Getting to Know the Lost Generation

This incredible image was taken in Pinto, Utah between 1865 and 1870. It shows the old rock Church built by the pioneers there and members of the Pinto ward who gathered to take the picture.

Pinto Ward

When I was with my Dad he had me put this image on his big screen and we studied it closely to see if we could identify any Westovers.

And why not?

We know both Charles and Edwin Westover families were there. What are the odds either or both are pictured here?

We know what they look like from other images. Both were seriously embedded in the community, well known, and played prominent roles. And, let’s face it, the Pinto Ward just wasn’t that big.

We can’t confirm that they – or any other family members – are in this picture.

But we know them. We know their story. One or both of them have to be there. We just know it.

~ The Lost Generation ~

Folks born between 1880 and 1900, who came of adult age right before World War I, are called the Lost Generation.

I find that to be an apt description, but not for the reasons that writers and historians do. To them, this generation was “disoriented, wandering and directionless”.

To me, our family members of the Lost Generation are underappreciated and unknown. They were far from directionless. They are the grandchildren of pioneers and the grandparents of Baby Boomers.

That makes them table-setters, champions of education, builders, teachers and examples.

Look at this image – taken less than 50 years later than the image above from Pinto – taken in Rexburg, Idaho.

This is a well known image and we believe we know the name of every person in this photo:

Children of William and Ruth Westover

As I stumbled on this image of the children of William and Ruth Westover it dawned on me that my struggles with this image stem from one simple fact: I know their names but I don’t know their stories.

In fact, as I’ve studied this image it occurred to me that we owe a great deal to these people and we need to get their stories down in detail.

So, what follows is some forensic work with this image itself. And, a brief overview of each individual pictured here.

And I promise, this is just a beginning.

~ Who is in this Picture? ~

William Ernest Westover is the man standing on the right. He is the eldest, born in December 1883, the firstborn of William and Ruth. This happened while they were still living in Mendon, Utah. Mendon is where William and Ruth spent the majority of their growing up years and where they were married on 1 March 1883.

As the eldest he experienced frequent breaks in his schooling to help out on the farm. He passed through all the hardships of those early years in Rexburg. He was active in the Church, baptized in 1892 and called to serve a mission while a young man.

In the Church History Library we find a letter from his Bishop to the First Presidency requesting a release for young Elder Westover due to the death of his father.

William – who likely went by the name Ernest by this time – came home and took up the care of the farm and the family.

His mother, Ruth, was struggling mightily due to illnesses among her children and the weight of keeping the farm running with the passing of her husband.

He was a farmer. He stayed in Rexburg to serve the family and sought out his education where he could. He attended the Rexburg Academy where he met Eulalia Humble. They married in the Salt Lake Temple in April of 1909, enjoying a double wedding that same day with Eulalia’s brother.

Together William Ernest and Eulalia raised a large family. He remained a farmer in Idaho his whole life. He passed away on December 14, 1968 and is buried in the Rexburg cemetery.

Arthur Edwin Westover, Sr, is pictured standing on the far left in the photo. To his left, sitting in font of him, is his wife Hetty and their daughter Georgia.

Like his older brother, Arthur Edwin too was born while his parents still resided in Mendon. He was born 25 February 1886.

Of all the siblings I’ve been able to find precious little about Arthur Edwin’s life.

I know that he married Hetty Moline Humble – younger sister of Eulalia – in November of 1912.

They had 9 children but Hetty passed away at the age of 35 in 1927 after having suffered a miscarriage and pneumonia.

He worked for the railroad in Idaho his whole life. Arthur died in March of 1975 and is buried in Victor, Idaho next to his wife.

Ray Finley Westover, standing next to Arthur Edwin’s left in the photo, was born in 1890 in Rexburg. He remained in or near Rexburg farming his entire life.

Ray married Olive Zenola Smith in 1912 in Salt Lake City. Olive was the daughter of Mary Ann Humble, older sister to Eulalia and Hettie. Mary Ann had married Albert Smith Jr, and Olive Zenola was their oldest daughter.

Ray and Olive raised a family of 9 children. Olive passed in 1948 and Ray in 1965.

Looking back at the picture, right behind Olive’s left shoulder is her younger sister, Mary Ann Smith. Next to her is Arnold Westover.

This picture was taken about six months before Arnold and Mary Ann would be married.

Arnold was born in Rexburg in March of 1895, just a short time after the tragic death of his sister, Hazel Ann.

Like his brothers before him, Arnold was pressed into farm work in between sessions of school.

Arnold was only 8 when his father passed and given the struggle on the Westover Ranch he learned from his older brothers what needed to be done while still very young.

He was self-taught in many areas and became, over time, a builder.

He married in 1914 to Mary Ann Smith, later sealed the following year in 1915.

They raised a family of children, eventually settling in Quincy, Washington after the war.

Arnold served in many civic and church positions, and through his company built many of the buildings in Quincy.

Mary Ann passed in 1959 and Arnold in 1971.

Back to the photo: in front of Arnold, to his left, is sister Myrtle Elizabeth Westover.

She was born in 1899, making her very young when her father passed away. She was cared for by her siblings while in grade school and later she moved with brother Floyd and family in Clementsville, Idaho.

There she met Joseph Ard and married him in 1919.

Together they had 8 children and lived pioneer-like lives for many of their early years.

Their children all served during the war yet survived well into old age. Myrtle’s life was filled with family and church service.

Standing to the immediate left of Myrtle is Zena Althea Westover, born in Rexburg in 1897. Being a little bit older meant that Zena was able to remember happy childhood days with siblings and experiences with her father. Like the other Westover children, Zena was mentored by her older siblings on the Westover Ranch. There she met a local boy, Jesse Hinckley, and married him in 1925.

They had 8 children and moved around a bit in their early years but eventually settled in Salt Lake City in 1942, staying their for the rest of their lives. There they built a legacy of love anchored by grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Zena passed in 1967, Jesse later in 1982.

Lorin Westover, pictured in the bottom center of the photo, is about 11 years old in this picture. As the youngest, made the Westover Ranch his lifelong home and passion. He farmed and worked as the Teton Canal watermaster.

He married Anona Virgin in 1926, who passed in childbirth in 1928.

In 1929 he met and married Gladys Ingram. They had six children together and built a legacy of many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Lorin’s love of the family and the Westover Ranch fueled the organization of the Westover Family Ranch and from his foundational efforts the ranch continues to be a gathering place and a focal point for all descendants of William and Ruth Westover.

~ Who is Missing from this Picture? ~

From oldest to youngest, these children of William and Ruth are not pictured here:

Floyd Delbert Westover, third born of William and Ruth, was born in 1888, the first of the Westover children to be born in Rexburg.

A farmer his entire life, Floyd’s career began on the Westover Ranch. In 1907 he married Margaret Clay and together they raised a family of 11 children. In 1927, they moved to Aberdeen, which is just north of American Falls and west of the American Falls reservoir. Floyd would be there the rest of his life.

When Margaret passed in 1956, he married Rachel Widdison in 1957. Floyd was active in LDS church leadership and served as Farm Bureau secretary in the community.

Hazel Ann Westover was born in Rexburg in February of 1893. She lived for two years only and died due to an infectious condition.

~ The Story Behind this Picture ~

I believe this picture was taken in the spring of 1914, likely upon the occasion of the passing of Ruth Westover in April of that same year.

How can we be sure of that? The babies give us the best clue. Standing on a chair between Hetty and Eulalia is Ray and Olive’s daughter, Edna. She was born in April of 1913. She appears to be about a year old in this picture.

Sitting on Hetty’s lap is baby Georgia, who was born in January 1914, making her about three months old in this picture.

Ernest and Eulalia have two children in this picture. A little boy, Thomas Harold, standing immediately in front of William Ernest, is about 3 years old. Eulalia is holding Leora, who would have been and appears to be about 9 months old in this image.

Given this event was likely the funeral gathering of Ruth Althea it could be that Floyd was there and is the one taking the picture.

~ Next Steps in Learning and Telling Their Stories ~

The above information is gleaned from what I can find. I’m certain I’m missing details and maybe even making some mistakes (or leaving some names out) from this brief summary.

Our next steps are to talk to the surviving descendants of the children of William and Ruth. I’d love to talk to the family historians in each branch of the family, maybe even go so far as to record conversations in podcast form.

A conversation is sure to reveal details and richness a written history never could. Explanations are faster and easier to convey in simple conversations.

So I will be reaching out. We’d like to collect stories, photos and documents to be as complete as possible in this project.

This is an unsung generation – long overdue for exposure and appreciation.

Spiritual Experiences

I am spending a lot of time working on the history of my parents. It is a complex project.

Anyone attempting to write the history of people they love is confronted with great challenges. How do you tell the story and get it right? How do you handle weaknesses? How do you handle their conflicts? How do you relate all the mistakes, all the bad decisions and all the humanity of their lives without distorting their goodness or impacting how they might be seen by future generations?

It is a minefield.

One of the many stories I want to tell of my Mom and Dad lies in their spiritual journeys. Mom and Dad could not have been more different in their spiritual experiences.

It was something I heard them frankly discuss. I also had conversations with them about it individually. I heard their testimonies and their questions. My Dad in particular was frustrated and felt unworthy, especially when he compared his spiritual experiences to those of my Mother.

Dad’s experiences were of the “still small voice” variety. There were no great visions, no visitations, no grand manifestations or detailed revelations.

He told me once of how he had a spiritual experience as a boy about the Prophet Joseph Smith. He just was given the gift to know that Joseph was a prophet. It was after that boyhood experience that Dad actually engaged in the scholarly work of exploring the things that Joseph actually wrote and taught. He felt his spiritual confirmation as a young man aided his doubting adult mind and opened him up to what Joseph brought forward.

Mother’s experiences were much more dramatic.

As a convert, she was given a spectacular experience as she read the Book of Mormon. Mom had a near death experience related to a miscarriage in which she visited the other side, was talked to and given a choice. Her spiritual gifts, as they are called, were completely opposite of my Dad.

What has been instructive in all this as their son has been that my spiritual experiences can and do go either way. I seem to have inherited a little of both, if such a thing can be inherited. What it has taught me is a reverence for the experiences people claim.

I have learned to respect them. I think it is important to learn what we can from the spiritual experiences of others, rather than to be critical of them.

On these pages I have not shied away from sharing the dreams, visions and otherworldly experiences of family through the ages.

I share them because they are a part of the people we love, regardless of whatever Church they were a part of in this life.

With all that being said, I’d like to share below two deeply spiritual experiences that have come across that give me much to ponder.

These come from men who are not exactly related – but they are connected to us as family.

~ Zeke Johnson’s Witness of a Resurrection ~

Zeke Johnson

Zeke Johnson was the son of Joel Hills Johnson, who I’ve talked about before. He lived from 1869 to 1957.

Around the year 1908 he had a profound experience while plowing a field. This is his telling of that experience:

“I have been requested to relate an experience I had in 1908-9 in San Juan Co. I was just making a home in Blanding and the whole country there was covered with trees and sagebrush. I was working hard to clear the ground to plant a few acres of corn. We had five acres cleared and stared to plant corn. My little boy, Roy, about 7 or 8 years old was there to help me plant the corn. I’d plow around the place, then he would plant the furrow with corn, then I’d cover it and plow again. While I was plowing on that piece of ground, I discovered there were ancient houses there, that is the remains of them.

As I was plowing around I noticed that my plow had turned out the skeleton of a small child, the skull and backbone, but most of the bones of course were decayed and gone. Part of the skeleton was there, so I stopped immediately as my plow had passes it a little. I turned and looked back against the bar of the plow between the needles. As I was looking at that little skeleton that I had plowed out and wondering, all of a sudden, to my surprise, I saw the bones begin to wiggle and they began to change position and to take different color and within a minute there lay a beautiful little skeleton. It was a perfect little skeleton.

Then I saw the inner parts of the natural body coming in the entrails, etc. I saw the flesh coming on, and I saw the skin come on the body when the inner parts of the body were complete. A beautiful head of hair adorned the top of the head, and in about a half minute after the hair was on the head, it had a beautiful crystal decoration in the hair. It was combed beautifully and parted on one side. In about half a minute after the hair was on the head, the child raised up on her feet. She was lying a little on her left side with her back toward me. Because of this I wasn’t able to discern the sex of the child, but as she raised, a beautiful robe came down over her left shoulder and I saw it must be a girl.

She looked at me and I looked at her, and for a quarter of a minute we just looked at each other smiling. Then in my ambition to get hold of her, I said, ‘Oh you beautiful child.’ I reached out as if I would embrace her and she disappeared. That was all I saw, and I just stood there and wondered and thought for a few minutes… Now, I couldn’t tell that story to anyone, because it was so mysterious to me and such. Why should I have such a miraculous experience? I couldn’t feature a human being in such a condition as to accidentally plow that little body out and see it come alive. A body of a child about 5 to 7 years old, I’d say. I just couldn’t tell that story to anyone until finally, one day I met a dear friend of mine, Stake Patriarch, Wayne II. Redd of Blanding. He stopped me on the street, and said, ‘Zeke, you have had an experience on this mesa you won’t tell, and I want you to tell me.’ Well, I told it to him. Then he had me tell it to other friends and since then I’ve told it in 4 temples in the United States, and many meeting houses, many socials, Fast meetings, and at Conference time.

I wondered and worried about it for years as to why I was allowed to see it, a common man like me – uneducated as I was. Why was I, just a common man, allowed to see such a marvelous manifestation of God’s powers? One day as I was walking along with my hoe on my shoulder, going to hoe some corn, something said, ‘Stop under the shade of the tree for a few minutes and rest.’ This just came to me and I thought I would, so I stopped there and this was given to me:

It was an answer to my prayers. I prayed incessantly for an answer as to why I was privileged to see that resurrection. Then I was told why. When the child was buried there, it was either in time of war with the different tribes, or it was wintertime when the ground was frozen, and they had no tools to dig deep graves. If it were during time of war they couldn’t possibly take time to dig a deep grave. They just planted the little body as they could under the circumstances. Then it was done, the sorrowing Mother knew that it was such a little shallow grave that in her sorrow she cried out to the little group present, ‘That little shallow grave, the first beast that comes along will smell her body, and will dig her up and scatter her to the four winds. Her bones will be scattered all over these flats.’

There just happened to be a man present holding the Priesthood. (A Nephite or a Jaredite, I don’t know which, because they both had been in this country.) This man said, ‘Sister, calm your sorrows. Whenever that little body is disturbed or uncovered, the Lord will call her up and she will live.’ Since that time I have taken great comfort, great cheer, consolation, and satisfaction with praise in my heart and soul, until I haven’t the words to express it, that it was I that uncovered that little body.

Thank you for listening to me. I just can’t tell this without crying.”

I am gratified to have this experience shared in Zeke Johnson’s own words. I think such sacred experiences need to be shared this way.

As I try to write the sacred things my Mom and Dad passed through I struggle with getting the details right and accurately reflecting things correctly. This is one reason why these sacred things need to be prayerfully considered.

My mother once told me of a profound experience she had. She told me there were things about it she could share and other things she could never share. She never betrayed the charge she was given to keep some things to herself. But she wanted me to understand that those sacred things were given to her anyway.

I find this a common thread as I research and learn of the sacred experiences of others. Even still, there are a great many instructive things we can takeaway from what they can share. Such is the case in this next story.

~ The Vision of Heber Hale ~

Heber Q. Hale

Heber Hale was the son of Solomon and Anna Clark Hale. Our family connection is told somewhat in this post, as Anna Clark was once a plural wife of James C. Snow.

Heber was born in a stalwart Mormon family. The lives of Soloman and Anna Clark Hale testify of the environment he grew up in.

So it is no surprise that in later life Heber served in leadership positions in the Church. He was faithful to those things he was taught.

Still, he had his spiritual struggles. For Heber, there was difficulty for him in understanding the proxy work that takes place in temples. Even while a Church leader he prayed over his questions that troubled him.

Those questions and prayers led to this experience:

“It is with a very humble and grateful spirit that I attempt to relate on this occasion (by request) a personal experience, which is very sacred to me. I must, of necessity, be brief.

Furthermore, there were certain things made known to me which I don’t feel at liberty to relate here. Let me say, by way of preface, that between the hours of twelve and seven-thirty in the night of January 20, 1920, while alone in a room at the home of W. R. Rawson in Carey, Idaho, this glorious manifestation was vouchsafed to me. I was not conscious of anything that transpired during the hours mentioned, except what I experienced in this manifestation. I did not turn over in bed, nor was I disturbed by any sound, which, indeed, is unusual for me. Whether it be called a dream, an apparition, a vision, or a pilgrimage of my spirit into the world of spirits, I know not. I care not. I know that I actually saw and experienced the things related in this heavenly manifestation, and they are as real to me as any experience of my life. For me, at least, this is sufficient.

Of all the doctrines and practices of the Church, the principle of vicarious work for the dead has been the most difficult for me to comprehend and wholeheartedly accept. I consider this vision as the Lord’s answer to the prayer of my soul on this and certain other questions.”

“I passed but a short distance from my body through a film into the world of spirits. This was my first experience after going to sleep. I seemed to realize that I had passed through the change called “death,” and I so referred to it in my conversation with the immortal beings with whom I immediately came in contact. I readily observed their displeasure at our use of the word death and the fear which we attach to it. They use there another word in referring to the transition from mortality to immortality, which word I don’t recall, and I can only approach its meaning and the impression which was left upon my mind by calling it “the new birth.”

My first visual impression was the nearness of the world of spirits to the world of mortality. The vastness of this heavenly sphere was bewildering to the eyes of the spirit-novice. Many enjoyed unrestricted vision and unimpeded action, while many others were visibly restricted as to both vision and action. The vegetation and landscape were beautiful beyond description — not all green as here, but gold with varying shades of pink, orange, and lavender, as the rainbow. A sweet calmness pervaded everything.

The people I met there — I did not think of them as spirits, but as men and women — self-thinking and self-acting individuals, going about important business in a most orderly manner.

There was perfect order there and everybody had something to do and seemed to be about their business.

That the inhabitants of the spirit world are classified according to their lives of purity and their subservience to the Father’s will, was subsequently made apparent. Particularly was it observed that the wicked and unrepentant are confined to a certain district by themselves, the confines of which are as definitely determined and impassable as the line marking the division of the physical from the spiritual world — a mere film, but impassable until the person himself was changed. This world of spirits is the temporary abode of all spirits pending the resurrection from the dead and the judgment. There was much activity within the different spheres, and appointed ministers of salvation were seen coming from the higher to the lower spheres in pursuit of their missionary appointments.

I had a very pronounced desire to meet certain of my kin folk and friends, but I was at once impressed with the fact that I had entered a tremendously great and extensive world, even greater than our earth and more numerously inhabited. I could be in only one place at a time, could do only one thing at a time, could look in only one direction at a time, and accordingly, it would require many, many years to search out and converse with all those I had known and those whom I desired to meet unless they were especially summoned to receive me.

All men and women were appointed to special [and regular] service under a well organized plan of action directed principally toward [preaching the gospel to the unconverted, teaching those who seek for knowledge and] establishing family relationships and gathering genealogies for the use and benefit of mortal survivors of their respective families, that the work of baptism and [the] sealing [of] ordinances may be vicariously performed for the departed in the temples of God upon the earth. The authorized representatives of families in the world of spirits have access to our temple records and are kept fully advised of the work done therein, but the vicarious work done here does not become effective automatically.

The recipients must first believe, repent, and accept baptism and confirmation; then certain [officiating] consummating ordinances are performed effectualizing these saving principles in the lives of these regenerated beings. And so the great work is going on — they doing a work there which we cannot do here, and we a work here which they cannot do there for the salvation of all God’s children who will be saved.

I was surprised to find there, no babes in arms. I met the infant son of Orson W. Rawlings, my first counselor. I immediately recognized him as the baby who died a few years ago, and yet he seemed to have the intelligence and, in certain respects, the appearance of an adult, and was engaged in matters pertaining to his family and its genealogy. My mind was quite contented upon the point that mothers will again receive into their arms their children who died in infancy and will be fully satisfied; but the fact remains that entrance into the world of spirits is not an inhibition to growth but the greatest opportunity for development. Babies are adult spirits in infant bodies.

I [presently] beheld a mighty multitude of men — the largest I had ever seen gathered in one place, whom I immediately recognized as soldiers — the millions who had been slaughtered and rushed so savagely into the world of spirits during the great world war. Among them moved calmly and majestically, a great general in supreme command. As I drew nearer, I received the kindly smile and generous welcome of a great loving man — General Richard W. Young. Then came the positive conviction to my soul, that of all the men living or dead there is not one who is so perfectly fitted for the great mission unto which he had been called. He commands immediately the attention and respect of all the soldiers. He is at once a great general and a great High Priest of God. No earthly field of labor to which he could have been assigned could compare with it in importance and extent. I passed from this scene to return later, when I found General Young had this vast army of men completely organized with officers over successive divisions, and all were seated, and he was preaching the Gospel in great earnestness [to them].

As I passed forward, I soon met my beloved mother. She greeted me most affectionately and expressed surprise at seeing me there and reminded me that I had not completed my allotted mission on earth. She seemed to be going somewhere and was in a hurry and accordingly took her leave, saying that she would see me again soon.

I moved forward, covering an appreciable distance and consuming considerable time, viewing the wonderful sights of landscape, parks, trees, and flowers, and meeting people, some of whom I knew, but many thousands of whom I did not recognize [as acquaintances]. I presently approached a small group of men, standing in a path lined with spacious stretches of flowers, grasses, and shrubs, all of [a] golden hue, marking the approach to a beautiful building. The group was engaged in earnest conversation. One of their number parted from the rest and came walking down the path.

I at once recognized my esteemed President Joseph F. Smith. He embraced me as a father would his son and, after a few words of greeting, quickly remarked: “You have not come to stay,” which remark I understood more as a declaration than an interrogation. For the first time I became fully conscious of my uncompleted mission on earth and, [as] much as I would have liked to remain, I at once asked President Smith, if I might return [to earth]. “You have expressed a righteous desire,” he replied, “and I shall take the matter up with the authorities and let you know later.”

We then returned and he led me toward the little group of men from whom he had just separated. I immediately recognized President Brigham Young and the Prophet Joseph Smith. I was surprised to find the former a shorter and heavier built man than I had pictured him in my mind to be. On the other hand, I found the latter to be taller than I had expected to find him. Both they and the President were possessed of a calm and holy majesty, which was at once kind and kingly. We then retraced our steps and President Smith took his leave saying he would see me again.

From a certain vantage point, I was permitted to view this earth and what was going on here. There was no limitation to my vision and I was astounded at this. I saw my wife and children at home. I saw President Heber J. Grant at the head of the great Church and Kingdom of God, and felt the divine power that radiates from God giving it light and truth and guiding its destiny. I beheld this nation, founded as it is upon correct principles and designed to endure, but beset by evil and sinister forces that seek to lead men [astray and thwart] the purposes of God. I saw towns and cities, the sins and wickedness of men and women. I saw vessels sailing [upon] the oceans and scanned the battle-scarred fields of France and Belgium.

In a word I beheld the whole world, as if it were but a panorama passing before my eyes. Then there came to be the unmistakable impression that this earth and scenes and persons upon it are open to the vision of the spirits only when special permission is given, or when they are assigned to special service here. This is particularly true of the righteous, who are busily engaged in two fields of activity at the same time. [They may be active among the living as well as the dead.]

The wicked and unrepentant [spirits] have still, like the rest, their free agency, and, applying themselves to no useful or wholesome undertaking, seek pleasure about their old haunts and exalt in the sin and wretchedness of degenerated humanity. To this extent they are still tools of Satan. It is these idle, mischievous, and deceptive spirits who appear as miserable counterfeits at spiritualist séances, table dances, and ouija board operation. The noble and great ones do not respond to the call of the mediums and to every curious group of meddlesome inquirers. They would not do it in the world of mortality, certainly they would not do it in their increased state of knowledge in the world of immortality. These wicked and unrepentant spirits are allies of Satan and his host, operating through willing mediums in the flesh.

These three forces [Satan, his host, and the unrepentant spirits] constitute an unholy trinity upon the earth and are responsible for all the sin, wickedness, distress, and misery among men and nations.

I moved forward feasting my eyes upon the beauty of everything about me and glorifying in the indescribable peace and happiness that abound in everybody and through everything. The farther I went the more glorious things appeared. While standing at a certain vantage point, I beheld, a short distance away, a wonderful, beautiful temple capped with golden domes, from which emerged a small group of men dressed in white robes, who paused for a brief conversation. They were the first I had seen thus clad; the millions that I had previously seen were in uniforms.

In this little group of holy men my eyes cantered upon one more splendorous and holy than the rest. While I thus gazed, President Joseph F. Smith parted from the others and came to my side. “Do you know him?” he inquired. I quickly answered, “Yes, I know him. My eyes behold my Lord and Savior.” “It is true,” said President Smith. And, oh, how my soul thrilled with rapture and unspeakable joy filled my heart.

President Smith informed me that I had been given permission to return and complete the mission upon the earth which the Lord had appointed to me to fulfill. Then with his hand upon my shoulder he uttered these memorable and significant words,

“Brother Heber, you have a great work to do. Go forward with a prayerful heart and you shall be blessed in your ministry. From this time on never doubt that God lives, that Jesus Christ is His Son, the Savior of the world, that the Holy Ghost is a God of Spirit and the messenger of the Father and the Son. Never doubt the resurrection of the dead, the immortality of the soul; that the destiny of man is eternal progress. Never again doubt that the mission of the Latter-Day Saints is to all mankind, both the living and the dead; that the great work in the holy temples for the living and the dead has only begun. Know this: that Joseph Smith was sent of God to usher in the gospel dispensation of the Fullness of Times, which is the last unto mortals upon the earth. His successors have all been called and approved of God. President Heber J. Grant is at this time the recognized and ordained head of the Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth. Give him your confidence and support. Much of what you have seen and heard here you will not be permitted to repeat when you return.” Thus saying he bade me goodbye and God bless you.

Quite a distance through various scenes and passing innumerable people I travelled before I reached the spheres which I had first entered. On my way I was greeted by many friends and relatives, certain of whom sent words of greeting and counsel to their dear ones here — my mother being one of them. One other I will mention. Brother John Adamson, his wife, his son James, and their daughter Isabelle, all of whom were killed by the hand of a foul assassin in their home at Carey, Idaho, on the evening of October 29, 1915. They seemed to divine that I was on my way back to mortality and immediately said (Brother Adamson was speaking), “Tell the children that we are very happy and very busy and they should not mourn our departure, nor worry their minds over the way in which we were taken. There is purpose in it, and we have a work to do here which requires our collective efforts, and which we could not do individually.” I was at once made to know that the work referred to was that of genealogy on which they are working in England and Scotland.

One of the grandest and most sacred things of heaven is the family relationship. The establishment of a complete chain without any broken links brings a fulness of joy. Links wholly bad will be dropped out and either new links put in or the two adjoining links welded together. Men and women everywhere throughout the world are being moved upon by their departed ancestors to gather genealogies. These are the links for the chain. The ordinances of baptism, endowments, and sealings performed in the temples of God, by living, for the dead are the welding of the links. Ordinances are performed in the spirit world effectualizing the individual recipient for the receiving and saving principles of the gospel vicariously performed here.

As I was approaching the place where I entered, my attention was attracted towards a number of small groups of women preparing what appeared to be wearing apparel. Observing my inquiring countenance one of the women remarked, “We are preparing to receive Brother Worthington very soon.” As I gasped his name in repetition I was admonished, “If you knew the joy and the glorious mission that awaits him here, you would not ask to have him longer detained upon the earth.” Then came flooding my consciousness this awful truth that the will of the Lord can be done on earth as it is in heaven only when we resign completely to His will and let His will be done in and through us. On account of the selfishness of many, persons who might have otherwise been taken in innocence and peace have been permitted to live, and have lived to their own peril and this assertion of personal will as against the will of God. Phillip Worthington died January 22, 1920, of which I was advised by telegram and returning to Boise I preached his funeral sermon on January 25, 1920.

Men, women, and children are often called to missions of great importance on the other side. Some respond gladly while others refuse to go, and their loved ones will not give them up. Also, many die because they have not the faith to be healed. Others yet, live among and pass out of the world of mortals without any special manifestation of the divine will. When a man is stricken ill, the question of prime importance is not: “Is he going to live?” or, “Is he going to die?” (What matters isn’t whether he lives or dies as long as the will of the Father is done!)

Surely we can trust him with God. Herein lies the special duty and privilege of administration by the right and authority of the Holy Priesthood, namely: It is given to the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ to divine the will of the Father concerning the one upon whose head their hands are held. If for any reason thy are unable to presage the Father’s will, then they should continue to pray in faith for the afflicted one, humbly conceding supremacy to the will of God, that His will may be done in earth as it is done in heaven.

The righteous person’s birth into the world of spirits is a glorious privilege and blessing. The greatest spirits in the family of the Father have not usually been permitted to tarry longer in the flesh than to perform a certain mission; then they are called to the world of spirits where the field is greater and the workers fewer. This earthly mission may therefore be long or short as the Father wills.

I now declare to the world that irrespective of [the opinion] of others I do know of my own positive knowledge and from my own personal experience, that God is the Father of the spirits of all men, and that He lives; that Jesus Christ is His Son and the Saviour of the world; that the spirit of man does not die but survives the change called death and goes to the world of spirits; that the world of spirits is on or near this earth; [that man’s individuality is not lost by death, nor is his progress inhibited,;] that the principles of salvation are now being taught to the spirits and the great work of joining the Father’s family among the living and the dead is now in progress, and that but comparatively few will ultimately be lost; that spirits will literally take up their bodies again in the resurrection; and that the gospel of Jesus Christ has [again] been established upon the earth with all of its keys, powers, authority, and blessings through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith; that this is the power that will not only save and exalt everyone who yields obedience to its principles, but will ultimately save the world; that the burden of our mission is to save souls unto God; and that the work for the salvation of the dead is of no less importance than the work for the living.”

~ Resisting the Urge to Be Critical ~

I watched a movie recently called Heaven is for Real. It tells the fairly recent story of Todd Burpo, whose 4 year old son experienced the other side during an operation for a burst appendix.

The movie was less about the experience itself than the story of what Mr. Burpo endured as a result of what he learned through his child.

It threw him into a crisis of faith. And, as we have seen all too many times, it told the story of people who mocked, doubted and criticized him as a faith leader because of the details he shared of his son’s experience.

We see this all the time. People mock what they fear or are ignorant about.

This is one of the reasons why I feel it is important that we share the spiritual experiences we have, where we are allowed.

Like my Mom and Dad, our personal spiritual experiences are going to vary. To some are given more, to others less.

So when I share experiences like the ones above I encourage an open mind. Much as family stories will vary in the telling by individual the “belief”, if you will, in the spiritual experiences of others is going to be different.

Some may be beyond belief, at least from what our minds know and understand right now.

Even still, it is important to know these stories and to appreciate the perspectives they come from. I believe there is great value in knowing of them even if we don’t embrace them as 100% truth.

I think there is purpose in these experiences and I will continue to share them as I discover them.

I am learning that these experiences are starting to add up. In these pages we have shared many of them – the blessing received of the stranger by Ann Findley Westover, the other-side experience of Ella Jensen, the vision of the baptism of family members by Alexander Westover, and many others.

There’s a reason our ancestors and some of our family here now have these experiences. The more we can absorb them the more we can learn and be prepared for the spiritual experiences held in reserve for ourselves.


Decisions and Consequences

When Gabriel and Joanne Westover of Taunton, England married in 1618 they likely had no idea how larger events would impact their family.

A son, John, was born in 1619. Then came a daughter, Johanne. Another son came in 1622, named Gabriel III, and another, named Richard, was born in 1623.

Then there is a gap in the ages of their children.

As Puritans, the Westover’s were embroiled in the overall conflict between the Crown and Parliament. Religion, theology and control of the Church of England was at the center of the conflict and it affected those who opposed the Crown.

In 1625 Charles I ascended to the throne and persecution of his enemies, which included the Puritans, intensified.

As with many other Puritan families, Gabriel and Joanne Westover reportedly took their young family to the Netherlands to escape the conflict. But it appears they soon returned to Taunton.

More children came to the family. Daughter Jane came in 1626 and Jonah was born in 1628. During the 1630s four more children would be born.

During these years the conflict escalated.

Charles I dissolved Parliament and persecution of Puritans powered what is called the Great Migration, where over a period of roughly ten years during the 1630s more than 80,000 people, mostly Puritans, sailed to the New World in order to “grow a society of Saints”.

During these years, right around the time their youngest child Joshua would be born in Taunton, Gabriel and Joanne made a fateful decision. They first sent Jane, believed to be about 14 years old, to the New World. Then they sent Jonah, age 11, in 1639.

Why these two children were sent is not known. It is written that the original intent was to migrate as a family but the Westover’s lacked the financial resources to do so. Perhaps Jane and Jonah were sent because they were old enough to be self-sufficient but young enough to have the best opportunities in the New World.

Regardless, Gabriel and Joanne would never see these children again.

Jane and Jonah stayed in America and built families. Gabriel and Joanne, like many other Puritans, decided to stay in England after civil war broke out and Charles I was defeated in 1645.

That decision, made under real world pressures, would have long-lasting consequences for the Westover family.

It is doubtful this ever crossed the minds of Gabriel and Joanne. They were concerned about just surviving.

Yet here we are, nearly 400 years later, exploring how this one decision has had a lasting impact on our family history.

There would be many others.

~ Personal and Sacred ~

When I was a teenager my Mom told me of a near death experience she had when I was very little. It was a story she would tell me at least four other times in my life.

As I work on the history of my parents I have struggled with whether or not to share this story. We are told to be careful in sharing sacred experiences and to me this was as sacred and as personal as a story can get.

But like the story of Gabriel and Joanne Westover of 400 years ago this story highlights a moment of decision that impacted our family history. It needs to be told.


Mom with the four of us not long before the ectopic pregnancy

My Mom had four of us in the span of five years. After my youngest brother, David, was born, my parents entered a period of transition that saw many significant life changes. My Nana, Mom’s mother, passed away. She was 49 and my Mom was just 25. My Dad graduated from college during these years, he started his career and we moved from the place we had first called home as a family.

During these years mom had an ectopic pregnancy resulting in a severe medical emergency.

One of the things to know about my mother is that she had some extraordinary spiritual gifts. Shortly after my parents married my mother converted, but only after having a vision related to the Book of Mormon.

She told me that story many times as well, and I’ve discussed that event with my Dad many times. It was the kind of revelatory experience I believe many of us hope for and the type you read about in books and in scripture.

Perhaps Mother was given such a gift because of her standing in her family, and the work of family history and temple that would later manifest itself in her life. Whatever the reason, Mom was prone to have connection with the other side. It was her gift.

I remember mom telling me of her severe pain and the operating room they rushed her to when this happened. They began to operate immediately and while they did Mom’s spirit separated from her body.

She looked down upon herself and witnessed no small amount of blood as they operated.

Mom described leaving the room, rising up very high and leaving the hospital altogether. She experienced what many others describe during near death experiences – a tunnel of light, a sensation of being surrounded by great love, and the presence of a Holy Being.

Mother was told she had a choice.

She could return to her body, and resume her life, being allowed to raise her children. Or, it was okay for her to stay where she was.

Mother told me it was not really a choice in her mind. She instantly asked to be returned to her body, and she was.

That was a moment of decision that impacted family history. If Mother decided not to return, how would my life be different?

While for many years I digested that question I got to see from my parent’s perspective how that decision impacted their lives as a couple.

Several years later, my folks were delighted to hear they were pregnant again. After Mom’s ectopic pregnancy she was told the odds of her having another baby were very slim.

The birth of my baby sister, Kris, came at an impactful time for me. I will never forget that day or that time of my life, it made such an impression on me.

But in discussing all this at length with both Mom and Dad individually I learned how they considered this whole event a faith affirming consequence of the choice my Mother made in coming back.

Mom was not given a knowledge of my little sister during her experience. While she and my father wanted another child – and particularly, another daughter – that was not something promised or foretold.


Dad, pictured here with the custodial crew at Mt. Diablo High School, where he was employed during these years.

Dad’s feeling about it was interesting. My parents married very young, and Dad in particular suffered with feeling qualified in being a husband, father and provider. He recalled to me a few times how as an 18-year old groom he was grilled by both of my grandfathers about how he expected to support my Mom in marriage.

Both pairs of grandparents had made significant sacrifices and contributions to set my parents up in a home for us and helped as my Dad worked several jobs to work his way through school.

After he graduated and we moved from that area, my parents experienced a kind of independence as a couple they previously had not known or felt. Having my little sister and adding her to the family was something of a certification of their union, they felt. They had finally grown up and were sitting at the adult table. That is how they felt and they were grateful.

Now that we are older the years are not the separation they once were for me and my little sister. But she was the baby, and is common with many youngest children, her growing up experience was different than mine and that of my siblings.

Dad with Kris and Debbie

That doesn’t matter now.

I know having spent time with my parents towards the end of their lives what Kris’ coming into the world meant to them. It was different and special for reasons the rest of us who didn’t walk their path can understand.

I think the natural inclination we have when we hear or read about the experiences, decisions and consequences of our ancestors is to say, “What would I have done?” or “How would I have felt?”

Those are impossible questions to answer.

But they remain instructive to us because it helps us to see their real struggles and desires.

Through knowing these things we come to appreciate their humanity, as well as their sacrifices.

Stuff of Family History

Food and Stuff of our Forefathers

When my Dad passed I inherited his vehicle. By the time that came I was well familiar with it because I had driven him all over in it.

But one day recently, now more than 2 years since Dad left, I found a button on the dash that popped out a cup holder, something I previously didn’t even know was there. It held a little tray with just enough space to hold a small amount of change.

I looked at it and marveled a bit. “Dad put that there. That is Dad’s money” I thought.

And I haven’t touched it.

It’s just quarters and dimes and pennies. Probably less than a dollar’s worth of everyday cash. Nothing special about it.

But I can’t touch it. It’s Dad’s money – there’s just something comforting about seeing it there and having it in what I still consider to be Dad’s car.

What makes “stuff” from our loved ones so…special?

~ Grandma’s Recipe Box ~

My wife somehow inherited two similar looking file card boxes – recipe boxes is how my generation would look at them. My grandmothers had them too.

Inside, on 3×5 inch index cards, are handwritten recipes, some so tattered from year after year use they have notes written in both pencil and pen.

To pull cards from these boxes now is like stepping back in time for my wife. She can see, hear, feel, taste and smell the memories from these treasured recipes.

I’ve studied these little boxes and have decided they are the most valuable bits of family history information. It’s the stuff that goes beyond headstones and family group sheets.

They are snapshots into the personalities and passions of two cherished women in my wife’s family.

We’ll scan those cards and preserve them, just as we would any birth or marriage certificate.

From these recipes we can make Grandma’s fudge at Christmas. Or her funeral potatoes for, well, funerals.

There are many ways for Grandma’s to live on.

~ Pumpkin Pie ~

Perhaps one of my favorite connections to family past comes from food.

You don’t need physical artifacts if you just know how they ate. After all, if we eat the same, we have a connection, right? Let me give you an example:

Several years ago I was chagrined to learn that National Pumpkin Pie Day falls on December 25th. I found that to be a curious fact and I began to research why.

I knew that pumpkin pie was a New England thing. I understood that many of the earliest settlers in New England, such as our Westover grandfathers, were Puritans.

A lot of our modern-day traditions of Thanksgiving and Christmas were born of our Puritan ancestors.

The Puritan pilgrims of Massachusetts and Connecticut were supposedly famous for shunning Christmas. Historians have long said they didn’t celebrate Christmas at all.
They did this in protest of the Church of England, who had corrupted the celebration of the birth of Christ with pagan practices made famous during their day.

But in researching their love and use of pumpkin as part of the holiday season I found that our Puritans DID celebrate Christmas.

And I began to understand why pumpkin was such a huge element of that season of celebration.

Thanksgiving as we celebrate it today had its genesis in New England.

A “Day of Thanksgiving” could be called at any time where good fortune or the blessings of Providence were accounted for in community events.

It might have been a battle won in war or a good season of raising crops – at any time it was the tradition of British rule to occasionally call for a day of thanksgiving.
For our Puritan ancestors this usually came during harvest season.

For more than 200 years before Thanksgiving became a “national holiday” it was a custom to go “over the river and through the wood” to gather as families to celebrate Thanksgiving and to begin a holiday season of celebration that included the sacred Christmas.

Thanksgiving was usually just the start of a “holiday season” for Puritans, a time where they would gather as family for the first time all year.

Journals and newspaper accounts, such as they were, document this reality.

And they documented it then much as we do now: with invitations, with recipes, and with traditions repeated year after year – and with statistics.

Pies were a common element of these seasonal family gatherings: apple, pecan (or walnut) and especially pumpkin.


Because pumpkin was the most plentiful and, frankly, the cheapest.

Did they like it? No, they LOVED it.

In 1630, a writer wrote:

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.”

In the 1720s, the love of pumpkin was going strong:

Ah! On Thanksgiving Day, when from East and from West,
From the North and from South come the pilgrim and guest,
When the grey-haired New Englander sees round his board,
The old broken link of affection restored.
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before,
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin Pie?

By the early 19th century pumpkin pie was so prolific that the media of the day estimated that it took 10 pies per family to satisfy their holiday cravings.

From the mid-17th century, in Windsor, Connecticut – home of Jonas and Hannah Westover – comes this common recipe for pumpkin pie:

“Pare and cut the fruit into small pieces, stew till it is soft, strain it through a coarse sieve or cullender, add milk till it is of the consistence of a thick custard; to each quart of this add three eggs, sweeten to your taste, and spice it with nutmeg and ginger. A little wheaten flour can be shaken in to thicken it. It is then to be prepared on a bottom paste, and backed like a custard pie.”

My dear wife, who is a pumpkin purist, declares this pretty close to the “right way to do pumpkin pie”.

And that’s good enough for me. I can no longer celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas without thinking of the Westovers of Connecticut and Massachusetts of 400 years ago. Or without pumpkin pie.

~ How to Preserve the Stuff ~

The old movies, pictures and journals and videos from folks now gone are important. You know I love them and you know I’ll be wrangling with the quarter of a million images I’ve gathered from all sides of our families over the years.

But I’ve really been wrestling with “the stuff”.

I’ve told you about our treasure room – and the now extra storage unit of “stuff” I have taken from my Dad’s former home.

What stays and what goes?

I know I’m not alone in grappling with that.

My mother was well known for her love of the grand babies and her talent for crocheting baby blankets. Mom just worked on them non-stop and stockpiled a ton for future grandchildren and great grandchildren yet unborn. I inherited the extras.

Every time a new baby comes along – and we’ve added 10 of our own in the past nine years – they get a new blanket from Nana.

That’s an exciting bit of stuff to still have from my mother.

But other things hold value as well. For example, my Mom over the course of her adult life collected chickens.

No, not live chickens. Ceramic, clay, wood, artistically rendered chickens. One sits above my fridge in the kitchen and it gets noticed a lot. It’s a little piece of my Mom in our home.

I don’t know what happened to all of Mom’s chickens and I don’t care at this point. I have one and that’s enough.

Same goes for my Dad’s bust of Mozart. How that thing escaped damage in all the moves is beyond me. But it dates back to before I was born.

I see it now – next to Mom’s chicken – and it reminds me of Dad.

This is all family history.

I struggle right now to understand what will become of the stuff I’ve gathered that I consider family history.

I am trying to explain it all to my children in hopes that someday it will become their cherished stuff, too.

Winifred Calista Welty

The History of Winifred Calista Welty

Winifred Calista Welty was born in 1917.

Her brief life of 49 years is not marked with notable worldly accomplishments. She had one child, my mother, Susanne Catherine Begich Westover.

Grandmothers usually play a vital role in the lives of the rising generation. Winnifred certainly made her mark in influencing her Westover grandchildren.

As her grandson this is my attempt to share her story as I understand it. I make no claim that this is comprehensive or complete. I include details shared with me by my parents and extended family members who knew her. Sadly much has been lost to time and circumstance and there are many questions I cannot answer.

Hers was a complicated and tragic life. It seems a bit unfair to see so much heaped on the shoulders of one person.

Winifred’s trials and isolation from family complicated her situation and, as a result, my Mother’s situation as well.

It is a story of long reaching consequences. It is a tale of strange arrangements, sad realities, and difficult facts. It is one that would affect many relationships over several branches of the overall family for generations. As such we must share the aftereffects of decisions made during Winnie’s life and include some memories of some still living, including experiences of my own.

In so doing we take some risks.

Family history is sometimes difficult to recount because there are often different sides to the same story that do not get represented. In this case, some have passed on and can no longer speak. I acknowledge that new information may later surface or different details could later be shared.

The lessons learned are not only important for those who love Winnifred Calista Welty. They are vital in uniting cousins of rising generations and keeping the family connected over events long past that we can do nothing about.

This is a story of deep feelings, mistrust, misunderstanding, tender isolation and of overcoming through love. It includes elements of abuse, deep loss, and forgiveness. In the end, miracles are also part of the difficult details.

This is Winifred’s history.

As with us all, it begins long before her birth.

~ Welty Family Origins ~

When Johan Jacob Welty arrived in America via the immigrant ship, the Ketty, in 1752 he had with him his bride, Christina. They would join a community of fellow German immigrants in an established German community in Dover, Pennsylvania. He was 42 years old.

Dover was a great place to grow things. The Germans there brought their agricultural traditions, their schools, and their churches with them. Johan – known by the American-English name, John – would farm and raise a family of six children with Christina.

A son, named Phillip Jacob Welty, would be born in Dover in 1759.

Phillip married Anna Maria Wilt around 1780 and they worked the family farm in Dover and raised four children there. Their eldest child, a son they named Jacob, was born in 1781.

Jacob Welty became the third generation of the family to take over the farm in Dover. He met a local girl named Barbara and married her around the year 1808. They would have seven children, including their third, a son, who they also named Jacob.

This Jacob Welty would continue the family traditions of farming. But after marrying Elizabeth Krigbaum in 1837 they would venture about 200 miles north to the new farming community of Lindley, New York – becoming one of the first settlers in that area.

Jacob and Elizabeth would raise a family of nine children, many of whom lived well into the 20th century. Among their number was a son they named George – an old Welty family name from Germany – who would spend the entirety of his life in Lindley.

George Welty, who was around 18 years old at the time of the Civil War, likely served in the Yankee Army. He married as the Civil War ended in 1865, having survived the entirety of the war. His bride, Maria Sarah Weldon, was the daughter of Harvey and Betsey Weldon, prominent local citizens with a long family history in southwestern New York state.

George and Maria raised eight children and, like the five previous generations of the Welty family, they taught them all to farm. But their youngest son, named Alfred, born in 1893, was no farmer.

Alfred, as an adult, was one of the few Welty sons who did not continue the tradition of farming. He took a job in the near-by community of Corning, at the Corning Glass Works, as a glass gatherer.

~ Alfred and Susan ~

It is believed the Carson family came from Ireland around the 1820s. John Carson, a son of Samuel and Mary Carson, likely came to the United States as a child. He married Elizabeth Hyatt around the year 1825 and with her would raise a family of six children.

Their second son, named Erastus Carson, was born around 1830 and would serve in the Civil War in the 1st Cavalry Regiment, nicknamed the Lincoln Cavalry, from 1861 to 1865. Injured in some way during the war, he returned home and married Elizabeth Coolbaugh, in 1872.

Their second child, a son they named Kit, was born in 1876. Kit was raised a farmer and is mentioned in local newspapers over the course of his lifetime for his achievements and community involvement. Kit married Effie Groom and they raised a large family of twelve children. Their eldest, a daughter they called Susie, was born in 1898 in Corning, New York.

At some point Alfred Welty and Susie Carson met.

They married, in Corning, on November 24th, 1916. Susan Catherine Carson was 18 years old. Alfred was 23.

Alfred and Susan Carson Welty

Alfred and Susan’s Wedding photo

On April 25, 1917, their first child, a daughter, was born. They named her Winnifred Calista Welty and called her Winnie. The next year, on November 8th, 1918, another child, a son they named Norman Francis Welty, was born.

~ Troubles and Tragedy ~

Alfred and Susan’s wedding was a well-attended family affair held at the home of Kit and Effie Carson. The world was already embroiled in World War I and forces were galvanizing in the US at the time of the wedding.

Alfred, being of age and unmarried, was exempted from the draft. His draft registration clearly shows he had a handicap in a crippled arm. It is not known if this was the result of a birth defect or of some injury:

Alfred's WWI Draft Registration

The Welty family had some military experience. Alfred’s father, George, as noted above, served. George’s younger brother, William, born in 1843, is on record enlisted in the 107th infantry.

In investigating the other Welty family members of service age during the Civil War two things stand out: nearly all served and many suffered significant aftereffects of that service.

Some of the same can be said of the Carson family as well, although evidence suggests not quite as many Carson family members served in the war. The Civil War was a game changer in many ways for most. For the Yankee residents of New York state the war was long and terrible. Hardly any family was unaffected.

For George Welty and his bride, Maria, growing their family on the rural landscape of Lindley, New York carried on the traditions of earlier generations. Surviving records show a family striving to endure the rigors of farm life. George would appear in the news for having suffered a broken leg due to a chain that broke while trying to remove trees. When George’s father, Jacob, died in 1900 it was George who administered the estate and officially inherited the farm he had long worked.

Alfred Welty was born in 1893 when his father, George, was 52 years old. In census records of the 1890s and early 1900s Alfred was shown as a farmer rather than as a student. Local newspapers often noted the workings of the Welty farm and the travels of George Welty who continued to work it well into his 70s.

Alfred did attend school as a child. But better than 20 years separated Alfred from his two eldest brothers. Alfred left after as his father died in 1913 – the family farm by then likely fell to one of his older brothers. Alfred took up residence in the nearby biggest city of Corning, New York – home to Corning Glassworks.

Corning Glassworks

It is unknown how Alfred and Susan met.

Susan was the eldest child in a prominent farming family. She attended this high school:

Corning High School

Susan was barely 18 when she married Alfred.

World events seemed to swirl around their lives as a young family. When Susan became pregnant with their second child, Norman, the Spanish flu epidemic was raging.

As soldiers returned home in 1918 they brought the flu with them and it tore through North American communities. Norman was born on November 8th and barely a month later Susan succumbed due to the flu.

Alfred had to carry on.

Census records indicate that he lived in the same house but took on a housekeeper with a young child to help with the children. Here is a surviving image from that time period of Alfred with Winnie and Norman:

alfred welty

Alfred Welty, in the spring of 1919 after the death of his wife, Susan

Alfred survived for four more years when, near the anniversary of Susan’s death, he too passed away.

His obituary says he died of “four weeks illness of complication of diseases”. That cryptic phrase was used at the time to artfully say it was possibly an unnatural death. No official death certificate has been located. Alfred was just 29.

The family struggled to know what to do with the children. For a brief time, as indicated in state and federal census records, it is clear the children were passed around some between the Welty and Carson families.

Ultimately Norman was sent to live with “Aunt Emma”, who was Alfred’s oldest sister. She was 50 years old and married to a man named Benjamin Edwards at the time.

A state census from 1925 shows Norman still with Aunt Emma but she was no longer married. Benjamin shows up with another wife at a different address. Emma is 57 and Norman is 6, and they were living as boarders with a man named Blencow. Emma and Norman would later board at the home of Emma’s sister, Glenora, and her family. While living there Emma passed away in 1937.

Emma Welty

Aunt Emma

For Winnie the story is a little different.

She was sent to the family of Willis H. Welty, Alfred’s oldest brother who was a farmer and the likely heir of the farm run by his brother George and their father, Jacob. Willis was married to Lydia and they had a family of several children. This is an image of that family likely taken several years before Winnie was born:

Willis H. Welty Family

It was in the home of Willis and Lydia that Winnie would spend her childhood years.

Most census records list her as a niece. One record shows her as a maid, though it is unknown if that was a mistake. In later years Winnie would not have many positive things to say about her growing up years. Nothing has yet been found of her academic record, though she clearly attended school.

Of note in this image is the boy in the back, Lawrence Welty. Lawrence was one of the only members of the family that remained in contact with Winnie after she graduated from high school and set out on her own. He was noted by Winnie for his kindness. Many years later, in California, my parents would meet “Uncle Lawrence”, and they too recalled his kindness.

The only other member of the family Winnie kept contact with was her brother, Norman. Here they are shown together as children, likely on the farm of Willis Welty, and maybe around the time that Alfred died:

Norman and Winnie Welty

What do we know about the upbringing of young Winnie?

Not much. She was cared for, as you can see from these surviving images:

Winnifred Welty

Winnifred Welty

The full story of her childhood likely went with her. My mother was told by Winnie that she had an unhappy childhood due to abuse. What kind of abuse is not known. We do not know who her abuser was.

All we know is that she developed a keen distrust of family during her growing up years.

She left western New York as soon as she could after high school, taking nannying jobs with families who could provide her income and a roof over her head.

She never returned Corning.

And, other than Lawrence and Norman, she never had another contact with either the Welty or Carson families for the rest of her life.

~ Work, Marriage and Motherhood ~

In 1940 we find Winnie in Scarsdale, NY – hundreds of miles away from Corning, working as a maid in the home of a family named Allston. How long she worked for them is not known. What is known is that by the winter of 1943 she was working in New York City as a receptionist.

Carl and Winnie

In the building where she worked she met a man named Carl Begich. He was an aspiring journalist. They began to court, fell in love and got married in May 1942. On January 11th, 1943 – Carl’s 24th birthday – my mother, Susanne Catherine Begich was born.

From the very beginning Winnie and Carl called her Cathi. The name had significance to both of them. Catherine was Winnie’s mother Susan’s middle name and also Carl’s mother’s given first name.

Thrilled as they were to begin a family, due to the war and world circumstances, it could not last. Just over a month after the birth Carl enlisted in the Army (that story can read in his history).

The Begich family hailed from Minnesota, a place where Winnie had never been. It is not known if she ever got a chance to visit there but she did at least get a chance to meet one member of the Begich family – Uncle Pete, Carl’s brother, who had come to New York around the time my mother was born.

The Army had plans for the talents of Carl Begich and it was thought for a time as he went through basic training he would be based on the East Coast for at least the first part of his service in the war. In his letters we read how Carl and Winnie discussed a possible move.

But those plans changed quickly when Carl received word he was to train in California. So certain was he of these new plans he asked Winnie to pack all she could with the baby and head to Northern California, where he would soon join her. So she went, at the height of the buildup to the war, and found a little place to stay in Port Chicago, California.

Carl never made it there.

Instead his orders were changed and he found himself sent to England, where he was put in a radio squadron. From 1943 to 1945, he wrote letters home detailing what he could of his experiences and writing of their future plans as a family. None of Winnie’s letters survived the war.

But reading from Carl’s letters we get a good idea of the stages of growth the baby experienced and all that Winnie was enduring as just one of many lonely military wives.

Carl wrote some cryptic letters in the winter of 1945. Clearly the war was coming to a close but his service, he indicated, would likely go on after the war was over. By this time he was working in military intelligence and his working future was completely up in the air. He told Winnie that if she received word that something happened to him she should not believe it.

In June of 1945, weeks after the war in Europe ended, she received word that he was missing in action. So did Carl’s family in Minnesota. Just weeks later, they were told that Carl had been killed in action (non-battle). Because of all the mysterious circumstances, and all the cryptic references from his letters to both Winnie and to his family, nobody could believe Carl was gone.

Carl’s father, Michael Begich, wrote letter after letter to the War Department seeking information of what had happened to him. It took years for a response and answers never really came to give his family closure. For Winnie the situation was even more complex.

What was she to do now? There she was, thousands of miles away from the home she grew up in, and she had nowhere to go and no one coming home to her.

There was an awkward exchange of letters between Winnie and the Begich family.

The Begich’s had suggested she consider bringing the baby and moving to Minnesota, where she would be surrounded by family. When she coldly rejected that suggestion the Begich family struggled to understand. More letters were sent, each rising in tension as rejection seemed to be the only reply.

My mother told me that Winnie later explained that she did not want Mom growing up as an “orphan among family members”. Winnie felt it best to carry on in life as a single mother than to expose young Cathi to family she didn’t know or, for whatever reason, couldn’t trust.

Trust was really at the heart of what Winnie was feeling and it came because of nothing any of the Begich family had done. It went all the way back to Corning and the family Winnie had known there.

~ Starting Over in California ~

Cathi was Winnie’s family now. And life needed to be lived. As the men returned from the war in 1945 and 1946, Winnie met another, a man named Pascal Henry Caldwell.

As a person he could not have been more different than Carl. He was physical – a simple red-neck farmer with a huge smile, from Louisiana. Like her, Pat Caldwell had a difficult past with family and a future without them.

Where Winnie and Pat Caldwell connected was this: both had been severely traumatized by the war. They married in the Spring of 1946, taking this picture with young Cathi as they began their family life together:

Caldwell Family

Pat accepted an offer from the government for a civilian job as an electrician while they provided him with training and certification. California would be their home. They purchased a house on Detroit Avenue in Concord and would spend all of their years together there.

For all Cathi knew, Pat Caldwell was her father. Then she went to school, where she heard the Begich name for the first time. That impactful moment on the heart of a five-year-old created something of greater bond between mother and child. Winnie did not want Cathi to experience the pain she had in losing both her parents. She wanted to be honest as much as she could as the struggles Cathi might have with identity would surface.

Those things came to bear soon enough. Mom did not know this strange name, Begich. She didn’t want that name attached to her because her Daddy was named Pat Caldwell. Winnie quickly instructed the school to remove the Begich name from Mom’s records.

Sometimes other life lessons were tough for mother and child.

Mother tells me of the time when she was quite young, maybe 8 years old, when she decided to steal one of Winnie’s cigarettes. Her mother caught her in the act and sat her down right away.

Winnie lit up another cigarette and gave it to Mom to inhale. Then she held up a handkerchief and had Mom blow smoke through it. The white hankie turned yellow.

“You see why you can’t do this?” Winnie asked her. Mother later reflected that it seemed her mother was pushing her to become better than she was. “Mom always said I was better than her and could do more than she did.” Mom shared.

Mom also described how Winnie and Pat worked together to make life enjoyable for her growing up.

They supported all her efforts in school, took her on vacations, went camping, hunting and fishing. Mom told of the patience of her Dad when he hosted a barbeque for a pack of 10-year old girls who had come to celebrate Mom’s birthday. All this could be described as normal family life of the 1950s.

But beneath the veneer of normalcy resided a struggle with Winnie and Pat that made things difficult. Both had problems with alcohol.

Frequently mother would return home from school to find Winnie drunk, unable to function. Mom said she would have to straighten up the house, rush to fix dinner and make her mother presentable for when her father returned home.

Pat Caldwell worked at the Naval base. He started early in the morning, then on most days went to work part time as a county sheriff deputy in the late afternoon and evening hours. Once off duty from either job he would frequent a local establishment and drink with friends. It was not unusual for him to come home inebriated.

The combined forces of two drinking parents created many difficult situations for my mother.

It took her years to realize that both of her parents were suffering from aftereffects of their war trauma and family situations. Alcohol was their coping mechanism.

All she knew was that her mother was a very sad drunk and her father was a mean one. There were threats of violence, lots of family tension and frequent outbursts.

If dealing with their lack of sobriety on an individual basis was not bad enough dealing with moments when Winnie and Pat would drink together was worse. This usually happened during holidays and gatherings. Because of this my Mom grew up with a distaste for Christmas and birthdays.

During my mother’s teenage years she kept herself active in as many school endeavors as she could. While of course there were sober moments in the family’s daily life, and her parents remained supportive in her activities the alcoholism was ever-present.

My father entered the picture during the final two years of high school in my mother’s life. He would witness some of the trauma in the Caldwell home. For him, coming from a home without those issues, he found it difficult to connect with his future in-laws.

Pat Caldwell scared my father. He was a big man. He was a quiet man. He was a serious man. And when inebriated he was to be feared. Winnie Caldwell scared Dad too, but in a very different way. She did not trust him with her daughter and she told him that. He wanted to be trusted, and liked, but she questioned his intentions.

When my parents rushed to Carson City – the same place where Pat and Winnie went to when they married – they found that my mother was too young to get married without parental permission. Mom was still 17, having just graduated from high school months before.

So they both called home to Concord and sought out both sets of parents. Seeing that their minds were made up, both the Caldwells and the Westovers decided to come to Carson City to see my parents married.

They traveled together, having just met each other for the first time. In sharing this story with me Dad openly wondered what the conversation in that car was like for these two couples who had so little in common – other than their teenage children marrying each other. I share this part of the story of my parents here because it is insightful into the history of all the individuals involved.

Whatever happened in that car, and whatever ensued once the marriage happened in Carson City, it changed roles and relationships.

Months later, after my parents had moved to Provo, Utah, where my Dad was attending BYU, Winnie travelled to be there at the birth of their first child. My parents were living in a rented hotel room, having arrived too late to secure a house or an apartment at the start of the new school year. Winnie took an adjacent room while the days passed for the baby’s arrival.

After my brother was born my Dad was working as an usher at a theater. He was concerned because he was uncertain what Mom and his new mother-in-law knew about caring for a baby. He at least had some experience with siblings. But Mom was an only child and, to his knowledge, Mom was also the only baby Winnie had ever cared for.

Dad got home from work and wandered into Winnie’s hotel room where he found them in the bathroom, on their knees, bathing the baby and having the time of their life with the task. He quickly realized he was the real rookie in baby care as he watched mother and grandmother coo over my brother. The moment was one of many perspective-altering situations Dad would witness.

~ Later Years ~

Grandparenting came natural to both Winnie and Pat. We, as grandchildren, called them Nana and Bumpa.

In the coming years of the early 1960s they relished their roles with the grandchildren. They became hands-on grandparents. They embraced each one of us, played down on the floor and in the dirt. Grandparenting gave them great joy.


Nana and Bumpa

For my father, these moments cleared the clouds brought on by alcoholism in his in-laws. He gained greater respect for them. For my mother, the impact was greater. She too saw something different in her parents, something she never got to see much or could remember as a child.

Mom told me of the time when my older sister was born and how having a girl seemed to affect Winnie. Nana really wanted Mom to have a girl. As Mother explained this to me, Nana was anxious to have granddaughters who could be strong and independent.

When my parents married there were many gifts given to help them set up house. One of the more significant of those gifts was a maple hope chest Nana had purchased with trading stamps.
Because of her problems with alcohol Pat would not give Winnie cash to run the house. He was afraid she would spend it all on alcohol. So she saved up green S&H trading stamps she collected when they would go out to buy groceries together. Years of saving these stamps allowed Nana to purchase the hope chest.

That chosen hope chest and what it represented to my Mom was the center piece of a new bedroom set my parents purchased after my sister was born. Because the hope chest was maple they wanted the rest of the bedroom to match. They purchased a maple canopy bed with matching nightstands.

When Nana saw this she cried. She felt the bedroom set was worthy of her daughter and granddaughter, who she felt needed to be treated as queens.

Dad told me in later years this was an event that changed things a bit between him and Nana. Earlier there were many things that happened that challenged him. One time came when Nana asked him to stop by the liquor store and bring her home a bottle of wine.

This was something Dad had to refuse to do. She was angry at that refusal and called him something of a prude.

He said he tried to defend himself by saying he was raised without alcohol and that being associated with it at all would affect how people would look at him.

Nana responded by saying that what other people might think was different than what other people actually do think. She admonished him to be worried about what all people thought not just people who were like him.

Dad said it was likely the first time he ever really felt mothered by his mother-in-law. It was a teachable moment because Nana didn’t hold back. Like the lesson of the cigarette when Mom was a child it was a moment where her own weakness was set aside for a higher idea. Dad described Nana as fearless when correcting him – and then fearless in showing greater love after the altercation was over.

Dad told of another time when Nana went on a summer vacation with them in 1963. The trip included stops in Disneyland in Southern California, Las Vegas, and later in Yellowstone.

Along the way they would stop in Gunnison, Utah to visit Uncle Gerald and Aunt Milda’s place to pick up a boat motor for a visit to Fish Lake.

Upon arriving in Gunnison Nana refused to get out of the car. She had no interest in meeting any family.

Anyone who knows Uncle Gerald knows there was nothing to fear. But Nana didn’t know Uncle Gerald, she only knew he was family and then not to be trusted. Dad had only heard whispers of these feelings from Nana and simply could not understand it. Dad and Mom went into the house and in a short time Uncle Gerald came out to the car.

Because it was hot, the car window was open. So he leaned in and chatted with her as only Uncle Gerald could. Mom told me that Nana was charmed and laughed and briefly conversed with him. But she still refused to get out of the car or get any closer.

Despite these kinds of things it is important to note how the Caldwells and the Westovers came together to support my parents.

That first semester at BYU proved to be too financially stressful for my parents. Dad said they returned to Concord, with himself feeling like quite a failure. As he discussed his options with my mother, and later with my grandfather, it was determined that my Dad should get a job right away and that a home somehow would be secured for our family.

Both sets of parents stepped up to help in significant ways. Both contributed cash for the down payment on the house on Crawford Street in Concord, situated between the grandparents’ homes on Detroit Avenue and Peach Place in Concord. My grandmother returned to teaching in case help with the house payments was needed.

Dad enrolled at Cal State Berkeley. It took him until 1968, holding down several jobs and getting help from both sets of parents the whole way in order for him to graduate. These combined family efforts – made for the good of our family – created a level of mutual respect between the Westovers and the Caldwells.

My Dad told me that how his parents handled the situation with Pat and Winnie Caldwell went far in helping him to adapt to his in-laws. He recalled the time when he converted the garage of the little house on Crawford street for an office where he could study. Both Dads had ideas, suggestions and a hand to lend in getting the project done. Both helped.

A question arose about flooring. Dad had one idea on how to do it. Grandpa had another and as they discussed it things turned into something of a debate. Bumpa walked in during the middle of the conversation and could quickly see where it was going. He gently sided with Grandpa and, Dad said, he encouraged him to apologize. He quickly did. However, Dad said the real lesson wasn’t in that he was wrong but in that the look on his father’s face was one he could never forget. Dad said Grandpa was shocked at what Bumpa had said and done. Grandpa, for whatever reason, didn’t think Pat Caldwell liked him much.

In later years, as I would spend time with my ill Grandma Westover in her final days, I asked her about my other grandparents. She told me what wonderful people she thought they were. She said that Nana and Bumpa had treated her and Grandpa like gold and she knew they loved us.

Family Picnic

Mother, too, talked about how her parents and my Dad’s parents were thrown together and how different they were from each other. Mom said that when I was born both sets of grandparents appeared at the hospital at about the same time and how it seemed surprising to her when Bumpa reached out to shake Grandpa’s hand and say, “Congratulations”.

That little exchange surprised Mom because it was a moment they shared together as grandfathers. They had little else in common but they shared that and it gave her joy to see them so happy together.

My mom was there when Grandma Westover passed in 1987. It was a difficult situation for Mom. One of the first people she talked to after speaking with my father was Bumpa. He later told me it was one of the few times that my Mother had initiated a phone call with him. Mom told me that in that phone call that Bumpa was sad because he loved Grandma. He called her a great lady.

Such declarations were not easy for a man like Pat Caldwell to make.

~ Reflections of Others ~

My memories of Nana are very few. I was just four years when she passed away. In watching my wife now with our grandchildren I’m reminded of those memories I of have of Nana.

She was always so gentle and happy with me and, like my own small grandchildren now, there’s a magical connection with an engaged grandmother. That is why in later years, as I learned of her history, her personality and characteristics, I was stunned to learn some facts about her.

The first was her physical size. As a small child, looking up at her, she was as any other adult. She fawned at me from above. But she was only 4 foot 10 inches in height – a tiny woman. Of her surviving things a size six pair of heels give us a physical reminder of her petite frame. This was hard for me to imagine.

Winnifred Welty Begich

The second thing that is difficult for me to grasp about Nana is her demeanor. She has frequently been described to me as sad. In today’s terms you might say she suffered from depression. My memories are always of her vibrant smile and that deep dimple and sparkling countenance.

Nana and Debbie

Mom would tell me that Nana would always say that I have “bedroom eyes”. To me, this gushing grandmother was nothing but smiles and love. My older siblings have the same recollection, though my older brother has much more detail he shares of conversations and experiences with her.

Nana, I think, was something of a tomboy growing up because she seemed very comfortable in a boy’s world of sports, adventure and getting dirty.

But I think most telling in history of Winnifred Calista Welty would be her feelings about womanhood.

Whatever her experience as a girl growing up she was intent on instilling in my Mother the necessity of strength, willingness to face things independently and to shake off the bad things that happen.

Mom felt her real connection with Nana expanded when she became a mother. It gave them something more in common as women. While “family” on a broad scale was something to be avoided in the eyes of Winnie Caldwell, “family” as it relates to children required fierce loyalty and devotion.

When Mom was pregnant with Jay, my older brother, Nana took her aside to lecture about how that child developing within her would forever be a part of her. “You share blood”, she would say. “You are forever connected”.

Mom and Nana 1963

With each pregnancy Nana seemed to reinforce the bond between mother and child. In fact, with each passing pregnancy Mom said she found more love and connection with Nana. For Mom, having someone to share the tears and joys of nurturing children helped her understand Nana more.

That connection made Nana’s final difficult days very hard on my mom. They grew very tender as their relationship seemed to soar with each new grandchild and yet suffered with the ongoing issues with alcoholism.

Nana never got a handle on it.

In the spring of 1967 at the age of 49 she went into the hospital with liver failure. She passed on March 7th. My mother was 24 years old and Nana’s passing devastated her. For years afterwards my Mom would tearfully account for the many ways her mother was her best friend and confidant.

Other members of the family have lent their insights about Winnifred Calista Welty to me.

In the early 1980s, as I was assisting Bumpa in clearing out his properties as he was leaving California to return home to Louisiana, he declared his love for Nana in a very rare moment of spoken expression.

I was actually trying to get details from him about his war experience. He experienced many difficult things during his time all over the Pacific in the Navy during the war but he would never tell me exactly what happened. But in discussing his decisions in coming home, meeting Nana and settling in California he said “she understood everything” and that he really, really loved her.

Knowing him as I did that was an amazing statement.

In my mother’s later years, when health challenges frequently put her in the hospital, Mom would often bring up memories of her mother, even though Nana had been gone for more than four decades. During a hospital stay in 2012, when Mom suffered from something they call hospital delirium, I witnessed Mom hallucinate a scene where she saw Nana.

It bothered me to witness this and I later asked the doctor about it. The doctor explained that while the circumstances one might think they experience with this condition are usually nonsensical the people they see in these visions are typically people of great importance. The doctor asked me to describe what Mom said she saw and I told her about Nana. She was dumbfounded to learn that Nana had been gone for so long. “She must have been a very central figure in the life of your Mother,” the doctor told me.

Even my Mother’s final days, when more lucid experiences that come when the veil is so thin, she described seeing her mother reach out to her with open arms. When this experience happened my sister emphatically advised Mom to “Go to her, Mom – it’s okay”.

Mom’s arms were outstretched, a smile was on her face. But she leaned back, put her arms down, and simply said, “Not yet”. Hours later I asked Mom about it. Yes, she told me, it was real and “Nana looked so good”. Then mom shared something I never knew. “She has been here the entire time. She already knows everything about us. Nana only left her body behind.”

This explained during so many of my growing up years why Mom usually spoke of Nana in the present tense.

When I was 8, my little sister was born. She came several years after Nana had passed. I recall my Mom talked about my little sister’s dimple, a feature she shares with Nana. Mom said that dimple came from when Nana kissed her in my sister’s pre-existence. It was a simple, serious declaration – not a wistful wish or a sentimental memory to my Mother.

I can recall rainy spring days every year when my Mom would get very quiet.

I would ask her what was wrong and she’d say, “This reminds me of the day my Mom died”. That was about as down as my Mom seemed to get when speaking of her mother. Often, Mom talked about her in brighter terms and in a more present way.

As a teenager I experienced an event that made me very sad. When something bad happened to me, Mom would always remind me that “Nana would not like to see you sad” or “Nana doesn’t think bedroom eyes should cry”.

My mother’s journey in exploring the family history of her parents began in the early 1970s. After I served a mission and returned in 1984, I accompanied my Grandma Westover to the new family history library in Salt Lake City. She showed me how to look up names and how to operate a microfilm viewer. Grandma also very wisely admonished me to work on my mother’s family lines because Grandma knew they needed a lot of work.

So I called my Mom to ask where to start and she gave me some information she had about the Welty line. I came out of that week in the library with several paper copies of records Mom did not have, a fact that enthused her.

Based on that experience I made the decision to make a trip to Minnesota in an attempt to meet my great Grandma Begich, Carl’s mother. My cousin Bunni and her father, Uncle Pete, were very supportive.

My Mom, however, was reticent.

While she feared rejection of me her greater concern was a lingering anger against Nana. Mom was not sure if all the bad feelings over what happened so many years before had subsided.
I did not get to meet Great Grandma Begich, it was simply too much for her to handle. I was not there to hurt her and I told Bunni and Pete how much I appreciated their many efforts to make it happen. But I heard nothing but kindness from all the Begich family when it came to feelings about Nana and my mother. They did not understand and expressed that but at the same time they also, after all those many years, expressed great compassion for both Mom and Nana.

The many kindnesses shown to me on that trip, and the photos and memories I was able to collect of Grandpa Carl, did a lot of good in building love with those of us who came after it all happened. What I learned of Grandma Begich sure seems to fit with what I know of my mother and of Nana. Now that they are all on the other side, I wonder what that first meeting between them looked like.

The commonality of children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren between them all has to be something of great joy to them all. Grandma Begich’s history, which still needs to be written, shares much with both Nana and Mom. She too was a woman who had to overcome great loss to raise a strong family of great love and tradition.

I know for Nana that reality, and the memory of it, was something of greatest concern to her. Mother, and by extension, the rest of us, was the focal point of Nana’s life – her greatest accomplishment. Despite the great trials and her own weaknesses it was her life’s work. She took it seriously and did her very best.

When Bumpa told me, back in 1982ish, that he loved Nana he used a phrase I didn’t account for much significance at the time. But I wrote it down, thinking to ask my Mom about it later. He said, “She was feisty with me about your Mom. That was one way she told me she loved me.”

When I asked Mom about that – and it was before Bumpa died – she cried.

Mom shared that in later years, after Nana had passed and Bumpa had gone to AA meetings to overcome his battle with alcoholism, he was moved to seek her forgiveness.

That too had to be a hard expression for a man like Pat Caldwell to make.

Mom and Bumpa became very tender with each other as the years took their toll on him. I asked Mom if Bumpa ever told her about his love for Nana. She said he never used the words, not with her. But Mom was clear to me that he showed it to her, over and over again. She had no doubt of it.

Nana and Bumpa were good people.

I know my Mother would want anyone reading this to know that. She charged me with conveying that in our family history efforts. But I think their ultimate actions, and many great sacrifices, say it better than anything I can share here.

When Bumpa died Dad said that “he lived his life in crescendo”. I think that can be said of all those associated with the Winnifred Calista Welty story.

Nana did not give up entirely on her New York family. Two individuals remained in contact with her.

Her brother, Norman, served in WWII. Grandpa Carl’s letters mention attempts for the two of them to meet up somewhere there in Europe, though they never could find a way to find each other to make it happen. There were letters. Clearly Carl and Norman were acquainted with each other.

Norman Welty

Uncle Norm was a racer. He was always fiddling on cars, is what I’m told

When Uncle Norm came home from the war he too married and raised a family. Letters and phone calls between Winnie and Norm occasionally happened. When my Mother married and started our family every Christmas featured a Christmas card and a Christmas package from “Aunt Eris and Uncle Norm”.

Those simple efforts were a vital connection for Mom and, by extension, for us. In later years when work travel took them to New York, Mom and Dad were able to make a visit there in Montour Falls. They were folks who were so often welcoming and loving.

I mentioned Uncle Lawrence above. He was the older brother figure in Nana’s childhood, as the eldest son of Willis and Lydia Welty.

As I understand it, his own life journey took him to California as well during the war and he visited with Nana and Mom several times. In later years, when we were little, he became acquainted with Dad and for us he built a wooden rocking horse which my Mother painted. It remained a fixture in our home for many years.

Tragically Uncle Lawrence died on the day of his mother’s funeral, in a terrible car accident. So we never got a chance to know him. But he made an impression and he was spoken of with great kindness by Nana.

Mom says that Nana rarely spoke of her childhood or where she came from. Ironically, much like Grandma Begich had to do with her feelings about Grandpa Carl, Nana had to push those memories out of her mind and leave them far behind.

One of the elements these great women – my Mother, my Nana and my Grandma Begich – share in common is unbearably hard things they had to face as mere children. Each lost a parent while very young.

Words were not there for them to express how much that affected them. It was not unkindness on their part in going silent in later years over such pain. It was their love, for past in their parents and for future in their children and grandchildren, that helped them overcome.

If I could have an adult conversation now with Nana, and maybe someday I will, I would tell her that despite it all she did overcome. She was successful in her best efforts. She got past all that she had experienced and she did very, very well.