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.


Walpurgis Night

April 30, 2010

So, are you ready for the big celebration tonight? It’s Walpurgis Night and it’s part of our family heritage.

What? You didn’t know this?

Well, neither did I. I just happened to come across it while researching the next Beaded Bells topic—the Swedish side of our family tree.

Apparently, Walpurgis Night (Valborgsmässoafton) is a Swedish welcoming of spring. On the night of April 30, Swedes light bonfires reminiscent of those lit in the paganistic 18th century to ward off evil spirits and witches. Nowadays, the celebration continues on to the next day, which is May 1 and the Scandinavian Labour Day.

So happy Walpurgis Night!

Actually, May is George’s month—George, being Ruth’s husband—and May is the month we move on from our very Germanic roots to our Swedish. We happen to have a lot of information from the Larson side, so hang on to your seats. May is going to be a genealogical joy ride (except that it will in no way be reckless or unlawful:-)

Let’s start by talking about George.

As previously mentioned, George came into Ruth’s life in 1929, when they worked together at the C.A. Burnette Co., in Chicago. George was a bookkeeper and Ruth was a switchboard operator.

At the time, George had been living in Chicago for about ten years. According to a letter I have from my mother Carol (George and Ruth’s daughter), he moved to Chicago shortly after graduating from high school in 1918 and lived with one of his aunts.

Prior to that, he grew up on the family farm just outside Grovertown, Ind., the very place he was born on May 3, 1899, to Carl and Sophia (Lindahl) Larson. He was their third child, out of five—Olga, Clarence, George, Arthur and Esther.

Now George was a quiet man. Even though he was very much a part of my childhood and young adult years, I seldom heard him talk about himself. I do, however, have many letters written to me from his brother, Arthur, and these give good insight to their years on the farm.

According to Arthur, in a letter dated 1983, the family’s 98-acre farm was located a mile east of Grovertown, a community where many of their Larson relatives also lived. They always had lots of cows and horses “to enrich the soil,” writes Arthur, “and a few hogs and pigs to roll in the mud.”

Arthur describes their years on the farm as hard work. In addition to corn, wheat and oats, their father also planted 1-½ to 2 acres of onions to be sold as a cash crop in the fall.

“We had to crawl on our knees and pick out all the weeds,” writes Arthur. “Then Dad also planted another acre of pickles (cucumbers), which was backbreaking to pick. When finished, they had to be sorted large from small so it was quite late, and we had to deliver them to town. That was a cash crop.”

Arthur also writes of fun times like butchering a hog every fall, cutting wood in winter and sleigh rides with the horses.

“No cars or tractors back then,” he writes.

According to Arthur’s letter, Olga, George and he all went to Chicago as young adults because work there was easy to find. In 1925, their parents sold their farm in Grovertown and moved up to Michigan, where they farmed together with Clarence in the Imlay City area.

I remember as a child, my parents always had a big garden and my grandfather, George, loved to help with planting and weeding. Like the old adage says, you can take the farmer away from the farm, but can’t take the farm out of the farmer.

Here’s to Walpurgis Night, here’s to our Farmer George and here’s to any of us soon to plant our own gardens.


Carl & Sophia Larson Family, circa 1900

L-R: Carl, Clarence, Olga and Sophia, holding George.

Carl & Sophia Larson Family Farmhouse, 1993

Years ago, I sent away for the abstract and plat map for the Larson’s farm in Indiana. While vacationing in the area, we scouted down the house. Unfortunately, the owners weren’t home (or thought we looked shifty and chose not to open the door). We left a copy of the original farmhouse photo and our address, but never heard from them. It would be interesting to see the house today, yes?

Carl & Sophia Larson Family, circa 1910

A guess at identities: Back, l-r: Clarence and Olga. Middle: father Carl, Esther, and mother Sophia. Front: Arthur and George.

George, on the left, and Clarence Larson

Olga Larson, 1895-1927

Clarence Carl Larson, 1897-1959

Geroge Berthal Larson, 1899-1983

This picture was provided by Larry Newburg, our Kusin, as he likes to say. Wait to you see the information he has to share—stay tuned!

Strangely, of the many pictures we have, none of them are of Arthur. Very unfortunate, since it’s Arthur who provided so much personal information about the family. He lived from 1902-1990, and I’m hoping his daughter Donna can share as well.

Esther (Larson) Mann, 1908-1978

Another photo provided by Larry.

George Larson

Anyone know antique cars? Any ideas of the era? Look what a sharp dude George was!

George Larson 1918 military draft registration

While World War I lasted from July 1914-Nov. 1918, the U.S. didn’t get involved until April 1917.

Above is George’s draft registration card, dated September 1918. At the time, he was working as a postal clerk in Chicago and never was drafted.

Below is a more visible sample of a registration card.

1918 U.S. Draft Registration Card

Age is a Relative Thing

April 24, 2010

So here we are, still celebrating birthdays. You know how each family has a month that’s just lambasted with birthdays? Well, years ago April was that month for our family. And because Easter often was in April as well, my mother would combine all the birthdays with Easter for a big family gathering.

Here’s a bulleted list of birthdays for you. I do this because, as a graphic designer, I’m skillfully aware that a vertical list of many items is visually more pleasing to the eye than a horizontal (how’s that for a shameless business plug?)

  • April 3:     Rebecca (my sister)
  • April 4:     Harriet Amos (my paternal step-grandmother)
  • April 10:   Diahann (me)
  • April 24:   Emma (Hornburg) Hooge Arendt (Ruth’s mother, my great-grandmother)
  • April 27:   Gladys (Gulick) Amos Klotz (my paternal grandmother)

April 24. That’s today.

And today was my great-grandmother Emma’s birthday. So today we’re talking about her.

As you know, Emma was born in 1884 to Charles and Wilhelmina Hornburg. As a young woman, she married Carl Hooge, a Chicago policeman, and together they had two children, Carl and Ruth. In 1917 Emma’s husband died, leaving her the single mother of an 11 and 8-year-old.

A year later, Emma married Rudolph Arendt and together they had a daughter, Charlotte. They were married 37 years before Rudolph died in 1955. Emma lived another 23 years, many of them residing with her daughter, Ruth, and her final years with her daughter, Charlotte.

Emma died in 1973 when she was 89 years old.

All of this seems rather factual and impersonal, doesn’t it? But the truth is, I remember very little of my great-grandmother. From my childhood, the only image I have of Emma is her sitting in a chair by the window. She lived with my grandmother at the time and whenever we visited, there she was sitting in her chair.

She sat. And sat. And sat. Besides needlework, I wonder if she did anything else?

You know, age and time are funny things.

As a young child in the 1960s, I thought Emma was a very old and ancient woman. Yet 25-30 years later, when I was an adult and Ruth had reached that same old age, somehow Ruth didn’t seem ancient at all. She certainly didn’t sit around in a chair all day.

I guess age is a relative thing. Children naturally think everyone is old. And for each generation, the average life expectancy and quality of life exceeds the one before it.

Ruth (Hooge) Larson, 1909-2006

Pretty in pink, here’s Ruth standing by her granddaughter, Cheryl’s, car. It’s 1997 and Ruth’s 88-years-old. Don’t let the cane fool you—she did pretty good getting to wherever she wanted to go!

Emma (Hornburg) Hooge Arendt, 1884-1973

Flashback to 1968. Here’s Emma (Ruth’s mother) sitting in her chair. She’s 84 in this picture. This is the same spot she was sitting nine years earlier…

Emma (Hornburg) Hooge Arendt, 1884-1973

…in 1959 at age 75.

Wilhemina (Behrendt) Hornburg, 1854-1939

Going back even further to 1934. Here’s Emma’s mother (Ruth’s grandmother). She’s 80-years-old in this picture—this is the woman who had 12 kids!

So, of course, there’s more to Emma than her just sitting in a chair. What memories do you have of her? Can anyone fill us in? Please do!

daffodil from J&K's yard

Today’s my birthday. My 39th.

Oh. Yeah. Since I’ve previously mentioned I’m 50 years younger than my grandmother (who would have been 101), I guess that line isn’t going to fly.

So, today I was thinking of kindergarten with my teacher Miss Lehmann. I remember she called me to the front, turned me over her knee and gave me six birthday spankings. Can you imagine that happening today?

Then I wondered if I’m remembering that right. Perhaps I was actually being disciplined. Terri? Dave? Do you remember getting birthday spankings?

Anyway, today is my birthday and this morning when I awoke (besides reminiscing spankings), I thought how blessed I am. I love the life God’s given me. I love my family and friends.

And since today’s my birthday, I get to call the shots. That’s the deal in our house (to which my husband says is no different than any other day). So what I’m asking is that you each respond with a comment telling who you are and how you’re connected to Ruth. Remember, this blog is for historical purposes and will be interesting someday to future genealogists (if you’re a bit shy and only want to give your first name, that’s fine—it’ll give them a research challenge).

Have I mentioned today’s my birthday?

Do it. Click on “Leave a Comment,” just below this posting. Do it now.

Happy Birthday Grandma!

March 5, 2010

Today, March 5, is my grandmother’s birthday. This day, 101 years ago, Ruth Esther Eliza Bertha Hooge was born, beloved daughter of Carl and Emma Hooge and sister to 2-year-old brother Carl.

Happy Birthday Grandma!

I suppose green beads and shamrocks are somewhat misleading since Ruth wasn’t the least bit Irish. She was German through and through. But March just seems to be a month when we all look forward to seeing the color green.

Funny thing about my grandmother’s birthday—it was usually white. Very white, as in lots and lots of snow. As adults, many of us moved away from Michigan and, inevitably, whenever we came back to celebrate her birthday, we ran into snow, ice, and everything else Midwestern winters offer. I have pictures of some of those birthdays. Ah, but they’re in that chaotic box of family photos and finding them could take some time.

In the meantime, on with the green!

March is going to be Ruth’s family history month. We’ll look into the Hooge and Hornburg families and figure out how names like Lola, Frieda, Minnie, Nuttie and Hattie fit in—names I grew up hearing all the time but never knew whose they were.

Stay tuned.

Ruth Esther Eliza Bertha Hooge, 1909
Picture provided by Terri Baur

Ruth and her brother Carl. Look at the bow on his shirt—no wonder he’s not smiling.