My grandniece, Siara Kirk has had a wonderful year. Prior to this year, Siara had gone through some things that were very hard, and then she met her future husband, Chris Kirk and her whole life started to turn around. The year 2021 ended very well beginning in early September, with Siara walking boldly up to Chris in the local Loaf and Jug convenience store in Casper and telling him that she liked his freckles. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. They found that they had a lot in common, including a love of exercise and travel. They especially love couple’s exercise, and the stuff they do is amazing. Their love blossomed, and on March 20, 2022, Chris proposed, and Siara accepted.
Siara has always been into exercise, and for over seven years, it has been her dream to become a certified personal trainer. With lots of hard work and perseverance, that dream came true on April 19, 2022, and she couldn’t be happier about that. Siara has always set goals for herself…a bucket list, if you will. She has been slowly (or maybe not so slowly) checking things off of her list. Siara has worked at Platte Valley Bank since July of 2015, so I assume the Personal Trainer work will be done as a side hustle…or as I prefer, side gig. Still in the world of personal trainers, I suppose side hustle might be more fitting.
It has always been Siara’s goal to be married to a man who treats her like her dad treats her mom. That goal came true on July 23, 2022, that dream came true. Chris treats her like the princess she is, and they are perfect for each other. Another one of Siara’s longtime goals, has always been to travel to New York. California was on that list too, but she and Chris took that trip two summers ago, and now the plan is to take the much-anticipated trip to New York this coming June. They are both so excited and are busy making plans as to what all they will see. I’m sure it will be just as many things as they can pack into their time there. It’s good to be taking these trips while they are still a couple, because Siara and Chris both want to have kids someday in the not-too-distant future, and I know they will be amazing parents.
Siara and Chris enjoy taking joint trips with her parents, Chantel and Dave Balcerzak too. They have gone several times to see the 80s Hairbands, and that has become rather a tradition. They also went on September 17, 2022, to watch a Wyoming Cowboys game. They are all fans of the Pokes, as are most Wyomingites, so going to a game is always great fun. This year was such a great year for Siara, and I’m sure the future will be wonderful too. I can’t wait to see what “Bucket List” items she checks off next. Today is Siara’s birthday!! Happy birthday Siara!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My niece, Ashley Parmely has been a part of our family since she married my nephew, Eric Parmely on July 23, 2011. Since that time, we have seen the many sides of Ashley. I’m not talking about personality sides, although there is that too, but really, it’s more about her capabilities. Ashley has grown as a person, of course, and she is a great mom. She and Eric have four children, Reagan, Hattie, Bowen, and Maeve. Ashley homeschools the older girls, while brother Bowen attends pre-school for one more year, at which time she will homeschool him too. Maeve is too little right now, but will go to pre-school next year.
While you might think that homeschooling would give Ashley little bits of free time here and there, you would be wrong. Ashley and Eric own a farm. but Eric also works full-time. That means that Ashley has the working of the farm and feeding the animals during the day…in addition to caring for her four children and making all necessary trips to town as the transport for the kids. Ashley is an accomplished equestrian, and a great teacher of the same. Her children are totally comfortable around horses, as well as all the other animals Ashley and Eric have on the farm.
Another side of Ashley that some people may never have seen, is her generous heart. It’s not that she doesn’t show her generous heart, because she does. It’s just that if you haven’t had a need, you might not have had first-hand knowledge of her generous heart. Ashley is the person who first thinks of bringing in a meal when it is needed. She is the one who invites family to her home for a meal once a month, to make sure we all stay close. She is a giver, often giving to people in need. She is a photographer, and her work always has a very special touch to it. I think it’s because Ashley always thinks about how she would feel about the project…how she would want it to look. That is important when you are doing things for people. That is the heart of what Ashley is. When I think of Ashley, that is how she makes me feel. The heart she has for people is always on display. It is what makes her the beautiful person she is. Today is Ashley’s birthday. Happy birthday Ashley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Athena Salazar is my grandson, Josh Petersen’s fiancée, and they are planning for the soon arrival of their little baby boy. Athena and Josh met in middle school, and while they weren’t an item then, they became an item when they reconnected at work almost two years ago, they quickly knew that it was love. I have been so amazed at how perfect they are for each other. Each of them is the perfect complement to the other. Athena is such a gentle person, and at this stage in her life, she is very ready to be a mommy…very ready!! And Josh is growing and becoming the man of the house.
Athena loves children. She has nieces and nephews who are very dear to her. She even works in a daycare center, which doesn’t surprise me, because it is very much the essence of Athena. She has a heart for people, but especially for children. I think she is going to be a wonderful mother. Athena also has a wonderful sense of humor. She can be totally goofy one minute and very sentimental the next. That is really just what Josh needed in his life. Someone to laugh with, as well as live out all the romantic, sentimental dreams that they both have.
Athena is a mix of sunflowers and red roses…her favorite flowers. I like that. She is a little bit country sunshine and a little bit quiet romance. Her home is decorated largely in sunflowers, with red roses mixed in, which makes it feel bright and sunny. I remember when Josh lived alone, and his walls were almost empty. His place needed a woman’s touch, and that’s where Athena came in. Now their house is a home, and soon their baby boy will come and make them a family…and what a wonderful day that will be. They can’t wait to get their family started!!
I love the couple that these two kids are. I can say kids, because I’m the grandma, and they will always be the kids to me. Grandmas can get away with that. I love how in love these kids are, and I can’t wait to see where their future takes them. Their pregnancy pictures are so cute, and I love how Josh is doing the “sympathy pregnancy” act, so Athena doesn’t feel alone. I’m not even sure he realizes it. He just loves her so much that it comes naturally. Today is Athena’s birthday. Happy birthday Athena!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My brother-in-law, Mike Stevens has been a part of our family since he married my sister, Alena (Spencer) Stevens on July 21, 1984. Their marriage has been blessed with many years, three children, Michelle (Matt) Miller, Garrett (Kayla) Stevens, and Lacey (Chris Killinger) Stevens. They also have two granddaughters, Elliott and Maya Stevens, and two bonus grandchildren, Brooklyn and Jaxon Killinger. These days, Mike and Alena have a little more time to enjoy their beautiful family, because on July 1, 2022, Mike retired. Alena had retired a couple of years ago, and now they are free to go and do as they please. I know that finally having the freedom to go without thinking about having to work is an awesome feeling. It’s the reward for all those years of hard work.
Mike worked in the Salt Creek Oil Field for 39 years, starting with Amoco in 1983. The company changed hands and names several times, and at the time Mike retired, it was Contango Energy. Mike worked his way up in the oil field business, and by the time he retired, he was the Compression Foreman. As I recall his job as Compression Foreman required that he be available pretty much 24/7. He was a vital part of the project, and they depended on him. He also Mike was well liked and much respected.
That is all behind Mike now. He and Alena have new plans now. They love to go camping and fishing, and Mike also hunts. Mike also has a green thumb, and he loves growing things. Since his last day on the job, Mike has been able to meet that newest little granddaughter, Maya, who was born June 24th, just days before her grandpa retired. Such a blessing…almost like a retirement present. Now that they are both retired, so many fun things are ahead of them. Mostly though, they can relax, and not rush to work all the time. They are free to do the things they want do, when they want to.
Today we are going to celebrate the wonderful man, husband, dad, grandpa, brother, and son that Mike is. He has been a blessing to those around him all his life. He was a hard worker and is a thoughtful man. He has helped with projects for our parents, and that endeared him to them too. I’m so glad that he and my sister got together. Mike is a great addition to our family. Have a wonderful retirement, Mike!! We love you!!
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.
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.
My grandniece, Maeve Parmely is turning three years old today. She is a child of the Covid era, and for much of her early live was only around her family and grandparents. The situation has made her a little shy around people, even extended family. Now we are having monthly family dinners so that Maeve and her siblings, Reagan, Hattie, and Bowen can all get to know us better. The older children warmed up to us quickly, but Maeve was the baby, and to her, we were “Stranger Danger.” While we wanted Maeve to warm up to us, we also knew that it was probably better for her to have time to learn who we are to her before she just allows us to get close. I never felt like she should be rushed, even though, I wanted to get to know her.
These days, I am finding that Maeve and I actually have some things in common. At our dinner a couple of months ago, Maeve was talking to her mom, and she glanced am me, and noticed my fingernails, which are always polished, and usually have a decorative sticker on them. She stopped talking immediately, and I asked her if she liked them. She said yes, and suddenly, we had our own thing to talk about. We actually polished her nails that night, but we didn’t have any decorative stickers. This week, at our dinner, I’m going to surprise her with some stickers for her nails. I’m so excited about this new treat that I can do for her. While Maeve is rather a girly girl, she can keep up with her sisters and brother in the “rough and tumble” area too. And this girly girl even likes camo. She is able to do pretty much anything she wants to do…including telling the cows what to do.
While Maeve is a bubbly girl when she, she is very quiet around strangers. Her sisters and brother have seen that bubbly side of her, as well as her temper, if they get on the wrong side of her. It is hard to accept that I am considered a stranger, and I am working to see if I can change her view of me. While Maeve may always be a very private person, I think she probably has a lot to say when you get to know her. Maeve will be going to preschool next year, and I think being around other children will really bring her out of her shell. Today is Maeve’s 3rd birthday. Happy birthday Maeve. Have a great day!! We love you!!
Wars leave unfortunate consequences, one of the biggest being orphaned children. World War II is no exception to that rule. After the surrender of Germany, the nation was basically split into four sections…the American Zone, the Soviet Zone, the British Zone, and the French Zone. It was all part of the denazification process. The term denazification refers to the removal of the physical symbols of the Nazi regime. In 1957 the West German government re-issued World War II Iron Cross medals, among other decorations, without the swastika in the center. That was just one of the ways that the Nazi regime was removed from Germany.
Another way was the Denazified School System and the denazification of the rest of the German government…which was then reassembled without the Nazi symbolism. With the school system effectively out of commission, the children of Berlin had very little or even no structure in their lives at all. These were children whose lives had been shredded by the war, many of whom had been orphaned by the conflict or had lost at least one parent. That lead to an overall lack of adult supervisors. Children, and especially teens and preteens, roamed the streets in packs. The situation was especially difficult for the children who had lost both parents. There weren’t any real orphanages either, and so these children formed their own “families” on the streets…like street gangs. These children were known as German “wolf children” also known as “Wolfskinder,” but the reality was that they were simply the forgotten orphans of World War II.
The schools eventually reopened, but they were often in half-ruined facilities, that were underfunded and understaffed, with some schools reporting student-to-faculty ratios of 89 to 1. That kind of a classroom ratio is far too big to be able to effectively teach the students. And the re-opened schools didn’t really address the issue of these orphaned “wolf children” who were often in hiding whenever authorities were around. These children were most likely afraid of authority, because it was the authorities who got their parents killed in the first place. Many of these children were forced to flee what was then East Prussia to Lithuania at the end of World War II. They felt like the German government had failed them. These children survived hunger, cold, and the loss of their identity, and the German government had long overlooked them, so why would they trust the government now.
No one really knows just how many “wolf children” there were. That number can only be estimated. Some say there were up to 25,000 of them roaming the woods and swamps of East Prussia and Lithuania after 1945. Russians were actually forbidden from taking in these “fascist children.” These children were actually told to go to Lithuania and given the promise that there would be food there. When they arrived, they couldn’t speak the language and they had no papers, so they had no identity…no one could even know their names. Those who were taken in often had every shred of memorabilia from their past stripped from them and tossed in the trash. That was the last part of who they really were. It was the price they would pay for food, safety, and security; and it was a failure of the German government, and the four nations who were in charge of reorganizing Germany. I suppose some would disagree with me on that note, but the reality is plain to see. If these children came across kind locals, the “Vokietukai” or little Germans, in Lithuanian, as they were known, were helped with buckets of soup in front of the doors, giving the children a little nourishment. If the residents were not so kind, they would set their dogs on the children.
While the “Vokietukai” had many struggles in Lithuania, life was still better than the fate that awaited the children who were too weak to make it to the Baltic states. There were thousands of these children, and they were sent to Soviet homes run by the military administration. That was the fate of approximately 4,700 German children in 1947, according to historian Ruth Leiserowitz, who has researched the fates of wolf children. Later that year, many of them were sent to the Soviet occupation zone. That zone later became the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Those poor children traveled in freight trains without any straw to sleep on…similar the Holocaust deportation years. These children were young…between 2 and 16 years of age. They arrived in East Germany after four days and four nights…really more dead than alive. There, they were put in orphanages or adopted by avid Communists. They never really escaped Communism…and that is the saddest part of all.
My sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg was just about 4 months older than my oldest daughter, Corrie, so she was like a sister-in-law and a daughter too. The things she liked were similar to things my daughters, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce liked. It makes sense that it would be that way, because my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg was just 7 years old when my husband, Bob and I got married. They were in the generation of our kids. I guess that is part of what makes it so hard to believe that Rachel has been living in Heaven for a little over a year now. She was just too young to have a fatal stroke. It just shouldn’t happen that way.
Rachel was good friends with my nieces, Machelle Moore and Susan Griffith, and it was through them that she was introduced to their Uncle Ron. It was a match made in Heaven, and they were married over 11 years when she passed away. They were so happy, and I know their marriage would have continued well into their golden years if she hadn’t left us too soon. Besides Ron, Rachel also left behind daughter, Cassie Franklin and her children Lucas and Zoey; son, Riley Birky his fiancée, Sierah Martin, her son, Jace and their little baby that is coming in this August; and Tucker Schulenberg, her youngest, who was adopted by Ron in 2019, so she knew he would be ok. Rachel was a wonderful mother and grandmother, who loved her children and grandchildren so much, and the perfect wife for Ron…his soulmate.
Rachel was a vibrant person, who loved the Lord. She had worked in the office of her church in Powell, Wyoming before she married my brother-in-law, and moved to Casper. She loved telling people about Jesus and seeing people get saved. She wanted to make sure that everyone she could win for the Lord, she did win for the Lord. Rachel was quick to pray for anyone who needed prayer, even if they didn’t ask her for prayer, she prayer for them. There are many people out there who have received answered prayer because of Rachel…I have no doubt. Rachel was a wonderful person, Christian, and friend to many people, and she has been greatly missed by all of us over the past year. Today would have been Rachel’s 47th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Rachel. We love and miss you very much.
My grandson, Christopher Petersen has so much going for him these days. He has a fiancée, Karen with whom he is deeply in love, and two children, Cambree and Caysen, who are among his greatest blessings. A man can’t ask for anything better than that. When I think back of Christopher’s life, I am so amazed at just how quickly the years have flown by. Christopher was my first grandchild, followed the next day by his cousin Shai Royce. It was a whirlwind time in the life of our family. Chris and Shai were best friends, and still are close to this day, even though Shai lives 1200 miles away now. I can still picture them playing side by side at my daughter, Amy Royce’s house, where Chris went to daycare. It was a perfect part of my life, and one I feel very privileged to have been a part of. Having Amy care for the kids, allowed me to go over for lunch to spend time with my precious grandchildren. Still, I will never forget the first day my daughter, Corrie Petersen had to drop off her precious son at my house so I could take him to her sister’s house. The tears flowed liberally. I’m thankful Karen has not had to do that. It is truly awful.
Now, Chris is the dad, and he is living out those perfect years. His children adore him. They run to him when he gets home, so excited to be with him. There is no greater feeling than the love your kids feel for you, and I’m so glad Chris has that. Isn’t it just amazing…how life changes? Chris likes to take his family to Rapid City sometimes with friends of theirs, and the kids absolutely love the water park there. He enjoys giving his family all the good things he can. He is a good dad and partner.
Chris still loves his cars, and tinkering on them, especially his prize-winning Camaro. He doesn’t race it, or anything, it is his show car, and his pride and joy. I can see…down the road…into the future, to a time when his kids will be helping him tinker of his cars. I know his grandpas and his dad taught Chris how to tinker on cars, because that was where he wanted to be…with them…and mostly his daddy, Kevin Petersen. The boys, Chris and his little brother, Josh loved being with their daddy, especially when he was doing his mud truck races. I get excited thinking about the day when Chris’ kids, and especially Caysen are the ones out there perched on a box, “helping” Daddy work on his hot rod. Today is Chris’ birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!