Janice Lorene Edwards, 85, a lifelong resident of Valentine, NE, passed away on November 16, 2018, in Florence, AZ.
Celebration of Life services will be held at 11:00 a.m., December 10, 2018, at the Valentine United Methodist Church. Preceding the services will be a 10:00 a.m. coffee and fellowship time, with a luncheon to follow immediately after the services. Honorary Pallbearers for the service will be: Rick Bussinger, Mike McPherson, Scott McPeak, Karl Knudsen, Michael Bennett, Tom Benson, Scotty McPeak, Clayton Knudsen, Jared Stoeger and Keith Knudsen.
Janice Lorene Hamar was born September 14, 1933, to Harold and Anna Hamar, residents of Sparks, NE. She attended elementary school in Sparks and graduated high school from Valentine High School in 1951. She married her high school sweetheart, Elmer Thomas Graeff on August 16, 1950. To their union God gave five daughters, Cindy, Susan, Kristi, Vicky and Marge. After Tom’s death from cancer in 1971, she married her love, James Wayne Edwards on June 9, 1973. Jim’s daughter, Deanna, became her sixth daughter.
She began as a clerk typist at the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge from 1973-1988. She then transferred to the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, WY from 1988-1991, where she served as an Administrative Office Assistant. In 1991, they moved to Naselle, Washington where she was employed by Willapa National Wildlife Refuge as an Administrative Assistant to the refuge manager. She retired from the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1995. They then returned to their beloved home in Valentine in 2001 upon Jim’s retirement from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
As an active participant of her community, she was involved in the United Methodist Church in many activities such as United Methodist Women’s organization, Prayer Shawl Ministry, Logos, Bible Study, Walk to Emmaus, as well as many other aspects, including a mission trip to Guatemala in October, 2017. She was an avid bowler and went to the state tournament as recently as April 2018. She also enjoyed many volunteer activities such as Pink Lady at the hospital, mentoring a student at the elementary school, and volunteering at Centennial Hall. She enjoyed many tours from Hawaii, to her last trip to see the Ark Encounter at Williamstown, KY. She was a member of Red Hats and the George Straight fan club.
Janice was preceded in death by her first husband, Thomas Graeff; her parents, Harold and Anna Hamar; and her siblings, Betty Jerene McCarty and Roland (Smokey) Hamar.
She is survived by her husband, Jim Edwards; and her children, Cindy (Rick) Bussinger, Susan (Mike) McPherson, Kristi Benson, Vicky Graeff, Marge (Scott) McPeak and Deanna (Karl) Knudsen; her sister, Cheryl (Gary) Mitchell, and sister in law Nancy (Roland) Hamar. She is also survived by 17 grandchildren, 26 great grandchildren, and numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.
Memorials may be given to American Heart Association or to the Valentine Chapter of the Relay for Life.
The family would like to thank everyone for their outpouring of love, prayers and support.
Janice Lorene Hamar Edwards Memoir
Well, I guess I will start my life story with praising the Lord, my Savior because I am a living, breathing person. I was brought into this life premature by my Grandmother Hamar, Dad’s mother. She was the country mid-wife at that time, September 14, 1933. My mother could tell that I was about to be born even though it wasn’t time for me to be born but wanted Grandmother to be with her so she just laid down on the bed and told Aunt Jennie, Dad’s sister, who was helping Mom, to lay some papers in the bed and to go get Dad. Grandpa and Grandma were in the town of Nordan to take the eggs to sell and to get supplies. Dad jumped on a horse and rode to town to tell Grandmother that Anna was in labor to have the baby. Mom still had a few weeks to go before the baby was due. Mom said “As soon as Grandmother walked through the door that baby just popped right out”. I was very small, four pounds, but they put me on the open oven door of the kitchen stove in a shoe box to keep me warm, even though it was warm weather outside because it was September and the cold weather hadn’t started yet. Dad said he could hold me in the palm of his hand.
We lived along the beautiful Niobrara River west and south of Nordon, Nebraska in what was called the “Lotten” place. The small cabin had a large bedroom, kitchen, and a shed with a bed built back into the bank. Dad worked for other farmers and ranchers to earn a living for his family. Mom became ready to give birth, which was a surprise to everyone. Our family consisted of my Mom and Dad, and Sister Betty Jerene. She was three years old. I slept with Mom and Dad and Jerene slept in the bed in the shed.
When I was eight months old my Mom and Dad decided to go to Idaho with Mom’s sister and her husband via covered wagon. This wagon consisted of rubber tires for the wheels which were constantly in need of repair. I, of course, don’t remember that trip but Aunt Vi wrote a journal along the way. Jerene turned four years old on June 6, 1934 on the trip to Idaho. The picture of Jerene and I with my finger in my ear was taken in a Sandpoint Idaho studio. I will not go into details about that trip, you will have to read Aunt Vi’s journal, or that is my interpretation of that journal, elsewhere. We returned back to Nebraska in early September pulling our wagon with a Model T Ford because Daddy didn’t like living in Idaho. He was a farmer and didn’t like working in the lumber business. If he could have found work he liked, he would have stayed. Dad found out that the Model T couldn’t pull the wagon so he just left it somewhere between Idaho and South Dakota. We arrived in Harrington, South Dakota where we spent the winter.
In 1937 we moved to a place north of Sparks and a mile north of the place where I grew up. That is where all my childhood memories are. We moved to the Home place in 1938, it had farm land, hay land, and pasture, 160 acres. Dad wanted to buy the place so he took a loan from Stillwells. I lived there until I was married in 1950.
Dad farmed, milked cows, raised yearlings, and pigs. Mom raised chickens and turkeys and always had a big garden to help with food for the table. She made our clothes from dresses, coats, etc. that people had given her and from flour sacks that were printed material. We helped milk cows, helped with the garden, and house hold chores. There was always work to be done on the farm and that taught us to be helpers and to work hard. But we had play time too. There was a shed that held grain out west of the house which we made into a playhouse. Of course there wasn’t any grain in it in the summer until Dad harvested in the fall. There was also an old junk pile north and west of that shed where we picked out stuff to use for tables, chairs, etc. One day we were messing around in that junk pile and I cut my left hand on some tin so I ran to the house to show Mom. She doctored up my hand but I still have a very visible scar there. It probably needed to have a doctor sew it up but we didn’t go to doctors unless it was a dire need. There was a doctor in Valentine, 20 miles from Sparks where we lived. Claude and Marge Andrews lived just up the road from us and Bob and Judy would come down to our house to play with us. Bob usually rode his horse, a Shetland that was so ornery. That darn horse turned around when he was going home and ran back into our barn, knocking Bob off right at the door. We were so scared that he was hurt bad. But he got up, got back on that horse and rode him home.
We attended church at the Sparks Church all my years until I was married. Dad didn’t go to church with us, he would take us to church on Sunday and stayed at the Sparks store until we were through. We had Sunday School and Church services every Sunday. Our church was a non-denominational church. Different preachers would come from Valentine to hold service. Each summer we would attend Vacation Bible School for about a week which we loved. On the last day we presented a program for our parents to show them what we had learned in school. I got up to do a recitation and Mom kept trying to tell me something. I couldn’t understand what she said so I just went on with my recitation. Afterwards, she said she was trying to get me to take my gum out of my mouth.
Christmas was a very special time for me. We always had a Christmas Program at church. On Christmas Eve we would get all dressed up to go to the program and always had to wait in the car for Dad to come out. After the program we begged Mom and Dad to go home because we knew Santa would have been there while we were gone. Mom always had a big box of candy under her bed and that would be brought out for us after we opened our presents. We couldn’t wait to see what Dad had bought Mom. It was always a very special gift. Than we would play with our gift and listen to the radio before we had to go to bed. I can’t really remember much about Christmas day, I suppose we had company or/and a big Christmas dinner. I can’t remember that Mom every read to us from the Bible or if we even had a Bible. But Mom taught us to say our prayers when we went to bed at night. This is how the prayer went: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”. I still say that little prayer before I go to sleep.
In the summer we went to the Nordan dances every Saturday night. Mom and Dad loved to dance and when us kids got tired we went to sleep under the bleachers but as we got older we stayed up and danced too with the other kids at the dance. There was always a live band and was a lot of fun. That is where I met my first boyfriend. His name was Don Titus. He lived on a ranch near Springview, Nebraska. He would come, pick me up on Sunday and take me to the movie in Ainsworth. He was really cute and I liked him a lot but we broke up after I started to high school in Valentine. He did come see me a few times in Valentine but that was quite a trip from Springview to Valentine.
I started to school at Sparks school when I was four years old. Of course, I was five just two weeks after school started but I was still very young. School was hard for me and I took my first year the second year too. Recess was always fun. We played games, played baseball, and had a grand time. Sometimes there would be a funeral at the Sparks Church and we all wondered what that was all about but parents wouldn’t let kids go to funerals at that time. I was never any more than an average student. One time I tried to lay my spelling book down by my desk to check if I spelled my words right but of course the teacher saw my book open on the floor. She pinned a paper on my back that said, “I am a cheater”. I never tried that or anything else again. That was a very humiliating experience for me. I will never forget it. One time, I don’t know how old I was, but the flag came off the pole. Something had to have broken. Anyway, Larry Goodrich was quite a climber so he shinnied up the pool to try to fix the flag. On the way down he slipped, started sliding down the pole but his leg caught on the hook that the rope was tied to and cut the inside of his thigh really bad. We were all so scared he was going to bleed to death but I think his parents were called and they took him to town. He healed in a couple of weeks and was just like new. When I was in the 7th grade we had a man teacher. When it came to the end of the year, he didn’t pass any of his students. So they didn’t hire him back again. My next teacher was a real wonderful person. She put me through the 7th and 8th grade together so I graduated when I was 14 years old. I went to Valentine to take 8th grade tests at the superintendent’s office and passed. All the rural students had their picture taken on the lawn at the courthouse.
I started to high school in Valentine in 1947. What a difference that was from the rural school I came from. So many kids and I was very, very shy. I stayed with a woman ½ a block north of school during the school week. Other girls stayed there too. So I was not completely alone. We would walk uptown after school just to have something to do. One time we heard that there was a dead person in the mortuary so we decided to go see the body. We had never seen a dead person before. I don’t know to this day who that was but I finally did see what a dead body looked like. I was amazed that he/she didn’t look dead at all. I think it was a woman. We would go to the confectionary for a cherry coke. Mom and Dad gave me 50 cents to spend each week. A cherry coke only cost a nickel so I could have one each evening. Than Dad would come get me on Friday and take me back on Sunday afternoon.
The Sparks community had card parties at a different home each week in the winter time. They played Pinochle and I learned to play. There would be several table set up around the house and couples changed to a different table when they won a game. Also, they changed partners with the people at the next table. The tables where all numbered so we knew what table to go to next. Table number 1 was the head table so when a couple reached the head table they didn’t move on if they won the game. The losers left the table and started over again at the last table. We kept our scores and tallied them up when the night was through and whoever had the highest score won a prize. I remember winning one night when we were playing at home and I won a beautiful crystal candy dish with a lid. I really treasured that dish but one day when my children were little it got broken. It was setting on my dressing table and got knocked off. I was so unhappy about that. The ladies always had a wonderful dessert to serve to the people after the games were over.
I joined Pep Club in high school and went to all the games with the club. I especially liked basketball because we set in bleachers above the players so could really see the game. I liked football too but it was sometimes so cold. The Pep Club had uniforms to wear to school every day there was a game. I felt like one of the town girls but still didn’t really pal around with anyone except the ones that stayed at Mrs. Sharps with me. I also wanted to be in the band so tried playing the flute and was doing OK but the Director wanted me to buy the flute. Dad said, “No way could we afford to buy the instrument, we just didn’t have the money.” So my career in the band ended because the school didn’t have a flute I could use. I have always wanted to learn to play the piano but that just didn’t happen. We did store the piano from Old Settlers at our house a few years but I guess I just wasn’t musical enough to teach myself. I also was in girl’s glee club and loved it. I sang alto and would follow along with the other girls around me. I love to sing and still do even though my voice is not very good at 80 years old.
High school is where I met my future husband. He was in my sister’s grade so he graduated with her and here I was, a freshman, dating a senior. We met down at the park at the roller skating rink. We girls would lean over the fence that surrounded where they skated and these boys would skate right at us. Then I tried to roller skate but just couldn’t stand up very well, so Tom would help me. Then he asked me to go to the movies with him and from then on we started dating. We would always go out to the Home Oil Café for a hamburger after the movie. When school was out for the summer I went back to the country so didn’t see him until I came back to town to school. We would break up so we could date other people but I didn’t date anybody else. I don’t know if he did or not but I guess I wasn’t that interested in anybody else. There was a boy that I like and we were going to go to the prom together but that didn’t happen. Then I started dating Tom again. We broke up three times but always got back together again. My junior year was about over when Tom asked me to marry him. He would come out to the house to visit me during the summer so decided to get married on August 16, 1950. We got married in the Methodist Parsonage across from what is now the post office. The parsonage was just west of the church is gone now and the church is now a Lutheran church. Arthur Graeff, Tom’s uncle, had a home right across the street from the church but that place is the post office now. Jerene, who was 9 months pregnant with Jim, stood up with me. I can’t remember who stood up with Tom but I do remember that Don and Ilene Junod were there. And of course Mom, Dad, Cheryl, Roland and Grandma Graeff. Mrs. Brouse had a small reception for us where we took pictures out in the yard at the State Farm. Grandma Graeff, Tom and I went to a little restaurant on Main Street for supper and then just went home to the Graeff house on Valentine Street. My wedding dress was a beautiful pink street dress that I picked out of the catalog. I carried a white bible with my new name on it instead of flowers. I didn’t have any fancy nightgown but I do remember not being able to completely undress all the way. I was so shy. I started my Senior year in high school in September but only attended three classes in the afternoons, typing, book keeping, and short hand. That gave me enough credits to graduate in May. I walked on that stage in my cap and gown to get my diploma very proud and happy that I had accomplished my goal as I had planned. Mom and Dad gave me my first watch for a graduating present.
Cindy was born on July 31, 1951 just after sunrise that morning. I remember that because Tom said he sat out on the steps of the hospital and watched the sun come up when they came and told him he had a baby girl. Tom wanted to call her Cynthia Ann so that is what is on her birth certificate. I can still remember her birth very much. Mrs. Hale was my nurse and I can still feel her hands rubbing my legs because they would tremble with each pain. I had to stay in the hospital for several days because that was the norm in those days. Mom came and stayed with us for a few days so I could go home. We lived in the Graeff house because Oscar and Elsie had bought another house a couple of block to the west. Tom worked as a painter, house painter, for Cleo Hagedorn and Johnny Kolessa. We didn’t have much money but we did get by.
Marge, Tom’s sister, and her husband Ralph Shaw moved back to Valentine from California and wanted to live in the house we were living in so we moved to the basement of the other Graeff house. That is where we lived when our second daughter, Susan was born. I awakened on the morning of my 20th birthday, September 14, 1953, with pains and thought it was probably false pains. But by afternoon I knew I had to go to the doctor. Dr. Farner had a clinic down town on the corner of Main and 4th street. When I finally got in to see him, he examined me and said you need to go to the hospital. I can’t remember who took me up there but I didn’t get to go home at all. I suppose Cindy was with Grandma Graeff and she kept her while I gave birth to her sister. We didn’t know what to name our new baby girl so we looked in a little book of girl’s names and decided on Susan. We thought Elaine sounded very good with Susan so Susan Elaine it is.
Our third daughter was born March 9, eighteen months later. We named her Kristi Kaye, she weighed eight pounds even and came out facing the wrong direction. Face up or face down I can’t remember which is the wrong way. She was a beautiful, healthy baby. Her hair is blonde, Susan is a red head, and Cindy’s hair was dark. They were all such beautiful little girls and I loved dressing them up, washing and fixing their hair, and showing them off. They all have such different personalities and are all beautiful girls. I was teased a lot because of that fact. Three years later Vicky was born on July 11 and two and a half years later, Marjorie was born just after midnight on December 31. Our niece Bette Jean was right there checking on the birth so we decided to name her after my childhood girlfriend Marjorie with a second name of Jean after Bette Jean. I think December 31 was Bette’s birthday also.
My first job was with the Archie Mullin family when I was a freshman in high school. No, that wasn’t my first job. My first job was helping Nadine Simons in her home after one of her babies was born. That was during the summer after I graduated from grade school. It was a big house and I cleaned, cooked, etc. Waldo and Nadine Simons ran the Sparks store at that time. Then when I went to Valentine to high school I got a job helping the Mullin family after school. They had a big family and Mrs. Mullin had trouble keeping up with all the work so they hired me to help her and I babysat for her when they went out. I did whatever she asked me to do. I also babysat for Dr. Farner when they wanted to go out. They only had two girls and a big beautiful house. After I got married I got a job working for Mullin Brother’s as secretary but I didn’t do a very good job and they fired me. I was so broken up about that and thought I would never work at that kind of job again. I have never been fired from a job again. So through the years I would wait on tables in the Home Oil Café and the Buttercup café. I worked a lot away from home while the girls were growing up. I started working for 50 cents an hour and would work until our bills were all paid up and then I would stay home for awhile. I could always get a job at a café and next day after I asked for a job. So I guess I did a good job at that. Tom worked for himself at a dray picking up trash and I would make out the statements and go around collecting the money. That was something I didn’t really like to do but I did get to meet a lot of people.
We lived in a little house on Valentine Street that Tom built. It had a master bedroom, a small bedroom, a living room and dining room and small kitchen. No bathroom at that time, that came later. We used the outhouse in the next yard which belonged to Tom’s Mom and Dad. We were very happy and loved our little family. We had to work hard to keep our head above water. Four girls slept in bunk beds in the small bedroom and we had a crib in the master bedroom. For awhile I worked at the Home Oil Café on the night shift. Oh, I hated that because I would get home, got to bed and the girls would get up and get their own breakfast. What a mess I would have when I got up. I would sleep for a few hours, get up to take care of my girls and house, put them all down for naps in the afternoon and get a few hours of sleep before going to work in the evening again. My shift was 10:00 to 6:00 so I got the late supper crowd and early breakfast. Not much tips in that so didn’t do that very long. It was too hard on me and also on my family.
In the fall of 1961, we had just put in a bathroom and Margie was just a baby, we decided to sell our house and move to a farm in Iowa. Roland and Nancy, as well as Mom and Dad lived there so we decided to move there too. We lived on a farm that Dad had bought but he bought a house in town for he and Mom to live in. Allerton, Iowa was the name of the town. We lived a few miles south of that close to the Missouri border. The girls went to school in Lineville, Iowa by bus. Vicky started to kindergarten, of course Susan, Kristi and Cindy went there too. I started a Girl Scout program for the girls and had 8-10 girls in the program. I loved that and teaching girl scouting to those little girls.
Tom’s ulcers got very, very bad so he travelled back to Valentine to have his stomach operated on. Dr. Farner took out ¾ of his stomach. I of course stayed back in Iowa to hold down the Fort. We were milking cows for our living and selling the cream. That was a very bad time for me. Iowa was so wet and muddy, I just remember having to get those cows into the barn, feed them, and then milk them, separate the cream from the milk, feed the hogs, etc. I said I was never going to milk another cow again when we got back to Valentine. That is another story. Later, Tom contacted an allergy of some kind. He would break out in hives that he would scratch and even get them to bleeding. After going to a doctor in Des Moines, they said he was allergic to the humidity so we decided to sell out and move back to Nebraska. I remember the day President Kennedy was shot. We had just had lunch and the Guiding Light was on the television. The program went off the air and the news told us that there had been a shooting in Dallas, Texas. President Kennedy was shot while driving in the Motorcade in down town Dallas. We set our sale to be held on the day that President Kennedy’s casket was for public viewing in the rotunda of the Capital Building in Washington DC. I can remember having the television on and people filing by to see his casket and pay their respects. That was November 25, 1963. We sold all our livestock, a lot of our furniture, and my baby furniture and clothes. People teased me and said that if I sold my baby stuff, I would get pregnant again. Well that didn’t happen. We travelled back to Nebraska to find a home to rent until we built our house on a small acreage south of Valentine on Highway 12 in 1963.
I started secretarial work for the City of Valentine offices, but I don’t remember the dates that I worked there. We lived in Valentine at that time and the girls were all in school and were able to walk home from school. That was a pretty neat job and started me on my career. I worked there until I got a job with the US Fish and Wildlife Service at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in 1973.
We bought a boat in the 60’s and spent all summer on the lake south of Valentine. We had bought our acreage in the country and Tom had built a little chicken house because we wanted to have baby chickens to raise. That summer we spent on the lake we didn’t get any building done on our new house in the country so we sold the boat. Tom said he wouldn’t get any building done if we spent all summer on the lake. We partly finished our house and moved into the basement with the bedrooms upstairs above the basement. It was a split level house with the kitchen and living room on the south. I think we started the house in 1967, we have the date in the cement on the patio out from the basement room.
The house was nearly finished when Tom got sick again. This time it was cancer of the Duodenum. We had gone on a camping trip with a small trailer but he spent all his time in the trailer sick as a dog. When we got back home he went to the hospital in Valentine but they couldn’t find anything wrong so he went to Scotts Bluff to see his cousin who was a doctor in a big hospital there. That is where they found out that he had cancer. The doctor called me and told me he had terminal cancer so some friends took me to Scotts Bluff. He was advised to go home and wait it out but he decided to go to Omaha where they gave him chemo in his veins. Oh, my, that man was so sick. Our friends took us to Omaha and then came back to Valentine. We were there, probably, about a week and they sent him home. A private plane from Valentine came down to pick him up. When we flew over our house, I held him up so he could look down and see our house for the last time. He died on August 31, 1970 in the Valentine Hospital and his funeral was September 3 at the Methodist Church. We were members of the church as all seven of us were baptized on Easter Sunday. I guess I don’t remember the date of that baptism but Tom and I took lessons and joined the church at the same time. You know, I think that happened after we came back to Valentine and lived on East 2nd street. Margie wasn’t very old at that time, I guess about three years old. We moved to Iowa in 1961 and returned to Valentine in 1963.
Tom’s brother Bud had told me that if I would come to California to visit them, he would pay for the trip. So, in 1971 the girls and I along with a friend, Calvin Street, started to Northern California. We got as far as Salt Lake City when the lights were so bad that Calvin could hardly see to drive at night. So we stopped at a filling station for the rest of the night. It was near the railroad tracks. Calvin took some blankets and slept on the ground but the rest of us curled up in the car. When morning came and the station opened up we asked the manager if he would look at our car and see why our lights weren’t working right. We had to buy some kind of part, he put it on, and we continued on to Bud’s house. By the time we got there the car wasn’t working right again so Bud took a look at it and said we needed an new belt. Ralph had just put a new belt on the station wagon before we left but I guess it was the wrong size so wasn’t doing the job it should. A new belt was ordered and we didn’t have any more trouble after that. We left Bud’s and traveled to visit Kathy Shaw in southern California. That is the first time I ever saw the ocean. The temperature was very hot but when we got close to the ocean it was so cool and refreshing. Calvin got on a plane and flew back to Iowa and we stayed with Kathy for a couple of days. I think Grandpa and Grandma Graeff must have been staying at Bud’s because they were with us when we drove back to Nebraska. I got lost off the freeway in Salt Lake City and had an awful time finding my way back to the road. I guess I must have asked a filling station man or something because we did make it back to the road and on our way home. That was quite a drive for me. I didn’t have Calvin to help me drive.
I just kind of went wild from about 1969 to about 1973. I lived a life that I am very ashamed of until I met Jim Edwards. I know that the Lord, my Savior, has forgiven me and I had to forgive myself too. I was working at the Edwards Cabinet Shop when the Edwards’ son came home from the Navy with his little daughter Deanna. My, he was so good looking. I was also picking up kids to take to Kewany School in the morning and taking them home in the afternoon. So, I went to work at the Cabinet Shop after I made my school run and quit work when I had to make my afternoon school run. That way I was home with the girls. Kristi was in high school and drove Tom’s old blue truck to school on a school permit. Cindy and Susan were both married and away from home. Vicky and Margie both went to Kewany School.
Jim and his Dad, Bob, came out to the house to put an antenna on the house for our television. That was so nice of them. We were able to get much better TV then. The girls and I had gone to a football game where Kristi was nominated for Queen along with some other girls. We were setting in the car watching the football game and Jim came to the driver’s side of the car and said, “Get over”, so I moved to the passenger side of the car. After that we started dating. I was square dancing at the time so Jim started dancing with me. That was so much fun. We started dating in September of 1972 and by April or May, Jim came out to the house, set me down in an old rocker I had, got down on one knee and proposed. I said yes, and he put a beautiful engagement ring on my finger. We were going to a square dance meeting that evening. I put my gloves on and didn’t take them off until I got home. I don’t remember if we told them at the meeting that we were engaged or not. I guess I was in kind of a fog. Later we set the date for our wedding, June 9, 1973. I sold my old Farmal tractor to a friend and used the $50 to buy material to make my wedding dress. We were married in the Methodist Church with Vicky and Margie standing up with me and Bill and Roland standing up with Jim. It was a beautiful spring wedding with lots of spring flowers with our family around us. Vicky and Bill signed our marriage certificate. We went out to the house for a small reception then left shortly after that to travel to Iowa for our honeymoon. We camped at Lake Okoboji and both got sunburned fishing from a boat. We stayed for a week, from there we went to Allerton, Iowa to pick up the girls. Mom had taken them home with her while we were on our honeymoon. Back to Valentine and to settle down to our routine of working and living. Jim built the garage on the south side of the house. He didn’t want me to run the school bus route again and I agreed with him.
I met the Refuge Manager Ellis while square dancing and he offered me a job at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge. I had to take a Civil Service test at the post office to qualify for that job but I didn’t pass my spelling test. I passed everything else in the test. Bob Ellis said, “We have a dictionary at the office and you can have the job anyway.” I started working late in the Fall of 1933 for the Refuge as receptionist. I really did love that job and met so many people. The new refuge office building was just being built when I went to work. We moved into the new building just a few months after I started to work. Oh, it was so nice after the cramped building we were in. I greeted visitors, typed, took dictation, filed. Every fall the refuge had a roundup of the buffalo and sold the animals that wasn’t needed. I kept the records of the animals for sale and helped the auctioneer when sale day came. Also, I kept records of the longhorns too. Later on the big wigs in USFWS decided that the longhorns weren’t native to Nebraska so they were moved away from the refuge to Fort Robinson in western Nebraska. Now they have also turned the elk loose to roam the country so all the refuge has on the grounds are buffalo. Working for the refuge is where I learned to work on the computer. We didn’t have these little computers that we have now, it was a big thing that sat in the library. I got in trouble once because I was working on the computer in the library instead of tending to business out front in the office. It wasn’t until I got my own computer in my office that I really learned how to use it.
In 1987 I decided I wanted to move up to another grade in my position but I couldn’t unless I transferred to another refuge. So I applied to several refuges but was not accepted until I applied for the job at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. That job was just like a vacation. We lived in a small log house near headquarters. I worked more with the financial part of the business. We were there for four years when I applied for a job at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in Washington State. I flew out to Portland, Oregon, rented a car and drove to the refuge for an interview with the refuge manager and was hired with another pay raise. I was pretty proud of myself for doing that all by myself.
Cindy’s daughter Tera came to live with us for a few months. We took care of her until our first great granddaughter was born. Chelsi was born in April at the hospital in Valentine. I was with Tera while she gave birth. When she came home from the hospital with her new baby girl, her husband came and got her to take her back to Texas with him. We prayed that they could solve their differences and have a happy life.
Also toward the end of April in 1988 a moving van came to load up our belongings, which was quite a job for them because I really didn’t think I would live anywhere else so had a lot of stuff. Margie and Scott were to move into our house. I bought a movie camera so I took pictures of our move and while we lived in Jackson Hole. Jim and I had the car loaded and ready to travel but we drove around to each one of our daughter’s house to say goodbye. That was a kind of sad time for me to leave Valentine to live somewhere else. But I was ready for a new adventure. Gosh, I can’t remember much about the drive to Jackson Hole except we drove along with George Strait singing along the way. We had our black van at that time. It was a beautiful drive through Nebraska and Wyoming. We were seeing country we had never seen before. Later when we moved to Washington, we saw new country once again. God has made such a wonderfully beautiful country for us to live in and we thank our Lord for putting us here. It makes us feel so humble and grateful.
Living in Wyoming was very different from our home in Nebraska. Jackson Hole was a beautiful town with a lot of sightseers coming to town and to visit the elk refuge. We lived in a beautiful two room log house right across from the office where I worked. There was wonderful Chinese restaurant right across the street from our house. We went there often and if they were really busy we would order out and bring it home. The food was so good and the place very clean. I bowled during the winter so became friends with a lot of people. The refuge always had a sale in the spring in the town of Jackson. The crew would pick up elk horns in the pastures that the elk had shed and sell them. That was always a big deal. People from all over the world would come to buy the horns. The winters were so beautiful with big snowflakes falling slowly down to the ground. We didn’t have blizzards like back in Nebraska. I guess we did have some wind though. There was mountains all around us and that is why it was called Jackson Hole and that is why we didn’t have blizzards and wind like Nebraska. It was like we were on vacation for four years.
I became aware of a job opening for my kind of work in Washington state so applied for the job. It was another step up for my grade and we decided we should try for that and another new adventure. I flew out to Willapa Refuge for an interview with the refuge manager and I got the job. We moved to Washington in the fall of 1991 and bought a little house in Naselle, Washington. Our home was about 10 miles from the refuge and was a beautiful drive to and from work each day along a tree lined road. The road included the river and canals from the ocean. We very much enjoyed going to the ocean and walking along the beach. That was good exercise for both of us. The water was very cold so we didn’t go swimming but did get our feet wet if we felt like it. The weather was mostly rain and clouds all the time. There were only a few days that it was warm enough to go without a jacket. I can remember only a few days that it got up to 80 degrees and that was miserable because of the humidity. Mold and grass grew on the roofs of the buildings that had to be cleaned off so the wood didn’t rot. My friends and I would go to Astoria, Oregon to swim in the pool. The pool was indoors so we went at least twice a week or more, that was after I retired from my job at the refuge. I retired in April, 1995 after 21 years of service.
Oh, I guess I better back up and tell about my bout with breast cancer. In 1992 I had a routine breast examination and found a lump in my left breast so went to the doctor to see about that lump. After the x-ray he told me it needed to be biopsied with results telling us it was cancer. I remember laying there in the hospital waiting for them to take me into the operating room and a man came up to me and ask if he could pray with me. I don’t know who he was but what a blessing he was to me. I felt so much more confident and not so afraid after that prayer. I shall never forget him and have never seen him since. I was told I needed to go to Seattle to the cancer clinic to have some limp nodes removed to check and see they any of them were cancer also. Jim and I went to Seattle the night before the operation and stayed in a hotel because I was supposed to take a cleansing bath before I went to the hospital. Jim was right there with me all the time until they took me into the operating room. They put me to sleep before I even went in so don’t remember much about the actual room or the operation. When I woke up they were taking me into a room where I stayed for the rest of the time. I don’t remember how long, I think it was only like three days. Oh, what a miserable ride it was going home. But I was glad to be going home. They took out 23 limp nodes from under my left arm but, praise the Lord, none of them showed cancerous. After that, I was scheduled to go to Longview for radiation on my breast for 8 weeks, 5 days a week. So I worked in the mornings, then drove myself, 50 miles to Longview and back after the radiation treatment. My breast became so burned that they had to stop for a week so I could heal before finishing my treatments. For many years I didn’t have any more cancer in my breasts. Our neighbors were so nice to us by visiting, bringing me flowers and presents, etc.
The post office was right down the street from our house so I would walk there to get the mail, or get groceries, or beer for our nightly drinking. Then one night we both just decided to quit drinking and Jim has never taken a drink of alcohol since but me, I had to have a drink if we went out to dinner, beer or something. But we didn’t have any in the house any more. I think that is one thing that has kept my body going all this time now that I am 80 years old. Alcohol can wear one’s body down and all kinds of diseases happen. But it takes a long time and God’s healing powers. He has made our bodies so awesome and able to be perfectly healthy.
In 1995 I retired from FWS which started the 4th phase of my life, retirement. I love it so much. I am free to do whatever and whenever I want. The Refuge didn’t find a person to take my place at the office so I worked mornings and drove to Longview for my treatments in the afternoon. A person was hired and was scheduled to work at my job. But the first morning she was to start she was killed in a car accident coming to work. So back to work for me and of course it was volunteer work. I was already getting a retirement check from the government. I had a wonderful friend that I visited almost every day because I was helping her to get her house in order. She just couldn’t seem to do it by herself. I also started reading my Bible every day and talking to God. Deanna and Carl gave me a new Bible for Christmas which was a study Bible so I began learning a lot about what God wanted and how He wanted me to live my life. I went to General Conference with our Pastor and learned the beliefs of the Methodist Church. We attended a small church in Grays River with approximately 40 other people. We loved going to church there.
I made several trips back to Nebraska to visit family, also, to North Dakota. When I went to Texas I flew airline. I loved flying at that time, but not so much now. There is too much checking in, luggage costs now, and just a hazel to get on board a plane. And I guess my age has something to do with it now too. I don’t like travelling alone. My mother became unable to live by herself so my sister Jerene went to live with her and I would fly back to Iowa and stay with Mom for three months at a time to relieve Jerene so she could live at home and take care of things there for awhile. I really enjoyed staying with Mom and taking care of her. I would walk down town Allerton to get the mail each day and groceries if we needed something. There was an old fashioned soda counter and drug store in Allerton which I loved to stop and have a coke or something. Nancy and Roland live just a block east of main street so I would stop and see them for a little while. I was always glad to get home again though and see my husband. Roland was battling cancer at that time but he succumbed in January 1999 on his birthday. Two weeks later, Mom just gave in too because she just couldn’t live with the fact that Daddy and Roland were gone.
Jim retired from FWS on his birthday, September 2, 2001. We had bought a manufactured home in Nebraska and it was to be delivered in the fall of September, 2001. So we packed up our furniture and stuff in a u-hall truck with a u-hall trailer on behind. Jim drove the truck and I drove the Jeep pulling the boat and trailer, also loaded. One thing that happened on the way back I need to tell about because I know it was God guiding us. We stopped at a rest stop and Jim noticed that the trailer acksal had broken and needed repair. He said he could fix it if he had a board long enough. We looked up on the hill by the road and there laid a board just the right size. How it got there we don’t know but there it was just when we needed it the most. Jim hooked it to the trailer and it stayed there all the way to Valentine. Also, Jim had to do some work on one of the vehicles so we went back to the town we had just left so he could get the parts and fix it. While we were there I went to a little place near there and bought us something to eat. I sat down by the side of the car to eat. After we were on our way again we stopped at a filling station to get gas. Jim looked on the fender of the jeep and there was my perse. I had left it there while I ate and what kept it there we will never know except God didn’t want me to lose my perse. That was quite a trip and we were so glad to get here and back in Nebraska again. We stayed with Margie and Scott until they delivered our house. What a thrill it was to see that truck with our house coming over the hill from town. It took them a week to get the house set up for us to live in. We have been very happy living here in Nebraska again on our little acreage east of Valentine on Highway 12.
Jim tried being retired for just a few months and then he decided he needed to go to work again. He has had several jobs through the years. Now he travels to Hot Springs taking Veterans to medical appointments and also he is the Zoning Administrator for Cherry County.
In 2002 I went to a “Walk to Emmaus” and really learned to know Jesus as my personal savior. He has carried me through cancer two more times. Once in 2002 with rectal cancer and again in 2010 with breast cancer in the same breast. So both breasts were removed and I am cancer free so far. Praise the Lord it doesn’t come back any time soon.
I imagine there are other things in my life that I could talk about but I have hit on the major things. I am so grateful to God for being with me through my life even if I didn’t know it in my younger years. Thank you Lord for putting me here in this small part of the world and giving me life.82
Now it is 2016 and I am 82 years old. April 23 and will soon be May. I am still cancer free but Jim has been having a problem with his breathing. His blood oxygen level keeps going down because he can’t get enough oxygen in his lungs. He goes to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to a specialist to see if they can help him. He is scheduled for an appointment at 9:00 AM on the 25th so we will travel to Deanna’s in Salem, SD on Sunday, stay overnight and come home Monday after his appointment. To be continued.