grandfather

As a grandmother and great grandmother, I want my grandchildren to love me and want me around, but even more that that, I want my grandchildren to respect me, because when it comes down to it, your good name is really the best thing to pass down to your kids, whether they take your last name or not. Your name is your identity, oh sure, you can change it, but once you have ruined your reputation, not much can fix it.

As a prime example, take the case of Rainer Höss. The name might not ring any bells to you, and mostly that would be due to the fact that the English pronunciation of the name, doesn’t really tell you what the name is. Rainer Höss is the grandson of the former commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolph Höss, and he knows first-hand how bad it can be when your name has been ruined.

In 1933, Rudolph Höss joined the SS in Nazi Germany, and in 1934 he was attached to the SS at Dachau. On August 1, 1938, Rudolph Höss was appointed as adjutant of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp until his appointment as Kommandant of the newly-built camp at Auschwitz in early 1940. In May 1941, SS commander Heinrich Himmler told Höss that Hitler had given orders for the final solution of the Jewish question and that “I have chosen the Auschwitz camp for this purpose.” It was then that Höss converted Auschwitz into an extermination camp and installed gas chambers and crematoria that were capable of killing 2,000 people every hour. He was brutally meticulous…counting corpses with the cool dedication of a trained bookkeeper, he went home each night to the loving embrace of his own family who lived on the camp grounds. Rudolph Höss had no qualms about watching millions of innocent human beings dissolve in the gas chambers, burn in the crematoriums and their teeth melt into gold bars, Höss even wrote poetry about the “beauty” of Auschwitz. He was a monster of epic proportions.

Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann recounted in his memoirs how he was assigned in early 1942 to visit the Auschwitz death camp and report back to superiors on the killing of Jews. He wrote that the methods for killing were still crude, but these represented a gruesome foretaste of the factory-style gas chambers and crematoria that were to follow: “Höss, the Kommandant, told me that he used sulfuric acid to kill. Round cotton wool filters were soaked with this poison and thrown into the rooms where the Jews were assembled. The poison was instantly fatal. He burned the corpses on an iron grill, in the open air. He led me to a shallow ditch where a large number of corpses had just been burned.”

Höss eventually found that gassing by carbon monoxide was inefficient and introduced the cyanide gas Zyklon B. He later recalled: “The gassing was carried out in the detention cells of Block 11. Protected by a gas mask, I watched the killing myself. In the crowded cells, death came instantaneously the moment the Zyklon B was thrown in. A short, almost smothered cry, and it was all over…I must even admit that this gassing set my mind at rest, for the mass extermination of the Jews was to start soon, and at that time neither Eichmann nor I was certain as to how these mass killings were to be carried out. It would be by gas, but we did not know which gas and how it was to be used. Now we had the gas, and we had established a procedure.” Rudolph Höss not only “enjoyed” his work, but he was proud of his accomplishments.

His family, or at least his grandson Ranier Höss was horrified by the legacy his grandfather so “lovingly” left him. He could not believe that his grandfather was not only proud of what he had done, but he liked it so much that he wanted to watch from inside the chamber. Rainer Höss has spent his whole life trying to escape the stigma of being related to Rudolph Höss. Rainer doesn’t expect to be forgiven…he knows that he will always be blamed for what his grandfather did, because his grandfather left him the name. His grandfather was proud his “accomplishments.” He honestly thought everyone would be proud. He honestly thought he was a hero.

Rainer Höss doesn’t expect to be “forgiven.” He knows it wasn’t his fault, but he understands the reasons people react the way they do, because it’s how he would react. That is the real legacy his “grandfather” left him. You see, for Rainer Höss…grandfather is an abstract word.

My grand nephew, Weston Moore is graduating from high school today and I find it hard to believe that it has already been that many years since he was born. Weston is the oldest son of my niece Machelle Moore and her husband, Steve. He has a younger brother named Easton. Weston was destined to be tall from the moment he was born. He comes from tall stock…with his grandfather, Lynn Cook, who is 6 foot 6 inches, his dad who is well over six feet and his mom who is close to six feet, he is destined to be tall. Last night when we were visiting, he said that someone had measured him and he was 6 feet 5 inches.

Weston recently got a job at Verizon in Powell, and he plans to work for a year before pursuing his higher education. Sometimes, that is a nice thing for a student. Thirteen years of public school is s long time, and sometimes a break is needed before moving on in life. It’s also nice to have the opportunity to brag to younger siblings and cousins when they head back to school and you don’t have to. Nevertheless, pretty soon you begin to think that maybe it is time to get on with it and go back to school. I’m sure that time will come for Weston before the year is over.

Weston’s is considering his options for college, and is looking at Sheridan College, because they have one of the best culinary arts programs. Being a chef is something he has wanted for some time now. Since my grandson, Chris Petersen went through the program, I can say that it is an excellent program, and Chris learned so much in his time there.

Wherever life takes Weston next and in the future, I know that he will do well. He knows how to work hard and doesn’t mind the hard work. When he puts his mind to it, I know he will excel in any endeavor. Today begins the journey into the rest of your life, Weston. Today you cross the threshold between being a kid and being a man. You are a kind and loving man who will go far in this world. I am so excited to see what the next chapter of your life will bring for you. Congratulations on your graduation from high school!! We are all so proud of you!!

For my brother-in-law, Mike Stevens, this has been an incredible year. Probably the greatest year since the year his first child, Michelle was born. This was the year Mike became a grandfather to his granddaughter, Elliott Michelle Stevens. Elliott was born on August 3, 2018. Her parents are Mike and my sister, Alena Stevens’ son, Garrett and his wife Kayla Stevens. Becoming grandparents was something Mike and Alena have been waiting to be for a long time to be grandparents, and little Elliott has fulfilled a very special dream of theirs. Mike and Alena are very family oriented, and adding a granddaughter takes their family life into a whole new dimension…a very special dimension.

Mike is a sports fanatic, and loves to share his knowledge with his kids and maybe down the road, his granddaughter. Mike knows a lot about sports, any sports. Not everybody who likes sports, really understand the logistics of the sport, but Mike understands it. Summertime brings different kinds of sports. Mike loves softball, and sometimes is on a team. This year Mike and Alena bought a new 4-wheeler, and they are looking forward to spending lots of time on the mountain riding around on the 4-wheeler. In fact, they had planned a weekend on the mountain for Mike’s birthday, but the weather refused to cooperate…something many of us are disgusted with. Hopefully this spring/summer won’t prove to be ultra-rainy, so they will have lots of time to use their new toy.

Another of the sports that Mike likes is the yearly family camping trip to Boysen Reservoir, where they hold the Stevens’ Family Horseshoe Tournament. The whole Stevens family looks forward to the trip each year, and they really feel cheated out of summer if they don’t get to go. They have a traveling trophy for each event, and it is a fight to the finish to see who will take that trophy home this year. Everyone hates to lose, because to win means that you get bragging rights for a whole year. Now that can be bad for the losers. That said, we wish everyone good luck this year. Today is Mike’s birthday. Congratulations on becoming a grandpa this year, Mike. I know you are loving it. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

For a number of years, I was out of touch with my cousin Dennis Fredrick, but all that changed a couple of years ago, when we started emailing. That has turned into a true friendship and I think it has been a blessing to both of us. Of course, our love of family history has given us common interests to explore, but there was so much more, because as cousins, we had a lot of memories to share too. I feel very blessed to have my cousin back in my life again. We are currently working together of different aspects of our research…or at least sharing our finds, because that is really what is so exciting about finding new family history information.

One of the things that I found out recently about Denny was that, like his dad, his grandpa, his brother, and nephews, Denny builds furniture sometimes. And he does a very fine job of it. Not everyone has the ability to build furniture, and if we attempt, it often looks like a box slapped together. Not so, with Denny. I think his work looks like it was made in a factory…perfect. The dresser is for his daughter-in-law, Carrie Fredrick, who is feeling very blessed right now. Denny comes by is skill from a long like of furniture builders. Our grandpa, Allen Luther Spencer built furniture, as did Denny’s dad, Fritz Fredrick, who built the baptismal font for the little church in Holyoke, Minnesota. Denny’s brother, Gene Fredrick, who sadly passed away a number of years ago, also built beautiful furniture, as did Gene’s sons Tim and Shawn.

Denny, as we have called him all my life anyway, has a heart of gold, and really wants to be a part of the lives of his family, even those of us who live far away. It’s so easy to lose touch with friends and family, and while we often don’t feel the loss until we reconnect, sadly sometimes that never happens, and when a loved one is gone, we really fell that missed time. For that reason, I am so glad that Denny and I have reconnected while we are both still alive, and young enough to remember and enjoy the connection. I just wish I had more time to stay in touch, because since Denny retired, he is able to focus on the things he loves to do, which would be lovely. Today is Denny’s birthday. Happy birthday Denny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When my husband’s aunt, Helen Knox passed away on January 11, 2017 at the good old age of 99 years, her passing left her soul mate, Uncle Frank Knox to carry on alone…at least in that the love of his life was not longer with him. Of course, his sons are still here, and his grandchildren, one of whom I have had the great privilege of getting to know over Facebook since her grandmother’s passing. Yesterday morning, it was Frank’s granddaughter, Kate West who passed along the sad news that Uncle Frank had gone to Heaven to join his sweet wife, Helen. My thoughts immediately went back to the times that Frank and Helen came for visits, and what wonderful and interesting people they were. I wanted to write a tribute to Frank about the times I remembered, but then I read about Kate’s memories, and…well, I hope she won’t mind if I take a chapter from her Lifebook for this story. Her memories are so sweet and so thoughtful, that it became very clear to me and to anyone who read her words, that her grandfather was very, very special to her. Nothing I could have said could even begin to compare to the words of his Kate…or to those of her dad, Greg Knox, who told me that the date of Frank’s passing was the same date he and Helen married, just 71 years later. That is a very special day to Frank and Helen.

While Kate is very sad that her grandfather is gone, she is glad that he is with her grandmother again. They had lived long and happy lives, with 71 of those years lived as husband and wife. When her grandmother passed away, Kate found herself distressed because her grandfather was now without his other half. For Kate, the connection she and her grandpa had was the closest relationship she had with any of her grandparents. Part of the reason is that Frank and Helen lived with Kate’s family for 4 years, from the time Kate was 8 until she was 12. Helen was a little more quiet than her husband was. Frank was always very outgoing, and that made him easy to get to know. The relationship Kate had with her grandfather reminds me of the relationship I had with my Uncle Bill Spencer. Kate’s grandpa, or maybe her dad, taught her the game of cribbage, like my uncle did with me. After that playing cribbage became a ritual. The family used to go camping, and it always seemed to rain, at least one day of the trip. That was all it took for Kate and Frank to get out the cribbage board and pass the time in the friendly rivalry that cribbage always is. Those are the memories that will last Kate for the rest of her life…the memories that will keep her grandfather in her thoughts. She won’t pass a cribbage board without thinking of their games, or hear the rain without thinking of her grandfather. He will always live in her heart, as he will in the hearts of all of those who loved him.

Having moved to Spokane, Kate didn’t get to see her grandfather as often during those last years, and while she feels the regrets that come from a busy life and the difficulty distance brings to staying in touch, I can tell her that for her grandfather, the memories of the fun times with his cribbage partner kept a smile on his face, and she lit up his day with the love that showed on her face for her grandfather. While we may not realize what a huge impact we have of the life of another, they know it. Those around us who care about us, are the bright lights in our lives. That’s what Kate was to her grandfather. Uncle Frank will be greatly missed by all of us, who loved him. We look forward to seeing you again in Heaven, Uncle Frank.

imageIf I tell you that there exists in this world, a children’s railway, would you think of the Orphan Train, bringing children out West for adoption into families there? Or would you think of some kind of forced child labor on the railways? Either way…you would be wrong. The Children’s Railway was started in Soviet Russia in 1932. The concept is a unique one. The idea was to teach teenaged children to build and run a railroad as a way of learning the railroad trade. It was an extracurricular activity that was voluntary. Things like that aren’t offered in this country…at least not that I’m aware of. Nevertheless, I think my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer might have enjoyed that, had it been offered in his time. I also think that my cousin by marriage, James Forseen, might have loved that since he has always loved trains, and managed to land a job with the railroad. He loved them so much that he had to have one in the wedding photos when he imagemarried my cousin Dani Byer Forseen. Just imagine James, if you could have worked on a railroad in high school!!

As I said, the children’s railway was a phenomenon that originated in the USSR. The first Children’s Railway opened in Gorky Park in Moscow, on July 24, 1932. It was a greatly developed activity in Soviet times. By the time the USSR broke up, there were 52 children’s railways in existence in that country. Many children’s railways are still functioning in post-Soviet states and in Eastern Europe, so obviously this is an activity that has taken off…and imagine the kids who would stay out of trouble if they fell in love with railroad work. I can envision the kids having such a great time running the railroad that they would never have the time or the inclination to get into trouble or into gangs. Their imagination would be too busy.

The children’s railway has come so far that many of them exhibit railway technology not seen anymore on the imagemain lines and they can be seen as heritage railways. Even though a few exceptions exist, most of the children’s railways that were built in the communist block have a track gauge of at least 600 mm (1 feet 11 5/8 inches) and can carry full size narrow gauge rolling stock. Of course, for the sake of safety and training purposes, the children’s railways are all run under the supervision of adult railroad workers, but what better way for things to be done. The children’s railways in existence these days are mostly for the purpose of tourism, but I suppose that if necessary, they could be used for other reasons. Whatever their purpose is today, I think the Children’s Railways sound like a very cool idea.

SteveFred Spethman editedI was talking with my nephew, Steve Spethman the other day, when he mentioned that he knew very little about his grandfather, Fredrick Albert Spethman. Being a genealogy buff, I simply could not resist the challenge that presented. He had a picture of his grandfather, and knew that he had died in Oregon, and his grandmother’s first name, Joanne. He also knew his great grandfathers name, Patrick Spethman, as his own son, Xander Patrick was named after that grandfather. And he knew his great grandmother’s name, Meta Spethman. It was enough. I was able to find his grandparents’ marriage certificate and a little bit more information, including an index concerning his World War II service. The rest will come as it always does, as other people add what they know to what I have found out. Once this kind of search gets started, it always has a way of growing.

Johann Joachim Daniel SpethmannThat information was exciting for me, as Steve is pretty special to me, but then I got a big surprise. Steve’s 3rd great grandfather, Johann Joachim Daniel Spethmann, who Americanized his name to John, was born in Oldenburg, Germany. To many people I don’t suppose that this information would be so interesting, but my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s family has a long history in Oldenburg. It dates back beyond the time of Steve’s grandfather’s birth, and the Schulenberg family is still there today. I’m not saying that the Spethmann family and the Schulenberg family are related, although it is entirely possible, but considering the fact that Oldenburg wasn’t that large a town back then, it is quite likely that they knew each other. Maybe, they were even friends.

I realize that if you go back far enough, you will find that we are all related, as we all came from Adam and Eve, but as time has progressed, it is harder and harder to come up with the exact connections that exist between each of us. I have been able to find connections for Bob and me, on two sides of his family to one of mine. We are 10th cousins on one side and 12th cousins on another. That is such a strange thought to me, and now to find BobMax Schulenbergsuch a close connection with Steve’s family has added another interesting twist to the family history, and one that I am eager to explore. Time will tell if we are related in a way that can easily be figured…such as a marriage, and if it is the case, my guess is that I will stumble on that information, as I have in so many others, when I least expect to find such a connection. Nevertheless, finding this or any other information to add to the family history is always an exciting day, and in this case, it all started with the discovery of a common birthplace.

WestonMy grand nephew, Weston Moore is a typical kid now turning 15 years old. Of course, we all know what reaching that milestone does to a kid. They get their learners permit, and within one short year, they are out there driving themselves to the places they need to go. It is a time of discovery for them, and maybe a little bit of sadness for their parents. There is something just a little bit disconcerting about the first time your child starts to drive the car…even if you are with them…or maybe because you are with them. That first time your child gets behind the wheel, and he has no idea what he is doing, can be…well, scary!! Nevertheless, eventually they all learn, and you get to relax again.

Weston working the concession standWeston is very active in the Boy Scouts, and is currently selling Restaurant Boy Scout Cards to earn his way to Boy Scout Camp in Minnesota. Boy Scout camp is like a rite of passage in scouting and a brand new adventure for Weston. It gives them a chance to go somewhere without their parents, and really learn to fend for themselves. Weston has gone camping quite a bit, so I know that he will do really well in that area. Of course, camping is only part of the experience. The boys will learn lots of new skills and get to spend time together enjoying the campfire. All in all, just being with the guys, having a great time. I think Weston will have an amazing time at camp.

I have always thought that Weston was a lot like his grandfather, my brother-in-law, Lynn Cook, and the older he gets, the more he reminds me of Lynn. They are two of  kind in so many ways. Their sense of humor for one. When I look at Weston’s Facebook page, I see things posted that Lynn would get a kick out of too. They are also good friends, doing things together and just spending time together.

Weston and his friendsLike most teenagers, Weston likes hanging out with his friends. He likes going to sporting events, and for one semester he worked the consession stand at the games. He had a great time doing that, and my guess is that he will do it again at some point down the road.  With the beginning of track, Weston will be really busy with practice and meets. According to his friends, the first practice went very well, and you could tell that everyone is excited to get this track season on the road. Of course, traveling to the meets is always a big thing for the kids on the team, as well as the thrill of victory. I hope this season is the best ever for them. Today is Weston’s 15th birthday. Happy birthday Weston!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

CCI06282012_00000_editedbcSince my oldest grandson, Chris Petersen turned eighteen last February 28th, and had to register for the draft, and my grandson, Caalab Royce will be registering in June after he turns eighteen this year on the 25th, I have wondered a little more about the making of a soldier…in any war. Since the draft is something that almost never happens these days, it was not a real priority in my mind, however. Then I started looking at my Aunt Bertha Hallgren’s journal again, because she was such a great writer, and because I haven’t referred to her work in a while. I stumbled across a reference she makes to the experience of a World War I soldier. Since my grandfather, George Byer fought in World War I, that part of her journal made me curious.

The story Aunt Bertha wrote was funny to a large degree, although I doubt that the soldier she wrote abut thought it was funny exactly. I suppose that as a eighteen year old boy, at a time when education was not always the top priority, he did not always understand the new to him words that were being thrown at him, being asked if you were an alien, might make you wonder if they were asking if you were sick right now, but the humor was somehow lost on the officer who was asking the questions. And when he asks you your name, and he has known you all your life, because he’s your milkman, it might be hard not to say, “You know my name.” Nevertheless, you must quickly learn that knowing you in life and knowing you in the military are obviously two very different things. You had better just answer the question and not act like a smart-aleck.

After getting past the registration area, and getting the feeling that these guys didn’t expect you to make it past the first week in combat, you might start looking for the door, and wondering if there was any way to make them believe you were only seventeen after all. Nevertheless, the line moved forward, and there was no way to get out of it, so you followed along. At some point you were issued a uniform, which the soldier Bertha was talking about described as one of two sizes…too small or too big. He pointed out that the pants were so tight that he didn’t dare sit down, and the shoes were so big that he could “turn around twice, and they didn’t move”. Sadly, I think that is the way it was during World War I. A guy could probably deal with the loose fitting clothes, but those tight ones wouldn’t last long. And to make matters worse for our particular soldier, he passed an officer, who immediately asked him if he had noticed the uniform the officer was wearing. In his typical eighteen year old mouthiness, and his lack of understanding the meaning of the question, our new soldier, asked why the officer was complaining. Hadn’t he seen how ill fitting the soldiers uniform was after all. I seriously doubt if the officer saw the humor in that.

After another mouthy session, the soldier found himself digging a hole…then being told to dig another one to throw the dirt into. I guess you can see where this task was heading. If our soldier didn’t figure out pretty fast CCI06282012_00000_editedabthat he needed to keep his sarcasm to himself, then it is my guess that he spent a lot of time peeling potatoes, scrubbing floors, and digging holes…when he wasn’t fighting for his life that is. As time went on, I’m sure he figured out that they didn’t care about his opinion, and if he gave it anyway, he was going to wish he hadn’t. While this type of soldier would not really make a great soldier, he would probably have made a funny movie. I’m sure he got over the need to be funny once the bullets started flying too. By the way, I really don’t recommend that any of the soldiers, who might be coming up the ranks, act this way. I think that while sarcasm in school might make you the class clown, and make you popular with your friends, because that’s what kids do, it will not have the same affect on your commanding officer in any way, shape, or form.

Great Great Grandpa Allen SpencerAllen SpencerWhen a name is passed down from generation to generation dating back to the 1400s or even further back, it is often not easy to say just how that name got started, but once in a great while, we are able to find out for sure, because prior to a certain point, that name did not appear. Such is the case with my dad’s name in his family line. I have searched the family history pretty extensively, and while I could be mistaken, I don’t think that I am…for this part of the line anyway. My dad’s name is Allen Spencer, as was his dad’s and great grandfather’s. The name, Allen was first introduced with my dad’s great grandfather…as near as I can tell. It did not come from his parents, but rather from his grandparents. I’m sure that at this point, your are confused, so let me clarify this.

My fourth great grandfather, William Spencer, who was born on July 22, 1745, married a woman named Mercy Allen sometime before 1790. The exact date is unknown, but the only child anyone seems to know about, Christopher was born in 1790. Christopher Spencer was my third great grandfather, and the father of the first recorded Allen Spencer…who was, of course named after his grandmother…Mercy Allen. From that point on Allen in the NavyDad at about 20there would be an Allen from each generation, with only one exception that I am aware of…my sister, Allyn who would have been Allen, had she been a boy. Since she was not, my parents did the closest name they could…Allyn. Having all daughters, I’m sure you would expect that the Allen Spencer line would end with my parents, but it did not, because my sister, Caryl, upon the birth of her son, named him Allen Spencer Beach…thereby continuing the tradition. With the great care that was taken to continue the Allen Spencer name throughout the generations, I have to say that they succeeded…albeit with a little bit of creativity. While I don’t always think of my sister as being an Allen, she did go to school with a boy named Allyn, who was in fact called Allen. It is all in where you place the accent. We always pronounced hers like Lynn, with an A in front. It really had to be continued…it’s tradition. And it is my hope that my nephew, Allen will continue the tradition, or that someone else in the family will do so, because it seems a shame to let it end now.

The rather funny thing about the name, Allen being a last name is that my dad always joked with us when we or Ryan and KellieGarrett 2anyone else named their kids a name that could have been a last name. Names like Ryan, Garrett, and Kellie, while maybe not spelled exactly like the last name they came from, were nevertheless, originally last names. It’s funny that Dad teased about those names, saying they were last names, but didn’t make the same connection with his own name. I’m sure that was because he knew that it had been his dad’s and great grandfather’s name too. Still, like it or not, Dad’s name was originally the last name of his third great grandmother. Sorry to say it, Dad…but, that was once a last name!!

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