A year seems like a long time, but in reality, it goes by so fast. One year ago today, my sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg left us to go to Heaven. She had a stroke, and recovery was not to be. Rachel left behind a husband, Ron Schulenberg; daughter, Cassie Franklin; sons, Riley Birky and Tucker Schulenberg; her dad, Cliff Franklin; and brother, BJ Franklin, grandchildren, Lucas and Zoey; as well as lots of family and friends. Life wasn’t always easy for Rachel, but she was in a great place. She and my brother-in-law were so in love, and they had been happily married almost 11 years. Ron had adopted her son Tucker, and we are all thankful for that, because no one knew the future, but Tucker needed to be with Ron.
Now, a year after Rachel left us, a number of things have changed. Her daughter, Cassie was in a bad situation, and Rachel was worried about it. Cassie was able to walk away from that situation, and I know that Rachel would be so glad. Rachel’s son Riley struggled through the years, but Rachel always stuck by him. Today he is engaged to a great girl, Sierah Martin, and together they are raising her little boy, and expecting a new baby in August 2022. Rachel would have been glad. Tucker is getting ready to go to high school next year. High school…how could that be!! Tucker should still be that 2-year-old boy who firat came into our lives when Rachel and Ron got married. Ron and Tucker are doing ok. They are working hard to take care of each other, and about that, Rachel would be glad. Tucker went to a grief camp that included horses last summer, and not only did he find a love of horses, but he found out that a school friend also lost his mother about two years ago.
Ron probably hides his feelings more than most and tries to use physical labor to help him through it, but we are having monthly family dinners, and trying to pull him into socializing more. It’s hard, and we don’t pressure him, but rather we let him, as well as the kids, know that we are there for them in whatever way they need…and I think Rachel would be glad. Rachel was a loving caring person, and that is impossible to replace. The hole left in our hearts when she left is impossible to fill, at least without God. Rachel knew Jesus as her personal Savior, and so we know that she is living a wonderful life in Heaven. While that doesn’t make us miss her any less, it does remind us that she is happy, and she is looking forward to the day we all join her there. Happy first year in Heaven, Rachel. We love and miss you very much.
Twenty seven years…it can seem like a lifetime, or as is the case with my daughter, Corrie Petersen, and her husband, Kevin, it can fly by so quickly that it seems impossible that it has been that many years already. Corrie and Kevin began dating when she was just 15 and he was 19. They fell in love almost instantly, and they have never looked back. They married two weeks after Corrie turned 18.
So many things have changed over the course of 27 years. Two sons were born into their union, Christopher and Joshua. They were blessed with much love in their home, which they purchased almost immediately after their marriage, with the down payment coming from a car accident that occurred on their honeymoon. Kevin and his dad, Dean knew how to do bodywork on cars and to paint them, so much of the payment for their damages was left to them following the accident that was the fault of the other driver…who was an honest kid, who accepted the blame and was just thankful that no one was hurt.
Over the years, Corrie and Kevin have had a number of pets, from their first…a Dalmatian puppy, to their currents…a Scottie, two Dachshunds, and a cat. Their love of pets is quite evident, and they have been equally blessed in return. The also shared their love of pets with their sons, who both have pets in their homes, now that they are grown.
With the adulthood of their children, came more changes. the empty nest that many people dread, was not their favorite time, but they have adjusted to it, and the addition of Chris’ fiancée, his little daughter, and with a son to follow in November, life is getting better and better every day. Both of their sons were able to keep their jobs during the Covid-19 Pandemic, and in fact were considered “essential workers,” which helped to alleviate any financial concerns for Corrie and Kevin, concerning their children. Life has been good to them, and the love in their family is filled to overflowing. Twenty seven years have flown by, which is exactly what happens when you are having fun. Today is Corrie and Kevin’s 27th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary Corrie and Kevin!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you both!!
When people are having a bad day, or the worst possible day, people often don’t know what to do to help. And sometimes there is seemingly nothing that can be done to really help, but as most of us know, whether we realize it or not, there is always one thing that can help…a hug. Of course, there is a right time and a wrong time to give a hug, but once the emergency part of a situation is over, we are often left with overwhelming emotions, and they are often held in because we are trying not to do the one thing that we really need to do…cry.
Over the years during which I was a caregiver, and now with what I went through during my husband’s heart attack, I have had a number of situations where the ambulance had to be called. In the whirlwind that followed, I had to keep my composure and tell the medical personnel what happened, and any other pertinent information they needed. I could not let myself break down. I couldn’t cry…or scream, which is what I really wanted to do. I had to hold it together, because my parents, in-laws, and then my husband, needed me to hold it together. I was their voice. Then, as suddenly as the ambulance had arrived, they loaded up their patient, and headed out. I found myself standing there alone, feeling very small and very scared. Then, a firefighter, who had also been dispatched, men who thankfully knew me because my husband had been their mechanic, came up to me and hugged me and encouraged me. Yes, the tears flowed then. There was no longer a need, nor any possible way to hold them back. Those firefighters can’t possibly comprehend what that hug meant to the person who received it. Hugs allow the emotions to release. It is the much needed human contact, when I felt entirely alone.
I am blessed to have many good people in my life. People who understand how badly a hug is needed. People who understand the power of a hug. My boss, Jim Stengel and his wife, Julie; my co-worker, Carrie Beauchamp; my siblings and in-laws; a friend and client, Donna LePage; and then, unexpectedly, my boss’s sons, Anthony and Michael Stengel, all sensed that I could really use a hug, and the power of those hugs has continued to help me. Each hug meant more than the giver can ever imagine. Each hug was given when the giver didn’t know what else to do, and yet each did exactly the right thing!! They instinctively knew that hugs are always healing. That is just the power of a hug.
When I married into the Schulenberg family, I had no idea what the future would bring…we really never do. I just knew I was in love with my husband, Bob, and I liked his family very much too. Bob’s dad, Walt Schulenberg was quite a character, with a flair for teasing and joking with those people he liked. I liked him very much. In many ways, he was like my own dad, Al Spencer, and very much like my husband. They all loved to tease the “pretty girls,” as they would say, and it endeared them to every one of those girls too. Early on my father-in-law let me know what life in the Schulenberg family was going to be like. The first time I met him, he started teasing, and I sent much of the time red face, but not upset, because was used to it after all. My father-in-law was a happy man, and he liked to see the positive things in life. He had a great smile, and he wasn’t afraid to use it. Anyone who knew him, would tell you he was truly an amazing man.
My father-in-law, who quickly became Dad, and the second great father figure in my life, was a hard working man…almost a workaholic, except that as important as his family was to him, he made sure to spend good quality time with all of us too. He loved my mother-in-law, Joann with all his heart, and his kids and grandkids a very close second. When his kids were young, he learned the value of spending time with family, when he was working out of town, and his daughter Brenda didn’t know him. That was it. He got a job closer to home. He loved being a grandpa and great grandpa, and I wish he could have been here to be a great great grandpa. He loved to make things for the kids, and they all loved the things he made.
He could make or build just about anything he put his mind to…from wooden toys and spinners, to a garage, and even a house. He was a mechanic by trade (among other things), and he could fix just about anything. It was a trade he would pass to his sons and grandsons, and one that as served them all well. Having a mechanic in the family is always a good thing. I think Dad knew that would be important, and that’s why he taught his boys. There were so many things he taught them and his daughters and granddaughters. We never dreamed that one day he wouldn’t be there to teach us any more, but five years ago today, Dad left us to go to Heaven. We had hoped that day would never come. It was a very sad day for us then, and it still is sad today. I know that one day we will see him again, but it doesn’t make it any easier to face the beginning of another year without him in it. We love and miss you Dad…every day.
My second cousin, Brian Schumacher and his wife, Lisa are two amazing people. Over the years of their marriage, they have been blessed with a beautiful group of children…but not in exactly the way you might expect. Brian’s first marriage, when he was 19 years old, gave him his first child…a daughter named Angie Marie was born January 8th, 1976, but that marriage ended in divorce. Brian married Lisa Basley on August 4, 1979. Their marriage was first blessed with a son, Brian Leslie born on February 8, 1980. Then, on May 20th, 1981 Lisa gave birth to another son, Nicholas Lee, and on June 29th, 1982, a daughter, Elizabeth Ann. Hemorrhaging during baby Elizabeth’s delivery brought with it the need for a hysterectomy for Lisa at age 29. She and Brian thought their days of having babies were over. They were quite sad about that because they had wanted more children, but God had a different plan for them.
Brian got saved in 1981, while working as a track layer on the railroad. A friend started telling him about Jesus and Brian became a “Jesus Freak” according to Lisa. At first Lisa was pretty uncomfortable with all that. She told him that if he didn’t stop telling everyone about Jesus, she was going to leave him. Once again, God had a different plan. One night in their bedroom Lisa awoke to a “bright light and a voice that sounded like Niagara Falls.” Jesus appeared to her and she kept saying take me with you. She knew that she wanted this Jesus in her life. Brian slept through the entire event, but Lisa was changed forever. She was no longer nervous about Brian talking to people about Jesus. She knew it was their calling. Still, in the back of their minds, the desire for more children continued to grow, and they would find out that God had a different plan for them again.
They checked into the possibility of adopting a baby in the 1990s, when their three children were under 10, and Angie was a teenager, but that was not God’s plan either, so they waited. Then, in God’s perfect timing, they got a call. It was 1992, and a friend said that she knew a girl that was pregnant and wanted to know if they were interested in adopting the baby. Brian and Lisa prayed about it and felt like God was telling them to do it. Their daughter, Grace Beverly was born August 11, 1993. Then, two years later, they got a call, saying that the same girl was pregnant again. She offered Brian and Lisa that baby too. Their daughter, Angel Danell was born June 12, 1995. God’s plans never have mistakes in them. He wanted these two girls to have each other…and a great family. In 1996, God changed their lives again when their children’s cousin became pregnant, and couldn’t keep the baby at the time, and since she was enrolled in the tribe, family had the option to adopt first because the Native Americans prefer to keep a child close, but God made a way for Brian and Lisa, and their son Noah Richard was born August 4, 1997. At this point, Brian and Lisa thought their family was probably complete, but as they were learning, God had a different plan. A woman they met at their church had just come back from working in an orphanage in China. While there, she fell in love with a little girl called Precious. Brian and Lisa quickly fell in love too, and they felt that God was calling them to adopt Precious. Again, they would learn that God’s plans are sometimes different than ours. The adoption of Precious did not work out, but there was another child…a baby girl who needed a family. Brian and Lisa raised the $30,000 plus dollars to go to China and pick up that 6 month old baby. Their daughter Hope Elizabeth was born on September 23rd, 2001.
It was at this point that Brian and Lisa knew that their family was complete…at least until the grandchildren began to arrive. They marveled at the blessings God had given them. Their story doesn’t end here though. There were reasons that each of these precious adopted daughters were given their names. Grace received her name because they felt like, in a time just after Lisa’s dad’s passing God gave them Grace. Angel was just so sweet, they all kept calling her a little angel, and the name just stuck. Hope arrived at a time when Lisa felt like she had none and God gave her Hope to fill them all with Joy. As I was visiting with Brian and Lisa’s daughter, Elizabeth, in preparation for this story, she summed her parents up like this, “Pretty amazing…when I look back at what sacrifices that were made and the money, time, and love they have given all of us…well, God has been faithful to our family. If it weren’t for the color of our skin or eyes no one would know that were weren’t blood relatives. It’s like the adoption creed says that my parents have in their house ‘Not flesh of my flesh nor bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own. Never forget for a single minute, you didn’t grow from my heart, but in it.’ I like to brag on my parents because you won’t find a couple that has struggled more, had so many sleepless nights with their children trying to find their own and loving unconditionally and always keeping Jesus in the center.” That is such a beautiful tribute to a beautiful couple, from a loving daughter.
My husband, Bob Schulenberg’s 2nd great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin DeGood was a blacksmith in Galena, Kansas in 1900. He and his two oldest sons ran the business together, as often happened in families. If the parents were farmers, often so were the children. So in this case, because their dad was a blacksmith, William and Clyde grew up in the trade, and began working with him. In 1900, Galena was a town of 10,155 people…the largest population it had before or after that time. The railroad established the territory of Galena in 1871, but the town wasn’t established until the discovery of lead there in the spring of 1877. As with any mining operation back then, there were other occupations that became necessary, blacksmiths being one of them.
Benjamin and his family were living in Nebraska, when Bob’s great grandmother, Nellie DeGood Knox was born in Springfield on October 6, 1887, but by the birth of her younger brother Ernest on December 31, 1892 the family was living in Columbus, Kansas. By the December 9, 1898 birth of Benjamin’s youngest daughter, Beulah, the family was living in Galena, Kansas. Then in the 1900 census, Benjamin and his two eldest sons had a blacksmith shop in Galena.
I have to wonder what it was like to be a blacksmith in the 1900s. Cars had made their first appearance on the scene in 1893, and while I’m sure many people were sure they were a passing fad that was less than safe. It’s also quite possible that they were too expensive for the average person, but as a blacksmith, I have to wonder if Benjamin could see the writing on the wall. The days of the blacksmith having steady work were numbered. Nevertheless, he had to continue to do the job he knew as long as there was work to do.
At some point after the untimely deaths of Benjamin’s youngest daughter, Buelah and son, Theodore, both of whom died as young children, and possibly because of the declining need for blacksmith services, or maybe due to declining health, Benjamin moved the family that was still at home, to Polk, Missouri. I have not found any real indication of declining health, but given the fact that blacksmiths in those days were exposed to asbestos, before we knew of the dangers, I have to think that a man who dies at 58 years of age, even as early as 1907, must have had something major going on. Lung diseases caused by asbestos would definitely qualify. I would think that the life of a blacksmith would be a hard one in every way, and when it brought with it an early death due to the occupational health hazards, it became an occupation I wouldn’t want my kids to go into…even if it was the family business.
When my Uncle Larry Byer, married the love of his life, Jeanette Morton, she became the first daughter-in-law my grandparents had. They had nine children and of those, just two sons, Larry and Wayne. Larry was the oldest boy, Wayne the youngest boy, with three girls before Larry, and three girls after Wayne, and my mom, Collene Byer Spencer in the middle.
My grandparents were used to girls, with all of their mixed emotions, but prior to Aunt Jeanette, the additions had always been men…husbands for the daughters. I’m not sure, but I have to think that it must have been a little bit of a culture shock to add another girl to this mix. When your family has an over abundance of girls, adding boys seems to calm the whole world down some, because suddenly the emotions of those girls settle down too. I suppose they probably thought that adding a daughter-in-law could possible bring a new surge of emotions, but they couldn’t have been more wrong. Aunt Jeanette has always seemed like a very calm, mellow person to me…with a wonderful laugh that brings a smile to everyone’s face. Of course, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have an Aunt Jeanette, because she married my Uncle Larry back on February 11, 1956, and I wasn’t born until the following April.
Aunt Jeanette has always been such a kind and thoughtful person. I’m sure that is what attracted her to Uncle Larry too. Aunt Jeanette had been a friend of the family for a while before she and Uncle Larry started dating, and so in many ways, she just fit right in with the rest of the family. Nevertheless, Aunt Jeanette brought a sweetness to the family all her own. She is one of the few people these days who always sends out Christmas cards, because she wants those she loves to know that she is thinking about them. That is just the kind of person she is and always has been.
Aunt Jeanette has long been the only sister-in-law in the family, but in reality, she is more like a sister than a sister-in-law to the rest of the siblings. She has endeared herself to them in many ways. Her kindness and generosity are well known to anyone who ever had a need. She is quick to offer words of comfort, and just to let you know that no matter what you need, she will be there for you. Today is Aunt Jeanette’s 79th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Jeanette!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Last night, while my sister, Cheryl Masterson and I were going through several boxes of our parents paperwork to prepare it for shredding, we came across a number of letters from different family members. I was drawn to some from my dad’s brother, William Spencer. One letter was written on March 5, 1990, and told a lot about the small town of Holyoke, Minnesota, where the family lived for a number of years. Uncle Bill talked of how the town was just a skeleton now, and so unlike its former self. I could read the sadness in his thoughts. Holyoke was a place that, in his childhood, had seemed larger than life. He knew every inch of it. He and my dad, their sister, Ruth, and their friends had dodged the trains, played ball, gone to school, fished the stream, and…well, lived life there. Uncle Bill was sad, because now, all that was changing.
Uncle Bill wrote of the passing of this friend, and that friend, as well as all the citizens, teachers, parents, and business owners who had lived in the little town of Holyoke. While the passing of the people he knew and loved was hard enough, the loss of the different buildings in the town was equally devastating to my dear Uncle Bill. I think the building that was the hardest for him to see go was the little church, which held the baptismal font that had been built in 1935 by Fritz Fredrick, who is the father of my cousins Gene and Dennis Fredrick. Fritz also did most of the cabinet work, too. It was very hard for Uncle Bill to think of that baptismal font being left to rot, so he bought it and gave it to one of Fritz’s sons. Uncle Bill writes about how sad it makes him to see the buildings delapitated and, in his words, forlorn. Nevertheless, he continues to be drawn to Holyoke because it feels like going home to him. He loves the people there, and loves to spend time visiting with them. Holyoke is and always will be a part of him…like it’s in his DNA.
Uncle Bill’s letter continues to draw me back to it in much the same way that Holyoke draws Uncle Bill back to it, because even if the feelings are raw and painful to a degree, it is harder not to make the trip than it is the deal with the feelings when you go back there. My mom, Collene Spencer, my sister, Cheryl Masterson, my cousin Bill Spencer (Uncle Bill’s son), and I visited Holyoke this past August while we were back in Superior, Wisconsin, and I can completely understand how Uncle Bill feels about that place. I don’t recall having been there before, but like my Uncle Bill, Holyoke, Minnesota will continue to live in my heart. I guess that some places simply have that affect on you.
After my 2nd great grandfather, Allen Spencer passed away suddenly at the young age of just 56 years, my 2nd great grandmother, Lydia Spencer found herself in one of the hardest positions anyone ever has to face. In those days, few of the women worked outside the home, and with her husband and the bread winner of her family gone, she had some hard choices to make. She still had several children at home, including three sons and one daughter. Her daughter, Teresa would marry later that year, and eventually move to North Dakota. Her son Allen would follow his sister to North Dakota, and eventually move to Washington, where he would marry and live out his life. That left Lydia in Iowa, with her two remaining sons, Cornelius and Luther…at least for a time. That had to have been the hardest part of the time too, considering the grief she must have been feeing.
Luther married Ellen Dykes in 1885, and Cornealius married Leona Stinson on February 1, 1888. By 1900, the two brothers along with their families and their mother had moved to the Deer Creek, Oklahoma area. I know that in the years following their fathers death, these two men took on the role of caregiver of sorts for their mother. It wasn’t necessarily that she needed a caregiver, at only 53 years of age, but rather that these two brothers took on the role of picking up the pieces of her shattered life and helping her through the rough transition years, during which she went from being a wife to a widow. It isn’t that she was incapable, but it would be really hard to find yourself widowed at such a young age. You had thought you and your souse would grow old together, and now you have been left to try to figure out how to move on alone.
Little has been said about the role the two brothers played in her life, and I suppose that is because it was just expected of them and so everyone assumed they just did their job. I suppose that is true to a large degree, but there were other children in the family, and yet they chose to take on this role, and she chose to go to Oklahoma with these two sons, rather than move to North Dakota, Wisconsin, or Washington with her other children. She loved the others very much, and the pictures tell me that she saw them whenever she could, but she moved to Oklahoma with Cornealius and Luther, and lived in Luther’s home until her passing in 1906, at the age of 75.
It takes a very special person to move their elderly parent into their home, and I don’t just mean that parent’s child, but the spouse of that child too. You can’t take in your parent without the ok of your spouse, because this is going to affect the whole family. In this case, it is likely that the time Lydia lived with her son Luther and his family in Oklahoma, was about ten years, but in reality, that is a long time. The last days could have been very stressful and trying, given the way, aging parents get weak and tired as they get closer to death. Yes, I think that Luther and his wife, Ellen had to be very special people to make sure that Lydia was taken care of, and not lonely. I’m sure that went a long way toward picking up the pieces of her life, after the loss of her husband, Allen. That leaves me with a lot of respect for these sons and their families.
Through the years, I have seen many changes in my nephew, Steve Spethman. As a young boy, he…like all boys, was mischievous and full of good natured teasing. Since Steve is my nephew, through his marriage to Jenny, my niece, he has only been a part of our family for twelve years. That said, most people might not have known what kind of boy he was, but I knew him, long before Jenny knew him. Steve wasn’t a bad boy…just a boy, and since I had girls, boys were a little foreign to me. Steve also grew up in a family of girls, since it was his mother, sister, and him. Maybe he got away with more than he might have, but he was the little man of the family, and with that came a lot of responsibility too…or at least Steve decided that it was his responsibility.
When he met my niece, Jenny, and then they got married, he took that new responsibility, of being a husband and later a father, very seriously. He became the head of the family, confidently leading his family in the ways they should go…teaching his children what was right. His years of being the little man of the family, had prepared him for being the head of the family. He confidently stepped into the job of being a loving dad to his kids. They meant the world to him. Steve and Jenny were the parents of three sons, Xander, Zachery, and Isaac. Then finally their next baby was to be a daughter.
Losing their daughter, Laila was probably the hardest thing that ever happened to Steve and Jenny, but instead of falling apart, he held them all together. Then after taking a huge leap of faith they stepped out, and tried one more time for a baby daughter, and were blessed with Aleesia. With their life finally filled to the full with a long awaited daughter, Steve began reaching out to other people who had lost a child. His comforting ways have soothed many a broken heart, and lead them to know that all hope is not lost.
I have seen Steve go from being a tough little boy, to a strong man, to a broken hearted man, to a man who can help others heal. The changes have been astonishing. I am quite proud of the many changes that have occurred in him. I’m sure most are the normal changes that occur, but some of them are changes that he has allowed the Lord to make in him. Those are changes of opening his heart to wise teaching, and that is something that has to come from within the man himself. No one can make us accept wise teaching, but us. And that is probably something in Steve that has never really changed. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!