Willis Welty Family

The Value in Re-Plowing Old Ground

It has been an interesting time for working on family history.

The part I like least about this work is prospecting for data – finding the names, dates and places necessary to fill out the tree.

That’s ground-floor stuff and I’m much more of a storyteller. I want to know what’s beyond the data with each person.

I got a message a few weeks back from my niece Michaela asking if I had any more female names for baptisms. As it turned out I was fresh out. She will be going for her own endowments next fall so until then she’s limited in what temple work she can do. So, for her sake I decided to see what I could find out there in the part of the work that’s not my favorite.

I’m glad I did. From it I learned more of the story.

~ Going for the Low Hanging Fruit ~

In all the recent work on my step-grandfather’s line – that of Pascal Henry Caldwell – I assumed I would find a lot of work on his family. After all, it now stretches back to the year 1100.

But that Caldwell family must have a lot of people out there working on it that I do not know about.

Not only did I find the data but I found lots of temple work that has been done over the past several years.

The Caldwells were not the low hanging fruit I thought they were.

So I went back to my mother’s line to see what had changed. Due to the pandemic and the situation with my Dad it’s maybe been three years since I’ve been down in the weeds on my mother’s lines. There was enough there – and still is – to keep us pretty busy.

What I noticed right off is that others have really stepped up in the time I’ve been away. In fact, I would wonder what my mother would think today if she saw how things have progressed since the last time she was able to look at it herself.

Of course, what I was about to learn is that she knows it all without being here.

She woke me up one night this week. It was her voice I heard.

~ There’s More to the Story ~

I had a long session on Family Search and Ancestry on Wednesday. I had decided to go back to some familiar names to find out where we stood on completing their temple work and what additional records we could attach to names.

When I attended Roots Tech I listened with interest to hear the numbers from Family Search and Ancestry about records they have added since the last Roots Tech was held. Billions and billions of records are added each year from sources all over the world.

I have noticed the last several years that military records have been added in abundance. And, of course, the 1950 census was just released and I wanted to update information from any family who participated in that event.

It was a long day that resulted in many “new” records being added but nothing that changed the outcome in temple work or new family discoveries.

I had a nagging sense, however, that I was actually doing something useful. That something was going to come of going back and adding records to names that technically didn’t need them.

I hit the pillow at about 1:00 am, exhausted, and slept for about 90 minutes. Then, in a dead sleep, I felt a poke on my shoulder and my mother’s voice said “John Jackson”. And that was all.

In all my years of working family history I can claim to have had feelings and promptings to something I needed to do.

But never have I ever felt anything so specific.

So I immediately got out of bed and began a search for John Jackson.

Of course, I assumed that was the entirety of his name.

There are a billion John Jacksons in the world but none that I could find that tied to my mother’s family.

I was momentarily confused as I tried to think through the problem. Then it dawned on me.

I wasn’t looking for a man whose last name was Jackson. I was looking for a man whose first and middle names were John Jackson.

In about 30 seconds I found him – John Jackson Carson, who lived from 1858 to 1924.

He was the son of Erastus Ulysses Carson, who had two families with two separate wives. We knew about John Jackson years ago and did his work, along with all of the other children of Erastus and his two wives.

What we did not know what that John Jackson, like his father, had three wives. He had children with each of them. The reason we didn’t know this before is that the records showing all this were not available the last time any work was done on John Jackson Carson.

In fact, some of the wives and children fell under the 110-year rule, meaning they might have been discoverable in some cases but we could not do their temple work.

Between the combined new record resources of Family Search and Ancestry, we have now a more complete story of John Jackson – and his 8 children from his three wives.

All of John Jackson’s children are now on the other side. Many of their records are now available. He has grandchildren and great grandchildren still living all over the country.

~ More to Every Story ~

John Jackson’s new discoveries made me question everyone on my mother’s lines. So I went back, straight to my grandparents, and began just adding what new records I could find.
Most yielded nothing new.

But, as I got past that great-grandparent level – say from 1850 to 1920 – I started uncovering a lot of new people. Wives added, children born, etc. The make-up of some family units changed dramatically.

For example, Aunt Glenora Welty, my great-grandfather’s sister, has been for years a kind of lost person.

All we had of her was a record of her name from the 1870 census when she was a year old and ten years later from the 1880 census when she was 11. That was enough information to get her baptized and sealed to her parents.

But as is often the case with female records, it ended there.

From years back I can find online inquiries from my mother asking for help in trying to discover whatever happened to Glenora. I spent considerable time about 6 years ago on Glenora and got no further than my Mom did.

But after John Jackson’s discoveries I decided to give it another go and in 20 minutes I was able to finally get somewhere.

Glenora married in 1887 at the age of 18. On the wedding record, which I think may have been available for years, they spelled her last name as Kelty instead of Welty. Her parents were not listed on the marriage record, as was common at the time.

Glenora was an usual name at the time and evidently she never used it after marrying. Every new record I found of her she is listed as Glenna.

In fact, thanks to all these new records I was able to find a brief obituary about her in the local paper:

Glenora Welty Lohman

Of course, discovering this entire family of nine people led to other stories. Glenna had a daughter named Eleanor Beatrice Lohman who never married. She died in France in 1958.

That was a curiosity to me and I wondered what happened.

Turns out, she was in France working as an insurance clerk and while there she died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage. When a foreigner working overseas dies there is a report made to send to the family – and that report is accessible now through Ancestry.

Another good reason to plow over old ground is to discover what other family members (most you likely don’t even know about) have added to either Family Search or Ancestry.

Someone at some time posted this image of my great-grandparents, Kit and Effie Carson (Kit was John Jackson’s half brother):

Kit and Effie Carson

That picture means the world to me. My mother did not get to know her Carson family growing up because her mother did not get to know the Carson family, their stories or traditions. To get anything this intimate is very significant to me.

That wasn’t the only family photo I recently discovered. Below is a picture of the Willis Welty family around the year 1915 or so. Willis is Glenora’s brother. Why is this important? Because when my grandmother – Winifred Calista Welty – was orphaned by the deaths of her parents it was with this family that she lived for a long period of time:

Willis Welty Family

Can you see why continuing to look for people we have found adds to the story? When my Nana died in 1967 my mother was only 24. She had nothing of her family that was known. Since that time we have been able to piece together their stories as every new record, photo or story is added.

I’m not done discovering things as I work through ground that has been plowed before.

In fact, I’m finding that I can get 20 to 30 records I can attach now to people who have lived in past 150 years on average. Not every person – but a great many.

This has me motivated to keep working on names we’ve already worked on before. There are stories to uncover in names we have already known about and perhaps have done the temple-work for.

It is good to learn more of their stories.

Aunt Evie

Memories of Aunt Evie

Evelyn Riggs Westover, Aunt Evie to the entire world it seems, passed over to the other side today, Monday, May 23, 2022.

Aunt Evie

In the coming days there will be no shortage of tributes, memories and histories shared of this wonderful lady.

As cousin Lynn Quilter expressed this morning, “Well, that ends an era in the family”.

He’s right. Aunt Evie was the youngest in her family and the last of our “greatest generation” to leave us. What a grand legacy she built with Uncle Darrell and what an imprint she has left on us all.

There are not many people, not even my children, who can fully appreciate how much Aunt Evie has impacted my life.

Even as I still mourn the recent loss of my father I’m almost speechless in trying to express how significant Aunt Evie has been to so many of us. Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have long cherished her.

On both sides of the veil today there are hearts rejoicing. Her long illness and physical challenges, which could never define her, have released her and she is free to return home to so many others who also adore her.

As a little boy, I struggled to understand our connection.

I was told she was my Aunt Evie, yet I had another aunt who was so much younger. More confusing to me was that my father called her Aunt Evie, too. So did my uncles – and my aunt. I just couldn’t comprehend that.

Aunt Evie, most of the time when I saw her, was in the company of my grandparents.

In fact, my Grandma, who I adored, seemed to be a little different whenever she was around Aunt Evie.

Riggs Sisters

This family famous photo of the Riggs girls – all expecting, powering the post-war baby boom all by themselves.

You see, they laughed a lot.

Aunt Evie could make my Grandma laugh out loud and with great enthusiasm. This was, at least at that time, a little out of character for Grandma, to me.

My Grandma was a little serious, you see. Not in a stern way, but in a reverent way. Grandma was bright and positive and loving and so very, very kind. But it sure seemed that when Aunt Evie was around my Grandma sure laughed a lot more.

Once, at a family event at my Grandma’s house when Evie was there, I asked her about this whole Aunt Evie thing. I was maybe five or six.

I just did not understand how my Daddy’s Aunt Evie could be my Aunt Evie too. So, I asked her about it.

In fact, I told her I would much prefer to call her Grandma – because she looked a little like my Grandma. Aunt Evie just giggled.

Taking me in her lap, she hugged me, kissed me and told me that she loved me. She was always doing that to me.

She said, “Now, Jeff, I know it’s confusing. But your Grandma is your Grandma and nobody else can be your Grandma. She’s special.”

I said, “I know. She’s my Grandma but you can be my Grandma too”.

She laughed again.

“I love you like any Grandma would, that’s for sure!” Evie said, with a finger pointing in the air. “But I’m your Aunt Evie and happy to be so!”

That sounded a lot like something my Grandma would say. She did her best to explain.

“Your Grandma and I are sisters,” Evie said. “I’m her little sister so that makes me your Aunt Evie.”

I clearly did not understand.

But I was taken with the idea that both Grandma and Aunt Evie were once little girls. Sisters, you see, were little – like me. I had sisters, I understood that. But how could she still be Aunt Evie to me and to my Dad?

Aunt Evie very wisely pointed around the room when I told her of my confusion. “Do you see all these people?” she asked me.

I nodded.

“We are all family. Every one of us. And that is all you need to understand.”

Aunt Evie was always that kind of voice of comfort and love to me. And fun, too. She could laugh with the best of them.

When I was a teenager we moved in across the street from Uncle Darrell and Aunt Evie. Years had passed but Evie hadn’t changed at all. She made a special effort to make me feel welcome living just across the street.

Of course, Uncle Darrell built our house but it was Aunt Evie who made the efforts to make us feel welcome.

On one of my first weekends there she invited me to go to the store with her. On the way, she chatted me up, asking about school and the things I liked. As we walked the store she explained what she was looking for and that she loved feeding everyone.

There was a long line at the check out and while we waited our turn she just kept talking. But suddenly she stopped and started giggling. Behind me was the rack of magazines and a tabloid headline had caught Evie’s eye.

Man Marries a Head of Lettuce, the headline read. Aunt Evie started giggling at that headline and just could not stop.

She was laughing so hard tears were starting to come out of her eyes and she started apologizing. But she kept right on giggling and asked me to help fill out her check because she couldn’t see well enough to do it herself.

I understood rather quickly that this was just life with Evie. She saw humor in things most of us might never notice. She was infinitely upbeat. She took great joy, it seemed, in just about everything.

She had her serious moments, too, of course. At Church one Sunday, after I had given a talk, she came up to me and grabbed my face, giving me a big kiss in the process. “You did far better than I could do. I’m proud of you.”

There was no giggling with that, just love. That was Evie’s gift.

Over the years I would have opportunities to have many conversations with her. Some about me and what I was doing but almost always it was about other people in the family. My parents, my cousins, my grandparents, her parents and all those who came before.

Darrell & Evie

My adventures in family history I’ve noted many times came about thanks to Uncle Darrell. But in a more quiet, consistent way Evie was at the center of many of those conversations, too.

She always read what I would post on this website. She asked me questions. She encouraged me. She was always interested.

I’m not sure how much Aunt Evie knew how much that motivated me. I’ve always had kind of an Aunt Evie filter in place when I write things – because I knew she was going to read it.

Still, we teased her a lot when I was younger.

I can never forget those early morning drives to Seminary. It was always early and we were always grumpy and Evie never was. Never.

Being teenagers we would sometimes do things just to get her reaction. On a cold day when the windshield on their big Chevy Impala iced up we all sat in the car while Evie tried to clear the windshield.

Evie was a little lady. That Impala was huge. She had bummed my pocket comb off me so she could scrape the window.

We were content to sit in the car with the defroster blowing watching her jump up at the windshield in an attempt to get her little arms to cover some distance on that huge window. The higher she jumped and reached to scrape the ice the more we laughed.

Looking back now, it seems kind of a mean thing to do.

But when she, out of breath, got back into the car and saw us laughing she started laughing too. “I must have looked pretty silly!” she laughed. But that was Aunt Evie – always bright, always positive, always laughing at herself and never at others.

To me, she was always sensitive about my Mom.

She always asked how Mother was doing. She always asked, if we were discussing something important, if I had talked to my Mom about it.

She always complimented my Mom to me, too – how pretty she was, what neat things she did with our yard, how talented she was in so many creative ways.

Once, when I was maybe 15 or 16, Evie could see I was struggling with girls. I thought she and my Mother talked about it because I had just recently had a talk where my Mom encouraged me to not be so shy – to let my light shine.

Aunt Evie, knowing it was a difficult topic for me but not knowing my Mother had already talked to me, asked me if “the girls” were treating me okay. I told her that was an interesting question, then I told her about the conversation Mom and I had about it.

Aunt Evie hugged me and then kissed me and then told me she loved me. She said my Mom was one smart lady and that I should do as my mother advised. In later years I wanted to ask Evie about that moment but I never did. I should have.

My Mom sometimes had problems accepting love. This was likely due to her upbringing. She just didn’t always know how to respond when someone expressed love.

I know Evie tried and tried and tried with all of us, including my Mother. She never stopped trying.

I say this only because when I think of all the big moments in my life Aunt Evie was there.

She was there when I went to school, when I graduated, when I went to the Temple, and when I went and returned home from a mission. She was there when I got married.

She made sure to speak for those I loved who I had lost.

When my Mom died, she expressed love and told me how much my Mother must love the man I had become. Even recently when my Dad died she told me how grateful he was for me, that he loves me and that she agreed with him.

Evie’s love extended beyond herself and I always felt okay with that. After all, who else would know?

She was especially sensitive to me about my Grandma and Grandpa. After my grandparents passed away Aunt Evie always invoked their name at these big moments she participated in. Grandparenting is a proxy work, if you ask Aunt Evie.

She knew how invested I was in my grandparents and how they were invested in me.

Evie, Dad and Grandma

This was a significant photo for my Dad, show him being held by his mother next to Evie in Topaz, 1943.

She did the same thing with my father.

In fact, one of the last conversations I had with my father before he passed was about Aunt Evie.

She was always his 2nd Mom after Grandma and I never knew a time when Dad and Evie were not close.

In his final years they would call each other frequently, comparing notes on their health issues and cheering each other on.

During the course of these conversations, which always ended in a mutual expression of love, Evie would remind Dad that she was supposed to go first.

In my conversation with my Dad that night he passed away he said, “If I go first, Evie will never forgive me.” I understood fully what he was saying. He just didn’t want to let her down.

When I saw Evie a week or two after my father’s funeral, she hugged me, as always, and whispered in my ear, “I’m sorry about your Dad. I sure loved him.” But without saying a word to her about it, she just kept talking. “He wasn’t supposed to go first. The little stinker!”

This too was one of things I love about Aunt Evie.

Everything is eternal in her eyes. My Dad was not “gone”. He is still here, still the same. So too, I would tell you, is Aunt Evie.

She spoke of Uncle Darrell, too, in present tense. Grandma and Grandpa have been gone for over 30 years but not in Evie’s eyes. The same was true of her parents and her siblings. She spoke of them all in the here and the now. Always.

That’s because one of Evie’s great gifts was to see the greatness in others. That was never something in the past, it was always something in the now.

Like all truth, the greatness in people is eternal. Evie was always so bright and hopeful and loving in expressing this about others.

That’s why her passing at age 96 is not a thing to be sad about.

The reunion taking place right now is filled with the laughter – and the giggles – of Evie and her sisters. I know it.

How proud her Mom and Dad must be. How thrilled Uncle Darrell must be to have her back. What a great time it is for my grandparents, and my parents, and all who know and love Evie.

I cannot think of Evie and not smile. It just isn’t possible. Even in death, there is joy.

How I miss her already. How deserving all those dear family members on the other side are of her presence there with them today. Like a new baby coming into this world, I know the passage of Aunt Evie in that “new birth” is one of great rejoicing. It can simply be no other way.

I would be remiss without acknowledging all of Aunt Evie’s children, who have been so loyal and loving to her these many years. Barta has been there for Darrell and Evie these many years with such devotion. How I admire her tenacious care, especially during these difficult times. What great acts of service and example we have still among us.

There is much more to tell of the life of Aunt Evie. There’s a great love story. And another story of raising a dynamic family. Another other of church service. Another of service to family, past and presence. I just can’t do justice to it all.

The responsibility is now ours to document the wonderful life of Evelyn Riggs Westover.

I know among her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren there are many memories and lessons. I hope you will share them in abundance here, so that the record we leave behind is complete.

Pascal Henry Caldwell

The History of Pascal Henry Caldwell

In March of 2022 we marked the 100th birthday of Pascal Henry Caldwell, an individual who owns a unique place in our family history.

For all of us connected to him with the name of Westover none of us are actually blood-related. He is my mother’s step-father, and thus my step-grandfather.

Pascal Henry Caldwell married my grandmother, Winifred Calista Welty Begich, after the death of my grandfather, Carl Begich. They married in 1946.

My father, in the last year of his life in 2021, took up the project of Pat Caldwell’s history. Dad felt that with 25 years having passed since the death of Pascal Henry Caldwell it was time that more of his story was told.

This history includes the words and the work of my father that he was able to put forth in his final year. It also contains many of my (Jeff Westover) own memories and observations as a grandson.

We, his grandchildren, called him Bumpa, a name bestowed upon him by my big brother who had difficulty saying “Grandpa” as a toddler. We still call him Bumpa.

I make no claim to this being either a comprehensive or wholly complete accounting of his life. There are gaps in his history that are unknown to us. Some of his history he struggled to forget and some he simply did not want to share.

He was a man with sad connection to his past and some of it he was not proud of or was hurt by.

These realities are common to us all and, in his case, they go far in telling the lessons of his journey. Pat Caldwell was not a man who ran away from weakness. In fact, he confronted them with candor and honesty.

But what he could not understand, especially in relation to the choices of others, he simply never tried to explain or make excuses for.

What drove my Dad to work on this history was not only a love for my mother but also genuine affection and admiration for a man who was a different type altogether. Dad saw some of the days of Pat Caldwell’s past that he wanted to forget.

What Dad witnessed was a man who took responsibility for his own redemption and one who, as Dad would say, “lived his life in crescendo”. There are many lessons to be learned of such a man. We – meaning my father and I – hope to share some of those lessons from what we do know of his history.

Our hope is that Bumpa – and his family – can remain of interest to future generations who want to understand us. Because Pat Caldwell is an influential individual in our history. His life meshes with ours. We claim him with love and loyalty.

~ Ancient Caldwell Family History ~

The Caldwell family beginnings can be traced to 12th century France when Guillaume William Calwel married Lady Joanna De Lorraine I in the year 1175 . The name Caldwell has been falsely stated as meaning “cold well” (as in water) of English origin.

But clearly these Caldwell family lines can be drawn to France, where the family name was known as Caulwel or Calwel. The paternal lines stayed in France until the early 1500s, when Alexander Thomas Caldwell raised a family with Annie McCutcheon in Scotland.

One of their grandsons, John Caldwell, ended up a merchant in Ireland until around the year 1640.

John’s grandson – John Finley Caldwell – came to the New World in 1727, landing at New Castle, Delaware. He became a pioneer of Lunenburg County, Virginia.

When a grandson of John Finley Caldwell by the name of Robert Caldwell died, his wife moved their family to Kentucky.

It was Robert’s grandson, John Willis Caldwell, who raised a large family of ten children, including the youngest born in 1833 named James Marion Caldwell.

James Marion Caldwell was born in Tennessee but would pass away in 1914 in a place known as West Monroe, Louisiana. This is the place that would anchor Bumpa’s Caldwell family all during the 20th century.

The middle of seven children to James and Sarah Caldwell was born in 1872 in West Monroe. His name was Walter Meter Caldwell.

The twin cities of Monroe and West Monroe were named after President James Monroe. But the area has a colorful history dating back centuries. Both towns are located in Ouachita Parish and so named after the Ouachita Indians who were native to the area. There were several stops and starts to these towns that straddle the Ouachita River.

West Monroe got its official start in 1880, so the Caldwells were there really from the beginning. They were farmers.

Walter M. Caldwell married Rosa Pickering in 1900. He was 28 and she was 36. She died in 1908 at the age of 44, having given birth to 4 children. This first family would have a later impact on the early life of Pascal Henry Caldwell.

In 1909, Walter married another local girl who came from a local parish to the south called Caldwell. In investigating this possible connection we find that a Caldwell family had been prominent enough in local affairs to have had the parish named after them in 1838. In fact, folks named Caldwell today remain politically dominant in Caldwell Parish.

Walter’s connection, and that of his father James, seems to be through an uncle back a couple of generations named Robert Caldwell. Perhaps it was the work of that branch that drew James Marion Caldwell to the Monroe area. We just don’t know.

While the Caldwells of Caldwell Parish were established and well-to-do, the Caldwells of Ouachita Parish were not.

From the very beginning, the history of Walter M. Caldwell had two very clear hallmarks: farming and poverty. He took up the 160 acres owned by his father, James Marion, and would for the rest of his life work to make it sustain his families.

Rosa died in 1908 and Walter married in 1909 to Cecilia Downs. They never had children together and their union ended upon her death in 1918. Walter, with three children ages 16, 15 and 13 and a large farm to run, would married again. This time he married another girl with the name of Downs and her name was Mattie Victoria. When they married in 1921 she was 30 years old. By then, Walter was 49.

Walter would have a 2nd family with Mattie.

Their first born was a son named Pascal, clearly named after Walter’s little brother Edward Pascal.

(Note: Edward Pascal died in 1906 at the age of 31. He was stabbed in the street by another man in a drunken dispute. Edward Pascal left a wife and four children behind.)

Walter and Mattie would have five children in about 12 years – Pat, Rosalee, Violet, Willis and Gertie.

These siblings would eventually live near each other right there in West Monroe. It would always be their home.

~ The Boyhood of Pat Caldwell ~

The childhood years of Pat Caldwell are light on details.

He would always describe himself as a farm boy. It was expected of the children in the Caldwell home to participate in the chores of the farm and helping the family to make a living.

Walter’s older children contributed to the farm in large ways during Pat Caldwell’s younger years. But their rough existence left them exposed to health dangers that were common in rural areas where medical resources were few.

In 1924, Pascal’s older step-brother, Jim, died of double pneumonia at the age of 22. A few years later, his married step-sister Lizzie died at the age of 23 of an infection.
From Walter Sr.’s first family only Walter Jr, 17 years older than Pascal Henry, would remain a major influence in the young life of Pat Caldwell. Walter Jr was the lead hand on the Caldwell farm and would teach young Pat Caldwell how to contribute.

The river would prove both a blessing and a curse to local famers like the Caldwell family.

Lowlands away from the river produced excellent growing soil. But occasionally the river would flood those lowlands and wipe out homes and crops.

Such was the case in both 1927 and again in 1932.

Floods of West Monroe

Local newspapers of the time told of the devastation for families trying to make a living during these tough times.

For Pat Caldwell, the oldest of Walter and Mattie’s children, it meant an early end to education. He always said he only got as far as the 8th grade.

Walter’s age by this point – beyond his 60th year – is another reason why the children left school and went to work.

Walter Sr, the now-married Walter Jr, a cousin who lived with Walter Jr named Tommie who was in his 20’s, and the teenage Pat Caldwell all worked the 160 acres of the Caldwell farm in the 1930s. There is no doubt that Pat’s younger siblings, all under the age of 12 during the 1930s, also contributed where they could.

There is some evidence that Pat Caldwell attended at least some high school.

In this newspaper clip from when Pat entered the service in 1942 we learn that he attended Ouachita Parish High School.

Pat Caldwell

In later years Pat Caldwell would describe his teenage years as a time of a lot of hard work. Those years were all the height of the Great Depression, which hit as hard in rural Louisiana as it did anywhere.

There was some resentment expressed towards his father, Walter, because of the demands placed upon Pat to produce for the farm. The hard work was married to some hard living by adults in the family. Alcohol, tobacco, and frequent escape through music were just part of the local and family culture.

In describing himself Pat would not excuse himself from responsibility during these years.

“I was as strong as an ox,” he would say in describing the 18-year-old Pascal Caldwell. “And just as dumb”.

The culture of the family and Pat’s relationship with his parents during his teenage years was known to be rough. He would later admit that in his later teens he was also somewhat wild.
Outside of the family farm, Pat did get some work for Louisiana Power and Light, where he picked up an interest in electrical work. He also worked for a period of time at Minden Shell, a local gas station.

Exactly when Pat left home and what the circumstances were between him and his parents is not known.

We do know that when Pat Caldwell registered for the navy in 1942 he was 20 years old and living nearly 100 miles away in Shreveport. There he was working in a munitions factory at the time and listed his closest living relative in a man named Jeff Caldwell.

This Jeff Caldwell is likely a 2nd cousin, a few years younger than Pascal. He is the son of Jefferson W. Caldwell, who was the long-time police chief in the City of West Monroe.

This info from one simple record does give us a glimpse into the reach of extended family with the Caldwells of Northern Louisiana.

Draft Regisistration

Regardless of the missing details of this very young period of Pat Caldwell’s life we do know this from what we can glean of records in 1942: He was 20 years old. He entered the military with the intent of learning the skills of an electrician. He traveled to New Orleans to begin his WWII experience.

He would not return again to stay in Louisiana for 40 years.

~ The World War II Experience ~

On October 13, 1942 Pat Caldwell enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

Where he trained and the details of his enlistment are largely lost except his telling of a desire to learn to be an electrician and the Navy offered him that opportunity.

He mustered with the USS Zeilin in April of 1943 and spent the duration of the war on that ship in the Pacific.

USS Zeilin

He came aboard the “Mighty Z”, as the Zeilin was known, in San Diego.

For the next six months the Zeilin shuttled between military installations in Alaska and San Diego before departing for the South Pacific where it would spend the rest of the year.

In mid-1943 the Zeilin was assigned as an attack transport in support of the Battleship Pennsylvania. From that point forward it would shuttle supplies, troops and weapons to various fields of battle in the Pacific.

At Tarawa, in November 1943, the Zeilin came under fire while unloading in preparation for the Marine invasion there. The ship did not receive any damage during this first encounter with the Japanese.

The Zeilin traveled all over the South Pacific in this capacity, visiting the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal.

As time passed and naval and military operations intensified in the Pacific it seemed the closer the Zeilin got to the action.

The ship visited Guam and Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, serving for periods of time as a “floating reserve” for the Marine Corps.

After a three-month overhaul in San Francisco the in the fall of 1944 the Zeilin re-deployed to the Philippines.

On 2 January 1945, Zeilin left Manus and arrived off San Fabian, Luzon, in the Philippine Islands on 11 January. After offloading Zeilin departed on 12 January in convoy.

The next morning, a single Japanese kamikaze aircraft attacked the convoy missing the amphibious command ship Mount Olympus (AGC-8) and striking Zeilin.

The right wing of the Japanese aircraft struck cargo loading equipment next to the number 6 cargo hatch.

The fuselage crashed into the starboard side of the housetop. Incendiary weapons carried by the aircraft exploded and started several fires on the ship.

Topside damage to the Zeilin was extensive. The superstructure deck was destroyed, deck framing was damaged, and several staterooms were destroyed.

The aircraft’s engine pierced the deck, the outboard bulkhead and landed in a landing craft carried by the Zeilin.

Seven crew members were killed, three crew members were declared missing, and 30 crew members were injured.

Pat Caldwell was among the injured, but his injuries were not serious. In later years, I had several opportunities to ask him about his service in the Navy. He was reluctant to share much.

At age 13, I had a school assignment to explore the experiences of my grandparents during the war. Unlike most school assignments this was one my Mother was keenly engaged in. She saw it as an opportunity to get details and create a record of those war years. All of my grandparents and uncles and aunts of that “greatest generation” freely helped with the project, including Bumpa. But his reluctance to share was likely tempered by a grandfather’s concern with my age and impressionability.

He told me of the travels of the Zeilin and shared how much he hated the heat of the South Pacific.

He said he was an “Electrician’s Mate” but that he worked in a lot of other capacities because much of the time there wasn’t electricians work to do. In later years, after I had served in Puerto Rico as a missionary, Bumpa asked me how I enjoyed the weather there, recalling his distaste for anywhere tropical.

This led to a more adult conversation about his military service.

In this conversation he told me he was “more of pack mule” in the Navy than an electrician. He was tasked with moving equipment and supplies with other teams of sailors. He also said he saw more than his fair share of dead and mangled bodies.

Years later, after he had attended a ship reunion for the “Mighty Z”, he told me of an incident – likely the kamikaze event of January 1945 – where he thought he was going to die.

His electrician duties kept him far below deck most of the time and the conditions down there were difficult to withstand on a good day given the heat of the South Pacific.

The ship was hit by the plane, which destroyed much of what was above him, while airplane fuel leaked down to where he was and ignited. He refused to share any further details of what he saw or experienced.

His eyes filled with tears and his face turned red as he spoke to me about this. But he shook his head, as if to brush it away. “That was a long time ago,” was all that he said.

It is believed that Pat’s stay aboard the Zeilin extended beyond when the war ended in August, 1945. He stayed through at least November 1945, as the ship was pressed into duties in recovery efforts in the Philippines, when it then returned to the US West Coast.

Around this time and into early 1946, Bumpa received an offer from the U.S. Navy. They would help him complete his high school education and assist him in getting the certifications required for continued work as an electrician in civilian life.

He was honorably discharged and took up post-war employment with the Navy, where he would work as an electrician at the Navel Weapons Station in Concord, California. He would work there for the next 25 years, moving up to the role of Planning Estimator and supervisor at the base.

Whatever his communication was with his family in Louisiana Pat decided California would be his future.

It was in this more solitary existence as a vet that he met a 29-year widow with a 3-year-old child – and married her.

~ Marriage and Fatherhood ~

The life story of Winifred Calista Welty is one of heartbreak and tragedy.

Born to very young parents in the Spring of 1917 young Winifred lost her 20-year-old mother in December of 1918 to the Spanish Flu, which had raged as a world-wide pandemic.
Her father cared for Winifred and her little brother, Norman, until severe pneumonia took his life in 1922.

Alfred Welty, with Winnie and Norman

Winifred and Norman were split up, living with various family members for the rest of their growing up years. They had very different experiences as children.

In the 1940 census Winifred is found living with the Allston Family in Scarsdale, New York. She is listed as the maid. Between the date of that census and late 1941 she found her way to New York City, where she found work as a receptionist.

While working in New York she met a young man named Carl Begich, fell in love with him and married him in May of 1942.

In January, their child and my Mother, Susanne Catherine Begich, was born. A month later, Carl enlisted in the Army and was shipped out.

In the summer of 1945 Winifred received word that her husband was missing. For months she and his father, Michael Begich, begged the military for more information. In the Fall of 1945 they learned that Carl was dead, the circumstances unexplained.

By this point Winifred had been in California since mid-1943. With Carl’s passing, and her own extended family situation being what it was, Winnie decided to stay where she was near the Naval Weapons Station in the East Bay.

That was where she was living when she met Pascal Henry Caldwell.

The love story of Pat Caldwell and Winifred Begich is a fast one – and it is largely unknown.

He came home, they met, and on March 2, 1946, they married.

This is likely a wedding photo:

The Caldwells

Their domestic situation quickly developed.

In 1947 a new house was built on Detroit Ave in Concord. This would be my mother’s only remembered childhood home and the home where Bumpa would stay for the entirely of his time in California.

Over the ensuing years Pat and Winnie worked to build their home, connect with their neighbors and raise their daughter.

In order to make ends meet, Bumpa took on odd jobs repairing small engines like lawn mowers and doing project electrician work on the side.

Sometimes he volunteered his time in helping neighbors to rototill gardens or to put up fences. In later years during the 1950s, Pat would work with the Sheriff’s Office as a deputy.

During the years of flooding in nearby Pleasant Hill in the 1950s it was Deputy Caldwell, thanks to his experience with the floods he experienced in his youth in Louisiana, who would go to the rescue of local residents in his own small boat.

Since neither Pat or Winnie had family in California, they made friends with an older couple who lived near-by and who served as surrogate parents and sometimes-babysitters for young Cathi.

There is some evidence that either vacations or funerals took the Caldwell’s home to Louisiana twice during the decade of the 1950s. But no one from his family back home would ever make the way west for a visit. Connection “back home” happened through phone calls and letters.

Surviving photos of the 1950s in the Caldwell home show a typical lower middle-income existence. But beneath the relative tranquility of these years the reality is that the war had made wounded souls of both Pat and Winnie Caldwell.

They had each other and frequent escapes into alcohol that played a part in the home and, in particular, in the memory of my mother growing up.

Both Pat and Winnie became alcoholics. This made holidays like Christmas more of something to dread and it created drama that would impact all relationships in the home for years to come. This photo dates from a gathering in the Caldwell home in the 1950s:

Caldwells - 1950s

But there were happy memories, too.

Mom would tell of having a sleep-over birthday party with her friends and her father hosting the meal on the barbeque. She was active in school events and was always supported by her Mom and Dad.

There were camping trips and times when Bumpa would go hunting, taking Mother occasionally with him.

During my mother’s senior year she met my father.

As these things sometimes go, after high school graduation, my clearly pregnant mother eloped with my father to Reno, Nevada, where they attempted to get married. But, because Mom was only 17, she had to have the consent of her parents.

As Dad told me this story he said he had no choice but to call her parents and ask them to come to Reno. He decided as well to ask his parents to come. In the shakeout of events both sets of parents came to Reno together – in the same car.

Dad said this was the first-time meeting for both grandparents.

My grandparents could not have been more different from each other. They came from completely different worlds.

Dad said when they got to Reno he could tell they were civil if not polite to each other. They liked each other.

But Dad said the greetings from both Grandpa and Bumpa were “rather cool”. Both wanted to know how my father, a recent high school graduate with no skills and no job, planned to support my mother and their first grandchild.

In 1960, Bumpa was 38 years old – still very much a large man with an imposing physical presence. Dad admitted to me he was terrified of him.

The union of my parents opened a new era for nearly everyone involved. With the arrival of my brother in November of 1960 the Caldwells and the Westovers became first time grandparents.

That commonality was enough to bring diverse worlds together.

Over the years, as family gatherings multiplied, Pat and Winnie Caldwell became friends with Leon and Maurine Westover. They were kind, respectful and complimentary of each other. They gave each other space but conferred on items of concern with my parents. Both set of parents seemed adept at working together in helping to find solutions.

Family Gathering

This was a gathering in 1964. Pictured is Maurine Westover to the left, Pat Caldwell and my Mother on the right. That’s likely my big brother Jay in the middle.

Dad marveled at how well they got along, took joy in grandchildren together, and the respect shown between them for simply who they were.

For my father, on a personal level, his new in-laws represented a challenge.

They were unlike any people he had known in his own protected upbringing. The Westovers came from a long and celebrated heritage. There were dozens of them. The Caldwells had little extended family and they had troubles unlike my father had ever known.

But grandchildren seemed to level the playing field for everyone.

For Pat and Winnie Caldwell grandchildren brought unanticipated joy.

Nana and Bumpa, with Jay

Bumpa, ever the kid himself, delighted in getting down on the floor and playing at our level. Kids just made him laugh and the enduring memory of these early years with grandchildren are of Bumpa frequently throwing his head back in laughter at something a grandchild said or did.

Bumpa, with Jay

Nana – which is what Winnie wanted to be called as a Grandmother – thrilled in her grandbabies.

She too liked to get down on our level but she relished more just lavishing us with things and experiences. She loved to hug and to be hugged. She delighted in helping my mother to create worlds of play and imagination for us.

Mom and Bumpa

Debbie and Jay get introduced to the new swing, provided by Nana and Bumpa

Both sets of grandparents, after Jay was born and my parents returned home to California from Utah, wanted to help our young family take root and thrive. Both were committed to the cause.

My parents were able to purchase a new home, seemingly positioned in the middle of the two neighborhoods in Concord where they grew up. Nana and Bumpa helped with the down payment. Grandma and Grandpa Westover helped with the monthly payments (Grandma returned to work as a teacher to facilitate this).

Both sets of grandparents contributed to the improvement of the home, helping with projects both physically and financially. Holidays and vacations featured both sets of grandparents actively involved and we, the grandchildren, were center stage most of the time.

These were important years for both my parents in relation to their parents. There were many acts of kindness and some periods of forgiveness. My father began an 8-year journey to his college degree, with both sets of parents completely invested in his success.

As each of us was born, both grandparents were there and involved. Dad noted in recording his memories of his in-laws during these years that he softened in his views of them as a result of their consistent care for us.

He said he made the mistake of comparing my Mother’s parents to his own and admitted this was unfair to all of them.

Dad also said he learned a great deal in watching how his parents interacted with his in-laws. They did not curse the differences between but instead embraced what they held in common – which was us, the grandchildren.

Dad’s admiration for Bumpa, in particular, picked up over these years. He began to see the tender side Bumpa always showed my mother that she said that he had.

Bumpa was not a man to express his feelings in words. But he was a consistent caretaker, showing love through countless acts of thoughtful kindness. My mother knew this of Bumpa but my Dad needed the time to learn it.

There were trials as well as celebrations during these years that touched everyone.

My mother, after my little brother was born in 1965, suffered an ectopic pregnancy in 1966. Both grandmothers would assist with both my mother’s recovery and in our care as grandchildren as Mom endured a near-death experience.

In the early spring of 1967 another change rocked the worlds of the Westovers and the Caldwells. Winnie died at the young age of 49 due to liver failure brought on by alcoholism.
Grandma and Grandpa Westover rushed to help and very respectfully offered their love and condolences to Bumpa and to my mother.

Pat Caldwell was now a widower. Mostly alone – and that wasn’t something he wanted.

By the fall of 1967 he met and married a woman by the name of Marian.

This relationship, coupled with our later move from Concord to Lodi, California – changed the dynamics of everything.

For several years, there was little contact between Bumpa and the family.

It would be nearly a decade before reconnection was truly made.

~ The 1970s and Early 1980s ~

After we moved to Lodi, Bumpa and Marian came around during Christmas mostly. But it was a strained and awkward kind of relationship and time was never really given to connect through events like holidays.

During these years with Marian there were other changes in the life of Pat Caldwell. He began investing in local properties and trying to expand his wealth. At one time he owned a truck stop and a restaurant.

He also made great efforts to conquer the habits of tobacco and alcohol. He attended AA meetings and successfully put alcohol out of his life. Tobacco would bring a new level of struggle altogether and one that he continued to battle for years.

He retired from the Navel Weapons station as he invested in more properties. He became a landlord with rental units in several Bay Area communities. He spent his time fixing them up and renting them out.

Marian was his willing partner in all of these ventures. But while his wealth expanded their relationship deteriorated. From 1974 through the middle of 1977 we saw very little of him and when we did see him during these years he was alone.

We have on record three different divorce decrees from 1975, 1976 and 1977. He shared little of what happened between him and Marian but would grouse over the years afterwards about how much it all cost him.

Then, Bumpa’s health took an ominous turn.

In late 1978 my mother got a call from Kaiser hospital in Walnut Creek. Bumpa had had a heart attack.

This new trial rekindled their relationship. Not only did Bumpa not have anyone else to call he needed to reconnect. He was alone and at war a bit with his past. His first step was to address things with my mother.

Things in the years since my mother married and had children had “settled” between her and Bumpa – but only in the sense that they didn’t talk about the bad times or the things that had transpired.

This unfinished business would in time need to be addressed.

For my mother, there was an identity crisis of sorts just in being his step-child and no longer having her mother to connect them.

Bumpa as well needed to make it somehow known how much he loved Nana and how much he still needed my mother. All these issues and more were addressed during this health crisis.

While Bumpa was in the hospital my siblings and I went to see him with Mom. He had not changed in our view. He was ever the tease. He seemed to still take great joy in us.

When he asked my brother and I to go next door to a local grill to secure him some “decent food”, we looked to Mom for approval. Mom said we could get him anything he wanted as long as it wasn’t cigarettes.

He was there for some time and I recall going to see him on my own a couple of times with my brother. Each time he had us bring him in “contra-band”.

After several weeks, Bumpa got out of the hospital and returned home and to work. But within a few months, he had another, more serious, heart attack and was again in the hospital.
This time he came home with us and delayed going back to any kind of work for a while.

This time it scared him.

He wanted my Mother to be involved not only in his care but also he wanted recovery and a plan for the future. Mom was “it” at that time.

It was also a time for emotional healing and looking out for his future.

Over the course of the next couple of years he grappled with the idea of leaving all that he had built up in California to return home to Louisiana.

Mother encouraged him to go home. She knew he was unhappy and felt alone. Mom knew that Bumpa needed peers as well as herself and his grandchildren in his life. She just felt that if he could reconnect with his siblings and life as he remembered it before he left he might be happier.

Around 1980 after his health had sufficiently recovered, he visited “home” in Louisiana. He was kindly if not enthusiastically received by all.

He came back to California with a plan to liquidate his properties and return to Louisiana for good. For what seemed like months my brothers and I were charged in helping him clean up properties as he sold them and to clear out 40 years of living in his house.

On Saturdays we would put the sideboards up on his truck and fill it with unwanted items from his garage and yard. There we many useful things that he no longer anticipated needing – tools and equipment that worked just fine.

But in my estimation there was also no small level of just junk – old coffee cans of nuts and bolts and nails, a rusty shovel, a broken lamp, a worn workbench and a wheel barrow with a flat tire.

We loaded up the night before, got up early and had breakfast before heading out to the flea market. There we unloaded the truck, spreading out all the stuff on the ground.

As the morning passed and the people showed up, I was amazed that they would even look at the stuff. But look they did and when they found something they wanted they’d ask, “How much?” and Bumpa would give a gruff, ridiculously inflated price for an item.

I recall one lady asked about the cost of a screwdriver.

He looked at her and said, $7 without even batting an eye. It was truly an outrageous asking price. She protested. “I can get a new one for less than half the price at the store.”

“Then go to the store”, was all he said.

She put the screwdriver down and walked away. I just looked at him, but he didn’t look back. He was going to get the price he wanted.

Another man, a Hindu, inquired about the price of an item. Bumpa named his price and the man said it was too much and offered a lower price.

Bumpa said “You can go to hell before I sell it to you for that.”

The man was genuinely offended. “Go to hell? What does this mean?” Bumpa, looking at him closer, could see he was a humble man. He could see he was offended and didn’t understand.
Bumpa went up to the man, looked him in the eye, and said, “If I sell it to you for my price, I’ll be in heaven. If I sell it to you for your price, I’ll go to hell. I don’t want to go to hell. You can go to hell, but not me.”

The man was shocked.

“You really believe you go to hell for selling this to me?” Bumpa, with a twinkle in his eye, said, “I’m not sure I want to find out.”

The man laughed. He offered a higher price – not much more – and Bumpa accepted it and shook the man’s hand.

These days at the flea market were legendary days to me. Bumpa was in his element and as a child of the Depression stuck to his guns. He always left with a huge wad of cash and no small amount of self-satisfaction.

These were days of sharing philosophy between us. I was quite nearly a grown man and we had many, many hours together at his properties and at the flea market. Our conversations covered a lot of topics – from politics to religion to employment to cars to family relationships.

What made the biggest impression on me during these conversations was how respectful Bumpa was of me for having a contrary opinion. I found it uncomfortable to disagree with him on so many things and he seemed to sense that.

When I would take a stand on something he felt differently about he might stare at me for a minute and then say, “Okay. I understand what you are saying.” He never tried to convince me or tell me I was wrong. He honestly didn’t want a debate.

He just would affirm that we disagreed and it was okay. To say that I developed a lot of trust and admiration in him because of this is an understatement.

I was becoming a fan, to be honest. While I thought many different things than he did I really began to admire his toughness and his commitment.

I also began to appreciate his adult humor, which was subtle. Bumpa did like to laugh and I liked to make him laugh.

We went through a drive thru and were served by someone with a heavy accent.

He got frustrated because he felt he wasn’t being listened to when the person on the speaker could not repeat back his order. He nearly gave up on the whole thing. So I leaned over him in the truck and spoke into the speaker with a fake accent.

He leaned back and started laughing uncontrollably as I pretended to place the order and fake understanding what was being said.

We pulled forward and paid for our order, not having a clue what was coming in the way of food. He looked at me, smiling, as bag after bag of food was passed through the window. “I wonder what’s for lunch?” he said, laughing the whole time.

I got to the point where I could be sarcastic or funny and not worry about what he thought.

Bumpa was constantly fighting the urge to smoke.

I worked in a drugstore that was on the opposite end of town from where he mostly worked but he made it a habit to learn when I was working.
He would come in and get in line at my check stand and then ask for cigarettes.

I would tell him we were sold out, even though I was standing with my back to a display packed with cigarettes.

“We have lots of gum though,” I told him.

So, he would buy gum. This was the game we played as he tried to master the tobacco habit.

One day he came into the store. He said, “Can you take a break? There’s something I want you to see.”

I took a break and went with him out to the parking lot. There he showed me a 1969 AMC Rebel – as grandma a car as a grandma car can be.
“What’s this?” I asked.

“Your first car,” he said. “I think you should buy it.”

He handed me the keys and even though I was not yet even a licensed driver he let me take it on a spin around the parking lot. I didn’t care that it was a grandma car. I didn’t care that it was ugly. I didn’t care that it even ran.

“How much is it?” I asked.

“$500 dollars. Do you have that much money?”

“Yes!” I said, somewhat proudly.

“Good. Because I already bought the car. You can just pay me.” So, I had my first car long before I could drive. Bumpa dabbled in selling used cars and he took great pleasure in helping several of his grandchildren get into cars.

Sometime later he came home with a 1969 Olds Cutlass, a true muscle car. My brothers and I salivated over that car but he said it was for my big sister. My mother hated that car.

Mom later told me that she would only allow Bumpa to get that car for Debbie, and not for any of us boys. He knew what it was, of course, but even more he knew who was in charge.

Bumpa rarely tried to parent us or to lecture us on anything. But, he was sensitive to my mother and my father.

Once, he was at the house as I came home from school and my Mother was handing out chores. I gave my Mom a look – just a look – when she asked me to do something I didn’t want to do. I didn’t say anything.

But Bumpa saw that look and he said, “Mama gets what Mama wants, you understand me?” Yes, sir.

Bumpa finally did leave – after securing a used Ford LTD (helluva a car, he said) – to take him back home in 1981.

~ Going Home ~

We were surprised when Bumpa got back to Louisiana to hear from him with some regularity. It was as if he wanted us to know and understand what his world now was.
His frequent calls created big desire to see him and the new life he had found. He always called my Mom and this was something I could tell just thrilled her. The world seemed to stop when Bumpa called.

Before too long he was telling Mom about Mary. Mary was a little bit younger than Bumpa and seemed to enjoy Bumpa’s company a great deal. He was crazy about her.
Mom knew it would just be a matter of time before he married her. In November 1982, it happened.

Mary Beach had a life before Pat Caldwell. Pat Caldwell had been through a lot before he found Mary Beach. But when they found each other it opened up a sweet new chapter for them both.
Mary Beach had raised her family singlehandedly. Without accepting government assistance she worked many jobs to support her many children. She was a soft-spoken, gentle, Christian lady of great faith.

And she was perfect for Pat Caldwell.

After they married they came out to California a couple of times to complete unfinished business and to allow Mary to get to know my mother and our family. We grew instantly in love with her, too.

Bumpa and Mary settled into a retired couple’s routine – traveling to see children and grandchildren, taking in military reunions and shows in Branson, Missouri.

At home, Mary created a home next to family. Pat kept a legendary garden, and fussed over the old place, as he called his parent’s home.

In 1987 my Grandma Westover died. Bumpa made sure to send his final respects. A year later, Grandpa passed and he repeated the gesture, making sure to connect with my father in sharing respectful condolences.

Dad recalled telling Bumpa that with his parents gone he needed Bumpa in his life.

Bumpa didn’t know what to say.

With some difficulty he said he hoped he could be of help. It was as close as Bumpa could come to saying the word “love”.

We did go see Bumpa, the following spring. I was able to be on that trip because I wanted to see Bumpa and the world he came from.

He did not disappoint.

On the first night of our visit, he asked me if I wanted to “run out to the old place”. I said “sure”.

Within minutes we were in his truck – the same old truck we took to the flea market years before – heading the short distance from his current house to the house he grew up in.
Bumpa had a way of just doing things his way. True to form, we turned a corner and he pointed with one hand over the wheel – “There it is.”

And with that the truck left the road and we just shot straight across the field, making a bee line for the old house, the truck bouncing over the furrows.

Bumpa, a little older now and slumped a little bit on the old bench seat, just bounced up and down with the truck. He gave me a side-eye and a little smile. He was putting on a show and we both knew it. But I played along and tried not to hang on for dear life.

What I learned on this trip were things he was never forward with me before when it came to his early life. Coming home and reconnecting with his siblings had rebuilt his pride about his upbringing. He wanted to talk about it and was anxious even to share.

He showed me the house. He showed me the barn and where they kept the mules.

Then he took me to the cemetery and showed me the graves of his parents. He told me about the headstone he had planned for himself and for Mary. On the backside of that stone would be an engraved picture of a farm boy at the plough.

That was who he was. He was proud of it.

Mother really wanted to get some updated pictures. That night in front of the old place we got some great pictures of Bumpa, Mary and my Mother.

Mom and Bumpa, 1988

One of the things I love about those pictures now is the great relaxation they convey. Love just comes from what I see there.

By this time, I guess you could call me an adult – fully 25 years old. Even still, Bumpa wanted to show me a good time just as his grandson. I had told him over the phone a few years before of an experience I had going to the horse races and how much I had enjoyed that.

When we got to Louisiana he made a special point of taking me to Louisiana Downs. “Have you ever been to a stakes race?” he asked me. The truth was that I had only seen quarter horse races and played a few computer simulation games.

This place was top drawer. The grandstand was encased in glass, all air conditioned with white linens on the tables. We were woefully under-dressed, as if that mattered at all to Bumpa, but we had a fun day.

We didn’t place a single bet. We ate like kings. We handicapped every race and had a lot of fun previewing the horses and giving our best guesses of who would win – all the while enjoying a relaxed conversation about his world as a child in Louisiana.

During the course of this day he admitted to me the love he had for his parents, especially his mother. He talked to Nana and what she meant to him. And he talked of my mother. These were not easy things for him to talk about.

Mary, Bumpa and Mom

The trips back and forth between Louisiana and California continued for a few years.

After I married Bumpa and Mary came out when my wife was expecting in the early summer of 1992.

They stayed at the house and had a nice visit, meeting my wife and my own step-daughter for the first time.

My wife Sandy connected with Bumpa instantly. He reminded her of her father.

And he was just so impressed with her. He told me privately as we sat outside by the BBQ that I had chosen well. He told me I was lucky. Like my mother, he told me not to mess it up.
Bumpa’s way of reading people was, I think, one of his most surprising and unrealized talents. He knew the character of my dear wife in minutes.

I found he had not lost his touch when it came to the small kids.

My nephew, Matthew, was just a little guy at that time and in a moment of fun he stuffed a ball under his shirt and placed himself tummy to tummy with Sandy, who was a good 8 months along at this time.

Sandy and Matt

Bumpa saw this cute little exchange and, as was his way, threw back his head and laughed out loud.

He never stopped taking great joy in the children.

One day in late September of 1996 I got a call from Mary – which was highly unusual. She told me that Bumpa’s health was precarious and that my Mom needed to know. She called me because she could not reach her by phone at home. My parents were in Hawaii at the time.

I was able to chase them down and within a day Mom and Dad were on their way to Louisiana.

When they arrived it was clear that Bumpa was in a state of advanced decline. As Mom would later tell the story, Bumpa told her he did not know how to die.

What he meant by that was that he believed there was an afterlife. This, I think, came more from his war experience than anything else.

His religious training was sparse, at best. I can remember the few occasions when I saw Bumpa in church – he was respectful but quiet.

I can recall when I made a decision to go on a mission and I wondered what he thought about that. Before I went we barely discussed it. When I told him I planned to go, he just said, “Good”.

I wondered upon my return if I could ever find a way to share the experience with him. All we ever really talked about was the weather. He was present on two occasions when I was able to share stories with my family. He was, as usual, respectful and quiet. He did not ask any questions.

Religious thought and beliefs were just not a topic of conversation – ever, for whatever reason.

When we had family prayer or blessings over the meals, he merely nodded, said “amen” and moved on. He never said a word about it.
But here he was in his final days asking my Mother something spiritually significant and most definitely very personal.

Mom, who knew this day was coming and understood perfectly what he was asking.

She had endured a couple of near-death experiences associated with pregnancies during her child bearing years. She had shared with Bumpa and with Nana what she had gone through and they had, as was their way, listened with interest and concern.

For Mom this was one of the most important moments in her life as it related to Bumpa.

It was a first in many respects. It meant a great deal to her that Bumpa would reach out with something so personal.

They had spent some time talking over many of his affairs and final wishes. They also spent a lot of time reminiscing and looking at old photos. Mother shared with me that while at the table with papers and pictures scattered on the surface he asked her what to expect in going to the other side.

Mary was present for this conversation and added her thoughts and feelings and experiences. Mary was a spiritual woman. Mother told me it was as if she and Mary could in those moments read each other’s thoughts.

Mom told me it was, as things usually were with Bumpa, a candid and straight-forward conversation. He nodded a lot and seemed to be satisfied with what he heard.

He excused himself and headed for the bedroom. After a few minutes they went to check on him and found that he had laid down on the bed and that he had passed.

As we gathered for his funeral I witnessed my mother in a state that was unfamiliar to me. While I had seen her act many times as a daughter it seemed his funeral was when I saw Mom most act like Bumpa.

She was direct, very clear in what needed to be done, and dead serious in seeing it was done right.

When they took his body to the funeral home Mom insisted that we stay there with him all night. He was never to be alone, not even for a minute.

After the services the following day we went to the cemetery and did not leave until he was completely in the ground and there was nothing more to be done. She saw to every detail exactly as he and Mary wanted it.

I finally figured out what Mom was really doing.

Bumpa had arranged all of his affairs to take care of everyone as best he could. He frequently did that, all the days of his life.

He sent money home to his parents in their final years. He sent money to loved ones enduring different trials. He made sure, many times during my Mother’s life, that she did not want for anything.

He always made sure help arrived. Bumpa was never satisfied until he knew the job as done. He was thorough. My mother, if left to her own devices, would do things her way. But not this time. She was looking at it all through his eyes and doing it as she knew he would do it. It was a tribute to this man who was her father.

I watched both of my parents weep at his passing. That was a curious thing to me.

Bumpa’s love and greatness did not come from his abilities to express love through words. They came from his abilities to show and extend love.

Many people, his family, neighbors and friends we did not know said the same things to us about him at his funeral.

For my father, with whom I’ve shared recollections about Bumpa many times since the day he passed, Bumpa was a man who learned from his mistakes and tried hard to master himself.

Dad felt that Bumpa’s strategy in avoiding the past was actually a good thing in helping him to get past the challenges of the present.

But even in avoiding things that needed to be addressed – the days of his youth, the war experience, the alcoholism, the drama in the home – he actually did have to make peace with all those things.

In time Bumpa learned to do that.

When I look back at Bumpa’s final year I cannot express enough the gratitude I have for Mary Caldwell. She centered him in so many ways. Not only were his last years happy they were years where he learned to fully confront things that were difficult for him. Mary patiently bore his stubborn tendencies and urged him to get past them.

Mary continually told him he was loved, which he needed to hear after so many years of being emotionally alone. Mary taught him to even express love in better ways that previously seemed out of his reach.

In my father’s final days in 2021 he expressed to me a regret that more has not been done to remember Pat Caldwell.

In sharing this history it is our hope that the lessons of his life can contribute to our family. We also feel the need to collect additional memories and stories of Bumpa’s life.

If you have such to share, please contact us.


A Family History of Thanksgiving

A family history of Thanksgiving is bound to be a bit different than the traditional accounts of Thanksgiving we read in the media and in general history books.

These days there is an effort to “correct” the historical teachings of Thanksgiving as it was once known.

Family history has a way of re-centering it because we know what we know from our own traditions.

~ Thanksgiving is a Multi-Cultural Experience ~

The media debates whether or not turkey was part of the first Thanksgiving 400 years ago in 1621. It is a silly argument because turkey is hardly the point and the Thanksgiving of 1621 was hardly the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated.

It was not even the first Thanksgiving in North America. The settlers at Jamestown was first reported some 11 years before in 1610.

That never gets talked about, mostly because Charlie Brown wasn’t there (okay, I’m kidding).

The idea here is that Thanksgiving was actually a very British and very Christian thing to do. In fact, it was a somewhat common practice that was held at any time of the year whenever a governing authority cared to call for it.

Thanksgiving Declaration

“Thanksgiving” was a general term to denote when a community would together celebrate some sort of good news.

It might be a victory in battle, the birth of a new prince, or simply a great harvest that would ensure survival through the winter months. When things like this happened, a public call to prayer and the recognition of God was made through a declaration of Thanksgiving.

It was hardly confined to British Christians. French explorers famously celebrated Thanksgiving in 16th century Canada.

Native American cultures also celebrated a form of Thanksgiving, often recognizing Deity and nature for their survival. Thanksgiving was, for them, a way to recognize they were stewards of the Good Earth who needed to care for it.

~ Mayflower and Puritan Ancestors ~

There is an image of Mayflower passengers as being a religiously persecuted bunch who came here to worship as they wanted.

That is partly true.

But it is also true it was the riches and freedom of the New World that enticed them.

But the greater story behind that “first” Thanksgiving in 1621 was a recognition they barely survived at all. And yes, the Native Americans not only participated in that three-day feast of Thanksgiving they were likewise instrumental in survival of that colony.

Our Westover ancestors certainly fit the mold of English Puritans. Gabriel Westover and family lived in Somerset, England, which was literally ground zero for the Puritan clashes against the Crown. Gabriel moved his family to the Netherlands, as many Puritans of that time and place did, just to protect them.

It was because of these conditions that Gabriel sent his teenage daughter, Jane, first to the New World and then a little later, he sent his son Jonah Westover, who would become the North American patriarch of the Westover family.

Jonah was very young when he arrived and the colony in Windsor was only a few years old. By then the traditions of Christmas and Thanksgiving were well established in Connecticut.

How do we know this?

The young media of the New World speaks of both celebrations. Much is made today of a proclamation in Boston banning Christmas but this did not actually occur until 1659. That happened nearly 40 years after the Mayflower.

So, what did they do during that time? They celebrated Christmas – albeit in a more devotional way than their English family was used to.

Christmas in England had become a raucous community event at the end of each year. It bled even into the Church of England where priests were guilty of role reversals, looking the other way at grievous sin, and participating in less-than-religious activities common to pagan celebrations of the solstice.

Christmas, in fact, was one of the reasons why the Puritans wanted out. They saw no Biblical justification for the celebration that Christmas was known as then.
But the Christmas they envisioned – one of worship, prayer and devotion – only became established due to one thing.

And that thing was Thanksgiving.

~ New England Traditions of Thanksgiving ~

Over the course of time after the “first Thanksgiving” in 1621 there are recorded many events called Thanksgiving that happened up until about 1650.

It seems that around that time the end of November – harvest season – Thanksgiving found annual declaration by colony leaders.

This well-timed tradition for Puritan settlers gave them the more festive event they longed for. It was, in their own way, more like what Christmas was viewed as in Old England.
In other words, once the church meetings were over and the prayers were said, Thanksgiving was a time to party.

Well, as much as Puritans could party.

That meant gathering as family and feasting, playing games, enjoying music and other secular pursuits not commonly associated with the Church.

Hunting games were common and, yes, since turkeys were native and abundant, that is what they hunted.

But the Thanksgiving feast was never limited to turkey alone. Venison, chicken and even pork were prepared during periods of Thanksgiving.

Food then, as now, was central to festive times together as family. From 1630 comes this neat little poem, singing the praises of pumpkin, which has been linked to the Thanksgiving celebrations of New England from the earliest time:

For pottage and puddings and custards and pies,
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies:
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins, we would be undoon.

It must be remembered that families were necessarily huge. A lot of children were born because survival was tough and required a lot of hands on the farm.

So an end-of-harvest event was a grand celebration in which family got together – perhaps for the only time during the year – and the duties of bringing and preparing food were shared.

These family gatherings were festive and could take several days.

It is important to note that Thanksgiving was considered a family event. Yes, a community might share a common date declared for Thanksgiving by a governor but rarely did one colony celebrate Thanksgiving at the same time as another.

But families got together when it best suited them – when all was safely gathered in and families were preparing for winter.

So the seasonal, end-of-harvest Thanksgiving was built on family tradition – not any kind of national calendar.

~ Thanksgiving during the 18th Century ~

While still a British territory in the 1700s the American colonies celebrated annual Thanksgiving “seasons” that were well noted in the local media.

A newspaper report from Philadelphia in 1754 estimated that the average family prepared at ate 10 pumpkin pies at Christmas. The same article said more than 2 million turkeys were consumed in a single day on the American Continent.


Such was the popularity and commonality of Thanksgiving during the pre-revolutionary years.

Ben Franklin had a lot to say about Thanksgiving. In fact, he is famous for once trying to electrocute a turkey for Thanksgiving.

For some reason, he believed a turkey killed with electricity would be tastier than one dispatched by conventional means: decapitation. As fellow scientist William Watson wrote in 1751, Franklin claimed that “birds kill’d in this manner eat uncommonly tender.”

Franklin set out to develop a standard procedure for preparing turkeys with static electricity collected in Leyden jars. One day, while performing a demonstration of the proper way to electrocute a turkey, he mistakenly touched the electrified wire intended for the turkey while his other hand was grounded, thereby diverting the full brunt of the turkey-killing charge into his own body.

Maybe this is why we roast turkeys in Franklin’s oven, instead of by electrocution.

Thanksgiving was declared a national observance by presidential proclamation from George Washington, John Adams, and even Thomas Jefferson.

It is important to note that Jefferson was uncomfortable with the whole idea of Thanksgiving. Not that he disagreed with the virtue of gratitude. His concerns stemmed from the idea of calling citizens to prayer and recognizing God.

As governor of Virginia and later as president he proclaimed Thanksgiving anyway, saying he was merely “recommending it”, not mandating it.

By Jefferson’s time Thanksgiving was a defacto national holiday. It was so engrained as an automatic thing there was no turning back from it.

That didn’t stop several from advocating for a national holiday known as Thanksgiving.

~ Thanksgiving in the 19th Century ~

The acknowledgement of Thanksgiving which would come later on a national scale was driven by people in the mid-19th century who grew up with those gathering traditions.

Such was the case of the creation of “Over the River and Through the Wood”, a popular Thanksgiving poem written in 1844.

Over the River

It was written by an extraordinary woman named Lydia Maria Child – decades before Christmas and Thanksgiving became recognized as official holidays. It is through her efforts and others that we know that Christmas and Thanksgiving were long traditions in North America.

Lydia Maria Child was a woman ahead of her time. Born in 1802 she made her voice heard through the power of her pen. (Yes, we are related – she is a distant cousin, through the Snow line).

She was an accomplished writer, editor and civil rights activist – in the early 19th century. During her day she would be controversial and even daring in the eyes of some. In the 19th century man’s world she was a force that tackled the prickly topics of slavery, male dominance and white supremacy.

But while her individual story is fascinating, her simple poem teaches us much about what Thanksgiving was like in the early 19th century. It was, simply, the biggest family celebration of the year.

She is not the only American writer with an ancestral connection to Thanksgiving. Read this about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – and the common Alden ancestors we share through the Snow line.

Our pioneer ancestors in Utah adopted the same Thanksgiving celebrations they brought with them from generations before. The first “Thanksgiving” was held in August of 1848, though our Westover ancestors missed it by more than a month.

But Albert Smith was there and he had great reason to observe it. Albert famously recorded his efforts to farm on the east side of the Salt Lake Valley and he recorded the miracle of the seagulls that summer. His gratitude was well noted within the pages of his journal.

Utah didn’t recognize Thanksgiving until 1851, when Brigham Young, then-governor of the Utah Territory, declared Jan. 1, 1852, a “day of praise and Thanksgiving.”

We do not have any kind of family records (that we know about) that talk of celebrating Thanksgiving in those days.

But we know from tradition that spilled forward into the 20th century that the family had a long established tradition of gathering and feasting that continues to this day.

Zena A Westover

Somewhere Daddy is Sleeping

While researching for another project I found myself on the Library of Congress website. It is the kind of online repository I can get lost in forever. There are just so many items of interest.

While there it occurred to me that perhaps I could find items of interest related to Family History. I was expecting to find photos of places. Instead I found this gem – copies of sheet music published in 1920. The song is called “Somewhere Daddy is Sleeping”. The words to this song were written by Aunt Zena. As I marveled at the discovery my mind raced: Is this our Zena A. Westover?

Going to Zena’s history on Family Search confirmed it. Sure enough, it says “Another talent she had was to write poetry. She had a song published “Somewhere Daddy Is Sleeping” about a soldier killed in the first world war.”

This is exactly the kind of detail I love discovering about our ancestors. What insight!

Somewhere Daddy is Sleeping

Somewhere Daddy is Sleeping

Somewhere Daddy is Sleeping

PDF of the sheet music for Somewhere Daddy is Sleeping

Zena A Westover

Taken around 1908 this is Zena, on the right, with her sister Myrtle (on the left), with their sheep (in the middle)