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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.

When my mom, Collene Spencer got married, she and my dad, Allen Spencer, for their honeymoon, moved to Superior, Wisconsin. While mom grew up in a big family, and knew how to cook, moving to a new area was a way to experience new foods. Mom was a little lonely when she first moved to Wisconsin, but when she arrived, she found her new best friend, her sister-in-law, Doris Spencer. They actually lived across the yard from each other. There wasn’t an alley between them, just a fence. It was a very cozy place for the two families, and as the kids came along, it made it easy to play without worrying about the little ones getting out into the street.

During the frequent luncheons Aunt Doris and my mom had, Mom saw that Aunt Doris was an amazing cook, and she loved many of the recipes Aunt Doris made, and so she asked for these recipes. Our whole family grew to love those dishes too which Aunt Doris continued to make for us whenever we visited in the years after we moved to Wyoming. We usually went out for dinner when we were there, but there were three recipes she made and all of us loved, and still love today. Those recipes were Stuffed Tomatoes (Aunt Doris’ special version, which I still can’t resist) and the Carrot/Chicken Salad on Lettuce with Picnic Sticks (crunchy potato sticks), the third was Chicken Noodle Casserole. It was similar to Tuna Noodle Casserole, and while I love Tuna Noodle Casserole, my sister Cheryl Masterson thinks the Chicken Noodle Casserole was way better!! Those were Aunt Doris’s recipes. She made them up or greatly improved on an old recipe she knew of.

Trips to visit Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill, were always special. They had a big house, and we had a great time. Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill always gave our parents their room. My sisters and I were never sure where they slept, but I almost think it might have been cots in the basement. Cheryl and our cousin, Pam were best friends, so Cheryl slept in Pam’s room. The rest of us slept in various places, mostly in the bus our Uncle Bill had converted into a motorhome. They could have had us stay in a motel, but they wanted us close, so we had more time to visit. The upper level of their home had been turned into a rental, and there were various renters in there, but if it was empty, we stayed there.

We often got to Superior, late at night…sometimes waking them up. It didn’t matter, because when we arrived, they would all get up and Aunt Doris would make us all a little snack before everyone settled into bed. Of course, we were probably up for quite a while before we were finally able to settle down. We laughed and talked continuously with Aunt Doris because she made everything fun!! She and Mom together just had so much fun. They were forever best friends. Aunt Doris had a beautiful home, and yet she was very tolerant of our noise and nonsense. We don’t ever remember her ever yelling at us or getting upset with us…Ever!! She loved us and she was always genuinely glad to see us. We all loved Aunt Doris so much that even after she and Uncle Bill divorced, we never felt like she was no longer our aunt. In fact, when our dad became ill in Canada, my sisters Caryl, Alena, Allyn, and I went up to be with him, our mom, and sister, Cheryl. Allyn needed a copy of her birth certificate to enter Canada (Pre-passport requirement). We needed to get on the road, so we had it sent to Aunt Doris. We got to her house at around 4:00am, and without even knocking on the door, she knew we were there. She got up and made us breakfast…a big breakfast!! Aunt Doris was and is always the same with us. She is our aunt, and we love each other. For her and for us, that has always remained the same. And it always will!! Today is Aunt Doris’ 98th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Doris!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

My aunt, Deloris “Dee” Johnson was always so sweet and kind. She loved to laugh, and to make people laugh. She and my mom, Collene Spencer were sisters, and they were close. I think it was probably because they were so much alike. Both of them tried to bring happiness into the day of those around them. If that meant they acted silly, then they acted silly. They were really both “crowd pleasers,” but my mom was the younger of the two, so she learned it from her older sister, I’m sure.

Aunt Dee was one of the kindest people you would ever want to meet. She never said a harsh word to anyone, and even her voice had a soothing way about it. Her tone was soft and soothing, and she had a smile to match. Aunt Dee loved to show her siblings new things. Once she and my mom got into a big coat, and let the wind take them for a ride…well, a run, but it made them feel free as birds. Aunt Dee was always taking the kids out for adventures. She loved the outdoors and had a great imagination, so she could entertain the younger children, and the adventures were always lots of fun. Aunt Dee taught her younger siblings how to dance, a dance she learned in school, and she also bought the family a piano. I don’t know if any of them learned to play it, but the grandkids sure enjoyed pounding on it whenever we were there.

Aunt Dee and my mom got together at our house quite often as adults, and we all loved it when she came over. It was such a treat to have her visit. She never got annoyed with us, Mom’s five rambunctious daughters…whether we were at our house, or at hers. I remember spending the night at her house at least once. I was supposed to be spending the night with my cousin Elmer, but while I didn’t realize it, that was not really proper, so I had to sleep with my cousin Darla. While I loved Darla too, she was not the one I had intended to spend the night with. Oh well…the mind of a child. Aunt Dee didn’t say I couldn’t stay, she just explained that girls and boys didn’t sleep in the same bed. So, I could stay, but in Darla’s bed. It all worked out, and we had a great time, as I recall. Nevertheless, it was an event that I have never forgotten. Just like my sweet Aunt Dee is someone I will never forget, and I can’t wait to see again. Today would have been Aunt Dee’s 91st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Dee. We love and miss you very much.

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 aunt, Margaret “Margee” Kountz is the youngest and only surviving aunts on his mom’s side of the family. Margee has two kids, Dan and Sandy, and five grandchildren (one…Brian Kountz lives in Heaven now), as well as five great grandchildren. Margee has always been a very hands-on grandmother, helping her kids with the care and transport of her grandchildren many times over the years. These days, with so many parents working, grandparents have taken on the role of “keeper of the village” that it takes to raise a child.

Of course, Margee worked all those years too, but she still managed her time in such a way that she could be there when she was needed to help out with her grandchildren. As a hands-on grandma myself, I can relate to just what a treasure those precious grandchildren are. I just wish, like I’m sure Margee does, that those years hadn’t gone by so fast. These days, all of her grandchildren are grown up, and several have children of their own.

Margee is retired now and doing well. She has begun to explore new things, like Facebook…something she probably never would have done had it not been for her granddaughter, Staci, who kept showing her things that she thought would interest her, and finally got her hooked. I was surprised. I didn’t think she would ever get on the computer, much less, Facebook. She doesn’t always talk much on there, but I know she likes to look around. It is interesting, I must admit.

These days, Margee likes being at home and enjoying her free time. She also loves having the great grandchildren come over for visits. They say that we should have the grandchildren first, and maybe they are right, but the great grandchildren are pretty special too. Today is Margee’s 73rd birthday. Happy birthday Margee!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My husband, Bob Schulenberg’s aunt, Esther Hein and I have a birth story in common…well, a little bit. Hers is quite a bit more extreme than my own. We were both breech babies. A breech birth is really hard on both baby and mommy, and quite often these days, a breech birth would mean a Cesarian delivery. When I was born, they had to dislocate my hips to deliver me, but for Esther, it took 4 days for her delivery. That seems very dangerous to me, because it seems like the stress on mom and baby could be too much. I feel sorry for both moms, Esther’s mom, Vina Hein and my mom, Collene Spencer, because they had to do the work for the babies, Esther and me. I would have to say that they were supermoms, because they made it, and Esther and I got to be here because of them.

Esther is the oldest of Grandma Hein’s second family, my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg and his sister, Marion Kanta being in her first family. She has two younger brothers, Eddie Hein and Butch Hein. Esther and Butch are the only ones left here on Earth. When my father-in-law married my mother-in-law, Joann (Knox) Schulenberg, they took Esther in during the winter months, because the Hein family lived outside of Forsyth, Montana on a ranch, and with the winters in Montana being what they often are, getting her to school wasn’t always easy, so living with her brother Walt and his wife Joann was the best solution. Those were special days for Esther, who became very close friends with Walt and Joann, as well as little sister. Esther grew very close to her brother and sister-in-law. She also got close to their first child, Marlyce. Esther was only 10 years old, when Marlyce was born. That said, she had a number of years of school left, meaning that she might have been living with them for as much as 8 more years, during which time they would also have Debbie, and Bob. During her time there, while she might have been a trial at times, I’m quite sure she was also a big help to them as their family grew. I know they were always grateful for the help. Today is Aunt Esther’s birthday. Happy birthday Esther!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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.

We always loved having my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim Wolfe come to town for visits. They were funl-oving people who always kept things lively and kept us laughing. They usually came with their three kids, Shirley Cameron, Larry Wolfe (who passed away in 1976), and Terry Wolfe. Sometimes they came with friends of Larry and Terrys, or with Shirley’s husband Wayne “Shorty” Cameron, Tonnya Cameron, and Larry Cameron. When the kids were there, it was especially fun. The boys were rowdy and rambunctious. And while there war no way my sisters and I could have “taken” them, that didn’t stop us from trying, or them from pretending that we might win the battle. The boys “style” was exactly the same as Aunt Ruth’s. The whole family was a barrel of laughs, and I miss those who have gone home to Heaven very much.

Aunt Ruth was a talented musician, and could play any instrument she picked up. That was a favorite memory of her daughter Shirley’s. She loved that her mom was talented both in music and in art. I really never had any idea that Aunt Ruth was so talented until we visited Shirley and Shorty when her dad, Uncle Jim passed away. Shirley showed us some of the paintings she had done. Unfortunately, many of Aunt Ruth’s things were lost in a fire that claimed the home she had shared with Uncle Jim. Aunt Ruth had passed away by then, but Uncle Jim stilled lived there, next door to their daughter Shirley and her family. The fire was the point when it became clear that Uncle Jim, who had Alzheimer’s disease by this time, would have to move to a nursing home. It was a sad time for all, because of the lost pictures, paintings, instruments, and most of all, because Shirley could no longer see her dad ever day, because it was just too far to the nursing home where he now lived. Aunt Ruth was also a talented equestrienne, and raced her horses often.

Aunt Ruth passed away at the very early age of just 66 years. She had cancer, and it was a fast-growing type. She found out about it, and before we all could think twice, she was gone. That was such a sad time, and we all miss her very much. Aunt Ruth passed away on May 11, 1992. It is so hard to believe that it has been that long ago. Today would have been Aunt Ruth’s 96th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Ruth. We love and miss you very much.

Being the oldest child isn’t always the easiest job. My Aunt Evelyn Hushman, my mom’s sister, was born on November 9, 1928…shortly before Black Monday and the beginning of the Great Depression. These were not easy times, and everyone had to pitch in. That isn’t always easy for anyone, but for the oldest child, it means helping to raise all the children born after you are, and when the family has 9 children, that’s eight children that you get to help raise. Granted, Aunt Evelyn was a little young to help much with her sisters, Virginia and Deloris, but she helped a lot more when it came to Larry, Collene (my mom), Wayne, Bonnie, Dixie, and Sandy…who was just three years older than her first niece, Sheila “Susie” Young. At that point, the cycle came back around, and some of the younger children got to help raise their nieces and nephews.

Aunt Evelyn loved getting together with friends, and even her siblings. She and Uncle George often double dated with my parents, and they later bowled together for years. Aunt Evelyn was a very social person, and loved gatherings. I remember the whole Hushman family coming to celebrate my mom’s birthday, which was on New Year’s Day, hence the New Year’s Eve party. We always had such a great time when the Hushman family joined in the parties, and I really miss those days very much. Because it was Mom’s birthday party, all the kids were welcome, and sometimes I wonder if our parents were half crazy having at least ten kids in the house at one time, and mind you, it was too cold to play outside, because it was after all, the middle of winter. Still, a great time was had by all.

My parents, Aunt Evelyn, and Uncle George also bowled together every Thursday night. They had a great time. I don’t remember what kind of averages they all had but I think they were pretty good bowlers. They loved spending time together, and bowling was a great way to do that. They were good friends all of their lives, and I know my mom couldn’t stand the idea of living without her big sister. Mom loved her so very much. I’m thankful they are together again in Heaven. Today would have been Aunt Evelyn’s 93rd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Evelyn. We love and miss you very much.

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