My aunt, Deloris “Dee” Johnson was such a sweet person. She was the third child of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer, and she truly loved her little siblings. She was happy to teach them things, and when she could, she really enjoyed buying things for them. One of the biggest gifts was a piano that graced Grandma Byer’s house for the rest of her life. We all played on that piano, and sometimes I wonder how Grandma kept her sanity. Nevertheless, that piano was a great blessing, and it was Aunt Dee’s great pleasure to gift it to her family. Aunt Dee was really a very special sister to her siblings.
Aunt Dee had a big imagination. She wanted to see how it felt to be a bird, so she gathered up one of her younger siblings, wrapped up in a trench coat, and stood in the wind. Of course, they didn’t really fly, but it felt like it. I know, because I’ve done that myself. It’s lots of fun. My mom, Collene Spencer, Aunt Dee’s younger sister said that her sister was always inventing something, but Mom didn’t tell me what. I’m sure that over the years everyone forgot what they were, because if they weren’t successful, that would be the end of it. Her son, Elmer did say that his mom was the true inventor of the “shoe watch.” That was an invention she started by attaching a watch to her shoe to help her be on time. It didn’t help Aunt Dee, but then being on time was something that the Byer family was famous for not being.
Aunt Dee grew up in a household of singing. Grandma Byer made housework fun for her nine children with the “sing while you work” concept. Aunt Dee, like most of her siblings carried that into her adult life. I think they all thought that singing gave them a sunny disposition, and I would have to agree. Having a mom who sings around the house, makes for a lighthearted home. I think that as a child of a song-filled home, my cousins would agree that a singing mom is one of the more pleasant memories of our childhood. Today would have been my Aunt Dee’s 92nd birthday. She has been in Heaven now for 27 years. I find that so hard to believe. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Dee. We love you and still miss you very much.
Production needs during wartime often change dramatically, and the piano industry was no exception. I suppose that such frivolous items as a piano, must go by the wayside when so many much more important things like weapons, military vehicles, and military airplanes were needed so much more. That is what you might logically think anyway. Nevertheless, you would be wrong. During World War II, the famous musical instrument company, Steinway and Sons, did stop making traditional pianos. The biggest reason for the change was because the materials they needed were shifted to the war effort. Still, the company didn’t shut down production entirely. They actually began making things that were needed for the war effort. Things like coffins and parts for military transports became the production like items of the day. It seemed a sad state of affairs for a company that had once brought so much joy and happiness to so many households and concert halls, but it had to be done, so they stepped up and did their part.
While they made many coffins and parts, strangely, Steinway was also contracted by the War Production Board to make…pianos!! What?? The government wanted pians that could be set into battle, and when I think of shows like “MASH” with the piano that graced the “Officer’s Club,” that as it turned out, wasn’t just for officers, it makes perfect sense. What better way to boost moral than a piano that could be sent into battle. The new Steinway and Sons pianos were “small, sturdy uprights, painted olive drab and shipped by cargo vessels and transport planes to military theaters around the world.” Called “Victory Verticals” or “G.I. Steinways,” the company made about 3,000 of the pianos in 1942 and 1943. Some of the instruments were actually parachuted into camp complete with tuning tools and instructions. Now all it needed was a soldier who could play, and hopefully not just chop sticks. Others came in by Jeep on a wagon.
As the gifts made their strange arrivals, the men welcomed their arrival. Any camp that was blessed enough to receive a Victory Vertical felt an instant lift of their spirits. One US Army Private, Kenneth Kranes told his mother in a letter home from North Africa dated May 6, 1943, “Two nights past we received welcome entertainment when a Jeep pulling a small wagon came to camp. The wagon contained a light system and a Steinway pianna. It is smaller and painted olive green, just like the Jeep. We all got a kick out of it and sure had fun after meals when we gathered around the pianna to sing. I slept smiling and even today am humming a few of the songs we sang.” Who would have thought that a company so famed for its elegant musical instruments would find that quite possibly its most famous instrument would be a plain-Jane, olive-drab version of what it expected to be famous for.
Most people have heard of Ludwig van Beethoven, whether they like his music or not. Most people also know that Beethoven was a deaf musician. I think many people think he was born deaf, but that makes no sense. If he had been born deaf, why would he have ever been interested in music? You really don’t desire to play music that you cannot hear. I don’t think that the mind of a child born deaf would simply have no concept of sound…much less music. Of course, these days, more can be done restore hearing than in Beethoven’s time, but even now, I don’t know if hearing could be restored to someone who was completely deaf from birth.
As a young man, with normal hearing, Beethoven became interested in music, and proved to be a musical genius. His hearing began to go in his 20s, and I have no doubt that it was a devastating event for him. Imagine being a man with a love of music, suddenly realizing that there will come a day when he can no longer hear the music he loves. Beethoven began to try to figure out a way to continue to have the music he loved, and he came up with a way to play the piano and “hear” the way his music sounded…vibrations. Vibrations, you say!! Yes!! Beethoven began to experiment on what vibrations occurred when each note was placed. I find that amazing. To be able to distinguish between the vibration B-flat makes as opposed to F-sharp. Any musician can easily tell you which note is which, but could they explain the vibration each one makes. I seriously doubt it.
Beethoven not only learned to distinguish the vibrations for each note, but he could quickly put them together in an order that made music that was truly beautiful. No sour notes in his music. No, his music was perfection, but exactly how did he do it. Well, he replicated “hearing” using vibrations by attaching a small rod to the piano and biting down on it while he played. Because our eardrums vibrate from sound, the vibration on Beethoven’s jaw imitated hearing while he was hearing impaired. Totally amazing!! This experiment was the start to the official alternate hearing method called bone conduction. And now you know where some of our greatest innovations in hearing came from.
My niece, Kellie Hadlock is one of the happiest people I know. Kellie keeps happiness in her heart, and from there, it explodes into the atmosphere around her. Kellie has always been that way. Her laugh, her smile, her sense of humor, and her unending ability to be pleasantly surprised have made her personality one of bubbly excitement and happiness. Everything about life is exciting to her. I don’t know many people who as adults continue to be excited and amazed at all of God’s creation, but Kellie is just that. She is that person who wakes up and looks at the world, and says, “Wow!!”
Kellie has two pets, who fill her with joy every day…her bird, Peetey, and her dog, Leena. They keep her busy every day too. Peetey loves to sit on her shoulder and listen to her sing, which Kellie loves to do. Kellie is one of the worship leaders at our church, Word Christian Fellowship, but Kellie loves to sing all the time. She has been such a great blessing when she sings at church, and every time I hear, it brings tears to my eyes. Her songs are just so beautiful, and her voice is perfect. She plays piano at her house, and sings worship songs to God as often as she can, then she often posts them on YouTube, so others can enjoy them too. It is in her blood and in her spirit. Leena came into Kellie’s life as a tiny little ball of fur. She has grown some, but not really very much. Leena…a wiggly, happy little pup, has stolen Kellie’s heart…what Peetey left of it anyway!!
Of course, Kellie is all about her family. She loves each and every one of them, but her nephew and her nieces are her very favorite people ever. They love spending time with their Aunt Kellie, and they always have lots of great fun. I think that Kellie just might be everybody’s “favorite aunt,” but to say that might get me in trouble. Nevertheless, I call ’em as I see ’em. Kellie is so much fun to be around, that it’s like having a “friend aunt” or something. Today is Kellie’s birthday. Happy birthday Kellie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My aunt, Deloris Johnson, lovingly know to all of us a Aunt Dee was one of the sweetest, most loving people I know. She could also be very protective of those she cared about too, however. She was very protective of her siblings, when she needed to be, but she really liked teaching them things, or buying them things that would be fun for the whole family. Things like the piano that was in my grandparents house for as long as I can remember. Lots of the kids “played” that piano at one time or another. Of course, none of us took lessons, so when I say “played” the piano, I use the term loosely. Nevertheless, I think Aunt Dee played it pretty well.
She was always helping her younger siblings to try new things. “Flying” in the wind, using a coat for wings, was a favorite for Aunt Dee, and the other children too. My mother, Collene Spencer, younger sister of Aunt Dee told me about how much fun they had when Aunt Dee was involved in the activities. I think it was all about the great imagination Aunt Dee possessed. When one of the kids has enough imagination to create fun situations, everyone involved has a great time. That fun person was Aunt Dee. She was the one that made everyone laugh, and I know that from the time she spent with our family. It was always fun to have Aunt Dee come over to our house. Her sweet smile put a smile on everyone’s face.
When we lost Aunt Dee to brain cancer in 1996, her passing left a hole in our hearts. My mom especially felt it, because they were really close. I can’t begin to imagine how much he passing saddened my mom. I can only say how sad it made me. Today would have been Aunt Dee’s 88th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Dee. We love and miss you very much.
In many ways, my nephew, Tucker Birky is a typical eleven year old boy. He loves to do all the goofy things that make those who know him laugh hysterically. There is almost nothing that is off limits when it comes to ways to make people laugh. He might eat candy in such a way as to make green lips, and the grin impishly. Hi might put something funny on, like funny glasses, a wrapping paper hat, or just a funny face, Tucker is up for it. It’s all about getting the laugh from his audience. That is Tucker…and that’s what makes everybody love Tucker. He is always happy and smiling. He does like looking good, and recently discovered what a difference a haircut can make in a guys appearance.
While Tucker is a funny guy, when it comes to his studies, he is all business. Tucker reads at the ninth grade level, even though he is only in 5th grade. Tucker is also top of his class of 30 students in piano. Tucker isn’t into sports much, but would rather play Fortnight on his Xbox, play with his dogs, or help his dad, my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg with things in the garage or doing the chores. He likes splitting wood, and helps his mom, my sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg with chores too, but my guess is that he doesn’t like those as much as the ones that ate “man’s work” chores. Tucker is a candy-holic, and if they would let him, his favorite breakfast would be…you guessed it, candy. It doesn’t matter that he has braces now, if he thinks he can get away with it, he will eat candy.
Tucker has recently decided that he likes listening to music, and sometimes likes to have it turned up very loud in the car, with all the windows down. I’m not sure what the purpose of the windows being down is, but maybe so he can share his tunes with anyone in the general vicinity. Tucker loves his mom, and is learning to cook. It is something they can do together. While Tucker might not be the biggest kid in his class, he has a heart that can rival any one of them. Today is Tucker’s 11th birthday. Happy birthday Tucker!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My Aunt Delores Byer Johnson was always the kind of person who brought sunshine with her into a room. She loved to make people laugh, and she didn’t mind being a little bit silly if it would brighten everyone’s day. My mom, Collene Byer Spencer used to tell me about all of the inventive ideas her sister used to come up with.
Mom used to tell me that with Aunt Dee is the house, there was never a dull moment. Aunt Dee might have been teaching the kids how to dance, or playing the piano she bought for the family, or teaching the kids how to fly…using a coat and the wind of course. It didn’t matter what scheme Aunt Dee had in mind, everyone knew it was going to be a lot of fun, because Aunt Dee made it fun. She had a way of doing that.
Aunt Dee has been gone now for almost 21 years, I can still hear her laughter and see her smiling face, every time I think of her. She loved life, and she had such a zest for life. I suppose that is why I miss her so much. She loved spending time with her nieces and nephews, and never made us feel unimportant. When we were with her, we were important. Family was everything to her.
In many ways, I think Aunt Dee was a kid at heart, and that was what always made her so much fun to be around. I will always miss that, and I can’t wait to see her again in Heaven. Today would have been Aunt Dee’s 86th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Dee. We all love you very much.
My nephew, Tucker Birky is a child of mixed personal traits. He is hilariously funny, a rough and tumble boy, and yet, with a musical side. Most of the personality types that make up Tucker, are normal for a boy his age. He is funny, as I said, and that has a tendency to get him in a little bit of trouble. It is the class clown in Tucker, typical of so many boys his age that tends to disrupt the class a little bit, and teachers don’t seem to have a very good sense of humor when it comes to that stuff. Imagine that. Recess finds Tucker wanting to play a little bit rough. Tucker is full of energy, and that has to be used up at recess or it will explode somewhere else. So, the playground teacher has to reign him in some on that, but in all reality, Tucker tries to be a good boy, and that makes it hard for the teachers to get too awfully mad at him.
Tucker is an above average student. Math and reading are among his favorite subjects. While it is not uncommon for boys to like math, reading is often a subject that they couldn’t care less about, so for reading to be one of Tucker’s favorite subjects, is great. It is my belief that if a kid can read and comprehend, most can write their own ticket when it comes to their education. Recently, Tucker decided to learn to play the piano. Now, I can’t do it, so I am in awe of anyone who can read notes. I can sing, but to know what key works best for me or to know by the notes what direction a song is going next, so I think that is an accomplishment for Tucker to be very proud of.
Home life for Tucker always includes his older brother, Riley, who Tucker loves very much. Like a lot of little brothers, Tucker wants to do anything his older brother is doing. Riley is the guy Tucker wants to be just like someday. For Riley, that means being a good role model, because someone is watching every move you make, and following you around as much as he is allowed. Riley takes that seriously though. Evenings will often find him reading to his little brother, playing ball with him…any kind of ball will do, and the all important wrestling to help get rid of some of that pent up energy…an activity that always seems to find a good natured Tucker on the bottom, when all is said and done. Don’t get me wrong though, because when it comes to the many brotherly battles the two have had, Tucker has not lost all of them. He will need to understand that shooting your big brother with a BB gun is not the best plan, and is probably one that will get you in trouble with not only your parents, but with the older brother you want to be around. I’m sure that after that one, Riley told Tucker to go away, and so Tucker had lots of alone time to think about a better target to use.
Tucker is a kid who likes to help out around the house. I’m sure that is well received by his mom, who is my sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg. Any time you can get a kid to pitch in around the house, you are just that much ahead of the game. Tucker also has a kitten named Jack Jack, who is his very own pet. Tucker is doing a great job of taking care of him, and Jack Jack loves him very much. In fact, the two of them are inseparable. Probably the biggest vise Tucker has is his addiction to candy…a problem that many of us can relate too. The old sweet tooth. The good news is that with birthdays come sweets, and today is Tucker’s 8th birthday. Happy birthday Tucker!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
On Sunday morning, our congregation was treated to my niece, Kellie’s debut on the piano. Kellie is an accomplished singer, and loves music ministry, but this was the first time she had ever played the piano in public. She told us that she loves playing the piano, but until that day, she played in her home…alone. Kellie is a little bit shy, when it comes to performing solos, but she really shouldn’t be, because she has the voice of an angel, and she plays the piano very well too. She told us that God has been leading her to play the piano as part of her music ministry, and I for one hope she will follow that leading and play more often, because it was beautiful. Her God given gifts are many, and her spirit is so beautiful. It is a wonderful mix that makes her the blessing she is.
As I listened to Kellie sing, I once again found myself totally amazed at the woman she has become. Sometimes, it is hard to imagine what a child will become, as you are watching them grow up. Then, when they are grown, and you see what an awesome individual they have become, and you are somehow surprised at what great things they are doing now. I really shouldn’t be, because Kellie has always been this same way, but when I hear her sing solos, and now play the piano too, the beauty of it just brings tears to my eyes. It doesn’t matter how many times I hear Kellie sing, because each time is like listening to an angel in a choir. She puts such feeling into the songs and you know that even though she did not write them, they are just how she feels in her heart. It is God singing through her, and it is beautiful.
Kellie has always been such a sweet girl, and as she has grown into womanhood, her faith has grow to amazing levels. I love the faith filled posts she puts on Facebook, because they are from her heart, yet they minister to so many people. It’s amazing that somehow the things she posts are just the things I needed to see. She is a blessing to anyone who knows her, and an asset to our church. As her aunt, I couldn’t be more proud of her if I tried. From her sweet spirit to her angelic voice, she is amazing. I love you Kellie!!
I saw a picture today of an antique treadle sewing machine, and it took me back to the visits to Bob’s grandmother’s place in Montana. Grandma’s house was filled with antiques. Of course, at the time she bought those things, they were probably fairly new when she bought them. Of course it was not the antiques in Grandma’s house that really came to mind, but the living room they were in, and all the wonderful times we had in that living room. It was the talks and laughter we had there, and looking at her old pictures, and watching my girls playing while their grandmother just enjoyed the time she got to spend with them and us, and the time we got to spend with her. Precious time.
I remember watching my girls trying to play the piano. They played happily…until we could no longer stand it. Even the songs they played fairly well…like Chop Sticks…got old after a while. Still, like my in-laws the memories of moments at and in front of that old piano will always stay in the memory files of my mind. They aren’t there just because of watching my girls playing there, but because of the reminders they bring of Grandma and Grandpa, and the wonderful visits we always had when we went for our yearly visits.
I remember the times that Grandma would show us the beautiful china she kept in the antique hutch. The hutch was so beautiful. Of course the hutch also contained various little knick knacks and other little mementos from grandmas life. You can tell a lot about a person by the things they collect, and Grandma loved beauty. From the things she sewed to the things she collected. Her beauty, both inside and out, was revealed. Still, it was not the hutch that brought the warmth to the room, but the memories the room contained. Grandma’s house was always such a pleasant place to be. It was a house filled with the beauty that was Grandma, and I can tell you from my own experience, that Grandma was a beautiful lady…inside and out.