Twenty years ago we were in the final countdown to the 1996 Fassbender Family Reunion.
My husband and I planned and held a family reunion back in the early days of home computers, before home internet was common, and “You’ve Got Mail” was the welcome message. Using Creative Writer, a program our children used, and whatever word processing program we were using at the time, I started creating reunion documents.
Never having planned a party of this magnitude, and having no idea how large the task was that we were taking on, Gary and I jumped enthusiastically into planning. The reunion was to celebrate the children, grand-children, great-grandchildren, etc., of Henry and Ida Fassbender. 51 letters were sent out to the families descending from this couple and their eight children: Harold (Fat) b. 1907, Laurine (Ena) b. 1909, Norbert (Red) b. 1911, Bernard (Butch) b. 1912, Mildred (Hunce) b. 1914, Hubert (Cub) b. 1917, Ann (Hank) b. 1921, and Rosemary (Rosie/Foos) b. 1926. 21 responses were returned, and with that, the date was set: July 20, 1996. With the date selected I got busy creating a cute “reunion t-shirt” note using a Creative Writer template, and developing a survey to be included in the mailing. What was asked in the survey? I sadly do not have a copy. But my mother-in-law thankfully saved the t-shirt page.
With the date set, we reserved the Hollandtown Community Park and pavilion, a photographer was asked to take group pictures, we finalized the activities for the kids, the tour of White Clover Dairy, the place to share photos and memories of past reunions, and the dinner which was catered from Van Abels. Chicken, ham, German potato salad and rolls. The family was then broken up into two categories, one group was to bring dessert, the other a snack/munchie of their choice. As the surveys and reservations came in, I diligently worked on compiling the information that I received, into a family directory, preparing to have a copy available for every attendee. Looking back, I am amazed that my curiosity about family, and desire for a sense of order were apparent even then. I color coded the name tags by family, seven different colors adorned the tags, and helped cousins who in some cases had not seen each other in years, quickly identify, and recognize old friends.
As the event drew closer, Butch and Marie, Cub and Dolores, Hank (Ann), and Hunce, the four remaining siblings, and Stella, the widow of Red, began to make their plans. Cub and Hank were coming from out of town, and would stay for the weekend; making it a true reunion, and allowing lots of time for chats and memories. And a bit of cheese and crackers with their evening beer.
We planned the best we could, but sometimes the “best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” On July 5th Butch not feeling well, went into the hospital, and it was discovered he needed surgery. The surgery was successful, but his tolerance for the morphine they gave him for pain was not. He ended up falling out of bed and breaking his arm. This set his homecoming back a few days. His younger sister, Hank, who had been battling cancer for many years, still was planning on driving up for the reunion. Sadly, she passed away, Saturday, July 13th. Her funeral was held July 16.
The date was set, the planning complete, and these events rocked our world a bit, but we moved forward towards reunion day.
The day was a perfect July day. While we only had 21 people respond with an opinion as to the choice of a date, we had almost a 100% RSVP a response of “yes, we are coming!” The day went off without a hitch, and Butch, just home from the hospital, was able to attend for a short period of time. A good time was had by all. For that I am thankful, because I am not sure I would do it again. But I do have to say, looking at the materials that were saved, we did an amazing job. 20 years later, we surprise ourselves.