I graduated once

Since it is the season of graduations and I am fortunate to have just participated in one, I thought I would give a little personal post about some of my earlier formal graduations.  I am sure there are other graduations I probably participated in, but I do not have photos of them, at least that I am aware.  Like graduation from diapers,  which consists of a diaper on the head with a tassel.  Or graduation from elementary school, which would consist of a wedgie (and a tassel!).

Here are my Kindergarten Graduation Pictures.  The Graduation ‘ceremony’ was held in the West Minico Junior High Auditorium in Paul, Idaho.  I can still remember the day, both sets of Grandparents being present, and some of the program.  It was quintessentially the same program that Andra, my sister, would go through two years later and I remember that occasion for her.  I am assuming I graduated Kindergarten in the spring of 1984.

Now we can forward more than a decade to graduation from high school.  I graduated from Minico High School in Rupert, Idaho in the spring of 1997.  I swear there are photos out there of the occasion, I have seen them.  It does not seem my family has any at the actual ceremony, and whatever my Grandmother had is with her stash, wherever that might be since she passed away.  That could be the dump, but I guess it is in a drawer somewhere in Alaska.  Maybe some day…  This is a photo in my Grandmother’s home in Paul, Idaho.  This photo was taken on my Grandma’s birthday and probably taken by her.  I am still pretty thin, excited about life, and wearing that new class bling, I mean ring (that was rudely stolen by a home invader in 2009).

Forwarding a few more years, here is a picture of graduation from Utah State University in Logan, Utah on 17 December 2005 with a BS in Law & Constitutional Studies.  By this point I am days away from marriage to Miss Amanda Hemsley so she joined me in the photo, along with future in-laws (my Dad and Jan are in the photo too, to my left).  I even got some fancy cords again!  Two more of my grandparents had passed away by this time and the last one was unwilling to attend.

Now the latest event in my graduation history.  Graduation on 15 May 2011 from Oklahoma City University in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with a Juris Doctor.  Not only is my Dad and in-laws in the picture, my family has been joined by the newest addition of Aliza.  I doubt there are further formal graduations in life, besides death, awaiting in the future.  But at least we have some of these graduations in photograph.

I am such a ham!

Look at the cool hood.

Shout from Idaho

I am writing from sunny and green Idaho.  The amazing thing is another rain-storm is pondering the roll through right now.  The reservoirs are all full and life seems to be looking pretty good here.  The locals say it has been a bit humid for the past few days, but I can handle 20 or 30% humidity with little issue.  Especially after 100+ Oklahoma with a heat index into the cent teens.  I thought I would share a couple of thoughts of our little trip.

This morning found us at the bright and beautiful Twin Falls Temple.  I will have to post some pictures later, but it was a full session.  It was a clear morning and we could not have asked for more.  We ran into my cousin on the session and it was fun to catch up with her.  We took some pictures after we got out as Dad and Jan were going in.  Amanda needed some R&R so we came back and crashed for this afternoon.  We did have lunch with Ms. Felicia Poteet and her cutest daughter, Evie.  I am glad I have friends, that I get to hang out with them, and learn from their life experiences.  Where would we be without family and friends?

The week was busy getting Derek off into the MTC (Missionary Training Center) in Provo.  All went off, pretty much without a hitch, on Wednesday.  His farewell went well, he spoke well, and the family congregated to the Hemsley home in Kaysville.  All enjoyed the food, spent some good quality time with family, and plenty of stories.  I was exhausted after the whole thing and I didn’t even have a role to play in the open house.  There must have been 50-70 people who came through the home during the open house.  We helped Derek pack, finish shopping, fulfill a few last requests, and enter the MTC.  We also had a meeting or two with friends of Amanda’s from high school to catch up on old times.  We stopped to visit Amanda’s Grandpa in Springville, Utah as well.

We drove up to Idaho yesterday but took our time doing it.  We took the old highway from Snowville up through Strevell, Bridge, City of Rocks, Oakley, and home.  Everything was so green from all the rain and it looked good.  We enjoyed the drive.  We took some pictures of the old homes in Elba, Idaho.  Someday we want to design our own home with a design that is both unique but that has some classic designs, one of which is found in the early pioneer homes.

Tonight we head off to a melodrama at the restored Wilson Theatre in Rupert.  Tomorrow morning we have the Scout Breakfast at the Rupert Square and then we will watch the parade.  Tomorrow is also Dad’s birthday.  Jan’s was last week.  We treated them to dinner last night and the show tonight.  I am certainly looking forward to the parade.  Then we drive back down to Kaysville to watch fireworks at fly out Sunday Morning.

Tuesday Derek and I went hiking up Adams Canyon near Kaysville, Fruit Heights, Layton.  We hiked it very quickly and then pretty much jogged all the way down.  I sure did hurt the next day.  I thought I was getting old but Derek felt the same way the next day so it wasn’t just me!  We also got some pictures at the waterfall which I will have to share as well.  Anyhow, no nuggets of truth in this entry.  I don’t do them as often as I used to.  Someday I will be smart and have something to offer…

Jennie Ann Bremer Britzman

I know you are all clamoring for an update.  Here are a few interesting items. 

In some solemn news Aunt Jennie passed away on Sunday.  I don’t know why she was referred to as Aunt Jennie.  She was my Grandma Ross’ first cousin.  Jennie Ann Bremer was born in Ogden on 18 October 1916.  She was born to Frederick William Bremer and Jantje (Jane) Van Leeuwen.  Jantje was my Great Grandmother’s (Berendena ‘Dena’ Van Leeuwen.  Her family moved to Bellflower (Long Beach) California about 1925.  Jennie married an actor in 1933 by the name of Harry Heiser.  He was from Delaware originally.  They were divorced after only a year or two.  Jennie made it sound like the times were hard and the stress made him unbearable.  She then married William Doughtie in 1938 in LA.  This too was a short marriage.  I honestly cannot remember if Harry or William was the actor now.  I am pretty sure it was Harry.  In 1953 she married Robert Floyd Britzman.  They had two children, only one of which lived to adulthood.  Richard was living and taking care of Jennie the past few years.  Robert died in 1967.  I am not entirely sure what Robert did but he left Jennie with a nice endowment for the remainder of her life.  She remarried Harold Ross (my Grandpa’s brother) about 1976 but that marriage very quickly ended.  It was annulled it was so quick.  There is a whole story to go along with that but I won’t pursue it here.  Jennie traveled extensively throughout the world.  She had stories from Rome to the Great Wall of China.  She lived to the ripe age of 91.  I often visited Jennie in her house in Washington Terrace.  We would take lunch down at a little hole in the wall mexican restaurant on 24th Street.  The last time I saw Jennie was the 23rd of February when we went to lunch with Betty Donaldson after her endowment.  I will miss her and her laugh until we meet again.  I have placed Jennie’s three photos to the front of the Van Leeuwen Family Album.  The store her father ran in Southern California as well as pictures of her parents are right after.

Amanda and I attended ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ put on by the local Jewel Box Theatre here in Oklahoma City.  We were very pleased with the value for our money.  We both purchased tickets with our student passes and found it was a theater in the round.  For the most part it was very spartan in props other than what the actors carried on their person.  Regardless, they did very well.  The singers became noticeably weaker as the show went on.  It started out so energetically but ended a bit sluggish.  This was one of their last performances after a couple of weeks.  I remember well the days of trying to coax the voice to perform just a little more after weeks of performances.  It can be a tiresome schedule.  However, my experience was the closer you got to the end the more in the groove you found yourself.  Awkwardness gave to energy and excitement.  I am disappointed the night before their last show it seemed to end in such a way.  It is a church run theater in their 51st year.  It must be handed to them for their diligence and tenacity.

Last night we had dinner with Dan and Liesel Martin.  Of course their beautiful 11 month old daughter Linea joined us.  He made us a meal he had the first night of his mission in Pennsylvania.  Potatoes and chicken gravy on waffles!  It was very good.  I thought it would taste a bit like having it on bread or Yorkshire Puddings.  It did.  It is one of those meals that give you a happy tummy.  We played Cranium afterward.  We did not win but I did feel a little smarter after successfully answering a couple of the questions.

I received a message from Victor Wayment on Sunday.  I had sent him a picture from the day my Grandpa went to the draft board at Camp Douglas.  Victor was able to tell me the picture was taken on 16 Oct 1942.  How he knew that, I haven’t a clue.  He was able to name 5 of the 7 individuals in the photo.  One of the two Grandpa could not name he put a name with and even gave me the contact information for Kenneth Barrow.  One of the two he could not name was one Grandpa could not name.  That hole still remains.  However, he named one of the other individuals differently.  Who Grandpa thought was Jim Jardine Victor named as Glen Geilman.  It just happens that Glenn Geilmann married Evelyn Van Leeuwen, another first cousin of my Grandma Ross.  I called and visited with Glen and he certainly remembers going with Grandpa and Victor to Camp Floyd.  He also thought Jim Jardine was there.  Perhaps Jim is the unknown.  I haven’t a clue.  At any rate, I am also sending a picture to Glen as well and Kenneth Barrow.  Hopefully they can name the unknown and clarify Jim Jardine/Glen Geilman.

Lastly, today is my sister’s birthday.  Happy Birthday Andra Ross!!  She e-mailed me today telling me about moving into their new home in Rupert.  I guess they have done quite a bit of work on it and it is coming alone nicely.  As with any other project, there is plenty more to do.

Well, I have to sign off.  More homework to complete.  I want to be sure to make it to bed with plenty of time to be rested up for the Constitution’s Birthday tomorrow.  Happy Birthday!!  Oh, it happens to be my birthday as well.  Happy Birthday Paul Ross!!  Amanda and I are going out to eat on Friday night since law school isn’t very conducive to large, long dinners on a school night.  Thanks for the birthday cards!

Aeroplane squalls

I thought I would take an opportunity to voice a complaint.  I know it isn’t normally in my nature to complain, usually I try to give the benefit of the doubt or to press forward with the ‘can do’ attitude.  But since nobody else seems too concerned about it, I will air my concerns out where a few may agree.
What ever happened to service?  What happened to the customer, the consumer holding a special place for businesses?  It seems somewhere the status quo, business as usual, and possibly profits have taken over.
Two weeks ago I took a pickup in to have it serviced.  They told me it would be ready on Wednesday.  I returned on Wednesday to have them tell me that more work had to be done and I needed to authorize the work.  What happened to calling me to ask to authorize?  What happened to calling me to let me know the pickup would not be done?  I let it slide and authorized them to do the work.  They then told me it would be done on Friday.  I made it clear to them the truck had to be done first thing on Monday morning because I was supposed to drive it to Pasco, Washington for work.  Not only did I need to drive the truck, it would be left there so taking another vehicle was not an option.  Well, Friday arrived and I called in to make sure it was done, and I was assured the job was completed.  I drove in on Friday to pick it up and it wasn’t even out of the back of the shop yet, let alone completed!  Once again, I let my irritation slide, the changing of my plans, and the trip in to pick up the truck.  Remembering, this requires another person’s help to get a ride in to pick up the truck.  Monday rolls around and the truck is still not completed!  Nobody once again notified me, nobody told me anything.  Finally, Wednesday I pick up the truck, pay the bill, and head home.  My boss moved my trip to Pasco for the Monday after.
I then left my personal vehicle for a service.  The story goes on from there.  When I left my personal vehicle I made it very clear I would be in Pasco, Washington for the week and I would need to be notified if they had any problems or questions.  They said there would be no problem for my coming back the following week.  Well, today, I arrived to find my truck had been looked at but nothing had been done!  I was about ready to start swearing at the man!  He told me I had to authorize the work before it could be done because some gasket needed replaced.  I showed him right on the paper where it said I would be out of town and that I would need to be called.  I asked why I was not called.  He said he did not know.  I told him I had been dropped off and was taking my pickup with me.  I was not a pleased customer!  I drove out of the parking lot vowing I would never again do business of any type with Goode Motor in Burley or Rupert, Idaho.  They have forever lost my business.
In conversation afterward I found out my Dad has had the same problem.  He even notified the manager, Garth Williams of the issue.  I guess he took in his truck to be serviced and they started asking him a bunch of stupid questions.  The guy got huffy with him when Dad told him to go out and get the information from the truck.  After two episodes of this, Dad said he would never do business again with Goode Motor.  So all those who read, here are two customers who are highly unhappy with the business, especially with their service department.  They even gave Dad a coupon for service when he bought the truck and they would not honor the certificate later.  How is that for forging loyal customers.
That episode pretty much tainted the rest of my day for me.  Tonight I sat in the airport for my flight from Salt Lake City to Portland, Oregon.  Our flight was supposed to take off at 7:05 PM.  No, the flight was delayed.  Two hours later I finally board the plane.  Just to press the button on their customer service I went to the Southwest Airlines Ticket Counter and complained.  I told them there should be some reimbursement for my ordeal and they were putting me late.  I lied and said I was going to miss my business engagement.  They offered me their sympathies and basically wished me well.  I told them there was not point of going now and wanted a refund.  This request was denied with a document giving me a phone number to call my complaint.  You would think that customer service would be able to take care of a problem in the airport without my having to make a phone call to listen to some fake woman directing me.  What happened to honoring your word?  What happened to pleasing the customer?
Lastly, I completed McCullough’s 1776 this evening in my hours wait to board my delayed flight.  The discontent I noticed of poor service in the Ford dealership and in Southwest Airlines only turned into more rancor as I thought of what it was we fought for in the Revolutionary War.  We separated ourselves from Britain and fought a war for abuses less than what we currently face with our present government.  What is even more frustrating is the fact that we as Americans let business and government so dictate our lives.  Hey look, they are even going to give me $1,500 of my own money back and then want me to go spend it!  Well, geez, thanks for giving my own money back and then tell me what to do with it!

Farewell to Terry

 

Yesterday early afternoon I received a phone call to notify me of the death of a dear friend.  There is always an interesting surge of emotions with the death of a person, especially one you feel such a kinship with.  Somehow though, I couldn’t help but feel a total sense of relief and release.

Terry McCombs was born in Rupert, Idaho and grew up on the farm outside of Rupert.  He graduated from Minico in probably its most notable time.  He went to school when Minico was known nationally for its band program.  The high school was still under 10 years old and Southern Idaho was in the Post-war boom.  Some of his mentors both in choir and band were to forever influence his life.  There was something about the farm soil and the passion of music that set Terry on his future.

I met Terry for the first time in 1997.  I had been asked to accompany a friend, Elena McBride, on the piano for a vocal number she was doing.  She wanted me to meet her vocal coach, Terry McCombs.  There was a McComb’s in my grade who I knew and one just younger who was in choir and who I knew more through friends.  These both turned out to be Terry’s niece’s.  Our meeting took place in Terry’s childhood home where his mother still lived with Terry’s brother’s family.  We sat there at the piano and I played perhaps a few chords when Terry asked me if I sang.  I confessed that I had no singing talent whatsoever and had never really tried.  He took over at the piano bench and then began to have me try a few exercises.  He attempted for hours to get beyond my modesty (my attempt to cover a poor voice).  After several hours, Elena’s lesson turned into an reworking of my thinking concerning singing.  For the most part of which he was very successful at rewiring.  Afterward I remember Elena being upset that her lesson was all about a lesson for me.

Terry had me commit to come to a lesson with him in a studio apartment he was using within about a mile from his home.  It was a little bedroom in the loft and a little living room below with a couch and piano.  I seem to remember a small kitchen and bathroom in the entry level.  We descended into the little living room about a week later and he sat on the couch and I sat in the chair.  Terry always had it a bit on the cool side but it definitely was cozy.  He then spent about an hour teaching me the doctrine of singing.  I remember him offering a prayer that seemed to turn my heart to complete mush.  I was so overwhelmed at such a powerful experience.  Coming from an inactive LDS home, I had no real clue what it was I was experiencing.  I had prayed before, and even seen prayers answered, but never had I experienced what I did that day.  Heaven literally descended and engulfed us that day.

After teaching me on the doctrines of the restoration of all things and of singing he then went on to teach me what he knew and how he knew it.  He bore powerful testimony of what it was he was teaching that day.  I remember openly weeping for the joy that engulfed my heart and how I recognized my life changing before my very eyes.  My very nature was changing in that room.  We then went to the piano and he began to unravel to me some of my physical nature.  I admit I understood more the nature of my throat, singing, and of life then than at any point in my life, probably even since.  It was interesting how he always framed everything with a view for eternity and the building of Zion.

What came from my mouth, from my very heart, was so beautiful we both wept.  Terry sang a song for me that even today haunts me with how beautiful it was.  He then sang a song from Rigoletto that was simply amazing.  He sat at the piano and I sang a song that day which I have not been able to sing since.  It haunts me how beautifully I sang and it kills me I have not been able to sing like that since.  There was such an outpouring of the Spirit.  I do not know if I can ever share what happened that day.  The gifts of the Spirit were present and angels ministered to us.

We met many, many times again in that little elevator to the heavens.  Sadly, I don’t know what happened after a couple of months.  Whether it was my pride or influences in his life, but it began to falter.  We started meeting again in his parents house and doing lessons there which were interrupted and never of much value.  We then started meeting in his home, the old out garage converted into a studio/living room connected to a trailer.  It was never quite the same.  I really don’t know why to this day.

My Senior year at Minico brought the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  I don’t remember how many lessons before the play I had with Terry but I had such a zeal with singing now I auditioned for the play.  I had been singing in the choir now for a little while.  I totally bombed the audition but somehow I was still put in as one of the brother’s.  Honestly, I did so poorly I didn’t know if they would let me even be a dancer.  That is how badly I auditioned vocally.  I could never translate how I could sing in lessons to doing it in front of other people.  I was terrible when anyone else listened.  Even the State Solo Competition I sang for and did so poorly I didn’t even finish the song.  The choir helped me some.  Good thing it was an open class.

Terry helped a number of us quite a bit with our singing for that play.  I improved considerably under Terry but never could find the voice I had in our lessons on stage.  It drove me completely crazy to know how heavenly it could be and it just never translated outside the studio.  Our lessons continued and I learned a great deal.  We continued to cover the history of music and the mechanics of the voice.  All of which I still feel like I have a pretty good handle since I was learning them from a spiritual perspective.

Minico ended and my whole life had now become engulfed in music.  I had my musical training from band all the way from 6th grade.  I could read and understood basics of music.  I had taught myself a half dozen new instruments in high school and I wrapped up high school putting on finishing touches to play the piano in the mission and learning the master the voice.

I went to Utah State knowing how much I loved music but I would not be pursuing a degree in anything related to it.  It was completely my hobby.  I went home at least every couple of weeks.  Due to situations at home I would either stay with my Grandma or I would stay with Terry.  We often spent all Friday night in a lesson.  It was something about the two of us that somehow we connected and heaven was with us.  I don’t know if he had these experiences with others.  I know he had in the past but I sensed it wasn’t happening with others at the time.  He often expressed his frustration with me at how he wished others wanted to learn just for the sake of learning rather than trying to do it for publicity, pride, or money.  He knew I had nothing to pay him and I wasn’t about to ask my parents for more money since they were helping me through school.  I think that is one thing that changed later.  When his situation got a bit more desperate and he needed money I had nothing to offer and he was required to spend his time teaching paying students.

The time came for the mission and I was prepared.  My own research and experience on my own time had gained me many experiences with the Spirit.  I had come to gain a personal testimony of the Bible, Book of Mormon, Prophets and Apostles, Priesthood, and a bunch more.  I think one thing that was unique is that Terry had opened me up to a very different side of religion.  It wasn’t just the knowledge of it or doctrines, but it was the personal experiences with it.  Through college our lessons moved from the vocal aspects to mostly discussing religion and sharing experiences.  I had obtained many new experiences with heaven and Terry had a wealth of them to share as well.  I think many thought I was a bit crazy with how literally I was experiencing my associations with the other side of the veil but Terry always understood.  I remember my Grandma would get so excited when I told her about some of the experiences.  She would tell me of some of her own.  Mom I instantly recognized was out to kill or denounce anything of which I was experiencing.  She quickly would tell me how it was a cult and I was being brainwashed.  When I would confront her about how literally some of my experiences were she would chalk it up to hallucinating or something else.  Terry and Grandma were two who understood.

It was such an interesting road.  My roommates at college I don’t think knew how to take what was happening.  Some were very understanding at the beginning, others finally warmed to it.  By the end of the school year at Utah State we had all experienced some things together.  The turmoil and emotions of the year were difficult with my parents divorcing and the changing face in so many relations.  The roommates weathered all those and were very understanding.  But the thing I remember most is the little spiritual times I had with each of them and interestingly have bonded each of us together since.  All four of them we continue to feel very closely united even despite distance and time.

Terry offered to have someone provide the musical number for the mission farewell.  He did and I was very grateful.  Surprisingly, he offered some money to help pay for the mission that makes me blush that he would give it to me.  He never wrote a letter, I don’t think I ever wrote him a letter during those two years, but we had communication.  I remember one night I had a dream of a phone call to Terry while I served in Eccles.  It was after my Grandmother had passed away.  We chatted about a few things and I told him of my experiences with Grandma after she passed away.  He told me of some of the experiences he had with his own father after he passed away.  It helped confirm what I was experiencing.  In the dream he told me to get a copy of Parley P Pratt’s Autobiography and to read it.  After I returned home from the mission and had been home a few weeks, Terry called me.  What I had totally passed off as a powerfully spiritual dream came very close to home when he asked if I enjoyed Brother Pratt’s book.  That is just the way Terry was.

Terry asked me to come to visit him in Branson, Missouri after I returned from the mission.  I went to visit him in a heartbeat.  Terry wanted to start lessons again and asked me to move to Branson.  I went back home and made arrangements and headed out for Missouri.  It turned out to be a wonderful experience.  I thoroughly loved my time while I was there.  He mentioned that I was there for two purposes: To learn to love in a way unselfishly and to gain some great experience to carry me throughout my life.  He proved to be very prophetic on both accounts.  I learned to love in several ways which hurt terribly.  I definitely learned some lessons there.  I learned some valuable lessons in management, the corporate world, missionary work outside the mission, and family history.

Terry and I both lived under the same roof with several other families the first year I was there.  It turned to be a very wonderful experience.  I had three families I could call my own in the same house.  Each of them taught me some very important lessons.  Without going into details, it proved to be a time I still find myself thankful for in prayer.

I remember one night I had a dream where I had a dream in answer to a prayer.  I woke up afterwards and immediately went to knock on Terry’s door.  At 3:00 AM in the morning I recounted to him my experience and we both wept for joy.  He shared with me an experience where one of his prayers had been answered by dream just nights before.  This was the type of connection I had with Terry.

Interestingly, it is how merciful heaven is in dealing with us.  Terry definitely had a personality.  Some characteristics I will openly admit drove me crazy.  His little antics sometimes were detestable at how he treated others.  Even me a couple of times.  At other times I could not help but feel sorry for him with the struggles he had on so many fronts.  He had a temper.  He had his bias nature.  He had all his imperfections.  He was not a physically beautiful man by any real means.  However, his heart was something different.  I sat in on many lessons and it was interesting how completely different some of them were.  Some of them it seemed he was trying to impress them so he could gain their trust.  Some it seemed he had to debase himself to get the heart.  Others it appeared he had to bully them.  Every lesson was very different.  I never understood if he was catering to the personality of each or what it was.  My lessons were very direct, even almost unspoken at times.  It was not uncommon for a look to communicate everything.

When it came time for my leaving Branson, we both knew.  I only saw Terry a couple of times after that.  In fact, I think it was only twice after.  Once was in Utah and the last time was a year ago as Amanda and I drove on our way to Virginia.  We stopped and spent several hours with him.

I spoke with him on the phone for over an hour just a month or so ago and he was in good spirits.  It was with a bit of shock I received the phone call telling me he had passed the night before.  Somehow though, it seems like it would be the way Terry would do it though.  My first reaction was that little scoundrel did this on purpose.  But then I sensed a peace about the whole thing and it was meant to be.

In looking back, Terry always introduced me to people as the one with a pure soul.  I don’t know if it is true or not, but I always wanted to be a little better with that title.  Terry always had people who either loved or hated him.  People somehow switched those sides often with him.  I never understood why.  But something about the man endeared people and also brought on some of the strongest criticism.  But in the end he usually weathered it well.

I haven’t had any experiences with Terry spiritually for a couple of years now.  Perhaps we just grew apart.  But now that he has passed, I anticipate something small, at least for a temporary good bye.  If not, this is my little pushing off the ship of a good friend.  I will see you later mate.  I love your soul.

Pulaski Roots

Speaking of roots, I had a dental appointment on Friday.  Due to Measles as a baby, I have ameliogenesis imperfecta with several of my teeth.  Basically, some of my teeth have deformities.  One of which is that the nerve in one tooth reaches quite a bit higher than normal.  Also linked with the deformity of the drugs (legal!) I took in the early 80′s, those teeth are weaker and more susceptible to problems.  Many, many years ago I had a filling put in the tooth that touched on that high reaching nerve.  Over the years that nerve touching the filling, in addition to a slight tapping from the tooth having moved (from squash racket trauma about 2000), and just normal advancement of time that root has decided to pass away.  Yes, I am the owner of a slowly dying tooth.  I have been placed on antibiotics to keep the nerve from getting infected as it decays.  In the next few weeks I will experience my first root canal. 

On an interesting note, once Dr. Spitzer saw my x-ray of the teeth he quickly noted how long the roots are on my teeth.  Amanda confirmed to me later that during the freak show discussion that ensued my teeth roots were measured at 25 mm long.  Amanda tells me that the normal individual has roots approximately 15 mm long.  The dentist commented how he may have to order some longer tools to work on the tooth.  Whether it was in jest or not, I have come to appreciate how different I really am.  Deep down inside I always knew I was special.  Now I know it is a good 10 mm deeper why I am special.
So we have frantically tried to figure out how we would pay for what a root canal and crown would cost without insurance.  When in the mail today I received an invitation to join the insurance for my work.  As generous as they are, I will now have dental insurance.  Now I just have to find how long of a waiting period I will have with a tooth that has become highly sensitive to hot and cold with slight throbbing from time to time.
Anyhow, on to the story of Pulaski County, Virginia.  My Ross line left Pulaski County about 1912 and headed to settle in Rupert, Idaho.  The daughter, Fannie had married a Phibbs from Pulaski and Carroll County and moved out previously.  Her husband was the Minidoka County Judge in Rupert.  With the opening of the new Sugar Factory at Paul, the rapid expansion of irrigateable farm land, and an economic downturn in Pulaski it was time to move.  James Thomas Meredith Ross who I have written about before followed his daughter Fannie.  His other three children would follow to the west.  James would later settle in the Vernal area.  The Phibbs would eventually end up north of Sacramento, California.  John would roam for many years marrying in West Virginia, Colorado, and Wyoming.  He would die in Alameda County, California.  Robert we don’t really know what happened to other than he died in California about 1944.
While I have written about all of that previously, James Thomas Meredith Ross would leave behind his half brother William Andrew Ross.  William would marry and move to West Virginia.  He lived in Gary, WV most of his life and raised his family there.  He worked in the mines coal mines.  He and Sarah (Sallie) had 12 children.  The youngest of which is Howard Ross born in 1925.
It was Howard we went to visit this weekend.
Howard is the only remaining individual of his family.  He was born in Thorpe, West Virginia and moved to Bluefield, West Virginia many years ago.  He lives in a home perched on the side of a hill on Essex St.  He had 3 children, and a step child he helped raised.  He worked in or with the mines all his life.  His wife past away a few years back and he lives in the home with his grandson and future granddaughter-in-law.
I knew of Howard because he had spent so much of his life pursuing family history.  Grandpa gave me a copy of one of his books he had written about 1972 on the Ross family.  That is how I knew who he was and that he was related.  By the time I came home from my mission I did not expect him to be alive anymore until one day in Twin Falls I was visiting with a missionary who had served in the West Virginia Mission.  I told him of Howard (I knew he was LDS) and the missionary not only knew of Howard, he had his address and phone number.  He gave it to me and I called Howard.
I have looked forward to meeting Howard for several years and of visiting the famous Pulaski County.  The valleys surrounding Pulaski County had already been home to the Graham and other families for over a hundred years by the time Pulaski County was formed in 1839.  There Meredith, Martin, Booth, Shepherd, and other families were well entrenched.  But my main interest was in going to the area where my family left before heading west.
Friday we drove out to Pulaski County and arrived after dark.  We spent the night in a hotel at Claytor Lake just over the border into the county.  The next morning we drove into Pulaski and just got a feel for the town and then headed for the hour and half drive to Bluefield to see Howard.
Bluefield turned out to be what you would imagine a town 50 years ago.  The little streets, little yards, flags on every house, and a good percentage of people sitting on their porch.  It was a lazy, hazy, day in summer.  We wound through the streets of Bluefield following our directions to Essex St.  Wow, as if we were not impressed.  One side of the street was wood and the other side of the street were homes perched on the side of a hill probably 75 to 100 feet up.  This hillside was probably at a 45 degree angle.  We found the home and climbed the steep stairs to the rickety old porch.
I don’t mean to sound negative, but we had entered what you joke about with rednecks.  These homes sat precariously sitting on the side of this hill and had not had any care in the last 40 years.  There was a hand made 2X4 railing up this terribly steep hike and at the top the porch wood buckled with every step.  Howard met us in the open door and invited us in.  We sat there in a relic of the 1930′s with only the television and sofa to remind us we were actually not in the mid 20th century.
Howard sat there talking with us in a most happy manner with his eye patch and asking for us to repeat often what we said.  Moreover, he spoke with that thick gentleman manner which so permeates the old confederate ideal.  His joking ways were jovial and we had quite the good conversation.
I took him with my computer through all the descendants of William Andrew Ross and he updated quite a bit of my information.  We also showed him a number of pictures I thought he would be interested in from my side of the family.  He then told us a few stories.
Uncle Jim (my great great grandfather who went west) had come to visit in the 1930′s where they lived in Gary, West Virginia.  It was the late 1930′s because the family had all gone to attend a Conference of the church in Grundy County, Tennessee.  One of the speakers that morning was Jim Ross, Howard’s Uncle.  The children did not attend but afterward all these people kept coming to his mother and commenting about how powerful Mr. Ross had been in his preaching.  Howard’s mother had to set them all straight that it was not her husband but her brother-in-law.  Howard remembers the day because it was the day he was baptized.  They would meet for the morning meetings and then have a big meal and baptisms in the middle, and go back to conference in the afternoon.
They went back home after the conference and Uncle Jim came and stayed for a spell.  Howard remembers Uncle Jim taking the wash basin out to the fields and coming back with a huge amount of corn.  He then told Howard’s mother to cook all the corn and they would eat it for dinner.  When Uncle Jim found out they did not have any milk, he went out and purchased a milk cow and brought it back for them to have milk.  (This isn’t necessarily all the same night).  Howard remembers that he was so thoroughly struck by how much Uncle Jim could eat.  Howard swears Uncle Jim must have pushed near 300 pounds and that man could eat.  Howard laughs and laughs about how when Uncle Jim left he went and sold the cow and they didn’t have milk for years afterward.
Howard remembers Uncle Jim was missing a finger.  He doesn’t remember which one, but he did ask how he lost it.  Apparently he had been bitten by a spider and as the finger started to rot and decay he finally just cut it off.  The Dr. apparently told him he had saved his life by taking the finger off.
That was about all he remembered of Uncle Jim.  He knew he moved to California after Idaho and Oregon.  While in Fresno he served as a Bishop of an LDS ward for quite a few years.  Uncle Jim was always a Ross to him even though he took the Meredith name back after moving to California.  The timeline in relation to the name I have told previously.
John Ross, or Jack as he was known, also made a trip out to West Virginia to visit.  He came out after his second wife had passed away (my great grandmother) and tried to convince his first wife to marry him again.  She wasn’t having any of that and Jack left empty handed.  Howard never met Hobart Day, Jack’s oldest child with his first wife.
Howard doesn’t remember ever meeting any of the rest of the family.  Donna Phibbs Beachell came out to visit in the 1970′s and spent quite a bit of time with Howard.  They wrote often over the years, some of which letters I mentioned were sent to me in the papers of Howard from John Ross.
Howard was very interested in what I had found out on the Meredith family and I told him what I was pretty sure to be correct.  He related to me more of the stories of what he believed happened to his grandfather but until further information comes out to prove the James Meredith story of the Harvy Ross story, we still really don’t know for sure.  I think mine is pinpointed quite a bit more firmly than his.
Howard then gave us a bit of the history of the LDS church in West Virginia.  He had us drive him down to the Bluefield Ward Building over the border in Bluefield, Tazewell County, Virginia.  He gave us a tour of the building.  We met the Bishop and a few other people.
We went back to the house and he asked that I give a blessing to his daughter, Sarah who lives next door.  She has MS and various other problems that come with smoking, MS, and the redneck lifestyle.  I will tell you now, I was alarmed that 82 year old Howard regularly climbs and descends those stairs out front.  They were so steep I didn’t feel safe especially with an old man struggling up them.  I gave a blessing to a woman who didn’t want it but whose father insisted.  Talk about a little awkward of a position.  We then went next door where he asked I give his future granddaughter-in-law a blessing.  Not only did he want a blessing for her, but the unborn child as well.  That was my first experience I remember blessing a baby in the womb.  Both turned out to be special events.  I enjoyed them and Howard became choked up after the second of the two.  My oil holder had become cracked and did not stay together any more and so we had to make due with a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a small glass bowl.  Under the circumstances it was the best we could do and we were richly blessed on the occasion.
Interestingly, the kitchen is exactly how you would have found it in the 1940′s.  The sink, the ironator, cupboards, and more were all of proper vintage.  Sadly, that was probably the last time they were cleaned.  It was quite humbling to see the faith of this man in such humble circumstances.
We left with my promising to do the ordinance work for his son and him after he had passed away.  He joked, part seriously, that through family history he had prepared the way for hundreds to enter heaven despite his own lack of achieving the same goal.
Amanda and I left and wound our way back to Pulaski County.  There we wound our way through the desolate parts of county roads trying to cross the New River.  We found our way across and went through the little towns of Allisonia, Hiwassie, and Snowville.  All towns of which were heavily populated by those of my ancestry.  It was interesting to drive along and recognize names on mailboxes and say to Amanda, “They are probably related.”
We drove back across the river up to Newbern, past Dublin, and back to Pulaski.  There we enjoyed our dinner, as we had our breakfast, at the Sonic Drive-In with gift cards that had been given to us for helping a lady move into the ward.
Afterward we hit the road to try and make Tennessee for some souvenirs and then across Southern Virginia to other ancestral locations.  We realized we were too far from Tennessee too late in the day to make it so at Rural Retreat (how is that for a name?) we turned and headed east.  We drove through Independence (Grayson County) and crashed for the night in Galax (Carroll County).  Both counties are heavily tied to me as well.  Sunday morning we awoke and made our way to Hillsville (Carroll County Seat), Martinsville (home of the Martins of which I am related), over to Danville, north to Keysville and Farmville, and home to Richmond.
It was a long weekend but very worthwhile.  I really enjoyed getting to see Allisonia, Hiwassie, and Snowville.  Maybe someday we will get to go back.  Maybe Howard will be around when it comes time for us to head back west in a year.

Ross in Washington State

Ross in Washington State 

A few updates and ponderings.

As I finished going through the entire stack of papers that were the culmination of work for Howard Ross, I sensed a bit of frustration that I may have missed something.  Some note, hidden on the back of some page I forgot to turn over and examine.  Moreover, there are always the little nuances that a symbol or a phrase can bring back a memory for Howard, but does nothing for me.  It is part of deciphering the past and someone else’s research.  Looking at that, I realized what a great thing it is that I am putting these notes up on a blog.  Someday, there will probably be some form of this blog available and it is much easier to search a blog than going through a stack of papers.  Another good part is that I may die, my house may burn, and all I have may be lost, but this will give an extension to another dimension.  I am sure somebody is printing or copying the things I am putting up that is relevant to them.  So this is a mass sharing that is effective for saving.

Anyhow, having given my deep thoughts for the day, here is the latest news.

One of those papers in Howard Ross’ massive stack was an address for a Beulah Duncan in Zillah, Washington (The sheet it was on was dated 1972).  I knew I had a Beulah Ross who was the daughter of Robert Leonard Ross.  The rascal that disappeared and I have yet to catch up with him.  I knew she had married a Duncan but that was it.  Could she have really made it to Washington State?  I thought I might as well venture to find out.

I looked up Zillah, Washington on Google and found it is between Yakima and Sunnyside.  I searched Duncan in the phone book for Zillah and found a couple in Sunnyside and a couple in Toppenish both of which were nearby.  After about a half dozen phone calls, I found nobody home.  So I left it for a day or two.  I knew that she was probably not still alive, but a good chance a family member who knew of her would be able to lead me in the right direction.

I rang the numbers again last night to find some woman with what I believe was a Irish accent in Toppenish.  First strike.  The second call was a lady I had a devil of a time understanding.  But she assured me she was the daughter-in-law of Mrs. Beulah Duncan.  I thought she told me her name was Debra Lee.  We visited and she gave me the phone number of her daughter Terel Stan Stone.  I know, that is what I thought, a girl with a guys name!  I hung up and called Mrs. Stone and she thought I was crazy when I told her I had visited with her mother Debra Lee.  Come to find out, her mother’s name is Beverly and the lady I was talking to was Carol Ann Stone.  Wow, it is amazing how hearing can alter things.

We visited for a few minutes; she told me what she knew of her grandmother, Beulah.  Their story goes something like this.  Robert was an alcoholic and his wife Minnie had some sort of Drug addiction.  All the children were farmed out to others.  Beulah was taken in by her grandparents, my great great grandparents James Thomas Meredith Ross and Damey Catherine Graham.  She was taken and raised near Rupert, Idaho.  But her strict Mormon grandparents was a bit much for her so she was anxious to get out.  That came when she met a Jack or Mack Duncan.  She was 14 and married him.  They moved to Zillah, Washington and lived out the remainder of their days.  He died in the late 70’s and she died in 2002 at about 96 years of age.  They had four children, two of which are deceased.

Anyhow, I am excited to finally flesh out one of Robert Leonard Ross’ lines.  However, it will not be easy to get the rest of the siblings.  Carol did not know what happened for sure to her siblings and we will have to see what we can scrounge up.  It sounds like even Beulah herself did not know where some of her siblings ended up.

At least for now, we are one step closer to filling in some holes on the Robert Leonard Ross line.  I look forward to any information Carol has which may give clues to more.

See, one little note on a piece of paper has opened a door to an entire family line.  Carol was not aware of us and we were not aware of them.  Now we are.  Let’s see where family can take us.

Florence Geneva Phibbs recollection

This was written by Florence Geneva Phibbs, the daughter of Fanny Ross Phibbs.  Fanny was the sister to my great grandfather, John William Ross.  Of the whole letter, only this one page exists, so I don’t know what came before or after this page.

…Ross and his family come to Rupert Idaho.  I was borned June 21 – 1907.  It was about 1912 when we got to Rupert Idaho I think.  Grandpa went to farming as he loved to grow things.  It was so different then in West Virginia.  He usually had a big farm and raised potatoes corn and so forth.  He didn’t make a lot of money.  But had enough to get by on and they always had plenty of food.  They lived near the Snake river five miles from Rupert.  We were out there a lot as they were very good to us.  We had lots of fun and probably it was the best times of our lives.

I remember the farmers traded work with each other.  I use to drive a hay wagon for one dollar a day.  The farmers wifes would cook large dinners and we sure love to eat as everything was so good.  Grandpa Ross was quite an actor.  He dressed up as a black man and acted at a school programs and socials they really enjoyed him and would really laugh a lot.  One year the farmers sent lots of car loads of potatoes east.  It was a bad year.  They didn’t received a money for the potatoes but owed the freight company instead.  He gave up farming and come to Calif where Melvin and I were.  Then Grandma died in 1933 with cancer.  He tried to mine some gold up Yuba River.  But never got enough to pay for his time.  He moved to southern Calif and was married a couple of times.  His last wife was Martha Meridith.  He died at her home and was buried in Fresno Calif.  Grandma Merideth lived to be 96 before she died in 1975 and was buried near him.  Grandmas Ross was buried at Marysville Calif…