In 1968, I graduated from Bruce High School in Bruce, Wisconsin. This past weekend my classmates and I celebrated the 50th anniversary of that event. I haven't attended many class reunions but, fifty years is special. I had to go!
Georgia and I left home on Thursday of last week and spent the first night at Black River Falls, Wisconsin. We have driven past the Arrowhead Lodge there many times but never stayed. Lately it became a Best Western Hotel and we decided to give it a try this trip. The hotel is old, it has been there as long as I can remember, but it is well maintained and we had a great room.
We continued to Bruce on Friday so we would have time to spend with family before the reunion on Saturday. We spent the afternoon visiting my Mother and took her to dinner at the Wonder Spot Resort on Amacoy Lake.
Saturday we had a chance to see more family before going back to our hotel in Ladysmith to get ready for the reunion.
The reunion was not actually held in Bruce but a few miles away. Bruce High School is a consolidated school with students from there and from the town of Exeland attending. This get together was at the Buckhorn Bar in Exeland.
The turnout was excellent with over half of the class returning for the reunion. We gathered outside for a group photo before sitting down to dinner.
It was a great evening of catching up with old friends. There were many classmates, who came to this reunion, that I hadn't seen since graduation and it was good to see them again.
On Sunday, Georgia and I left to return home. We drove as far as Wisconsin Dells where we spent Sunday night and Monday morning at the Ho-Chunk Hotel and Casino. Ho-Chunk is a favorite "playground" for us. We visit a few times a year and always have fun there.
We got back home on Monday afternoon with another road trip to remember completed.
Last Sunday Georgia, Max and I went to the Lake County Fair for the afternoon. The weather was almost perfect and we had a great time.
On the way there, we asked Max what he wanted to do most.
He said; "See the animals!"
Seeing animals is exactly what we spent most of our time doing and he loved it!
After grabbing a carnival food lunch, we watched some pig races. Those little guys are fast!
Our next stop was inside the main exhibit hall where local businesses and organizations had booths. There was also a talent show going on it one section of the hall. Max liked the police and sheriff department displays. He is now a Junior Deputy Sheriff!
Right outside the back door of the exhibit hall were the livestock barns so we went there next. We saw goats, poultry, sheep and rabbits as well as dairy and beef cattle.
The animals are what sets a fair apart from just a carnival. It is educational too. Now Max knows where milk comes from before it gets to the store.
Next stop was the midway where Max declined the rides in favor of playing the games. He won a few prizes for Grandma and Grandpa to carry.
The petting zoo was next. They had a pretty large group of animals and Max was determined to pet every one of them. I think he achieved his goal. He really does love animals!
He decided this donkey needed help with his hay so he fed him some from his hands. It looked like the donkey enjoyed the attention.
We got back to the parking lot just as a little rain started to fall from the only dark cloud on an otherwise blue sky day. Just the right time for us to leave the fairgrounds.
The weather was good - just a little warm - and the accommodations were excellent. We had a lake view room for the three of us.
We ate dinner at the hotel restaurant the first night. The food was good but the service was pretty slow. There was a wedding reception going on and it seemed there wasn't enough staff to serve the restaurant and the reception. That wasn't a problem for the rest of our stay though. Breakfast and lunch were very good. They make a great pizza that we enjoyed in our room the second night!
We spent our time on the beach, fishing at one of the park ponds and playing in the hotel pool.
It was a relaxing two days. We will have to do it again!
So...After 20+ years of driving Jeeps and trucks, we went an entirely different way this time.
We leased this 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Limited on Thusday. It should serve us well for day-to-day use and for road trips.
Up until a month or so ago, I had never even thought about a minivan for us. Then, while waiting for service on the Jeep one day, I saw this on the sales floor at the local Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge dealer. The interior roominess was amazing. The different possible seating arrangements seemed to make it a very versatile vehicle. It got me thinking that it just might work for us.
We still had about 6 months left on our Jeep lease but I filed the idea away as a possible future consideration.
A few days later, we got a call from the dealership inviting us to come in and discuss end of lease options for the Jeep Grand Cherokee. I mentioned to Georgia that we might want to consider a minivan this time. She wasn't sold on the idea but she did do some online research. She was open to at least considering it.
We took a drive to the dealership so Georgia could look for herself. She was mostly sold after the visit and a test drive but had a couple concerns.
Why would a couple in their late 60's even think about a minivan? Aren't they for families with young children?
Actually, there were several reasons that a more versatile vehicle might be right for us.
First, there is a lot of space in a minivan. The Jeep worked OK for hauling groceries or a few suitcases. With Georgia's small mobility scooter in the back though, space was a little tight. Some creative loading was required for a long trip.
Seating was another consideration. With Max's booster seat taking up one spot, we could barely squeeze two more passengers in the back.
Comfort was another point. The Jeep's ride is, well Jeep like. You definitely feel the road and it can be hard on the back at times.
Still, a minivan? At our Age? Actually, when we thought about it, we realized that a very high percentage of friends our own age did own minivans and loved them.
It was time to do some more serious research.
We turned to the Internet to learn all we could about minivans in general and the Pacifica in particular.
It seems that a lot of people of all ages are like us. They came to minivans reluctantly but, once they had one, they really liked it a lot.
Our choice came down to considering the pros and cons and making our own decision.
I already mentioned some of the pros. Comfort and space were big ones but there were other pluses.
The three zone climate control, heated and ventilated seats and 8 way driver and passenger seats are great. Also a lot of cup holders and cubby holes to stash stuff are nice to have.
The space is made more versatile because of the Stow 'N Go seats. The Pacifica stands out in this area. Other vans let you remove the second row seats for more space but only Pacifica lets you fold them into the floor. We can fold them all down to hold everything we want to take on a road trip then, when we get to out destination, we can unpack, open the seats and carry seven passengers with us. No seats left sitting useless at home.
Oh, and there is a built in vacuum cleaner to clean up after that trip!
The Pacifica is an IIHS top safety pick. 5 Star rating! In addition, the Chrysler Advanced SaftyTech package includes a lot of tools to protect us on the road. Lane Sense, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic detection, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with braking, 360 degree camera, front and rear parking sensors, parallel and perpendicular parking assistance (auto park) and more.
I think the technology in new cars is going to help older drivers stay on the road longer and be safer. Let's face it. In our 60's, our reaction time and vision aren't what they were in our 30's. A little extra help can't hurt.
The Infotainment system is an updated version of the Uconnect system we had in the Jeep but with two second row seat video screens. Max will love that feature. Other things we like about it are SiriusXM radio, navigation with traffic monitoring, mobile phone interconnect, Apple CarPlay and a host of settings to customize the in car experience.
Performance should be good with the 3.6L V6 at 287 HP and the nine speed transmission. Mileage is touted as very good too. 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. We will see.
What about the cons. There must be a few.
One big one that almost stopped us from buying is the lack of all wheel or four wheel drive, The Pacifica comes in front wheel drive only. After years of Jeeps, we had serious reservations about this one. In our online research, we didn't find any real complaints about handling so it must be working fine for others. Besides, I am retired now. I don't HAVE to go out when the weather stinks. We will find out how this works out for us but I am hopeful.
Another issue is that there is no spare tire in the Pacifica we bought. That worries us because we go places, like Northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, where roadside service is scarce. The vehicle did come with a tire repair kit that includes a tire repair foam canister and an air compressor. Not the same as a spare! This is still a concern for us but maybe we can come up with a solution. A compact spare we can throw in the back for road trips?
That is really about all for concerns we had. The pluses seem to far outweigh the minuses. We pulled the trigger and made the change from SUV to minivan.
Will be be glad we did? I really think we will but only time will tell. We are looking forward to traveling in our new vehicle and to the places it is going to take us.
This video from Chrysler is the same model that we have - just different colors. It is a bit of a sales pitch but does highlight some of the features that we liked and that helped us choose the Pacifica.
The summer festival season is getting into full swing here in Chicagoland. We started it off with Wauconda Fest this past weekend.
Max and his Mom met us there for a great afternoon of fun and games. The weather was just about perfect and the food wasn't bad either!
Max rode a few rides and went through the fun house three times but, his favorite thing to do is play the games. He won a couple stuffed toys and, best of all, a MineCraft sword!
I'm sure this wont be the last festival we go to this summer but it was a great way to kick off the season.
Researching your family tree requires you to be a bit of a detective. Sometimes the branch you are following is clear and easy to follow. Other times, you gather every clue you can find and still can't make the breakthrough that answers your genealogical questions. Genealogists call those seemingly dead ends "brick walls" and we all reach them at some point in our research.
Sometimes you just get lucky and the solution to a brick wall turns up out of nowhere. As more and more records are digitized and made available online, the record we need to solve a puzzle can turn up at any time. Often though, family mysteries require sifting through documents that, at first, don't seem to be directly related to the question at hand but turn out to be key to the solution.
One of my great-great-great grandmothers was named Lucina Smith. I know a lot about her but, I could never find out her parents names. If I look at Lucina's entry in other family trees on Ancestry.com, most don't list her parents at all. The ones that do name them don't agree with each other. I see Enos Smith and Lucina Chapin, George Smith and Lucena or Lucina Durfee and Christopher Smith and Polly Randall. Which set of parents, if any of them, is right?
This is a good place to make a note about using other peoples family trees as a source. As this example shows, you should never just accept anther persons research without verifying it for yourself with other sources. These trees are a good place to find hints to use as a starting point but not as proof of facts about a person.
To get my answer, I needed to go back to what I knew about Lucina and search for sources that I hadn't seen before. Just searching for the name Smith wouldn't get me anywhere. There are just too many Smiths. I had to search specific locations and for related people.
I knew that Lucina married Charles Weller and, from census records, that she was born in New York about 1826. Charles and Lucina had moved from New York to Pennsylvania and then on to Wisconsin. They had five children all born in Pennsylvania. The 1870 and 1880 censuses showed them living in the village of Ellensboro, Wisconsin. Charles Weller died there in 1884.
After Charles died I lost track of Lucina and I couldn't find her on any other census. So, I put the search for her parents aside for a while and began researching her children. When I did that though, Lucina herself turned up again.
I learned that her daughter Rosalia married a man named George Countant. On the 1900 census, I found George and Rosalia living in Ossining, Westchester, New York with their daughter Pearl. Also in the household was an older woman listed as Lucina Miller. I immediately suspected that this was a transcription error. A quick look at the actual record revealed that this was indeed Lucina Weller - NOT Lucina Miller.
Now I knew Lucina had gone back to her birth state of New York after the death of her husband Charles but I found no further records naming her. That is where my search remained for several years.
Just recently though, I found a new record from the 1905 New York state census that listed a Lucina Weller living in the home of William and Emma D. Sutton and their children. Her relationship was listed as "aunt."
Was this my Lucina or just a coincidence of names? If this was my 3rd great-grandmother, then William must be her nephew or Emma was her niece. If I could find a Smith ancestry for one of them I just might find Lucina's parents.
Finding out which of the Sutton's she was related to turned out to be easier than I expected.
I didn't find birth or marriage records for William or Emma but I did find a marriage record one for their daughter Tena. That record told me that the brides parents were William Sutton and Emma Smith. Now I was almost positive that I had the right Lucina Weller!
From the information I had gathered so far, I could build a family tree that looked like this:
Since I was convinced that Emma's father was Lucina's brother, if I could learn the names of the two Smith men I would also learn the name of Lucina's father. As it turned out, finding the name of Emma's father took some serious detective work!
I would have liked to have found a birth or marriage record naming Emma and her parents but, so far, I have not found one. I did find many census records for Emma Smith and Emma Sutton living in or near Stockton, New York. Comparing these and using other ancestry family trees as hints, I eventually concluded that Emma was the daughter of David Montgomery Smith and Amorillus (or Amorillis) Ames. The 1870 census raised some questions. On that a 15 year old Emma Smith was living in the household of Harvey and Amorillus Solomon. Was David dead by then and Harvey was a step-father?
Once I had settled on David Montgomery as Emma's father's name, I hit the jackpot. The Stockton entries in the New York Town Clerk's Register of Men Who Served in the Civil War included David Montgomery Smith and two of his brothers. All three men had enlisted in the Union Army in August of 1862. Sadly, that fall, David and his brother William both died of disease while encamped at Suffolk, Virginia.
The register gave me David's date and place of birth and his parents names. He was the son of Christopher Smith and Polly Randall. His death date of Nov. 14, 1862 also explained why his wife was remarried by the time of the 1870 census.
Click the image to see it full size.
There I had it! After years of thinking I would never find the names of Lucina Smith's parents, I had finally knew them. Like most things in genealogy, I can't be absolutely positive that this info is correct but I would certainly rate it as "Highly Probably" to "Almost Certain."
Revisit your family tree's brick walls from time to time. New information just might help you solve a mystery!
Now if I could just find the names of her husband Charles Weller's parents...
Happy New Year 2018!
Shortly after we were married, Georgia and I took our daughters on our first overseas trip. We enjoyed England and France but, the part we liked the best was the time we spent in Scotland. I hope we can get back there again.
We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
Tom and Georgia
This last weekend, Georgia and I traveled to Milwaukee to attend a moving memorial service for my cousin Jim Moore.
Jim was diagnosed with ALS on December 2nd, 2016. The terrible disease took him from us on November 2nd of this year. He was a loving father, devoted husband and companion, amazing teacher and loyal friend to more people than I think even he knew.
I have been dealt a hand I will deal with in my own fashion.
His family, friends and students gathered together on Saturday to say a final farewell to Jim.
As is too often the case with cousins, I knew Jim best when we were children. When we grew up, life took us our separate ways. Distance, starting our own families and careers meant we only saw each other on rare occasions. Those times to reminisce and catch up were never enough but they were all we had. Still, Jim was always not only my cousin but also my friend and I will miss him.
Jim Moore was a scientist and a science teacher. He taught Biology, Environmental Science, Intro to Physical Science and other science courses to thousands of students at Germantown High School in suburban Milwaukee for over 40 years. I know from listening to his students and colleagues that Jim was an exceptional teacher.
Like all good teachers, Jim never stopped being a student of his chosen subjects. He was an avid hiker, cyclist and skier. He loved being outdoors and observing the natural world around him. Whenever he could, he took others with him to share his knowledge and his wonder.
Jim truly loved to share his passion for science with the world and not just with his students. He maintained a blog called Science of Reality where he shared his science based world view. His blog became a vehicle to document his struggle with the terrible disease of ALS. But, beyond that, it was also a way to continue to teach all of us about how we can co-exist with the natural world that we are a part of.
I AM NOT DONE TEACHING! I need to know that I did everything I was capable of to help insure my children, my students and the people I love have a planet and a civilization available to them to continue our existence on this, the most beautiful (and only) “Garden of Eden” that we know of in this Universe.
I invite you to click the button below to learn more about Jim's world view and his final battle by reading his own words as he wrote them in his blog.
Spend time with your family now - for too soon they are gone.
It has been very summer like well into October here in the Chicago area. We took advantage of the weather by getting outdoors over the long Columbus Day Weekend. Max was staying with us so we had fun together.
Indian Boundary Park in Chicago is home to an annual Fall Festival especially for children. Max has gone to the festival in each of his four years. Max's mom Angeli (Georgia's daughter) went with us as she has every year. His Dad had to work Sunday so he couldn't join us.
Activities at the festival included pumpkin decorating, kids games, bouncy houses, a petting zoo and pony rides.
The warm weather brought out more people than usual so we had to wait in a long lines for the pony ride. We used the wait time to eat the subs we brought with us. We finaly got to the fron of the line and Max had his turn riding a pony named Minnie.
There was another line for the petting zoo so we decided to skip that. Max was happy to look at the animals from outside the fence but many of them still came over to him for a quick pet.
It was a beautiful day and a fun family outing.
The warm, sunny weather held into Monday so, after some errands in the morning, we went fishing in the afternoon.
We started out at Bangs Lake which is close to our house but didn't get and action there. After an hour of no bites, we moved on to Lily Lake which is just a few miles away in the village of Lakemoor.
Max got plenty of bites and almost landed his first fish - it got off the work right at the waters edge. Still, it was a fun fishing trip.
I think Max enjoyed getting worms out of the carton as much as he enjoyed fishing with them!
On Tuesday the temperature dropped and it rained most of the day. If this was the last summer like weekend of the year, it was a good one.
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