South Dakota Easter memories from the 1950s

Easter, the holiest day in Christianity, is a time of great rejoicing and celebrated widely.  Growing up in South Dakota it was a special time for my siblings and me during the 1950s.  We had the practice of “giving up” candy during Lent and, since Lent officially ended at noon on Saturday of Holy Week, we splurged and indulged our taste in sweets.  Mine was chocolate, my favorite food group (the other three being Coke, popcorn and fruit).  What fun it was not to have to wait until after mass on Easter to be able to feast a bit.

The other activity of the day before Easter was the annual tradition of dyeing Easter eggs.  Oh, the patience my mom had, especially the year we spontaneously invited three or four of the neighborhood kids to join us in this ritual.  I don’t have any bad memories of that day so we must not have spilled the egg-dye.  Probably the layers of newspapers we had spread around served a good purpose.

My favorite egg color was purple.  Maybe it was the intensity.  And we loved to put the decals on the eggs but that usually did not turn out very well.  And I always scratched my colored egg with the metal thingy we used to handle the eggs.  It was obvious at an early age that being an egg-dyeing artist was not in my future.  <Sigh>

When there were only one egg left to dye, we would pour all the colors together and the result was a muddy-looking colored egg.   Not surprisingly, that one was buried at the bottom of the pile of the colored eggs.  It was not very pretty.

The other element of preparing for Easter was The Easter Outfit.  That probably meant a new dress, shoes, and hat since we covered our head in church.  Most years we only bought what needed to be replaced, especially if we’d had a growth spurt in the past months.  But it was always a special feeling to have our new outfit.  My mother was an excellent seamstress and she made some of our clothes, frequently using the same pattern and type of fabric for my sister and me.  But the dresses were always a different color so we were not “matched.”  It was a special feeling to attend mass on Easter Sunday looking our best.

Happy Easter to all my readers!


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Introducting the Newest Member of My Family Tree




Little Ava Jeanette Meeks made her entrance into the world on February 21, 2014, weighing in at 7 pounds, one ounce, and measuring 18 3/4 inches long.  She is precious, sweet, and beautiful.

Pictured above are Ava with her  parents Naomi and Ryan Meeks and the family “guard dog”, Junior (who has become very protective of Ava in a big-brother type of way).

Within the past few weeks I’ve attended several events marking various life transitions: a visitation for the passing of the 100 year friend of a mother; a retirement of a former coworker; and a birthday celebration of another friend.  Each of these is a passage of life … but the most hopeful, optimistic and joyful is clearly the birth of a grandchild! 

Welcome to the world, little Ava Jeanette Meeks.  We’ve been waiting for you.



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Winter at Ada Hayden Lake (Ames, Iowa)

AH1 AH3 AH6 AH7 AH8 AH9 AH10 HQ3








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Dealing With Grief (not depressing)

Thank you to those readers who responded to me either via email or in the comments section concerning the posting about my friend Gretchen Triplett.  That blog article helped me deal with the grief and provided a tribute to Gretchen.  And, even though I wrote from a personal perspective, I must have struck a responsive chord with her family members as a bit of my posting was used in her obituary.

Along with other members of our local genealogy society, I attended her memorial service and it helped to share memories of Gretchen and know other persons also felt a sense of loss.  In addition, two other events during the past week have also been restorative for me:

From time to time I respond to questions on several (actually, many) genealogy Facebook groups to which I subscribe.  Usually my attempts to help are those directed toward the Iowa-based groups and if I have knowledge that might help the person asking for assistance.  Well, I was able to obtain an obituary from 1881 for a requester by checking the microfilmed edition of a newspaper.  When I emailed her a copy of the item, she almost immediately responded with a thank you and was quite appreciative.  Apparently members of the family have been looking for the obituary for a number of years.  Maybe it was a fresh set of eyes that spotted it, even thought the surname in the obituary had been misspelled.  (What genealogist doesn’t know about “creative spelling!”)  Then she sent another message saying I had made 175 people very happy.  That probably is the number of persons in the family association  who are interested in this surname.  Bur 175?  Wow, what a euphoric feeling to know a small act on my part generated so much elation for other people.

The second story deals with research I am doing for a family member who is fairly new to the field of family history.  She did not know the maiden name of her grandmother nor her place of birth.  With some research, luck, and the help of a very helpful courthouse employee in South Dakota, I obtained enough information to learn the answers to those questions.  The response of the family member was a very appreciative email in which she concluded by saying, “I feel like a person on the Ancestry television show “Who Do You Think You Are?”

Both of these success stories brought home the idea “that it is in giving that we receive” for I feel I was the one that benefited by lending a bit of assistance.  Gretchen would be proud of me!

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Gretchen Triplett, RIP

Today the Story County Genealogical Society lost a great friend in the passing of member Gretchen Triplett.  She was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor late last fall and passed away Jan. 9, 2014.  Up until her diagnosis, Gretchen was a fireball of energy.  She had agreed to serve as an officer for SCGS starting this month, but was unable to assume the responsibility once she became ill.

Let me share a few memories, most of them from the past two years of my association with her:

Gretchen was a wonderful gardener and, I think, had obtained the Master Gardener accreditation.  Her back yard was her oasis as she carefully planned, planted and maintained her flowers.  She loved the outdoor and creating a beautiful space.

She was an active member of the Iowa Genealogical Society, attending meetings of the German Interest Group as frequently as she could.  She was heartbroken her illness precluded her attending their December Christmas party.  But she wanted everyone to have a good time!  (Typical Gretchen!)

The two of us made several trips to Des Moines together and I never had to worry about finding a conversation topic with her.  She had become quite interested in Civil War history, especially as it related to Story County.  She could talk at length about the Women’s GAR (of which she was a proud member).  And she would talk about the death of her son as a young adult, her being struck by a car (from which she made a marvelous recovery), her personal struggles … but always remained upbeat and forever an optimist.   She bore no one any ill-will and held no grudges, speaking freely about her faith in God.

About a year ago I received a late night email message from her asking me what I knew about Jason D. Ferguson, whose name was on a plaque by the Story County Administrative Building in Nevada.  I thought this was just a “wild” idea and she was curious about some obscure person.  Well, it was never wise to underestimate Gretchen!  She took what precious little information I had, did a tremendous amount of further research and began researching Jason D. Ferguson, the first Story County casualty of the Civil War.  Then she compiled a list of all the Civil War veterans buried in Story County, then she began the process of putting together a committee to rededicate the Civil War cannon, then she worked with the Story County Board of Supervisors … the end result was a magnificent Flag Day program in 2013.  I could not have ever envisioned what she would go on to accomplish from one small email inquiry.

During the planning process for the Flag Day ceremony, she brought up the idea of inviting the governor of Iowa, Terry E. Branstad, to be the speaker.  Thinking inwardly to myself, “Fat chance of that happening.  He gets far too many invitations for us to have the slightest chance of his coming.”  Wisely, I did not utter my comments out loud … I don’t know how she did it, but working with veterans groups and county historical groups, she managed to arrange for Gov. Branstad to attend and speak at the ceremony.  Did I say  something earlier about not underestimating Gretchen?  She totally proved me wrong.

Gretchen had agreed to give a presentation on Civil War veterans  to the fall meeting of the Story County Genealogical Society.  In preparation for this, she and I spent a delightful day in July touring some of the cemeteries in the county.  She knew exactly what type of veteran marker to look for and as she and I walked among headstones she pointed out with fascination what it meant.  This is one of my favorite memories of my time with her as we trooped here and there and photographed lots of markers and monuments.  She was just totally immersed in trying to gather all the information she could.  And when she did give her presentation in September, she spoke for 45 minutes without referring to any notes (not even once).  To say she was enthused and interested would be an understatement.

Another favorite memory was her appearance on the television  program “Antiques Roadshow.”  I don’t recall what item she took to the show to be appraised but she was just thrilled to be chosen to be filmed.  When she described the experience later, I think she was about ten inches off the ground, she was that elated!

Gretchen was not able to attend the November meeting of our genealogy society.  She called me a week later from the hospital with her diagnosis and told me she was having surgery the next day.  I was stunned and probably did not respond in the best manner, so overcome with the sudden onset and seriousness.  It was a few days later when I’d regained my composure I called her and we had a genuine visit.  And I treasure the conversations we had while she was in recovery care the last few weeks.

She was one of kind and taught me so much.  I was truly blessed to have known her and be her friend.  She will be greatly missed.


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An Act of Gratitude

This beautiful wall hanging was given to me by a very kind woman whose ancestry I had researched a few years ago.  It has found a home in our dining area and is proudly displayed.  To me it speaks from the heart of the woman who made it.  My understanding is that it was made by a technique called “felting.”

What a thoughtful way to share gratitude for learning a bit about one’s family.  Thanks, Jackie!


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Thanksgiving Genealogy Blessings

Thanksgiving time in the United States and time to recall my many blessings, among them my husband, our daughter and son-in-law.  They have truly made my life worthwhile.

In addition, I am extremely grateful for some genealogy blessings:

*the genealogy class I co-taught in October. It was a great experience with a class that asked great questions, challenged us, and gave us worthwhile feedback for the next class (and there likely will be a next class!)

*being asked to give a one-day genealogy workshop next summer

*my genealogy friends and relatives in Germany who have shared my journey and helped identify so many of my ancestors. It would not have happened without them. (Yes, knowing the names of my seventh-great grandparents won’t solve the problems of the world, but it sure was delightful to have that piece of information!)

*members of the Story County Genealogical Society who provide excellent programs, camaraderie, and enjoy a good story

*my siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews who tolerate my genealogy addiction

*my friends who are supportive of my genealogy addiction

*great technological advances that have facilitated genealogy research making this a golden time to be tracing ancestors (and enabling my genealogy addiction!)

*to all those in the genealogy community who are a mentor to those just beginning the journey

*and, especially, the readers of this blog … Thank you!

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