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OK, I am going to rewrite this post a bit. I’ve heard from the Grand Rapids History Museum about Rose’s death, so that information will be added into this post.

As I mentioned in the earlier versions, I have written a lot in the past about the Mulder family. The pivotal couple was Peter and Nellie (Gorsse) Mulder, who immigrated from the Netherlands with their two-year-old son Charles (Karel) and baby Jan. Here is one of many articles: Peter and Nellie Mulder

All those years ago, when my grandparents gave me the photo of the couple with all their mainly grown children, I thought it was so wonderful.

But guess what? I finally have a digital copy of a photograph from much earlier. This photo is thanks to another cousin interested in the family’s history. Her grandmother was my great-grandfather’s sister, Cora. So let’s see who is in this new, even older, photo.


The couple seated are, of course, Peter and Nellie. Here they are still young. Charles, my great-grandfather, born 1885, is standing between them. I was startled  how much he looked like my cousin Scot. Standing in the middle is Jennie, born 1887, the first to be born in Michigan.  She married Edward Ralph Kooistra. On Peter’s lap is Cora, the grandmother of the woman who had this photograph. Cora was born in 1890 and married John Lawson Gerow. The baby on Nellie’s lap is indeed Rose/Rosa Melanie as indicated on the photo. Rose was born in 1892, so the photograph is probably from 1892 or 93, making Peter 26 and Nellie 23. So now you see how really young they were here! Peter worked as a furniture finisher in Grand Rapids, Michigan, so the photo would have been taken in that city.

Rose Melanie was named after Peter’s grandmother, Rose Melanie Bataille Mulder. When she died, a bequest to Peter gave him the money needed to bring his family to the United States. Unfortunately, Peter and Nellie’s daughter Rose passed away in 1904.

New info from family and the Grand Rapids History Museum

2nd cousin Niki  says that Rose died in the Great Flood of 1904. Her impression is that her body was taken away on a boat. How horrifying. So I looked up the flood. Sure enough, there was a horrible flood in Kent County in 1904. CLICK HERE This article states that no lives were lost. Well, isn’t that a strange thing then that a branch of our family carried the story that Rose died in the flood and that her death coincides with the time of the flood?

I contacted the Grand Rapids History Museum to ask why the family might have thought that Rose died in the flood, but that history asserts that no lives were lost in the flood. It only took two days to get a response.

The museum found a death certificate that lists Rose’s death as gastro-enteritis and cardiac asthenia. The date of her death is listed as March 24,1904. This is the day the Great Flood has been reported to have begun. The museum states that it is likely  that she died due to illness the day the flood began rather than die during the flood. Really, this fits with Niki’s understanding that her body was taken away in a boat. She died “in” the flood, meaning that during the flood she passed away. Because of the flood, her body was taken away in a boat. Rose was born on 27 March 1892, so she was just short of twelve when she died. You can see on the death certificate that Rose was sick for before the flood began.

So what caused her illness? My cousin and her husband, both medical doctors, posit this theory:

The death certificate indicates that Rose had cardiac asthenia for 3 months. This is an obsolete term for being very thin and weak, probably bed-ridden. Gastroenteritis could be infectious or something like an ulcer or Crohn’s Disease if she had this for months. Crohn’s is very debilitating and really tears up the gut mucosa.  Rose then became acutely ill (toxic or ?? toxaremic), possibly with a high fever of 106 degrees. We don’t know what caused that but it was some sort of infection, possibly even from a perforated bowel if she had Crohn’s. Kids can also get stomach ulcers that can perforate. There would have been no treatment available then except aspirin for the fever. Well water was often contaminated with bacterium H-pylori which causes stomach ulcers. We don’t know if the family had a well or drank city water, of course.

 

Peter and Nellie followed Dutch tradition and named a future daughter Rose as well. After this photo was taken, they had Henry in 1897 (married Hettie Mae Simpson), Peter in 1900 (married Alida Vader), Nellie in 1902 (never married), and Rosa in 1906 (married John C. Kohles).

The discolored tape down the middle of the photo can probably be removed digitally by a photo restorer. Since I know several people who do this work, I might have this done at some point. Although this isn’t the oldest photo in my “collection,” it feels as if it is because these are direct ancestors who immigrated from the Netherlands–and they are young. Additionally, I am seeing my great-grandfather (who I knew) here as a child!

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Charles Peter Mulder was born to Clara (Waldeck) and Charles Mulder on 30 July 1917 in Caledonia, Michigan, most likely at home. He was the youngest of the five Mulder children. They grew up on their parents’ farm.

Chuck Mulder, high school graduation photo

As a teen, Chuck, as he was known, was very good-looking and a favorite with the ladies. But he was a bit oblivious to all the girls fawning over him. He wasn’t as outgoing as his brother, but he was no doubt very intelligent.

Around the age of 22 Chuck left Caledonia and boarded with the Patrick Slattery family at what I believe was 911 S. Park Street. It was transcribed from the 1940 census as Stock Street, but that is incorrect. This is a Google maps image. It looks like the house is still standing.

Also according to the 1940 census, Chuck’s fellow boarder was his brother Peter Mulder and their first cousin, Herbert Waldeck. I don’t recognize the names of the other boarders, although several of them are the same age range as Chuck, Pete, and Herb. Lines 21, 22, and 24:

Both Chuck and Herb enlisted on 16 October 1940 in Caledonia. Chuck’s employer is listed on the draft card as none. Herb’s lists his employment as the Fuller Manufacturing Company.  Because they enlisted together, it’s a bit surprising to me that Chuck went into the U.S. Army, and Herb became a sailor in the U.S. Navy. Chuck’s brother Pete had suffered a ruptured appendix and was therefore exempted from military duties.

On the front of the draft registration, we see that Chuck’s telephone # was 28F2. Imagine a phone number like that!

From the backside of the draft registration we can see that Chuck was nearly six foot and had brown hair and hazel eyes.

This whole project to write about my grandmother’s siblings began with my Uncle Don telling me that Uncle Chuck (his uncle, my great-uncle) was a war hero and that perhaps his story could be researched.

I did as much online research as I could do before I asked Chuck’s daughter Susie to order his military records from the National Archives. Then Covid struck, and the archives have been unavailable for family history research purposes. I asked Myra Miller if her team at Footsteps Researchers would be able to help. They are also stymied by the closure of the archives, although one of her people sent me a few online documents. One of them was a newspaper article I had not found myself.

In the meantime, since I started with the oldest of Grandma’s sibs, Dorothy, I had some time before I would put together Chuck’s story as he was the youngest of the bunch. I’ve long since finished stories of the other three siblings. I’ve stalled a long time, but have decided to go ahead and write about Chuck since the archives are still unavailable to us.

In a newspaper clipping from the Ironwood Daily Globe, Ironwood, Michigan, on 19 June 1944, Chuck, a machine shop worker, according to the paper, is quoted: “We’re going to give them the works; that’s all there is to it.”  At that point, Chuck was eager to go after the enemy.

Then I have the data from the army enlistment records.

The above enlistment record states that Chuck had four years of high school, but he was considered “unskilled labor” for the army. He would be trained by the army and gain a skill, though, in communications.

5th from right 2nd row

Below is a photo of Uncle Chuck from 1944 in Germany.

Here is another group shot, but we do not have the date. Doesn’t this look like it was taken the same time as the solo shot?

This group photo was taken 10 March 1944. He is front row, 3rd from right.

I wanted to find out if Uncle Chuck was really a war hero. An article in The Grand Rapids Press 8 March 1945 corroborates the story that Uncle Don had told me about Uncle Chuck’s radio team being involved in a dangerous mission to communicate across enemy lines in Germany.  Chuck (Sergeant Mulder) was Radio Team Chief.

Here is the article, and I follow it with a transcription for ease of reading.

CALEDONIA MAN GETS BRONZE STAR

Caledonia—T/4 Charles P. Mulder, Jr., has been awarded the bronze star for “zealous determination and unselfish devotion to duty” with the army signal corps in Germany, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Mulder, sr., have learned.

“His parents have received a citation accompanying the medal, which asserted the award was made “for meritorious conduct in action in Germany.” It declared Mulder distinguished himself “by outstanding performance of duty as a radio operator with a communications team of an infantry regiment engaged in rolling back the Siegfried line after a penetration and in encircling a strongly defended enemy city. The courage, zealous determination and unselfish devotion to duty contributed much to the efficiency of the communications in this most difficult period.”

The citation is signed by Maj. Gen. L. S. Hobbs, commander of the 30th division to which Mulder is attached.

Below you can read the letter that Maj. Gen. Hobbs wrote about the “30th Signal Company.”

Chuck’s grandson Andy believes that the bronze star, since there is no mention of a “Combat V,” suggests that the award was given for doing a difficult job in arduous circumstances exceptionally well rather than for a single act of valor or gallantry. He said this makes sense since Chuck was a technical specialist and not a line infantryman. He still had a complex, difficult, and dangerous job to do.

Andy also clarifies Chuck’s rank since we do not have the archival records. He inherited 30th ID patches and a rank insignia for Technical Specialist 4, probably the highest rank Chuck held. This was a specialist rank equivalent to a buck sergeant – E5 in today’s pay scale. While this was a non-commissioned officer rank, technical specialists held no command authority.

Backing up a little over a month, in a letter written February 1 from Belgium to his parents (quoted in the above newspaper article), Chuck wrote: “Yesterday I had quite a surprise when I was awarded the bronze star medal by our commanding general. He gave it to me and then shook hands. This bronze star means five more points in the discharge point system.”

In a postscript, Mulder wrote: “I also have an ETO (European theater of operation) ribbon with two battle stars on it. I nearly forgot to tell you this. The two stars are for Normandy and the other countries. We will get another one, at least, for the Germany campaign.”

You can see that Chuck went from an eager entry into service to counting up points until he could be honorably discharged. This shows that he had experienced and seen a lot of war.

I wanted more information about Chuck’s participation in the war. He was with the 119th Infantry Regiment, which was a part of the 30th Infantry Division. According to Wikipedia, “The 30th Infantry Division was a unit of the Army National Guard in World War I and World War II. It was nicknamed the “Old Hickory” division, in honor of President Andrew Jackson. The Germans nicknamed this division “Roosevelt’s  SS.” The 30th Infantry Division was regarded by a team of historians led by S.L.A. Marshall as the number one American infantry division in the European Theater of Operations (ETO), involved in 282 days of intense combat over a period from June 1944 through April 1945.

Let me repeat that: “the number ONE American infantry division in the European Theater of Operations.”

In a book owned by grandson Andy who has made his career in the military, Chuck is mentioned in an incident that occurred. This book has no ISBN and most likely was printed as a souvenir. Andy explains that “there is a long tradition of books like this in US military service. Think of it being akin to a high school yearbook, and assembled by some of the soldiers themselves. The Navy calls these ‘cruise books.’”  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruise_book Do any readers know what the army calls these books?

Andy continues:  “The best I can say is that the book was probably printed over the summer of 1945 (while the 30th was waiting their turn to be sent back stateside). Unfortunately the author(s) are not credited by name in the book. It’s remarkable to me that a company would have had their own book in some ways – a U.S. army company is generally 3-4 platoons and no more than around 200 people at full strength. A reasonable assumption is that compiling the book may have been something for otherwise bored officers and senior NCOs to do during the summer of 45 to keep them productive, though it’s entirely possible that more junior personnel did most of the work. We’ll never know unfortunately. I don’t know if it was common for companies to have produced souvenir books like this in WW2.”

Andy surmises that Chuck was probably stateside when the book was printed. His photo is one of those “unavailable” on the bottom left of the second page.

In memory of the lives that were lost.

Note the name Dale E. Stockton as one of those lost and keep reading. I will post the pages here and transcribe them below.

BOOK PAGES

“Sergeant Mulder’s team was with the 119th Infantry Regiment at the time the great offensive for St. Lo began. Our artillery had been pounding away for hours. Planes were overheard, flying in the initial bombing assault. The Regiment was on the road moving forward to the attack.

Orders were that only two men could ride in a vehicle. So Bennie Keech drove the Radio command car. “Dale” Stockton sat in the back operating the set, and “Chuck” Mulder marched to the side and a little ahead of the car. Bennie had to keep the car right in the center of the road, because the Infantrymen were marching in column on both sides of it.

As they moved down the road, the fury of the great battle grew in intensity. Then came the sound of falling bombs. Dale Stockton was fataly [sic] wounded. Bennie Keech was knocked unconscious by a bomb blast, a blast that lifted the car from the road and pushed it over to the side. Bennie was evacuated to a first aid station, where it was discovered that he had suffered a severely sprained back. “Chuck” Mulder was uninjured but his nerves were badly upset by the experience.

Bennie was able to rejoin the Company in a couple of days, and he and Chuck were together until just a few months before the war’s end. Then Bennie received a furlough to the good old USA, and shortly afterward, Chuck was evacuated for a physical check-up. The men of the Radio Section miss Chuck Mulder and Bennie Keech. They miss and salute Dale Stockton.

His grandson describes it this way:

The book talks about how this incident occurred during the offensive for  Saint-Lô with planes that were flying overhead in the initial assault. Tragically, it would seem that the event described in this book was a friendly-fire incident. The 30th Infantry Division was tragically bombed by our own aircraft in one of the most controversial incidents in WW2, which involved the attempted use of heavy strategic bombers to support ground forces. http://www.30thinfantry.org/st_lo_battle.shtml

At the same time or shortly after he wrote that letter from Belgium, Chuck was admitted to a convalescent military hospital where, according to the following index, he stayed until August 1945.

The diagnosis is withheld by NARA, so it’s possible that if we get the records from the archives the information will be in there.

We do know that after what Chuck experienced in Europe, he suffered from what is now called PTSD. It used to be called “shellshock” or “battle fatigue.” Seeing his fellow soldiers killed, especially by friendly fire, was a defining moment in his life.

On a light note, at one point during the war, Chuck and his cousin Herb went to Missouri on leave. They went to a restaurant and bar in either Kansas City or St. Joseph. A pretty girl named Ruthann Holton (a resident of Sparks, Kansas) who worked for the Chase Candy Company in St. Joseph, MO, was out with her friend. Chuck and Herb flirted with the girls.  It turns out that Chuck really liked Ruthann, but Herb thought it was a mistake for him to get involved with her. So Herb did his best to confuse Chuck about her name and address. Chuck sent Ruthann a letter to Miss Maryanne Holman. Somehow what happened next was out of Herb’s hands as the letter was delivered to Ruthann anyway.

On 10 December 1944*, Chuck sent RuthAnn a Christmas V-mail, so they had definitely become “sweethearts” by then. (*I am not sure exactly how V-mail worked. If Chuck didn’t post it on the 10th it would have been before that date).

Here is a letter that my great-grandparents sent to Ruthann.

On 9 July 1945, Chuck and Ruthann married at Raton, New Mexico. He was back from Germany and stationed at Camp Carson, Colorado. The couple were to live in Colorado Springs, which is where Camp Carson is located.

Now, how did the couple get married in July if Chuck was still in the hospital until August? That question led me to wonder if he was hospitalized, but more as an outpatient, at a hospital at Camp Carson. Camp Carson was huge and had at least eighteen hospitals!

My Uncle Don has some of his own memories of Chuck that I’d like to share. Uncle Chuck was his hero while my uncle was growing up. He tells me that my grandmother, sibling #2 had a special bond with her younger brother. Chuck was the youngest of the siblings, and he turned to my grandmother for advice. This is probably quite usual in larger families where an older sibling becomes close with the youngest.

Chuck and Ruthann had one child, their daughter Suzanne, who studied at the University of Michigan, volunteered with the Peace Corps in Malawi, and went to medical school at Johns Hopkins University on a full scholarship. I still have the wooden figurine that Susie brought me back from Malawi.

Chuck and Ruthann both worked very hard until retirement, although they did like to go out dancing before Ruthann experienced foot troubles. I remember them enjoying polka dancing. Chuck was the first to retire from The Upjohn Company, as he was seven years older than Ruthann. He walked most mornings with some retired friends. He also did most of the housework, yard work, and made dinners for Ruthann. He had atherosclerotic arterial disease in his legs, which caused him a great deal of pain. He also became legally blind from glaucoma. This disease runs in my family. Chuck would have inherited it through his mother’s Waldeck branch. Chuck voluntarily quit driving when he retired, and he used to try and read the Kalamazoo Gazette every day with the use of magnifying glasses.

In the photo below, Grandma and Grandpa are surrounded by her siblings and their spouses. Chuck is in the front row in the pink shirt. Ruthann is to his right.

Ruthann retired at age 65, but she wouldn’t have retirement time to spend with Chuck. He passed away far too early from a fast and mysterious affliction. Susie suspects he infarcted (blood clot to artery) his intestines as he went to the hospital with sudden, severe abdominal pain and became septic shortly after his admission. He was only 72 years old.

Chuck and Ruthann are buried together at Mount Ever-Rest Memorial Park South in Kalamazoo. For years now, on Memorial Day, my brother has visited  their grave with flowers to honor Uncle Chuck’s service and heroism.

 

 

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When I posted about Uncle Pete and Aunt Ruby, I didn’t have the best photo of their headstone, so I put in a request at Find-A-Grave. A kind volunteer obliged me by taking these. I’m going to add them to my original post as well.

Here are closeups with the locket closed and open.

The headstone mentions Psalms 23, so I thought I would share a version here.

Psalms 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

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When I was growing up, I was given a vague idea that my maternal grandmother’s mother wasn’t Dutch like the rest of my mother’s family, but German. Once I began to search my family history, I quickly saw that the records were Prussian, not German. That still sounded German to me. (Before you tell me there didn’t used to be any such thing as “Germany,” but rather German states, I know that, but they were “German,” to my mind).

My Prussians were quickly my worst brick wall, and although I picked at the threads of the mystery a bit over the years, I didn’t accomplish too much until a couple of years ago. That’s when I found some records for the births of my great-grandmother’s siblings. This was a short-lived accomplishment because my great-greats may have moved around for work, so I still had no idea which province of Prussia they were from.  Without that knowledge it is impossible to find their birth and marriage records. To find their parents and grandparents.

Very recently I began to piece together enough information and knowledge to theorize that my relatives were actually from Pomerania, which was the part of Prussia which bordered the Baltic and is now in Poland. I even wondered if they were from northern Pomerania, right near the sea, and even more, from Slupsk or that vicinity. The place names on documents are garbled and there are versions of each place in several languages, but a doc seemed to indicate Świecichowo (Polish) or Schwetzkow (German). This town is in Slupsk County. I explain this doc here. I felt  confident enough to present this theory on this blog, but I’ve been busy so I didn’t write that blog post.

Then something else happened. I went onto my Ancestry DNA “headquarters,” and looked up the new and more thorough ethnicity info–specifically for my mother since her maternal grandmother was the Prussian. And guess what? I don’t have to theorize any longer. Ancestry has done that for me. According to Ancestry, my mother’s Prussian Ancestry is precisely NORTHERN POMERANIAN and NORTHWESTERN POMERANIAN–and if you look at the map, most likely the Slupsk region. Furthermore, the reason Ancestry can fine tune to this region is that Mom’s ancestors lived in that area for many years.

I had to look up Slupsk, of course. From Wikipedia:

Słupsk (Stolp, in German) had its origins as a Pomeranian settlement in the early Middle Ages. In 1265 it was given town rights. By the 14th century, the town had become a centre of local administration and trade and a Hanseatic League associate. Between 1368 and 1478 it was a residence of the Dukes of Pomerania, until 1474 vassals of the Kingdom of Poland. In 1648, according to the peace treaty of Osnabrück, the town became part of Brandenburg-Prussia [and was under Swedish military control (Swedish dominion)]. In 1815 it was incorporated into the newly formed Prussian Province of Pomerania. After World War II, the city again became part of Poland, as it fell within the new borders determined by the Potsdam Conference.

In a nutshell, the area was Slavic tribes, then Polish, then Swedish, then Prussian, and after WWII Polish again. This is with little blips of time as German and Danish.

It’s very satisfying to feel this close to finding Gottfried and Alwine (Noffke) Waldeck’s origins. Maybe before too long I will find their birth and marriage records.

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I first posted this photo years ago, wondering who the girl could be. Then I found a photo of her with Alice Leeuwenhoek, which gave a bit of context regarding her age. However, now I can finally post the name of this beautiful girl. Her name is Ruth Case and she was born around 1906. She lived in Ross Township in Kalamazoo County, according to the 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses. In 1940 she was still single, living with her parents, her brother, and most likely her sister-in-law and niece.

The Case home was apparently a farm in Augusta, Michigan, which is Ross Township, owned by Ruth’s father, Charles Case.  Their property was just a bit north of W. E. Upjohn property (sections 28 and 27), which you can see on the map (C. M. Case in sections 16 and 22). The Upjohn estate was called Brook Lodge and eventually became a retreat for the Upjohn Company (pharma). I have photos that Alice took at Brook Lodge, including some with my grandfather.

These photos could have been taken in Augusta or in Kalamazoo.

If you have any further information about Ruth or her family, please let me know and I will update this post again.

***

Over two years ago I published this post, asking for the identity of a girl in a photo I discovered. I have another clue now, which I will post at the end.

***

The photograph was created from a glass negative taken by Joseph DeKorn. All of his photographs were taken between approximately 1895 and 1918, and the majority were shot in Kalamazoo.

Although I don’t know who this lovely girl is, I have hopes that I can eventually discover her identity. The juxtaposition of the two houses might lead to a solution, for instance.

Any ideas on the time period of the dress, hair, and shoes (within that 1895-1918 range)?

I remember wearing tights that bagged at the knees like these stockings. Do you think they are cotton?

I’ll put Balch Street and Burdick Street in the tags for this post, just in case it was taken in the neighborhood where Joseph lived.

***

OK, THE NEW CLUE.

I found another photo of the girl, taken probably at the same time, at the same place, but with the addition of an adult Alice Leeuwenhoek, but most likely before her marriage to Clarence Moerdyk.  The above photo was made from a glass negative, but this one was an actual photograph I found in a different family collection.

Alice was born in 1897, so can we say that this photo is somewhere around 1917?

 

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When I was growing up, my grandmother’s sister Vena and brother Chuck lived in Kalamazoo. I knew the family grew up in Caledonia, which is in Kent County, not Kalamazoo, so it was more surprising that three of the siblings ended  up in Kalamazoo than that Peter and Dorothy lived out of town in more rural areas. Here are the five siblings: Chuck, Vena, Edna (Grandma), Dorothy, and Pete.

Peter Godfrey Mulder was the fourth child and older son of Charles and Clara (Waldeck) Mulder. Godfrey was the Americanized version of Gottfried, the name of his Prussian maternal grandfather. Peter (Pieter) was his Dutch paternal grandfather’s name. He was born on 2 November 1915, most likely in Caledonia. He’s the baby in this photo

As he grew older, Pete became an all-star athlete at Caledonia High School. He was very popular with the girls. Pete wanted to go to engineering school after high school, but that dream was cut short because he suffered a ruptured appendix. He was not able to serve in the military.

When Pete recovered from the medical emergency, he lived in Kalamazoo and worked in a factory; he lived with his brother Chuck and cousin, Herb Waldeck.

Pete met Ruby Elizabeth Ayers, a cheerleader from Martin High School, at the Dixie Pavilion, a popular dance club overlooking Doan’s Lake, south of Wayland. Duke Ellington and his orchestra played there. Both Pete and Ruby loved to dance.

Pete and Ruby (born 6 February, 1920) were married on 10 August 1940, when Pete was 24 and Ruby was 20. Here is their marriage record. They were married, as were Vena and Al, by Pete’s cousin, Ed Waldeck.

At that time, Ruby had been living in Martin and already working as a teacher. She attended “County Normal,” where one could teach school in a rural setting with little formal education. Ruby taught at Jones School in Dorr in a one-room school house.

Later, Ruby took correspondence classes to finish her teaching degree. Her daughter, Shirley, remembers taking classes with her mother when she was a teenager. Ruby later taught in an elementary school for Wayland Union schools, which she loved.

Pete and Ruby lived with his parents on the farm in Caledonia for a few months before buying an 80-acre farm in Martin, which is in Allegan County, NW of Kalamazoo. All three of the children, Larry, Shirley, and Sharon, were born in Allegan County. At the back of the property was a lake, called Lake 16. Ruby liked to swim and made sure all the children took swimming lessons and craft classes in the summer through the school district.

Pete became a dairy farmer, milking all of his cows by hand. The whole family drank their milk from these cows and it made wonderful whipped cream as well. Later, Pete gave up being a dairy farmer and raised beef cattle (angus). The whole family would put buckets on the maple trees in the spring of the year to collect sap so Pete could boil it down to make maple syrup. Then Ruby would can the syrup and other fruits and vegetable to hold them over for winter. The children were always present in activities around the farm. Pete continued to work in the shop in Kalamazoo as a Tool and Die Maker in the winters for additional income. Pete and Ruby
loved to live life to its fullest. They were active in their community. They were always entertaining relatives or visiting relatives on a weekly basis. They participated in a square dancing group.

 

Here is Uncle Pete and Aunt Ruby’s whole family at their farmhouse on Thanksgiving, November 1952. All Grandma’s siblings and their families attended, as well as her parents. This was the last holiday season her mother was still alive. The next year they would hold Thanksgiving at Dot and Con’s house. Photos here.

And here is Ruby from the same day:

Here is a photo at Pete and Ruby’s on the same day with all of Grandma’s parents’ grandchildren.

It was fun to visit their farm in Martin because Shirley (who was on the Queen’s Court, Allegan County Fair (one of the largest fairs in Michigan), and won the Cherry Pie contest, and Sharon were teenagers when I was a little girl, and they were very sweet to me. Aunt Ruby herself was a very sweet woman. She reminded me of country and gospel music, so I must have heard it at their house. Uncle Pete loved to sing country music. The stereo was right where you walked into the living room. Uncle Pete used to sit with the other men on lawn chairs outside under the big tree. Pete loved to play horseshoes in the summer and bowl during the winter time. When the children were teenagers, he bought a speed boat and took the children waterskiing on the lakes in the area.

When the couple neared retirement age, they built a mobile home park on their farm along the lake. They also sold mobile homes as a side business. They traveled to Hawaii and made several trips to Las Vegas.

Pete and Ruby’s daughter Sharon experienced a great deal of loss and succumbed to cancer at the age of 67.  She was a teacher of K-2 and also Headstart. As a teen, like her big sister Shirley, she was a drum majorette and later on Sharon took over her sister’s baton twirling business. Their brother Larry, who was a draftsman and engineer for a Volkswagen subcontractor, died at age 59 of brain cancer.

Pete died in 1986 at the age of 70 of cancer.

 

 

You can see from Pete’s obituary that he developed and was the owner operator of the mobile home park, but there is no mention of his earlier life as a farmer.

Ruby was living in a mobile home park in Wayland when, on 6 February 2007, her mobile home caught fire and Ruby was not able to get out of her home. Tragically, she died on her 87th birthday.

I put in a request at Findagrave for a good photo of Pete and Ruby’s headstone. A kind volunteer obliged me by taking these.

Here are closeups with the locket closed and open.

The headstone mentions Psalms 23, so I thought I would share a version here.

Psalms 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

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Mary Ann S., who runs the Facebook group Reconnecting Kalamazoo, made a big find relating to this blog and my family. Thank you so much, Mary!!! She emailed me that she had found something on ebay I might be interested in.

Let me catch you up on something first.

Four years ago, I published a post on some of my research into Frank Tazelaar. I had found dozens of newspaper articles about Frank. Check out my post, After Reading Fifty Newspapers about Frank Tazelaar. Frank was the husband of my 3x removed 1st cousin, Genevieve Remine Tazelaar. Actually I’m related to Genevieve through two branches of the family so that isn’t reflected in the “3x removed 1st cousin” label.

In that post I wrote about a fish supper held by the Knights of Pythias. Here is a quote:

On June 25 [1911], there is a somewhat humorous article about the fishing teams of the Knights of Pythias lodge. Frank is one of the team captains.  This article is notable for sharing Frank’s photo. He was about 39 here . . . .

This article is ALSO notable for mentioning my great-grandfather’s fish market! Referring to the fish caught in the contest, the article says, “All fish must be delivered at Zuideweg’s [SIC: should be Zuidweg’s] market in Eleanor Street by Monday noon . . . .” So you know the connection, Genevieve Remine Tazelaar was the first cousin of my great-great-grandfather Richard DeKorn whose son-in-law was my great-grandfather Adrian Zuidweg who owned the fish market. Now the most important part: Richard DeKorn built the Pythian building known as Pythian Castle and, earlier, as the Telegraph Building. The link explains about the building.

I’ve posted a photo of the fish market in the past.

Fish Market on Eleanor Street with Adrian Zuidweg and helper

Now, what is the big find?

A mailer/flyer about the fish dinner!!!!!! Yes, I definitely ordered it from ebay.

It’s very hard to get the color right in a photograph or a scan, but it is actually fire engine red. Notice that my great-grandfather’s fish market is mentioned on here, as well as Frank Tazelaar as one of the captains.

I think this card might have been addressed to Vernon G. Bellows, a nurse at the Kalamazoo State Hospital in 1911. I found him in the City Directory. I realize the initials are switched, but that would be an easy mistake or even the way Bellows sometimes signed his name. Maybe he was a member of the Pythians.

Imagine finding a family treasure on ebay!

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I found this photo in my mom’s childhood photo album. She’s holding a very large doll. So I asked her about it, and she told me that somebody from Grandpa’s side of the family gave her that doll. She remembers the doll very well, but some of the details surrounding the doll were a little hazy, as with most memories from long ago.

Mom’s guess was that maybe it was Aunt Tena’s doll. Aunt Tena was married to Grandpa’s Uncle Joe DeKorn, and they lived in Grand Rapids. Their sons, Grandpa’s cousins, were Philip and Richard. So I examined the background in the photo. The rock garden is probably the most distinctive feature.

Phil DeKorn’s album that Sue sent me has several photos of the outside of their house in Grand Rapids. But was there a rock garden? Every photo is from a little different angle and cuts off the sides at different places. Some of the photos led me to believe Mom’s photo was taken at the DeKorn home. Then I found this one with the rock garden, and I was sure. It’s Phil just before enlisting in 1943.

It might even have been Uncle Joe’s camera that took both photos. I’m guessing Mom’s photo was taken a few years earlier, perhaps 1939.

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In my story about Grandma’s sister Dorothy and her husband, Conrad Plott, dated February 17, we left off with this photo of my mother with Aunt Dorothy and Aunt Vena.

Today I am writing about Aunt Vena (to mom’s right–our left–in the photo) and her husband, Uncle Al.

Vena’s full name was Alvena Nell Mulder at birth. She was named after her grandmother, a Prussian immigrant, Alwine Noffke Waldeck. Although the names are spelled differently in German and American versions, they are pronounced similarly. I never heard Aunt Vena called anything but Vena, so I think she generally went by her nickname.

Vena was the third girl (Dorothy, then Grandma, then Vena) and third child of Charles and Clara Mulder of Caledonia, Michigan, and she was born 20 October 1913, probably in Caledonia at the house. Although I have no birth records for any of the siblings, it’s likely that Dorothy was born in Hastings, and then Grandma and the rest were born in Caledonia, after great-grandpa bought the farm.

You can see that Vena was a very pretty girl.

Much of my information about Vena and her husband Al comes from Uncle Don and their middle daughter, mom’s cousin Elaine.

Vena attended Caledonia High School just as her older sisters had done. She was a year and a half younger than Grandma, so the question is, was she “on track” for her age for graduation or did she graduate early as Grandma did? Did she graduate in 1930, 1931, or 1932? The school records I’ve found only go through 1925.

Vena followed her older sister, Edna (Grandma), to what was then called Western State Teachers’ College (now Western Michigan University). I don’t know how Aunt Vena met Uncle Al (although I remember hearing the story years ago and thought it involved horses), but he also attended Western.

Al was born Alton William Stimson in Middleville, Michigan on 20 January 1911. Middleville is a little village near Grand Rapids, and Uncle Don says Al grew up on a farm, and this is corroborated by the 1930 census.

Uncle Don gave me some information about Vena and Al. He said that they were close in age to his parents (Grandma and Grandpa) and that the two families were close. Al actually lived with Grandpa for a time while Al and the two sisters were attending WMU. Al washed the dishes once a month or when they ran out of dishes. Grandpa liked to tell that story.

This is Uncle Al’s 1934 Western yearbook photo. Next to his name is his degree earned: an AB.

I don’t know if Aunt Vena boarded with someone while she went to college, as my grandmother did (with the Schensul family).

Al and Vena married 1 June 1935 in Caledonia by Edward August Waldeck, pastor of the Portland Baptist Church, Vena’s first cousin. I wrote about his bike accident (as a teen) quite some time ago. Here is a 1912 newspaper article about the accident: CLICK HERE

Al graduated from WMU as an Industrial Engineer. He might have first worked as a teacher and then for Atlas Press, before he was hired by the Upjohn Company. He was a a time and motion analyst—time-study. He stayed with Upjohn until he retired at the end of his career.

At the beginning of their marriage, Vena and Al lived on Balch Street in that same area where my grandfather and then my mother grew up. The address was 317 Balch Street, according to the 1940 census.

But then they built a new house on a beautiful lot on Kilgore at the border of Kalamazoo and Portage. Their house and yard were characterized by an excellent sense of design and a lot of hard work. Elaine said that their lovely yard was designed by a friend of theirs so that there were flowers blooming year round when weather permitted. They both liked to garden. Al also kept a small vegetable garden alongside the house. As a kid, I was so impressed by the flowers and the birds that Vena and Al attracted to the yard. The inside of their house was also beautiful with a living room that looked out upon that backyard and a fish tank that mesmerized me. At least three generations of family had many wonderful family gatherings at their home.

Vena left school to start their family, and beginning in 1937, they had three girls in this order: Joan(ne), Elaine, and MaryAnn. The three girls attended State High up at Western’s old campus which was a state training school for teachers and was reputed to be one of the top schools in the state.

Al registered for the WWII draft, but he was not called to service. I do not know if it was because of needing to support his children or because he was color blind.

When the girls were “well along” in school, according to Uncle Don, Aunt Vena went back to college and graduated with Honors in 1962, the same year their youngest daughter graduated high school. This reminds me of my mother who did the same thing. I hadn’t realized when my mother graduated a year ahead of me from college that her aunt had been a groundbreaker in the family.

The Portage Public School System hired Aunt Vena as a kindergarten teacher, which she remained (1st and 2nd a bit, as well) until she retired. I’m sure she was a favorite with the kids and their parents because she had a gentle and elegant manner.

Aunt Vena and Uncle Al were members of the First United Methodist Church in downtown Kalamazoo for over sixty years. This is the same church that my grandparents belonged to and where my mother is still a member. I remember Uncle Al was an usher and my grandfather worked in what I thought of as the “money office.”

Aunt Vena and Uncle Al enjoyed their retirement years golfing, bowling, being members of Club 75, and the Cloverleaf Square Dancing Clubs.

Al kept busy with many craft hobbies. He made Christmas presents of shop gadgets and jewelry that he had made. He made jewelry out of plastic, drilling the flowers into the plastic. He made pins, necklaces, cufflinks, and so on. Some pieces he colored in with nail polish.

When I was a little girl, Uncle Al taught me to say what sounded like oskeewawa every time I saw a white horse. I thought it was a Native American word. When I tried to look it up, I couldn’t find anything until I discovered the University of Illinois school song:

Oskee-Wow-Wow
Old Princeton yells her Tiger,
Wisconsin, her Varsity
And they give the same old Rah, Rah, Rah,
At each University,
But the yell that always thrills me
And fills my heart with joy,
Is the good old Oskee-Wow-Wow,
That they yell at Illinois.

Uncle Don has fond memories of going on many camping trips with the family. He felt a bit like Uncle Al’s substitute son for these adventures. After all, Uncle Al lived in a house with four women/girls ;).

In the next photo, it is Grandpa and Grandma’s 40th wedding anniversary, and they are standing with Vena and Al on my parents’ front porch. The image is blurry, but I like that the two couples are photographed together.

 

In the Christmas photo above, I see Uncle Al and Aunt Vena from the era I knew them best. In fact, we used to go first to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve, and then to Vena and Al’s–at some point my parents’ house was added as one of the houses visited for the Progressive Dinner.

Uncle Al suffered from Parkinson’s and passed away on 11 January 1996 in Kalamazoo.

Aunt Vena moved into what was then the new, state of the art retirement community in Kalamazoo. She died on 9 June 2000, which is the same year that my grandparents died.

They are buried at Mount Ever-Rest Memorial Park South in Kalamazoo.

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There is a tintype in a beautiful family album that I scanned with the other photographs. Since then, I’ve passed by that unidentified photo many times. Something always struck me as familiar; in fact, the woman looked like one of my great-great grandmother Alice Paak DeKorn’s sisters–perhaps Carrie or Mary. Carrie had no children. Mary had two girls and a boy and this woman is standing with two girls.

But it wasn’t right and I knew it. One of Mary’s girls was born much too late to be in a tintype.

So I let it go.

Until I saw it again the other day and it all snapped into place for me.

I focused on the girl with the face in clear image, and I knew who she was. That led me to consider the woman and the other girl.

Bingo. I thought to myself, “We have a match.”

The girl on our left (the woman’s right) is Janna DeKorn, aka Aunt Jen who I knew until I was twelve years old. Aunt Jen was born in 1873. Her younger sister, my great-grandmother Cora, was born Jacoba Wilhelmina DeKorn in 1875.

Alice, Lou, and Jennie (DeKorn) Leeuwenhoek

That means that the woman is Alice Paak DeKorn, their mother. No wonder she looks like her sisters. Gee whiz. Why did I not recognize her? There are a couple of reasons. For one thing, the photos I have of her when she’s older tend to be snapshots, and she had the loveliest smile. In this studio portrait, she is non-smiling, probably because she had to hold still for at least six minutes for a tintype. That would explain why Cora’s face is blurry. She must have moved while the image was being captured.

The other reason Alice looked different to me is that she has darker, curled hair here. She does not have curled hair in other images, and most of the photos show her with light hair, which I  now realize was gray.

If we look back at the image on Kin Types of the tintype of her as a teen or young woman, we can see that her hair was brown and that this woman is, indeed, Alice Paak.

I thought you would enjoy the details of the clothing in the tintype of Alice and her daughters. The photo would have been taken most likely after 1881 when the youngest DeKorn, Joseph, was born. Jennie looks 10-12 here and Cora 8-10. That would place the year as between 1883 and 1885.

I had a thought about the “picket fence” as it seems an add-on since it doesn’t match the possible banister behind them. It looks as if it was used for subjects to “lean on” to help steady them for the long wait for the image to develop.

Here is another photo that was given to me by Professor Lawrence of Jennie DeKorn as a child. Although the photographer’s name is cut off here, I recognize that this photo was taken by John Reidsema who was a professional photographer in Kalamazoo from at least 1888. If this was 1888, Jennie would be 15 years old, which could be right. Notice that the photo I posted above of Jennie with her husband and child was also taken at Reidsema’s studio.

And this one is also from Professor Lawrence of Jennie and Cora.

So I have three good images of Jennie as a child, but only one of Cora because of the blurred face in the tintype. the tintype is especially precious because it shows Alice Paak DeKorn when she was a young mother, whereas our other shots of her are when she was younger and, mainly, much older.

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