Reminiscing

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The other day, while reading an article about notable Native Americans, I came across a name that was familiar to me, but really didn’t seem like a Native American name. The name was Renville, the same name as my grand-nephew, James Renville. Immediately, I wondered if there might be a connection between Chief Gabriel Renville and my grand-nephew. The search didn’t take very long, before I had my answer. Gabriel Renville is my grand-nephew, James’ 1st cousin 7 times removed. I find that to be extremely amazing to think that James is related to an Indian chief. With that information, I wanted to fine out more abut this man.

Chief Gabriel Renville was a mixed-blood Santee Sioux—his father was half French and his mother half-Scottish. He was born in April of 1825 at Big Stone Lake, South Dakota. Renville was the treaty chief of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Santee tribes and signed the 1867 treaty, which established the boundaries of the Lake Traverse Reservation. One source called him a Champion of Excellence.

He was careful to protect his people as much as he could, and was also instrumental in saving the lives of many white captives. During the 1862 Uprising, Renville opposed Little Crow and was influential in keeping many of the Santee out of the war. He lost a large amount of property, including horses appropriated by the hostile savages, or destroyed in consequence of his position to their murderous course. Renville served as chief of scouts for General Sibley during the campaign against the Sioux in 1863.

Even though Chief Renville was an ally of the whites, it didn’t help him when he settled on the reservation. The government agent there, Moses N. Adams, considered him hostile. Renville was the leader of the “scout party” which was in conflict with the “good church” Indians. I’m sure that was common in those days. Renville preserved many of the traditional Santee customs of polygamy and dancing, and he ignored Christianity, but he was not opposed to economic progress and he and his followers became successful farmers on the reservation. However, the Sisseton agent favored the “church” Indians.

Renville and other leaders of the traditional Indians accused Adams of discriminating against them in the disposition of supplies and equipment. He said Adams favored the idle church-goers instead of encouraging them to work….a situation not unlike the current welfare system. Agent Adams considered Renville a detriment and removed the chief form the reservation executive board which Adams had organized to carry out his policies. It was a move that was considered extreme. In 1874 Renville was finally successful in securing a government investigation of the Adam’s activities. The outcome of the investigation was an official censure of Adams. Chief Renville continued to practice the old Santee customs, yet he encouraged the Indians to farm. This progressive influence was greatly missed after his death in August 1892.

When a child is born, you have no idea what the future will bring for them. You want the best for them, and you pray that all their dreams will come true, but you always wonder if their dream will be to do something that they are not suited for. As their parent, all you can do is let nature take it’s course. Then suddenly, they are almost all grown up, and there, standing in front of you is everything you ever dreamed they would become and more. That is exactly where my niece, Susan Griffith finds herself today as she looks at where her daughter, Jala Satterwhite is now.

Jala starts 10th grade next week, which is a huge shock to her mom. Jala has been an amazing athlete in school. As a freshman, she was in swimming, indoor track, and outdoor track. She actually lettered in track last year as a Freshman, which is pretty rare…and very impressive!! Her parents are hoping that one of her athletic skills will get her into the college of her dreams. Jala doesn’t know yet what college that will be or what she will study, but she has many skills that she could take and make into a great career. Her future is definitely bright!!

Of course, college is a little way off, but it will be here before she knows it. For now, Jala is looking forward to getting her driver’s license next week, and hopefully a job shortly after that, so she will be able to pay for the fuel. That last part might have been what her parents want, because as you know, gasoline is expensive, and we all know that once they can drive, kids like to be on the go as much as possible. Of course, that’s helpful for their parents too, because the kids can run errands and transport younger siblings too.

Jala is growing up to be such a great person…the pride and joy of her parents. She still enjoys riding her horse, Lilly, of course, and hunting with her step-dad, Josh Griffith. Hanging out with her friends is obviously a big thing for her as well. She is very social, and has great friends. Today is Jala’s birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Most often, when we think of the early Americans, and their settlements, we think about the settlers who came over from Europe, but there were, of course, the many Indian tribes that existed here first. I’m not going to dispute whether the Indians or the White Man have more right to be here, because I truly believe that we should all be able to co-exist here after all these years, and that while treaties were broken many times, we have more than likely paid for this land a number of times, given the money that has been, and continues to be paid to the Native Americans. The oldest known culture in the United States was the Pueblo Indians, who lived in the Southwestern United States. Their name is Spanish for “stone masonry village dweller.” They are believed to be the descendants of three major cultures…the Mogollon, Hohokam, and Ancient Puebloans (Anasazi) Indians. I’m not sure how they would have come to be here, unless their ancestors were here first, but that is how the historians see it.

Over the years, the Ancient Puebloans, who had been a nomadic, hunter-gathering society, evolved into a sedentary culture. They made their homes in the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. The Puebloans continued to hunt, but they also expanded to agriculture. They grew maze, corn, squash, and beans. They also raised turkeys and even developed a fairly complex irrigation system. They took up basket weaving and pottery, and became quite skilled in both. About this time, they began building the buildings we think about when we think of the Pueblo Indians…villages, often on top of high mesas or in hollowed-out natural caves at the base of canyons. These multiple-room dwellings and apartment like complexes, designed with stone or adobe masonry, were the forerunner of the later pueblos.

Sadly, even with their successful life changes, the Ancient Puebloans way of life declined in the 1300’s, probably due to drought and inter-tribal warfare. They migrated south, primarily into New Mexico and Arizona, becoming what is today known as the Pueblo people. For hundreds of years, these Pueblo descendants lived a similar lifestyle to their ancestors. They continued to survive by hunting and farming, and also building “new” apartment-like structures, sometimes several stories high. These new structures were made of cut sandstone faced with adobe, which is a combination of earth mixed with straw and water. Sometimes, the adobe was poured into forms or made into sun-dried bricks to build walls that are often several feet thick. The buildings had flat roofs, which served as working or resting places, as well as observation points to watch for approaching enemies and view ceremonial occasions. For better defense, the outer walls generally had no doors or windows, but instead, window openings in the roofs, with ladders leading into the interior.

Each family unit consisted of a single room of the building unless the family grew too large. Then side-rooms were sometimes added. The houses of the pueblo were usually built around a central, open space or plaza in the middle of which was a “kiva,” a sunken chamber used for religious purposes. Each pueblo was an independent and separate community. The different pueblos shared similarities in language and customs, but each pueblo had its own chief, and sometimes two chiefs, a summer and winter chief, who alternated. Most important affairs, such was war, hunting, religion, and agriculture, however, were governed by priesthoods or secret societies. Each pueblo was almost a separate country.

My grand-nephew, Matthew Masterson is growing up so fast. According to his mom, Dustie Masterson, Matthew is a real man boy these days. He is very protective of his mom and his sisters. When his dad, my nephew, Rob Masterson had to go to South Carolina for training for work, it ended u being at the same time that Matthew was supposed to be staying in Fort Laramie, Wyoming with a friend of his. As Matthew thought about his mom and sisters at home without a man in the house, he just couldn’t stand it. And his mom secretly felt the same way. Matt called his mom and asked her to drive to Fort Laramie and pick him up. The visit with his friend would have to be another time. So right after she dropped Rob at the airport, she made the drive back up to pick him up. Matt stuck to his mom and sisters like glue, even going outside with his mom when she went out to smoke. When his dad is not home, Matt considers himself the family protector. He is learning to shoot and to be safe with guns, so he can keep his family safe.

Matt is turning 13, and going into 7th grade this year. It’s hard to believe he is getting so grown up. Matt is totally into online gaming with his friends from school. He really likes Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Siege 6 and Fortnight. Now, if only he can remember not to “team kill” and get banned for another week. I guess it’s easy to get carried away sometimes. Nevertheless, I’m sure that it won’t take him too long to become a master at both games. Gaming if great, but Matt likes to cook too, and when given the choice between cooking with his mom and gaming…well cooking is the only thing that Matt will immediately flip off the Xbox for.

Matt’s family recently moved into a new home, and now he has his own room, which he really loves. One surprising thing came about with having his own room. Suddenly Matt is meticulous about keeping his room clean. Now that, for most boys is a amazing thing, of course, it all gets back to normal for boys when you hear that along with having his room clean, he also works very hard to keep it girl free!! I guess it’s one thing to be protective of his sisters, but totally another to share his space with them. Today is Matt’s birthday. Happy birthday Matt!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Dave Balcerzak married my niece, Chantel in June of 2002, but they had known each other since childhood. We all loved Dave from the beginning. He is a big teddy bear, who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He fit into the family instantly, and we have all been so pleased to have him in the family. Dave is a man of considerable technical talent, and has been there for those of us who have been in need of repairs on computers, but that is the least of the reasons that we love Dave. When he married my niece, Chantel, Dave became Dad to her kids, Jake Harman and Siara Harman Olsen. He was the only dad they really ever had, even though they had a dad. Dave was there for the long haul. He didn’t leave when the going got rough. He was there when there were tears and broken hearts, and through the difficult teenage years, and it was Dave who was their dad at their weddings, who walked Siara down the isle. Dave is the man they call Dad, because he is the man who has been their dad, and dad to his own two kids, Keifer Balcerzak and Katy Balcerzak Collett. Dave is a dad at heart. He was the dad that he should be for his kids, and the dad he didn’t have to be for Chantel’s kids. And now he is grandpa to the four grandchildren they have given them.

A few months ago, Dave had some health problems that put him in the hospital with heart problems. While there, he had a stroke. That was really the beginning of a miracle for Dave. Miraculously, a CNA quickly caught that something wasn’t right. All Dave said was that his big toe hurt, but she saw so much more. Dave was quickly treated for a stroke, and then for an irregular heartbeat, that was the cause of the stroke. They tried shocking his heart, but the rhythm wouldn’t hold. Finally, they did a Catheter Ablation procedure. Basically it is a procedure that destroys the area of the heart muscle that is causing the arrhythmias. It sounds like a drastic measure to fix arrhythmia in the heart, but it worked. Within a couple of weeks, Dave was back to normal, and able to walk Siara down the isle at her wedding. It was a miraculous moment, and one he wasn’t sure was going to happen. He would not have had the stamina to do that had his heart not been repaired. Once again, Dave was able to be the dad, he didn’t have to be, but chose to be. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! We give thanks to God that you are still here with us. Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, JD Parmely is a car fanatic. I have never known anyone who owns more cars than he does, and the number keeps getting bigger. I suppose, that as the saying goes, “to each his own” really applies here. Cars are JD’s thing, and he can often be found out in his garage tinkering on one of them…sometimes until 2:00 in the morning. It is what makes him happy, and it has from the time he was old enough to think about cars. JD knew from a young age that he wanted to be a mechanic, and so he went to college in Arizona for his training, and now, not only does he work on his own cars but he is a mechanic by trade too. They say that when you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. That certainly is true for JD.

It would be my guess that the only job JD loves more than being a mechanic, is being an uncle. Since the first time he became an uncle, he was in love with that whole part of his life. JD’s brother, Eric Parmely and sister-in-law, Ashley now have three children, so JD is uncle to Reagan, Hattie, and Bowen. He takes his role very seriously, spending time with them whenever he can, and I’m sure that he is considered a great blessing to them. JD has a heart of gold, and those kids all know how much their uncle loves them, and like most uncles, they have him wrapped around their little fingers already. JD has a soft heart in that area, and I’m pretty sure that those kids know it too.

JD is the kind of guy you can always count on. He has been a ready help to his brothers and uncles whenever they asked him. He has also been good to his dad, even taking him into his home after he had a stroke, and helping him with the demands of his new health status. Having been a caregiver myself for 13 years, I can say that taking care of someone is no easy job, and those who do it deserve our respect. All in all, JD live a very busy life, sometimes it can wear a person out just thinking about it, but it’s what makes him happy, so that’s all that matters. Today is JD’s birthday. Happy birthday JD!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

For a number of years I have wondered why my sisters all had a sweetheart chin and jawline, while mine was pretty square. It wasn’t something my sisters particularly noticed, and maybe my parents didn’t either, but I did. It just seemed so…square. I always thought it made my face look fat…especially if I was seated in the front in pictures. In reality, I suppose it isn’t so different from my sisters, and most people would never notice it unless I pointed it out, but we are usually our own worst critic, so I definitely notice that jawline.

I was talking to my sister, Cheryl Masterson about it the other day, and we began to wonder just where it came from. I decided to take a look at the pictures I have of ancestors on my Ancestry tree. It took a few minutes, but I came across a grandmother, Mary Ann Jeffries, who married James Fishburn. Grandma Fishburn seems to have the same jaw line that I do. I don’t think I really look like her in most ways, but that jawline is pretty distinct. My sister had to agree too. We know very little about Grandma Fishburn, because she passed away back in 1913, long before I was born.

Mary Ann and her first husband, Andrew Lake were apparently divorced, because he died after her, but she went on to marry my 2nd great grandfather, James Fishburn in 1863. She and her first husband had a son, Christopher Daniel Lake in 1859, and with her second husband, she had Hanna in 1867, Almira in 1869, and Edna in 1871 (my great grandmother). James, my 2nd great grandfather, died in 1897. In about 1900, Mary Ann married John Parker, who died in 1914, about a year after she did. I don’t really know anything more but the woman with whom I share a jawline, but it seems to me that he was not a quitter. She didn’t let life’s disappointments destroy her life, but rather picked herself up by the bootstraps and moved forward. Maybe it was because she had children to care for or live for, or maybe she just understood that life isn’t always a bed of roses, and we must each play the hand we are dealt. With perseverance, and faith in God, we go forward, and live on. As for me, I finally know where that jawline came from.

For most of the time I have been writing about my grand-niece, Katie Balcerzak, my stories have been centered around her love of children and her work at the Montessori school, her happy marriage to my grand-nephew, Keifer, and her desire for a family, but this year is simply different, because this year is all about the baby. The baby, who goes by the name of Reece Victoria Balcerzak, has completely taken over her parents’ hearts. Their whole life centers around her, and for good reason, because Reese is a sweet, smiley little girl with smiling eyes to match her beautiful smile. She is a happy baby, and that makes her mommy so happy. For Katie, life is complete… at least until they decide to have another baby, at which time, they will wonder how they ever could have been a family of three, because they will have two babies to love then.

These days, Katie spends her free time…the time when she isn’t taking care of home and baby…taking pictures of her little gem, and who can blame her, because Reece is a total cutie. Really, all Katie has ever wanted was to be a mom, and she is such a great mom, so that in itself is success. Of course, as we all know, being the mom of a baby does have its challenges too. Babies get crabby when they are hungry, wet, teething, and tired…among other things. Sometimes, they are just in a crabby mood, and why should they be different.we all get crabby sometimes. Nevertheless, even if Reece is crabby, her mommy loves her bunches, and usually knows how to fix it. Katie prides herself in the care she gives Reece, and wants to be the best mommy she can be…I mean, which of us moms don’t want that.

Some of the things that Katie has learned in her journey from new mommy to seasoned professional,have been kind of funny, or should I say her sense of humor was clearly showing, because she points out the long list of today’s parenting Dos and Don’ts List, and how according to these “professionals” just how amazing it is that yesterday’s generation ever survived their parents. When you read the list, you find yourself laughing, because no parent could possibly live up to that. At first glance, you might think she was serious, but then you read the rest of it, and find out that she was really being funny. The only aren’t who would really try to follow that list would be one that will soon find themselves trying to avoid the nut house!! Thankfully, Katie has seen through the craziness, and focuses more on the simple ways to be a good parent and raise a happy, healthy, child. Today is Katie’s birthday, and the first one she has spent as a mother. Happy birthday Katie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

The term “coward” doesn’t normally bring with it thoughts of bravery in the face of danger, but perhaps it should…sometimes anyway. Charles Joseph Coward was born in Britain on January 30, 1905. I can’t say what his young life was like, and perhaps it was his parents who taught him to prove his name wrong, but I’m quite sure they were proud of just how well he proved that he was anything, but a coward. Coward joined the British Army in 1937 and served with the 8th Reserve Regimental Royal Artillery. By the time WWII started in 1939, he was a Quartermaster Battery Sergeant Major. They already saw something in him that disproved his name.

In World War II, Coward was fighting against the Nazis when the Germans assaulted the port of Calais on May 21, 1940, marking the start of the Siege of Calais. The German army drove the Allies back, and the British Expeditionary Force fled from France through the port of Dunkirk. Fortunately, most made it out in time…to fight the Germans another day. Unfortunately for Coward, he was not one of them, and he became a POW. He did have an advantage, however, in that he spoke German. He used his language skills to make seven escape attempts by passing himself off as a German soldier. One of the escape attempts worked. He was free, but he was injured, and was sent to a German Army field hospital. Coward kept up his German soldier act. After the German doctors had treated his wounds, he was awarded an Iron Cross for his bravery and suffering. Unfortunately, they realized their mistake pretty quickly. Coward was sent back to the POW camp where he earned a reputation for sabotage while on work details. Finally, he was sent to Poland…Auschwitz, to be precise…not to the death camp part of Auschwitz, but rather to the work camp part of it. Coward arrived at Auschwitz III (Monowitz), which was the working camp, in December 1943. The camp was located approximately five miles from Auschwitz II (Birkenau), which was the death camp. There he became a modern day “Hogan’s Hero,” although there was nothing funny about his situation, like there was in the television show. Coward spied on his captors and risked his life to save those he could. All that under the name of Coward.

IG Farben was a German chemical and pharmaceutical industry conglomerate. Its name was taken from Interessen-Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie. IG Farben had acquired the patent to Zyklon B. It was originally used as an insecticide and by US immigration officials to delouse Mexican laborers. The Nazis had a different use for it…the extermination of Jews and other undesirables. Coward and between 1,200 and 1,400 other British POWs were kept at sub-camp E715. Their job was to run the liquid fuel plant which produced synthetic rubber. Coward, due to his German language skills worked as a Red Cross liaison officer, because Germany was still keeping up the pretense of honoring the Geneva Convention articles. He was allowed some measure of free movement within the camp, and even permitted to go to the nearby towns. In town, Coward saw trainloads of Jews arriving at the the extermination camp. Auschwitz III housed 10,000 Jews who were “allowed” to work. They were worked to the point of exhaustion and sickness. Given the brutality and deliberate starvation they did not last long. Coward simply couldn’t stand by and do nothing. The British POWs had access to Red Cross items, so Coward and the other prisoners set aside food and medicine to be smuggled to the Jewish section of their camp, to help as many as possible. Coward was allowed to send letters out, so he began writing to his friend…Mr. William Orange, a fictitious person. It was actually the code for the British War Office. In those letters, he explained what was happening in the camps, as well as the treatment and mass slaughter of Jews. One day, a letter was smuggled to him, asking for help. It came from Karel Sperber, a British ship’s doctor, but there was a problem…Sperber was being held in the Jewish section of Monowitz. So Coward exchanged clothes with an inmate and smuggled himself into the Jewish sector to try to find the doctor. Sadly, he failed, but he did see how Jews in the work camp were being treated. After the war, he was among those who testified at the IG Farben Trial in Nuremberg. He helped to have some of the company’s directors imprisoned, although only for a few years.

He wanted to help the Jews, but to pull it off, he needed two things…chocolate and corpses. It was a daring plan, but it worked. Coward gave the chocolate to the guards in exchange for the bodies of non-Jewish dead prisoners. Then, once their clothes and papers had been removed they were cremated. Jewish escapees put on the clothes and assumed the new, non-Jewish identities. With help from members of the Polish resistance, they were then smuggled out of the camp. As the number of those missing tallied with the number of those who were reported dead, neither Coward nor the bribed guards fell under any suspicion. It is estimated around 400 Jews were saved using Coward’s method. In January 1945 Soviet forces advanced deeper into Poland. As they made their way toward Auschwitz, Coward and the other POWs were forced to march to Bavaria in Germany. The prisoners were liberated by Allied forces en route, finally putting an end to the brutal nightmare. In 1963 Yad Vashem recognized Coward as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. He became known as the “Count of Auschwitz.” and a film was made of his exploits called “The Password is Courage.” I think he was a pretty brave man…for a Coward.

My grand-niece, Melanie Harman, who is married to my grand-nephew, Jake Harman have been busy moving into their new house. They are very excited to finally have a house. They really needed a place that was big enough for their family of five. Their kids, Alice, Izabella, and Jaxx get to have their own rooms now, and that makes it even better…and those kids are beyond excited about it. Anyone who comes over to the house gets the grand tour, starting with the kids bedrooms…specially if the kids are giving the tour. Melanie’s husband, Jake did a lot of his growing up years in that house, and he has wanted to raise his family there for a long time. For Jake, moving into this house, is like coming home again.

Melanie has been very busy settling into their new home and taking care of the children. She is a great mom, and the children are well taken care of, well behaved, and totally happy. Melanie has been so blessed with such a sweet family. Their little Alice is growing up so fast, and she is totally loving being her mom’s little helper. Izabella is Jake and Melanie’s sassy girl. She is a bit shy until she gets to know you better, but she is definitely full of spunk. Jaxx, being the youngest and only boy has learned quickly to be very laid back. His sisters were probably rough at first, but they learned to be more gentle. Nevertheless, Jaxx did well, and Melanie can’t imagine her life without her kids, and her husband Jake, who works hard to support his family and loves them completely. They are truly Melanie’s blessings.

Melanie and Jake are good together. They are, in many ways opposites, but then most of us know that opposites attract, and that is likely what brought the two of them together in the first place. They have created a wonderful home, filled with laughter, for their children, and I believe that they were a match made in Heaven, and they will live happily ever after. Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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