Monthly Archives: May 2021

So many military holidays are mixed up and celebrated in a wrong manner, or simply forgotten and celebrated as a fun holiday whereby we are off work. Memorial Day is celebrated as the beginning of summer, usually with picnics and other fun events, but the reality is that Memorial Day is the day we honor, or should honor, those soldiers who fought in a war, and did not return home. They gave their all…their lives. We can never repay such a debt to the brave men and women who fought and died so that we and other nations might live free.

I didn’t personally lose a loved one in any war, but I know a few people who did, and my heart goes out to them on this day. The families of these brave soldiers who gave their lives, sacrificed too, and their sacrifice is no small one. I know that in my family, there were men who lost their lives in war. I just didn’t know them personally. I doubt if any family can be totally free of that loss, given all the wars there have been throughout history.

Memorial Day is so important, because without the sacrifice these men and women made, our world would be a totally different place today. Many of us have cringed at the changes that the current administration is trying to bring on this nation. I feels like an insult to the brave mn and women who fought and died for our freedom. Today is not a day to barbeque and celebrate the long weekend. In reality, it is a day to reflect on those we have lost in the horrible wars we have had to fight to keep this nation and others free. As you go about your day, please try to remember that fact, and thank a lost soldier’s family is you know one. We owe them and their lost soldier a great debt of gratitude. To anyone who has lost a loved one in battle, I say, “thank you for your sacrifice and that of your loved one.” It will never be forgotten.

Whether they intend to or not, kids sometimes resemble the things we all know from commercials. Such is the case with my great grand-nephew, Jaxx Harman. Jaxx is the youngest child and only boy of my grand-nephew, Jake Harman and his wife Melanie, and Jaxx is all boy. He may have been growing up around two sisters, but that has not influenced him one bit. Jaxx loves to wrestle and fight, but never hurts his sisters, Alice and Izabella…at least not intentionally. His mom says he is like the sour patch kids…first they are sour, and then they are sweet. I don’t know about the sour side, because whenever I see Jaxx, I see his sweet side. I suppose as his great grand-aunt, he figures that he can’t really pick on me too much. He might be surprised if he tried, because I’m a great tickler!!

Jaxx absolutely loves Scooby Doo and he can recite and sing along with quite a bit of it. It’s amazing how much of something fun a child can quickly memorize, and how hard schoolwork seems to be. Maybe we need to add the cartoons to the schoolwork. I’ll bet lots of kids would memorize their lessons very quickly. And speaking of schoolwork, Jaxx just finished his first year of preschool, and he did very well. He even received an achievement award from his teacher. Jaxx loves going to school, probably because it makes him feel grow up, like his big sisters. It’s hard to be the youngest child. They always have to watch their older siblings get to go to school and to parties and to friends houses, and they don’t get to go. They always feel somewhat like the baby, at least in their childhood years. That situation is helped when they finally get to go to school too. For Jaxx that was this past school year, and he was very happy to be going.

Jaxx is such a happy, smiling boy. He loves playing with his big sisters, and they try to indulge his boy side as much as they can. That said, the girls must be pretty good wrestlers too, because I’ve seen videos of their playtime, and the can hold their own. Of course, Jaxx loves his sisters very much, and he would never hurt them either. He’s too much a gentleman…or maybe he’s the sweet side of the sour patch kids…for that. Today is Jaxx’s 4th birthday. Happy birthday Jaxx!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When the government forces a persecuted people to wear a label, that lets everyone around them know that they are a part of the group that anyone can persecute, it becomes one of the greatest atrocities known to mankind. Imagine a world where anyone has the right to beat, maim, and even kill another person in broad daylight and in front of witnesses, and face no repercussions for the atrocity committed. That was exactly the situation the Jewish people faced when, on May 29, 1942, on the advice of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler orders all Jews in occupied Paris to wear an identifying yellow star on the left side of their coats.

Most people, these days, can keep their beliefs to themselves, so they aren’t persecuted. We see it all the time. There are people right now, who don’t tell anyone that they are Christian (or Jewish) because they know that they will be hated, belittled, and persecuted simply because of their beliefs. It is against the law to murder…at this time, but it could change if we aren’t carful with the things we allow. This would be terrible, but nothing like the Yellow Star mandate was to the Jewish people. Hitler, along with his fellow government officials wanted to dehumanize the Jewish people. One man, Joseph Goebbels, led the way on this. Goebbels had made the persecution, and ultimately the extermination, of Jews a personal priority from the earliest days of the war, often recording in his diary such statements as, “They are no longer people but beasts,” and “[T]he Jews… are now being evacuated eastward. The procedure is pretty barbaric and is not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews.” His hatred of the Jewish people was unrestrained.

It is sad to think of this, and we can try to place the full blame on Hitler, Goebbels, or even the Nazis, but they were not the first to suggest this particular form of isolation. “The yellow star may make some Catholics shudder,” wrote a French newspaper at the time. “It renews the most strictly Catholic tradition.” Intermittently, throughout the history of the papal states, which is the territory in central Italy controlled by the pope, Jews were often confined to ghettoes and forced to wear either yellow hats or yellow stars. On July 14, 1555, Pope Paul IV issued the papal decree Cum Nimis Absurdum, which subjected Jews under his dominion to myriad restrictions and humiliations, most notably forcing them to live in ghettos. He was an unusually rigid and anti-Jewish pope and this decree was one of his first actions, issued just two months after becoming pope. He also required that the ghettos be locked at night, the Jews were not allowed to own property and were required to identify themselves by wearing a yellow head covering. They were limited to primarily low-level trade jobs, and Jewish doctors were not allowed to have Christian patients. Nevertheless, Hitler’s Holocaust was the worst example of hatred imposed on the Jews in modern times.

It’s said that there is nothing more dangerous than a humiliated man, and I suppose that could be true, but in the case of Andrew Kehoe, I think there was more to it than just one humiliation. Kehoe had shown violent tendencies since he was a child. Now, I’m not saying that every angry child will grow up to be a monster, but it might be something to monitor. If the violence becomes worse with age, there could be something wrong that needs to be addressed.

Andrew Philip Kehoe was born on February 1, 1872 in Tecumseh, Michigan. He was part of a large family. Kehoe showed violent tendencies early on. He tended to blame others for his troubles, which I think is also a common trait in troubled people. Kehoe was notified in June 1926 that his mortgage was going into foreclosure. Andrew Kehoe had been on the school board as treasurer. After his defeat in the April 5, 1926, election for the township clerk Kehoe lost it. Because of his association with the school board, Kehoe set his sights on the Bath School as a target to voice his frustrations. It was the last straw. Kehoe began secretly buying explosives. He hid them on his father’s farm and under the school. On May 18, 1927, Kehoe murdered his wife Nellie Price Kehoe. He then blew up his farm, saying to the firemen as he drove away that they should go to the school instead. Then Kehoe drove off.

Kehoe made a sign and hung it on the fence at his farm, saying “Criminals are made, not born.” It was typical of his belief that all of his troubles could logically be blamed on other people, or even on chance events. He never took the blame for his problems himself. Following the bombing of his farm, Kehoe went on to set off the bombs that he hoped would completely destroy the Bath school, and kill everyone in it. Kehoe was disappointed to see that an additional 500 pounds of dynamite that had been set to go off at the same time as the other explosions, failed to detonate. Only a section of the front of the school blew up. Nevertheless, it was enough to kill 38 students and 6 teachers. To this day, the Bath School Massacre remains the deadliest school disaster in history, and it came long before the recent school disasters that so many blame on guns. No guns were used, except maybe to kill his wife, but there is no mention of that in the stories of this disaster either. After the bombing of his farm and the Bath School, Kehoe detonated more explosives in his truck killing himself and four other bystanders. Andrew P Kehoe was a local farmer and school board treasurer. Kehoe was well educated, respected, and was an accommodating neighbor and friend. But behind his ordinary demeanor was a narcissistic sadist seething with rage, resentment, and paranoia. To say that something in his life was to blame for his rage is really far fetched. To say that he was mentally ill might be more accurate. It’s hard to say if counseling could have helped either. It is something we will never know.

When Hitler’s reign of terror began, and the Jewish people soon realized that his goal was to wipe them from the face of the Earth, there was a mad scramble to get out of Germany and any other nation that was under Hitler’s control. Some people stayed, thinking that the war would be over soon, and many of those died. Others saw the writing on the wall, and started making plans to escape before it was too late.

On May 27, 1939, a ship carrying 937 Jewish refugees was for the most part, turned away from Havana, Cuba, after admitting roughly 28 people onboard that had valid visas or travel documents. In my opinion, that was probably a blessing for those turned away, because as we all know, Cuba is not really they place that many people want to live. Nevertheless, it was a huge disappointment to the 909 Jewish refugees still on board. For seven days, the ship’s captain, Gustav Schröder, attempted to negotiate with Cuban officials, but they refused to comply. He then appealed to the United State and Canada for entry, and was also denied.

The SS Saint Louis had set sail on May 13, 1939 from Hamburg, Germany to Havana, Cuba. Six months earlier, 91 people were killed and Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues were destroyed in what became known as the Kristallnacht massacre. It was becoming increasing clear that the Nazis were accelerating their efforts to exterminate Jews by arresting them and placing them in concentration camps. World War II and the formal implementation of The Final Solution were just months from beginning. Before they set sail, the refugees had applied for US visas, and planned to stay in Cuba until they could enter the United States legally. The Cuban government was not pleased with the planned stay in Cuba…even if it was temporary. Their impending arrival was greeted with hostility in Cuba before they even set sail. On May 8, there was a massive anti-Semitic demonstration in Havana. Right-wing newspapers claimed that the incoming immigrants were Communists.

The ship sailed closer to Florida, hoping to disembark there, but it was not permitted to dock. Some passengers attempted to cable President Franklin D Roosevelt asking for refuge, but he never responded. A State Department telegram stated that the asylum-seekers must “await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States.” As a last resort, the Saint Louis continued north to Canada, but it was rejected there, too. “No country could open its doors wide enough to take in the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who want to leave Europe: the line must be drawn somewhere,” Frederick Blair, Canada’s director of immigration, said at the time.
After exhaustive appeals failed, the refugees were faced with no other options, the ship returned to Europe. On June 17, the SS Saint Louis docked in Antwerp, Belgium. By the time they arrived, several Jewish organizations had secured entry visas for the refugees in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Great Britain. The majority of the refugees who had traveled on the ship survived the Holocaust, but 254 died as the Nazis swept through Europe during Hitler’s horrible reign.

Curon Venosta was a village in northern Italy located in South Tyrol. Curon Venosta’s disappearance was not a mystery. The village suffered the same fate as numerous other towns over the years. The alpine village fell victim to the formation of a large man-made lake. The land was purchased and alpine village inundated shortly after World War II due to the construction of a dam. The officials had decided that they would join two smaller per-existing lakes into one large man-made lake.

Originally, plans were made to make a smaller artificial lake dated back to the year 1920. Then, in July 1939 a new plan was introduced for a 75 foot deep lake, which would unify two natural lakes. The point of joining the lakes together was to create a hydroelectric dam. The creation of the dam started in April 1940, but due to World War II and local resistance, the project did not finish until July 1950.

The new larger lake had a capacity of 120 million cubic meters, making this artificial lake the largest lake in the province and its surface area of 2.5 square miles makes it also the largest lake above .6 miles in the Alps. During the project, 163 houses and nearly 1.300 acres of cultivated land was flooded. The structures were not torn down, they were just vacated and flooded. The entire village of Curon Venosta is still down there, filled with sand. All that remains of the old Curon Venosta is the tip of a bell tower, standing in the middle of the lake. As a consolation to the angry villagers, a new village was built at a higher elevation.

The 14th-century church steeple was left to stand as a historic memorial, and was restored in 2009 to repair cracks. During the winter months, the lake freezes over, and people enjoy a walk right up to the spire. A legend says that during winter one can still hear church bells ring, but in reality the bells were removed from the tower on July 18, 1950. The village of Curon Venosta was once a village of hundreds of people, and then it was sacrificed in the name of energy. Now, 70 years later, the lake was drained to perform some repairs to the dam. The people living in the area talked about how strange it was to walk in the ruins of the village they hadn’t seen in seven decades. Of course the sight of the village was temporary, and when the work was done, the village disappeared once again.

My niece Cassie Iverson is spending her first birthday without her mom. My sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg went to Heaven on January 19, 2021, after suffering a stroke. It’s been a hard year for Cassie so far, as anyone who has lost a parent can attest. Really that first whole year is the hardest. All the firsts without your parent. Cassie and her mom were just the two of them from the time her mom was 16 years old. They were so close. I could say that they were best friends, but they weren’t Rachel was the mom and Cassie was the daughter. They were closer than just friends could be. A person has enough friends, and can always make more, but a mother is a treasure, and you truly only get one.

Life changed, as life does. Rachel got married and had two sons, Cassie’s half-brothers, Riley and Tucker. Then they divorced and Rachel was a single mom again. Just her and her kids. Cassie was older then, and she and her mom grew closer. Rachel watched as her beautiful daughter grew and found new interests. Sure, there were difficult times…teenaged years, sibling fights, and such, but Rachel loved her kids and they all knew that they were going to be ok.

When Cassie got married and had babies of her own, Rachel was so proud. She loved her grandchildren beyond measure. Rachel was also very proud of her only daughter. Cassie is a very talented photographer, and Rachel would often tell me about her photography trips. She was just so proud of Cassie. She was also so proud of the mother Cassie was. She watched as Cassie raised Lucas, who was born with Down Syndrome. Cassie became the best advocate for her son. Cassie is a real fighter when it comes to her children, Lucas and his little sister, Zoey, and that made Rachel so proud. She knew that Cassie would give her children the best life she possible could. Cassie learned about being a mom from the best…her own mom, Rachel.

Life without her mom will never be the same for Cassie…she will always miss her mom. It is impossible not to, but I hope she also knows just how proud her mother was of her. Often when we spoke on the phone, Rachel would tell me, with pride in her voice, about the wonderful accomplishments of her daughter. Photography, kids, camping…another thing they both loved, and so much more. Cassie, your mom is in Heaven, but she is still watching over you, and she is still so proud of everything you have accomplished. I know this year is a tough one, but remember that she lives on in your heart. Today is Cassie’s birthday. Happy birthday Cassie!! Have a great day!! Your mom would want that for you. We love you!!

The lumber industry is a well known part of Grays Harbor County, Washington. Cities like Aberdeen and Hoquiam owe their existence to the lumber industry. During the first quarter of the 20th century, Grays Harbor was considered as the biggest lumber-producing and lumber-shipping region in the world. It would be great if timber came in perfect sizes and shapes, but it doesn’t. It comes in forms from huge logs to tiny planks, from thick wooden beams to thin spruce veneer. When it comes to the construction industry, bits and pieces are worthless. They want specific sizes and shapes, and in order to get those perfect pieces of lumber for the construction industry, there is always waste. It might come in the form of small blocks to super thin veneer pieces.

Wood has long been used in the fashion industry too. Everything from shoes, to decorations on purses, belts, hats and more, but that was about the extent of it, or so you might think. Apparently, somebody back in 1929 thought that wood veneer sheets could be used as a bathing suit material!! What!! That makes no sense at all. It was totally impractical, but that didn’t stop people from the Gray Harbor Lumber industry from starting an advertising campaign featuring the “Spruce Girls.” The main goal of the campaign was to promote the various products of the wood industry and to make the whole region more popular to visitors.

Spruce veneer bathing suits were described as simple, cheap, and easy to make, yet fashionable and modern. Supposedly they were promoting them as a do it yourself bathing suit. All you needed was a pattern and the leftover thing strips of wood from that construction project. Of course, it was an advertising gimmick, but they did actually made four suits, held a photo session, and ran an advertising campaign to promote wood products.

According to one Popular Science magazine article, the suits were quite trendy and durable: “[Wooden bathing suits] are the latest novelty for use on the bathing beaches. Fashioned of thin spruce, they are said to be practical as costumes and also are sufficiently buoyant to encourage a timid swimmer to take a plunge. So far, none of them has warped or cracked.” The girls in the pictures look happy with their flimsy wooden suits, but only they know if they were really comfortable. My guess is don’t bend at the waist, and watch out for splinters.

With school ending for her and high school graduation arriving, my grand-niece, Jala Satterwhite is looking to the future, and making plans for what she wants to do with her life. Jala is ready for a break from school, and has no plans at this time to go to college. Many students are ready for a break from school after so many years in it, and the past two school years have been especially hard with Covid lockdowns, online classes, and now the in school mask mandate. It has been very frustrating. Really, at this point, she wants to work on a ranch. Jala loves horses and riding, and really other animals too, but not like her beloved horses.

Like most kids, Jala is ready to spread her wings, try new things, and get a place to call her own. It’s all about independence, even if their parents weren’t super strict or confining, there comes a time when every kid wants to make their own decisions. That time often arrives right after graduation, be it high school or college. So, once she starts working full time, Jala is going to find a place to rent with one of her friends.

With all the Covid restrictions, Jala hasn’t done any sports for the last couple years. That is a sad turn of events, because Jala was very good in sports, but with the last quarter of the 2019-2020 school year completely online, there were no sports, no conditioning for sports, and a general change of interests in many students. With school back in session now, students are often not ready for the work it takes to get back into competition readiness. It’s almost like it was stolen from them. The same applies to in-school classes…especially at the college level. They found out that it can be done online, so why go in person. Jala has lots of time to go back to college, if she so desires. It’s never too late to learn and to get a degree. I’m sure Jala will make good choices for her future, she is a smart girl, and she will do whats best for her.

I can’t believe Jala’s graduation is here already. I remember when she was born!! Where has the time gone. She should still be a little girl, but time waits for no man, and Jala has grown up, whether we like it or not. The day has arrived. Happy high school graduation Jala!! We love you!!

My grand-nephew, Xander Spethman is the eldest child of my niece, Jenny Spethman and her husband, Steve. Xander takes his job as older brother very seriously. He understands that as the older brother, he has a responsibility to be a leader for his younger siblings. They look up to Xander, as do Xander’s friends. He really is a leader, and he takes that seriously. When Xander and his siblings, Zack, Isaac, and Aleesia are playing, Xander (and his brothers too) always make sure that Aleesia wins the games. She is the youngest, and younger by a few extra years, due to the passing of their sister, Laila less than a month after her birth. The boys are very protective of their sisters. In their playtime, Xander is the leader of the pack, so to speak. In group situations, Xander leads and the rest follow his lead. The younger boys look up their brother, especially in the area of how they should act. Xander makes sure that he leads by example…and always a good example. Xander is a great big brother.

Xander has always had a lot of friends. Part of his charm is that he treats others in the way he would like to be treated. More people need to learn to live by that rule. High school is not the easiest place to be, but Xander is good and kind, and while that doesn’t always protect him from the rudeness around him, it always makes those who know Xander proud to know him. Xander doesn’t participate in the rude pranks or comments of those around him. He is far too mature for the childness of some people, and that is something to be proud of. This year, Xander met a wonderful girl named Alli Simpson. They are so good for each other. They went to prom, and they looked so cute. Alli fits well in the Spethman family, and while they are young and in no hurry, they are very much loving their time together. Xander has fallen in love with Alli, and the family couldn’t be happier.

As Xander heads into his senior year of high school, his mom is starting to feel a little sad, because time always goes by so fast. Here they were, just living their life, and now…suddenly, Xander’s childhood years are almost over. Jenny and Steve rely on Xander, and they trust him. They know that he is honorable and truthful. Now, he is busy planning his future, and is considering going to trade school to become an electrician. Jenny says, “Is so hard for me to think about him leaving my house. I have tried to enjoy every moment with him.” That’s all a parent can do, and it won’t be the same once he moves out, Xander will come home for visits often, because that is where his heart is. Today is Xander’s 18th birthday. Happy birthday Xander!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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