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Mason County Memories

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Family Reunions, A Living Legacy Dave Petersen History Columnist

There was a time when social activities were THE thing to do and on everyone's schedule and calendar. Many of those traditions have gone by the wayside, the victim, of the busy schedule, hectic work hours, video games and satellite TV

In addition we don't know our neighbors the way we did 50 years ago, and our families are smaller, more distant socially and in miles apart. Even so some families out there still cling to the old vestige of the family reunion.

A gift of heritage is a term that can be used to describe a well-planned family reunion. Think about that for a second, in this hectic old world to be able to do something that would provide an historical anchor, a sense of tradition for the younger generations coming up in the family. They may not always be able to understand at the time but it is something most kids (and adults) remember in the future.

Reunions can be as difficult at times as they can be fun, we all know that there are tremendous dynamics at work within families that drive us apart as often as they pull us together. An annual renewal of friendships, family, and a sense of belonging can be the rewards.

Besides the good food, sunshine and fun it's an excellent opportunity for genealogy activities and games as well. Record the major news of the day, past marriages, births, deaths, take pictures, keep a scrapbook. What you do this year will be a part of next years entertainment. "Remember When" is a game some families play at their reunions. Sometimes the little things become interesting tidbits; one of my Great Grandmothers put salt in her coffee, her husband played the violin by ear, and was a boat builder in Pentwater.

Bring old photos and albums; maybe you can answer the who are those people questions? Where was the picture taken, maybe you will hear a story about it from one of the other relatives. Toys, artifacts and mementos from the family to share, talk about those family traditions, the things that illustrate the culture and history of the family.

Encourage people to bring their genealogy files, take the opportunity to update the family records, set up a video camera or tape recorder to capture spontaneous interviews. Sometimes we hear the stories of how grandpa could play the violin or Aunt Sally's infectious laugh. Do you really have grandma's eyes? Recording those memories today preserves them for tomorrow.

Many families now have their genealogy and reunion activities online and can be in contact with hundreds of relatives with the click of the email button. A good family history site that also includes information on Burr Caswell's descendents can be found here http://www.caskey-family.com/genealogy/genhome.htm

What are the favorite foods? We all know the power of those smells of our favorite holiday dishes, the ones that are passed down from generation to generation and the new ones we find too that our children will remember and find comfort in too. What are the holiday traditions, and the other things that make your family unique? Anybody thinking about putting together a family cookbook with those favorite recipes?

Family reunions tell the stories of our lives and are an important part of the preservation of those stories as well. What are your family values? How does your family religion and practice influence the family dynamics? What of the fun things that define your family? Celebrating you roots can be as simple as a barbeque, a barn dance out in Victory in the old Timpe Barn, or a huge event with hundreds or more people.

Not everyone likes or cares for reunions, my stepfather Paul Smith however loved them, his parents Orton and Teckla (Larson) Smith had eight children and the Smith family reunion is held annually here in Mason County the first Saturday in August. Paul was born in Victory Township in 1925 and like many of his generation first saw the world in the military during World War II.

He served in the Navy on LSM 134 but unlike many of his peers chose to come back to the farm after the war as Victory Township was home. He worked several different jobs before settling into work at Great Lakes Castings for 32 years. Paul loved to play pool, cards and horseshoes. Everyone who knew Paul loved him, he passed away in January of 2006, and it was recalling his love of the reunions that brought about this weeks column on family.

If you have any stories or photos that you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com

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