Sunday, June 5, 2016

Memorial Day and a Swenson Reunion

I LOVE Memorial Day! First it’s good to spend time appreciating those who gave their lives for the sake of freedom. The television and radio coverage did a great job of commemorating this day. Actually they probably do that every year but this is the first year I remember having time to see and hear it. War is so tragic! And we lose sight of some of the courageous and terrible things that happened there if we are not reminded!

At a Memorial Museum in Vietnam several years ago, as we were watching a documentary about the evacuation of Americans and the sadness they felt of leaving their friends to an uncertain fate, an old Vietnamese grandmother told me that her grandchildren don’t believe that the war there really happened. It’s too far from their every day life! Which is a blessing and a curse. We should always remember the brave souls who died there on both sides!

Because we’ve had a flood at our main home at Bear Lake, we went there on Memorial Day weekend to check on things. A water heater pipe had burst and filled the downstairs with water. Since no one lives there except in the summer, we discovered it after probably two or three weeks of that house filling up with water. To spare you the details, luckily our good friend LaMont who built the house is over there working with a friend to put it back together again before our first guests arrive on June 15!

BUT it was a great chance to get to the Bloomington Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend where my parents and so many of our relatives are buried, My terrific Mother loves fake flowers (to be kind I should say silk flowers) so I thought she might like these at her simple grave in a beautiful spot overlooking the lake. Wish I’d have had something to whisk that dead grass away:
And my dad, a died-in-the-wool farmer would probably think that flowers were frivolous since he’s not there, but we went ahead and “decorated” his grave anyway because we sure love this wonderful guy!
I also have a dear half brother who was 25 years older than I and who never lived with us but he is buried there too! He was such a sweet soul who got caught up in alcohol addition before anybody knew what to do about it!

This year I found my great great grandmother’s grave in Bloomington. We had done lots of research on her this year because Charity lives only about an hour and half away from where she was born in Batheaston, Wiltshire, England.  I posted about our delightful journey to her homeland earlier, so it was exciting to actually find her grave this year! 

Ellen Sarah Harding Aland was my Father’s Mother’s grandmother. To make a life-story short…she gave birth to 13 children, 8 of whom died in childhood. She immigrated to America and settled in Bloomington where more children were lost. What a life! I yearn to know the details but no journal was kept so we will never know the depth of her sorrows or joys. The record of her age on her gravestone is fascinating!


Another favorite great Grandmother was Elizabeth Petersen, my father’s father’s mother who immigrated from Denmark after losing the oldest of their six children. Four other little children died of the measles while crossing the ocean. With only one child remaining, Elizabeth crossed the plains, walking most of the thousand miles from St. Louis to Utah, pregnant. After arriving in Utah she gave birth to three more children in very meager circumstances. Her youngest child was my Grandfather Frederick. I’m so glad she kept growing! What a woman!

Across from her lie my grandparents and other family members


The next morning we were off to Logan, about 90 minutes away where we took part in a grand celebrations of Rick’s mother, Grandma Ruthie’s family. Her parents, Margaret and Dan Swenson built a beautiful home and family of ten children just below Utah State University. About 40 years ago, the University bought the home from the family and destroyed all that beautiful woodwork and craftsmanship. Her father was the head of the woodworking department at USU and built the house himself.  The thing about it is that their oldest daughter May became a world famous poet. Through the urgings of Rick’s brother Chris and people in the English department at USU who are avid fans of May’s work, they are now hoping to rebuild the house as a place for visiting professors, especially visiting poets.

Through a lot of hard work by the organizers, 130 descendants of Dan and Margaret Swenson were gathered together at the beautiful new Jon M. Huntsman School of Business for a celebration and reunion.

Here is the President of the University welcoming us in the L. Tom Perry Board Room. 

The views were gorgeous!

And below are the two living children of the original 10 Swenson children each pledging $5000 each for the cause. They are adorable and pack a big punch in that family, even though they are barely 5 feet tall!


I wish I had taken more pictures for our children who couldn’t come to see. Some of these relatives we hadn’t seen for twenty years!  But luckily a dear family friend (Josh’s buddy from high shcool) who love and helped care for Grandma Ruthie stood in for Josh and took some great pictures of our darling cousins, aunts and uncles!

Thanks to Dave (on the right below) for sending these pictures.
We had never met these two babies!

Don’t you think Uncle Adam makes a perfect pediatrician?

Look at those fun bouncy houses in the background there. The kids had a ball with those, as well as a climbing wall and all the Aggie Ice Cream they could eat! 


The kids had a blast on this climbing wall too!


Afterward, we gathered at the May Swenson ‘bench’ (if you look hard you can see the engraving under Eliza’s feet) the graves of Rick’s parents and grandparents including the Matriarch and Patriarch of the Swenson family, Dan and Margaret Swenson. The huge pine trees overhead make it hard to get a good picture but we love being there!


It was a Memorial Day to remember!


Kiki Nakita said...


Fascinating post.

It would be an interesting read if you wrote an autobiography. One of my favorite authors, Susan Branch just wrote a trilogy, and included her family history.

Have a blessed week,


Tara said...

I love this post! As an English major from USU I remember studying May Swenson and seeing part of a poem she wrote about Bear Lake at the top of Logan Canyon. Cache Valley is a magical place. How lucky to be part of such an amazing heritage!

Shawni said...

love seeing all this mom! Wish we could have been there!