Oh Happy Day!

November 27, 2010

George and Ruth Larson's wedding, November 27, 1929

George and Ruth Larson, November 27, 1929

On this day, 81 years ago, my grandparents George and Ruth Larson were married.

If you remember, back in February of that same year, Ruth started her job as a switchboard operator at C.A. Burnett Packing Company. Here she met George Larson, a handsome and meticulous bookkeeper for the same company.

My, what a whirlwind courtship theirs must have been! Nine months later, on Thanksgiving Eve of 1929, they were married.

God has blessed this day in, oh, so many ways!

As we celebrate George and Ruth’s anniversary, we also celebrate the many family weddings that followed. All because 81 years ago today, George and Ruth said “I do.”

Oh happy day!

Ruth Hooge engagement 1929

Carl & Sophia Larson, 1895

Carl & Sophia Larson, 1895

How’s this for tricky lighting?

These wedding portraits of George’s parents, Carl and Sophia, are showcased in antique frames with convex glass. Needless to say, they’re impossible to photograph without a reflection (at least with my limited skills). That’s my living room reflecting in the glass, where I’ve proudly displayed them for years.

Carl & Emma Hooge, September 1905

Carl & Emma Hooge, September 1905

Hooge Wedding table display
My Aunt Judy (Ruth’s daughter) displays Carl and Emma Hooge’s wedding portrait together with a table, lamp and chair that are all from the Hooge-Hornburg sides of the family. The beaded jewelry and lace doily are handiwork of my grandmother Ruth.

(George and Ruth’s daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,with their names listed first and their spouse’s second)
Carol & Duane, August 18, 1953

Carol & Duane, July 18, 1953

Judith & Art, August 10, 1957

Judith & Art, August 10, 1957

Diahann and Glen, February 17, 1979

Diahann and Glen, February 17, 1979

Phil & Kim, June 26, 1982

Phil & Kim, June 26, 1982

Rachel & Tom, May 21, 1983

Rachel & Tom, May 21, 1983

Ruth and Scott, June 22, 1991

Ruth and Scott, June 22, 1991

Jonathan and Jenny, June 13, 1997

Jonathan and Jenny, June 13, 1997

Bethany & Tom, December 17, 2205

Bethany & Tom, December 17, 2005

Does Bethany’s dress look familiar?
She wore her grandmother Carol’s dress (see Carol and Duane, above.)

Joshua & Katherine, July 28, 2007

Joshua & Katherine, July 28, 2007

Hey, family! Would you like to include your wedding picture? Send me yours and your wedding date. We’d love to share!


Happy Birthday Helen!

November 22, 2010

Today’s Helen Vert’z birthday and she is 102 years old.

Isn’t that simply amazing?!

For those of you who don’t know or remember, Helen and my grandmother Ruth were the greatest of friends. Long after these lovely ladies were able to get out and about, they continued to keep each other’s company with daily conversations on the telephone. Theirs was a true friendship that spanned half a lifetime.

One hundred and two years old—can you imagine?

You know how when you talk on the phone with an old person and you tell them who you are, there’s always a moment of silence and then this loud, “WHO?”

Well, I’ve gotta say, when I called Helen earlier this summer I did not get that at all. This amazing woman is sharp as a tack. When I told her my name and that I was Ruth Larson’s granddaughter, I got the briefest moment of silence and then “Oh, yes, Diahann! I know who you are!”

She then went on to tell me all about myself, my siblings, and my cousins; where we’re living and what we’re doing. Obviously, she and Ruth did a lot of talking over the years!

“Your Grandma and I have been friends since 1946,” Helen told me on the phone. “We met when she first joined Salem (church) and started coming to Ladies Aid. We were in Ladies Aid together all these years.”

Actually Helen and Ruth both came to Owosso’s Salem Lutheran Church in 1946. As the wife of a pastor, Helen came earlier that year when her husband, Rev. Kenneth Vertz, accepted a call to serve the congregation. Together they served until he retired shortly before his death in 1978.

And then Ruth’s husband George died in 1983.

Suddenly, through no choice of their own, a whole brigade of Salem women found themselves with time and no husbands. Elderly and widowed, yes. Elderly and without spirit? Certainly not.

“We had a lot of fun,” Helen told me. “We’d all get into Ruth (Klingbeil’s) car, and she would drive us everywhere. We’d go to church, then we’d go out to eat and then we’d come back and play pinochle. Some days we would drive for hours.” (In comments to my March 5 post, there’s a funny reference to the ladies. Check it out here.)

At 102, Helen is very likely the last of her brigade. Just recently she’s moved out of her home on N. Park St., and is now living in a senior assisted living center. I spoke with Esther, Salem’s church secretary, and she said today a group of Salem ladies are going out to give her a party.

Those Salem ladies. They’ll always find cause for a party:-)

Two things to wrap this up:

1. Does anyone have a picture of Helen and Ruth? Of all the ladies? I’d love to post it.

2. How about we all send Helen a birthday card? Think how fun it would be. Send her a card telling who you are, how you know Ruth (chances are she’ll already know, but tell her anyway), and, if you’d like, send a picture of yourself. Let me know if you need her address.

A Woman Before Her Time

November 11, 2010

We’ve talked about Ruth as my grandmother. We’ve talked about Ruth as a daughter, a sister, a mother. And we’ve talked about Ruth as a talented craftswoman and teacher.

What we haven’t talked about is Ruth as a career woman. It’s important that we do, because through much of her adult life Ruth was very involved in the business world. She definitely was a woman before her time.

“I attended Linbloom High School (in Chicago),” says Ruth, in her 1990 video interview. “But when I was 15, I quit school and went to work. I worked for Strauss and Schram Mail Order House.”

I wondered if she had wanted to quit high school?

“Well,” answers my grandmother, in a matter-of-fact tone that certainly does not imply martyrdom. “My mother thought it was time. They needed the money. My first wage for the week was $8.18. It was actually $10, but they (employers) took money out because I went to (continuation) school one day a week.

“I cut stencil because I knew how to type and those stencils were used for mailing purposes. I worked there until after I was 16, then I didn’t have to go to school anymore.”

This school—continuation school, according to Ruth—was a type of vocational training. She also attended night school where she learned shorthand and typing.

This is interesting.

I wonder if Ruth’s mother encouraged, or even pushed, for such continued education? Or was Ruth full of gumption and pursued this on her own?

Either way, the skills she acquired allowed her positions much more prestigious than the laundry and housekeeping jobs her mother held at that same age.

Ruth also did her networking. She got her second job via her step-father’s sister’s husband (that almost sounds like a third degree connection on today’s LinkedIn, doesn’t it?)

“My aunt from my step-father’s side—her husband worked at Vierling Steel Works and he got me a job there,” says Ruth. “I ran the switchboard and took dictation until they sold out and the new owners got all new office help.”

Somewhere, someone has a picture of Ruth in her young working days. The picture, so I’ve heard, shows Ruth and several women hanging out for a smoke. I’d love to see that picture! Yes, even grandmothers were once young and radical.

Anyway, as we well know, in 1929, when Ruth was almost 20, she started working as a switchboard operator for C.A. Burnett Packing Company. And there she met George.

I wished I’d thought to ask my grandmother what it was like to meet George at the office? Did they have office romance policies back then? Were there such things as anti-nepotism rules?

Apparently not at the C.A. Burnett Packing Company, because even after they were married, Ruth continued to work there with George until their first child was born in 1933.

Let’s jump ahead now, to 1946.

George and Ruth, together with their daughters Carol and Judith, were now living in Henderson, MI, and were the proud owners of Larson’s Grocery and Market.

“I helped Grandpa in the store for a while,” says Ruth in the video. “But then we decided we needed a lot of things and Grandpa wanted to do some remodeling. So I got a job.

“First I worked nights at a factory. I just worked there from October until that next April.

“And then I got a job as bookkeeper for Michigan Iron & Metal and Babbitt Coal Company. I took care of both sets of books. Then Babbitt Coal went out of business and I worked for Michigan Iron & Metal for 14 years.”

Funny how those things go. As a child, I never thought about my grandmother being a working woman. Or a business woman. Or anything.

She was just my grandma.

And a very special one at that.

The Men in Ruth’s Life

November 3, 2010

I must admit my blog so far has been a bit one-sided in the gender department. My grandmother Ruth was, after all, of the female persuasion and her interests and activities were feminine in nature. Even within her family, the number of females outnumber males by quite a bit.

But that’s not to say there weren’t meaningful men in Ruth’s life. We’ve already mentioned her father, brother and beloved husband George. But let’s take this time to recognize the other very special men in her life—her sons-in-law, grandsons and great-grandsons.

Ruth once told me she felt blessed to have such wonderful sons-in-law. She said she couldn’t love them more had they been her own sons. Perhaps I’m biased but I easily see her point. I think my father Duane (Carol) and my Uncle Art (Judith) are awesome men.

In 1958, Art and Judy had their first child, Philip, who also was Ruth’s first grandson. Not having had any sons of their own, Phil was surely a highlight to George and Ruth. That’s them together in the photo above — George, Phil and Ruth, in Johnson, MN, where Phil was born.

In the years to follow, Dave, Jon and Joel were born to Duane and Carol, and Jonathan was born to Art and Judy. Ruth loved them all and was so proud of them, as she was of all her grandchildren.

Then came the next generation. In all, Ruth has 24 great-grandchildren. Fourteen of them are girls and nine are boys (someone please check that I’ve counted right:-).

My photo supply is limited to my side of the family, and only to certain years. We need more! So men, send me pictures of you together with your families, and pictures of you together with Ruth and George.

Dave and Grandma, 1994

Here’s Ruth dancing with Dave in 1994. I love this picture. The look on her face totally expresses the adoration she felt for her grandsons.

Three handsome men!

What handsome men Ruth had in her life, yes? Here is my dad Duane, and brothers Joel (left) and Dave in a 2010 summer get-together.

Art and Judith and familyHere are Art and Judy, together with their children; (from left) Jonathan, Ruth, Rachel and Phil. The picture was taken in 2007 for their 50th wedding anniversary. Such a beautiful family!

I think genetics are fascinating. When I had lunch with Phil earlier this year, I repeatedly saw glimpses of my brothers in him. A turn of the head, a lilt in his voice…amazing.

Going further back in time:

jonathan-and-grandmaEver the teacher, here in 1985 is Ruth demonstrating to Jonathan the fine art of crochet. (And oh, the complacency of a youngest child—to patiently sit and show interest in his grandmother’s needlework.)

grandchildren 1968


How’s this for a lineup of kids! George and Ruth had a new grandbaby every year for six years. I love this picture and my grandmother’s listing on the back.


Recognize this chair? It’s the rocker from the back room of the store. Here it is 1963, and Rachel’s sitting with her Grandpa Larson. Oh, the special rocking memories this chair holds.

grandkids 1961

Here’s Phil, Terri and David in 1961. Notice Carol and Judith’s wedding pictures above them. We grandchildren grew up seeing these pictures on the walls of every home George and Ruth lived in.