The News From Dysart – First Week of January 1914

The News From Dysart - First Week of January 1914

Top Stories

News was received from the Burlington Hawkeye that a dangerous forger had been placed under arrest in Kansas City and taken to Pawnee City, Nebraska, for trial. The accused, named H.C. Burwell, had several aliases and had been very active in different towns throughout Iowa. The Iowa Banker’s Association had hired the Burns Detective Agency to track him down and bring him to justice. Working with a known accomplice, Mr. Burwell, had forged the name of a Dysart man to secure a deed on a property in Mitchell, S.D. Reports indicate that the forger had previously spent 10 years in the Iowa State Penitentiary.

Local News

Due to the death of Edward Z. Dempsey, the position of postmaster for the town of Dysart must now be filled. Several people have already stated their intention to run for this position including Dr. Redmond, E.F. Douglas, and Frank Sewell.

Construction Continues on Dysart's first electric light plant which will bring electricity to all of the homes and businesses in town.

Farm Report

Eli Messer made the news twice this week. First, he purchased a farm in Black Hawk County for $500 per acre and then he filed papers with the Black Hawk Co. recorder to form a corporation. Capital stock of $40,000 was sited and the corporation was established to promote his dairy farming operation. J. G. Brinkerhoff was the second incorporator.

Schroeder & Goken were busy shipping carloads of hogs from Dysart to markets in Cedar Rapids and Chicago. Hogs were brought to town by several farmers including John Jacobs, Ed Heck, Abe Lincoln, Henry Jansen, Charles Vaupel and Will Christian; as well as Hans Schmidt and Theo Heckt.

T.B. Grain Co. & Marsau shipped hogs to Cedar Rapids brought in by Joe Kosnar, Laurens Ohlsen and Charles Arp.

Kressley & Campbell were busy using a tiling machine throughout the fall and winter. They were laying at least 50 rods every day through 10 inches of frost.


A lengthy article appears regarding the theft of several feathers from a local businessman. This is posted here as it was reported by a Waterloo paper.

Bloodhounds Work In Dysart Brought Down from Waterloo to Trail Man Who Stole Feathers

Last Thursday afternoon Dysart was in a great state of excitement. The sheriff of Blackhawk County had been called to bring his bloodhounds and trail the person or persons who had stolen some feathers from the yard of H.W. Beilke’s place. Mr. Beilke is a produce man here and he has been dressing a large amount of poultry this season. He had about twelve or fifteen dollars’ worth of feathers drying in the yard. Thursday morning when he went to look at his feathers they were nowhere to be seen. There has been a good bit of talk around town about petty thievery that had been going on and when this act became known, some of the businessmen thought it was about time to dig into the matter. A paper was circulated among the businessmen and money raised to hire the man with the bloodhounds.

The dogs were brought here and taken to the Bielke property about three o’clock Thursday afternoon. They picked up a scent very quickly and started east down the railroad track and went two miles east and then north to the road and back to town. They went right through town and south to the Will Ashenbrenner place and circled around the pasture then to the woodshed and then to the house. The house was searched but no feathers were found.

Of course, when this happened, and the hounds ended their search at the Ashenbrenner home it was thought that some of the family was the guilty party. But no feathers were found and nothing to prove any of them guilty only that the dogs had followed the trail down there. The Ashenbrenners, of course, were very indignant about the matter and insisted that the search should go on till the feathers were found to either prove the Ashenbreeners guilty or innocent. If they have had nothing to do with the feathers which they declare strongly, they have been done a great wrong, for public opinion has been bought against them. The opinion will hang to them till something is brought up to provide their innocence. We are in hopes that the instigators of this matter will still keep up the search for the feathers. It is not now a matter of feathers only but a matter of right or wrong to the Ashenbrenner family toward whom the crime has been directed. It is very probable that the party that perpetrated this act is the same that has been doing similar acts around town for some time and if this party is not found and proven guilty the town of Dysart will not gain its full profit by the bloodhound search.

Editor’s Note: Herman Bielke was born in Germany in 1865. He immigrated to the United States in 1870 with his parents. In 1920, he and his wife Mary (also born in Germany) were living in Dysart along with their son, Clarence and daughters Edith and Mary (who married Rudy Havran) and Frances. He died in 1949 at the age of 84 of an apparent heart attack. His obituary notes that he had operated a produce stand in the town of Dysart for 40 years which was located “on the other side of the railroad tracks”. His wife, Mary, predeceased him in 1946. Both are buried in the Dysart Cemetery.

Business News

Farmer’s Lumber Company Declares 15% Dividend for members and elects news officers. At it’s annual meeting members voted to decrease the size of the board from 11 to 7. Those elected to the new board were W.W. McElhiney, Ed Minkel, Fred Leo, W.D. Brandt, E.A. Huppert, H.P. Jensen and Dan Lally.


A basketball game with Dysart at Shellsburg was played on New Year’s night. The score was 44 to 13 in favor of Shellsburg.

There was a wrestling match in Traer on Christmas night. It was reported in the Dysart Reporter that one of the Traer sportsmen got some outside talent in and the event was attended by 11 men.

Social News

The Dysart Reporter was full of social news. With the holidays just passed, there were several notations of Dysart residents traveling out of town to spend time with relatives, people traveling into Dysart to visit and former residents returning home to see their parents and loved ones. Presumably many of these came and left by train as Dysart had an active depot at the time. There were two passengers trains arriving and leaving daily.

Of interest, Dr. Forward and wife of Oakland, Iowa, were at the home of Mrs. N.A. Lawyer visiting. Dr. Forward was noted to be a Napraptic physician who was considering a move to Dysart if the business looked promising.

Editor's Note: A napraptic physician focuses on connective tissue as opposed to a chiropractor who focuses on the alignment of bones.

Dr. H.L. Zimmer came up from his home in South English, Ia., last Wednesday and has been spending the holidays at his home here and with his friends. He is getting along very well with his practice there.

Editor's Note: According to "Stepping Stones in Time" Dr. Zimmer grew up in Dysart and graduated with the class of 1909. He went to the State University of Iowa and graduated in 1913. After graduation, he worked for a dentist in South English. He then went to the Black Hills and played baseball. He returned to Dysart in 1915 and started his dental practice. "


The young people in town presented a stage show at the Dysart Opera House.

Editor's Note: According to "Stepping Stones in Time" the opera house was located where on Main Street between the current fire station and Community Building. It was used by the school for events and sports until 1914 when the school built a gymnasium. The building was dismantled in 1969.

Moving pictures were being offered at the Gem Picture Theater on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday nights.

Notable Deaths

Edward Z. Dempsey former postmaster of Dysart died at age 58 after being ill for some time with typhoid fever.

Mrs. Arthur Sewall, a women in her 60's, died after falling from her second floor balcony. It was reported that she was cleaning rugs over the railing of her sleeping porch when she lost her balance and fell to the ground. She was hospitalized in Cedar Rapids for several days before succumbing to her injuries. (Editor’s note: Mr. Arthur Sewall was an prominent member of the Dysart community having arrived there in 1873. He was a builder and built several homes in the community. He was also the builder of the Opera House. A copy of his biography as it appeared in the History of Tama County can be found on the Dysart Tidbit’s page for those who are interested.

Area Churches

The Ladies Aid Society of the Evangelical Church had a meeting coming up at the home of Mrs. Anna Jessen. Meanwhile the Ladies Aid Society of the Methodist Church was set to meet on Wednesday with Mrs. M. J. McNamee.

German School and Confirmation Classes were set to start on Monday evening, January 4 at 7 p.m. with Rev. H. Christiansen.

Revival Meetings are being held at the Evangelical Church featuring the Gospel Team from the state university at Iowa City. The meeting were being sponsored jointly by the Evangelical Church and the Methodist Church. The meetings have been nightly and according to the paper, the churches were "packed to the rafters". It was reported that Wednesday night, after the meeting was completed, a large crowd relocated to the Opera House where a number of stunts were performed.


Dysart – The Golden Buckle of the Cornbelt

Dysart - The Golden Buckle of the Cornbelt

When I look back on growing up in small town Iowa during the 1960s and 1970s, I realize that for the first 18 years my world consisted of a 20-mile radius from my house.  My town had enough businesses and services that we could get most everything we needed from one of the hardware stores, one of the grocery stores or Dawson’s Variety Store. Occasionally we would make the 20-mile trip to Waterloo for school clothes or on incredibly special days a movie at the Paramount or lunch at King’s featuring a Frenchie and onion rings. Those trips to the city were rare.

King's Food Host

Our shoes were purchased nine miles away in Traer at Frank’s Shoe Store where you could get a pair of patent leather shoes and a toy in a golden egg laid by the big red goose. Those trips always included a stop at the bakery for a treat like a cinnamon swirl cookie to eat now and a bag of treats in a white wax covered bag to take home for later. I can still smell that bakery today and when I am in Traer and walk by the building the olfactory memory hits me hard and I crave something sweet.

Red Goose Shoe Store

My mom’s family lived 20 miles to the south of Dysart in Belle Plaine where we went to visit them and later attended to their graves in the cemetery. These trips usually included a coveted trip to the Maid Rite for a sandwich with a little bit of extra salt, ketchup, mustard and pickles. Add in fries and a malted milk served with the extra milkshake in the metal mixing container and a long spoon and I was in heaven.  I loved to look at the circus train display that adorned the top of their cupboards while I ate a slice of pie.



My dad grew up near Elberon where we would go to see family friends the Homires: Cletis, Cody, Curtie and Evelyn whose names all seemed magical to me somehow. Elberon, with its sidewalk which was higher than the street and looked like something out of an old western to me. A trip to Elberon meant a cold pop from the Coca-Cola cooler in front of the gas station and maybe a bag of Lay’s potato chips.

Water Tower

My dad loved to drive around so we took a lot of rides out into the country. Since my grandparents owned a farm, he had the opportunity to be a farmer but did not appear to want that life. He preferred to farm by observation and conversation, I guess. After leaving the farm, he drove truck for the local feed and seed company and as a result, knew the name of every farmer in our part of the world. It was not at all unusual for him to suddenly turn down a long gravel driveway to someone’s house just to visit. He and the farmer would stand in the yard, smoke cigarettes, and talk about the latest news. I would usually find a kitten to play with or if I were lucky there would be a kid who wanted to show me their barn which was a real treat. I loved the smell of hay in a barn and the adventure of exploring this unfamiliar and to me, dangerous world.

A few miles out past the cemetery which lay on the edge of town, we purchased eggs at Olga Finzen’s. Her son, John, was the best man at my parent’s wedding. Olga was a fascination for me. Dressed in a flowered dress, with a full body apron covering her clothing she would slip on her large men’s rubber boots to go out and retrieve eggs. She seemed tough as nails and sweet as sugar to me. Their house held a hundred smells of cooking and baking and farm life. She spoke with a heavy accent which I found mesmerizing.

Blazeks Park

My parents owned a business in Dysart but every Thursday night, we would leave town and go out to eat as a family. These trips took me to the Washburn Truck Stop, the Lincoln Café in Belle Plaine, Vesley’s Drive-In in Traer for broasted chicken, The 218 Café in Vinton, and The King Tower in Tama. Sometimes we would go to Blazek’s Park on the Old Lincoln Highway in Chelsea. Mom would tell me about its heyday when it was a dance club drawing a large crowd on weekend nights with a lighted outdoor dining area and live music. I so wanted to see that in person.

My dad knew every farm pond and creek in the area and somehow had permission to fish at all of them. At least that was what we were told. Afternoons would find us fishing in a pond behind a cemetery in Geneseo or along the banks of the Wolf Creek near the Brandt’s house outside of La Porte. Those trips usually included a stop at the quarry on the dirt road that that led to the creek. Sometimes we would go to Dudgeon Lake by Vinton and hunt for trilobites along the banks of the Cedar River. My parent’s friends had cottages over by Mt. Auburn where we would spend the day with the Hixes, the McAndrews and the Thorens.


It seems to me now in retrospect that my dad was a bit of a rolling stone. I do not remember spending much time just sitting at home when he was not working. In my memory we were always out driving, fishing, or exploring. I should not tell on my mom but she enjoyed exploring abandoned houses. She was not afraid to go peek in their windows. She never took anything from these lonesome dwellings, but her sense of adventure included having to have a "look see". She also liked to collect wildflowers and many rides included her telling my dad to “pull over Alvin” so she could retrieve the shovel that she had brought along in the trunk and dig up a plant from the roadside or ditch.

Most of the kids I knew growing up experienced “the family ride” and I suppose that many did not enjoy these, but I did. I like to think that growing up in a time without cell phones and electronic distractions allowed me the luxury of developing observational skills. Our rides seemed like mini adventures to me. I spent a good part of my early life either fighting with my brother over the window ledge in the back seat of a car or the bench seat of whatever pickup my dad was driving at the time wedged between my parents, both with their arms resting comfortably out of the window with the wing windows blowing cooler air into their faces. We did not have air conditioning in our home so these drives offered moving air instead of the oppressing humidity that is an Iowa summer day.


My dad also seemed to know where all the best free fruit and nuts were in the county, and I can remember tromping through some woods that were located in the Bohemian Alps along the Duponda Blacktop near Toledo searching for hickory nuts or walking through the woods that would later become Hickory Hills Park hunting for morel mushrooms. I was terrible at finding them. My dad would walk behind me and pick up the ones that I had not already crushed. We picked raspberries along train tracks and pears from my grandparent's orchard.


We went to other places near our home like Clutier, Gladbrook for the Corn Carnival, Vining, and Keystone to attend family reunions at the Turner Hall. We drove out north of town to see the pampas grass by Milne’s farm which still takes my breath away. We went to Vaubel’s pond and the Seven Hills Road where we marched as boy scouts and girl scouts. We drove my brother back and forth to the Boy Scout Camp near that sign for Mooreville, a town which no longer exists.

Further north were the remnants of the wagon tracks that brought settlers west in the late 1800’s and the big round barn. If you look at a map you will see that all of these are within about a 20-mile radius of my house at the corner of Wilson and Grant.


As a child, I knew my town well because it was the center of my life. It was the place where I rode my bike and went to school and swam in the pool and played at my friend’s houses. For a large part of that childhood, I stayed in my neighborhood, a short one block street running north and south connected to two streets that ran the whole distance of my one-mile square world. A collection of nine houses with fifteen kids, give or take a few, depending on who was living next to the Goodwin’s at the time. I was a truly fortunate child. I grew up in a peaceful place full of happy memories and good people.


When we returned from our short trips out of town, we were greeted at three corners by a sign that read, “Dysart, The Golden Buckle of the Cornbelt” and, it really was. I have not lived there in many years, but it stays in my heart as one of the finest places I have ever been.

Dysart came into being because of the westward expansion of the railroad. It was incorporated in 1872 which means this year, 2022, she turns 150 years old. Over the years, I have collected a number of stories about Dysart and surrounding area. In honor of that anniversary, I have set a goal to bring to life some of stories that I have garnered from the past. I am taking it easy on myself and shooting for a goal of one story per month but hoping for more. If you are reading this and want to join the adventure, I say “Welcome aboard!”. I'd love to have you along.


I’m All About Me When I’m on the Motorcycle

I'm All About Me When I'm on the Motorcycle


My husband and I just got home from our first motorcycle ride for this summer of 2020. Like a lot of things this year, our ride had to wait. Knee replacement surgery for him in mid-May meant several weeks of rehabilitation before attempting the bike. I confess we were back on it much sooner than I ever anticipated, and I am very thankful for that.  It was a short ride by our standards but a ride non-the-less and not less enjoyed due to its brevity.

While we were out the reason that I love the bike so much became clear (or perhaps it is fairer to say clearer) to me.  It is the singularity of thought that I experience. I imagine that this experience is not unlike that of people who enjoy riding a bicycle, kayaking, fishing or any other activity in which you are fully engaged. When I am on the bike, I have a million thoughts the vast majority of which I will never remember once I am home. I have written great stories, composed songs, envisioned businesses, resolved conflicts, implored God for his advice and made plans to be a better me on the back of that bike. It's daydreaming at its finest and the luxury of it is that you cannot actually do anything in response to your thoughts. There are no notepads to write down your ideas. There is non "to do list" to add to. There are also no chores or responsibilities to distract me from thinking about well, let’s face it, me and what interests me.


In our early years of riding, I use to try to do more on the back of the bike. I took a lot of pictures. There are not too many barns in Michigan that lie along our usual routes that I do not have a photo of stored on my computer. I do not do that as much anymore. Taking pictures takes times away from enjoying the view and interrupts my thoughts. It is distracting to keep track of the camera and not drop it on the pavement (did that last year….) and when your phone is your hand so are your social media and communication options like email and instant messaging. So now, my phone is generally in the saddlebag. I also use to keep a small notebook with me where I jotted down thoughts and memories of the journey to add to my ride journal. I am glad that I did that. We have several old ride journals and sometimes in the winter, my husband lets me read them to him and we remember together the journeys we have taken. I don’t do that anymore either. I am content now to let it all fly by me. I am content with the thoughts that ramble through my brain and the scenery that I am most immediately seeing.

My sister-in-law and I have a saying “helmet on, world out” and that’s never been more true for me. Sometimes on rides with other people I will try to make a note of something I want to bring up at our next stop about a cow or a car or a building but then we get to the stop and I find it has all mysteriously gone. I saw stuff. I know I saw stuff. I know I was impressed by some stuff, but it’s gone and all that is left is this satisfied feeling that it was a nice road, I had a nice ride and I am happy.


In his book, Lake Wobegon Days, Garrison Keillor relates a story about his early days as a writer. According to his retelling of events he wrote two great stories which he was planning to sell to the New Yorker Magazine. On an ill-fated train trip from Minnesota to the west coast he left the briefcase containing the stories in a bathroom and never saw them again. He said of one of them, “the lost story shone so brilliantly in dim memory that every new attempt at it looked pale and impoverished….”. I have felt that way. I know some of the greatest thoughts I have ever thought in my life have been lost to me during these wind therapy sessions. That doesn’t bother me anymore either. I’m at peace thinking thoughts that will never again resurface. At this point in life, it’s all about the present moment and I am okay with that.

I Think I Finally Understand Etta Stoner

I Think I Finally Understand Etta Stoner


I grew up in a small town in Iowa in the 1960s and 1970s. My little town was one-mile square, planted firmly in the middle of farm country. I was a town kid which was different from a farm kid in those days before the Internet made us all more homogeneous in terms of our experiences and exposure to the world.  As a town kid, my contemporaries and I pretty much had free reign to explore our one-mile square. We were transported beyond the borders of our yards on foot and by bicycle. I do not actually remember spending much time in a car growing up. We went places like “the city” (pop. 75,000) for shopping or to my grandparent’s and aunt’s homes one or two counties away but by and large, we were not taken places within town in the car.


The Neighborhood and Beyond


I lived in a house on a corner lot and my neighborhood consisted of the one street that ran south from that house. This is not to say that I did not have friends in other parts of town but from an early age my playgroup was the kids on that street. You might go to a friend’s house in another neighborhood during the day, but after supper and until the lights came on which was the universal signal for “it’s time to go home now”, we played within that street. Eight houses and one tar shack which housed an elderly man we did not know much about and all of us avoided. Eight houses with a total of about six "playable" kids, by that I mean within my age group. There were other kids in the neighborhood, of course, by some were too old or too young to be considered acceptable playmates. When I type that all out, it seems like a ridiculously small world and I guess it was but at the time it did not feel that way to me. People from my generation like to say that we were raised before bored existed and although it sounds cliche’ there is a lot of truth to that. I do not remember ever feeling bored unless it was raining or snowing so hard that we could not go out.


Directly across the street from our house was the home of Etta Stoner, a woman who my entire life I considered an old widow lady.  I recently wondered about that perception and found that Etta was born in 1888 so by the time I was aware of her in about 1963 she would have been 75 and had been widowed for about 9 years so my perception was not completely unfounded. What may not have been accurate was our perception that Etta did not like children. True or not, it is what we all believed. This perception was reinforced by the fact that our parents encouraged us to “leave her alone” which likely meant give the poor woman a break from your energy and noise, but was received as a more ominous statement of what she would do to children found lurking in her yard.


Her yard did not hold much fascination for the kids in the neighborhood except to say when you are trying to play hide and seek in a one street area, hiding places can be few and far between. Etta had a row of evergreens right up next to the house which were ideal places to hide from detection. Attempts to do so however, would be met by a rap on the window signaling that although you had not been caught but another kid, you had been caught by her and asked to move on. Additionally, she had an apple tree which produced the largest apples I have ever seen in my life and I believe this is where most of the kids in the neighborhood had an issue with her. Etta did not allow us to pick apples off that tree or even pick up the ones that had fallen.

Confessions of a Fruit Thief

Here I will confess to one unattractive facet of my growing up years which is that I was a Class A fruit thief. I think I knew every raspberry patch, grape arbor, and apple tree in every alley in that town and I unashamedly partook of every free bite I could get. As an adult, I understand now what an affront to the home gardener this was but at the time, I did not see it that way. I think I believed that the stuff just grew naturally and was therefore, available for the taking. I should have known better and perhaps I did. Time and memory can allow us to believe a lot of things about ourselves that are less than accurate. Surely my parents told me that taking other people’s fruit was stealing. I know for sure Nancy Thiele our neighbor who caught me in her grapevines more than once tried to impress the error of my ways upon me.

Etta's Great Offense


Over the years, as our childhood passed, we ignored Etta for the most part. Our late grade school and middle school years took us further away from the neighborhood we shared. However, when I became a teenager our worlds collided, and she became the object of my frustration and sometimes downright anger. You see, Etta had a habit of getting up at the crack of dawn to work in her yard. One of the tasks at that hour was to clean the cracks in her sidewalks. To accomplish this task, she would get down on her hands and knees (just a reminder here she was in her 80s by this time) with a metal bucket and a digging tool of some kind. She would clean each crack, place the weeds and dirt into the bucket and then crawl up to the next section, scaping that metal bucket on the sidewalk behind her as she progressed. My bedroom window faced Etta’s sidewalk and so even with my window closed I would be awoken by the sound of her work. Teenagers love sleep and I took her actions very personally. When you are sixteen the thought that anyone at any time of the day would need to clean out the cracks in a sidewalk is plain ludicrous. I remember that I would get up and yell at the first available person which was generally my mother about Etta and her “stupidity”.

I do not recall the last time I saw Etta. I left home in 1976 to go to college and although I returned home during the summers, I cannot tell you if she continued to be able to do yard work during those years. I did a little research on her for this piece and I found that she eventually went to live at the nursing home and died in 1980.

It All Comes Around At Last


During the Covid-19 pandemic and even before, I have been experiencing a lot of challenges with sleep. I am part of the “up during the middle night set” and the “lay awake in bed and wait for daytime crew”. By talking with others and seeing what is happening online during these hours, I know there are a lot of people who are sharing this experience.  I also know that scientifically time moves at the same rate during the day as it does overnight but when you are awake during those hours it seems to move exceedingly slowly. To manage this situation, you find yourself doing things at strange times like scanning old photographs at 2 a.m. or re-potting your houseplants at 4 a.m. The other morning while doing the later, I thought about Etta and realized this may have been why she was doing something as mindless as digging weeds out of the sidewalk at 5:30 a.m. Perhaps, like me, she had been up all night restless and searching for something to do to distract her mind from the frustration that insomnia brings or maybe she was lonely having lived so many years alone. Even though I never yelled at Etta for waking me up as a teen, I apologized to her in my mind and let her know that I think I understand her now. She, like me, was just doing what she could to keep herself healthy in body and spirit. I don’t plan to start digging weeds out of the cracks in our driveway but I am aware that as my unemployment starts and age continues to keep me from a good night’s sleep most nights, I too will be looking for ways to stay productive and that others may find my choices annoying. I will be praying for more grace than I was able to show to Etta at that age.


Notes for my Dysart Friends: Etta Stoner was born Rosetta May Heath in 1888. According to “Stepping Stones of Time” published in 1973 she was the daughter of Benjamin and Clara Heath. “Benjamin Ross Heath, born at Sherman, New York, January 16, 1946, came to the Dysart area in the early 1860’s. Mr. Heath a carpenter, by trade, died November 8, 1917. In 1875 he married Clara Armstrong. Their children were: Mrs. Viola Ludwig Dial (foster daughter), Mrs. Ellen Seeley, Mrs. Etta Stoner, Mrs. Olive Kavalier, John Health and Mrs. Fern Barrett. There were 11 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren. The Heath family lived most of their years in Dysart on West Wilson Street.” 

Etta was an early telephone operator in Dysart. She is shown on the left in the photo above along with Ella Schroeder at the switchboard.

Etta married Sylvan Stoner and they had one daughter names Helen Edwards (Wendall). Etta was widowed in 1854 when Sylvan passed away. He was 12 years her senior. She was a member of the Methodist Church in Dysart. Etta, her husband, daughter and sister, Olive, are all buried in the Dysart Cemetery.

A Walk for Freda

A Walk For Freda

This morning I will be joining in the Walk to End Alzheimer's with about 1,100 other people all of whom will be there because dementia has impacted their life in some way. The weather looks favorable for a good walk in Millennial Park. I know I will see a lot of old friends and work colleagues there and I am looking forward to that. There will be a many smiling faces to greet and likely a lot of shared hugs. It should be a good morning.

One person who will not be there though, is my mother-in-law, Freda, who died after her own journey with dementia. Freda always amazed me. Despite the fact that she never learned to drive and limited her social network to her family, she could literally find a way to complete any project she put her mind to. Over the years, I watched as she wallpapered, painted, built, dug, and planted her way to a home that reflected her so well. She was an amazing decorator, seamstress, baker, and cook. She was also quite an artist. Over the years, we as a family, were forced to stand by and watch as dementia slowly robbed her of these skills. That path was painful and frustrating for all of us and that is why this group will walk today in Grand Rapids and all over the world. The hope that we can find a way to save future generations from a similar fate is paramount to the walk.

The journey through dementia took so much from Freda and from all of us but one thing that she was able to maintain until almost the very end was a sense of belonging. Toward the end of her life, we all gathered for one last Christmas in her home. At one point in the evening, Freda tapped my arm and pointed to one of my nephews and said, "I don't know who that is, but I know he is one of mine." I'll be thinking of her this morning as I walk and be thankful that I got a chance to be a part of what was hers for as long as I did.

Do not ask me to remember,
Don’t try to make me understand,
Let me rest and know you’re with me,
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.
I’m confused beyond your concept,
I am sad and sick and lost.
All I know is that I need you
To be with me at all cost.
Do not lose your patience with me,
Do not scold or curse or cry.
I can’t help the way I’m acting,
Can’t be different though I try.
Just remember that I need you,
That the best of me is gone,
Please don’t fail to stand beside me,
Love me ’til my life is done.
– Owen Darnell


Where Were You on September 11

Where Were You on September 11


In the aftermath of 9-11 Alan Jackson wrote a song the major theme of which is "where were you when the world stopped turning?". No doubt that song will be played all over the country today on the 18th anniversary of what I have come to think of as one of our foremost shared American Experiences. Most of us who were cognizant of what was happening that day will revisit where we were, who we were with and what our initial reactions were. I should state that I make a clear distinction in my mind between the experience of those of us who were not in NYC that day and those who were. It can't be anything near the same and I don't pretend to understand what those people experienced.

I was home for some reason that Tuesday morning. I was sitting on our green plaid couch, cutting coupons from the previous Sunday's paper, wearing a white bathrobe and drinking coffee. These images are sharp in my mind. The color of all these items is particularly seared into my memory. I was watching the Today show when the first airplane hit the tower. It's almost embarrassing to admit today but I had to be told that these events were done on purpose. That thought never entered my mind. My initial and very naive reaction was that something had gone terribly wrong with the electrical system used to guide airplanes.

I am a child of the 1960's and 1970's. Growing up, we had personal knowledge and interactions with the concept of war. Most of the fathers we knew had been in World War II or Korea. Our older brothers and the older brothers of our classmates were either in Vietnam or having their lives effected by the possibility of going to Vietnam.  We sat in front of televisions with anxious mothers and brothers as the selective service draft was drawn. We saw the images of Vietnam almost every night on our televisions, but all of this was "somewhere else". Not in America; never in America.

Alan Jackson's song describes a number of responses that people had that day but seem to me to focus on a just a few themes. Did you withdraw inward to yourself and your own small circle or did you reach out to be with and help others? Did you become a little more appreciative of what you have and value it just a little bit more? Did you curse a world where bad things happen, or did you look for answers and a sense of peace from your faith?

As we all know, the world did not stop turning that day but to me it does feel like it got moved off its axis a bit. I believe that day was full of losses and oddly enough some gains for us. We lost our innocence. We have certainly lost some personal freedoms as a result. But, some of us can still conjure up the feeling of pride we had in our country and our citizens' ability to respond in crisis. I think overall we have a better appreciation of those who put themselves in harm's way to protect and serve us. So, eighteen years later it seems to me that it's worth asking ourselves a similar question to Alan's. "What did you learn the day the world shifted and how have you used that to thrive in your post 9-11 life?".

So You Think You Can Blog

So You Think You Can Blog

You Got This

I got it into my head recently that I should start a blog. I thought tonight might be a good time to get started on that.  I spent some time thinking about what I would name my blog and researching how many other blogs share those titles. Do you have any idea how many out-of-date blogs there are out there on the internet? Apparently, there are a lot of other people who also thought having a blog was a good idea, at least at first.)

The next step was try to figure out how I would access this website that I purchased a long time ago when we had a store. I've been paying to maintain it  just in case I might actually get back to something like that again. I have not worked on this site recently (two years if you can believe the date on my last posting). That process took me about 45 minutes of failed password attempts and failed attempts to figure out which of the several email addresses I have had over the years the request to change the password went to.

I finally arrived back where I started only to be faced with the daunting task of creating a password. I have a whole notebook full of passwords at home and two sheets of passwords at my work. When it comes to creating a password, I'm tapped out. Twice Word Press said I couldn't use a password because I had used it recently. How can that be? I haven't been on here for two years! That fact alone should have gotten me in. Who else would even try those inane combinations of letters and numbers?

Finally, I accessed my website only to realize that I don't actually know what the difference is between a post and a blog. The help menu was no help so I decided I should go look at my daughter-in-law's website.  She's a master at blogging so I knew she would have the answer. Her blog is on a separate page of her website, so that's where I thought I'd put mine. I successfully added a page which is title "The Blog" however as you can see, this post is not there. After an hour or more of searching how to do that, I had to give that part up (for now).

Hang, The Blog page, I'm ready to write something! So, I click on the "write" button and am faced with a blank sheet ready to accept my thoughts and ideas and creative energies. And suddenly, I have no idea what it is that I thought I might blog about. It's like I'm back in school and the teacher has just given the final instructions for the Iowa Basic Skills Test and my mother sent me to school without any #2 pencils!

I know sometime in the next few days, it'll come to me what I thought I might write about on my blog and when it does, I'll be ready (well not entirely, yet).  I can find my website, I have my password written down, and I've learned how to insert photos. But the point is, I started, which was my goal in the first place. At the very least, I'll have an easier time finding the place where I could write if I have something to say.