Sue Martin Glasco

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Sue Glasco was born in the southern part of Illinois in 1933 during the Great Depression in a region called “The Land Between the Rivers.” (Ohio River on the east and Mississippi on the west.) Her sister Rosemary was eight and her brother Jim was five. The family lived in a big two-story rental house at the top of a short street sloping gently down to the elementary school where her father was both principal and eighth grade teacher. Later they rented a house even closer to the school where her first memories surface. By the time Sue started first grade, her parents had bought a house across the street from the school. School lasted for only eight months, and there were no summer salaries for teachers. So Sue’s family leased their home for the summer and moved to her father’s home place in a nearby county. Her parents made that annual move an adventure in country living, and Sue grew up appreciating farm life. An exception was the summer after first grade, when the family moved to Colorado so her father could study at the University of Colorado. He brought her books from the university library. At the farm, books were ordered from the state library system and were delivered by the mail carrier. When she was eight, World War II began. A teacher at a one-room rural school was drafted. Sue’s mother was asked to take his place. In some communities at that time, it was considered unseemly for a married woman to teach. Now it was a patriotic duty to teach. (There were married women and married women with children at her dad’s school, however.) Sue’s mother picked up students with their 1937 Ford car, supervised the student who built the fire in the stove, kept the building clean, and taught all eight grades. Sue loved visiting her mother’s school when her school was closed, but she hated being alone in the house until her mother and siblings returned each afternoon. News of the war and its heart ache filled their lives. The school yard was heaped with enormous hills of collected junk metal and old rubber tires as community scrap drives took place. Students competed in paper drives and brought in tightly-wound balls of tin foil from gum and other wrappers. Kids thought they were helping win the war when they helped with the drives and when they bought savings stamps and participated in savings bond drives. After the war, the rural school consolidated with the town school, and Sue’s mother also taught across the street. Few teachers had their degrees, and her parents were always taking night classes—sometimes locally and sometimes driving with a car load of teachers to what is now Southern Illinois University Carbondale. After she started high school, Sue’s parents stopped moving to the farm, but she still enjoyed going with her dad on Saturday when she could. Her sister went off to Carbondale to school after working locally for a year after high school. Her brother joined the army after high school and returned to SIU on the GI Bill. Most local students went to college at Carbondale, where one could work oneself through school. This was where Sue’s grandfather, parents, aunts and uncles had gone, and she took it for granted that she would follow the same path and did. She worked, majored in journalism and had almost a second major in speech. Right before Christmas when Sue was a senior, Gerald Glasco had finished his stint in the Air Force and came back to campus to finish his degree in agriculture. They had met once, and Gerald had spent time with a mutual friend in Hawaii, so he phoned Sue to share greetings from her. They began dating over the holiday break, and by April, they announced their engagement. Sue kept her plans to participate in an interdenominational project at Judson Student House in Greenwich Village, which required participants to find a job, work during the day, and then join in evening Bible study and listening to lecturers from around the city. Weekend activities explored the church in urban life. Sue secured summer employment as a secretary in an office at the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and saw upper NY daily. She did not get to any ball parks, but she enjoyed the cheap seats in theaters on and off Broadway. After the summer, Sue went to coach debate and to teach an integrated English-speech class to sophomores at a new high school in a Chicago suburb. She returned home for a June wedding. Gerald and she rented a house (no plumbing) in the country for $10 a month They were eager to start a family, and Katherine was born the following April while Gerald finished his senior year at SIU and they lived on his GI Bill. Wanting to farm someday, Gerald accepted a fellowship at the University of Illinois to complete his masters in ag economics. A farm in the Mississippi bottoms opened up for them to rent but with a three-month gap between finishing his degree and its availability. They felt a miracle provided Gerald a teaching job for that fall term at Western Illinois University. Their only son Gerry was born in Macomb before they began their lives as farmers. They went in debt for a tractor, and Gerald raised pigs without a farrowing house. Their tenant house was cold in winter, and they had to work hard, but they enjoyed farm life. Shortly before their three-year lease expired, their daughter Jean Claire (Jeannie) was born. Soon they moved up to Columbiana Ranch in the middle of the state, where Gerald became livestock manager.Then he and his brother Keith had an opportunity to buy a hog farm back in Southern Illinois the next year; they took the plunge into farm ownership. Keith’s family lived at the hog farm, and they moved into a wonderful old house (cold, no plumbing till they remodeled and put it in) on a rented farm, which would provide crop land. Mary Ellen was born the following June. Keith was able to buy a farm back in their home county and moved his family there, and Gerald and Sue moved over to the hog farm, where they lived for the next 36 years until they built their retirement home on a small lake Gerald had built. Despite a serious childhood illness, Katherine became a singer, a teacher and a children’s librarian in Nashville, TN. Eventually she came back home to teach and to be near her nieces and nephews. She married David Cedar shortly after her unexplained bouts of illness had finally led to the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. (Probably the MS had started when she was 14.) She continued to teach music and reading until the stairs became too difficult and she had to retire. Much to their delight right before her 40th birthday, their son Sam was born. Now Sam has one more year of high school before he goes to college. MS has progressed and robbed her of the ability to walk or use her hands. She and Sam live in nearby Marion. Gerry married his high school sweetheart, which was the smartest thing he ever did. Vickie worked full time and held the family together while he developed a successful hunting/outfitting business in Mexico in the winter months and coached travel softball for their three daughters in the summer. Tara grew up to play for SIUC and became a teacher, married Bryan Archibald, and soon had three adorable sons. Erin played for Notre Dame, Texas A&M, USSSA Pride, and then one summer in Europe . She now teaches middle school math and coaches in Texas. Six years ago Gerry closed the business and became assistant softball coach at the University of Georgia. Three years ago he became associate head coach, and Lu Harris-Champer brought Tara in as assistant coach. Tara was able to do this because their family and Gerry and Vickie rented a large house together, and Vickie became a caregiver for the three little boys while Tara coached. Bryan had an office in the house, where he disappeared each morning to the computer, to continue his job at an architecture firm in the Chicago area. Geri Ann finished high school at Oconee, won the 2012 Gatorade High School National Player of the Year in softball, and has just completed two years playing for UGA while studying special education. This summer Gerry is coaching USSSA Pride and has just become associate head coach at Texas A&M. Jeannie grew up with a kitten or sketch pad or both in her hands a large part of the time. She married Rick Eiler, who heads the math department at Freeport High School, and Jeannie now teaches art in a grade school. They raised three talented children. Leslie married Mike Thompson, works for a music publishing company, and continues singing and acting in Nashville, TN. Mike is a personal trainer and has little Leslie doing amazing strength feats, so obviously he is good at what he does. He also plays a fine guitar. Elijah has just finished an internship in a Chicago neighborhood and will be in Indianapolis fall semester and student teaching in Chicago his last semester at Illinois State University. Cecelie, the youngest grandchild, will be a high school sophomore and continues her older siblings’ footsteps in music, speech, and theater. Mary Ellen majored in agriculture communication, and ended up as editor of Tennessee Magazine in Nashville. When she married Brian Taylor, they soon moved to Grinnell, Iowa, where Brian worked for DeKalb Seed. While there, Trent was born and then their daughter Brianna. Several moves after that gave them lots of experience in adjusting to new communities, and last spring they moved to a farm they bought near us. Brian continues to work full time with seeds for Monsanto. He goes up to Saint Louis when needed and works out of a home office otherwise. (Both he and grandson-in-law Bryan say they get more accomplished in a private home office than when co-workers are nearby.) Somehow Brian also farms Gerald and Sue's farm and other rented land. In addition to homemaking and helping Brian, Mary Ellen has just resumed her career as a realtor that she started when they lived in a Saint Louis suburb and which she continued in Springfield, Illinois. Obviously they work too hard. Trent, brilliant family computer and gaming geek, transferred down to John A. Logan College when they moved here. Always at the top of everything she does, beautiful blond Brianna is home working at the local Dairy Queen this summer and will soon be going back for her sophomore year in the honors program at Murray State in Kentucky. Sue’s life has been primarily that of a mother and farm wife. She had what she calls a haphazard education career as a substitute in K-12, part-time teaching at Marion and Johnston City High Schools and in area community colleges. Finally she spent over six years working in family literacy in Franklin County for Rend Lake College, the last two of which were full time. She always wrote some when time allowed. Although she made little money free lancing or part-time teaching, she enjoyed the interaction with students and the stimulation of writing. Sue and Gerald’s original family of two has now grown twenty-four, and that is not counting everyone’s dogs. That is a lot of people to keep track of and an ongoing excuse for Sue not getting all her writing projects done. It also gives her plenty to blog about, and blogging provides her a venue without having to waste stamps and return envelops on manuscripts as she did in her younger days. Back then she wanted to make money, but now she just writes for the pleasure of it.

Lots of Blessings

The first thing that happened to me on Thanksgiving morning was a surprise presentation of gorgeous flowers by Gerald for my birthday! It was so nice to start the day calmly with beautiful flowers. Two of our three great grandsons were already outside, and I quickly put on some bacon to bake for when they showed up at the kitchen table. After I ate my egg and toast, I started looking at my small to-do list.

The Freeport Eilers were going to eat with their church family this year. Their church provides a community dinner for anyone who will come much like Herrin does. Last year Jeannie had a cold and had to stay home and the rest of the family came without her. This year they were staying home; and when Cecelie called me with birthday wishes, they were on their way to their feast, and I assume to pitch in to help. Jeannie and Rick's daughter Leslie and husband Mike were in Ohio to be with Mike's family. Geri Ann in Oregon and Sam in Waco were both going to a friend's home for dinner since they are tied up until Christmas break. Erin and baby Caroline down in Texas were having Josh's parents to be with them from Oregon or Minnesota --they live both places, so I am not sure of their current location. I liked knowing that Josh knew his folks were there to celebrate with his wife and daughter, and I was pleased that Gerald brought up and placed with our group the 8 by l0 photo of Josh holding two-week-old baby Caroline before he had to return to South Korea. Josh stays in our thoughts and prayers.

We have had a lot of excitement crammed into little more than a week's time! Last Saturday we drove over and took flowers to Katherine who was in the hospital at Carbondale. Before we left the house, we were shocked to hear that Gerry, our son who had just gone to Auburn University as associate softball coach two months ago, had accepted head coach at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and that it would be announced at press conference on Monday.

Gerry invited us down; of course, Gerald and our daughter Mary Ellen wanted to be there. Me too, but since doctors warned me to not travel without resting every two hours or so after a pulmonary embolism several years ago, I knew that would be out of the question with the race down there. Mary Ellen double checked that Gerry really wanted them there despite how busy as he would be. She had a terrible coughing cold, and Gerald woke up somewhat weak on Sunday morning, but they went anyhow. They were making good time until they hit a couple of very long traffic delays, so their 8 pm arrival time stretched out till 11 pm. Ready to fall into their beds in their reserved room, they could not locate the room for their key. They went back to the desk, and found that motel with their very expensive room had no night clerk! She left evidently after as soon as she gave them their key and no directions. After a continued search, they finally gave up and went elsewhere and got to bed at 1 am. and were up shortly after 5 for Monday's exciting activities starting with a tour of facilities and meetings before the 11 o'clock press conference . All the fun and pleasure of hearing Gerry's career praised gave them adrenaline, and the many hugs and laughter provided serotonin and endorphins to get through the day happily and wide awake feeling good. They were back home by 11 that night after the second 630 mile trip in two days. (Yes, they received an apology and no charge at first motel. Evidently there were two buildings and the night clerk in her hurry to leave failed to properly explain.)

Gerry's wife Vickie cares for baby Caroline during the week while Erin teaches, so she had used Erin's break to go to Normal here in Illinois to see the Archibald family--Tara and Bryan and her three grandsons. Suddenly she had to shorten her visit and fly down to Lafayette. Yet she looked rested and beautiful in her red dress that perfectly matched the bouquet they gave her. (Vermilion is the school color, and I had to google it to discover that bright red or scarlet is close enough. I suspect I will be doing quite a bit of googling to learn about Lafayette and the Ragin' Cajuns.) I was at home, but I was able to see much of the festivities with all the videos on Facebook and spent most of the day doing so, although I was aware it was three days till Thanksgiving.

It was difficult to think with all the excitement, but fortunately I had the pumpkin pies that Gerry loves all baked and in the freezer and an angel food cake and one pie made without sugar for Gerald. and a large frozen pecan pie someone had brought once upon a time that did not get eaten. Gerald had bought our frozen almost 22 pound turkey and it was thawing in the garage fridge. I figured I would make the dressing and fry the okra, and I had ingredients and assignments for everyone else to put a simple holiday meal on the buffet. I was disappointed that now Gerry would not be with us as planned, but I was glad he would at least have a day to get some sleep. Mary Ellen had wanted to do the dining room table, and I was relieved to let her. I went to my physical therapy Tuesday afternoon, and then I ran by Katherine's house as she had just come home from the hospital the night before.

On Wednesday. Gerald helped and we cut the plastic wrapping off the thawed turkey and made it ready for him to put it in the oven early the next morning. Oh yes, I set the oven's self cleaning mechanism to take care of some pumpkin pie batter I'd spilled the week before. Later while I was at Katherine's and then running by the store for last minute items, Gerald cleared out the smokey air from the burned-up oven gunk. When I got home, things were in full swing with the great grandsons having arrived. Vickie had flown back to Normal from Louisiana and came down for Thanksgiving with the Archibalds as originally planned. Aidan, our oldest great grandson had to play in two basketball games on Tuesday night, so they could not come sooner. But it did not take long after they arrived for the three boys to be outside doing all the things they do on the farm. As soon aas I was back at the farm and after hugs and greetings, I put away those last minute items and then swiped out the coating of white ash left in the oven; our grandson-in-law Bryan reached the back of the oven for me. We all had a party to go to!

The Archibalds had invited both sides (Johnson and Glasco) to an early birthday party at Pirate Pete's. That was what Maddux wanted for his and his cousin Kinsley's birthdays I had never been to Pirate Pete's but knew where it was. In our day, Tara and our other grand-kids would lure us to Chuckie Cheese's in Paducah. So going to Pirate Pete's was an adventure, and we quickly understood why the kids loved it. Gma Shirley and I and other adults too staid to participate as some did in a laser fight were comfortable in a quiet dining area. We enjoyed visiting until the kids (and adult kids) wore down and joined us for pizza and opening gifts. The blow guns the boys chose with the tickets they won provided soft “bullets”xxxxx flying through the air the rest of our holiday. I liked that and hearing them fiddling with the piano in this sometimes too quiet adult household. The boys are extremely kind and well mannered, and I love watching them grow up.

After Mary Ellen and Brianna arrived Thanksgiving morning, Mary Ellen added to the table decorations she had started on Wednesday. She had new yellow clothes for the dining table and adjoining kitchen table, and she had made a tan burlap runner and placed red candles inside two large glass vases with the candles held up by harvested soybeans. All was quite lovely and symbolic, but Thursday she added bows on the vases and a centerpiece between them. Come to find out, that centerpiece was a gift wreath from Jeannie for my birthday, and in the middle of it was a chocolate pecan pie with two chocolate candles announcing I was 84.

In addition to my assigned tasks for a simple menu, Mary Ellen and Brianna carried in a potato casserole and creamed corn, and Vickie made her deviled eggs that we all love. So our buffet was full with a a variety of foods. I really make giblet gravy for Gerry as I am not sure others eat it, but I decided to go ahead and make it in case someone did want it. Mary Ellen had emphasized we needed to eat on time for hungry kids' sake, but she had also brought sausage/cheese balls and dip to keep people from starving.

Gerald had gone to town to drive Katherine and her wonderful aide out to the farm in her van, so Bryan took over getting the heavy turkey out of the oven and then carving it, which Gerry used to always do. My dressing was not getting done since it was such a big pan. As usual, we really did not make the 12 noon deadline, but everyone was there and laughing and talking. Katherine had seen baby Caroline's photos that decorate our kitchen thanks to Gerald's photographic hobby, and she was back to her spot for her wheelchair. Food was prepared and placed. Brian and Trent had joined us, and we had congratulated Trent on SIUC's success in a cyber security tournament. The two college students had seated themselves with the three boys at their table. We were almost ready for Gerald to thank God for our blessings when there was an uproar in the kitchen. The kitchen door slammed, and suddenly there was Gerry who had driven from Louisiana to be with us after all. Suddenly we had even more blessing for Gerald to express thanks for.

After a meal of fellowshhip, Mary Ellen and Vickie put away the food put and did the enormous kitchen clean up while I visited and enjoyed my birthday. (They did leave that difficult dressing pan for me.) Katherine was getting very tired and her aide had another dinner to go to. Gerry and Vickie and the Archibalds also had yet another to go to that night with the Johnson family at Terry and Sheila's. Brianna had come home from Murray with great relief from turning in her senior thesis--and yes it was excellent her professor said--and she wanted to celebrate with a movie with her family. So the house quieted a bit until Gerry and Vickie and the Archibalds returned, and everyone needed to get to bed.

Although the Archibalds left early Friday morning (for another Thanksgiving celebration with Bryan's family), the boys had kayaked and created a neat tunnel in the lime pile and ridden on all the things with wheels that they love. Bryan had already washed and put the kayaks back on their storage ropes. Gerry and Vickie left soon after with the bird dogs Gerald hd been feeding for Gerry. They were headed to Erin's house where Gerry would be able to cuddle baby Caroline—the perfect ending for his brief break. Gerald and I went back into the empty house.

Saturday was a catch-up day, and I boiled the turkey carcass and put bags of broth into the freezer, which will make good soup to go with our sandwiches on cold winter nights ahead. On Sunday we worshipped grateful for our abundant blessings and askiing God to help us with our heartaches. Today there is casserole in the oven from left-over turkey. Atractive green pods have burst into bloom adding orange lilies to the other beautiful colors of my birthday bouquet gracing our living room. Brianna will be defending her thesis in front of four professors this week, and I must think about boxed-up Christmas trees stored in closets.

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Somehow, Thanksgiving is such an appropriate day for your birthday celebration, Sue. Thanks for sharing it with us, even for tanta... Read More
Friday, 01 December 2017 23:43
Sue Martin Glasco
Thank you, Rosy. It is always pleasant when my birthday falls on Thanksgiving.
Wednesday, 06 December 2017 23:29
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Finally Fall Coloration

Although I had admired a lovely large tree across our lake with yellow leaves for a couple of weeks, I kept wanting to see some reds and bright orange colors. Other trees in our yard and those across the fields were mostly still green. I remember when we used to be able to count on bright-hued leaves by the middle of October, and I noticed the last couple of years that was no longer true. I thought maybe it was just our region, and then I read that autumn coloration is arriving later elsewhere also. But finally a week ago, I looked out the kitchen patio door towards the lake to see the maple Gerald planted in the yard when we moved here, and it was at last a brilliant red. On beyond the maple was a Bradford pear tree Gerald planted that was now lovely with deep wine leaves. Rains and winds came, and the maple looks all snaggly now with half its red leaves on the ground, but it had brought me a proper measure of pleasure before that happened. I drove through that blinding rain to Katherine's one night; and driving home later after the rain stopped, the blacktop road glistened with red and orange fallen leaves shining in my headlights. Even better, a breeze would ever so often blow more leaves down to shower me with additional loveliness in my car lights.

Although the maple is worst for the wind's wear, the pear tree with its crown of wine leaves is still there to please my eyes. The trees in the woods across hills and meadows surrounding us have gradually turned from green to mostly brown. If we were able to walk under them, I expect there might be some brown leaves to shuffle through; but like our pear, these trees seem to be clinging onto their leaves for a bit longer. As much as I enjoy the coloration, I am also fond of the beauty of bare stark branches, which I've always associated with November. Maybe now with global warming, those bare branches will wait to decorate the sky until the latter part of November.

Our son-in-law finished his harvest over a week ago before that heavy rain came, and we are grateful for his good crops and a completed harvest. With memories of the fortunately rare years when weather made harvest impossible until after Thanksgiving or even Christmas, there is always a certain anxiety until the crops are in. Perhaps our worst year was the one when Gerald was still combining in late February after he had made a trip to northern Michigan to buy tracks for the combine. Horror stories of farmers' combines stuck in mad that year stick in our memories making an early harvest that much sweeter.

My summer was full of tests that mostly turned out good. (A false positive on a sonogram necessitated an angiogram, so I was grateful for that good report.) Now I am finally able to have time to start physical therapy tomorrow to improve my balance. One morning last summer I woke up to find that the arthritis and other problems in my right knee were joined by arthritis and tendinitis in my left foot, and that day I had to start using a cane to walk safely. Those pains have mostly subsided on their own, but I still need that cane when I am away from the house. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to walking better yet after physical therapy.

I also tire easily, and it has been necessary for me to realize that I cannot go to town and complete four or five errands in a half day as I have done all my life. Such adjustments do not come easy for me. Gerald helps me more than he ever needed to in the past when he was working 12 hour days or longer. I think his gardening is over for this year; we ate the last tomato from the fridge two days ago. I failed to wrap up any green ones in newspaper to use on Thanksgiving Day as I often have in the past. Yet now he is busy doing such things as replacing 16-year-old faucets or putting back up the large wire shelf in the garage, which I've used for a clothes line when clothes come out of the drier. (We learned there is a limit to how much weight that long wire shelf could take when he washed and dried a summer-full of shirts worn for only an hour or two, and I suggested hanging them there temporarily before they went back in the closet. When Gerald walked out the next morning, the shelf was down and the shirts were on the garage floor. So I have now taken off that wire shelf the antique shoe last that belonged to my father. Daddy used to have it secured on a stand in our basement in Jonesboro, and he sometimes put half soles on our shoes when they wore out. I like to think he inherited the last from his father, but I don't know that. It is small to fit inside the shoe, but very heavy since it is made of iron.  I like seeing it and holding it and thinking of my father, but I think it is probably time to give it to a local museum.)

Gerald received a phone call from his Union County friend Irma Dell Eudy Elkins telling him of yet another death of a high school classmate. I had a small grade school class, and five of my closest friends have been dead for a few years now. They did not live close enough to see them often, but I miss knowing they are out there with their minds holding many of the same memories I have. And I miss not hearing from them at Christmas--or at all. I do not consider death the end, but losing people from your life here on earth is a natural part of growing older. Frequent deaths are to be expected at our age just as leaves fall off trees as winter approaches. What happened in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas, is not a normal or expected occurrence, and we Americans must determine to put an end to it. Such massacres are not occurring in Japan or European countries, and we have a responsibility to stop them here. I liked seeing a post from one of Katherine's friends down in Nashville. Her photo showed a handful of postal card messages to congress. That is a small action any of us could do.

 

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Social Life Slowed by our Age

Aging brings frequent doctor checkups—teeth, eyes, hearing aids, heart, INRs for blood thickness, etc. etc. Then add the fact that doing the minimum of what needs doing takes forever, and we get slower every year we age.  At least some of us do. The result is that our social life has slowed down considerably. We do not get out much in the community any more, and we hesitate to invite people over for a specific date since we might be called into town to help take care of Katherine on that date if an aide fails to show up. My dad used to say if people invite you over and do not set a definite time, they may not mean it. I think he was only partly correct. We love it when people drop in and find us home. We have enjoyed some social life this month and are grateful. It does us good to be around others and hear their stories and experiences. It makes our limited life less limited!

An unexpected family reunion was our first event this month! My mother-in-law's maiden name was Godwin, but her father died soon after she was married. Gerald is not even sure if he actually remembers Nathaniel Godwin or maybe his one memory is just of a photograph of him as a little boy sitting on his grandfather's lap. Mom Glasco talked about her family and cousins, and I remember meeting one cousin decades ago.

We also were briefly in contact with some Godwin relatives that Gerald's sister Ernestine found online in Saint Louis. That is how we found his great grandparents' graves in the Creal Springs cemetery several years ago. We were surprised since the Godwins we knew about had lived at Pomona. Since we live so close to Route 166, I invited these Saint Louis folk to come by the next time they visited the cemetery, but they never did. However, Gerald's cousin Irma Fay (Wenger) Brown met a Godwin relative at a funeral visitation recently. He turned out to be a custodian at the school across from my childhood home in Jonesboro. That meeting resulted in an invitation to their annual Godwin reunion. So on a recent Saturday, we took off for the Devil's Backbone park in Grand Tower on the banks of the Mississippi River. Although very windy, it was a beautiful day, and the drive through the hills and farm lands was beautiful. We stopped at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Murphysboro to obtain our contribution to the pot luck, so it was a work-free outing for me, which was good since I was having some leg pain. We were able to see all of Gerald's Wenger cousins, and we met lots of nice folks there and learned a little more Godwin history. I wish I could hear better in crowds, and I might have learned more!

Last weekend we were delighted to hear that Jeannie was planning on coming down since she had not been able to come in August. She brought lots of school work with her despite working late Friday night. But I always enjoy visiting with her as she sits handling her kids' art work helping them get ready for their next step—the current project is making sketch books. Since she has over 500 students (K-5) at two different schools and is expected in some cases to teach from a cart, it sounds to me that it is an impossible job that reflects the lack of respect too many have for the value of the arts. Nevertheless, when I hear her talk and see the kids' work, I am positive her students are learning more than she can guess. In talking with the kids about books, she found they knew the word “spine,” but since the kids are computer literate, she was surprised they did not know about fonts. She took back a arm full of old magazines from our house to help her students discover different fonts.

Before Jeannie arrived on Saturday, Gerald invited me to go with him and our birthday granddaughter Brianna and her mother to Carterville. Gerald had been planning for some weeks that he wanted to buy her a new Bible for her birthday. He had recently met a knowledgeable clerk at the book store there that helped him buy two new Bibles, so he wanted Brianna to meet this clerk and have his advice. Brianna is by nature a thoughtful person, so she listening thoughtfully and considered carefully before we left with her new Bible. Mary Ellen made some Christmas gift purchases, and I knew I was getting old because I resisted buying a single book. (Every time I was tempted, I remembered the pile of half read books awaiting me in our living room and told myself not to add until I finished some of them.) After lunch at a nearby family restaurant, we returned Bri and her mom to their house as Brianna had plans to dress for Halloween parading with her brother Trent in Carbondale. (They went as Dexter and Dee Dee in memory of their childhood when Trent was always involved with some scientific project and Bri was the annoying little sister.) We went home to anticipate Jeannie's arrival.

On Sunday, Mary Ellen and Brian invited us to celebrate Bri's birthday by having lunch at Kay's Sugar Creek restaurant in Creal Springs. Many years ago when Gerald and I used to go down for Sunday lunch or Friday supper at a little cafe on the opposite side of the street, Kay's was closed and seemed at that time mostly open for noon-day meals for seniors. I had not even realized they were open again on Sundays. (And for all I know, they may have been for years.) It had been several decades since we ate at Kay's—I only remember one Sunday dinner there with a favorite pastor and his wife way back then. So last Sunday, we walked in to the typical country-style cafe with a cozy friendly atmosphere and only a few tables occupied. A blackboard told us that Sunday dinners gave you a choice of fried chicken or chicken and dumplings with two sides. I debated and ordered the dumplings, which surprised me by being served in a bowl, more like a soup than the usual dumplings. But the down home ambiance was charming; we had not been there long when a fellow Crab Orchard school alum walked in, and Jeannie and Mary Ellen enjoyed a brief visit with someone they'd not seen for years. The best part, however, was lingering after we'd eaten. Jeannie asked her daddy some good questions that brought out some family facts and stories I'd never heard. Our sweet waitress was more than patient; and with plenty of other tables for those arriving after us, we felt no need to hurry and depart. I've always been fascinated with the history of Creal Springs, where Gerald's grandfather Ben Glasco attended the Academy to earn his teacher's license and where my grandmother Sidney Martin attended a church assembly that was held there in the 1920s, I think. (Gpa Ben chose not to use his teacher's license since farm hands earned a larger salary! So not valuing education has been with us a long time. Nevertheless, I understand that Gpa Ben would have neighbors gathering in since he took a daily paper and was able to read it and keep up with the news the others wanted to know in those days without even radios. He also was considered an excellent mathematician and ready to help figure interest and other farm sums. I always admired this trait in Gerald's dad also.)

Jeannie left us Monday morning, but we had an evening to look forward to. Gerald's high school class of 16 no longer has planned reunions, but when their Wolf Lake class valedictorian and his wife come down from Peoria, we are grateful that Irma Dell Eudy Elkins gives Gerald a phone call and an invitation to meet other classmates or relatives who get the word and have dinner with Harold and Jean Stark at Anna's Mexican restaurant. The service team there is so kind and attentive and they have a great reserved room for us. Even in our separate room, I have a great deal of trouble hearing. Since others there had the same problem, I did not feel out-of-place as I sometimes do when I have to keep asking for repetitions. I always enjoy catching up with Shirley Miller to ask her about their small church in the village of Reynoldsville. Houses on the west side of highway have been torn down long ago and their property absorbed into one large farm. With that area in a flood plain, no new houses can be built on the east side either. So the once thriving small village church of decades ago has seen young people move away and older people die off. But a local dozen or so residents still faithfully attend, and I love to hear all about their worship and mission activities. For example, they bought 22 pairs of tennis shoes for local school children who needed them. They are prompt with needed food or errands if they see a need. If you are going to have car trouble on Route 3, try to have it near Reynoldsville. Their congregation stands able and willing to help those with misfortune on the highway. This tiny congregation is not made up of highly moneyed people, but Shirley says they have no problem paying light and heating bills and for a young man gaining experience preaching for them. I have heard of small churches having difficulty securing a pianist, but Shirley prevented that problem years ago when she and her husband gave their daughter piano lessons as a child. She has no idea when the congregation will no longer be there, but she is enjoying the present time, and I enjoy it vicariously.

Gerald's special social outlet has always been “breakfast with the boys.” And so this morning, he made time to drive down to Union County to eat breakfast with his one remaining brother and his nephews and who ever shows up for breakfast at wherever the current gathering place is. Getting to see little Jentra in her spurs preparing for the horse show at their arena this afternoon was a special treat for him today. As usual, I slept late, and he brought the family news home to me.

Despite aging problems, we have enjoyed the social life we have been blessed with this month. We are grateful to have the energy to visit with others and hear their news—if we keep our hearing aid batteries changed and if we sit close with enough concentration!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Harvest in the Autumn of Life

Gerald and I deserted other work and went to the 25th annual BSU Reunion wondering as probably many of us were if this would be the last one we would be able to attend. After visiting in the large lobby at Giant City State Park Lodge, we entered the reserved dining room and were greeted by attractive tables with theme related decorations and lovely program booklets with Ecclesiastes 3:1 on the cover: To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.

For younger readers and non-Baptist readers, I should explain that BSU stood for Baptist Student Union, and the BSU at Southern Illinois University Carbondale was very important to many students for decades. When Helen Green Gallaway was still alive and leading our reunion, she liked to tell of their BSU bus taking students to Ridgecrest, NC, and stopping for a motel. The owner there sniffed at the sign on their bus and declared those college kids did not even know how to spell “bus.”

I had already been blessed in the lobby by conversation with Pat Abney of Anchorage, Alaska, who was present with her brother Sam of Galatia. I remembered Pat's name from my last year at Johnson Hall, but I had not seen her since. As she answered questions about her life's work, she told us about 28 years teaching biology, her political activities, her 10 years operating a Bed and Breakfast, and on and on. Hearing her story, I was immediately inspired and very grateful I had come. What Pat did not tell me and I found by googling her was she had been named Outstanding Biology Teacher of Alaska, Alaska Woman of the Year, and other such honors.

When I opened my booklet to discover the evening's program, I found Galatians 6:9: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. As Gerld and I became acquainted with our table of eight, it seemed those people could have been an illustration for that verse. I have known Jane Walker Sims and her sister-in-law Beverly Walker for a long time, and knew they had served others well.

On the far side of the large table were Dr. Robert and Marilyn Parks of Mt, Vernon, who would have to exit early because the doctor would be leaving home at 6:30 the next morning on his rounds of 14 nursing homes. From the snatches of conversation I could hear in that noisy room filled with excited once-a-year visiting, I heard enough to know the Parks are using the very special buildings on their farm to serve special needs kids, senior citizens, and many others who come for events they host. If that was not enough activity, Marilyn rose to tell us of the college classes she and her brother, Dr. Curt Scarborough, want to have there on the farm. Most of us probably remembered Curt from our SIUC days, but few of us may have known that after 21 years as a pastor, he joined a non-profit called FreeWay Foundation in 1975 and became president in 1985 after establishing a college as part of their organization. Retiring after 41 years there, he still has the energy to want to establish CrossFire Christian College with his sister Marilyn on Crescent Lake Farm. You can google to find out more about opportunities there where it declares you can audit classes free if you are not studying for a diploma.

I was very fortunate to be seated next to Don Donley and wife Esther from Kankakee. Just like Pat Abney, they've had a full life and are still going strong. Don explained after SIU graduation, he first became a hospital administrator. Then because of talking with lawyers for the hospital, he studied law so he could speak their language. Later he used that law degree in a bank in downtown Chicago.

Because he wanted to do volunteer overseas mission work in retirement, he spent a year in seminary studies as required by the Southern Baptists at that time. Esther was not only a trained elementary teacher but also had studied and became a school librarian, so they had many talents between them to share. They actually ended up going to both Ghana and Kenya in association with the Wycliffe translation group but Don did not regret the seminary classes. First Esther worked in a school library, and then she was needed in another nation as a first grade teacher. Don worked in administration and at one school keeping 25 computers going and so forth. I loved best when they told of individual students they helped continue in school. In one country, local schools were sometimes staffed by teachers with high school diplomas and not much beyond that. (As sometimes used to be true here in our country a century ago.) So although the young woman was near the top of her class, she was ineligible for university work until she took remedial classes, which she did with the Donleys' encouragement. And another young woman was able to have a bedroom in their stateside home after Don helped her get a job in the bank to work her way through college. (And a car to get to that job.) I noted their three children are all involved in careers helping others. The daughter, Kathy Donley, and her husband, Jim Wilkerson,  graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Kathy is now pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in the inner city—just one block from the Capitol in Albany,New York. Not only are the Donleys not growing weary doing good, but the next generation is doing good.

It would not be a BSU meeting without lots of group singing and musical presentations. Thanks to Doris McCoy, Ray Purnell, Charlene Purnell, Bob Barrow, Carol Smith, Charlie Baker, and Jim Cox, our master of ceremonies, we had both Friday night. Nor would it be reminiscent of our fun in BSU days to not have laughter, and that was provided by Bob and Oleta Barrow's enlisting Tom Gwalney, Sharon Reynolds, Barbara Highsmith, and Bill Sielschott to play the Liars Game.

Cal Reynolds ended the evening with the first of his very practical and encouraging messages on our theme of “Harvest in the Autumn of Life.” He started with “God's Care in the Springtime of Life...A Time of Preparation.”

After final chatter and visiting, some from far away stayed in the cabins at the park; others of us went home or elsewhere until the 9 am to reassemble on Friday morning. Jim Cox woke us up with some fun with his guitar followed by “Moment by Moment” sung by Bob Barrow and Charlie Baker accompanied by Carol Smith Then we were treated to another challenging sermon by Cal: “God's Care in Life's Summertime...A Time of Propagation.”

In past years, we have had a large choir under talented leaders in remembrance of Chapel Singers that so many BSU students sang in. As our numbers have gone down, this year we had a double quartet practice and sing for us. Thank you to Bob Barrow, Dee Gwaltney, Harlan Highsmaith, Becky Searle, Jim Cox, Nada Fuqua, Cal Reynolds, and Ginger Wells accompanied by Carol Smith for beautiful music. The traditional memorial service for those who died last year was provided by Carol Smith and Dee Gwaltney.

I was inspired next by Jim Cox's “Remembrance of a Friend” as he told the story of his pastor's part in persuading him to go to college. As the oldest of five kids in a family where no one had gone to college, he had not prepared to do so. His pastor urged that he try one semester and then took him to Carbondale, secured him a basement bedroom and a job, and Jim found out how well equipped he was for advanced education even though he had not taken college prep courses. He has blessed many with his radio career and his musical leadership. In his early career at Channel 3 in Harrisburg, I looked forward to his original program “The Hour” live each weekday. Jim and his interesting guests provided me, an isolated farm wife, with mental and social stimulation, and I also enjoyed when he once came to direct the choir in our village church during special services.

One of Jim's most valuable contributions in life may have been his friendship with Al Fasol and leading him to the Lord. Al returned this year to share with us from his book Humor with a Halo and was introduced by Jim. Al had a career as a seminary professor teaching effective sermon preparation. As we were discovering from Cal Reynolds' sermons, Al did a good job. I think our group gave both Al and his student Cal very high marks. Gerald got the publisher's name from Al to order this humor book of actual happenings. I decided to check it out on Amazon, and thus found Al's other more serious books. Partly because I have so many writers as friends, I have a difficult time not spending more than I probably should on books. But as a history buff, there was a book I knew I had to have: a book telling of significant Baptist preachers in the South from 1670 to 1975. A new volume was way too expensive for me, but I have a second-hand copy coming for less than $15--postage and all. I am very eager to start reading it! 

The morning ended with a reminder that October 31 will be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. After Carol Smith accompanied by Lora Blackwell-Kern led us in singing “A Mighty Fortress,” Carol shared a presentation with help from Dr. Fasol reading scriptures in German and Jerry Upchurch following in English. Carol will also give the presentation on this important historical event at her church.

Before the blessing on our lunch time out in the main dining room, Ken Cannon invited anyone who wants to help with next year's reunion to let the committee know. Reinforcing what Cal had told us, we read in our programs by unknown authors: (1) Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant. (2) If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.

After lunch, we had more singing together, and Cal spoke on “God's Care in Autumn's Harvest: a time of Production and Consummation.” And we celebrated by singing “The King is Coming.” Before Marc McCoy led our benediction, we sang once more “Spirit of BSU' written by two men familiar to many of us—Bob Entrekin and Archie Moseley.

Cal's messages gave our age group some very good advice. He urged us to listen to our bodies but not to waste away too much time in our recliners listening to TV. We need to be willing to interact with others than our church family—the drug users, the prostitutes, the followers of Isis, and any others needing concern and love. Throughout his messages, he emphasized the importance of planting seeds with the young ones who will soon be replacing us. That is why his wife Sharon has to frequently answer their doorbell when a little kid asks: “Can Mr. Cal come out and play?” In a neighborhood where many parents are in military service, Mr. Cal can provide a listening ear, someone to pitch a ball to, and sometimes a parent substitute.

As good as Cal's encouragement to us was and as much as I enjoyed interacting with so many senior adults who had lived interesting and valuable lives, oddly it was sharing of problems that may have helped me most. I heard people speak of heart attacks, “he almost drove me nuts,” a friend whose daughter had to have heart surgery, a son in prison, a child whose life was destroyed by LSD, the death of a wife leaving three young sons, someone who was not there because of myesthenia gravis, and cancer, cancer, cancer. (As I read the letters from those who could not attend, I was saddened that Roger Deppe's wife who I so enjoyed meeting and visiting with last year could not come because of her cancer treatments.) The hardships reminded me of what I already knew: it is silly to ask why me when troubles come. Life on earth does not guarantee carefree retirements, and we should not expect that no matter how well we plan. Difficulties and challenges are to be expected during all phases of life, but the help of caring friends, the teachings of Jesus, the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and the promises of God can make life's challengs easier. Or as the unknown writer quoted at the end of our program booklet said: You're going into a season when you are about to experience breakthrough after breakthrough because what you went through didn't break you.

Thank you Ken and JoNell Cannon, Cal and Sharon Reynolds, Lora Blackwell-Kern, Bob and Oleta Barrow, and Marc and Doris McCoy for all the work you did preparing this gathering for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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