Loss

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During the years of World War II, so much destruction brought with it the loss of jobs and homes. Along with the loss of jobs came poverty for many people. The smallest necessity became a “luxury” to people who had no problem making a living before. Many children were caught in the post-war poverty, because they lost their parents in the war. The orphanages were filled with children who were still in a daze, and trying to learn to be pretty much on their own, while still under the supervision of the state. I can only imagine how these little ones must have felt. Their parents were gone, they were grieving, and they were tossed into a strange building with many other children, all in the same boat. I’m sure the people running the orphanage did their best to comfort the children, but there were just so many of them.

I’m sure that joy was stranger to most of the children. And I’m sure that the people who cared for them were looking for any way to put a smile on the faces of the children. Little did they know, how such a small thing as shoes, could change everything. They found out, when the Junior Red Cross in the United States of America put together boxes of what most of us would consider necessities to give to the children in Europe.

One six year old Austrian boy named Werfel, was photographed when he got a new pair of shoes at the Am Himmel orphanage, donated to him in the Christmastime care box. The picture taken of little Werfel, was enough to bring tears to the eyes of anyone who saw it. They may have been happy tears, but they were highly emotional tears nevertheless. Most kids these days, would be almost disappointed to receive a pair o shoes as a gift…unless they were the latest in cool shoes. Little Werfel was beyond happy. He held the shoes to his chest and looked to the sky, as I he couldn’t possibly contain his happiness. The photographer probably took the picture through tear filled eyes. I know that’s what I would have done as the photographer. It was impossible not to be filled with emotion. “The photograph was first published in LIFE magazine on December 30, 1946 (on page 22) and later, again, on September 24, 1951 (on page 180). The photograph was shot by Gerald Waller, in 1946, and was titled “New Shoes”. The little boy, Werfel, was among the children who were brought to the USA after being deported from Israel / Palestine, where they arrived after liberation from the concentration camps. The image was published with the following caption in the 1946 issue. “EUROPE’S CHILDREN – Christmas brings joy and sadness.”

It was said that, “For many of Europe’s children there was a Santa Claus this Christmas. When a big box from the American Red Cross arrived at Vienna’s Am Himmel orphanage, shoes and coats and dresses tumbled out. Like the youngster (in the picture), the children who had seen no new clothes throughout the war smiled to high heaven. But for thousands of other European children there was no Santa Claus. When a boatload of illegal Jewish immigrants arrived at Haifa, Palestine recently, two Polish children (opposite) got separated from their parents. Tears filled the eyes of the boy, and his wan sister clutched him protectively. They were later reunited with their parents, but the whole family was shipped to Cyprus.”

The picture has stayed in my memory since the first time I saw it. To see that little boy so overjoyed…over shoes, was so beautiful. The photographer caught the picture perfectly. That moment was very likely one of the first truly happy moments that little boy had felt in quite some time. An adult, no matter the need would never have shown such deep joy, probably because they would still be wrapped up in the poverty of the time, while the child was able to look beyond all that,and see the pure joy of the gift. The child could simply enjoy and cherish what has just been given to him, even though he was living in an orphanage…even though historical events had just unfolded,robbing him of his comfortable life…even though these were hand-me-downs. It made no difference to this boy, and it reminds us of how flawed our thinking is. We tend to look at the negatives in life and focus on them. Not this boy. He was happy with the tiniest positive thing that came into his life. It’s a lesson we should all learn. Sometimes we all need to appreciate the little things in life.

I saw picture of the New York skyline that was taken on September 10, 2001, about 24 hours before the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It was profound. The picture, taken so innocently, probably by a tourist, foretold nothing of the horror that was eminent. No one knew. No one suspected. No one thought such an attack could ever happen on American soil again, but it did, and just 24 hours after this picture was taken, we would all know that it definitely could, and did happen here again.

Just 24 hours after this picture was taken, the lives of 2,996 people would be over (including the 19 hijackers). In addition, more than 6,000 people would be injured. These immediate deaths included 265 on the four planes (including the terrorists), 2,606 in the World Trade Center and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon. The September 11th attacks were the deadliest terrorist attack in world history, and the most devastating foreign attack on United States soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941…the last time we had thought it could never happen here.

We could go over the deaths of the people here, but we all know the horror that took place. We wanted to close our eyes to the terrible images, and yet, in utter disbelief, we could not look away. We hoped against hope, and prayed without ceasing, that by some miracle, more people would be found alive. Still, as time went on, we knew there would be no more survivors. Nevertheless, we waited and we watched. We watched with hope, but we also watched with anger. There was no reason for such a horrible attack on our nation. We weren’t at war, and we had done nothing to hurt these attackers. Yet, somehow, in their twisted, evil minds, we had. And they reveled in the way that they had managed to secretly pull this attack off.

Now, 17 years later, with so many of our young adults almost unaware of the attacks of September 11, 2001, we find ourselves in a place where many people think it could never happen here again, and yet, our world is actually more dangerous now than it was then. We must always be alert. We must never forget those attacks. Never assume that evil will leave our nation alone, if we try to be nice to it. Appeasement only makes us look vulnerable, and that opens the door to attack. It has been proven time and time again. Just like the picture of the New York skyline on September 10, 2001 seemed so serene, it held a dark secret that would only be revealed in the stark daylight of September 11.

The headline read “Wedding Gown To Be Her Shroud.” The newspaper article was about a horrible tragedy, that took place just four days after the wedding of my husband, Bob’s 6th cousin 3 times removed, Ruth Schulenberg to Wilberd Youngman. The wedding took place on November 26, 1913, and was a large social affair for the smaller town of Tolono, Illinois, population of about 700, at the time. Ruth Schulenberg, was the daughter of Mr and Mrs Henry Schulenberg, and was a graduate of Saint Mary’s of the Wood where she was a member of a prominent sorority. Wilberd Youngman employed as a draughsman by the Burr Company of Champaign, Illinois. The wedding took place at Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church in Tolono.

After their wedding, the young couple was on their honeymoon, in Kokomo, Indiana, where they had attended church at the Kokomo Catholic Church. Following the church service, they were on their way to a big wedding dinner in their honor at the country residence of a neighbor of Youngman’s cousin, Edward Grishaw, who was transporting the couple in a closed carriage. As the carriage began its crossing of the tracks of the Lake Erie and Western Railway, Grishaw failed for look for trains, and pulled out in front of the Lake Erie train going full speed. The train ripped through the car, and by the time the train could stop and the crew reached the car’s occupants, Ruth Schulenberg and Edward Grishaw were dead. Wilberd Youngman was critically injured, and not expected to live.

Amazingly, Wilberd Youngman did live…for eleven months. Youngman was taken to a hospital in Chicago, but his prognosis was grim. People just don’t come back from being hit by a train that ripped their car apart, and yet he was still alive, and actually recovering from his injuries…the visible injuries anyway. Youngman had lost so much that November day, and he was struggling to move forward. Ruth Schulenberg had been his soulmate, and his very best friend. She was the love of his life, and he knew there could never be another woman for him. Wilberd Youngman was not a man who would commit suicide, but he also could not recover from this deepest injury…the one that broke his heart. Slowly, over the eleven months that followed the saddest day of his life, Wilberd Youngman dwindled away. it wasn’t a refusal of food and water, but rather a refusal to go on without his precious Ruth. Finally, on October 24, 1914, just short of 11 months after that awful day…November 30, 1913, Wilberd Youngman could no longer go on living, and so, with his parents by his side, he simply passed away. The final cause of death was listed as a broken heart. That, to me was the saddest cause of death I had ever heard. Because of the loss of his wife, Wilberd simply had no desire to live either. He tried to recover…physically, but his heart was no longer in it, and he finally just gave up and quit trying. The Honeymoon Tragedy had finally claimed it’s last victim.

Four years ago, my mom, Collene Spencer; my sister, Cheryl Masterson; and I took a trip back to Superior, Wisconsin, which is where Cheryl and I were born. While we were there, we were invited to Julie Carlson Soukup’s home for dinner. My mom knew the parents of these cousins who had welcomed us into their home. Cheryl and I did too, but it had been a number of years since we had seen them, and certainly, most of the cousins themselves were totally new to us. We watched as the Carlson kids brought their mother, Carol Carlson to the dinner. She had been dealing with Lewy Body Dementia, which is much like Alzheimer’s disease, but with the added issue of motor problems. These kids were so careful with her, and so determined that she be able to come for this visit. It brought tears to my eyes to see such love. Having been a caregiver for a long time, I knew how much work caregiving is, but they didn’t care what it took. She was their mom.

I didn’t know Carol well, but over the years, I watched as the Carlson family centered life around her. They took her so many places, and everywhere they went was an event, documented with lots of pictures. They were, of course, building their memories, knowing that the future was uncertain. They didn’t want to think about the day when Carol would no longer be with them. Right before we came for that visit, they had just had to move Carol into an nursing home, because she could no longer live on her own. Once again they showed her the greatest love they could have for her. They told her about her life, the life that had begun to slip away from her memory files. They needed to preserve it for her somehow.

When Carol passed away, on August 2nd, 2018, I began to recall the many beautiful things the Carlson family had done for her, but I realized that I didn’t really know much about her life. I wanted her children to share some of their favorite memories with me, because I knew that I wanted to write a tribute to their beautiful mother. They decided that they would send me a copy of the letter written by her oldest daughter, Laurie Carlson Stepp at the time they moved Carol into the nursing home. The children put together a scrap book filled with letters from her children and grandchildren, poems she had written, stories about her, such as her sayings…things they had heard her say all their lives, and pictures for her to see. It was their gift to their mother…her memories. They were giving them back to her.

I could never begin to write her memories with the beauty that her children and grandchildren did. Their memories of her were their gift of love to her, and that is beyond special. Nevertheless, I want to try to highlight some of the wonderful things Carol Schumacher Carlson did in her lifetime. The reality is that Carol almost didn’t exist. Laurie tells that story in her letter to her mom, “Your parents, Fred and Anna Schumacher already had one lovely daughter, Beatrice. When she was born, there were serious difficulties and the doctor told Fred that he would have to choose between his wife and the baby. He chose his wife……she chose the baby! They were both saved, but the doctor cautioned against having any more children. So that is why you Carol were a miracle baby.” The faith of her parents brought about Carol’s life, as well as nine siblings after her. The letter told of the help Carol gave her mom with her younger siblings, Leslie, Carl, Margaret, Gilbert, Delwin, Noreen, Bernice, Bob, and Dale.

Carol was a hard worker all her life. She worked at Hills Brothers Dairy, then for a lawyer in Billings Park babysitting their children, as a waitress at the Princess Sweet Shop, at Phoenix Hosiery, at Twin Ports Dairy…where she did office work, and at Kempenski Glass Company. All these were jobs, but her real life’s work was to be the mother of her children. Carol married Donald John Carlson on August 21, 1954, and they would be blessed with Donny, Laurie, Steve, Dave, Jim and twins – Julie and Jeanne. Carol also had bonus children, Bonnie and Randy, from Don’s first marriage. Carol was a housewife, and very good at her job. They grew a big garden, canned and froze enough food to keep the family in vegetables most of the year. Their dad would come home and there was always a flurry of activity and fun. Carol cooked, cleaned, sewed, and took care of her family, and still had time to help out others too. The children always came home from school to some kind of homemade snack, but more importantly…they came home to their mom, Carol, who welcomed them with open arms. Carol baked 5 loaves of bread every day and packed countless lunches. She sewed clothes for her family and often surprised them with something new that they needed after staying up all night working with her sewing machine until it was finished. She made clothes, quilts, tents, and just about anything that could be made with cloth for her family and for her grandchildren too. She made Indian costumes with real tepees, which have been used by most of her grandsons. She made a pair of sandals for Jon and Josh when they were starting to walk, Prom dresses, bridesmaid dresses, suits, pants, skirts, shirts, blouses…the family was always wearing something Carol had made. They have always felt so blessed to have Carol in their lives.

When I set out to write this tribute to Carol Schumacher Carlson, I wanted it to be about the amazing things she did for those she loved. Little did I know that it would be about the amazing children she raised, but in reality, it had to be about her amazing children, because that was what Carol was all about. Her whole life was spent giving of herself to those she loved and cared about. It was Carol, who along with her husband, Don raised these kids to be the loving, responsible adults that they have become. That, in itself, is a tribute to Carol. Her hard work for her family, was her gift to them, and they were her reward…her legacy.

When I was a little girl, my family lived in Superior, Wisconsin. Those were wonderful years, but in more recent years we had not been back to Superior for a number of years. When my mom, Collene Spencer wanted to go back to Superior, my sister, Cheryl Masterson and I took her, since our dad had passed away by then. That, Ancestry, and Facebook opened up a whole new world for Cheryl and me. We got to know our cousins, and the list of cousins we know grows every day…or at least every year. This year, with the Schumacher Family Reunion, we knew we had to go, even though it would be without Mom this time. This trip was bittersweet, because of course, Mom was missing.

Nevertheless, we have had a wonderful time. When we were here the last time, our first cousins once removed, Les and Bev Schumacher had wanted us to come to their house, but our time was do limited, that we didn’t have time to. This time, their daughter, Cathy La Porte graciously invited us for dinner this evening. We got to meet her husband, Gary, as well as to see her brother, Brian Schumacher and his wife, Lisa again. It was simply a wonderful evening. Cathy is an excellent cook and we were treated to Walleye Pike and Northern Pike that Cathy’s husband, Gary caught in North Dakota with his brother this past week. Wow!!! Was it good. Dessert was a Cherry Crumble that Lisa’s friend had given her, and everyone loved it.

The evening was very enjoyable and will always be a sweet memory from our trip. The trip has gone by so fast, and what we thought was enough time, really wasn’t…it never is, is it? Nevertheless, the friendships (cousinships) formed will last for the rest of our lives, and while our parents weren’t there this time, we know they would be smiling…happy to see their daughters and granddaughter continue to reach out to the family as if they were with us. I guess we are carrying on the connections, and that would make them happy, and it makes me happy.

A few years back, I connected with a member of my Schumacher cousins, Tracey Schumacher Inglimo, in what would become a quest to get to know all of my Schumacher cousins, and like my Byer cousins, there were lots of them. The journey has been a wonderful trip, as my sisters and I have cultivated friendships with these precious cousins, some of whom we met on our 2014 trip back to our roots in Superior, Wisconsin. Now, four years later, my sister, Cheryl Masterson; her daughter, Liz Masterson; and I have returned to Superior, Wisconsin for a family reunion. We have been so excited for this reunion to happen, and in fact, have looked forward to reuniting with all of our cousins since we first met or found each other on Ancestry and Facebook.

The reunion took place today at Pattison Park, and it definitely lived up to every hope we had for it. These precious cousins were friendly, hospitable, and informative, while also being curious about us too. We all shared tons of stories about our families, and of course, pictures of our kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. We hugged on the little ones, most of whom looked at us with a sense of wonder as to who we were, and maybe even wondering if we should be hugging them at all…at least until their parents said it was ok. We moved from group to group, and person to person trying to get to know everyone, all the while knowing that there just wasn’t enough time. We found out who the jokesters were too, because what family would be complete without those wonderful people who keep us laughing. We built bonds that will last a lifetime, and parted ways with expressions of sadness that the time had passed far to quickly. We tried to see how soon we could feasibly do this again, knowing that for most of us Facebook would have to suffice until the next reunion.

The time went by far too quickly indeed, and while we wish we could have had far more time to sit and talk, we all knew in our hearts that we had been given a precious gift…a gift of family, friendship, love, and a sense of belonging, because after all, that is what family reunions are all about. Families grow quickly, and the numbers can quickly grow to a point of losing sight of the ones who started the family in the beginning, but at reunions, those who have left us are remembered and discussed, because everyone is trying to put into context, just exactly where they fit in with all these people. We talked of those who weren’t with us with love and sadness, because they would have really loved that their families have made the effort to keep the closeness going. To all those who made this reunion so very special, we love you and thank you for making our family reunion amazing.

For many years, levee systems were built along rivers to hold back flood waters. They work very well…until they don’t. When a levee ruptures, the resulting flood is usually devastating. From June through August of 1993, the midwestern United States received an unusually large amount of rain…far more than normal. The rain led to severe flooding, particularly along the Illinois and Missouri shores. Then, on July 22, 1993, the levee holding back the flooding Mississippi River at Kaskaskia, Illinois, ruptured. The town’s people were forced to flee on barges. In all, more than 1,000 levees burst in late July, but, the incident at Kaskaskia was the most dramatic event of the flood. The town, which was virtually an island, was protected by a levee that the town attempted to shore up even after the bridge connecting the town to the riverside was wiped out by the rising river. At 9:48am, the levee broke, leaving the people of Kaskaskia with no escape route other than two Army Corp of Engineers barges. By 2pm, the entire town was underwater.

The rupture of the levee at Quincy, Illinois, left no way to cross the Mississippi River for 250 miles north of Saint Louis. In Grafton, Illinois, flood waters reached two stories high. Other towns fared somewhat better, but the flooding was bad everywhere. In Saint Genevieve, Missouri, the entire town turned out in a desperate attempt to raise the levee. Prisoners were even brought in to assist the effort. The river crested at a record 49 feet, just two feet below the improved levee. The flood inundated 1 million acres of prime farm land and wreaked havoc on the area’s economy. Miles of wheat fields were too saturated to harvest that season. In addition, the herbicides from the farms washed down the river and severely damaged fish farms in Louisiana. Many other people lost their jobs when barge traffic on the river was suspended for two months. The Mississippi flood of 1993 caused $18 billion in damages and killed 52 people.

Levees can save lives, but when levees fail…people die, and property is destroyed. Sometimes, there is some warning, but other times, the flood that was expected, brings with it an unexpected consequence. And I can’t think of a worse unexpected consequence, than having far more water inundate an area that the flood could possibly have brought in. That was the case in 1993, and especially the case in Kaskaskia, Illinois. No one was prepared for the massive amount of water, and for 52 people, there was no way of escape.

Most safety measures have come from disasters caused by a lack of safety measures. The Hawk’s Nest Tunnel disaster was no different. But sometimes, the safety measures were known and readily available, but were not used, often to save time or money, and always in blatant disregard for the lives of the workers. On March 30, 1930, construction began on the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel. The tunnel was supposed to be a good thing, and in the end, it was, but the necessary measures were not used to keep the workers safe, and the time they spent in the tunnel turned out to be deadly.

This tunnel would be used to divert much of the flow of the New River from the Hawk’s Nest Dam under Gauley Mountain, located about 3 miles away, to a hydro-electric plant at the other end. As construction proceeded, it was discovered that the rock they were cutting had a high silica content. Silica was used in steel making. It seemed like a win-win situation, but not for the 3,000 mostly African-American migrant workers from the south. Rhinehart and Dennis, a company from Charlottesville, Virginia, was awarded the contract. While the management, who visited the tunnel periodically, wore masks and breathing equipment, the workers were not given such equipment. Drilling should have been done using water, but it was not. They were trying to save time and money. The workers were exposed to the silica dust and developed a lung disease called silicosis, for which there is no cure.

This deliberate disregard for safety caused some of the workers to become sick and die from silicosis within a year. There were only 109 admitted deaths, but a Congressional hearing conducted later determined that there were actually 476 deaths attributed to the project. Since that time, some sources have said the number could actually be as high as 700 to 1,000 deaths. This takes into account the workers that could have had minimal exposure to the silica but were affected by it later in life.

The Hawk’s Nest Tunnel is still in use today, diverting water from the New River to produce hydro-electricity for the Alloy plant. Silicosis has been designated an occupational disease. Now compensation for workers affected by it is available. Unfortunately, the tunnel workers at Hawk’s Nest were not protected by these laws. This project is considered to be one of the worst industrial disasters in American history. The tunnel did its job, and continues to do so. I just wish it hadn’t cost so many lives to make the tunnel. It should not have had to come at such a great price.

A sudden downpour near Terry, Montana on the evening of June 19, 1938 caused a flash flooding of the Custer Creek that would lead to a disaster before the night was over. Earlier in the day, a track walker was sent out the check the rail lines near Custer Creek which was located near the town of Terry, Montana. After his inspection, he reported to his superiors that the conditions were dry, and there were no problems with the tracks.

That was true at the time, but within a few hours, a sudden downpour overwhelmed Custer Creek. A small winding river, Custer Creek runs through 25 miles of the Great Plains before depositing into the Yellowstone River. Small streams like Custer Creek are prone to flash floods, because they don’t have the capacity to handle any big influx of water, and their banks can quickly and easily be overtaken during heavy rains. As the water came rushing down stream, it washed out a bridge used by the trains. When the Olympian Special came through, it went crashing into the raging waters with no warning. Two sleeper cars were buried in the muddy waters. The night was pitch black seriously hampering rescue efforts. In all, 46 people lost their lives, and 60 others were seriously injured. The rear cars stayed above the water, but scores of passengers were seriously injured. They could not be evacuated until the following morning. I can’t even begin to imagine how awful that was.

That was a tough week for Montana. Just a few days later, Black Eagle saw “torrents of water” that floated furniture in the house of Sam Tadich, the sheriff had to help a rescue effort, the road to Giant Springs washed away and water was up to cows’ flanks around the Sun River. Havre’s worst flood came in June 22, 1938, when a cloudburst in the Bear Paw Mountains sent out a wall of water. Ten people were killed. Floating train cars were wedged under the viaduct, 10 miles of highway were underwater between Laredo and Box Elder, with a bridge washed out, the Havre Daily News reported. Rain is a good thing, but too much rain, coming too fast can devastate an area, especially one with a creek or river, in a very short time, and for Montana, it was a very rainy week, making it a very tough week.

Memorial Day…an often misunderstood day, is actually a day to remember those military men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedom…they gave their life in service to their country. Whether we know it or not, I’m sure that every family has lost a love one to war…some war in history. It might be many years in the past, and we may not even know about it at all, nevertheless, it is our duty to remember and to honor them, because they sacrificed their very lives that we might live in a free nation. It is so hard to think of someone that we care about, being killed in a foreign country while fighting a war.

I am one of those people who doesn’t personally know of a family member lost in a war, but my Uncle Jim Richards brother, Dale was lost on the beaches of Normandy France on July 30, 1944. It is incomprehensible to me to think of his family getting word of his passing, only to find out that they would have to foot the bill to bring him home for burial. There simply were not enough funds, and so Dale was buried at the Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial, in Normandy, France. I can’t begin to imagine the awful day when the summer suddenly seemed as cold as ice. No parent should have to outlive their child, but with war comes death, and someone’s son or daughter will not be coming home again. I heard it put best in a song by Tim McGraw. The song, If you’re Reading This talks about getting a “one way ticket” over there. Unfortunately, far too many of our young men and women have been given that one way ticket, and while they paid with their lives, their families paid too. Their loved one is forever take from them, and they are left to mourn…to try to go on with their lives.

So many people look at Memorial Day as a holiday…a day to hold picnics, sports events and family gatherings. This day is traditionally seen as the start of the summer season for cultural events. For the fashion conscious, it is seen as acceptable to wear white clothing, particularly shoes from Memorial Day until Labor Day. However, fewer and fewer people follow this rule and many wear white clothing throughout the year. But how should we, the living, best honor the lives of all those who have died in service to our country? On Memorial Day, it is traditional to fly the flag of the United States at half staff from dawn until noon. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries. in reality, this is a day to reflect on the sacrifices made to keep us free. While we feel like we should be honoring veterans who have passed away, the reality is that their day is Veterans Day, which honors the veterans of all wars living or dead. Within the military, there is a very strict protocol concerning the days we honor military personnel. The other thing that we tend to find odd about Memorial Day, is that we can’t go to someone and thank them for their sacrifice, because the way they came to be honored is to have given their life for their country. All we can do is to honor their memory.

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