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A Lasting Impression

A few weeks ago Gary went on a lead for bathroom remodel. As they were reviewing the potential client’s needs and wants, and chatting a bit, Gary learned that she had worked at Rennes Health & Rehab Center here in Appleton. He mentioned that his father had been at Rennes after his stroke, and she replied “Butch?”

On December 30, 1998, Butch suffered a debilitating stroke, he was 86 years old. Upon leaving the hospital, he was moved to Rennes with the hope that with some rehab, he would regain his strength, some use of the left side of his body, and hopefully be able to speak again. Sadly, this hope was not meant to be, and he would live his remaining days at Rennes. He passed away Thursday, October 16, 2003.

One of the effects of the stroke was that he was unable to swallow well enough to get the nutrition he needed to live. We could offer him small tastes of some of his favorite foods, but not too much, or he would choke. Because of this, he relied on a feeding tube for his daily nutrition.

The feeding tube required regular maintenance to keep it clean, and it was this task that our potential client was in the process of completing, when the planes struck the World Trade Towers the morning of September 11, 2001. She told Gary, that just as people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, she will always remember that she was with Butch that morning of the attack on our country.

She went on to say how much she enjoyed spending time with him, and how the staff loved to see the enduring love that he had for his wife, Marie, and she for him.

Living in a nursing home is never easy. Knowing that your loved one can never come home is not easy. But it is nice to know that even after 15 years, your family is remembered with fondness, and has made a lasting impression on those who worked at Rennes in the years 1999-2003.

 

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The Smell of Baked Goods

In May of 2012 I started a blog that I titled: The Aroma of Bread. A Place for our family to gather and share memories of Marie’s kitchen. It began with scanning recipes from the cookbooks that we found in the utility room cupboards. Cookbooks falling apart, but many pages where we found handwritten notes about whether a recipe was “good” or where she was going when she made the dish. It didn’t really take off, so I stopped after a while. Now I would like to delete that blog, but will archive the posts. 

Today as we mark the sixth anniversary of the day after her passing, this post came to mind. So I will start here. 

Archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” first published Saturday, 16 Jun 2012.

Time is moving so quickly. Here it is another Saturday, another weekend. A moment when life can slow  down a bit, and we can think about a leisurely breakfast as opposed to a quick bowl of cereal as everyone runs out the door. Or maybe a special dessert to serve at dinner.  

It has been almost a month since our family gathered to honor Marie with an “Irish Wake,” and it was five months yesterday since her passing. Time passing.

Marie was known for her baked goods. I mean, she was KNOWN for her baked goods. People looked for her donations at church functions and funeral lunches. A testament to this, is a photo we found. It was taken by the Van Abels in March 1977 when Helen Baumann died. Baked goods, so prized that they found time to take a photo of them. 

My strongest memory of her baked goods occurred the day after she passed away. Gary was already down in the kitchen making coffee when I headed down the stairs. I was almost to the landing when the most amazing aroma came wafting out of the kitchen – sweet rolls! As I hit the landing and turned to go down into the kitchen, I said to Gary, “I smell baked goods!” Gary looked at me in amazement, and said, “You smell it too!!?” We took that as a sign that Marie was home, and as we later joked with the cousins, baking for her first Newcomers Meeting.

What is your favorite memory of the wonderful baked goods that came out of her kitchen? We would love for you to share your story.

 

“made for Rolf Funeral” ~ “very good”

Marie’s interpretation of doubling this recipe

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The Tapper Monument

It has been many years since I last had the opportunity to stop at Hammond, Lake County, Indiana to visit the graves of my grandparents and great-grandparents. In fact, the last time was in 1999, and on our way home, Mom and I stopped in Tomah, Wisconsin to pick up our new miniature schnauzer puppy, Gretchen. Today in 2017, as we drove home from moving our son to Rhode Island, my husband and I did not have the luxury of time to stop as we drove by the exit, as we had to get home in order to pick up our 4 month old miniature schnauzer puppy, Lizzy, from where she was being boarded during the move.

My great-grandparents are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery. In 1909 Anton Tapper placed a large, well massive, granite monument in the cemetery, the TAPPER monument. This monument, reported to be the largest monument in Oak Hill Cemetery at the time, weighs 17 tons, stands over 8 feet tall, and sits on a base that is 8 X 5’6.” Cut by the Rossi & Casellini Company of Barre, Vermont, it was delivered and placed by the Ernst Wunderlich Granite Co., of Joliet, Illinois. It was “put in position without damage to a single shrub in the cemetery.” ((“Among the Dealers, Trade Changes and Work Being Done. Joliet, Ill,” The Reporter, August 1909, 9, p378 pdf; digital images, Google, Google Books (books.google.com : accessed 2 Jun 2012).)) Anton was reported to have paid $1,500 for the stone to be cut and placed. ((”The Rounder Says,” The Hammond Times, 12 Aug 1908, Wednesday, p. 2, col. 5-6; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 26 Feb 2016).)) I find it interesting that the stone was described as being “a plain monument,” but even more interesting, was the statement that “in the lot will be placed several concrete receptacles for the bodies which will repose there in the future.” “When the coffin is placed in these receptacles they will be hermetically sealed with concrete several inches thick so that the bodies could only be removed by blasting away at the concrete.” ((Ibid.)) I wonder what his reasoning was for this? Grave robbers?

According to records at the cemetery, Anton purchased 14 grave sites, with the monument covering three of them. I am not sure when he purchased the plot, but the cemetery records show that six graves have been filled: Gretje Tapper, his mother; Lois Tapper, his daughter who was born pre-mature at 6 months, and living just one day; his wife, Louise Tapper; his grandson, stillborn child of his daughter Alice; and himself. There is one remaining grave that is occupied, but not noted as to who is buried there. Two people come to mind as to who it might be, and obviously further research needs to be done. It could be his step-father, Edzard Heinrich Tapper, who died 22 Dec 1881, or it could be his brother, Folkert Tapper who passed away 18 May 1888. The cemetery was established in 1885, so Folkert would be a likely candidate. So we circle back to the question of when the plot was purchased, and by whom. It is likely that a couple of lots were purchased by Gretje when Folkert died, but at this point it is only speculation.

When Anton designed the monument, he chose very specific images. There has been much written about the symbolism of carvings on a tombstone, gravestone or monument. While I am sure that many choose what symbols to decorate these eternal stones from the standard catalogue and meaning, I believe that these symbols can also have a different, or secondary meaning.

  • Included on the stone are these images:
    An Anchor, traditionally a symbol of hope, or eternal life. I love the idea that early christians used it as a disguised cross.
  • A Cross, traditionally a symbol of faith and eternity.
    Alternately: A Cross and Anchor, which refers to Christ as “hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sincere and steadfast.” (Hebrews 6:19). ((http://www.memorials.com/Headstones-Symbolism-information.php : accessed 19 Mar 2017.))
  • A Column traditionally symbolizes the noble life of the head of the family.
  • Ivy, traditionally a symbol of eternal life.
  • Ferns, traditionally a symbol of humility and sincerity.
  • A Lily traditionally symbolizes purity or resurrection. In this case the flower is below the leaves, it could represent a broken flower, meaning pre-mature death.

Putting myself in my great-grandfather’s shoes, I believe that he took all of this into consideration, but also looked at it from a slightly different angle.

  • The Anchor and Cross. Anton was the son of a sea captain, his father having died at sea when he was just two years old. He lost his brother when he was six, and his younger brother died either on the voyage to America, or shortly after landing. I wrote about this in my blog post titled “Strength at Christmas.” His only remaining brother, Folkert, died at the age of 21 in 1888. The anchor and cross, symbols of hope, faith, eternal life, and a symbol of his father, the captain of the Three Sisters.
  • The Column. The noble life of the head of the family – his mother. A strong and determined woman, who did all she could to create a good life for her family.
  • Ivy and Ferns. Again hope for eternal life, with humility and sincerity.
  • A broken lily. Pre-mature death. He certainly experienced enough pre-mature death.

The reason for his choices have been lost in time, but the monument stands, tall and solid. A testament to the strength and endurance of this pioneer family of Hammond, Indiana.

 

 

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New Beginnings

This week we celebrate new beginnings. Twenty-four years ago my son and his cousin, my goddaughter, were born on Thursdays, five weeks apart. I am having a hard time believing how quickly the years have gone by, but I am not surprised at the amazing adults they have become. This week they both start the next chapter in their lives. A week of new beginnings.

Last week we spent the week packing, driving, unpacking, and again driving. My son had accepted a job in Rhode Island, over 1000 miles distance from his current home in DeKalb, Illinois. It is a real grown up job. Now don’t get me wrong, the job he left was a real job, and a fantastic opportunity, but he was ready to move on. Have you been to DeKalb? While it is a college town, it is not a place that could offer an amazing social life for a young adult. My childrens description of the city is “the town that gave up.” So Monday, February 20th we drove to DeKalb, and started packing. We picked up the truck on Tuesday, and packed the 16’ box truck that we had reserved. Wednesday morning dawned foggy, but we got an early start, caravanning our way east, my son in his pickup truck in the lead, my husband and daughter next, and me following in the truck. We made it to Utica, New York that night. The next afternoon we were unloading the truck into his new home. By Saturday noon we were finished, even the stacking washer and dryer were humming away with loads of laundry. Sunday we were on the road early, heading back to Wisconsin. Tuesday he started his new job. We were blessed by unseasonable weather for February – 50s and 60s, and little to no wind. No winter coats were needed during the mad rush of the week. Today, March 1st, we are in the midst of a snowstorm with blustery winds. I do believe that a bit of intercession was made on our behalf, and for that I am truly grateful.

My goddaughter went to college in Virginia, and it was there that she met the man who she will be marrying this Saturday, March 4th.  Unlike her cousin, who went to school here in the Midwest, and has moved east for a new job, she went to school in the east, only to find herself moving back to the Midwest for a new job. And a new life as a married woman.

New beginnings, new lives. My hopes and dreams are that these coming days and years are full of faith, good fortune, and much happiness for both of them.

May joy and peace surround you, 
contentment latch your door, 
and happiness be with you now
and bless you evermore!

An Irish Blessing

Housing Elephants

The news that the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus would be shutting down after 146 years, reminded me of this story. 

The Tapper home on Ann Street. The garage is just visible on the right.

One year while visiting my grandparents in Hammond, Lake County, Indiana, my brother and I went with our grandfather, Roland Tapper, to run some errands. We must have driven near where the family home used to stand on Ann Street, as it triggered a memory for Grandpa, and he told us that his father used to house the circus elephants in their garage. Sadly, that is where my memory of this conversation ends, but the story stuck with me. 

Anton H. Tapper Sr. moved into his new home on Ann Street, in August 1908.1 Anton had chosen property directly across the street from the new Masonic Temple, whose cornerstone was laid May 1, 1907. The three story red brick building was built in the Gothic style, and boasted 65,000 square feet of space, which included an auditorium large enough to host a circus. Sadly the temple was torn down in 2009, having been abandoned by the Masons in 1999. Time and a leaking roof had taken its toll. Pictures of the temple at the time it was torn down are available online here: http://www.flickriver.com/photos/jordannicolette/sets/72157620768953484/ 

Roland Tapper, age 13. Confirmation Photo taken 23 Jun 1923

In November 1922, when my grandfather was 13 years old, the Shrine Circus came to town, and set up in the Masonic Temple. The circus was held Wednesday, November 8th through Saturday, November 18th. Two performances were held daily, one at 1:30, and the second at 7:00 p.m. Amazingly this full circus was held inside in the temple’s auditorium! The “regular thirty foot circus ring, with dirt foundation and sawdust, [was set up] just like it’s under the big canvas top.” “The ring was laid out on the floor in front of the auditorium stage. [Pictures of the auditorium are included in the link above]. The seats which used to be there have been removed and circus seats put on the stage. First a heavy plank flooring was laid. It was covered with tar paper. Then tons of clay were packed on this foundation until a firm surface had been provided on which the elephants will perform and the galloping horses cavort.”2

The elephants arrived Monday, and after a quick tour through downtown, were enlisted to help pack down the clay that had been laid in the circus ring. That evening, they moved to their evening quarters in “Tony Tapper’s garage.”3

The Masonic Temple was located where the Hammond Academy now sits.

 As if the circus being in town was not exciting enough for the children of Hammond, Tilly the elephant celebrated her 107th birthday on November 11th, and they were invited to her birthday party. In 1922, 11-year-old  Margaret Hagedorn was in sixth grade. She was living in her grandmother’s household with her mother, and 10 year old sister ,at 11 Rimbach Street. As girls of that age often do, she wrote about Tilly’s birthday party, and her account was published in The Times on November 20, 1922.4

So while I don’t have a first hand account of this time from my grandfather, I do have Margarets memories. She states that “Such a party I never expect to witness again and I am writing this out so that I can always remember it as I believe I will never go to a party quite like it again.”

“The elephants were quartered in Mr. Tapper’s barn, which is just across from the Masonic Temple, and as we live less than a block from there we became very well acquainted with the elephants and their keepers and we used to visit them several times a day. The keepers were kindly men and told us many interesting things about these wonderful beasts.”5

If Margaret was visiting the elephants several times a day, and was tolerated by the keepers who were “kindly men,” I can only imagine that my grandfather was also spending time in his father’s garage with the elephants. After running our errands, and returning to the apartment that day many years ago, Grandpa continued reminiscing about the circus, and told the story that he and his brothers had fun taking the elephant, umm droppings, and throwing them around the yard. Which brings to mind what a mess four elephants must have left behind.

The Masonic Temple, circa 1921

The highlight of the circus was celebrating Tilly’s birthday, and thankfully Margaret wrote about the party in detail. She described the table that was placed in the center of the ring and covered with a white cloth, and where “good crisp cabbages cut in halves and loaves of bread” were placed. On a separate table was placed the cake. “Such a cake!!!. It was five feet across and made in tiers thickly frosted in white with festoons of chocolate and pink frosting.” She was amazed at how the elephants, Tilly, Clara, Tony and Pitt, sat “down on tubs in front of the table just like human beings at a feast,” and waited for a signal from the keepers before beginning to eat. When they had finished the first coarse, the cake was cut into large pieces. Margaret’s favorite memory was how the elephants ate their piece of cake. She writes: “Each elephant was given large share [of cake]. Tilly, Clara and Tony behaved very nicely and lifted their piece of cake with their trunks to their mouths, but old Pitt opened his mouth wide and acted as though he expected to have the whole cake shoved in.”6

What a party this must have been! What an exciting ten days it must have been for the children of Hammond! And what a smell must have been left behind in the Tapper garage when the elephants got back on the train, and headed to the next city. I am grateful that Margaret wrote about the event “so that she would remember this occasion always.”

Sources:

  1. “Change Residence,” The Lake County Times, 7 Aug 1908, Friday, p. 2, col. 2; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 21 Feb 2016).
  2. “Circus is Loading for Hammond,” The Times, 4 Nov 1922, front page, col. 4; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 29 Jan 2017).
  3. “Orphans of Region to be Greeted,” The Gary Evening Times, 6 Nov 1922, front page, col. 5; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 29 Jan 2017).
  4. “The Shrine Circus At Hammond,” The Times, 20 Nov 1922, page 6, col. 6; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 29 Jan 2017).
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid

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The Road Trip

Twenty years ago this week, wait, what? Twenty years ago? How is that possible? Anyway. Twenty years ago this week, I went on a road trip with my in-laws to Rochester, Minnesota. To be more specific, to the Mayo Clinic. What triggered this memory? Hanging the ornament that both Marie and I fell in love with, and purchased for our Christmas trees. I remember laughing with her, saying that no one will ever know we own the same ornament.

Marie had been experiencing some pretty intense pain in her back, and it was felt by her doctors here in Appleton that she should be examined at the Mayo Clinic with the hope that they could help her.

Appointments were scheduled for December 3-4, and 9-10. I believe we were able to re-schedule the 9-10 appointments, as I know we were not there over the weekend – and most importantly in Rochester for Butch’s birthday on the 8th. The next decision to be made, was Butch, who was just about to turn 84, up to the task of making the drive in unpredictable December weather? I don’t remember how the decision was made, but I was appointed chief driver, and appointment monitor, while Gary stayed at home wrangling our 7 1/2 year old daughter, 4 year old son, and continued to work full time.

We left on Monday, December 2nd, and as I recall the drive to Rochester was uneventful. Marie sat in front with me, and Butch sat in the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car, taking in the rare view from rear seat of his car.

Marie’s appointment schedule was not heavy, and while tests were time consuming, we found time to wander the Apache Mall, and do a bit of Christmas shopping. We also enjoyed having dinner like “old people” at a restaurant that served a cheap, early bird menu. Eating at 4:30 was perfect, as we were always starving by this time of day. Time for real meals were few and far between due to the doctor appointments. Butch thought that fact that we were eating this early was doubly funny. Here we were laughing about eating with the old people, when, well, he was old!

It’s funny, I thought I remembered this trip so clearly, but in reality, it is a series of highlights. One doctor appointment in particular sticks out. Marie was asked to reach as far as she could toward the floor. She promptly complied, bending in 1/2 and laying her palms flat on the floor. The doctor almost fell of his stool. He was not expecting this from a 74 year old woman, who was there to see him for chronic back pain.

As the appointments ended and we prepared to return home, the weather took a turn. Marie and I headed out that evening to get gas so we wouldn’t have to do it the next day. Neither of us had filled up the Town Car before, and we stood laughing in the snow, trying to figure out how to open the fuel door. We finally got out the manual, figured it out and pumped our gas.

The weather had further deteriorated the by next morning, when we headed cautiously out for home. Approaching a stop light, just turning green, a car decided to make a mad left turn in front of us. I held tight, and pushed on the brakes. From the seat next to me was heard “Sh*$T!” while in the back seat, “DA*@&#N” as an involuntary “F#()#@@K” came out of my mouth. Luckily the breaks held, the car stopped, and we didn’t hit anything, and nothing hit us!

As the snow continued to fall, we made our way east on what is mostly two lane state highways. At one point, it became clear that I was going to have to pass a semi who was being extra cautious. Finding my moment I headed out and around, holding the car to the road as we hit the slush and snow. The comment from the back seat. “I always knew you were a good driver!” Reaching Oshkosh though, Butch had had enough. He needed a break, and a meal. OH! We were so close to home. But we stopped and had a quick bite to eat before getting back on the road and on our way to Hollandtown.

Unfortunately the trip to Mayo brought no miracle relief for Marie. She was given meditation tapes, some new medications to try, along with some exercises. Ultimately she learned that she needed to slow down a bit, take care of herself, and when it came to housecleaning, she didn’t need to throw the sofa across the family room all by herself, she could ask for help.

Each year as I put this special little blue bird on the Christmas tree, I think of this trip, the laughter, and even the fear of what the doctors may find. And this year, like I have for the past three years, a second blue bird is hung on our tree. They now hang in the same household. And I want everyone to know it.