My uncle, Larry Byer was a really good musician, but that was not something I recall from years of hearing him play. It is something I’ve been told over the years. I never occurred to me that so many people in my family were talented musicians, but apparently there were a number of them. Uncle Larry played the guitar, the mandolin, and the piano. My grandfather, his dad, George Byer played the mandolin and the violin. My dad, Al Spencer and my Uncle George both played guitars. They had a regular band, and their jam sessions were like a big party at the Byer house. I knew that my dad, Al Spencer and his siblings were talented musicians, because I was told that over the years, but Uncle Larry is on my mom, Collene Spencer’s side of the family, and somehow, I just didn’t know. It’s possibly because by the time I was born, Uncle Larry was married, and starting a family of his own with his wife, Jeanette Morton. In fact, their son, Larry is just nine months younger than I am. These days, most of these band members are playing in Heaven, and I would sure love to hear that music.
Uncle Larry was always a guy with a great sense of humor. He loved a good joke, and maybe that was what my Aunt Jeanette first saw in her husband of 55 years, before he went home to be with the Lord. Uncle Larry loved a good joke and wasn’t above pulling pranks either. I suppose he came by it honestly. I think just about everyone in my family…from both sides are tricksters and pranksters, and it had to come from somewhere, so I think there are a number of the aunts and uncles who had a hand in it. My mom was born between the two brothers in the family, and so she got a double portion of the pranks boys tend to play. Personally, I think she totally loved being the girl between the boys, because they included her in all the mischief.
Like all of my veteran loved ones, I am very proud that my Uncle Larry served in the Korean War. He didn’t talk much about his time in the service, but like most of the men of the war eras, he was proud to serve his country. Uncle Larry was an honorable man and an honorable soldier. After that he came home and started a family with his best friend and wife, Jeanette Morton. They married on February 11, 1956, and their first child, Larry was born on February 9, 1957. Tina followed on November 12, 1958. Uncle Larry worked for many years at Texaco Refinery, and when they closed down there, he transferred to Louisiana, until his retirement. Today would have been Uncle Larry’s 88th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Larry. We love and miss you very much.
President James Buchanan was the only bachelor president of the United States, and in the absence of a first lady, his niece, Harriet Lane acted as First Lady for him. Lane was born on May 9, 1830, in Stony Batter, Pennsylvania. Her mother died when she was nine, her father when she was 11, and the orphaned girl was remanded to the custody of her mother’s brother, the future President Buchanan. He oversaw the remainder of her childhood, sending her to a prestigious private school in Washington while he was a Senator. Not only was it very unusual for a president not to have a wife, but Buchanan’s niece was only 27 years old when she was acting as first lady. For the wife of a president, that would be a big enough job, but for a young single woman, who may have never hosted a party, much less such large events, that was a big undertaking. Nevertheless, Harriet Lane was not just any young woman. During her time as First Lady, she was considered the greatest First Lady ever. Many would compare her to Jaqueline Kennedy, had they been of similar eras.
The work Harriet Lane did as First Lady also earned her the honor of having several ships named after her. In 1859, the United States Revenue Cutter Service named a revenue cutter USRC Harriet Lane. The outbreak of the Civil War, saw USRC Harriet Lane as a ship of the United States Navy and later the Confederate States Navy. The cutter was christened and entered the water for the Revenue Service in 1859 out of New York City. It saw action during the Civil War at Fort Sumter, New Orleans; Galveston, Texas; and Virginia Point. She became a ship for the Confederacy when the Confederate Navy captured her in 1863. The ship was converted to mercantile service. Then the Union forces recaptured her at the end of war. The war was not easy on USRC Harriet Lane, and so the US Navy declared the ship unfit for service and sold her. New owners out of Philadelphia renamed her Elliot Ritchie. Her crew abandoned her at sea in 1881. It was not really a very fitting end for a ship with such stately beginnings.
USRC Harriet Lane measured 177.5 feet long, 30.5 feet wide and 12 feet from the bottom of the hull to the main deck. She had a double-right-angled marine engine with two side paddles, supported by two masts. The entire ship was sheathed and fastened with copper. Her initial armaments were light guns, however after joining the West Gulf Squadron her firepower was upgraded to one four-inch rifled Parrott gun to the forecastle, one nine-inch Dahlgren gun before the first mast, two eight-inch Dahlgren Columbiads and two twenty-four-pound brass Howitzers. Her crew of 95 were also issued small arms. In August 1861, in what would likely be her most famous battle, the Harriet Lane, Monticello, and Pawnee were sent on a sortie from Hampton Roads, Virginia, to blockade runners working in the area. While off the Hatteras they also participated in the first combined arms operation of the Civil War: an amphibious landing to take Fort Hatteras and Fort Clark.
As for the real Harriet Lane, following her time as First Lady, she went to England for a while. During her time in England, Sir Fitzroy Kelly, then Prime Minister Palmerston’s attorney general, proposed marriage to her. Queen Victoria was strongly in favor of this match, as it would keep Lane in England. She was well liked in England and considered an asset. Lane considered the advantages of a number of bachelors. Her uncle cautioned Lane against “rushing precipitately into matrimonial connections.” He found most of her potential suitors “pleasant but dreadfully troublesome.” Lane eventually married Baltimore banker Henry Elliott Johnston at the age of 36. They had two sons, but between 1867 and 1885, her uncle, her husband, and her children had all died. She was alone again.
In 1895, Harriet wrote her will. She lived another eight years, during which the country’s general prosperity greatly increased the value of her estate. In 1899, she amended her will, directing that a school building be constructed on the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral property and asked that it be called the Lane-Johnston Building “to the end that the family names of my husband and myself may be associated with the bequest made in loving memory of our sons.” A codicil of 1903 increased her gift by one third, but said that only half the total was to be spent on the building. The remainder was “specially to provide for the free maintenance, education and training of choirboys, primarily those in service of the Cathedral.” This bequest founded the prestigious boys’ school that today is called Saint Albans School, which opened in October 1909. Harriet Lane-Johnston died of cancer on July 3, 1903, in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
The USCGC Blackthorn (WLB-391) was a 180-foot seagoing buoy tender for the US Coast Guard. A buoy tender is a type of vessel used to maintain and replace navigational buoys. Prior to navigational buoys, ships might run into rocks, small almost submerged islands, or coral reefs. It would be nice if every underwater danger could have a lighthouse, but that just isn’t feasible. Buoys, on the other hand, and markers serve to direct the operator of the water vessels on the safe course to take. They warn the operator of the underlying dangers in the waterways. Navigation buoys and markers are also effective navigation aid in directing the water vessel operator on the best route to use. They aid in determining the safest way through the waters.
The Blackthorn was one of 39 original 180-foot seagoing buoy tenders built between 1942-1944. All but one of the original tenders, USCGC Ironwood (WLB-297), were built in Duluth, Minnesota, which makes me wonder if my Uncle Bill Spencer, or his sisters, Laura Fredrick and Ruth Wolfe might have worked on it. Blackthorn’s preliminary design was completed by the United States Lighthouse Service and the final design was produced by Marine Iron and Shipbuilding Corporation in Duluth. On May 21, 1943, the keel was laid, the vessel was launched on July 20, 1943, and commissioned on March 27, 1944. The original cost for the hull and machinery was $876,403.
The Blackthorn was initially assigned to the Great Lakes for ice-breaking duties, but was resigned to San Pedro, California after just a few months. For several years the vessel served in San Pedro and then it was moved to the gulf coast region to serve in Mobile, Alabama. From there it was transferred to Galveston, Texas for the final years of its service until it was involved in an accident.
In 1979-1980, Blackthorn underwent a major overhaul in Tampa, Florida. The work was finished and on January 28, 1980, while leaving Tampa Bay after the completion of the overhaul, she collided with the tanker SS Capricorn near the Tampa Bay Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The Blackthorn capsized resulting in the deaths of 23 crew members. The cutter was raised for the investigation, but ultimately, instead of fixing it, Blackthorn was scuttled in the Gulf of Mexico after the investigation was complete. She is currently serving as an artificial reef for recreational diving and fishing.
My husband’s uncle, Bobby Cole was born in South Dakota, where he lived for all of his young life. I don’t know all the details of how he met my husband’s aunt, Linda “Knox” Cole, except that they met in Colstrip, Montana, when her parents were living there. It is my thought that Bobby was working at the coal mine in Colstrip, when a certain girl caught his eye. Once he met Linda, he was smitten. He knew she was the love of his life, and he was right. They were married on December 29th, 1965, and their marriage would last until Bobby’s passing on May 30, 2014. Of course, I don’t know these details for sure, except that my husband, Bob Schulenberg told me that they met in Colstrip. I also know that Colstrip is a coal mining town…or at least a coal processing town. So, it made sense that mining and coal was the reason Bobby was there. And in the end, it was fate, I guess…or a really good move.
Bobby was raised on his parents’ farm, so the country lifestyle was in his blood, but like many kids, the idea of a change of pace can be very appealing…not to mention getting away from home. Kids, once they graduate from high school tend to either want to move out and get a job or head off to college. For Bobby, the choice was to move to Colstrip, Montana was the best decision he ever made. Once Linda and Bobby met, they never looked back. The dated a while, and then went to Las Vegas, Nevada to get married. Following their wedding, Linda and Bobby would go on to have two children…a daughter, Sheila and a son, Patrick. Since that time, their lives were blessed with multiple grandchildren. While they passed away at a younger age, they lived a good life.
Eventually, life would take Linda and Bobby in an unexpected direction. After the hotel they owned in Kennebec, South Dakota, burned to the ground, they decided that since Kennebec was a small town and business was going nowhere, it was time to leave. They moved to Winnemucca, Nevada, and lived there the rest of their lives. Today would have been Bobby’s 79th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Bobby. We love and miss you very much.
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.
Some people have a way of letting you know what just might be coming, by the look on their face. My uncle, Wayne Byer is that way. Uncle Wayne is a character, and the first sign that something is about to happen is the mischievous grin that appears on his face. As the youngest of, in my mind, the famous “Byer Middles” and the “Mischievous Three,” Uncle Wayne learned his mischievous ways from the very best. Uncle Larry may have been the leader of the pack, and my mom, Collene Spencer was probably guilty by default…at least at first. She could get into trouble with the best of them, because she looked up to her brothers, and always wanted to be right there in the middle of whatever it was that they were planning that day. Being the only girl in the “Mischievous Three” didn’t bother her one bit, in fact I think she rather liked it. The boys did things differently, and for my mom, that was all the more fun.
Uncle Wayne Spent much of his career around kids. He worked in the schools, as a bus driver, then as the supervisor over the bus garage. I think everyone of the kids in the family, whether we rode a bus or not, thought it was great that Uncle Wayne was in charge of the whole operation. Running all those busses for a large school district was no easy job, and Uncle Wayne did a great job of it. Everyone liked Uncle Wayne, and when they knew we were related, we were liked too. It made us very proud of his accomplishments.
Uncle Wayne loved kids, and he lived making the kids laugh. Maybe that was the biggest “take-away” for him being the youngest of the “Mischievous Three” for all those years. Some things you just don’t grow out of, and as many of us know, it’s very hard to take the “little boy” out of the man. Once they are goofy, they always seem to be goofy. They just love to see people smile and laugh, and that is really who Uncle Wayne is. Today is Uncle Wayne’s 84th birthday, although he really doesn’t seem 84. His is still a kid at heart. Happy birthday Uncle Wayne!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My uncle, Bill Beadle was a unique kind of man. He loved all things cowboy, western, and especially the Old West. I suppose it’s possible that he was rather living in the wrong era. It’s not that God made a mistake and put him in the wrong time, but sometimes our own preferences make us feel like we might have been better suited to a different era. I’m quite sure that his family would have argued that point with him anyway, if he were to suggest that he should have lived in the Old West. Really though, for Uncle Bill, it wasn’t about living in the Old West, it was about loving Wyoming…and he really did.
He loved all the outdoor activities that were favorites of his. He loved to hunt and fish. He loved spending time with his family in the great outdoors. His sons were his favorite companions…other than my Aunt Virginia, of course. He was born in Worland, Wyoming, and he always loved Wyoming. This would be the place he wanted most to be.
Uncle Bill was always funny and humorous, and I liked visiting with him. When his memory started to go, Uncle Bill could no longer come to the family parties, and so, many of us lost track of him. He struggled to communicate with family, and it simply became easier to just stay home and not try to carry on those conversations. I really miss those times with Uncle Bill. Today would have been Uncle Bill’s 93rd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Bill. We love and miss you very much.
My uncle, George Hushman has been in love with my Aunt Evelyn since the moment he met her. Aunt Evelyn is my mother’s sister, and the oldest of the nine children born to George and Hattie Byer. Uncle George was raised in the children’s home in Casper, Wyoming, after losing his parents when he was young. When he met my aunt, and the rest of the family, he knew that he had found his family. He would go one to find his biological family later too…another blessing, but he had never really been part of a family until he met Aunt Evelyn. He had been welcomed into his best friend’s family, but as a friend of their son. In Aunt Evelyn’s family, he was the newest actual member…their son-in-law, and much like a true son.
Together, Uncle George and Aunt Evelyn raised five children, who gave them many grandchildren and great grandchildren. They were very blessed with a large family. They lived a good life and throughout those many years together, they were always, first and foremost, madly in love. Unfortunately, as the years progressed, both Uncle George and Aunt Evelyn began to experience some health issues, and at some point, things like dementia and cancer, can take a toll on a family, just as it does the patient themselves. For many family members, dementia is as tough as cancer.
As Uncle George’s dementia progressed, he would often forget the names of his children and grandchildren. That is one of the hardest things on family. We don’t want to think that our own parents or grandparents no longer recognize us. I know this because of what my mother-in-law went through, but one thing I also know is that they seldom forget that you belong to them. That happened with Uncle George too, as my cousin Jamie Patsie experienced shortly before my Aunt Evelyn, her grandmother passed. She had gone over to visit her grandparents. Jamie tells me, “When Grandma was really sick, before she passed, they were sitting next to each other on the couch, listening to his old tapes of him singing, which was so sweet. As I was leaving, he grabbed my hand and looked at grandma and said, ‘See Evelyn, this is someone that we love,’ and kissed my hand. He didn’t want me to leave. Even with his dementia and not knowing exactly who I was, he knew that I was someone that he loved!” He knew she belonged to them and that they loved her, even if he didn’t remember her name. How very sweet!! Today would have been Uncle George’s 95th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle George. We love and miss you very much.
It’s hard for me to believe that my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s aunt, Linda Cole has been gone now for 5 years. She always seemed to be so full of life, and then suddenly, she was gone. In many ways, Linda quit living…really living when her husband, Bobby Cole passed away May 30, 2014. Bobby was her soulmate, and when they married, it was “until death do they part” and so it was, when Bobby passed away. By that time, their kids had both married and moved away, so I’m sure there was a degree of loneliness too, but it was still a shock to all of us, because we had no idea that her death was so close. Heart attacks are that way though. One minute the victim is fine, and the next they aren’t.
Linda had lived a number of places in her lifetime, but in many ways, I think she liked Winnemucca, Nevada the best. It was small enough to be likeable, but with the gambling industry there was always something to do. Linda and Bobby both worked in a casino, and had an active social life. They had always loved dancing, especially square dancing, and while I don’t know if they had a place to dance in Winnemucca, they did when they were in Kennebec, South Dakota. They also love to pay cards, which might be why they enjoyed the casinos so much. They used to spend hours playing cards with any of the family who came to visit.
Prior to moving to Winnemucca, they had owned a hotel in Kennebec, but in a strange twist of fate, the building was struck by lightning years ago, and actually burned to the ground. I had never known of a building that was destroyed by lightning, but it does happen. With their source of income gone, and Kennebec being the extremely small town it is, there was nothing to do, but to move away. So, they went to Winnemucca, Nevada. It was a huge life change, but one they were excited to make. They enjoyed life in Winnemucca, enjoyed being grandparents, and each other. They had a good life. Today would have been Linda’s 75th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Linda. We love and miss you very much.
If your are from Forsyth, Montana, you most likely know our uncle, Butch Schulenberg. It’s not just because Forsyth is a small town of only 1495 people, so it is easy for everyone to know everyone else, but Butch Schulenberg is really special person within the Forsyth family. For one thing, he grew up the son of the local sheriff, and especially in a small town, that means everyone knows you, and might have even asked for you help when it came to matters of trouble with the sheriff. I doubt if his friends ever got into any real trouble, but kids will be kids. It’s just the way it is. I also doubt if Butch had a lot of pull when it came to getting his friends out of trouble, but then Sheriff Andy Schulenberg had a very different style when it came to policing the people of Rosebud County Montana. He didn’t even carry a gun, but that’s another story.
Uncle Butch grew up loving sports, and was a local sports hero. He still actively supports the local teams to this day. It doesn’t matter to Butch, if it’s the boys teams, the girls teams, or the little league teams. They are his teams and he is a very loyal man. Knowing so many f the town’s people helps too, because he knows these kids personally. He has watched them grow up and cheered them on in every endeavor. You can’t beat the blessing of knowing all those great kids, and having them know you too. Butch never met a stranger, and calls everyone his friend. I like that, because while he is my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s uncle, he is mine too, by marriage. Nevertheless, I don’t even consider the “by marriage” part, because Butch Schulenberg is my uncle just as if I had been born into the family, and I love him very much. He even cheers me on in my writing endeavors, and that pleases me very much. Butch is like…everybody’s cheerleader. He loves to see people succeed and loves to cheer them on to that success.
Butch is also a proud husband, father, and grandfather. His kids, Tadd, Andi Kay, and Heath have 7 children between, and they all love their grandpa very much. Like the kids of Forsyth, Butch is one of his grandchildren’s biggest fans. He loves hearing about their activities and attends whenever he can. He tries very hard to be a hands-on grandpa, and they love him very much. Today is Uncle Butch’s 81st birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Butch. Have a great day!! We love you!!