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Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category

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 wish I had a better photo of their headstone, but this is what I found on Findagrave.

DCIM100SPORT

DCIM100SPORT

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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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Here is an unidentified photo from a family album. The album is from the Remine/Paak branch. Because the subject is a toddler, it is almost impossible to identify the photo. But let’s see what we can figure out.

The most important clue comes from the photographer.

According to the well-researched list of photographers found HERE, I can calculate that this photo must have been taken between 1882 and 1899. See the screenshot below to see how I figured that. Abbey was at the East Main location during those years.

So the fact that the baby looks a little bit like Grandpa is irrelevant because it isn’t him as he was born in 1908. In fact, the child would be at least 11 or 12 years older than Grandpa.

Are we sure it’s a boy? I’m going to say it is a boy, based on the outfit. But if you disagree, let me know!

Could it be Harold Remine? He was born in 1897.

This is Harold:

I don’t see the resemblance. To me the baby pic and the young man pic look alike, but the baby/toddler unidentified pic looks more like Grandpa or even my mother. Does anybody else think the pic does look like Harold?

If it could be a girl, we have Therese Remine, born 1895, and Alice Leeuwenhoek, born 1897, but that baby is not Alice who had a very distinctive look as a baby and child. Here is Therese:

Therese Remine

Another possibility is that the child could belong to one of George Paake’s children. I don’t really think so, but their ages are all within the right time frame except the only boy was born in 1898 and would be too young. And the children would be photographed together, so it could only be the oldest, Cora, and I do not see a resemblance.

Front row: Theresa and Cora
Back row: Frances, George Jr., Jennie (Jane)

The only other child of the right age range from the Paak family (which is the broader branch associated with the photo album this image comes from) would be Joseph DeKorn, son of Richard and Alice, Grandpa’s Uncle.

If the child isn’t Joseph, then I’d have to look a little further afield. Keeping in mind that the Remines were related to Grandpa twice over–through both his maternal grandmother and maternal grandfather–I could look at some other families. However, I have two roadblocks to doing so. I cannot see that Ancestry, which is where my tree is located, has the ability to search by birth dates, for instance. Does My Heritage? i do have my tree loaded there as well. I’d like to be able to search through categories like that. Does anybody know a program that sorts like that?

The second roadblock is that farther out, my tree is still a little too sketchy or spotty to do a good job, especially when I would have to do it individual by individual.

What I can hope for is that one day I can make a good guess as to the identity of this baby. As you probably have experienced yourself, looking like Grandpa or mom is meaningless. My mother and her next door neighbor/good friend are often mistaken for sisters and they do look so much alike, much more than my mother does with her own sister. Mom and her friend just explain to people that they’re both “Dutch” hah. The reality is that we can compare unidentified photos with other photos to search for exact features, but when a child grows and becomes an adult some of those features can change remarkably. We can’t even begin to compare unidentified photos with family branches by examining features.

BUT WAIT.

Belatedly I see something that I didn’t notice before. In the same album there is a portrait of another child which has the exact same advertising from the photographer on the backside. The “setting” looks the same with the same chair. I suspect these are photos of siblings that were taken at the same time.

With the two photos, here side by side, it becomes important to narrow in on the genders and the ages because with the answer to those questions, I might be able to figure it out.

At this point, I really need help figuring out if these are boys or girls or one of each. My feeling is that the older child is a girl and the younger a boy, but that is a guess. And what age would you say each one is? I suspect that if they were considered babies they would be wearing white dresses, no matter what the gender, but the littler one certainly looks young enough for the white dress treatment, so that’s a little confusing. In a word, help!

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I have no idea at all if the Dutch in Michigan celebrated Pinkster 100 or more years ago. Pinkster (Pinksteren is Dutch for Pentecost) is a holiday connected with Pentecost and loosely related to May Day and spring festivals. It typically occurs in May or June. Here is a photo from the very limited Wikipedia article about Pinkster.


Notice how the children hold ribbons around a pole, much like what we tend to think of as a traditional Maypole.

The reason I started thinking about this is because I found this very damaged photo which I believe belonged to Alice Leeuwenhoek, born 1897 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her family, like all my grandfather’s family at that time, belonged to the Reformed church where all the Sunday School children were likely to be Dutch.

If you look carefully at this photo, you will see these children are all holding what looks to be a ribbon of some kind. At first I thought maybe a paper chain, but I don’t think it is. Also, notice the flowers. The children are dressed in their Sunday best and so is the woman standing behind them. This would not be a regular school day, then, but Sunday School or a holiday. I do see the American flag near the woman’s right shoulder which does seem to indicate a schoolroom. Would public school have celebrated a religious holiday if the student body was fairly homogeneous? Click on the photo to enlarge.

Look carefully at the girl third from our left. What is in front of her? Is that a doll on the ribbon? Or, is it what my daughter suspects, a ghost?

If you read more about Pinkster you will see that Africans in the United States took over the holiday and made it their own–and why. It has to do with being enslaved and that it was a holiday where they got “time off” work and could see family and friends.

Do you have other ideas about the photo or see something that I missed? I’d love to hear!

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Santa Fe Love Song, by Brotmanblog blogger Amy Bess Cohen, reads like a valentine from Cohen to her great-great grandparents Bernard and Frances (Nussbaum) Seligmann.  The story of Bernard, a young immigrant from a small town in Germany to Philadelphia and Santa Fe, though fictionalized, gives a wonderful account of what it would have been like for a German Jewish young man to travel across the ocean by himself, get a job, learn English, and within a matter of months, move across the country to New Mexico via the grueling Santa Fe Trail to meet up with his brother. It’s fascinating to read about Bernard’s acclimation to living out west just before, during, and after the Civil War.

The story is of Bernard’s development as an important pioneer of Santa Fe, and his search for a Jewish wife to bring to a place where there were very few Jews, no Kosher foods, and no synagogue. When he traveled back to Philadelphia to look for a wife, he fell in love with Frances, but would she move to Santa Fe with him? And, if so, would she stay? The story is engaging and the suspense level is well-moderated. When the book ended, I didn’t want to leave the lives of the family of Bernard and Frances. I hope there will be a sequel.

Although the reader first meets Bernard when he is nineteen, he ages throughout the course of the novel, so in this one respect Santa Fe Love Song does not fit the definition of young adult literature. The main character is not a preteen or teen. Nevertheless, half the texts recommended for secondary school students have adult protagonists.  The themes and the way mature subjects are handled mean that this book would be suitable for older children, teens, and adults.

Cohen wrote the book, in part, for her own grandchildren to learn about their heritage and the strength of the people who came before them. In keeping with that focus, her grandsons, Nathaniel Jack Fischer and Remy Brandon Fischer, illustrated the book with charming and detailed drawings. They really add to the overall experience of reading this lovely book.

Perhaps the book’s greatest importance lies in how it goes beyond the more often recorded history of Jewish immigrants enriching the eastern American cities where they tended to congregate in the mid to late 1800s and early 1900s. Instead, Santa Fe Love Song has a Jewish protagonist who quickly learns how to ride a horse, shoot a gun, and hold his own against the rough and tumble forces of the early American west.

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Today is where I veer off my “grandma’s siblings” schedule. Instead, I’m sharing some photos of the wedding of one of my dad’s siblings. Uncle Frank married Aunt Dolly at 10AM on 12 April 1958 in Bellwood, Illinois, at St. Simeon Church (501 Bellwood Avenue). Bellwood is a Chicago suburb. At that time, Bellwood had a lot of residents of  Italian, Serbian, and Polish ethnicity. Today it is about 70% African-American. Aunt Dolly’s family had originally immigrated from Poland.

My paternal grandmother made Dolly’s wedding gown, as well as accessories to go with the dress. My grandmother was the head fitter of the 28 Shop (couture) at Marshall Field’s flagship store. She dressed many celebrities and other prominent Chicago people. In this photo, my grandmother Marie is helping Dolly dress on the special day.

Uncle Frank passed away in the fall of 2019, about a year and a half after Aunt Dolly’s passing. They left behind one son, my cousin Dave. Dave’s family is not sentimental and not interested in hanging onto the family heirlooms. So Dave sent them to me. These packages he sent included the wedding dress itself. This is a photo of the detail of the seed pearls at the neckline.

Grandma also made the veil. The crown is the part of the veil that I received.

The garter is just one of several wedding accessories that came to me. This one was store-bought.

Although it wasn’t part of my family’s tradition, in Aunt Dolly’s Polish family, the dollar dance was an important feature of a wedding. My grandmother made this symbolic representation of a money dance apron for the wedding. It’s not only beautiful, but meant to be a fertility boost with pink and blue ribbons and little baby dolls sprinkled all over it. If you click on the photo, you can enlarge it to see the little dolls.

Dave also sent me a huge wedding album, as well as the wedding shower album. I’ve scanned all the photos and will be sending them to Dave for his family. Here is the happy couple. The bride is wearing the apron!

I’ll leave you with one last photo. Groomsman (my father), bridesmaid (my mother), and the flower girl (me), only 2 3/4 years old. Our dresses were blue. My most enduring memory of that wedding is the interminable time we spent waiting through the ceremony for them to get hitched. There was a full mass, and I was supposed to be kneeling the whole time with the bridesmaids. Aunt Dolly’s mother wasn’t too happy that I was so antsy and didn’t want to kneel. The photo was taken before the wedding, but that expression on my face is as if I knew what I was in for.

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My grandmother, (Lucille) Edna Mulder (Zuidweg) had four siblings. The kids were born in this order: Dorothy (aka Dot), 1910-1996; Lucille (aka Edna), 1912-2000; Alvena (Vena), 1913-2000; Peter (Pete), 1915-1986; and Charles (Chuck), 1917-1989. They grew up on a farm in Caledonia, Michigan. My grandmother’s childhood story that most impressed me when I was young was that all the kids slept in the same big bed. The girls across the bed as usual, and the boys perpendicular at the girls’ feet. I used to try to imagine how five kids could get to sleep like that because somebody would always be annoying somebody else. The upstairs of the farmhouse had two bedrooms–one for  the parents and one for the kids. I imagine that in the winter it was cold up there, too, which meant that the group body heat helped keep everybody warm.

You know the Biblical expression “the salt of the earth,” meaning virtuous, good people? That was the Mulder family. Not perfect, but definitely good, dependable people.

This post is devoted to Aunt Dorothy, the oldest of the siblings, and her husband, Uncle Con. That’s how I knew them: Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Con. But when Grandma talked about them it was always “Dot and Con.”

When Grandma and Dorothy were still in school, they walked a long way every school day. Occasionally their mother would take them or pick them up in an Amish buggy, but walking was much more common.

Grandma on left; Dorothy on the right

Although Dorothy and Grandma were in the same grade, Dorothy was 1 1/3 years older than my grandmother. Grandma had to be pushed ahead so that the girls could be in class together. That must have worked out because both girls were good students. You can read about their high school graduation and experience here:

Who Put the Ring Stain on the Scrapbook?

The following, I believe, if Aunt Dorothy’s high school graduation speech, or Salutatory (2nd highest grades in class).

After high school, Aunt Dorothy went to nursing school at Battle Creek Sanitarium. It gets a little confusing because her yearbook was from Emmanuel Missionary College, but EMC had moved to Berrien Springs from Battle Creek by 1901. Actually, the Training School for Nurses was in Battle Creek, called Battle Creek Sanitarium also, and part of EMC. Emmanuel Mission College, operated until 1938. It was part of Andrews University, a 7th Day Adventist institution.

For the cropped yearbook photo below, I left the photo of the other young woman because their names on the right are both on this clipping.

During the time that Dorothy was at school, she met her future husband, Conrad Rudolph Plott, born 21 March 1905, from North Carolina.

This photo of the Plott family was shared by my 2nd cousin, Mike Plott. Uncle Con is in the back row, on our right. The date is unknown. 

They married on 29 October 1934 in Steuben, Indiana. This is what my grandparents did, as well. The marriage laws were looser in Indiana than in Michigan, so they could go “down” there, buy a license, and be married–1, 2, 3.

I was able to order a copy of this application and license.

I do have Uncle Con’s WWII draft card–he was 35 years old. Mysteriously, his name is listed as Rudolph Conrad, instead of Conrad Rudolph. Since I do not have a copy of his birth record, I can’t verify which one is correct. But, as you can see, the marriage application lists him as Conrad Rudolph.

Conrad Plott

Together the couple had three children: Jeanne, John (Bill), and Pat. Jeanne followed her mother’s footsteps and became a nurse. She had a stellar career as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. I know that my family is very proud of her service to our country. John was a college professor. Pat was employed by Western Michigan University as assistant to the chair of the sociology department for thirty years. She and I attended grad school in the English department at the same time.

Uncle Con worked as a mechanic for the Kellogg Company for most of his working days. He was very active in the Kellogg factory workers’ union, even serving as President for a number of years.

When I was a little girl, we went a few times to visit Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Con, but mainly we saw them at large family gatherings. But one day, and this memory is very vivid to me, they stopped by our house. I don’t know if my mother knew they were coming or not. They brought me a present, and no doubt they brought some of the peanut brittle Uncle Con was famous for in our family. His brother Pryor made the North Carolina classic, and Uncle Con used to help him sell it at state fairs and other venues.

I still have the adorable little apron they gave me.

My Uncle Don told me that Con’s family were very welcoming hosts whenever our family visited them in North Carolina. They always had a room to stay in and huge family dinners–“even when we were just passing through.” I am guessing that the passing through was on the way to Florida from Michigan.

My mother still has photos of a train trip she took with Jeanne to North Carolina in 1952. My mother, being raised in Michigan by Michiganders, was struck by seeing the separate drinking fountains and restrooms for black people. She also noticed that the thunderstorms were so much wilder and more severe than in Michigan.

These two photos are two facing pages in a photo album my mother put together when she was a teen.

Uncle Don filled me in on some interesting info about Aunt Dorothy that I could not have gleaned from knowing her when I was a child. He said that when he stayed with “Dot and Con,” Aunt Dorothy talked about her nursing training. She had a lot of strange and humorous (to the listener) experiences. For example, she was assisting in a surgery, not knowing what the doctor was going to do, and he told her to grab the leg and hold it while he performed the surgery. All of a sudden, she was standing there holding a leg and the doctor said, “Just put it over there and help me clamp the veins and arteries.” That was her first experience with an amputation.
My uncle also said that Aunt Dorothy was the best scholar of the siblings and was the “leader of the pack!” She always helped family members and was present when my mother and Uncle Don and their sister were born. She was also there for the death of my great-grandmother, her own mother, Clara Waldeck Mulder. My grandmother trusted her with all medical matters.
Dorothy was very confident and had a take charge personality. She could be a very direct communicator, and the family loved and respected her greatly.

Uncle Con was not only active in the union and busy working at the Kellogg Company, but he was a farmer as well. On their farm, he grew corn, oats, and wheat. They had a big garden and even pasture for the cow.

Notice Jeanne photobombing in the lower right corner. Pretty cute!

 

Here is Uncle Con on his tractor in the 1950s.

 

Dot and Con had a cabin outside of Sault Ste. Marie on the river. One relative says it was the St. Lawrence and another says St. Mary’s. Maybe it was the St. Lawrence Seaway? They spent summers there, but closed it up during the winter.  Con did love to fish and spent a lot of time in his boat,  He also loved to get really close to the big boats. His daughter Jeanne says that very few people would get in the boat with him!

I don’t know what the occasion was for this photo, but here are Grandma’s siblings. The curtain behind them looks like something at a church, so I suspect this must be at a wedding.

Chuck, Vena, Edna (Grandma), Dorothy, Pete

Mike shared this photo of Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Con with Mike’s parents at the wedding of the latter.

In this photo, which was taken in my parents’ front yard, Grandma’s siblings gather with their spouses. The occasion was my grandparents 40th wedding anniversary, in 1972. Standing from left: Con, Dorothy, Adrian (Grandpa), Edna (Grandma), Vena, Al. Kneeling from left: Ruthann, Chuck, Pete, Ruby. So the three sisters and their husbands are in back and the two brothers with their wives are in front.

After Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Con retired, they moved to Florida, where they became an integral part of the community in Estero (Fort Myers area). If I hadn’t already known that, I could tell because I found numerous newspaper articles where Uncle Con, in particular, is mentioned.

Uncle Con passed away on 1 April 1989 in Estero.

At some point after that, Aunt Dorothy must have come back to Michigan. She passed away on 23 May 1996 in Kalamazoo and is buried at Mount Ever-Rest.

 

I have a photo of Aunt Dorothy’s headstone, but I do not have a photo of Uncle Con’s and do not know which cemetery in Lumberton, North Carolina, he is buried.

About a year before she passed, I saw Dorothy at my parents’ house at Eagle Lake. In this photo, my mother is with her aunts, Vena (on our left) and Dorothy (on our right).

 

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