce from Kim. Moira and Conner then went to live with their mother again, but Nehemiah stayed there for about 3 years. Nehemiah loved Korea, and wants to go back there to work as a teacher. He is very smart, and he will be an excellent teacher.

Like a lot of people, Neo is quiet until he gets to know you, and then he shows his true fun nature. He is very active. Being in a wheelchair has not slowed him down one bit. There is no obstacle that Neo considers too big. He simply never considers that he might not be able to do something. He simply does it and proves all the naysayers wrong. He hunts, water skis, plays basketball, and races. He is not afraid of any sport. If he decides he wants to play…he simply finds a way. His abilities and determination are inspiring. So many people just accept a disability, then sit down and do nothing, but not Neo. He is more active than a lot of people with no disabilities…maybe we should all take a page from his book and get out there and live life to the fullest. Recently, he went to a Pow Wow with his dad, and a friend from his Rugby team. His grandparents, my cousins, Shirley and Shorty Cameron, met up with them there. They all had a great time. He doesn’t get to visit his grandparents as often as he would like, and when he is there, it is hard for him to get around, so often times he has to be carried from one room to another, but he goes anyway…as often as he can…because he loves them so much, and they feel the same way about Neo.

Neo is a very loving and giving person, but he is also very independent and self reliant. He Nehemiah's teamWater Skiingdoesn’t like to have to depend on people to take care of him. That shows very strong spirit. For all of his life so far, Neo has needed someone to drive him around, often his dad, but that is about to change, because Neo is working very hard on getting his drivers license. I have a feeling that Larry, his dad, might find that just a little bit bittersweet. Today is Nehemiah’s 21st birthday. Happy birthday Neo!! Have an awesome day!! We love you!!

10436090_10202452553531053_1617650153988223033_nThrough the years, I have seen many changes in my nephew, Steve Spethman. As a young boy, he…like all boys, was mischievous and full of good natured teasing. Since Steve is my nephew, through his marriage to Jenny, my niece, he has only been a part of our family for twelve years. That said, most people might not have known what kind of boy he was, but I knew him, long before Jenny knew him. Steve wasn’t a bad boy…just a boy, and since I had girls, boys were a little foreign to me. Steve also grew up in a family of girls, since it was his mother, sister, and him. Maybe he got away with more than he might have, but he was the little man of the family, and with that came a lot of responsibility too…or at least Steve decided that it was his responsibility.

When he met my niece, Jenny, and then they got married, he took that new responsibility, of being a husband and later a father, very seriously. He became the head of the family, confidently leading his family in the ways they should go…teaching his children what was right. His years of being the little man of the family, had prepared him for being the head of the family. He confidently stepped into the job of being a loving dad to his kids. They meant the world to him. Steve and Jenny were the parents of three sons, Xander, Zachery, and Isaac. Then finally their next baby was to be a daughter.

Losing their daughter, Laila was probably the hardest thing that ever happened to Steve and Jenny, but instead of falling apart, he held them all together. Then after taking a huge leap of faith they stepped out, and tried one more time for a baby daughter, and were blessed with Aleesia. With their life finally filled to the full with a long awaited daughter, Steve began reaching out to other people who had lost a child. His comforting ways have soothed many a broken heart, and lead them to know that all hope is not lost.
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I have seen Steve go from being a tough little boy, to a strong man, to a broken hearted man, to a man who can help others heal. The changes have been astonishing. I am quite proud of the many changes that have occurred in him. I’m sure most are the normal changes that occur, but some of them are changes that he has allowed the Lord to make in him. Those are changes of opening his heart to wise teaching, and that is something that has to come from within the man himself. No one can make us accept wise teaching, but us. And that is probably something in Steve that has never really changed. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!