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Posts Tagged ‘Martin Michigan history’

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.

He ended up marrying a cheerleader from Martin High School, Ruby Elizabeth Ayers, born 6 February 1920. The couple married on 10 August 1940, when Pete was 24 and Ruby was 20. She was living in Martin and already working as a teacher. Pete had been living in Kalamazoo and working in a factory; he lived with his brother Chuck and cousin, Herb Waldeck.

Here is their marriage record. They were married, as were Vena and Al, by Pete’s cousin, Ed Waldeck.

Pete bought a farm in Martin, which is in Allegan County, NW of Kalamazoo. Kent County, where Pete was born, is straight north. All three of the children, Larry, Shirley, and Sharon, seem to have been born in Allegan County.

Very quickly, Pete became a successful dairy farmer, which made him exempt from military service, even during the war, because of the need for farmers. In fact, being a dairy farmer during the war was quite lucrative.

Ruby went on to complete her college degree and then was an elementary school teacher for Wayland Union Schools.

Here is the 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 crowned Allegan Fair Queen—Allegan County Fair is one of the largest fairs in Michigan) 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. 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. I’m sure they would chat, but I don’t remember Pete and his brother Chuck as being big talkers.

When the couple neared retirement age, they built a mobile home park on their farm along the lake.

Pete and Ruby’s family saw a lot of tragedy, and although I don’t want their memories overshadowed by the sad times, I feel it’s important to acknowledge that the family went through so much. Their daughter Sharon experienced a great deal of loss and troubles before she succumbed to cancer at the age of 67. Sharon was a very sweet and wonderful person who lived to help others. 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 owned a baton twirling business. Her 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. He preceded his siblings, his wife, and his descendants in death. However, since he, his son, one of his daughters, and a son-in-law who grew up on a farm right by the Mulders, all died early of cancer, it does make one wonder about an environmental cause. A cousin suggested contaminated well water, so I did a little Google research. It turns out that the cancer-causing hormone DES would have been added to the cattle feed they used. Additionally, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound Emissions) found on dairy farms are cancer-causing. The family could have been exposed to these carcinogens in different ways, including through their water supply.

 

 

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 very nice mobile home in her trailer park when she was in her 80s. Then 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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