One day, when I was a student at Western Michigan University, I was working at the counter in Stanwood’s Luggage and my grandparents came in to look at wallets. We called them billfolds because that was the proper name. My hair was pulled back and clipped at the back of my head. Grandpa startled a bit when he looked at me and said, “You look just like my mother.” My grandmother corroborated that I did, in fact, look like her mother-in-law with my hair pulled back.
Of course, my great-grandmother, Cora Wilhelmina DeKorn Zuidweg always wore her hair pulled back into a bun. She was born in Kalamazoo on January 2, 1875, the middle child of Richard DeKorn and Alice Paak DeKorn. Her older sister, Jennie, was two, and when Cora was six, her brother Joseph Peter, the family photographer, was born.
The City Directories show that Cora was a lifelong resident of Kalamazoo. She married my great-grandfather Adrian Zuidweg (who was born in the Netherlands) on May 19, 1897, in Kalamazoo. She was 22 and he was 26.
Eleven years later, she gave birth to my grandfather Adrian Zuidweg (II), her only child, on October 31, 1908, in Kalamazoo.
My grandfather shared with me some stories about her. My favorite one is about the day she heard a man out in front of her house beating his horse with a whip. She ran outside in a fury, grabbed the whip out of the man’s hand before he had a chance to understand what was happening, and smacked him with the handle.
She must have had a temper. Another story goes that she donated a quilt to her church and then saw it on the clothesline of someone who shouldn’t have had the quilt. She ended up withdrawing from the Reformed denomination to which she belonged and switching to the Methodist Church.
A few years after her husband died, when she was 57, Cora became sick with leukemia. Grandpa told me that the illness “went to her brain.” One day she gathered together all the books in the house, except the Bible, and threw them out of the windows. Then she collected them and burned them in a bonfire.
She died less than four months after her son was married to Lucille Edna Mulder, my grandmother. Grandma reminisced to me that it was very difficult to be newly married and taking care of a terminally ill mother-in-law. Cora passed away on September 12, 1932, at her home in Kalamazoo at the age of 57.