Monday, November 19, 2012

Grandma Wallin—Ahead of Her Time

My paternal grandmother was Sara Elizabeth Peterson Wallin, whose father Charles Peterson I will write about in a future post.  It was Grandma Wallin who gave me my love of genealogy (and some of my Swedish genes).

Grandma was born in Nebraska in 1894 and died nearly 100 years later, in 1986.  She grew up at a time when girls, especially daughters of immigrants on the Nebraska prairie, didn’t think about much except getting married and having a family.  But Grandma was smarter than most, and more ambitious than most.  She managed, after graduating eighth grade, to attend a nearby coed ‘college’ (as the word was used then), Luther College, and then get a job at a local bank, the Hordville Bank.  She did well there—well enough that when the owner/president of the bank needed to be out of town, Sara ran the bank.  But when WWI ended and her sweetheart came home from France, she gladly gave that up and settled down.  She and Sture Nels Wallin were married in 1920, after a seven-year-long courtship. 

When I knew her, half a century later, she was interested in genealogy, and it rubbed off on me.  I spent a few happy afternoons in my childhood walking around a local cemetery with her, reading each gravestone and imagining the lives of those they described.  I still remember her handwritten charts showing her ancestry and Grandpa’s.  I ended up with that information in later years, and it became the basis of a family tree that now has nearly 10,000 members on it. 

But what I remember most about Grandma Wallin was her insistence that all her grandchildren, girls included, should try to get an education.  (That, and the lutefisk I avoided like the plague every Christmastime.)

So thank you for the inspiration, Grandma Wallin.  You are gone but not forgotten!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

For the Love of Norman

I was married for the first time in 2007 at age 51, to a wonderful man.  His father, Norman, walked me down the aisle that day, since my father had died many years before.  As I got to know Norman, I was intrigued by the story of his mother, Eliza Jane Carriveau Mosey, who had died tragically when Norman was five.  Norman had only one picture of her—her wedding picture—and knew very little about her, since his father had remained a stoic and grieving widower for the rest of his life.

I had been a genealogy buff for a long time by then.  So Norman and I began looking at his ancestry, trying to find out more about his mother and her family.  We spent many happy hours around his kitchen table that first year, poring over documents and talking and taking notes.  Slowly the story of the Carriveaus started coming together. 

I also wanted to record Norman’s own life story.  So shortly after Veteran’s Day 2008 I phoned him and said, “When I am in Michigan on Thanksgiving weekend, let’s talk about your time in the Navy during WWII.”  He happily consented. 

Little did I know that this would be the last time I ever talked to him...  On the day before Thanksgiving in 2008, he was out on his beloved John Deere tractor, plowing snow out of his driveway, when a van flew over the hill and hit him.  He was thrown to the ground, breaking more bones than any doctor could count.  His tractor was left in two big pieces on the road.  The doctors kept him alive until we could rush to Michigan to say goodbye, and then he was gone.

Later that weekend, when we returned to Norman’s home before the funeral, there on a table in the living room was a neat pile of pictures and documents—the things that Norman had gathered together to share with me about his time in the Navy.  I did write up the history of his time in the Navy, but I had to do it without him; perhaps I’ll share it another day. 

I was never able to find any more photos of Norman’s mother Eliza, but I’m still researching his family’s history.  I’ve learned so much since then, that I wish I could share with him!  I still do Mosey/Carriveau genealogy—For the Love of Norman.