My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg, was all about family. She spent her married life as a stay-at-home mom, but that did not mean that she didn’t work. Taking care of six children is simply no picnic. Between cooking meals for everyone, cleaning, canning food, sewing clothes, and knitting things for them, she was a pretty busy lady. My mother-in-law was always the most comfortable raising her children in the country. She felt like it was too much out of her control in town. She worried about the traffic, and the people around, and about the kids running off while playing. She just needed the control of the country to give her peace of mind.
So the family lived in the country for most of the years that the kids were growing up. It wasn’t until 1989 that the family, now of just three at home, moved into Casper to stay. It’s funny that Joann, who had always hated the traffic, the noise, and the activity of city life, suddenly loved to watch the cars go by on the busy street on which they lived. She liked not having to go so far into town for groceries and such. She liked having visitors come by, because suddenly it wasn’t too far for them to go. Like me, she discovered the convenience of city life. Those long drives into town were the first thing I found my self happy to do without. I’m sure my mother-in-law did too…especially on the icy winter roads around here.
By 1996, my mother-in-law became a great grandmother for the first two times. She got a great birthday present in her first great grandchild, Christopher Petersen, who made his grand entrance on her 65th birthday. It was a treat that she had wanted since her mother was also privileged to receive, and never thought she would get. Then the very next day, she god something else she never thought she would get…a Leap Day Great Grandbaby…Shai Royce. Needless to say we were quite busy those two days. She has gone on to have 11 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren, and 1 great great granddaughter. Her family has sure grown, and while she has never met her great great granddaughter, I know she would love her as much as we all do. She found out about her just days before her passing, and she was very excited about it. I was glad she got to know, because family was always very important to her. Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 88th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Mom. We love and miss you very much.
My Aunt Ruth Wolfe was raised on a farm, around horses, and she loved them, as well as most other animals. She really thrived on the country life. She worked hard, alongside her mom and siblings, especially during World War II, when her brother, my dad, Allen Spencer was serving in the Army Air Forces. She helped at the farm and also as a welder at the shipyards…one of the women known as riveters. Later in her life, when she was married, she and my Uncle Jim Wolfe lived in the country outside Casper, Wyoming. They gardened, canned, and raised farm animals. Aunt Ruth was one tough lady. She could do just about anything she set her mind to. From that hard work of farming, to canning, to haying, to playing any instrument, to painting, my Aunt Ruth was simply a multi-talented woman.
I think one of the strangest moves Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim made was the one to Vallejo, California. I couldn’t quite figure out why a person who loved the country so much, would move to a city. Vallejo is a suburb of San Francisco, California, and very different from Casper, Wyoming or Holyoke, Minnesota. I suppose they decided that they wanted a change of pace, and I can understand that, because my family and I lived in the country for a number of years before we moved into town in Casper. For us, the city life was more…us, at least the small city life. I don’t think I would want to live in a big city like New York or San Francisco. Still, I can understand why my aunt and uncle might be drawn to the big city life, and the warmer California weather.
After a time in California, the quiet country life again drew them from the big city to the mountains of Washington state. I can’t say that the move to the mountains surprised me much, because it seems like country life was like the blood that ran through my aunt and uncle’s veins. It was a part of who they were, as much as their DNA was who they were. Once they settled in eastern Washington, they never moved again. They bought the top of a mountain, and built three cabins there…one for them, one for their daughter, Shirley and her husband, Shorty Cameron; and one for their son Terry and his family. For Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim, this would be their forever home. Having been on their mountain top, I can say that I understand why they thought it was so beautiful, but in the years since I moved back to town, I know that I would not want to live permanently in the country, or on a mountain top again. Nevertheless, that was their favorite place to be. Today would have been my Aunt Ruth’s 92nd birthday. It’s hard to believe she has been gone 26 years now. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Ruth. We love and miss you so very much, and can’t wait to see you again.