dad

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When I think of a loved one passing, my first thought is…how can it be that life continues on for most of us, but for them, life hit a roadblock. It just seems so strange. Knowing that my father-in-law, who was my second dad, has been in Heaven for nine long years. Of course, he wasn’t the first of my parents to leave, that was my own dad, Al Spencer who left us in 2007. Nor would he be the last parent, because that would be my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg. Nevertheless, with each passing, comes that strange feeling that something is amiss in the time continuum of life. One life doesn’t go forward, while all the others do.

My father-in-law was a good man…a gentle man. He loved his family very much and wanted each of them to be ok when he was gone…but he was tired. I knew it the night before he left us, I even asked him if he was quitting me. He told me that he didn’t know. That told me he did know…and he was quitting me. We had fought so hard for his health, and I hated to see him give up, but…he was so tired. He was gone the next day, and I was not surprised when I got the call. And just like that…a phone call told me that he was gone, and once again I felt like another loved on had hit that roadblock in time, and the rest of us would have to go on without him.

My father-in-law worked hard all his life, in several lines of work. He was a man who was loyal and could always be counted on to get the job done. Not every worker can have that said of him. He was honored with years of service awards, and other awards. One of his favorite jobs, and certainly the most fun was when he drove the bus for the Casper College Thunderbirds. He got to travel to place in the country that he had never been before…and he was loved by all of them.

My father-in-law was such a blessing to me. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. Having in-laws who are loving, and totally accept you as their own, is the best gift anyone can receive. And my father-in-law was a gift…a wonderful gift, and I will be forever grateful for that gift from God. My father-in-law went to Heaven nine years ago today. We miss him every day. We love you, Dad.

My favorite part of war history, if a person should have a favorite part, would be World War II. It was the war my dad, Allen Spencer fought in, and maybe that is why I am so interested in it and in the B-17 Flying Fortress, from which he fought and returned home. The men and women who fought in World War II are called the Greatest Generation, and maybe because my dad was a part of that, I am partial to that part of history. I find it a bit strange that while the Vietnam Memorial Fund, Inc (VVMF) was incorporated as a non-profit organization to establish a memorial to veterans of the Vietnam War, on April 27, 1979, four years after the Fall of Saigon, but the World War II Memorial didn’t open until April 29, 2004, in Washington DC. Of course, I think it was cool that it opened on my birthday, but it really was a long overdue recognition for the 16 million US men and women who served in the war. The memorial is located on 7.4 acres on the former site of the Rainbow Pool at the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The Capitol dome can be seen to the east, and Arlington Cemetery is just across the Potomac River to the west. It really is a beautiful setting and shows the proper honor to these men and women of the Greatest Generation.

The 16 million men and women who served in the armed forces of the US are honored at the World War II Memorial, as well as the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home. The memorial was built using granite and bronze. It features fountains between arches to symbolize hostilities in Europe and the Far East. The arches are bordered by semicircles of pillars, one each for the states, territories, and the District of Columbia. Beyond the pool is a curved wall of 4,000 gold stars, one for every 100 Americans killed in the war. It also features an Announcement Stone that states that the memorial is to honor those “Americans who took up the struggle during the Second World War and made the sacrifices to perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us: A nation conceived in liberty and justice.”

The project was funded with more than $164 million dollars in private donations, and an additional $16 million donated by the federal government. Former Kansas Senator Bob Dole, who was severely wounded in the war, and actor Tom Hanks were among its most vocal supporters. The really sad part is that only a fraction of the 16 million Americans who actually served in the would ever see it…my dad included. While he was alive in 2004, that was not a trip he got to take before his passing in 2007. Four million World War II veterans were still living at the time the memorial was finally opened, but more than 1,100 dying every day, according to government records. I find that to be so sad.

Roger Durbin of Berkey, Ohio, who served under General George S Patton, inspired the memorial. Durbin was at a fish fry near Toledo in February 1987, when he asked US Representative Marcy Kaptur why there was no memorial on the Mall to honor World War II veterans. It was a question that should have been asked and answered long ago. Nevertheless, Kaptur, an Ohio Democrat, introduced legislation to build one, starting a process that would stumble along through 17 years of legislative, legal, and artistic entanglements. Durbin died of pancreatic cancer in 2000, without ever actually seeing his hard work come to fruition. While he didn’t live to see his project come to life, I and so many other children of World War II veterans and lost loved ones, will be forever thankful to him for finally making sure our loved ones were properly honored. The monument was formally dedicated May 29, 2004, by US President George W Bush, but I am pleased that it actually opened on my birthday in 2004. My birthday, because it was just two days after my dad’s birthday, has always been a special time that we shared. Of course, I was due and supposed to arrive on Dad’s birthday, but I’ve always said I was a little stubborn, so I held out. Nevertheless, we usually celebrated our days together, so I feel like his memorial opening on my birthday was really very cool.

When my mom, Collene Spencer got married, she and my dad, Allen Spencer, for their honeymoon, moved to Superior, Wisconsin. While mom grew up in a big family, and knew how to cook, moving to a new area was a way to experience new foods. Mom was a little lonely when she first moved to Wisconsin, but when she arrived, she found her new best friend, her sister-in-law, Doris Spencer. They actually lived across the yard from each other. There wasn’t an alley between them, just a fence. It was a very cozy place for the two families, and as the kids came along, it made it easy to play without worrying about the little ones getting out into the street.

During the frequent luncheons Aunt Doris and my mom had, Mom saw that Aunt Doris was an amazing cook, and she loved many of the recipes Aunt Doris made, and so she asked for these recipes. Our whole family grew to love those dishes too which Aunt Doris continued to make for us whenever we visited in the years after we moved to Wyoming. We usually went out for dinner when we were there, but there were three recipes she made and all of us loved, and still love today. Those recipes were Stuffed Tomatoes (Aunt Doris’ special version, which I still can’t resist) and the Carrot/Chicken Salad on Lettuce with Picnic Sticks (crunchy potato sticks), the third was Chicken Noodle Casserole. It was similar to Tuna Noodle Casserole, and while I love Tuna Noodle Casserole, my sister Cheryl Masterson thinks the Chicken Noodle Casserole was way better!! Those were Aunt Doris’s recipes. She made them up or greatly improved on an old recipe she knew of.

Trips to visit Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill, were always special. They had a big house, and we had a great time. Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill always gave our parents their room. My sisters and I were never sure where they slept, but I almost think it might have been cots in the basement. Cheryl and our cousin, Pam were best friends, so Cheryl slept in Pam’s room. The rest of us slept in various places, mostly in the bus our Uncle Bill had converted into a motorhome. They could have had us stay in a motel, but they wanted us close, so we had more time to visit. The upper level of their home had been turned into a rental, and there were various renters in there, but if it was empty, we stayed there.

We often got to Superior, late at night…sometimes waking them up. It didn’t matter, because when we arrived, they would all get up and Aunt Doris would make us all a little snack before everyone settled into bed. Of course, we were probably up for quite a while before we were finally able to settle down. We laughed and talked continuously with Aunt Doris because she made everything fun!! She and Mom together just had so much fun. They were forever best friends. Aunt Doris had a beautiful home, and yet she was very tolerant of our noise and nonsense. We don’t ever remember her ever yelling at us or getting upset with us…Ever!! She loved us and she was always genuinely glad to see us. We all loved Aunt Doris so much that even after she and Uncle Bill divorced, we never felt like she was no longer our aunt. In fact, when our dad became ill in Canada, my sisters Caryl, Alena, Allyn, and I went up to be with him, our mom, and sister, Cheryl. Allyn needed a copy of her birth certificate to enter Canada (Pre-passport requirement). We needed to get on the road, so we had it sent to Aunt Doris. We got to her house at around 4:00am, and without even knocking on the door, she knew we were there. She got up and made us breakfast…a big breakfast!! Aunt Doris was and is always the same with us. She is our aunt, and we love each other. For her and for us, that has always remained the same. And it always will!! Today is Aunt Doris’ 98th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Doris!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

As my mom, Collene Spencer enters her seventh year in Heaven, even though there is no time in Heaven, it is the seventh year in Earth years. My sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and I all feel like we have grown so much over the years our parents have lived in Heaven. I think every child wants to make their parents proud of them, and even more so when their parents live in Heaven. We all feel like our parents are looking down at us from Heaven and that they truly love the people we have become. No, we are not perfect, but we do our very best, and we always try to act in a manner that we know they would be proud of. I believe that we have succeeded, and that our mom and dad are very proud of their girls.

Mom was always the sunny person in our family, and she taught her girls to “keep on the sunny side” and to make laughter a staple in our lives. Some of my sweetest memories are those when Mom was being silly. She loved having a house full of laughter, and while five daughters meant five times the drama, it also meant five times the laughter, giggles, and silliness too. Mom would do everything in her power to bring that to pass in her home. Mom grew up in a large family during the Great Depression years, and while money was scarce, love and laughter were not. Mom’s family, her parents and eight siblings laughed together, worked together, and sang together. Her mom brought sunshine and happiness into their home, and in our family, my mom was the bringer of sunshine and happiness. They say you learn what you live, and in my mom’s case, that meant that because she watched her mom be the bringer of sunshine and happiness in her childhood…she made it her goal in her own family…and Mom did it quite well.

I miss those days of Mom singing “Keep on the Sunny Side” as she woke us up in the morning. I miss her silliness and her laughter. Mom delighted in life. Many things brought her joy and laughter. She was, I suppose, a kid at heart, and the funny stuff really tickled her funny bone. Mom made our home and our lives…fun!! She just did, and I will always see her in that light. It has been seven years today since my mom went home to Heaven. Mom, we love and miss you very much, and we will see you in the future.

By guest writer, my niece, Toni Chase, because I couldn’t have said it as perfectly as she did.

When you first meet a Happiness Bringer, you might wonder, how did this person come to be such a joy to be around? For my (Toni’s) husband, Dave Chase, I think it started manifesting the day his parents arrived in his world. His mother Nancy Chase, who did a spectacular job of journaling the lives of her children wrote, “David loved affection and attention and we (Nancy and Jim Chase) loved showering him with it.” She described his arrival and their time together as “domestic bliss.” Dave was pure happiness for his parents. Dave was followed by his little brother, Dan, who was followed by his little sister, Jane.

Dave was a doting brother and from the time his little brother, Dan learned to crawl he became part of “Team Fun” (Dave’s team). They spent hours upon hours having fun with their dad, Jim as children…continuing throughout their adulthood. Dave played whatever sport was in season sometimes on a different team than his two besties, but at home, it was always the three of them having fun. They played basketball together, golfed together, played softball together, fished together, and played cribbage together. For “Team Fun” there was always something to do…and that made everybody happy. On a sidenote, I just thought about…Dave’s brother Dan told me once, “I had the best time growing up!! Dave always made me do everything with him!!” (It makes me teary eyed)

As sports enthusiasts the three of them Dad, Dave, and Dan played on many of the same basketball and softball teams, and as Mother Nancy stated they all played cribbage together! “All Chases play cribbage.” Including baby Jane who wasn’t a baby anymore. Thank God that Nancy was so attentive in her journaling. Dave’s happy welcoming nature has continued from the day he was introduced to love, happiness, and fun. His beautiful nature began with two loving parents, with so much love in their hearts, that it poured all over and throughout Dave and made him the blessing that he is today.

Dave always keeps himself busy doing fun things. He still plays basketball, softball, cribbage, fishing, and going to as many Wyoming Cowboys football and basketball games as he can…and 2021 was no exception! He spent it doing any of these when he could break away from me. We went to Florida in May and had a nice relaxing time together before we came back to start a new chapter in our lives as our son, James got married.

Dave refused to meddle in the planning of James and Manuela’s wedding. I didn’t feel the need to stay out, and happily assisted with anything they wished for. Dave has always been an exceptional stepdad to James. He loves him and now Dave received the blessing of a daughter, Manuela…who he adores. She is so much like him. I see his loving nature now pouring over on to James and Manuela. The loving nature that he learned and lived thanks to Jim and Nancy Chase.

On October 20, 2021, Dave’s dad, Jim left this world. Dave has missed playing cribbage with him the last several times he’s gone home. He is filling in the time he used to spend having fun with his dad going to games cand hanging out with his mom. He takes her out with the guys and just carries on…because, he knows they can’t play cribbage this season. There’s always next season for that. This is a new season and must be journeyed through. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My husband’s grandmother, Vina Hein was an amazing cook. The food she made wasn’t fancy, and in fact I suppose it was what would be called “comfort food” these days. Grandma learned to cook as a girl taking care of her dad and brother after her mother left them when she was about ten years old. She loved her dad and brother, and for a while, it was just the three of them. Then her dad remarried, and things changed again. Grandma didn’t talk about that time much, but she endured and grew to be the wonderful woman that we all knew.

There wasn’t much that Grandma couldn’t handle, and when she married Walt Hein, she became a rancher’s wife. They had a big spread out in the country, and she cooked, canned, helped with the animals, gardened, and kept the house. It was work she had trained for since she was a child. She was destined to be the family matriarch, and she was good at her job. Over the years she helped out with grandchildren when their parents worked, and the kids absolutely loved to be at Grandma’s house. Even the grandchildren who lived far away loved to come to visit Grandma and Grandpa.

My husband, Bob Schulenberg went to stay with Grandma and Grandpa just about every year. He helped out around the ranch, and in general, got to have a great time on his “almost like summer camp” visits. And when he was grown, he still liked to go visit his grandparents. When we got married, he wanted to pass that tradition on to his girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce, and to me. We loved going for visits, and that is something I miss to this day. Grandma didn’t always like to play cards, like Grandpa did, but she would do it for us. You had to have partners, after all. Grandpa would have played for hours, but Grandma had other things to do, so after a couple of hours, Grandpa would head out to the barn to take a nap, while Grandma and our family did other things around the house. He didn’t want to interfere with the dinner preparations, after all. Grandma always had wonderful things, like real cream, thick and cold, a taste I have never found in a store. Strawberry Rhubarb pie and jelly too. Wonderful home raised beef, and farm fresh eggs. And of course, her canned vegetables and garden-fresh vegetables too. It would have been worth the drive just for Grandma’s good cooking, for sure, and I would sure love to have one of her meals again right now. Today is the 113th anniversary of Grandma Hein’s birth. Happy birthday in Heaven Grandma. We love and miss you very much. And it looks like Punxsutawney Phil says six more weeks of Winter, but I guess that no longer matters to you, like it did when you were a kid.

As nations prepare for war, they must also prepare the weapons of warfare. These days, and really since airplanes became reliable enough to be used in war, manufacturers have been building better and better airplanes for war. The Wright brothers, Wilber and Orville made the first airplane, which they successfully flew in 1903. Planes were first used in war in 1911, but it was in World War I, 1914-1918, that their use became commonplace. Since then, we have seen an avalanche of progress is the types and capabilities of planes.

For me, there is no greater warplane than the B-17, but I suppose I am a bit biased because my dad served on a B-17 during World War II. That mkes me very partial to the B-17. It really was a Flying Fortress, and it was that fortress that brought my dad back home. In my book, that makes it the greatest plane ever.

During World War II, the United States had the B-17, otherwise known as the Flying Fortress…among other planes, of course. There was a plane used by Britain, that would have been the similar, to a degree to the abilities to the B-17. The Lancaster was a heavy bomber “workhorse” of a plane. When compared to the B-17, it could carry a heavier payload and fly further than the B-17. The B-17 had higher flight ceiling and better defensive firepower. Speed was about even. Those things are important, but when it came to survivability, the B-17 was the better plane in that it was far easier to bail out of than the Lancaster, meaning that the crew of a plane that was going down would really hope it was a B-17. Only 15% of shot down crewmen survived from the Lancaster, while it was around 50% for B-17s. The Lancaster bomber had only one emergency exit…at the front of the aircraft, as opposed to four (counting the bomb bays) for the B-17.

Both of these planes were amazing weapons of war. They were just developed, designed, and built by different companies, and different countries. They served somewhat different purposes, but they were both designed to end the murderous Axis of Evil nations, of which Hitler’s Third Reich and Japan’s evil empire were a huge part. These planes were different, but both were on the side of good and not evil. I think that I am just glad they were on the same side of the war.

My uncle, Bill Spencer went home to be with the Lord on Christmas Day 2020. It isn’t the perfect day to lose a loved one, but I think it would be the perfect day to go home to Heaven. Instead of spending Christmas in a nursing home, alone because of Covid restrictions and sick with Covid, often not remembering most people, except maybe his kids, Uncle Bill got to spend Christmas with his parents, Anna and Allen Spencer, as well as his siblings, Laura Fredrick, Allen Spencer, and Ruth Wolfe…and most importantly, he got to spend Christmas with Jesus. How awesome is that!!

Uncle Bill and his little brother, my dad, Allen Spencer were very close growing up and into their later years too. Whenever they were together, you can bet the stories flew around the room. Their antics were crazy. When those two boys got together, all bets were off. They were farm kids, so they knew how to use dynamite to blow a tree stump out of a field…or to shorten a gate post by 3 or 4 inches or wake up the neighborhood at daybreak on July 4th.

They were intensely patriotic, and both were part of the war effort during World War II…Uncle Bill as a riveter on ships and planes, and my dad as an airplane assembler and later, flight engineer and top turret gunner on a B-17. Not being able to serve was a great disappointment to Uncle Bill, who really wanted to go along with his little brother to fight the war. Thankfully, both were alive at its end, and because they were, my cousins Pam Wendling, Bill Spencer, and Jim Spencer got to have a dad, and my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock and I got to exist.

Uncle Bill was the family historian. He loved looking into his ancestry, and because he did, we all got to know so much, or about our family that we ever would have otherwise. He was sometimes helped with his nephews, Gene and Dennis Fredrick, and grandnephews Tim and Shawn Fredrick. Uncle Bill was meticulous with the family history, striving relentlessly to get everything down on paper (no computer for Uncle Bill) and to get it correct. He was a champion of family truth, and we are the beneficiaries…as are many cousins around the country.

They have been back together for over a year in Heaven now, and I know that they and their sisters and parents are having the time of their lives. Nevertheless, we all miss them very much here on Earth, and look forward to seeing all of them again in Heaven. Today would have been Uncle Bill’s 100th birthday. It was a life well lived, and we were blessed to have him. He almost made it, going home just a month short of his 99th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Bill. We love and miss you very much.

On this, my mother, Collene Spencer’s birthday in Heaven, I am reminded of really, how wise she was, even though my sisters and I did not really realize just how wise she was. They say, “Laughter is the best medicine,” and indeed, the Bible says, “Laughter doeth good like a medicine.” My mother really tried to live that out. She would always remind us to “Keep of the Sunny side of life,” meaning to laugh at hardship and adversity, because you can get through almost anything if you can laugh at adversity. Sometimes, my sisters and I felt like laughter was far too simplistic for what we needed at any given time, but Mom was always full of laughter and song, and her life was really far smoother than ours ever were. For her life was simple. Follow God’s leading, and you will be just fine…and she always was.

Mom was first and foremost, a woman of God. If you were in her vicinity, you were going to hear about her Savior at some point in the conversation. Sometimes, when she would begin to talk, we…or at least I would begin to cringe, because I thought people would think she was crazy. I was always of the opinion that if God wanted a person saved, He would make it happen somehow, and it was not my job to help. Oh…how wrong that opinion is. The Bible talks about sending the “laborers” out to save the sinners, and I don’t know who I thought that was, but somehow, I didn’t think it was me…or my mom. Still, if not us, then who. A laborer had to be a human, of course, but did it have to be my mom…at a time in my life (the teenaged years), when her speaking out was going to embarrass me. Well, it did, and I had to deal with it, because she had a calling, and she loved her Lord so much that she was going to do what He asked. She saw it as her duty…and of course, it was.

Now, I am very proud of my mom’s accomplishments, in her Labors for the Lord, because when she went home to Heaven on February 22, 2015, I saw, at her funeral, a large crowd of people who knew and loved her, and many who felt like they owed their salvation to her work for the Lord. How could that be? She wasn’t a preacher, evangelist, missionary, or teacher. She was a laborer…just a laborer!! And yet, I know that when it came time to give her the crowns for leading others to the Lord…they were many. She would talk to anyone, anywhere, because she was a laborer for the Lord. Looking back, I am quite proud of my mom, her legacy, and her “almost embarrassing way” of laboring for the Lord, because now I can see that she was far wiser than I ever was. Today would have been my mom’s 86th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Mom. Have a wonderful celebration. We love and miss you and Dad very much.

December 12, 2007…a day that rocked my world. It was a day I never expected to see…the day my dad, Allen Spencer went home to be with the Lord. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that someday my parents would be in Heaven, but it didn’t. Nevertheless, these days, all we have are the memories, as we wait for the day when we will all be together again in Heaven.

My dad was a great guy. He was a girl dad, and he wore it well. I don’t know how he managed to survive having five daughters and a wife, all vying for one bathroom, but he did. Ours was probably what the song writer meant, when he wrote “Love Grows Best In Little Houses.” It never felt crowded. It always felt just right. I wonder if my parents knew, when I was just 3 years old that the house they bought then, would be their forever home. At that time my older sister, Cheryl Masterson and I believe my younger sister, Caryl Reed were there, as well as I was. Two more daughters would join the family in that little house, now forever home. There were a few changes, like converting the garage to a bedroom and a utility room, that gave a little more space. Then, in my parents’ later years, an enclosed porch was added. The house just always felt like home…to all of us. Of course, it was our parents that really made the house a home. Their love filled the house, and we were always blessed by them and their love. Any house can hold a family, but love is what makes a house a home.

The first time the house ever felt empty, and maybe a little wrong, was after my dad went home to Heaven. Mom’s lifelong companion was gone now, as was our dad, who had always made us feel like princesses. We could see him in every room, but these were just memory visions. His love still lingered in each and every room. We knew that he still loves us, of course, but everything suddenly felt wrong…like the world kept going, but he had stopped. That is what happened, of course, but it felt to us like life had stepped out or its proper order. We would notice the same thing a few years later, when our mom, Collene Spencer went home to join Dad in Heaven. The house was still filled with the memory visions of them and their love, but it was kind of empty and lonely somehow.

Each year as we remember their homegoings, we are reminded of just how precious they were to us, and how we want to make them proud of how we have lived our lives. They raised us well, and taught us to love God and country, and to always try to do the right things. Now, we look forward to the day we will join them in Heaven, because that is where they are waiting in our future in Heaven, and what a joyous day it will be when we join them there. We love and miss you both on this, the 14th anniversary of your homegoing, Dad, and we can’t wait to see you again.

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