Family Heritage

Ancient Family History

This is a history lesson that will illustrate how our German family heritage intertwines with the greater arena of the history of all mankind of all the ages. The following is a unique (and sometimes necessarily subjective) perspective of my roots, based upon the Bible and other historical and family documents. It covers the period from the time of the creation of Adam, through the end of the 19th century, A.D.

I believe that the Bible teaches the following historical events:

- God created Adam: 4241 B.C., and Adam died in 3311 B.C.
- Adam's son, Seth: 4111 B.C. - 3304 B.C.
- Seth's son, Enosh: 4006 B.C. - 3101 B.C.
- Enosh's son, Kenan: 3916 B.C. - 3006 B.C.
- Kenan's son, Mahalel: 3846 B.C. - 2951 B.C.
- Mahalel's son, Jared: 3781 B.C. - 2819 B.C.
- Jared's son, Enoch: 3619 B.C. - God raptured Enoch in 3254 B.C.
- Enoch's son, Methusaleh: 3554 B.C. - 2585 B.C.
- Mehthsaleh's son, Lamech: 3367 B.C. - 2590 B.C.
- Lamech's son, Noah: 3185 B.C. - 2235 B.C.
- Noah's son, Japheth: 2685 B.C. - 2083 B.C. (11th generation)

The great flood occurred in 2585 B.C., and up until this time, all these ancestors had lived their entire lives in a small part of what we now know as the Middle East, in or near Iraq. After the great flood, a new civilization began on Mount Ararat in Turkey:

- Japheth's son, Gomer: 2583 B.C. - 2145 B.C.
- Gomer's son, Ashkenaz: 2548 B.C. - 2115 B.C. (13th generation)
Genesis 10:3

The clans of Ashkenaz migrated northward into what is now Turkey and Iran, then north of the Black Sea, toward northern Europe. Approximately seven more generations passed to the time of Abraham in the 2200's B.C. (the 20th generation), and then approximately 14 more generations passed to the time of David in 1000 B.C. (to the 34th generation).

In about 1000 B.C., when David was King of Israel, my ancestors began to migrate from northern Europe to what is now Germany. During the 100's B.C., they moved south to the Rhine and Danube rivers, the frontier of Rome. The Romans called all the tribes Germani, though other tribes included the Cimbri, Franks, Goths, and Vandals. The Romans called the tribes' land Germania. From the time of King David until the time of Christ, approximately 28 more generations of the clans of Ashkenaz had passed (to the 62nd generation).

In A.D. 9, Rome attempted to conquer Germany, but Germanic warriors crushed the Roman armies. The Romans built a wall, called The Limes, to protect their possessions south of the Danube from attacks by Germanic tribes. During the 400's A.D., Germanic tribes poured into the weakened West Roman Empire and broke it up into tribal kingdoms. The kingdom of the Franks became the largest and most important.

In 486, Clovis, a Frankish king, defeated the Roman governor of Gaul (now France). Clovis extended the boundaries of his territory by defeating other Germanic tribes in Gaul and parts of western Germany. He became a Christian, and also introduced many Roman ways of life into his kingdom.

The greatest Frankish ruler, Charlemagne, came to power in 768 and expanded his kingdom east to the Elbe River. In 800, Pope Leo III crowned him emperor of the Romans. In 843, the Treaty of Verdun divided Charlemagne's empire into three kingdoms, one for each of his grandsons. Louis II (called The German) received the lands east of the Rhine River, and his kingdom became what is now Germany.

In 611, the German branch of the Frankish royal family died out. By then, the German kingdom consisted of the powerful Duchies (territories ruled by a duke)--Bavaria, Lorraine, Franconia, Saxony, and Swabia. The German dukes elected Conrad I of Franconia as king. In 919, Conrad was succeeded as king by Henry I (the Fowler) of Saxony, whose family ruled until 1024. With the founding of the Saxon dynasty, Germany became permanently separated from France.

Henry's son, Otto I (The Great), drove invading Hungarians out of southern Germany in 955, and extended the German frontier in the north. Otto also won control over the old middle Frankish kingdom, which gave him the right to claim the title of emperor. In 962, Otto was crowned emperor in Rome. This marked the beginning of what later was called the Holy Roman Empire.

The Holy Roman Empire, under the Saxon emperors, became the most powerful country in Europe. But under the Salian dynasty (1024-1125), a long power struggle began that left the empire weak and disorganized. In 1075, Pope Gregory VII disputed the right of Emperor Henry IV to appoint bishops. Many German princes sided with the pope, and fought a series of civil wars against the emperor, and by the 14th century, the emperor was almost powerless.

The Hohenstaufen emperors (1138-1254) reestablished some order, but then great disorder returned. The German princes elected Rudolf I of Hasburg as emperor in 1273. The reign of the Hasburgs was confirmed in 1438. In 1517, the Reformation began in Germany. From 1618 to 1648, the Thirty Years' War devastated much of Germany. Then there was no central power, and Germany had hundreds of states ruled by princes and nobles.

During the 17th century, the Hohenzollern family began its rise to the leadership of a united Germany. Frederick William (the Great Elector) ruled the state of Brandenburg and the Duchy of Prussia, and Berlin was his capital. He built up the dynasty's lands, and in 1701, his son, Frederick I, took the title of king, and his entire state became known as Prussia. Prussia's power continued to grow under the next two kings, Frederick William I and Frederick II (The Great).

After Frederick the Great became king in 1740, he seized Silesia, a rich province of Austria. This invasion led to two wars, the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the Seven Years' War (1756-1763). After these two wars, whole regions of Germany lay devastated, and poverty was widespread. Commerce and manufacturing had suffered heavily, and little faith was put in the peace just concluded. To many German farmers, emigration became a preferable choice.

There was at this time a vast treeless plain along the Volga River in Central Russia which had been inhabited for centuries by the Tartars and other semi-savage nomadic tribes. It was also a refuge for criminals and escaped serfs. The Russian government had tried unsuccessfully to colonize this area with Russian settlers in order to establish a bulwark against these tribes. Then, on July 22, 1763, Catherine II of Russia issued a Manifesto inviting people of other nationalities to settle this Volga area. She hoped to attract the German farmers, with their advanced methods of agriculture, to spur on the Russian peasantry.

The privileges extended to German colonists included: religious freedom, short of evangelism; exemption from military service; a homestead of land; control over their own churches and schools; nearly complete autonomy in local government; free transportation to Russia; tax exemption for ten years; and interest-free loans.

As a result, beginning in 1763, thousands of Germans migrated from Hesse, Saxony, the Palatinate, Westphalia, Swabia, Baden, Wuerttenburg, and Bavaria in Germany, to the area near Saratov and Samara along the Volga River in Russia. By 1768, over 23,000 Germans had made the journey, and emigration from Germany was halted by the German government. By this time, 104 German colonies had been established; 59 on the eastern side of the Volga River, and 45 on the western side.

Since the time of Christ, approximately 54 more generations of the ancient clans of Ashkenaz had passed. Probably in the first part of the 18th century, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was born (among the 116th generation of mankind), and he was probably one of the German men who brought his family to Russia between 1763 and 1768. My great-great-great-great-grandfather was born about this time, and my great-great-great-grandfather (the 118th generation) was probably born in Russia in about 1795.

The new paradise in Russia quickly became a paradise lost, as these Germans found themselves virtually cut off from the world on the eastern border of civilization. They suffered wood shortages, crop failures, wolf attacks, and epidemics of malaria, typhoid fever, and smallpox. Their villages were pillaged by the native tribes and criminals. Women were raped and sold into the harems of wealthy Mohammedans. Old men were tied to the tails of horses and dragged to death. Entire villages were sold into slavery. Some of the Germans built garrisons with ramparts and trenches around their villages for protection. Yet, the Germans probably wanted only to be left alone to their hard work as farmers.

In addition, the Germans were persecuted by Russians who were jealous of their special privileges. As a result of barriers of race, language, and religion, the Germans remained isolated from the mass of the nation of Russia.

The 19th century brought crop failures, famine, and land shortages due to increased population. In 1866, the nation of Russia curtailed the Germans' control over their own schools and religion, and in 1871 it abolished their exemption from military service. Immediately, the young men who would have been drafted began to leave the country. Knowledge of the economic opportunities in the United States was conveyed through German newspapers printed in the U.S. As a result, in 1872, the Germans began migrating in masses from the Volga River to the U.S., and this continued until the outbreak of World War I. They found many of the same barriers in America, and many were considered outcasts, but the masses persevered.

Great-Great-Grandpa Jacob Weber

My great-great-grandfather, Jacob Weber (among the 119th generation of mankind), was born in Russia on February 13th, 1818, and he was reared in the Lutheran faith. In 1876, he brought his family to the United States. They first settled in Lincolnville and Dorrance, Kansas, and later in Blaine County, Oklahoma (Okeene is in Blaine County). Jacob made musical instruments from wood, including violins, mandolins, pianos, and dulcimers, as well as furniture, cabinets, and toys.

A long-standing family rumor says that Jacob invented a railroad boxcar coupler, carved a wooden replica, and paid his neighbor, O. Burnell, to take it to the U.S. Patent Office, because Jacob couldn't speak English. The story includes Mr. Burnell stealing the patent and later making a deathbed confession. Supposedly the patent was secured but the man who presented it died before receiving any money from it, so the money was put in a trust fund. Of course, family members have always been hopeful of becoming the rightful owners of this now-huge sum of money. One variation of the story would even entitle the family to the land on which the Empire State Building sets today. Jacob Weber died on March 22, 1906, at the age of 88, and I have visited his gravesite in Peaceful Cemetery near Southard, OK.

Great-Grandpa David Weber (My Grandpa Weber's father)

Jacob and his wife, Mary Barbara Heinze (1819-1889), had eleven children in Russia. They brought the five youngest ones with them to the United States, but the others either suffered untimely deaths, or couldn't afford the trip when Jacob came. Among them was my great-grandfather, David Weber (among the 120th generation of mankind), who did come to the U.S. in 1881. They lost two of their seven children at sea, and another after arriving in Kansas. In the U.S., they had three more children, the first of which was Adam, my grandfather, who was born in Kansas in 1882. The entire Weber clan soon settled in Blaine County, Oklahoma. David Weber was born in 1848, and died in January, 1921 (the year my dad was born) at age 72. His wife, Mary Catherine Weber, was born in 1849 and died in September, 1936 at age 87.

Great-Grandpa Nusz (My Grandma Weber's father)

My great-grandfather, George Peter Nusz, was born on May 14th, 1855 in Dobrinka, Russia. In 1877 he served in the war between Russia and Turkey (see attached photo). My great-grandmother, Mary Katherine Wolf, was born in Dobrinka in 1858. They were married in 1874, and they had seven children while still living in Russia. In 1886 they traveled by ship to the United States.

During the journey, their baby, John, was deathly ill. They believed that if he died, he would have to be buried at sea, so they hid him in a suitcase for the last two days of the trip. The baby recovered and lived until 1968, and I knew this man. When I was about 10 years old, my Grandma Weber (John's sister) and I visited Great-Uncle John and Aunt Sarah at their home in Enid. I will always remember that visit because I was intrigued by Uncle John's long white beard. I had never seen a beard so long, dragging on Uncle John's belly. My Grandma sensed that I was fascinated with his beard, and she and Uncle John assured me it would be OK if I touched it. When I did, my Uncle John seemed to be the culmination of Santa Claus and Father Time, and from that day on I always thought of Uncle John as an icon of wisdom. He died on August 5th, 1968.

George and Mary Katherine Wolf Nusz settled first in Marion and Bliss, Kansas, and later near Isabella and Okeene, Oklahoma, and they had seven more children, 14 in all. Their first child born in the U.S. was my Grandma, Emma Nusz, born on Valentine's Day in 1989. George Nusz worked on the railroad for ten cents per hour, and he was a farmer, a grocer, and a preacher, and he even founded a church near Okeene. Mary did house work for 25 cents per day for a banker's wife. George Peter Nusz died in 1920 at the age of 65. Mary Nusz was born in 1858, and died in 1933 at the age of 75.

Another one of my great uncles was Uncle Dave (Nusz), born in Russia in 1882. Uncle Dave was an eccentric character. When I was young, Dad would take me to visit him. He too intrigued me, but I always went to his house with mixed emotions because it was broken down and filthy. It only had a couple of rooms, and part of the house had dirt floors. It wasn't unusual to be visiting with Uncle Dave while a large rat searched for food in the corner of the room. Nevertheless, Uncle Dave was fun because he had a love for music, even if he lacked the accompanying talent to make his music interesting to anyone other than an awed country boy. Uncle Dave would play the dulcimer and harmonica, and he would sing and visit with my Dad in their native German tongue. My Dad said that Uncle Dave sometimes spoke to us in a Russian tongue that even Dad couldn't understand.

The only others of my Grandma's siblings that I knew were Lydia, Sarah, Hannah, Rachel, and Sam; mostly a scary bunch that never made me feel completely comfortable (except, of course, for my Grandma Weber--we adored each other). Their German language was foreign to me, and they all pretty much seemed like they hated life because of its many woes. They seemed mean and ugly, although I never knew them well enough to judge for sure. Rachel was my favorite because she seemed to be the least intolerant of children. Aunt Sarah was nice too, although she seemed demented and spooky, as did Aunt Hannah. My Uncle Sam, the baby of his family, was very scary. I don't remember his ever saying a word. Instead he would just sit, and look mean.

One interesting thing about the Nusz children is that all 14 of them not only survived, which was rare in those days, but every one of them even lived into old age. My Aunt Hannah was 100 years old when she died in the late 1990s.

Grandpa and Grandma Weber

My paternal grandparents, Adam Weber (among the 121st generation of mankind) and Emma Nusz, were married at Watonga, Oklahoma on September 6, 1905. Grandpa Weber died when I was only two years old, but I do have one memory of sitting on his knee while he cracked walnuts for me at his roll-top desk. Adam Weber was born on June 23rd, 1882, and died on April 12, 1958, at the age of 75.

However, my Grandma Weber and I were extremely close (see attached photo). I probably knew her better and spent more one-on-one time with her than with either of my parents, or anyone else, until I got married. Although she cast the same mean and spooky Nusz image to almost everyone else, I was her favorite grandchild, and I ate it up. I believe that the reason for this favoritism was superstition. She was 32 years old when she had my dad, her youngest child, and my mom was 32 years old when she had me, her youngest child as well. Somehow this automatically granted me special favor.

She couldn't get enough of me, and I could do no wrong in her eyes. While my sisters and cousins would probably describe her as I have her siblings, she was my source of joy as a young boy. She would keep peppermint candy in a special container just for me. The only requirement for my indulging was a visit from me, although this container was off-limits to any other bothersome child. And visit I did; not just for the candy, but for her companionship and the stories she would tell. I would visit every day, and fix us an ice-cold Pepsi, also from her private stock. She would give me all of her spare change which I kept in a hidden piggy bank at her house.

Then we would talk. Best of all, she would tell me stories from her childhood, usually from her years in either Bliss or Okeene. She would tell me about all the amazing feats performed by her six brothers, such as catching a catfish so big that when they loaded it in the wagon, its tail dragged on the ground. An avid fisherman myself, I thought about that monster thousands of times. As for truth, a story did not need to be verifiable; if my Grandma Weber told it, I believed it, probably because it was so much fun to imagine it to be true. She also loved to interpret dreams, and I always brought her mine for analysis.

In 1960, Dad single-handedly built her a house next door to ours, so we had easy access to each other throughout my childhood. Grandma was a large woman (obese, but short--probably about 4'11" tall), and she walked with a cane. Grandma Weber died at the age of 86, when I was in college, in September, 1975. That was a difficult day.

Weber Aunts and Uncles

My Weber (and Nusz) aunts and uncles were not overly affectionate people, and I was not really too close to any of them. However, I did grow up around several of them, and my life is richer for it. My Aunt Leah died of breast cancer in 1962, at the age of 55, and her husband Leland Lamle died in 1970, probably of heart disease.

My Uncle Reuben was an extremely smart, inventive, and interesting man, but probably only a few people knew this because he was very quiet. He was also a fairly educated man for his day, graduating from high school in 1928. In a later era, he might well have been a college professor, like his son, M.C. Instead, he spent 44 years doing manual labor at USG (U.S. Gypsum) in Southard, OK. For many of these years, he hand-loaded heavy rocks onto railroad cars. He retired from USG in 1973. I was drawn to Uncle Reuben because of his interests in hunting, fishing, auto mechanics, stamp-collecting, story-telling, and other things that were just fun. He died in 1993 (with stomach/digestion problems) at the age of 84. His wife, my Aunt Edna, died in 1998, with Alzheimer's.

I never knew my Uncle Harry, but he was a colorful character. His legacy included being the victim of an armed robbery when he was 19 years old. The gunmen searched all of the other victims for guns, but when they came to Uncle Harry, they just shot him in the stomach, apparently because they were afraid to tangle with him because he was a large muscular man. Harry survived the shooting, but the stomach and liver wounds, combined with excessive drinking, took his life about eight years later in 1939 at the age of only 28.

I met my Uncle Harvey when we visited him in California when I was eight years old. He was an alcoholic, and by this time he was already shriveled down to skin and bones, and he walked with a cane, although he was less than 50 years old. I remember how shocked I was when Dad wanted to leave Uncle Harvey with a parting gift, so he bought him a carton of cigarettes. To a young boy whose Dad was insulted by alcohol and cigarettes, this was quite unusual. Alcoholism killed Uncle Harvey seven years later in 1971 at the age of 57.

Aunt Bernice was always special to me because of the gifts she bought me when we visited her in Bakersfield, CA in 1964. She gave me a large Tonka truck, and she took me to Disneyland and bought me a Donald Duck hat, and I still have that hat. Aunt Bernice and Uncle Andrew (Scott) also abused alcohol and cigarettes, and Aunt Bernice died of lung cancer in the mid-eighties at the age of 72. Uncle Andrew was still quite vigorous for several years after Bernice died, traveling the country with a travel trailer, and even visiting in our home in Coppell.

My Aunt Helen is a very quiet and industrious lady. She was born on February 9th, 1919, and still in good health at her death at the age of 89. She never learned to drive, and she still walked to her job as a cook at a restaurant when she was at least 75 years old. When I learned to know her husband, Uncle John (Grauberger), he had already been retired from the railroad for many years. He was loud and opinionated, and I enjoyed his company because he would always include me in the conversation. Those conversations were quite loud themselves because Uncle John was nearly deaf. It was sometimes embarrassing when his colorful language rang out so loudly.

Grandpa and Grandma Grantz

I have much less information about Mom's family than I do about Dad's. My Maternal grandparents were Lewis Grantz and Lena Moulton. Grandpa Grantz was born in 1882, and his family had settled in Pennsylvania. I believe that their "old country" was Wales. Grandma Grantz was born in 1986. They also had seven children (like my Weber grandparents). As may have been typical for their generation, Grandpa was mean, and Grandma was wonderful. Mom said that, as a child, she was so scared of her Dad that she would walk on the other side of the room in order to avoid him. On Sunday mornings, he would walk to church on one side of the road, while the rest of the family walked well behind on the other side. He was periodically kicked by his mules, supposedly because he was so mean to them, and he would be laid-up in bed for weeks at a time. On the other hand, Mom loved her mother deeply, and I believe that they had a very special relationship. Grandpa Grantz was born on March 2nd, 1882, and on June 5th, 1961 at the age of 79. Grandma Grantz was born on September 13th, 1886, and died on March 26th, 1965 at the age of 78.

I don't have any clear memories of Grandpa Grantz, since I was only four years old when he died, but I remember Grandma Grantz quite well. I have vague memories of her old house in Enid (I believe it was on West Maple street), including one or two rooms in a small upstairs area that was a lot of fun for us grandchildren. The house was very decrepit though, and when my parents moved her to a small house next to us in Okeene (that my dad moved in for her), their old house in Enid was destroyed.

I really enjoyed living next door to Grandma Grantz. I also lived next door to Grandma Weber, and although we shared that special report, Grandma Grantz attracted my attention in very different ways. She and I loved to work jigsaw puzzles together, so it always seemed strange to me that Grandma Weber had absolutely no skill or dexterity for this hobby. Grandma Grantz also loved to play scrabble with me, and she was always working crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles. I think that Clarissa was Grandma Grantz's favorite grandchild, but this in no way included any shunning of us other grandchildren. Grandma Grantz was a good cook, she was an avid student of the Bible, she was blind in one eye, and she ALWAYS smelled like mentholatum. She would keep a tube of mentholatum secured in her bosom at all times, along with a handkerchief and anything else she might need on a moment's notice. She was also a large woman (both tall and heavy), so her movement around the house was minimal, and always assisted by a cane.

Grantz Aunts and Uncles

Uncle Frank was their oldest child, and he was indeed a character. I have very fond childhood memories of him. He was a man of activity, always coaching a little league team or trying to make a little money at a second job. He had tried farming and many other jobs, but when I knew him he was a fire-and-brimstone Baptist preacher. I spent a lot of time with him and Aunt Lottie, such as when I would stay with them for a week in the summertime to attend his church camp. Also, Frank and Lottie often kept foster children. Because of some of the things he did, Uncle Frank did not always seem like a model preacher. I recently kidded his children that, to a young boy, Frank represented an intriguing mixture of virtues and vices. Dad told me that he once sold a dresser without telling the buyer that the mirror was cracked. I remember riding in a car with him when he nearly drove off the road trying to hit a rabbit. Uncle Frank died in 1967 at the age of 53.

I never knew my Aunt Dolly (Edna Mae), but she must have been much like Grandma, because everyone still speaks highly of her. She married Vernon Wilson, but I may have only met him briefly on occasion. Aunt Dolly died of a heart condition in 1951 at the age of 35.

Uncle Guy was another character, but this was not widely known because he was very quiet. I have fond memories of Uncle Guy giggling like a little boy, and he frequently played practical jokes on my Dad, such as repeatedly running into him (physically) in stores with his back to Dad, so Dad didn't know who it was. He would keep doing it until Dad confronted him, and then just giggle when Dad realized who it was. Guy was a farmer, and he died in 1975 at the age of 58. He had sugar diabetes and probably a heart condition as well. This was never too clear, because Guy's religion did not allow for seeking medical attention from doctors. Dad told horrifying stories about one of their children screaming with the pain of an ear infection, and draining a quart of fluid from his ear--all unnecessary because of their religion. Another thing about their religion was their weird way of praying. When Uncle Guy would pray, it was in the form of a chant, almost a song, but I could never understand any of the words he was saying. I never asked him about his religion or his form of prayer. I now wish that I had. Aunt Fern was a wonderful, nice, and considerate woman. She died in 1993.

Uncle Nelson was as nice of a man as I've ever met. He would have given all he had for any friend or relative, and as a result, he always lived in poverty. However, as a youngster I was oblivious to this. All I knew was that whenever he would come and visit, I would sit on his knee, and he would let me reach into his shirt pocket for a stick of Juicy Fruit gum. I was always amazed how he always prepared for his visits by storing gum in his pocket for me. He never forgot. He was a hard worker, but with no education and ten children, it was a tremendous struggle for him to make ends meet. In addition, he had a major speech impediment, to the point that most people could not understand him. After spending an hour or so with him, I could understand about half of what he said. This no doubt contributed to his economic problems, as well as his humility and low self-esteem. His first wife was Jeanne, but I never knew her. I do remember when he married Aunt Virginia however. Their wedding turned into a fiasco when the men of the family planned for him to chivalry his new bride down the streets of Enid in a wheelbarrow, but Nelson refused and fled. Nelson spent his career at Gold Spot in Enid. In an incident that I can remember, he lost two fingers in an accident at Gold Spot. He spent his last years in Oxford, Arkansas, and died of cancer in 1992 at the age of 73. As far as I know, Aunt Virginia still lives in Oxford. She is a very loving lady, but I believe she has suffered from mental illness throughout the years I have known her.

I never knew my Aunt Gladys, because she died from an enlarged heart in 1942 at the age of only 18. I don't know much about her, except that her death was apparently particularly hard on Mom.

Uncle Ovid lives in Anadarko, OK. He was a Baptist minister, and he married Karen and me. Aunt Jannette was another one of my wonderfully considerate aunts, but she died just a few years ago after being in poor health for many years.

My Dad

My Dad, Clarence Owen Weber, was born on July 23rd, 1921 (among approximately the 122nd generation of mankind), in a farmhouse southeast of Okeene, OK. He was the youngest of seven children, and he had a rough life.

Bootlegging

During the Great Depression, his family, like many others, was starving. They could no longer make a living by sharecropping, so they set up a whiskey still in their barn and started making moonshine whiskey. Even as an uneducated ten-year-old boy, Dad knew this was wrong, and he was ashamed of it. How did he even know it was wrong when every role model in his life was doing it? He lied to a friend about the bootlegging, and later said, "I know that I lied, and it leaves a bad memory."

The bootlegging operation was soon busted by the county sheriff, and my Grandpa Weber served five months in jail. Imagine the shock when Dad realized that his dad was in jail. Without a breadwinner in the house that winter, they lived mostly on water gravy. Dad visited his dad in his jail cell only one time. "I was real glad to see him because it had been a long time, and I knew he was glad to see me. It was nice and warm in there, and I knew that he got three meals a day, so he may have been better off than the rest of us, but it was hard to leave him when it came time to go." On another occasion, Grandma Weber also served a jail sentence for bootlegging, and again Dad's heart was broken when his own mother went to jail.

A Dysfunctional Family

His family had to sell everything they owned, and they moved into an old house in Okeene, without water or gas, and they began to sell whiskey by the drink at their house. "It was not much of a home anymore. There was no privacy whatsoever, with men coming and going anytime of the day or night. They would curse, tell dirty stories, and sometimes even get sick and vomit on the floor." The screen door had to stay locked to deter the deputies in case of a bust, so Dad had to have someone lock and unlock the door just to go outside and play. "This was the place that I had to call home."

"Why did my parents have to have seven children. Why couldn't they have settled for six? It would have been better if I hadn't been born. There just wasn't enough love to go around. There wasn't anyone who would want a kid like me around. Most of the people I knew and liked had broken the law in some way. Oh, how badly I wanted something that I could have been proud of. Christmas at our house was just another day. Little or nothing did I know of its meaning or why we even observed it. It came and went with no Christmas tree, no gifts, nothing for me to remember it by."

Dad didn't do well in school, and he was too shy to ask questions. He was also ridiculed by his classmates because of his family's reputation. Finally, on the day that he could no longer stand the persecution, he rushed away from school at lunchtime, and became an eighth-grade drop-out. He later said, "Although I quit school, I never did quit studying or trying to learn, but most of my learning came from experience. I found out though that no matter how I studied or how much I learned, it didn't help me any in life if I didn't have that diploma or degree." (Dad later earned his GED at the age of 65.)

Dad was often home alone. "One Saturday I found myself all alone and with no food in the house. At noon I began to get hungry. I looked for something to eat, and in the bread box was a cinnamon roll which was a day old when it came from the bakery, and it must have been in the bread box at least a week, so it was hard and dry. I ate it, and I can truthfully say that it was good--there just wasn't enough of it." That evening, he roamed the streets of town, alone and with an empty stomach. It seems that these experiences forever lowered Dad's expectations of his fellow man.

However, Dad did find some solace in my Aunt Leah and Uncle Leland. On one occasion, Dad got sick, and Leland came upstairs to see about him. Dad said, "He sat on the edge of my bed, and placed one hand on my shoulder as he talked to me. He asked where I felt sick, and wondered if there was anything that he could do for me. It was a wonderful feeling having him sit there and talk the way he did. I guess I hadn't realized that anyone really cared that much for me."

A Survivor

Why did Dad turn out to be a godly man? He said, "I had all the encouragement and temptations to become a criminal or outlaw, but for some reason, as I would watch my brother, the more I saw of the kind of life that he lived, the less I liked it. He had a certain kind of friends that I hoped I would never have."

"Down inside of me I was building up a feeling of my own." (This must have been the power of the Holy Spirit.) "I tried to accept it as a challenge in my life. Maybe it was pride, although I didn't have anything to be proud of--always a lot of shame and disgrace, and a life full of disappointments. I knew that I didn't have to drink whiskey, and that I wouldn't have to waste my life sitting around in some rotten jail. I could always hope that tomorrow might be a better day. I'm real thankful that I had other ways of looking at life, and that I always tried to live the kind of life that some people said I couldn't live."

His brother sometimes cursed and argued with his mother, making her cry. Dad said, "So I made another promise to myself that I would try to live a better life, a kind of life that my relatives wouldn't have to be ashamed of, and that I would never have to argue with my mother or do anything that would make her cry. It just isn't in me to want to hurt anyone."

The Unites States Marine Corps

During his teenage years, Dad worked in a service station in Okeene, and an egg plant in Enid, and completed a welding course in Okeene. Then World War II started, and on August 8th, 1942, Dad enlisted in the Marine Corps. During tearful goodbyes, Aunt Leah told Dad she was really proud of him. "I will never forget those words she spoke because I can't remember anyone ever telling me before that they were proud of me."

Immediately after completing boot camp in San Diego, the 1500 men of his battalion, the 12th Defense Battalion, began traveling throughout the South Pacific. Dad was a corporal, and served as a director on a 90-millimeter ant-aircraft artillery team. On Woodlark Island, they defended an airstrip and suffered heavy bombing from the Japanese. At Peleliu, along with the infantry of the 1st Marine Division, they endured some of the most heated fighting of World War II. During the summer of 1945,
they set out for the U.S. Mainland, thinking that they were only returning for a short furlough. However, during this leg of their journey, the U.S. dropped two nuclear bombs on the mainland of Japan, and the Empire of Japan formally surrendered to General MacArthur on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The marines returned to San Diego on August 20th, 1945, after 31 months overseas. Dad traveled by train to the state of Virginia, where he received his Honorable Discharge from the United States Marine Corps on November 27th, 1945, at age 24, after 39 months of faithful service to his country as a veteran of war.

I have a letter that one of Dad's Marine buddies, Coogan Jones, wrote to him. It's dated January 30th, 1953, and it starts with the greeting, "Dear C. O.," because he often went by "C. O.," especially while in the Marines. Perhaps this was a play-on-words, since, to a Marine, "C. O." stands for "Commanding Officer," and Dad and his buddies certainly weren't officers. Anyway, in the letter, Mr. Jones says, "...I believe of all the men I've met during my time on earth, I've met the best ones when I was in the Marines."

Dad's New Life (Romans 7:6)

At the time that Dad went off to war, he didn't yet know my mother. However, due to a mutual friend, they began writing to each other while Dad was overseas. Upon his return, after a brief courtship, they were married on March 23rd, 1946. Dad had several odd jobs, but he soon began his career as a welder, although this too was a struggle for him. Working for companies as a union member, he often went for extended periods with no income, when the union members would go on strike. He desperately wanted to make a living in his own welding business, but he was seldom able to secure a steady income on his own either. I believe this was due to both under-charging for his labor and taking extra time to strive for perfection in is work. So, he would go back and forth: working for a company for a while, then trying his own business again. He named his shop "C. O.'s Welding and Fabricating." This name served a dual purpose. Although his initials were "C. O.," he always kept an inkling of hope that his business would prosper, and that I would join it and eventually take it over. So, it was his wish that "C. O." could also one day stand for "Clarence & Owen's Welding and Fabricating."

Mom brought a strong Christian influence to their marriage, and she led Dad to the Lord shortly before I was born, so we were a church-going family. Dad was about six feet tall, and 200 pounds of solid muscle, due to a lifetime of hard physical labor. As a young boy, sitting next to him at church, he would sometimes reach over and place my hand in his. I marveled at his gigantic hand. It was strong and as hard as a rock from blacksmith work. As I played with his hand to pass the time, I couldn't imagine anything ever hurting me, knowing that Dad would protect me. He gave me security.

Speaking of his adult life, Dad said, "Sometimes I feel as though I've been a total failure." Although we never had much money, Dad was a good provider, and I never went hungry a day in my life. Also, he taught me welding, hunting, and fishing; how to drive a nail and use tools; most of what I know about auto mechanics, carpentry, and plumbing; how to fix just about anything with nothing but a pair of pliers and a piece of bailing wire; and, honesty and integrity. Dad died on October 13th, 1992 (Karen's and my 19th wedding anniversary), of a massive heart attack, at the age of 71.

Bits of Wisdom From My Dad:

Welding Analogies

"Welding requires two pieces of iron and a welding rod. Place the two pieces of iron close together, and with the rod we melt the iron and the rod, and by doing this, we make one piece out of three. I think we can apply this to our daily living. We have to face the good and the bad each day. One of these pieces of iron is the good, and the other one is the bad. We ourselves are the welding rod, as we try to make one good piece out of the good and the bad of life."

"My grandparents traveled all the way from Germany, to Russia, to Oklahoma. I wonder if the most important thing about this is how far they traveled, or if it could be something else. When I was just learning how to weld, an older man with much experience was watching me one day, and he told me that I was watching too much in front of my weld. He said it was more important to watch where I was welding, and the kind of weld that I was leaving behind. He said I shouldn't worry too much about what there was in front of me, but to be careful what kind of weld I left behind. So it's not really so important how far we've traveled, but what kind of a trail we left behind."

Just a Human Being

1 Corinthians 15:10 "But by the grace of God, I am what I am."

"Before I made a public profession of faith for Christ, a preacher once asked me a question." (Dad didn't say what the question was. Perhaps it was something like, "Have you ever sinned?") "I answered, 'Yes.' He said that this just showed that I was a human being.

"I had a buddy in the Marine Corps who always sang "White Christmas" during the holidays. He had the same rank as me, but he was promoted about two weeks before I was, so that made him senior to me. We were getting ready to make a landing on Peleliu, and they needed all the men they could get to go in with the infantry, and only keep enough to operate the equipment and come in later. So it should have been my place to go with the infantry. When the roster came out, it wasn't that way. He was sent, and I had to stay behind. In this landing, he was killed. I've always felt like I should have been where he was. I'll always feel like he died for me."

"Each year at Christmas, I think of my old buddy, and I can't seem to get the Christmas spirit like most people do. As I read my Bible, it tells me about a baby born in a manger. His name was Jesus. You all know the story, and could tell it much better than me. It tells how He grew to be a man, and about the miracles He performed; and, how He died on the cross for you and me. After His death, He rose again, and today He's still able to do things for us. But each year at Christmas, I ask myself why I feel the way I do. Why can't I rejoice and celebrate the birthday of the One who was born in a manger--the One who died on the cross for me?" I always seem to come up with the same answer, just like that preacher had said: I am what I am, just a human being."

Church

Matthew 5:16 "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

"I sometimes remind myself of the little boy and the house with the golden windows across the valley. One Sunday I attended a wedding at a church in Enid, and I noticed how happy those people were with their church. I wished that I could belong to that kind of a church and feel like that. I could travel half-way around the world, looking for a place to worship. Someday, someone would tell me of a place that had everything I was looking for--First Baptist Church at Okeene, OK. That's my church. There are good people there. I find myself like the little boy. Why couldn't I see that gold in those windows when I was there? Maybe because I had my candle covered up so the wind wouldn't blow it out."

"If I would put as much into my Christian Life as those people in that other church, I could have the same thing right here in my own church."

Fear

Psalms 23:4 "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

"One of my brothers was shot at age 19. He recovered, but he was an alcoholic, and because of his drinking, he died at age 28. Another brother moved to Washington, and become a wino. He died at the age of 57. I always felt like their lives were just wasted."

"I had no church training, I never learned in school, and I didn't know how to pray. I enlisted in the Marines, and stayed in a hotel one night. I wanted to be a good soldier, so before going to sleep that night, I prayed that I would be. Every night from then on, before going to sleep, I said a prayer, the best way I knew."

"In the South Pacific, mail call was very important, and one day I received a letter from my mother. It included a small page with the 23rd Psalm written on it. I read through verse 4, and I memorized it. My mother didn't know that I prayed. I was never afraid to die. Scared--yes, many times."

"The war ended, I came home, married, and had two children before I publicly accepted Christ. I felt that I had joined God's army, and I wanted to be a good soldier for Christ. However, I wasn't a good soldier for Christ, as I had been for my country. I failed in so many ways. For me, life has been a struggle--a chore to live. I never found happiness like a Christian should have. I haven't enjoyed Christian fellowship. I haven't been a witness. As I look at my life, I don't have a right to say that my brothers wasted their lives, because I wasted a lot of my own life by not doing things God intended. I've wasted my life in different ways."

"Something frightens me--should God call me home. For a fraction of a second, I see the beautiful things of life that I failed to see, to use, to appreciate, and to take advantage of before, or I see how I could have happiness as a Christian, and enjoy fellowship. I might be like the rich man with Lazarus. I would say, 'Lord, I see it now. Give me a little more time.' He would say, 'No, come on home.' What if he would say, 'I know you not.' Then I could say that my whole life had been wasted."

"But I like that 4th verse of Psalm 23, the way the psalmist said it."

Addendum

My Uncle Frank and his family were very close to ours. I'm sure we saw them more than anyone else. He used to buy us three kids Christmas presents, when he couldn't really afford to do so, but he wasn't able to buy for his other nieces and nephews. I think this is due to the special relationship that he always had with Mom. He was the oldest sibling, and he always looked after Mom.

I believe that Mom's depression started way back in the 1960s with the following series of events: In the spring of 1965, her mother died (my Grandma Grantz); around Christmastime in 1965, Tessora told Mom and Dad that she was pregnant, and Shane was born in 1966; and in 1967, we were shocked when Uncle Frank died prematurely, at the age of only 53.

Since there were seven siblings in each of my parents' families, I had twelve aunts and uncles (plus their spouses); as well as several great-aunts and great-uncles that I can remember, especially since there were 14 siblings in Grandma Weber's family. Can you imagine having 13 brothers and sisters?

Grandpa Cox told me one time, "I feel like a total failure." I think it's hard for us men not to compare ourselves to other men who have been more successful than we have been. Although I don't feel like a total failure, I still can identify with both of your grandpas on this. In their case though, they grew up during a time when mere survival had to take precedence over fostering the self-esteem of family members.

There was nothing touristy about Grandpa's military service in the South Pacific. In fact, it was just the opposite. For nearly three years, he spent almost every night on a cot a tent, in a foxhole under a mosquito net, or onboard a ship where everyone had motion sickness most of the time. This helps us to realize why mail call was so important. I'm sure that most of the Marines suffered from loneliness and depression.

There was a time when I aspired to partner with Dad in his shop. However, at the same time, my folks encouraged me to get a college degree, after which I wasn't too interested in welding work. Also, his business was always such a struggle for him. I don't think it would have ever prospered in a small town like Okeene.

The house with the steep staircase is where I grew up. At the bottom of the stairs, on the left was my parents' bedroom, where we would lay on the bed and visit with Grandma when she was sick. On the right was what we called "the sewing room." Upstairs on the left, the bedroom with all of the stuffed animals was Clarissa's old room. The room on the right was mine, where I spent most of my time growing up. Incidentally, that whole two-story part of our house was an old house in Southard that dad bought, moved to Okeene, and attached to the end of our house.

My Mom

My mother, Grace Olive Grantz, was born on January 11th, 1923. She had as tender a spirit as anyone I've ever known. She was affectionate and thoughtful, and she babied me, even after I grew to adulthood. I loved it, and, of course, I loved her dearly.

Mom grew up on a farm in the Enid / Garber area. Her life was hard, but she never went hungry. Family squabbles seemed to dominate her life at home, and I believe this severely limited her happiness. However, she was a strong Christian woman, and she always persevered.

Childhood

When Mom was born, her family lived on her uncle's 160-acre farm as sharecroppers. In 1929, her Dad bought out the heirs on the 80-acre farm where her mother had been raised, some 15 miles away. They moved to the 80-acre farm where Mom grew up during the Great Depression, but their family continued to farm both places. This was quite a challenge since they used horses for farming. They would prepare enough food to last a week for her father and two brothers, then they would load the food into the lumber wagon, hook up the necessary farm equipment, and the three men and boys would start out to accomplish as much as they could. Mom and the rest of the family would sit out on the porch on Saturday nights and listen for them to cross the wooden bridge a half-mile from their house, which signaled their return.

On one occasion Mom went with them for a week to help with the cooking and cleaning. She said, "I shall never forget the praise I received from my father when we got home and he told the family how well I had managed everything, and how efficient I was. In fact, that was about the only time I ever remember him commending me for good work. However, he was always proud of the good grades I made in school, but being the stern man he was, he seldom expressed his feelings, especially when they were good ones."

Mom said they were "reasonably happy and always had a meal when it came meal time." Those meals usually consisted of either milk toast, cornbread and milk, or mush and milk, usually without any meat. She rarely had an egg for breakfast because the few that were gathered had to be saved to help buy sugar, salt, baking powder, soda, and anything else they couldn't grow on the farm. Mom's family grew fruits and vegetables in the summer, and canned them to eat in the winter. Some summers they would can 100 quarts of corn and 100 quarts of peaches, and another 400 or 500 quarts of various fruits, vegetables, jams, and jellies. They worked from morning to night, with never a moment to call their own. Their house had no electricity until after Mom was married. Aunt Dolly went to live with an aunt when Mom was eight, so most of the dish washing and other housework fell to Mom.

The family went to Sunday School and worship service at church every Sunday morning and Sunday night, and sometimes to Wednesday night prayer meeting, usually walking the half-mile to the church. Though they were poor, many times they would save all week on groceries so they could invite the pastor and his family for Sunday dinner. Grandpa Grantz liked having company, and, if necessary, he would even help prepare the kids if a dress needed buttoned or a shoe tied.

The kids walked a mile to their school, which went through the eighth grade. While other kids had fresh fruit and store-bought cookies for lunch, Mom and her brothers and sisters had bread with cream, sugar, or apple butter on it. Most of their clothes were second-hand from friends and relatives, and adjusted to fit by Grandma Grantz. Mom believed that growing up poor with no opportunities or advantages gave her an inferiority complex. However, she did enjoy her school programs and was often chosen for the main part because she could memorize the lines quickly.

When Mom was 13, she started working for other families, baby-sitting and doing the washing, ironing and house cleaning. At first, she earned $2 per week, but in her late teens she earned up to $12 per week. She always sent her mother part of her earnings to help with the family. "My dear brothers, bless their hearts, would always see to it that I got to go home on the weekends that I could get away, and this I appreciated more than they will ever know."

Dad

In 1942, Dad had gone to Enid to work at an egg plant, and he happened to rent a room in a rooming house of one of Mom's aunts. (I believe this was her Aunt Grace.) Mom's aunt wanted her to meet Dad, but Dad was dating the aunt's granddaughter. Dad soon enlisted in the Marine Corps and was stationed in San Diego. Then Mom moved to Enid, got a job at a dress shop, and rented a room from her aunt.

One day Dad sent a letter to the aunt's granddaughter, but the aunt intercepted the letter. She tore the address off and gave it to Mom, and asked Mom to write to Dad.
Mom said, "This seemed odd indeed, but she thought he was too good a guy to get further involved with her granddaughter."

At first Mom was hesitant to write, but in the month of October she did, expecting Dad to be home on furlough for Christmas. Dad quickly returned her letters, but his furlough was canceled and he was shipped to the South Pacific for the next 30 months, although they continued to write faithfully. In July, 1945, Dad wrote saying he would be home for a 30-day leave in August. It turned out that the war ended on their way home, so he didn't have to return. They finally met for the first time in August, then Dad had to report to Camp Le Juene, North Carolina to await his discharge. He was discharged in late November, came home in early December, and gave Mom a diamond for her birthday on January 11, 1946. Since Grandpa Grantz didn't believe in eating anything in the church building at any time, they couldn't hold the reception at the church, so they were married at Grandma and Grandpa's house near Garber on March 20, 1946.

In June of that year, Mom was diagnosed with a heart murmur. Since her sister, Gladys, had died with heart trouble at the age of 17, this was naturally quite worrisome, and Mom never returned to work at the dress shop. She later shared with me that if she had been aware of the heart problem before her wedding, she probably would never had gotten married. However, at this point she began to do a lot of sewing, and she became a fine seamstress. I still have some of her handy work.

My sister, Tessora, was born on October 31st, 1947, and my sister, Clarissa, was born on September 20th, 1950. During this time, my family moved between Enid and Okeene a few times. When I was born, on October 7th, 1955, our home was on Main street in Okeene, but I was born at St. Mary's Hospital in Enid. I was stowed away in the incubator for the first few days, and, in those days, this was a sign that something was terribly wrong. I apparently had some sort of respiratory problem, and my parents thought I was going to die. However, it passed fairly quickly, and Mom and I were home within a week or two. I believe I am among approximately the 123rd generation of mankind, being born 6196 years after God created Adam. (BTW, if this is accurate, then you are the 124th generation--62 up to the time of Christ, and 62 since His time.)

Evangelism

The most important series of events in the life of this new family involved our spiritual well-being. Having been raised in a Baptist church, Mom was a Christian when she got married, but Dad wasn't. Mom set about to evangelize her entire family, and Dad became a Christian in 1951, Tessora in 1952, and Clarissa a few years later.

I vividly remember lying in bed one summer evening of my 7th year, contemplating and worrying about my eternal security. By then, I had heard the Gospel message thousands of times, and enough of it had finally soaked in, so that I knew I had to deal with it. The Gospel told me that anyone who sins is separated from God, and I knew that I had sinned. Specifically, I thought back to a particular incident that had occurred when I was younger--maybe three or four years old.

Mom and I were at home together as usual, and somebody drove into our driveway. I don't know who it was, but we went outside to greet this person, and I misbehaved in some way that I don't recall. I knew that Mom was upset with me, but she needed to be cordial to our visitor, so I thought it best to make my getaway. I was afraid of the punishment that I was surely going to receive, so I went into the house and hid from my mother, under the dining room table.

When the visitor left, Mom came stomping into the house looking for me and calling my name. I remember her standing right by the table under which I was hiding. I was holding my breath and remaining as still as I could, while she was calling my name, and threatening that my impending punishment was worsening with every second that I remained hidden. She turned away and went back outside looking for me, and I felt a degree of success, with the normal lack of foresight that a four-year-old would have, not realizing that although I had won a battle, I was sure to lose the war. I don't remember the specifics of how this story played out.

I also thought of another occasion when I had repeated a bad word that I had heard from a friend, and Mom was shocked. She calmly discussed my punishment options with me, and I argued that there was probably no need to share this with Dad when he came home from work. Again, I don't remember the rest of this story.

Anyway, on that hot summer night in 1962, these two incidents came to mind as evidence of sin in my life. The fire-and-brimstone Gospel that I had learned had taught me that if I never dealt with this sin in my life, I would spend eternity in hell. Feeling the nudging of the Holy Spirit, it occurred to me on this night that it wasn't an impossibility that I could die in my sleep on that very night, and never wake up the next morning. This caused me to be unable to go to sleep.

I got out of bed (which was normally forbidden), went to my parents' bed, and confronted Mom with this issue. She got out of bed and took me to the living room, where we knelt down by the piano bench. With both of us in tears, she talked to me to make sure that I indeed had a clear understanding of the Gospel, she prayed with me, and I acknowledged my belief in Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I went back to bed happy and relaxed, fell right to sleep, and was baptized the next Sunday by our pastor, John Walker.

Early Memories

My earliest memories, however, center around my electric train. In my early childhood, I played alone most of the time, and one of my special privileges was to occasionally get down the electric Lionel train I had received as a Christmas present when I was two years old. (I still have this train, which is now 50 years old this Christmas, and it still works.) I cherished it, and I would play with it for hours. I'm convinced that some of these memories indeed date back to when I was only two years old. However, I have a more verifiable memory of when I was three. My mother was ironing, and I asked her when I would be four (so I must have been three).

Another early memory is helping Mom do the dishes. She would wash them in one sink, then hand them to me, as I stood on a chair next to the sink. I would rinse them in the clean water in the second sink, and place them in the dish drainer. When this was completed, I would dry the dishes with a dish towel and store them in the cabinet.

I learned many things from Mom while visiting with her during these dish-washing sessions, many of which I still carry with me. I was always a perfectionist, and details were, and are, very important to me. I remember being confused by the ambiguity of terms like "few" and "several". When we would wash dishes, I would become anxious for this chore to be completed, so I would often like to know how many items were left. As the remaining items set in Mom's side of the sink, I could easily count the large items like plates and cups, but the individual pieces of silverware usually lay on the bottom of the sink, obscured by the soapy water. One day I asked Mom how many pieces of silverware were left, and she said, "Just a few." I then proceeded to count the remaining pieces as we processed them, and there were four. On another occasion she said, "Oh, several," and when I counted, there were seven. To this day, I tend to automatically equate "few" with four, and "several" with seven.

Mom was a hard worker, often working harder than most men, so I became a hard worker too, even if not by choice. In the summertime she and I would plant grass, tend the garden, and weed the flower beds. The grass planting was a real pain--digging up grass from one side of our property, digging holes on the other side, watering the holes, planting the grass, covering with dirt, and watering again. Once I was hauling a load of grass in my noisy wagon, but I was ready to quit. Under my breath (and supposedly also under the noise of the wagon), I said, "If she makes me haul one more load of grass, . . ." To my surprise, Mom said, "So, what are you going to do if I make you haul one more load of grass?" This is when I learned that parents had super hearing powers.

I also have fond memories of playing in my sandbox. This was a tractor tire laid flat on the ground and about half-filled with sand. I suppose that the joy of playing in the sand overrode my fear of the bugs and spiders that were usually lurking along the darkened edges of the inside of the tire. I also remember frequent visits from our cousin Madeline, during which my second-cousin, Carolyn, and I would play in the sandbox.

We were fortunate to live on a three-acre lot on the edge of town. I loved this because it meant I could take a gun and go hunting whenever I wanted. With wildlife scarce this close to town, these adventures usually resulted in more shooting at cans and less hunting, but I would occasionally bring home a rabbit or a squirrel which I would then dress and clean for supper.

We were poor, but I never knew it--probably not until I was out of college. I was never once hungry in my life, nor worried whether there would be enough to eat at my next scheduled meal. I don't think I noticed what others had in comparison to myself--oh, if I had only been able to hold onto that virtue. Had I been asked, I would have probably said that all my friends and I were equal on the economic scale, although this wasn't the case. To my sisters however, as I found out later, being poor was more humiliating. While others sported the latest fashions, we wore Mom's homemade mock-ups of those same fashions. For the girls, this was terrible, but I was always quite comfortable in my custom-fitted wardrobe. If I wore a hole in my jeans, instead of having to live with a cold draft of air, Mom would just sew on another patch. My only problem was having to occasionally slow down long enough to relinquish my jeans to her for a repair job, leaving me to run around the house in my underwear, hoping for no company.

After I started school, Mom went back to work to try to help make ends meet. She was a playground teacher at the elementary school for a while, but she soon took full-time employment at Shed's Department Store. She worked five days per week, including Saturday. The store was closed on Sundays, and her day off was Tuesday.

Tuesday wasn't a day for resting though. Since it was the only weekday Mom had off, it was wash day. This is another chore with which I helped. I would gather the dirty clothes from the hamper and separate them into various clothes baskets. We would carry the baskets out to the detached garage where Mom would wash them with an antique washer and ringer, rinse them by hand in wash tubs, and hang them on the clothesline. After the sun dried them for a few hours, we would bring them in, do the ironing (I did the handkerchiefs), folding, and hanging.

There was a constant attitude around my house that deeply affected all of us kids. This was that my parents had decided early on that we children were going to have things easier than they did; that we would have advantages and opportunities that they never had.

I was a good student, and popular. If I could change one thing, I'd not play the peer pressure game like I did. I'd stand up to the bullies with my Christian principles. I would have been nicer to the kids that weren't popular, in spite of what the popular ones thought. Also, I wouldn't have drank to excess like I did when I was a teenager, bringing grief to my parents.

Terminal Illness

In 1978, Karen and I were living in League City, TX, but we came back to Okeene for a week that summer, in order for me to help Dad shingle their house. This task included tearing away the front porch, and moving the front door to the side of the house. We completed the roofing job, but the week ended before we had time to completely remove the debris from the old porch. During the upcoming days and weeks, Mom helped Dad with this task, which included picking up heavy chunks of concrete, and loading them onto a trailer for disposal. On one occasion, while carrying one of these heavy rocks, Mom accidentally fell, hitting on her backside, with the additional weight of the heavy rock adding to the impact. Not only was Mom quite shaken up at the time, but I'll always believe that this fall did some sort of unknown internal damage which triggered the upcoming rapid decline of her health.

Almost immediately, she began going to the doctor, with various complaints, including aches and pains in her chest and arms, shortness of breath, and fatigue. She soon had to stop working, and the local doctors were unable to be of much help (I believe due to ignorance). Finally, when I suggested that to her doctors that she might have a heart condition, they agreed to send her to a specialist in Oklahoma City, where she was diagnosed with inoperable congestive heart disease. I even hand-carried her test results to renowned heart surgeons in Houston, and they confirmed that the risk of operating was too high, and she probably would not survive an operation.

We moved from Houston to Dallas in 1981, primarily so we could visit Mom more frequently. We did so probably about every two months. She was in and out of the hospital multiple times. Adding to her health issues were undiagnosed depression and anxiety. She took many medications, but nothing really helped, except that the nitroglycerine pills would sometimes temporarily relieve the angina in her chest.

When we would visit, she had to spend most of the time in bed, on oxygen, so I would just lay beside her, hold her hand, and visit for hours, while both of us just stared at the ceiling. The last time I saw her alive was in January of 1983. I remember when we left that day, she kissed me on the lips, which was her custom, and, looking back, I believe that she knew that it was the last time we would see each other, although I had no inkling of this.

On March 3rd, 1983, Clarissa called me at work and told me that she thought that Mom was dying. We left as quickly as we could, but we had a flat tire on the way, which delayed our arrival by about an hour. We went to Gene and Maurine's house to drop off the kids, and as soon as I walked into their house, Maurine simply told me that I should go to the hospital right away. Immediately I knew that Mom had died, and that Maurine just couldn't bring herself to say those words. Without another word to anyone, I simply drove to the hospital.

When I arrived at the hospital, a long-time family friend, Harold Smith, met me in the lobby. He put his arm around me and held me firmly by my shoulders with both of his hands, and started walking me down the hallway of the hospital. As we passed the nurses station, the nurses were still and quiet with heads held low, as though showing respect at a funeral procession. Harold softly said, "Your mama passed away about thirty minutes ago."

When I entered her room, all of my immediate family members were there. Dad was standing on the right side of the bed, Tessora and Clarissa were standing at the foot of the bed, and Mom's body was lying peacefully on the bed. I walked to the bed, and took Mom's cold hand. I visually examined her body for a few minutes, looking for signs of a pulse, breathing, or heartbeats, and finally convinced myself that she was indeed dead. I was mad about the flat tire we had had, which prevented me from seeing her alive one last time, but I quickly decided that the flat had been by divine appointment, for reasons that only God understood.

I was 27 years old when Mom died--the current average age of you four kids. Mom was buried on Kristen's second birthday, March 6th, 1983. I was in a state of undiagnosed depression for about a year-and-a-half, until I finally just had to let her go.

I'm including three of Mom's letters below. They're sort of tear-jerkers, so you don't have to read them if you don't want to, but I think they might help you to better understand Mom's influence on some of the decisions that you've seen me make over the years.

In Mom's words:

"11/21/81

Dear Beloved Family,

I feel that I have needed to do this for quite some time, but have just put it off. There is no way to write on paper with a pen, or to tell you all how much I love you. There just isn't any way to describe my love for you. I only know you are my life: my everything. There is no way to express my love and appreciation to my wonderful husband who has stood beside me through thick and thin all these years. I only know that when I married him, he became my everything: Mother, Daddy, and Husband. I have always said that if it had not been for those years that we had together before my mother died, I could not have given her up.

When Dr. Cathy told me January 3rd, 1980 that there was nothing they could do to help me and that I would never be able to work again, it came as a terrible shock, and as the time went by, my condition seemed more serious and the doctors' words were far more discouraging. I became very upset because I was not ready to die and leave my good husband and lovely family. I cried for months and every day I would ask God to give me a little more time.

I remember when I was in the hospital here in Okeene the following March, Robin came by to see me and he told me that he believed that God would get his children prepared to leave this world before he took them away. Perhaps this is where I have made my mistake. Instead of asking God to get me prepared to leave my loved ones, I have prayed that He would leave me here with you, because I thought if I were gone, you wouldn't have a mother to pray for you, and after thirty years of praying for one's children, it seems pretty important. Yes, I know your daddy would pray for you, and his prayer life and Christian life exceeds mine by far, but it just seemed to me that you needed a mother and grandmother and that your father needed a wife.

Well I believe the Lord is preparing me to leave this world because the past few months I have felt very unnecessary, because I can't do the things that I once did for you. In fact I can't do anything, and life gets pretty tiring at times (and I am becoming so hard to get along with).

I do want you to know however that I have prayed for each and every one of you that the Lord would be with you, bless and guide you, even as He prayed for His people before he left this world; and when Lena was here a while back, she told me that these prayers would go on even after I am gone.

I know that no couple could have been blessed with a better life together and with any three children better than the ones that daddy and I have. We are also proud of our daughter-in-law and love her very much. We are so thankful for a husband that sees after our daughter like he does and are grateful for him. As for our grandchildren, well, Owen and Clarissa, if there has been times when you think perhaps we have been partial to Shane and Shannon, it is because we were so close to them for so long that they seemed more like our children I guess; and then things haven't been easy for them; where your children are very secure with a mother and daddy to care for them. I am sure they will all five turn out to be someone we can be proud of.

My last request is that you will always love and try to help each other, because everyone needs help at some time or other in this old world. Keep in touch with your daddy, and always try to see after him because I love him so much, just like I do each of you.

Love you all

Mother & Mama, Mom, Grandma next door, Grandma who lives with Grandpa, and Grandma Weber "

The letter that Mom left for me, posthumously:

"05/03/80

Dear Owen,

I hardly know how to start your letter. A son to a mother is a little different in some ways. I have depended on you so much for so many things. I guess it was because you were still with us after the girls were gone, but there are so many things I am reminded of when I start thinking of writing them down.

We had wanted a little boy for so long. Your daddy wanted one so bad that I felt like I hadn't done my part unless I could have a son for him. I just couldn't believe it when they told me, 'It's a boy.' And then there were those few anxious days ahead when we didn't know what was going on about your respiratory problem and I laid in bed and prayed nearly day and night that you would be alright because we wanted to keep you. I even told the Lord He could have you for His work when you were grown. so if sometime you feel like the Lord is calling you for some special work, don't be surprised.

Then as you grew we enjoyed you so much. I guess it took three to realize that you weren't going to break when we touched you and you were always so good. Everybody loved you just like they loved the girls. You were all well-behaved and we didn't have to worry about taking you places. The only time I remember spanking you was when I brought you home from S.S. and spanked you and you asked me if we had to back to church, and I said yes, and we did, but you know, I don't believe you deserved that spanking at all. I was such an impatient mother. I hope you will all forgive me for it.

I remember when you sat in church with Grandma Grantz and Grandma Hall and they called you their songbird, and then all those years you set in church with daddy and me were indeed a blessing to us. I remember the first Sunday night the Choates were here and you wanted to set with Larry and Jimmy, so I said OK, and when we got home you said, boy I'm not going to set with them anymore. They're too mean. I couldn't believe that either. You were always coming up with some surprise--Once or twice later, some not so pleasant ones. haha

I remember one time when you were in high school and you were afraid you were going to flunk a math test. Daddy had already gone to work and you and I were having breakfast together, and I asked you if you wanted us to pray about it, so I mentioned it in our prayer. That evening you came home and said Mom you know what I made on that math test--an A.

Then one evening I remember on Karen's birthday you left from school to go to the city and bring her that big dog and you had to be back for play practice. I was worried sick, but you made it.

And then another big surprise I remember was when you worked for Arlo that first summer and you were late getting home one evening and you brought us a paid up notice on a note that we owed Watonga Savings and Loan. There just wasn't any better boy anywhere, except for those few days you tore our hearts out when we didn't know where you were, and we couldn't help you with your problem. I'm so proud of the choice you made. When you think of Karen and little Russell now, compared to Paul J. and some of those other kooks you didn't know if you should give up, I'm sure you thank God that he helped you to see the light.

I want to ask you not to grieve for me, but I do want you to miss me a little, but most of all I want you to help your daddy. If he loves me like I have always loved him, he is going to need help, and if he finds some good woman he would like to marry, don't discourage him, because he shouldn't have to live alone.

One last request please, don't put off too long starting little Russell in S.S. and church so he will learn the plan of salvation. I want to think of all of us meeting again sometime, and it will be your responsibility to see that he meets his Lord and Savior. This will be my last time to mention it to you, so the rest is up to you.

I also hope you will help Tessora with Shane. He needs a loving uncle to help fill up the vacancy of two not-so-good daddy's. I know daddy will help him, but supposing something would happen to him also. She would have no one left but you to turn to for help. I hope you understand what I am saying.

I love you son, and appreciate everything you have done for me down through the years, and especially during my illness. You helped me more than I can tell you. Now as the song says, "God be with you until we meet again."

Lots of Love

Mom"

The last letter we received from Mom was actually to Karen:

"10/25/82

Dear, Karen,

Just a line or two to tell you I got the nice card and I do appreciate so much you being so thoughtful. I would never know there was a "Mother-in-law's" day if it weren't for you and your thoughtfulness. So keep 'em coming. I love them.

...Thanks again Karen for just being you. We do love and appreciate you more than we can tell you in words.

Love you all

Dad & Mom Weber"

Addendum:

The timeline:

- Grandpa Weber died on October 13th, 1992, our 19th wedding anniversary.
- Tessora died on March 23rd, 1995
- Uncle Bob died in March, 1996

My sisters did more than their share of household chores. However, you have to remember that they were quite a bit older than me--Tessora by eight years; and, Clarissa by five. So, by the time I was nine years old, Tessora had left home; and, by the time I was twelve, Clarissa had left home too. I think the reason I helped do dishes a lot was because, until I started school, it was just Grandma Weber and me at home together during the day. I wouldn't say that I spent more time with Grandma Weber than my sisters did. However, since they were only three years apart, I probably did spend more one-on-one time with Grandma Weber than they did. For the first six years of my life, my sisters were in school; and, for the last six years that I was still at home, they were both gone. I think that all three of us kids were equally close to Grandma Weber, although I had the unique mother-son relationship with her.

Harold and Evelyn Smith were just close friends of my parents, from church. They were just a few years younger than my folks. Evelyn was my mother's best friend, and I was close to their son, Steve Martin.