My parents just moved out of the home they have lived in for nearly 40 years. My brother has single handedly sorted through the lifetime of their possessions. Everything from the cantaloupe in the garage refrigerator to Dad's WWII relics stashed in a box in the back of his closet. His has been no small task, a combination of relief, sadness, and confidence that everyone has chosen a better plan. One of my sisters has a treasure trove of photos documenting family history from nearly every limb of the family tree. We've been gazing at these photos, recalling some of the events captured, or looking for a glimpse of family likeness in the photos of those whom we know only in that way.
I do remember this dear man, my great-grandfather on my mother's side. Charles Christian Fonken, the pharmacist and postmaster of Forreston, Illinois, and a godly man and member of the Reformed Church of Forreston. This photo of him sat on the marble top table in my grandmother's house when I was a little, little girl and the longer I stared at the photo I swore I saw his moustache move up and down. My grandmother looked like him. Without the moustache, of course.
We could have a contest in our family over who loved this guy the most. My mom's father, who was raised on a mule farm in northern Arkansas. This gentle, quiet man ran away from home at an early age and began working on the railroad.
That same railroad took him to Forreston where he met my grandmother the school teacher.
Here he is holding the mail bag at the train station.
He was a man of mettle. He told my parents they should never go to the town where he came from. Of course, they did, and when they asked an old codger at the service station if he knew where the old Grissom place was he replied, "The good Grissoms or the bad Grissoms?" I guess I know which one we are. It's family legend that one of Grampa's relatives had married a member of the Dalton gang. Remember them? They were in the "railroad and banking business" with Jesse James and his pals in the 1890's, mostly in Missouri and Oklahoma. Both of those states border Arkansas. Hmmm.
The legend became more plausible once we found out Grampa, who was born in 1900, had a middle name. We knew him only as Jesse Grissom. Turns out his name was Jesse James Grissom. Far from a life on the run, Grampa rolled sheets of tin for years and years. He worked for Gary Sheet and Tin, a division of U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana.Yep, I was born in the same hospital as Michael Jackson.
Pictured here is my paternal grandfather, Jack Spehr. He grew up in Detroit where all of his people worked as industrial painters and finishers in the automotive industry. Grandpa Spehr would hold a dinner roll in his up-turned palm, pretend it was a puppy and then make it jump up his arm. Scared the daylights out of me. He always had a large box of fancy chocolates in his office. He drank "eye medicine" and we got the chocolates.
Grandpa Spehr sold industrial abrasives, thus beginning a long-term
affliction affection for jokes concerning abrasive personalities and business being rough. He and my grandmother lived in a wonderful two-story house in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, just a few blocks from Lake Michigan. We could see the lake from the little round window in the closet on the second floor. That's one of my favorite memories in addition to the chocolates. You never know what memories will stick with you. (That can be either positive or terribly dangerous.)
Here is my father, Richard Spehr, and his mama, Florence. Daddy is the eldest of the four children. They lived in Galesburg, Illinois during his childhood. My sister ended up marrying the son of Daddy's best friend from childhood in Galesburg.
Right after my dad graduated from high school in the spring of 1943 he joined the army. In an amazing series of "coincidences" he ended up at Camp McCain in Grenada, Mississippi, and from there was sent to the Army Specialized Training Program at Ole Miss. He lived in the Barr dorm which is where Erin had voice lessons while a student at Ole Miss. Couldn't have planned that any better.
From there he went to France as part of the 3rd Army, 94th Infantry Division, Company L. They arrived in Lorient, France 94 days after D-Day. 18 years old and on to the Battle of the Bulge, releasing prisoners from concentration camps, and beginning the rebuilding of Germany. Dad went on to college after the war at Knox College in Galesburg where he met my mom.
She was a cutie. Dad, like his father, sold industrial abrasives and sandpaper. And my brother, also named Jack Spehr, has been in the sandpaper business. I bet you don't know anyone who sells sandpaper and that's about all we ever knew. Here they are at my grandparents' house, the one near the lake, the summer before I was born. I wonder if this was Father's Day.
Read my previous post, if you like, for Father's and Mother's Day contemplations.
One thing I do know just from what I've witnessed in the last six weeks.
God is at work in the lives of His children and in His creation.
He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.
Happy Father's Day, Dad, Mark, Pete, Jason and Ryan.