Day 4, Tuesday, Oct. 22
On Tuesday, we drove from Grand Island to Osceola, NE to visit my mom’s sister and her husband, Roselyn and Alan. They have a lovely home that, like ours, is next to a fire station and has freight train tracks running nearby. Their basement walls are covered with family photos of their five children (my first cousins including Nancy who lives in Grand Island), their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. Several years ago they made a trip to Sweden and visited Locknevi, where my great-great-grandparents, Carl Jacob and Christina (Jonsdotter) Johnson, lived when my great-grandfather Gustaf was born. They even have a painting of the house where he was born.
After lunch with them, we drove 122 miles north to O’Neill, NE. This is a photo of a barn quilt square we saw on our drive.
In O’Neill we visited my cousin Julie, who I had not seen since our Aunt Toots’s funeral in 1976. Julie is the daughter of my dad’s sister, Berneice AKA Babe. She manages a quilt shop in O’Neill, which is where we met her. (The quilt leitmotif to this tale was for the benefit of my wife, who loves all things quilt related. I really appreciate her for making this trek with me and tried to do everything I could to keep it interesting for her.)
Julie and I talked a lot of family history. She says I look like my father, which I get a lot. She shared with me the story of how her parents met. Her mother served in Europe as a WAC in WWII. After she returned from the war, she took a job as a switchboard operator in O’Neill. She used her GI Bill money to take flying lessons out at the airport. One day she met Louis Coker, who was a pilot, and he became my Uncle Louie. Her mother did get her pilot’s license, but never had a driver’s license.
One of our great-grandparents, John and Mary (Fitzler) Huigens, our parent’s paternal grandparents, died 38 miles due east of O’Neill in Creighton, NE during the blizzard of 1949. The roads were impassable, so Louie flew Aunt Babe to the funeral. There are advantages to knowing how to fly a plane.
She also told me the story of how our parent’s mother, our Grandma Julia, came home from church one Sunday, opened the trunk of the car and discovered she had forgotten to deliver the Memorial Day flower arrangements. She uttered a four-letter expletive for manure, a word I cannot imagine my grandmother using. This caused my Aunt Babe and Aunt Sis to laugh until their sides hurt, although my grandmother saw no humor in the situation.
Julie then took us out to the cemetery where her mother is buried, so I could pay my respects. We both had a good cry. Then she showed me the grave of our grandmother’s sister and her husband, Leo and Margaret (Kain) Carney.
After we said good-bye to Julie, we headed to our hotel in O’Neill, NE. That evening I got an email and a phone call from a second cousin from Creighton that found me through this blog. I had let her know that I would be visiting and we made arrangements to meet at a café in Creighton the next morning.
(to be continued)