Loss

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When a soldier goes missing in action, it becomes an unthinkable phenomenon for their family. Really, when anyone goes missing and can’t be found, it is unthinkable for the family, but for a soldier, it’s particularly strange, because we knew where they were and what they were doing, and their disappearance isn’t really connected with anything like an abduction. I suppose it could be classified that way, but Missing In Action (MIA), is not classified as an abduction, but rather an act of war. Often, they were killed in action, and someone other than their company took care of their body. Of course, there is also the possibility that they were taken prisoner of war, but when the prisoners are all released, and our loved one is not among them, we have to face the possibility that something else happened. Every war has its list of Prisoners Of War (POW), and its list of MIAs, and these are people that we hope will never be forgotten, so that maybe someday the truth about what happened can be found out. If they are forgotten, then it is a very real possibility that they will never be found.

In every war, there are kind people who will bury the dead of the enemy right along with their own dead, but often they can’t read the names, so the dead are in an unmarked grave, possibly with their dog tags as the only definitive proof that the remains belong to that soldier. Some of those kind people have remembered where they buried the soldiers, and kept track of the proof of identity, so that maybe, somewhere down the road, they could reunite the soldier with his family…and some of those people have been returned to their families in recent years. The stories, when that happens, are so heart-warming. It reminds us once again, that there is good in this world, even if it’s harder to find these days.

Of course, it is my opinion that no matter what, God knows where these lost ones are, and that someday people will be reunited with lost loved ones, either here on Earth, or later, in Heaven. That is something I have to believe when I think of anyone who has a lost loved one out there. I personally do not have a lost loved one out there…at least no one I knew personally. I have a great uncle (not sure how many greats) that went missing when he was forced into war as a result of the German government taking him in the middle of the night, but I never knew him personally. Nevertheless, I feel very sad for those people who have suffered such a loss as this. As of September 18, 2020, the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) lists a total of 85,394 Americans MIA, including 4,422 from World War I, 71,692 from World War II, 7,717 from the Korean War, 1,561 from the Vietnam War. They don’t list any from other conflicts, whether there are missing ones or not.

There are many things I did not know about my Uncle Elmer Johnson, mostly because he died when I was just 25 years old. Of course, I knew him for all those years, because he was my uncle for all of my life, but as families go, you just don’t see your aunts, uncles, and cousins every day. Because he passed away when he was just 47 years old, many of the stories I hear about him have come from his children. Nevertheless, because of those stories, I feel like I am getting to know him all over again, and very well.

Things like the fact that my uncle was an amazing cook…something that isn’t always common among men. A lot of men can grill, and often that is a job delegated to the men, but Uncle Elmer was a good cook anywhere. His favorite meals to cook were the holiday meals, which he made from scratch. The family stood around the kitchen, because the wonderful smells would draw them there. They could hardly wait for the meal to be ready, and then when they finally got to eat…well, the wait was worth it all. Uncle Elmer liked to experiment with flavors and dishes, and somehow there were no bad meals. He just instinctively knew what things went together and just how to season things to be amazing. It makes me wish I had been there for some of those meals.

Uncle Elmer worked a number of places, mostly as a truck driver of one type or another. He moved furniture for Burke Moving and Storage and for United Van Lines, working for Tom Aurelius, and often taking his oldest son, Elmer along with him for a couple of weeks in the summertime. The trips were great fun for Elmer, and probably fueled his own love of trucks and driving trucks. Still, in the off time, there was nothing they all loved more than going camping, fishing, swimming, and in general, goofing around, and enjoying the great state of Wyoming. They camped out and rented cabins in places like Louis Lake and Meadowlark Lake. Uncle Elmer was always happiest with a fishing pole in one hand and a beer in the other, according to his son Elmer. Those family trips were a source of some of the best memories for Uncle Elmer and Aunt Dee’s four children, Ellen Bremner, Elmer Johnson, Darla Stanko, and Delwin Johnson. While their parents are both in Heaven now, the memories will live on. Today would have been Uncle Elmer’s 89th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Elmer. We love and miss you very much.

My sweet sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg has been in Heaven for 33 years, and yet at times it seems like she was just with us yesterday. Time is a fickle thing that way. Maybe it’s because God blurs time to help us cope with sad things. Losing Marlyce was so hard on everyone in the family. She was developmentally disabled, and yes, Mom and Dad (Joann and Walt Schulenberg), worried about what would happen to her when they were gone. Of course, they needn’t have worried, because we would have taken care of her. Nevertheless, it was their concern. Marlyce was probably 13 years old mentally…old enough to take care of her own daily needs, but no old enough to live on her own. I guess, in the end, they needn’t have worried, because she went before them.

I miss so many things Marlyce did, mostly because while they were not vital to our days, they made our days. That was really a big part of who Marlyce was. She liked bringing joy to those around her. Her baking skills were always a big hit, with her chocolate chip cookies being a big favorite. She also made stocking caps, and a lot of people were a little bit warmer as a result. Marlyce loved being useful, and she loved it when people recognized her hard work. You were her favorite person, if you appreciated her work.

As time marches on to the place where Marlyce has been gone longer than she was here, I’m having trouble sorting out just how that makes me feel. When I married into this family, Marlyce was expected to always be a part of that, but then she got cancer when she was just 39 years old. So very young to be facing cancer, especially since she didn’t really understand all that was going on. Watching her lose so much weight as she fought the cancer in her esophagus was just so hard…and even harder when she went into the hospital for the last time. Marlyce lost her battle with cancer on August 13, 1989. Her cheerful voice was silenced and the beauty that Marlyce created with her gifts was gone. While I know she is in Heaven, happy and fully restored in her mind, her presence here is forever gone, and that makes me sad. Happy birthday in Heaven, Marlyce. We love and miss you very much.

Father’s Day…for me means remembering the two men who were the best dads ever…my dad, Allen Spencer and my father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg. I wish every day that Father’s Day wasn’t about their memories, but that it was rather a day to spend with them. In fact, some stories bring tears, and this is going to be one of them, I guess. It doesn’t really matter how many years your dad has been in Heaven, because there will always be those “ton-of-bricks” moments when the tears just come, no matter what you try to do to stop them.

I was just so blessed to have two wonderful dads in my life. My dad made sure that we, his five daughters and our mom, had opportunities to see the country, go camping, read maps and plan trips, and so many other things. He taught us responsibility, love for one another, and most importantly, love for God. My father-in-law was much the same kind of man, even though the family didn’t do a lot of traveling. They were still a very close family and helped each other in any way they needed. It was and still is almost a network of people with unique talents who share the load when it comes to needs. These two men, now in Heaven were key influences in my life, and I will always be grateful for them.

I also have several other men who are some of the dads in my life. While these men are not my dads, they are part of my family. My husband, Bob Schulenberg…the father of my children, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce. My sons-in-law, Kevin Petersen and Travis Royce, who have been wonderful husbands and dads to my daughters and grandchildren…who have worked hard to give them happy lives. Then, there are my two grandsons, Chris Petersen who has a daughter and son, and my grandson, Josh Petersen who has a son coming in October…both are actively raising (or soon will be) their children. I am so proud of these men…dads who are with the mothers of their children and are actively raising their families together. They are great role models and loving fathers, and in them we have all been blessed. I also want to recognize all my brothers-in-law and nephews, because they are amazing dads and great blessings too. Today is Father’s Day, and while it must be a memory day for me, it is a special day for all of us. Happy Father’s Day to these and all dads today. Have a great day!!

Growing up, I had only one set of grandparents. My dad’s parents were both in Heaven by the time I was six months old, so my grandparents were George and Harriet (Hattie) Byer. My grandpa was a tall man, but he was very slim. Still, I always thought of him as a big man…with big hands. I’m sure his slimness was due to several factors. In those days, everyone had large families, and my grandparents, with nine children, were no exception. That many kids during the Depression Years meant that food was a bit scarce, and my grandparents never turned away a hungry neighbor or any other hungry person, for that matter. My aunts and uncles can remember having strangers at the dinner table many times. Grandma would simply add a little more water to the soup to make things go a little further.

Grandpa Byer worked hard his whole life. He helped build Alcova Dam in Alcova, Wyoming. He was always considered a good worker and was always loyal and followed orders to the letter. Grandpa was always considered a dedicated employee. Grandpa was known to follow orders to the letter, and it actually saved his life one time while digging a ditch. When his boss walked by and saw the beginning of a cave in, he yelled, “Jump George!!” Grandpa immediately did as he was told, and his upper body was above ground after the cave in. Many people, these days, would have found themselves in a lot of trouble…even the ones who jokingly say they would ask, “How high.” There was no time to ask anything. Grandpa’s life depended on his immediate action…and I’m happy he followed those orders.

Grandpa was loved by all who knew him, and while his was a strong man, he was soft-spoken, and often quiet… something that might also have come from the fact that he had a big family. It’s not easy to get a word in when you have that many people all wanting to talk at the same time. Nevertheless, if Grandpa needed to make his voice heard, I’m sure he could. He was a man who commanded respect…not because people feared him, but because they loved him. Today is the 129th anniversary of my grandfather’s birth. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandpa. We love and miss you very much.

As the years go by, the number of aunts and uncles I have who are still living dwindles down. We don’t lose one or more every year, but they are slowly leaving us, and even years after they are in Heaven, I still think of them often, and especially on their birthdays. when I was a little girl, I somehow thought my Aunt Virginia Beadle was a tall (but not too tall) slim lady…and she was slim anyway. I suppose my own shortness made her seem taller, and I don’t know how tall she was in her tall days, but I know that in her latter years, she just got more and more tiny. Every time I saw her, I was amazed at how much more tiny and frail looking she was, but she wasn’t sickly, and that was a good thing. Unfortunately, she was just getting older, and that was a bad thing.

Aunt Virginia lived a full life, and she did so many things in her life. She worked much of her adult life…first for the telephone company, and then for the State of Wyoming. She was mom to three sons and two daughters. Her adopted son, Forest went to Heaven on July 3, 2005; and a daughter, Christy went to Heaven the day after her birth on November 20, 1967. Those were very sad events for Aunt Virginia, and I know that she is really enjoying her time with the children who went home ahead of her…as well as her husband, Uncle Bill Beadle who went home ahead of her too. Aunt Virginia was extremely saddened by every loss, but strong woman that she was, she persevered. That made her an inspiration to many…especially her children…and many of her nieces and nephews.

The Byer girls were a beautiful bunch, and Aunt Virginia was no exception. I always thought of her as very sophisticated. Maybe it was because of how she dressed for the jobs she held. In those days, dresses were the norm…especially at work, and Aunt Virginia always looked stunning. I remember looking at her as a little girl and thinking how pretty she was. I think I always wanted to “dress up” like she did. She was very pretty, but more important than her beauty, was her sweet disposition. She was always thoughtful and kind, and that endeared her to many people…both at work and in her daily life. She was soft-spoken and kind, and we all loved her. Today would have been Aunt Virginia’s 92nd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Virginia. We love and miss you very much.

Bob’s step-grandfather, Walt Hein was quite a character. He always tried to seem gruff, and maybe he was in his younger days, but by the time I met him, and he became my official “Pitch” partner, I could tell that all that gruffness was just for show. After a year or so, he didn’t even continue on with the “show” of gruffness. He was an old softie, and he knew it. I first met Walt, as he was called, but I always called him Grandpa, in 1975, so he was 69 years old by that time, and pretty set in his ways, but I didn’t let that stop me from liking him right away. I never was a big card player, other than Cribbage with my Uncle Bill Spencer that is, but I would play “Pitch” with Grandpa. We were both ruthless players, and most people didn’t stand a chance against us.

He was also a softie when it came to our girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce. He let the chase the chicken on the ranch and took they for rides on the horses. They loved to do both, and they loved Grandpa. He had a “swimming pool” of sorts out in the yard, and he was always willing to fill up that old bathtub so the girls could cool off and have a little fun. Grandpa was an “old softie” when it came to my girls too, and all of his other grandchildren too.

Grandpa was famous for heading off to one of the outbuildings on the ranch for his afternoon nap. That usually lasted an hour or so, and then he was totally re-energized and ready to go play cards again. If Grandpa could have had his way, this would be the agenda for our visits there. He really hated it when we went into town to visit other relatives in town. He wanted to really maximize the card playing time. I felt bad when we needed to go. Not because I wanted to visit other family members, but because he almost seemed heartbroken. I knew that he didn’t get to play cards much when we weren’t there for a visit, so he really wanted to play all day, but Grandma had other things to do, so sometimes we just had to stop. Poor Grandpa. That ruined his whole day. Maybe that was why he took the naps. I miss those days. Today is the 115th anniversary of the birth of a sweet old man. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandpa Hein. We love and miss you very much.

Tornadoes can happen anywhere, but there are areas of the country that are more prone to tornadoes. Nevertheless, the F-5 tornado is extremely rare, and thankfully so, but when one hits a town, it is…devastating!! On May 27, 1997, an F-5 tornado his Jarrell, Texas, killing 27 people and destroying dozens of homes. That damage and loss of life was horrific, but it was what happened afterward that was truly amazing.

Once the news of the devastating tornado broke, people from near and far started showing up to do whatever it took to help out. In fact, people showed up by the busloads. The people were there to help with the cleanup, but that wasn’t really all they were there for. Upon arrival, they found that there was a great need for blood, because many who were critically injured needed blood and without a second thought, they showed up at blood banks and hospitals, ready to donate the critical blood that was needed. Besides giving blood, volunteers helped pick up debris and rubble. The work was hard, but those who arrived in Jarrell wanted to show their support to the residents of the devastated town.

The town of Jarrell, population around 400 at the time of the tornado lost entire families, like the Igo family of five, the Moehring family of four, the Smith family of three, and the Gower family of 2. but since the tornado, the town has really been growing. These days, Jarrell has more than 1750 people in residence. Really, that goes to show that these people were not going to give up. They were going to rebuild their lives and their town. Twenty-five years can make a huge difference in a town’s history. People can forget what happened so long ago, but if the survivors never forget, they can pass the history of the tragedy on to the future generations.

I’m sure that over the years, there were those who couldn’t bear to stay there any longer. That happens too. Not everyone is able to move on from the past, and sometimes people just don’t want to stay where there has been so much loss. There is really no right or wrong thing to do, it is simply what the people who went through the tragedy need to do in order to heal. As for the town, it has been rebuilt and it is growing all the time. I think that Jarrell will thrive again, and maybe even become a larger city in time. The fact that the town has the ability to heal and move on is due in large part to the help of the amazing people came to the rescue 25 years ago in Jarrell’s hour of need.

I would never have considered that an earthquake in Chili could affect Hawaii, which is 6,593 miles away, but on May 23, 1960, that seemingly huge distance suddenly became very small. When a 9.5 magnitude earthquake hit Chili on May 22, 1960, thousands of people lost their lives, and a giant tsunami was triggered. By the next day, that tsunami had traveled across the Pacific Ocean and killed an additional 61 people in Hilo, Hawaii. That distance and the amount of devastation seems incredible to me.

The earthquake, which involved a severe plate shift, caused a large displacement of water just off the coast of southern Chile at 3:11pm. The resulting wave, traveling at speeds in excess of 400 miles per hour, moved west and north. The damage to the west coast of the United States was estimated at $1 million, but there were no deaths there.

In 1948, the Pacific Tsunami Warning System was established in response to another deadly tsunami. It worked properly and warnings were issued to Hawaiians six hours before the deadly wave was expected to arrive. Unfortunately, some people ignored the warnings, as always seems to happen. Some other people actually headed to the coast in order to view the wave…like the warning was actually an announcement of a coming attraction. The tsunami arrived only a minute after it was predicted, and it absolutely destroyed Hilo Bay on the island of Hawaii.

People really don’t fully understand just how much destructive power water has, until they see it in action. When the waves hit Hilo Bay, they were thirty-five-feet high. They were so strong that they bent parking meters to the ground and wiped away most of the buildings. When the wave hit a 10-ton tractor, it was swept out to sea like it was made of Styrofoam. you would think that boulders would be sturdy enough to hold back the waves, but the 20-ton boulders that made up the seawall were easily moved 500 feet. The 61 people who lost their lives were in Hilo…the hardest hit area of the island chain.

With all of that destruction, you might be inclined to think that the waves would have lost power, and to a degree, I suppose they did. Nevertheless, the tsunami continued to race further west across the Pacific. Even given a ten-thousand-mile distance from the earthquake’s epicenter, Japan still wasn’t able to provide enough warning time to get the people out of harm’s way. The wave hit Japan at about 6:00pm, more than a full day after the earthquake. The tsunami struck the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. The wave’s power was still enough to crushing 180 people, and to leave 50,000 more homeless. In Japan, it caused $400 million in damages. With everything destroyed by this one earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, you would think that people would finally learn to stay away from the shore during a tsunami warning, but every year people lose their lives because they decided to cross paths with waves…be it from tsunamis, hurricanes, and other floods. Water is a force to be reckoned with. It should be considered very dangerous.

As another year has come and gone, I find myself again saddened that our cousin, Larry Hein is no longer with us. How could it be that he has been in Heaven now for almost a year and a half? Larry was a wonderful son, brother, and dad. He was also a successful businessman in Forsyth, Montana, and many people in town were helped by his mechanical ability and his towing business. Life wasn’t always easy for Larry. He lost his wife to an auto accident and was left to raise his children alone. He did a good job with that, and by the time he went to Heaven, his youngest child, Destiny was almost grown, and his son, Dalton was a grown man. I know they were so sad that he was no longer with them, but they were also grateful that they had him for most of their childhood years.

I remember Larry as a young boy, because I married his cousin, Bob when Larry was just six years old. He was a good boy, and when my own children, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce came along, Larry would go out to the playhouse on Grandma and Grandpa Hein’s house, and even though he was a boy, he was willing to playhouse with the girls, because they needed a “daddy” for the “family” game they were playing. While I’m sure Larry was quite bored, he was a good sport, and took it all in stride, even to caring for the baby dolls they were using for the kids.

Larry loved being out at Grandma Hein’s house, as we all did. There was always something to do and everyone had a great time. Grandma and Grandpa made life a big game…even if the kids were actually helping with the chores. And, they learned responsibility and good values, because they really did help around the ranch. They also got to ride the horses and help with the other animals that were being raised. Larry was a good help, as were the other kids, and they were all a blessing to Grandma and Grandpa Hein. Tody would have been Larry’s 53rd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Larry. I know you are all celebrating there. We love and miss you very much.

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