On How It Runs In the Family

Writing is a skill, talent, hobby – call it what you will, but whatever you call it, it runs in my family.  It comes straight from the matriarch herself: Irma Schwantes, my great-grandmother.  She has been writing for…oh, I don’t even know how long – but at least about as long as I have been alive.  I honestly don’t know if she wrote before the 1980’s.  I am guessing she probably did.   Maybe I should dig into my history a bit more.

Grandma began writing for the Worthington Daily Globe in 1985, and has been writing a weekly column pretty much ever since.  That’s a LOT of columns.  Imagine if I could keep this blog going for as many years!  She now writes for the Fulda Free Press, the newspaper for my home town.

She even has a published book!  It’s called Reminiscing: A Collection of Columns, which is just that – a collection of her columns, which was published in 1995.  You could buy it; it’s only $6.00.  🙂  But I have also received permission from Grandma to share some of her columns with you all in the blogging world.

In any event, this creative spark seems to have been passed down to many, many in our family.  But keep in mind that I come from a HUGE family, with Grandma having had 11 children, and all of those children having children, and so on; so, maybe that’s just statistics.  We’re five generations into it, and our family reunion is big.  Having just been to the 2012 reunion this past weekend, my mind was blown when I found out that in 1990, on my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary, only 7 great grandchildren had been born, including myself, with one on the way for later in the year.  (I’m fourth generation, by the way.)  Now?  I am not even sure how many of us there are, but there’s A LOT!

So without further ado, here is the May 20, 2009 edition of Grandma’s column Souvenirs:

About a week ago Mitch Albom wrote a column concerning children’s names, that got me to wondering if my children liked the names I had given them. I had always wished for a baby sister, and had a favorite name picked out long before I ever had a baby. 

I never did get a baby sister, but I always remembered a little girl I had met at a cousin’s house, and after I married my husband and became pregnant, I vowed that if it was a girl she would be named Darlene after the little playmate I had come to know so many years before. I chose the name Faith as a middle name because as a very young wife, I needed a great deal of Faith to become a homemaker and mother. Darlene Faith—but soon she became our little Dolly, and the nickname stuck through all the years, even unto today.

During my second pregnancy we had moved to St. Paul as there was no work to be had in our home town. We had made plans to return back home though for the birth which was predicted for about the first of April in 1943. I had my first ambulance ride at that time. And we named her Diane Cheryl, the middle name coming from Cherish, as we were very grateful to have a successful delivery of a healthy happy baby. Diane was quite a bit smaller than our Dolly had been, our landlady came up to see her remarking on the fact that she was kind of Dinky compared to her sister, and occasionally we did fondly call her “Dinky” but she outgrew the nickname and never got another. 

When our third one was almost due my husband received his draft notice in the mail advising that he report to Fort Snelling at just about my due date. What to do???

They weren’t supposed to be taking any men with 3 or more children. It must be a mistake. Letters were written, to no avail, so it was that on October 17th Frank had to report to Fort Snelling. The rules in those days meant that as soon as he left his job at National Battery Company our health insurance was null and void. Fortunately the baby waited until the 19th to make her entrance. It had been a few days of stress, but all turned out well, as Uncle Sam paid the bill. I had chosen her name, Yvonne Hope, but every time I told it to anybody they asked how do you spell that? In order to save my daughter a lifetime of spelling or explaining her name I changed it to Christene Hope. That one got tagged as being too old fashioned. So I changed it to Sandra Hope, but she became Sandy almost immediately. And she still is.

Her Daddy had to be away, first in Little Rock Arkansas, then after a short visit home he was sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations. I stayed in our rental apartment in St. Paul with the three little ones waiting patiently for the war to come to an end, and my husband to come home. It was January of 1946 when he came home, and we soon moved back to New Ulm after that as Frank used his GI loan to go into business with my brother Helmuth, and that’s when Roxanne Alice came to be number 4 in our family of girls. Although more fondly known as our Roxie. As for her middle name Alice, it was the name of Frank’s younger sister, and also reminded me of Alice who lived in Wonderland. 

Frank’s Gramma Schwantes had died about that time so we moved into the home she had occupied for some years. One Summer evening a man came looking for Frank, it was the father of a young man who had been killed in the battles on Luzon. They went off in his car to talk it over privately. None of the veterans in those days wanted to discuss anything about the war with the wives or families.So I waited anxiously for Frank’s return again that evening. 

It was quite a bit later that he returned. I think the children may have been in bed by that time, so he did tell me what the father had wanted to know. It seems the parents had not completely accepted the fact that their son had died in the war, until Frank gave him details of the battle. It was the first time I had heard it too. He told how they were rounding a bend in a trail on a hillside on Luzon when they came face to face with the enemy, who immediately opened fire killing Frank’s best buddy, one who had come through basic training and all with him. With automatic rifle at the ready it was perhaps a reflex action that he pulled the trigger so fast as to save his own life. It was with great difficulty that he told me the story. We never spoke of the war again. 

Within a few short years we welcomed more daughters into our family. Cynthia Dawn, born with the “dawn” of a new year in January 1948, and Francine Starr in June of 1950 being named for her father since he was by then being teased by his brothers-in-law for not having a son, nicknamed Franky from day one, and then in November of 1951 along came Rhonda Joy, and our pastor announced before the entire congregation that she was named Joy because we were happy to have another little girl. About that time another job change brought another move to Minneapolis, and there came the boys, with Frank Kingsley, also named after his father and grandfather, but Kingsley as we knew he’d be King of the roost with all those sisters, at least until his brother Paul Douglas came along. Paul who reigned as Duke along with brother King. They ruled for about 3 years until one more daughter Darcy May, and a few years later, brother Richard Dean, came along to finish out the brood. 

I never liked the name my mother had given me, and had always wished she had named me June for the month in which I was born. I never heard any of my children complain about the names given them and as I look back on them today, I remember how I had Faith that God would help me to become a good mother, and how I “cherished” the little girl who came a month early. 

Feeling as excited as “Alice” in Wonderland at having daughter number 4, and appreciating the baby born at the “Dawn” of a new year, or the “Starr” who later became our “Middle Kiddle”, or the “Joy” of another healthy daughter at that November time of Thanksgiving. 

And then when after all those years of hoping for a boy, finally getting one, and then another, they just naturally had to be crowned he “King” and the “Duke” and then a few years later, there was Darcy “May” named for a friend of the family and the month in which she had been born, followed again in 3 years by our last son Richard Dean, as he was named for a friend too, as he became the financial “Dean” among the siblings. They are all grown now. Sadly we lost our oldest son to cancer a little over a year ago. We all miss him dearly still and feel honored to have been allowed to have him with us for the short time the Lord lent him to us. He says “I’ll lend you for a little while a child of mine”. 

May I add a Happy Birthday wish for both Darcy and Paul who have birthdays in May?

May God Bless us All. 


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