Loss

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My husband’s grandmother, Nettie Knox liked the unique things that made up her life. She was six months older than Grandpa Robert Knox, and she liked that. When her birthday came around, she would tease him that she was now older and wiser than he was. It was a bit unusual for the wife to be older than the husband in those days. In fact, more common was for the husband to be a number of years older than the wife, sometimes as much as twenty years older, so for Grandma to be the older, was quirky, but she relished the idea. It was a part of her uniqueness.

The birth of Grandma’s first great grandchild, my daughter, Corrie Petersen, was one of the most exciting events to happen in her life. She was beyond excited. She told me immediately when she walked into my hospital room to meet her great granddaughter. They both loved the special connection they shared. Birthdays were celebrated together, along with pictures for each year…a treasured remembrance of the bond they shared. It was something that Grandma knew was unusual, even when the third great grandchild was born of her husband’s birthday. They both now had an unusual treasure, and that made it even greater. It was a beautiful and unique gift to each of them.

Grandma never wanted to just like everyone else. I think she liked feeling like she was one of a kind, and that she definitely was. It wasn’t that she tried to be a rebel or a spectacle, but just that she always showed everyone love and kindness. I think she passed that to Corrie and the rest of the family too. Grandma loved being a mom, grandma, and great grandma. She felt like it made her life complete. I remember always thinking, when Grandma Knox came to my mind, that she was really just so sweet. She hated conflict which reminds me of my youngest daughter, Amy Royce. Grandma wanted everything in her world to be peaceful and happy, and that’s a good way to be. Today would have been Grandma’s 112th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandma Knox. We love and miss you very much.

Just under seven months ago, my Aunt Virginia Beadle left us to go to Heaven. Whenever I think of her, I picture her sweet face, always smiling gently at me. She never said a harsh word to me or anyone else I know of either. Oh I suppose she did get angry or speak harshly at some point in her life, but not in her latter years…not that I know of. Aunt Virginia just always had a sweet disposition.

Aunt Virginia’s heart was with her family. She loved each of them dearly. Aunt Virginia had 5 children, one of whom, Christy passed away shortly after her birth in 1967; and one, Forrest, born in 1956, whom she adopted as a baby. Forrest passed away in 2005. Her other children were Stephen, born in 1962; Betsy, born in 1965; and Billy, born in 1969. She was very proud of all of her children, and loved them very much. Of course, with children, come the blessings of grandchildren and later, great grandchildren, and Aunt Virginia was very blessed in both of those areas too. She was also very blessed with some wonderful children-in-law, who took great care of her in her latter years. I am very proud of all of her family for the care they gave her. As a caregiver in the past, I know that while they never feel like a burden, taking care of a parent can be a very taxing task. You would never change a thing, but you find yourself very tired while you are working to care for a parent. Aunt Virginia was able to live mostly at the homes of her children in her latter years, and with the exception of a few short nursing home stays after an illness, she did not have to move into a nursing home permanently. As most of us know, that is something many people worry might happen to them when they get older.

Aunt Virginia was always a tiny little woman, very petite, and at least in her latter years, rather short. I don’t know what her height was when she was younger, but the last times I saw her, I remember thinking that she was the size of a 10 or 12 year old child. Nevertheless, don’t let her size fool you. She could handle her own, at least before time took away her strength. Still, she was able to walk and take care of her own needs for the most part right up until her passing. I know that I will always have great love and respect for my dear Aunt Virginia. Today is Aunt Virginia’s 90th birthday and her first one in Heaven. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Virginia. We love and miss you very much.

Walt Schulenberg left us to go to Heaven, and sometimes that makes sense in my head, but most times, it just seems impossible. The years march on, and our lives get busy, and before we know it much more time has passed that we ever thought possible.

My father-in-law was a big part of my life…he was my second dad, and I was extremely blessed by both of my dads. They were different men in many ways, but they were also very similar in many ways too. That is probably what endeared my father-in-law to me in the first place. He had such a sweet and kind spirit. How could I have felt anything but welcome. He had a wonderful sense of humor and I found myself laughing at his antics every time. From the first time I met him, I felt like I was one of his kids too. Not everyone has the ability to make people feel that way, but Walt Schulenberg did.

Through the years, Dad could always be counted on to help with the many project a life produces. He never complained. He did it out of love…love for his kids and his grandkids, and later his great grandkids. His children blessed him with many of these, and he, in turn, blessed them with many treasures, material yes, but also the treasures of his heart and the love he had for them. We were all blessed by the love he had for us.

Dad was a hard working man. He was a loyal employee, and well liked by his bosses over the years. I think one of his favorite jobs was the one he had driving T-Birds of Casper College to many of their sporting evens and such. It gave him the opportunity travel around and still get paid for it…plus, he loved the kids. I think he always enjoyed young people, because they were so full of life. I think that is one of the things I loved most about my father-in-law…he was full of life. Life has been very different since he left us, and we miss him very much.

My dad…when I think of him, I always feel such a sense of pride in who he was. He had lived so great a life, seen so many things, gone places, and while many people might not think his life was so grand, I did. My dad, Allen Spencer, was born on April 27, 1924 in Superior, Wisconsin, to Allen and Anna (Schumacher) Spencer. He was the third of their four children, and one of two rather mischievous boys. The family owned a farm, and the children helped with the chores there. His dad worked for the Great Northern Railroad as a carpenter, building and repairing the seats on the train, and any other carpentry work needed. That fact gave the children Laura, William (Bill), Allen (my dad), and Ruth, the unique privilege of having a pass to ride the train for free, as a dependent of their dad, making their trips to school easier, though not without adventure. As I said, the boys were mischievous, and boarding the train in the normal, everyday way was just too boring. They boys hopped on the moving train, every chance they got, always hoping not to be caught and scolded. They were told repeatedly not to hop on the train, because it was unsafe, but they were boys, and they liked the danger.

Growing up, the train adventures weren’t the only ones the boys had, and probably not the most dangerous either. When dad was about 15 and his brother, Uncle Bill about 17, the boys decided to take the summer and go look for work. They didn’t make reservations at hotels, or have previously lined up jobs, but rather hit the road and did odd jobs in the towns they came across. One time there was no room in the local hotel, so the local sheriff allowed them to sleep in the jail…the first and last time either of them was in jail, as far as I know. If I know my dad and my uncle, they thought it was a great adventure…even though their mother would have been appalled. Or maybe she would have been grateful to the sheriff for keeping her boys off the street.

When Dad was 17, he left home to go work at Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica, California, building airplanes. I often wonder if it was his work there that made him a prime candidate for the position he held in World War II, as a top turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17 based at Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England. I don’t know his thoughts on being in one of the countries where his ancestors had hailed from, but to my genealogist’s eyes, it would have been the best gift ever given…had it not been for the war, of course. To find himself in the “old stomping grounds” of many of his ancestors…well, it would have been beyond awesome. Dad, decided that he didn’t need much, and so he sent most of his pay home to be put in saving, telling his mom, that if she needed it, she was to use it, because he could always get a job when he got home. In war, times are tough, and Dad wanted to make sure that his family, back home in Superior was well and had enough money to get by. During his R and R time, Dad spent time in Miami, Florida and Galveston, Texas, and of course his training for service had taken place on several air bases across the United States. Dad had always loved to travel, so I’m sure his wanderer’s heart took great pleasure in the many locations he found himself in.

It was, in fact, his wanderer’s heart that brought him across the path of my Aunt Virginia and her husband at the time. She later introduced him to her sister and his future wife, my mom, Collene Byer. Mom was totally smitten by Dad, immediately thinking that he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. Before long, she loved him immensely, but she was a school girl, and had to wait a while to actually marry him. As was more common in those days, my dad was twelve years older than my mom, but theirs was a love that would last until his passing in 2007. Even after his passing, Mom had no desire to see anyone else. She just couldn’t imagine it. He was the only love of her life.

Dad never lost the love of travel, though his married life settled him first for several years in Superior, Wisconsin, and the for the rest of his life in Casper, Wyoming. He wanted to show his family the places he loved, most importantly the United States. He often told us that this was a beautiful country, and not only should we try to see it, we should drive, because you could see much more from the ground than from a plane. Of course, for most of us time constraints don’t allow for cross country drives, but after the flight to get there, we try to see the area surrounding our destination. Dad, I’m certain, would have viewed that type of travel with a measure of skepticism. Still, he loved to hear about our travels. He always seemed to have a far away look on his face, because he could picture the same place in his mind…you see, he had most likely been there before, and he was so happy that we had followed in his footsteps. Today would have been my dad’s 96th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. I know you and Mom are having a wonderful time. We love and miss you very much and can’t wait to see you again.

In a time of global pandemic, many people are thinking about the Coronavirus, and the impact it is having on all our lives. Of course, there have been a number of pandemics in years past, such as the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, that killed 50,000,000 worldwide. The pandemic was active from January 1918 to December 1920. So little was known then about how to protect ourselves from these things, or even what a virus was. We learned from that pandemic and others as the years went on.

One such epidemic was the Polio Epidemic in the United States, the 1952 epidemic was the worst outbreak in the nation’s history. It is credited with heightening parents’ fears of the disease and focusing public awareness on the need for a vaccine. Of the 57,628 cases reported that year 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. Finally, on March 26, 1953, American medical researcher Dr Jonas Salk announced on a national radio show that he has successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis, which is the virus that causes the crippling disease of polio. Dr Salk was celebrated as the great doctor-benefactor of his time, for promising eventually to eradicate the disease, which is known as “infant paralysis” because it mainly affects children.

Polio attacks the nervous system and can cause varying degrees of paralysis. The disease affected humanity throughout recorded history, and since the virus is easily transmitted, epidemics were commonplace in the first decades of the 20th century. The summer of 1894 brought the United States first major polio epidemic, beginning in Vermont. By the 20th century thousands were affected every year. In the first decades of the 20th century, treatments were limited to quarantines and the infamous “iron lung,” a metal coffin-like contraption that aided respiration. Although children, and especially infants, were among the worst affected, adults were also commonly afflicted, including future president Franklin D Roosevelt, who in 1921 was stricken with polio at the age of 39 and was left partially paralyzed. Roosevelt later transformed his estate in Warm Springs, Georgia, into a recovery retreat for polio victims and was instrumental in raising funds for polio-related research and the treatment of polio patients.

Salk’s procedure, first attempted unsuccessfully by American Maurice Brodie in the 1930s, was to kill several strains of the virus and then inject the benign viruses into a healthy person’s bloodstream. The person’s immune system would then create antibodies designed to resist future exposure to poliomyelitis. Salk conducted the first human trials on former polio patients, on himself, and his family. By 1953, he was ready to announce his findings. The announcement was made on March 25th, on the CBS national radio network, and two days later in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr Salk became an immediate celebrity.

Clinical trials using the Salk vaccine and a placebo began in 1954 on nearly two million American schoolchildren. It was announced that the vaccine was effective and safe in April 1955, and a nationwide inoculation campaign began. Unfortunately a defective vaccine manufactured at Cutter Laboratories of Berkeley, California, had tragic results in the Western and mid-Western United States, when more than 200,000 people were injected with a defective vaccine, and thousands of polio cases were reported, 200 children were left paralyzed and 10 died.

The ensuing panic delayed production of the vaccine. Still, new polio cases dropped to under 6,000 in 1957, the first year after the vaccine was widely available. So, other than the defective vaccine, maybe it was working. Scientists continued to improve the product, and in 1962, an oral vaccine developed by Polish-American researcher Albert Sabin became available, greatly facilitating distribution of the polio vaccine. These days, polio has been all but wiped out, and there are just a handful of polio cases in the United States every year. Most of these are “imported” by Americans from developing nations where polio is still a problem. Jonas Salk was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, among other honors. He died in La Jolla, California, in 1995.

Today would have been my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg’s 89th birthday, but she went home to Heaven just over two years ago. She was born second of her parents’ 4 children. Her older brother Everett Knox passed away shortly after birth, due to a complicated birth, and the lack of medical assistance. The baby should have been taken by Caesarian section, but he was born at home and the doctor did not think the C-section was necessary…sadly. When grandma, Nettie Knox found out that she was pregnant again, she made up her mind not to take any chances with this Rainbow Baby. Grandma decided that she would go stay in the hospital for the last month of her pregnancy, until her baby arrived. She paid $5.00 a day for the privilege, and she would stay there for 40 days by the time her baby, my future mother-in-law was born.

I’m sure lots of people though her solution was extreme, but she did what she felt was prudent for the times. She never wanted to deliver another baby, so far from emergency medical services. As it turned out, her three daughters were born without incident. Nevertheless, her daughters were all born in a hospital. She wasn’t taking any chances.

My mother-in-law may not have had a rough beginning, but she would, nevertheless, remain an only child almost 15 years, before her sister, Linda joined the family. Margee would follow just over two years later. Many things have changed in the years since my mother-in-law was born. Home births have become less common, but they are making a comeback these days. Babies dying in childbirth are more rare now, but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. I think that if all that happened to Grandma Knox today, she would still react to it in the same way as she did then. Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 89th birthday. I’m thankful that she lived all those years ago, because if she hadn’t, my life would have been much different. Happy birthday in Heaven, Mom. We love and miss you very much.

Five years is such a long time, and yet such a short time. I simply can’t believe that my mom has been in Heaven that long. The day she left us is still vivid in my memory files. It is a picture I will never get out of my head. There are a few scenes in my head that are that way. I try not to focus on them. They don’t need to be re-run to keep their memory alive. I try to focus on the happier past…the memories of the good times with my mom.

Collene Spencer was a bit of a shy girl, but she knew a good looking man when she saw one. For her, falling in love with my dad was like breathing…and she never looked back. Mom didn’t really like school, so that was not something that had any hold on her. She wanted to be married and have a family. I don’t really know if that had been her dream, before she met my dad, but it certainly was after that meeting. Their honeymoon was a move East to Superior, Wisconsin where Dad’s family was from and still lived. Mom’s family liked the idea too, because it gave them someplace to go visit. It was a beautiful place to visit too, so that was a plus. While mom eventually wanted to and did move back, her family wished she had stayed, so they could justify more visits.

After having their first two daughters, Cheryl Masterson, and me in Superior, Mom and Dad had the rest, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock here in Casper, Wyoming, where Mom’s family mostly lives. I have always thought we were very blessed to have so much family around us. That has never really been made so clear as when we became orphans. That’s when family really means a lot. My sisters, and our families first and foremost, of course, but aunts, uncles, and especially cousins have stepped in too…making us feel loved and comforted. I will always miss my parents…until the day I join them in Heaven. They taught us so many things, and it is because of their upbringing that we are the women we are today. The best we can do is make them proud of the people their children have become. I can’t believe that my mom has been in Heaven for five long years now. It seems an impossible number of years. While it seems just seconds ago to those who are there, mostly because that’s how eternity works, for the rest of us, the days feel much longer. We love and miss you Mom, and we can’t wait to see you again.

My Uncle Jack McDaniels was such a fun man. He was a jokester at heart, and he loved spending time with his family. On of the things he was very interested in was history. He loved to share that with his kids and even had a number of history books that reflected the stories he shared. I wish many of us had known about his knowledge of Casper history.

Uncle Jack and Aunt Bonnie had a beautiful place east of Casper, along the Platte River. There they raised their kids, Cindy and Michael. Uncle Jack loved tp teach Michael about cars and car racing. The two of them spent many hours tinkering on cars in the garage. It’s a great pastime for a father and son.

Uncle Jack loved the outdoors, and all outdoor sports. He loved to go hunting and fishing, as well as taking his family camping. That seemed to be a common thing among the men in our family. I’m sure that is why Uncle Jack fit in so well in our family. All of the aunts and uncles loved Uncle Jack. I can see why, because all of his nieces and nephews loved him too. He was sweet and funny, with a great sense of humor. My husband, Bob and I usually ran into Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Jack at the normal weekly hangout…Walmart. That seems to be the place we see most of our friends and family. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up and start adulting. A “date” is the weekly trip to the grocery store. I miss those times. I always looked forward to them. Today would have been my Uncle Jack’s 82nd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Jack. We love and miss you very much.

My grand-nephew, Jake Harman has always held a special place in my heart, probably because he was my first grand nephew…the first of this new generation. He has also, always made sure that I know that he loves me, his great aunt. Not every kid is the demonstrative type, but Jake always gives me a big hug, tells me he loves me, and even calls me beautiful. Now that’s a kid after my own heart…or maybe he is just a flatterer at heart. I like to think the former.

Jake is a grown man now, and has a family of his own. He has a bonus daughter named Alice, who loves him very much. He also has a daughter named Izabella, and a son named Jaxx. He and his wife, Melanie are very happy together, and life is good for them. Jake works hard to support his family, and they all love him very much. Of course, the fact that Jake is definitely a kid at heart, makes him the perfect guy to entertain the kids. From “attacking” Alice, with the help of Jaxx, to chasing the kids around the yard, Jake is up for it. He doesn’t mind getting goofy with them, and it shows in how the kids interact with their dad. The really cool thing is the memories the kids will have of their dad playing with them. So often, parents are too busy to play with the kids, and yet, it is so important. Jake grows more and more in love with his wife and kids everyday.

Jake spent a number of years working for FedEx, but now he is driving a bus for the school district. With Jake’s love of kids, and his easy way with them, he has the perfect personality for a bus driver. Jake is also the youth group leader at his church, and it is a calling that has been just wonderful for him. His walk with the Lord has grown by leaps and bounds. He also gets to go on outings with the youth, and they always have a wonderful time. Working in the church, and walking with the Lord has given Jake the ability to be an important support person for those who are hurting, most importantly right now, his sister, Siara and her husband Nick Olsen, who recently lost their son, Alec. Jake and Siara were always very close, and this loss has been heartbreaking. He is also trying to be a strong support for his mom, Chantel Balcerzak, and dad, Dave, who are hurting equally badly. It hasn’t been the happiest time leading up to his birthday, but I believe that God will strengthen and comfort them all. Today is Jake’s birthday. Happy birthday Jake!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Jenny Spethman has had a normal, average life by most standards. She has been a stay-at-home mom for much of her marriage, and has just recently started a part-time job at a law firm here in Casper, where she is a runner for the attorneys and legal staff there. This is an exciting time for Jenny. As any stay-at-home mom knows, being around kids for hours and hours every day, can bring a parent to the point of just wanting another adult to talk to. It wasn’t about the money really, although that comes in handy too. It was about doing something useful now that her children are in school…something new and interesting. I think that her new job is perfect for her, because there are so many new things to do, interesting people to be around, and legal procedures to learn.

Jenny’s exciting new job is something to celebrate, but there is so much more to Jenny. She is one of the strongest people I know. Jenny’s life hasn’t been perfect. She and her husband, Steve lost their daughter, Laila in 2010, and then gathered their strength and tried again, having their 5th child, Aleesia just 9 months later. After having three sons, they had wanted a daughter, and that made Laila’s passing more devastating. Nevertheless, they now have their rainbow baby in the form of daughter, Aleesia. Having another child after loss is a show of strength in itself, but that is not the only way that Jenny’s inner strength presents itself.

Jenny is a strong student of the Bible. She listens to God’s leading and receives revelations knowledge on so many matters of importance. Jenny is an early-riser, and loves to spend the early morning hours in Bible reading and Christian meditation on the Word. Her focus gives her strength on a daily basis. Jenny and Steve are united in their faith, and have learned to lean on God in all situations. Even with all they have gone through, it is often Jenny who is there to lift up others who are struggling, grieving, or just unsure what to do. We are all very proud of her strong, supportive ways, and we all count on her often. Today is Jenny’s birthday. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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