Loss

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Rain…most often a welcome sight, especially during the hot summer months, and sometimes early fall months too. The Casper, Wyoming area is not one to get a lot of rain, however. Nevertheless, the rain had been coming down heavily for a week, that late September of 1923. In fact there had been three straight days of downpour. The railroad personnel were keeping a close eye on the rivers, creeks, and bridges. They were concerned, but did not expect the volatile, and possibly catastrophic situation that could be heading their way. Cole Creek was reported to have less than 16 inches of rainwater in its bed and by 8pm on September 27th, and the bridge was believed secure. Hours later, the water level would reportedly rise two feet in half an hour.

On September 27, 1923, The Chicago Burlington and Quincy Number 30 passenger train left Casper for Denver at approximately 8:30pm with approximately 60-70 passengers on board. the exact number is unknown. The train reached Cole Creek by 9:15pm and approached the Cole Creek bridge shortly after. Unexpectedly, Number 30 attempted to slow, and eventually braked upon realizing the usually dry gully below was now a torrent of rushing water and vision was severely limited. It is unknown if the rushing water was unnerving or if they saw something of the impending disaster through the rain, but they did attempt to slow down. Unfortunately, the bridge’s trestle had already been washed out or badly weakened. The realization of the situation came too late for the crew of CBQ number 30.

The 100-ton locomotive engine and first five, of seven train cars plummeted into the sand and water below. Most of the passengers were in two of these cars. Ans the cars hit, metal crunched, windows and doors burst under flood of water, steam from the engine scalded passengers and worse, and it would take more than an hour for help to arrive, especially when the first call to the Casper dispatcher’s office didn’t come for 45 minutes. From that point, the city sprang into action. Emergency news alerts calling for doctors and volunteers flashed across movie screens in town. The residents first thought it was a refinery disaster…which was much more expected here than a train wreck. Instead, however, they were faced with the greatest train wreck in Wyoming’s history, as it would come to be known.

Try as they might, rescue crews could do very little until the following morning. At first, bodies were found washed down the North Platte River for hundreds of yards, but they would eventually reach miles down the river. The massive recovery efforts would continue for weeks. The cleanup ended October 15, still daily reports were provided by local newspapers and radio. There were still people missing, but winter was upon them, and anyone who lives near the Platte River, or it’s tributaries, knows that once the ice sets in, bodies remain hidden beneath the surface.

The body of the train’s conductor, Guy Goff, was found seven months later, in May 1924, washed down the North Platte. Engineer, Ed Spangler, was discovered in January of the following year. In all, the cost of the wreck totaled close to a million dollars and 31 deaths are reported, although the final number remains uncertain because of the discrepancy in passenger numbers. The day after the wreck, a nine-year-old boy was seen searching for days for his father at the wreck site. No confirmation was received that the man was ever found.

Following the horrific attacks on our country on September 11, 2001, all planes were told to land at the nearest possible airport immediately. Before long, there were no planes in United States airspace, other than military planes. The feeling was an eerie one. Maybe other people considered the international flights, but for some odd reason, I did not until I read a book called, “When The World Came To Town.” When the United States closed its airspace that day, it left literally thousands of people out over the oceans with nowhere to go…almost. Those that had not passed the point of no return, most likely turned around, but there were many planes that had to go on. Nevertheless, they could not land in the United States, so our neighbors in Canada came to the rescue.

There were only a couple of places that planes en route to the east coast of the United States could land. One of them was Gander, Newfoundland…a small town of 9,561 people in 2001…and nearby communities like Gambo, Lewisporte, Appleton and Norris Arm. When the US airports shut down, it left 38 planes and 6,500 people who were heading west over the Atlantic, with very few options. Enter Gander, Newfoundland. Gander airport received those 38 planes, and opened everything in their town to those 6,500 people and a couple of dogs. The passengers were mostly in shock…both because of what had just happened, and because all the people of Gander simply dropped everything to personally take care of the stunned passengers.

At the time, the school bus drivers were on strike. As if they were one person, they all laid down their picket signs and went to drive their unexpected guests around…not just from the airport, but anywhere they needed or wanted to go. Pharmacists filled prescriptions for free. Shop owners declined payment for goods sold to the passengers. The arena at the Gander Community Centre became a giant walk-in fridge for food donations. The people brought their best dishes…comfort food for the passengers, all of whom were feeling, like every United States citizen was feeling…nauseous, anxious, and scared. If people began to cry, someone was there to comfort them and allow them to talk it out. People opened their homes, allowing people to stay with them, and others to shower in their homes. Homes were not locked. They were opened to the people from the planes…at all hours. If people just needed to get out of the community center, someone took them wherever they wanted to go…even just for a drive.

The tarmac at Gander International Airport quickly became a parking lot. There were planes everywhere. I don’t think a plane could take off, if they wanted to, but then, nobody was really going anywhere. The United States was in a “holding pattern,” and for Gander, the same applied, to a degree. They were busy helping their unexpected guests to feel more comfortable, and less anxious, if that was possible. Nevertheless, the passengers were not bored. The townspeople entertained them with music, tours, a church service, and even a birthday party for a passenger with a birthday. The townspeople took the passengers to Walmart to get them the clothing and other necessities they had to leave in the cargo hold of the plane. Whatever they wanted or needed, they were supplied with. The people of Gander did it all, and asked for nothing in return. All that is great, but the truly wonderful thing that the people of Gander, Gambo, Lewisporte, Appleton and Norris Arm did for the stranded passengers, was to offer friendship…a friendship that has endured through the 19 years since that fateful day.

My grandson, Josh Petersen is such a hard working young man. He has two jobs, totaling up to at least 12 hours a day. I don’t know how he does it, and still maintains his good disposition. He has always been an easy going guy though…not a lot of things get him upset. If you do cross that line, however…look out. Still, even if he yells at you, he never holds a grudge, so you are forgiven almost immediately…and as Grandma, I never get yelled at, haha!! To be honest he doesn’t yell at his parents either.

A couple of years ago, Josh became an uncle to a sweet little girl, and will be uncle to a sweet little boy in November. It was one of the greatest moments in his life. He loves being uncle, even though he doesn’t get to see his niece too often, because he works so many hours. Josh has always loved kids, and animals. He has a number of fur babies, and recently lost his oldest dog, Molly, who was also his constant companion whenever he wasn’t working. Molly was a Dachshund, and Molly was his girl. He loved her very much. She was originally purchased by his parents for the family, but from the beginning, Molly was Josh’s dog. Animals are like that. They pick out the “human” they want to belong to, and there is little you can do to change their mind. Molly picked Josh, and the rest is history.

Josh was one of many essential workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. He works at Sanford’s Grub and Pub at night, and All Out Fire during the day. Both were considered essential jobs. It helped in the job situation, but while many of us were hanging out at home, watching television, he was still hard at it. Josh is such a trustworthy guy. He originally started working at Sanford’s when he was 15 years old. They didn’t normally hire kids at that age, but they “took a chance” on him, and they have never been sorry. He has worked there longer than anyone else, including the managers, and he is the current kitchen manager. At just 22, that is a pretty good accomplishment.

Josh may not have lots of free time, but he has good friends that he enjoys hanging out with…people he has known for years. Josh is a loyal friend too, and he is the kind of guy who will give you the shirt off his back, if you needed it. It doesn’t matter what the hour, if he can help, he will help. That’s just the way Josh is. Today is Josh’s 22nd birthday. Happy birthday Josh!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My husband, Bob Schulenberg’s aunt, Pearl Hein has always felt like a kindred spirit to me. Our lives have taken some of the same turns and in many ways that makes us feel connected. Pearl spend a number of years taking care of her aging parents, and when her husband, Bob’s Uncle Ed had a stroke, Pearl stepped in again to nurse him back to health. As we both know, you can only prolong life for your loved one. Everyone dies at some point, and no matter how young or how old they are, we just aren’t ready for them to go when they do. Each of us knows that we would have continued to fight for their lives with all we had. We weren’t ready to let them go. We couldn’t understand why. Did we do something wrong? Did we miss something? We will never know, of course, but we will always have regrets…mainly the regret that they aren’t here with us anymore. Of course, we know that Heaven is far greater for all of them, but we miss them terribly, and it is so hard to move forward in our daily lives.

Pearl’s dad, Merle Krueger passed away in 2002 at 97; her mom, Minnie (McCain) Krueger passed away in 2004 at 89; Uncle Ed passed way on October 16, 2019 at 76; and sadly Pearl’s son Larry passed away passed away just 3 months after his dad on January 30, 2020. It has been a really hard year for Pearl, and moving forward is not easy, but it is my hope that today, her birthday can become a new start…or at least a new normal. Pearl has always been such a loving and giving person, and she deserves to be happy too. There are so many people who love her, and I pray she will find joy in her friendships. Pearl and I have another thing in common…we are both Christians. We both believe that there is life after death, and that our loved ones are waiting for us to join them in Heaven someday.

Pearl has spent much of her life in service to others, and I know that many people are thankful to have known her. Pearl met many of her friends in the years she spent working at the IGA grocery store in Forsyth, Montana. She was an indispensable employee, and when she retired to take care of Ed, they weren’t sure how they were going to function without her. I remember that whenever we would come into town, we always knew where to find Pearl, and when we went into the store, they only had to hear that we were looking for Pearl, and they were certain of who we meant. Everyone knows, and loves Pearl. She is just the kind of person you are drawn to. Today is Pearl’s birthday. Happy birthday Pearl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg was a hard working, but gentle and loving man. His family was everything to him. His job often took out of town on road construction. He was often gone for long periods of time on jobs. My father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg was a hard working, but gentle and loving man. His family was everything to him. His job often took out of town on road construction. He was often gone for long periods of time on jobs. When they could, the family would go along, such as the summer the company was working in Point of Rocks, Wyoming. For those who don’t know it, there is nothing to do in Point of Rocks. It is a small town in Sweetwater county that sports a permanent population of three. During the year there are many temporary residents throughout the year, but that does not count in the census.

During the summer that my husband, Bob’s family lived there while my father-in-law worked in the area, Bob was a bored kid. Here he was living in Podunk, with nothing to do, and mostly just his sisters and a couple of other kids to hang out with. There was a highlight to the day…when the trains came through. The trains were on the opposite side of the interstate, so it was safe for Bob to run down the street and count the cars on the train. It was a pathetic attempt at fun, but the reward was great…the family got to see his dad every day, and not just on weekends for one day. It was worth it to all of them.

My father-in-law had made the decision to be with the family as much as he possibly could. I’m not sure if his decision was before or after another incident I had heard of. When my sister-in-law, Brenda was about six months old, my father-in-law was out of town a lot. He came home on the weekends, and sometimes not even that often. It was hard on the family, but they were making due…most of them anyway. Brenda was a happy baby, and was known to laugh and smile at her family all the time. One particular weekend, my father-in-law came home, and Brenda took one look at him and started screaming and crying. It was at about the time when babies start to dislike strangers, but that didn’t matter to my father-in-law. He just knew he shouldn’t be a stranger to his own child. Nevertheless, Brenda didn’t stop crying until he left to go back to work. As for my father-in-law…he went back to wok and gave his notice. He knew he could find another job, but he refused to see his little girl upset, because she didn’t know her daddy. He made sure that he worked where he could be home at night, even if he had to go to work ar 3:00 in the morning in order to be home in the evening. He was always a dad first. Today would have been my father-in-law’s 91st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. We love and miss you very much.

Spandau Prison was located on Wilhelmstraße in the borough of Spandau in western Berlin. It was constructed in 1876. It initially served as a military detention center. From 1919 it was also used for civilian inmates. It held up to 600 inmates at that time.

Rudolf Walter Richard Heß was born on April 26, 1894 in Ibrahimieh, a suburb of Alexandria, Egypt, which was at that time under British occupation, even though it was a part of the Ottoman Empire. Heß was born into a wealthy German family. His parents were Johann Fritz Heß and Klara Munch Heß. He was a German politician and a leading member of the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. Heß was appointed Deputy Führer to Adolf Hitler in 1933, and served in that position until 1941, when he flew solo to Scotland in an attempt to negotiate peace with the United Kingdom during World War II. He was taken prisoner and eventually convicted of crimes against peace, serving a life sentence. I’m not sure what he thought he was going to accomplish, going in there by himself, or if he later thought he could get back in Hitler’s “good graces,” but the attempt ended his freedom for the rest of his life.

Heß joined the Nazi Party on July 1, 1920 and was at Hitler’s side on November 8, 1923 for the Beer Hall Putsch, a failed Nazi attempt to seize control of the government of Bavaria. While serving time in jail for this attempted coup, he assisted Hitler with his book, “Mein Kampf,” which became a foundation of the political platform of the Nazi Party. Hitler decreed on the outbreak of war on September 1, 1939 that Hermann Göring was his official successor, and named Heß as next in line. In addition to appearing on Hitler’s behalf at speaking engagements and rallies, Heß signed into law much of the government’s legislation, including the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which stripped the Jews of Germany of their rights in the lead-up to the Holocaust.

When Heß made his solo flight to Scotland on May 10, 1941, it would appear he was willingly committing treason against his government, but that did not impress the British government, who probably thought it was all a ploy…and maybe it was. Most of us will never know. Heß was arrested and finished out the war in a British prison camp. When the war ended, he was returned to Germany to stand trial in the Nuremberg Trials of major war-criminals in 1946. During much of the trial, he claimed to be suffering from amnesia, but he later admitted this was a ruse. The Court convicted him of crimes against peace and of conspiracy with other German leaders to commit crimes. He was to served a life sentence in Spandau Prison…the Soviet Union blocked repeated attempts by family members and prominent politicians to win his early release.

During the time Heß was at Spandau Prison, there were only seven prisoners there. Konstantin von Neurath, Erich Raeder, Karl Dönitz, Walther Funk, Albert Speer, Baldur von Schirach, and Heß. The men all arrived at Spandau from Nuremberg on July 18, 1947. Of the seven, three were released after serving their full sentences, while three others, including Raeder and Funk, who were given life sentences, were released earlier due to ill health. Between 1966 and 1987, Rudolf Hess was the only inmate in the prison and his only companion was the warden, Eugene K Bird, who became a close friend. Bird wrote a book about Hess’s imprisonment titled The Loneliest Man in the World. In his book he claims to have been told what Heß’s intentions were during his ill-fated attempt at peace talks in 1941.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be the only prisoner in a prison that once held 600 men. My guess is that it was lonely for the warden too, although he could leave when he wanted to, and Heß could not. The men did develop a friendship, but that cannon really change the feel of emptiness that persisted over the prison for 21 long years of virtual emptiness. While Heß lived a long life, the isolation finally got the better of him, and he hanged himself on August 17, 1987. He was 93 years old. Following his death, the prison was demolished, because the authorities did not want it to become a neo-Nazi shrine. The site was later rebuilt as a shopping center for the British forces stationed in Germany.

When Dave Balcerzak married my niece, Chantel, he brought to the marriage two children, Keifer and Katy. Chantel also brought to the marriage two children, Jake and Siara. When they got married in 2002, the children were between the ages of 14 and 7 years. They instantly became a blended family, and they all got along very well. Dave really loves kids, and he was an excellent dad to Chantel’s kids, as well as to his own. It isn’t easy to raise kids, especially during the teenaged years, and it’s even harder to raise someone else’s kids, but Dave took it all in stride, and Chantel’s kids love him very much. They consider him really more their dad, than their own dad is.

One of the blessings of having children, is the entrance of the next generation…grandchildren. In a blended family, the grandchildren are also blended. The first grandchild to come along, was a bonus baby names Alice Green. She joined Chantel’s son Jake Harman’s family when he married Alice’s mom, Melanie. Alice took to Dave almost instantly. She adored him. Alice was soon joined by sister, Izabella Harman and brother, Jaxx Harman. Dave was relishing in grandfatherhood. Then, Dave’s son, Keifer and his wife, Katie welcomed their daughter, Reece Balcerzak. Reece gave the family a bit of a scare, by arriving quite early, but she was a fighter, and all went well. Chantel’s daughter, Siara and her husband, Nick Olsen gave birth to Alec Olsen, who after 3 months, went to live in Heaven, breaking the hearts of all of his family, who miss him very much. Finally, Dave’s daughter, Katy Balcerzak and her fiancé, Dylan Herr, gave birth to their son, Max. Dave and Chantel’s blended family is going through more blending, as the new grandchildren have arrived. Life is so sweet, when grandchildren are involved. I know that the future will bring more grandchildren, and great happiness to this wonderful blended family that Dave and Chantel have so lovingly created.

Dave has been a wonderful addition to our family. He has a heart of gold, and the capacity to love everyone, a trait that has endeared him to all of us. It’s not every parent who has the ability to love their step-children as much as their own children, but for Dave they are all his children, and he will give the best of himself for all of them, and the blessing he has been to them, is now being returned to him, many times over. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I can’t imagine having my first child on my own birthday, but it does happen, and did happen for my grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer and her first born, Laura Spencer Fredrick. Then, to top it off, it would be ten years before Grandma’s second child, my Uncle Bill was born. No one that I have talked to is sure why there would be ten years in between those first two children. After my Uncle Bill was born in 1922, my dad, Allen would follow in 1924 (15 months after Uncle Bill), and Aunt Ruth in 1925 (18½ months after my dad). Nevertheless, Aunt Laura was an only child for ten years, and during that time, she and her mom were very close. They did everything together. Of course in the early years, that made sense, since Aunt Laura was a little girl who didn’t go to school or anything, but even later, there were wonderful trips with family and friends into town and shopping.

During those early years, Grandpa Allen Spencer, worked a number of jobs. At one time, he worked in the lumber business, taking his little family to the camp in the middle of the woods. I’m sure it was rather a lonely existence for Grandma, but she had her little daughter to keep her company, and that helped a lot. For long months they didn’t really go anywhere much, but there might have been a few other wives living in the camps. Still, mostly it was Grandma and Aunt Laura. I can imagine the games they played and the walks they took. There wouldn’t have been much else to do, so mother and daughter would have bonded over the long hours spent together. It was always so obvious to me just how proud Grandma was of her well-behaved little girl.

Later, there were trips taken to see family. Grandma’s little family of three was excited to be going and the other family and friends were happy to see them. Aunt Laura always seemed to stay close to Grandma, but maybe that was just for the pictures. Aunt Laura was very well behaved, a credit to her mother’s upbringing. She was really quite grown up for her age, and in fact, when Uncle Bill arrived, she was his nanny at just ten years old. Grandma was running a hotel by then, and Grandpa had to work too, so Aunt Laura needed to help, and now she had a job too. I’m sure it made her feel grown up. She was very close to her brother, just like her mother had been with her. Like mother, like daughter. Today is the shared birthday of my grandmother and Aunt Laura. Both are in Heaven now, and we love and miss them very much.

As kids, my sisters and I probably took our parents for granted, but when we look at how hard they worked to make life great for us, it almost brings tears to my eyes. My parents, Al and Collene Spencer worked very hard to give us a good life. They made sure that we got to take vacations…always wanting to make sure we saw this great nation we live in. And it wasn’t just the vacations. It was the kind of home they made for us. No matter what, we always knew that we were all equally loved. We knew that love had nothing to do with whether or not we made mistakes, or even if we got into trouble. In those days, children were spanked to teach proper manners. I know that many people these days disagree with that type discipline, but it was the era we lived in. In those days, children knew that if the neighbor told you to quit tearing something up, you had better quit. There was a measure of respect for our elders and those in authority. I miss that in our world today. Although, I live in a neighborhood, where most of the kids are respectful. We are blessed to live where we do.

Mom and Dad met through her sister, Virginia Beadle, and my mom told me that it was love at first sight. She said that she tole herself that he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. Mom was still a school girl, but as soon as she could, she and Dad were married. Dad was older than mom by twelve years, a common thing in those days. He had fought in World War II, and was ready to settle down and have a family. They married and moved to Superior, Wisconsin as part of their honeymoon. My older sister, Cheryl Masterson arrived ten months after their marriage, and their family was started. I followed almost two years later, and we moved to Casper, Wyoming a couple of years later. Caryl Reed followed three years after me, Alena Stevens two years after Caryl, and Allyn Hadlock two years after Alena. Our family was complete. Dad was always outnumbered, but his girls were his little princesses. He was always patient, understanding of the needs of girls…understanding girls was a necessity for Dad.

Mom and Dad were together for 54 years of marriage before Dad’s passing on December 12, 2007. Mom followed Dad on February 22, 2015, and now they are together again in Heaven. I’m sure they are enjoying Heaven and being together again. We miss them, but I can’t wish them back here. They would be horrified at what our world has become. Instead, we will go to join them someday, because Heaven is wonderful and we will all be happy together again, when we join them there. Today would have been Mom and Dad’s 67th Wedding Anniversary. Happy anniversary in Heaven, Mom and Dad. We love and miss you very much.

My Uncle Elmer Johnson was an amazing cook. My cousin, Ellen Bremner, his oldest child recalls the many holiday meals he cooked over the years, and just how wonderful they were. Many people think that cooking is no big deal, but opening a few cans and heating them on the stove, is not cooking, nor is heating up a frozen dinner, which seems to be the norm these days. I suppose that in a busy world, such as we now live in, heating up a previously prepared (usually by some company) meal is the best way to get a meal quickly. Nevertheless, people like my Uncle Elmer…well they knew how to really cook…making a wonderful holiday meal from scratch, with everyone in the family standing there watching and smelling the meal with mouths watering and stomachs growling. The anticipation was almost too much to bear. Ellen tells me that her dad was a more adventurous cook than their mon, my Aunt Dee.

Uncle Elmer loved Christmas, and loved to spoil his four children, Ellen, Elmer, Darla, and Delwin, as well as Aunt Dee. I can imagine him at Christmas…just like a kid in a candy store, getting everything ready for his family, and then sitting there with a twinkle in his eye as they opened their gifts. The day most likely passed far too quickly and all too soon it was over, and life went back to normal.

Normal for my uncle was driving a truck. He worked for Burke Moving and Storage, as well as United Van Lines. He also worked for Dalgarno Transportation, where he and his son, Elmer got to work together. He was also a certified welder working on pipeline, and later in a uranium mine at Shirley Basin. Uncle Elmer was also a capable mechanic. Still, I think that as jobs go, Uncle Elmer was happiest when he was driving a truck. He liked to drive, and that made him a good teacher of driving. Ellen remembers that he was very patient with her when he was teaching her to drive. He encouraged her, even when she made a mistake.

Every summer, Uncle Elmer would take the family fishing in the Tensleep area of Wyoming. Uncle Elmer loved fishing, and he passed that love of the sport down to his kids. I think they all still enjoy fishing to this day. Uncle Elmer was witty and had a great sense of humor. That probably came from the years he and his brothers spent getting into mischief…good clean fun really. Uncle Elmer, and especially his brother, Les pulled many pranks. Their brother Tom was quite a bit younger, and so not as involved in their mischief, but I imagine he managed to contribute his share as he got older too. After all, he had his big brothers to show him the ropes. Unfortunately, Uncle Elmer passed away in 1981. Today would have been his 87th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Elmer. We love and miss you very much.

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