Category Archives: recollections

Spruce’s Forever Home





It seems I am always writing my ancestor’s stories, but I think there are some other stories that need to be told.  I would like to tell the story of one beloved pet.  I am a dog lover!  I have always had a dog from the day of my birth.  I have only been without a dog for a couple of months at a time in between the death of one dog and getting another one.  I’d like to tell the story of our dog Spruce.  Spruce was the name she got at the shelter and we just kept it.  I sometimes referred to her as the “throw away dog”.  When I get a dog, it is for keeps, I do not get rid of them no matter what.  Once Spruce came to us, she found her forever home.  According to her records, she was picked up by animal control and taken to the county shelter.  No one came to claim her.  If my dog ran away, I would be calling the police, animal control, and every shelter in the county to see if I could find her.  I think that if her owners had looked, they would have found her.  I wonder if they turned her loose or dumped her off near where she was found.  Then she was adopted by a couple and brought back within the week.  They claimed that she was too wild.  Then my son and daughter-in-law adopted her for my granddaughter.  She was estimated to be around three years old at the time.  They had her for a year when they divorced and moved.  Neither one could keep her because they were having a hard time finding a place to rent that would take pets. Two months prior, we just lost our Golden Retriever, Susie.  We had Susie since she was six weeks old, and Susie lived to ripe old age of 15 ½.  I planned on getting another Golden Retriever, when my son called begging me to take Spruce.  He asked me to take her for my granddaughter so she would not have to lose her dog.  I should mention that Spruce was a Beagle or as my husband would say a Bagel.  Anyway, we did take Spruce.

My husband’s name is Bruce so you can imagine the confusion when I called Spruce or Bruce.  Within a couple of weeks of having Spruce she had a seizure.  We took her to the vet and she told us to keep track of the seizures.  If she had them often, we would need medications.  But as it turned out she would have them a few times a year.  I wondered if this was the reason she was not wanted by previous owners.  She was a spirited dog and yes she could get wild.  She would run around in circles when she got excited.  When someone would come over she would run around in circles, jumping from sofa to chair, and back to sofa.  She came with a football that she loved.  It was her favorite toy up to the day she died.  We took her into our lives, and she became part of our family.  We would go camping a lot in those days with our trailer, and Spruce always went along.  She enjoyed the long walks with me while camping.  She did not like the camp fires; and wanted to go in the trailer as soon as we lit the fire.  When the grandchildren came over, they would take her outside to play.  My brother spoiled her too.  Every time he came over, he would take her for a walk.  She would sit and stare at him with her expressive eyes until he gave in and walked her.  She liked to go for rides in the car.  All we had to do was think about taking her for a ride and she seemed to know it.  She would start running to where her leash was hung and then look at us.  She seemed to be able to read our minds.  My granddaughter taught how to sit up, give paw, and a high five.  Over the years, Spruce had several urinary tract infections, and we had to put her on a special diet that she was on for the rest of her life.  She also had bad teeth and had to have several of them extracted.  She developed a heart murmur and had a bad heart valve.  In spite of all her problems, she was our little girl and we loved her.  Last January she started coughing, I thought it was probably her heart.  She was now 12 years old.  We took her to the vet and as it turned out it wasn’t her heart, it was lung cancer.  They said she had a few weeks to a couple of months to live.  We took her home with medicine for the cough, pain medication, steroids, and medication to open up her bronchial tubes. She did well on the medication.  There were times we almost forget she was sick.

In September she was having difficulty breathing, and we thought it was the end.  We took her to vet with the idea that we were going to have her put down.  But the vet told us that it could be pneumonia caused by the cancer.  She would need to take a chest x-ray to confirm the pneumonia.  So we had the chest x-ray done and the vet seemed to think she could treat the pneumonia and give her a couple of more months.  We opted to do that and took her home again with antibiotics.  She responded well to the antibiotics, but she needed to be on them longer than the usual 10 days and was on them for three weeks.  She recovered from the pneumonia and seemed to do well once again.  Of course, she had slowed down and no longer ran in circles and jumped on furniture.  She had her favorite spot on the sofa and did a lot of sleeping.  She still loved to eat especially table food.  We no longer followed the strict diet for her bladder problems.  We figured let her have what she wants.  She had her routine, when it was time for bed we would say, “It’s time for bed”, and she would get off the couch; go to the kitchen door to go outside.  She would go out and do her thing, come right in, and wait for her treat by the kitchen counter.  We would then go to our bedroom, and she would lie down on her bed, which was next to our bed.  She was set for the night.  Sometimes in the morning, we had to wake her up during the last year.  She would go outside and come right in as soon as she finished. She would wait by the kitchen counter for her medicine which I wrapped in meat.  Whenever she would not eat her dog food, I would make her scrambled eggs, or cook ground beef mixed with rice and hard-boiled eggs.  She seemed to know when I was frying up ground beef for her dinner as opposed to cooking it for our dinner.  Once again she seemed to be able to read my mind.

Over the Christmas Holiday she stopped eating or drinking, and I knew it was the end.  The vet was closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so I just tried to make her as comfortable as possible.  I called the vet on Monday, but they were still closed for Christmas.  I called the emergency vet because I didn’t want her to suffer another day.  They told us to bring her in.  My husband and I then got dressed to take her to the vet.  After I dressed, I went back to check on her and she was gone.  I called to my husband that she had passed.  My son and grandson were here and they came into the room too.  I cleaned her up and sat down next to her and cried.  I felt bad that I was not sitting with her when she passed.  I’m glad that we were the ones she finally ended up with.  She was a good dog, and she deserved a forever home with people who loved her.  We had her body cremated and the urn now sits on my fireplace mantle, and at the other end is our Golden Retriever, Susie.  I still have not been able to throw out her bed or toys.  Spruce, Sprucie, Sweet Pea, Honey Bun, Big Girl, you are loved, and we will never forget you.  Glad the others didn’t want you so God sent you to me.  Some day we shall meet again.  Until then, we will think of you and all the good times we had with you.  Daddy and I love you, RIP.


Thinking of Uncle Ralph




Ralph C. Bowers was born 18 June 1897 to Eva Reinhardt and Robert Bowers in Chicago, Illinois[1].  He was my grandmother’s brother and my great uncle.  I remember Uncle Ralph as kind and reserved with a great sense of humor.  I can still hear his laugh even after all these years without him.

I was told by grandma that when he was young he contacted TB and was in a sanitarium for a while.  He had a hard time keeping jobs until he got a job at R. R. Donnelly in Chicago working the night shift.  The night shift was what he needed.  Apparently, he was not a morning person and the night shift worked for him.  For as long as I knew Uncle Ralph he worked at Donnelly.

Uncle Ralph married for the first time to Helen Treppa when he was forty six years old.[2]  He and his wife (Aunt Helen) would come to my Grandmother’s house for holidays and some Sundays in between the holidays.  Sometimes they would come to my parent’s house too.  I always liked going to their house in Chicago.  Sometimes we would just decide at the last moment to go visit Uncle Ralph and Aunt Helen.  We would go there unexpected and always got a warm welcome.  Aunt Helen would put out a spread of lunch meats and breads.  It always amazed me that she had all this food on hand.  It never failed they had plenty of food for unexpected company.

We would sit around the kitchen table and there was always great conversation.  Even though I was young, I loved to listen to the adults talk.  I always found it interesting.  Of course I always enjoyed the food too.  Their house was very warm and welcoming.  Aunt Helen’s sister, Martha (Marty) lived with them.  I loved Aunt Helen and Marty as well as Uncle Ralph.  Because Ralph and Helen married so late in life, they never had any children.

My mother loved her Uncle Ralph very much and after he passed away, she would say that he was her guardian angel looking after her.

Uncle Ralph passed away on 5 January 1964 from a stroke[3] and was buried on 7 January 1964 in the Elmwood Cemetery in River Grove, Cook County, Illinois[4]

If he knew I was writing about him, I can hear him say, “Oh, for the love of Mike.”

Copyright©2016 Gail Grunst


[1] Registration State: Illinois; Registration County:  Cook; Roll 1613573; Draft board: 53 U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. {database on-line}.  Provo, UT, USA;  Operation  Inc, 2005.  Original Data:  United States, Selective Service System World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cares, 1917-1918.  Washington,  D. C. :  National Archives and Record  Administration.  M1509, 4,582 rolls.  Imaged from Family  History  Library Microfilm.

[2] Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 [database on-line].  Provo, Ut, USA: Ancestry.ocm  Operations Inc, 2008.  Original data:  Cook County Clerk, comp. Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records.  Cook County Clerk’s office, Chicago, IL: Cook County Clerk, 2008.

[3] From  his sister Helen Bowers Kaiser’s datebook.

[4] U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600’s – Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc., 2012.  Original data: Find A Grave. Find A Grave.

Memories of Aunt Fran


frances-bowers-beckLaVon Frances Bowers was born on 19 February 1900[1] to Eva Fredricka Reinhardt and Robert Bowers in Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois.[2]  Frances married William Beck on 27 June 1925.[3]  They had one child LaVon Patricia born 20 November 1932.[4]  LaVon used hermiddle name and was better known as Frances.  I knew her as Aunt Fran.  She was my grandmother, Helen Bowers Kaiser‘s sister.   She also had a brother, Ralph Bowers. I never knew Aunt Fran’s husband as she divorced before I was born.

Although she was born in Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois she lived most of her life in Chicago.  Aunt Fran loved the city.  She was a city girl, but also a tom boy.  She would go fishing and camping.  My grandmother said that she (my grandmother) would stay at the campsite and do the cooking and washing the dishes.  Fran would be with the guys fishing.  When I was a little girl around 5 or 6 we took a trip with Aunt Fran and her daughter Pat to Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.  Somewhere I have a picture of Aunt Fran cleaning fish.  I remember that she got jigger bites from sitting in the weeds.

Aunt Fran loved to shop and she would find the most unusual things.  She would bring us frog legs, rattlesnake meat, and all kinds of weird things.  I would never eat any of it.  She also gave great parties.  She would come to our house and decorate for my birthday parties and she would find all kinds of neat things for party favors and prizes.  When I was a little older around 12 – 14 years old, I started having Halloween Parties.  Aunt Fran and her daughter would come out to our house and decorate, run the games, and they would be in costume too.  Aunt Fran loved to play the witch.  One little boy told her that she made the best witch.  She loved the compliment.

Aunt Fran loved to sew and she did it for living.  She made all my clothes until I went to school.  I got my first store bought dress when I went to Kindergarten.  At first she worked in the sweat shops sewing, but later she worked in bridal shops and made wedding dresses and formals.  She would bring me formals but I had never had any place to wear them.  My girl friends and I would dress up in them and pretend we were going somewhere fancy.   She would take me shopping at the beginning of every school year and buy me two or three dresses.

I would stay with her and her daughter for a week every summer and they would take me all over Chicago.  I had a lot of fun and looked forward to it.  They would come out to my grandmother’s house almost every weekend.  They would arrive by train early Saturday morning and leave late Sunday afternoon or early evening.  They always brought me something so I looked forward to their visits.  Aunt Fran’s daughter Pat is14 years older than me and my Godmother.

Aunt Fran died 17 July 1971 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois of a massive cerebral vascular accident.  She had her body donated to science.[5]



[1] Death Certificate, State of Illinois, County of Cook, City of Chicago, Registration No. 620423

[2] Told to Author Abigail Grunst by Francis Bowers Beck

[3] From Helen Bowers Kaiser’s (Frances Bowers Beck’s sister) date book.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Death Certificate, State of Illinois, County of Cook, City of Chicago, Registration No. 620423

Remembering Grandma


Grandma KaiserI’ve been thinking about my grandmother a lot the last few days.  Maybe it is because her birthday was the other day.  Also with just having Thanksgiving, and Christmas fast approaching is a time I reflect on past holidays.  If you have read my past posts about the Bowers Family going back to 1757, then you have read about my Grandmother’s paternal side.  Grandma was born Helen Dorothy Bowers to Robert Bowers and Eva Reinhardt on December 3, 1898 in Ottawa, Illinois. Grandma was the middle child of three.  She had an older brother Ralph born in 1896 and a younger sister Frances born in 1900.  Her mother and father divorced shortly after Frances was born.  My grandmother told stories that her father had nothing to with them after the divorce.   One time her mother saw him walking down the street and pointed him out to her.  Grandma ran up to him and told him she was his daughter.  He said, “Get away from me kid, I have no children.”  His parents would not acknowledge that their son married and had children.  Grandma grew up without ever knowing her father or his family.  She was raised by a single mother back when it was frowned upon. Her mother worked as a maid and a milliner.  They stayed living in Ottawa for a while and then moved to Chicago.  Grandma’s maternal grandparents and aunts lived in Ottawa so she would stay with them for weeks at a time.  I don’t know if it was for financial reasons or not, but Grandma’s mother let her sister Frances go live with a couple in Wisconsin for a couple of years.  When she went to retrieve her, the couple didn’t want to give her back.  There was a big fight over it, but she did manage to get Frances back.

Somehow, my Grandmother grew up to be a great lady.  She married Fred Kaiser on July 16, 1923 in Chicago, Illinois. They had two children Dorothy and Russell.  They lived in Chicago until about 1936 when they bought a house and moved to Villa Park, Illinois.  Grandma and Grandpa lived in that house until 1979.  Grandma and Grandpa’s house was my second home.  We lived only a few blocks away.  Whenever I felt like it, I would just up and go to Grandma’s house.  I could easily ride my bike or walk over there.  I was always welcome and I loved her house.

I loved the smell of Grandma’s cooking and it seemed like she was always cooking.  She canned vegetables from their garden, and made jelly from the fruit that grew on their trees or grape barber.  She had a cherry tree, apple trees, and a crabapple tree.  I liked to climb the cherry tree and they hung a swing on it for me.  She had a flower bed that ran alongside her house and around the perimeter of her yard.  Grandpa helped in the garden as he loved to garden too. She loved to feed the birds and squirrels.  One squirrel that would climb up the side of the house to her kitchen window, and Grandma would open the window to hand feed peanuts to the squirrel.  Grandma had a big pantry stocked with dishes and food.  In the basement she had what she called a “fruit cellar” she had all the food she canned, plus cans of food she bought at the grocery store.

Grandma liked to sew and taught me to sew.  She had one of those old peddle sewing machines.  It took coordination to run one of those, and I never really got the hang of it.  Grandma made quilts out of old clothes.  I had one and everytime I looked at it, I would see squares that were one time my dresses or my mother’s dresses.  Grandma’s sister also sewed.  Aunt Fran did it for a living.  I never had a store bought dress until first grade.  Between Grandma and Aunt Fran I was well dressed.  Grandma also liked to crochet and her hands were always busy when she was just sitting talking or watching TV.

Grandma and Grandpa had a screened front porch where we gathered on hot summer nights.  They had no central air conditioning.  So it was the porch and a fan.  We would sit out there and talk, no TV, no radio, no phone.  Of course it was before the days of cell phones, tablets, and computers.  We actually talked to each other, and I don’t remember running out of things to talk about.  That’s when I heard many family stories that have helped me with my genealogy.  I wish I could remember more of her stories and more details about the ones I do remember.

Holidays were the best!  On Thanksgiving, Grandma would make a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  She had a big dining room with a big table.  Grandpa would sit at one end and Grandma at the other end, along one side would be her sister (known to me as Aunt Fran) and Fran’s daughter, Pat, Grandma’s brother and wife (known to me as Uncle Ralph and Aunt Helen) and Aunt Helen’s sister, Martha; along the other side was Uncle Russ, Mom, Dad, me.  In later years my brother and Uncle Russ’ wife were added to our holiday dinners.  The women would be busy preparing the food, setting table, while the men sat and talked or watched TV.  After dinner the men would retire to the living room and usually fall asleep while the women cleaned up and did the dishes.  Then the adults would play cards until it was time for dessert.  On Christmas we would again go to Grandma’s for dinner.  For Christmas, Grandma would make a turkey and a goose, plus all the trimmings, and it was a repeat of Thanksgiving Day.  I can remember walking into Grandma’s house and smell that Turkey cooking.  For some reason, it never smells as good when I cook it now.  Eventually, Grandma got too old to cook and my mom took over and then I took over from my mom.  But by the time Grandma quit cooking holiday meals, her sister, and brother had passed on, so our family dinners became smaller until I married and had children.

I loved Grandma’s Christmas tree with all the old ornaments.  I still have some of them and put them on my Christmas tree every year.  I threatened my kids and grandchildren with their lives if they broke them.  Miraculously, they have lasted through the generations.  One ornament was my great-grandmother’s ornament she brought with her when she came to the U.S. from Germany.  After my kids were born, I would take them to Grandma’s house to visit.   Sometimes we would take Grandma shopping.  Whenever my kids needed something, Grandma would buy it for them.  I am glad she lived long enough to know her great-grandchildren.  She was full of love, and I could feel her love. I still feel her love to this day!  We didn’t need to say anything, but we did tell each other, “I love you” many times. It is not just the holidays that I remember, but all the other days in between that I spent with Grandma.  Grandma passed away on February 9, 1981.  And as Grandma would say, “Come good home.”


Copyright©2016 Gail Grunst

JFK Assassination: My Memories


File:John F. Kennedy, White House color photo portrait.jpg

When I was sixteen, I kept a journal.  Here is what I wrote in my journal about the assassination of President Kennedy as things happened.  Keep in mind that this is written by a sixteen year old girl.  Some of the things we know about the assassination today were not known then.  I tried to transcribe it as it was written.  We only had four channels on TV at that time and all four ran nothing but the assassination.  There was no Internet, no VCR’s, no electronic games and businesses and stores were closing.  There was not much to do except watch TV.  There was no escaping the assassination.  So here is my account of the Kennedy assassination.

It was Friday, November 22, 1963.  I went to school that day like any other day. It was raining and my hair was almost straight from the weather.  All morning long I worried about how my hair looked.  On my way to English class I stopped at the washroom to comb my hair.  I left my comb at home and this made it a terrible day.  I went to English class, and in English we were to write a detective story.  The crime I picked was murder.  I had decided on this several days before when we were told we had to write a detective story.  My story would be the “Murder of Mrs. Jones”.  Sounds real exciting doesn’t it?  Well don’t laugh because I’m not too intelligent.  Little did I know that while I was creating a rough draft of the story, that the biggest murder in the county had taken place.  It was a murder that would affect me and millions of other people.  I was not yet aware of this murder, and not many people in the school were aware of it.  Almost each person found out in their own little way.  Here is the way I found out.  On the way to the school library, a bulletin came over the intercom and said, “President Kennedy has been shot and killed.”  I just about fainted and couldn’t believe it was true.  I met my friends in the library, and we talked about this terrible thing for a while.  But since the library was a place to be quiet, we had to be quiet.  We had to study or do anything as long as we were quiet.  I opened a book of Poe’s short stories and stared at it.  I sat there thinking of our now late president.  Some kids were crying.  At that moment, I couldn’t cry.  I don’t know why, but all I do know is I couldn’t believe it. I was so shocked!  I read time after time about Lincoln’s assassination. But that was 100 years ago.  This is today, this year, this century, this is 1963 and our country. This horrible thing is true and could happen here.  I was sitting in school and all I knew was the president was shot and dead.  Suddenly, my hair didn’t matter anymore. I struggled through seventh hour not doing any work. After school, I went to meet my mother who was picking me up from school.  On the way home we talked about the assassination.  When I got home, I turned on the TV to fill me in on what had happened. The president and Mrs. Kennedy were riding through a Dallas street in an open car with the Texas Governor and his wife.  They were worried that Kennedy wouldn’t get a good response in Texas. The crowds were good.  The governor’s wife turned to the president and said, “You can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you now Mr. President.”  Just then a shot rang out and the president slumped in Mrs. Kennedy’s arms.  Another shot came and the Governor was shot.  Still another shot came and the president was shot again.  The police were holding a man they thought killed President Kennedy.  His name is Lee Harvey Oswald.  Oswald was in a building on the 5th floor and shot President Kennedy with a high power rifle.  I cried when I heard all this on TV maybe because now it seemed real.

The President unconscious from the first bullet was in Mrs. Kennedy’s arms and her pink suit was splattered with blood.  We saw Vice President Johnson take the presidential oath on the presidential plane with his wife on one side and Mrs. Kennedy on the other side.  They arrived at the airport in Washington DC. and an ambulance met them to take the presidents body to the hospital.  Attorney General Robert Kenned was there to meet Mrs. Kennedy.  They got into the ambulance and went to the hospital.  The president’s body was taken to the White House during the night.

I think it is just terrible that a young man’s life can be taken so horribly.  The president, 46 years old, using his life in such a useful way.  I feel sorry for Mrs. Kennedy only 34 and her two young children, Caroline to be 6 next Wednesday and John Jr. to be 3 on Monday, the day of the funeral.

Friday night I entertained myself by baking a cake and cutting my hair.  I went to bed that night trying to forget about the horrible thing that had happened that day. How do you forget the assassination of the President of the United States?  You just don’t that’s all.  I finally got to sleep and woke up Saturday morning wishing it was a dream.

By Saturday night they said they clinched the case.  Lee Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy.  By the way Governor of Texas lived but was seriously injured.   My friend, Ginny, and I sat in my house and read the early edition of the Sunday paper.  After Ginny left, I broke up something terrible.  I cried and I cried over again.

I said all kinds of things about Oswald perhaps is shouldn’t have said.  They said that he wanted to get citizenship in Russia and after not being able to obtain it, he got a government loan for he and his Russian wife to come to the United States.  I wondered out loud what in the world was wrong with our government for letting people like this back into the United States.  Oswald gave papers out about communism and Cuba and Castro.  If all this was so wonderful, why didn’t he stay in Russia or Cuba, probably because they didn’t want him.  It isn’t fair that because some goof who wants to be a communist decides to pull his trigger finger that our president is dead.

In the 1960 election I wasn’t for Kennedy.  My parents were for Nixon and since I lived in a republican town most of my friends were for Nixon, and I was too.  One man made a record called First Family.  The record was goofy and hilarious. I enjoyed it tremendously.  Right now I don’t know that I will ever play it again. One thing I didn’t realize was that in the 3 years Kennedy had been president was how much I had come to respect him.

I went to bed Saturday night dead tired and went right to sleep.  Not having any idea of course what the next two days would bring.

Sunday morning I got up not wanting to turn on the TV.  I knew what would be on and I just couldn’t bear to hear it.  I could never explain how depressed this assassination depressed me.  I felt like something had died in me.  My heart felt broken and I just couldn’t bring myself to believe it was true.  I have never lived through anything so horrible in my entire life.

I don’t know what time it was when we turned on TV,  but when we did finally turn it on they were talking about another shooting.  Then the announcer said that the accused assassin of President Kennedy was shot.  They didn’t yet have the name of the man that did it.  The police were holding and questioning the man that shot Oswald.   A little while later the announcer said they have the name of the man that shot Oswald.  The man’s name is Jack Rubinstein.  He goes by Ruby and owns a night club and runs another on in Dallas, Texas.

For the next two hours we didn’t hear anything about the Oswald shooting because they were taking President Kennedy’s body from the White House to the Capital Building.  The president’s body is to lie in state in the rotunda of the Capital Building.

They took the late president’s body from the White House for the last time and put it on a caisson.   Behind the caisson rode Mrs. Kennedy and the president’s two brothers in a black limousine.  A few blocks before they reached the capital building, Mrs. Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Senator Edward Kennedy walked behind the caisson to the Capital building.  Inside the Capital Building Mrs. Kenned and the Kennedy Family stood there along with other people while some men gave speeches.  Mrs. Kennedy stood there with John Jr. on one side and Caroline on the other side.  I praise her very much for keeping her children with her and no one else.  John got restless and they had to take him out, but what three year old wouldn’t get restless.  Caroline stood there like a little angel.  When all these men finished talking, Mrs. Kennedy and the children walked out and family followed.  They say people were lined up for five miles to view the president’s body.

Sunday night I talked to my friends Ginny and Carla on the phone, and I finally did my homework, part of it anyway.  I was in no mood for recopying “The Murder of Mrs. Jones”.  I was wondering if we were going to have school on Monday.  President Johnson declared Monday a National Day of Mourning.  I finally found out no school on Monday.  Everything was closing on Monday.  Since Friday, there have been no entertaining programs on TV and no advertisements all in respect for President Kennedy.  I don’t think I mentioned that Oswald died almost to the minute that President Kennedy died on Friday.

Monday was finally here and I got up and watched the funeral.  First they took the President Kennedy to the White House.  At the White House Mrs. Kennedy, Robert and Edward Kennedy got out of the car and walked behind the caisson to the church.  Behind the Kennedy’s, President Johnson and his family and dignitaries from other countries walked. They were surrounded by Secret Service men.  It looked like the Secret Service wasn’t taking any chances.  Oswald broke through the tightest barrier of Secret Service Men.  When the president is on parade, they check the street sewers and man hole covers for bombs, they check the buildings and the people along the parade route.  They check people who have made threats and lock them up while the President is in town if it is necessary.  If the president is going to dinner, they check the food, waiters, and guests. They memorize a 1000 page book of faces so they can pick people out of a crowd.  If they know the bullets are coming they are to throw themselves in front of the president and take the bullets meant for the president. If they don’t think the pay is worth it or don’t want to give up their life they can go into fifteen other branches of the Secret Service.  If any of these men knew that the bullets were coming, there is no doubt they would have done what was necessary.  Oswald had a high power rifle that released bullet faster than any human could move.

When they got to the church everyone filed in and they brought the casket into the church.  They had low mass.  Nixon the former vice president and Kennedy’s challenger in the 1960 election was there, and also former presidents Eisenhower and Truman.  They left the church and went to Arlington National Cemetery.  The president is getting a hero’s grave.  He got a Purple Heart during World War II for his performance when his P.T. boat was bombed.  When he was a senator he was hospitalized for an old back injury he received while playing football at Harvard.  While he was in the hospital, he wrote a book Profiles in Courage for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1957.  When they got to Arlington National Cemetery, Cardinal Cushing went through some religious things I don’t understand.  Speeches were made and the band struck up the National Anthem.  Jets flew over, one for each state, and then the presidential plane flew over alone.  Cardinal Cushing said a prayer and then there was a 21 gun salute.  The flag that was over the coffin for the past four days was folded and presented to Mrs. Kennedy.  Mrs. Kennedy stepped forward and lit the eternal flame.  She left and the family followed.  Each person then stepped up to the grave and paid their respects to the late President Kennedy.

Well, it was all over now.  Mrs. Kennedy went through it with great dignity.  She realized that being the wife of a President all eyes were on her.  She knew it would go down in history books.  She did her duties with dignity and gave everyone the spirit they needed.

I know I will never forget this as long as I live.  This tragedy will bring tears to my eyes and emptiness in my heart for a long time.  I will always respect and remember President John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th President of the United States, 1917-1963, assassinated November 22, 1963.

Copyright © 2013 Gail Grunst

Cubs Win 2016 World Series!!!


Wow, the Cubs won the World Series after 108 years.  The Cubs are in my DNA.  My grandfather and father were life-long Cub fans.  I inherited their love for the Cubs, and I am also a life-long Cub fan.  My father watched the Cubs or listened to them on radio every chance he got.  When I was growing up they played mostly afternoon games.  He would get home from work around 3 pm and turn on the Cubs.  He took me to my first Cub game when I was five years old.  I don’t remember much about it and didn’t understand the game.  I was only interested in the vendors.  But as I got a little older that all changed.  He taught me all about the game.  He also taught me how to throw, catch, and bat a baseball.  Back when I was young there was no organized baseball for girls.  So I only played in neighborhood games and at school.  But it helped me to learn the game.  I would go to my grandparent’s house, and grandpa would have the game on too.  Needless to say I grew up with the Cubs.  I was just coming of age in 1969 when the Cubs were in first place most of the season, but blew it and ended up in second place.  I went to a game once a week when they were in town.  My brother and I would stand outside Wrigley after the game by the door the players came out of and walk across the street to their cars.  We would get autographs and take pictures.  We even made a trip to St. Louis to watch them play the Cardinals.  We stayed in the same hotel and got to meet some of the players in the lobby of the hotel.  We rode a bus from the hotel to the ball park with some of the player’s families.   A couple of years later I got married and started a family.  I could no longer go every week to a Cub game, but we did go a few times a year.  I have two boys and they grew up with baseball in their blood too.  They went to the rally yesterday and took my grandson.   My grandson is 14 and a Cub fan too.  He is now the fifth generation of Cub fans in our family.  When they won the pennant, I cried that they finally made it into the World Series, and when they won it, I cried again.  I thought of all the years my father never got to see this.  He did see them go to the World Series in 1945 but never win one.  My grandfather would have been 10 in 1908. I don’t know if he was a Cub fan at 10 or if he got to see them play in the World Series since there was no TV or radio.  But what really broke my heart was that my brother never got to see it.  He lived and died and he never saw them win a Pennant or World Series.  I can picture all three of them cheering for the Cubs from heaven.  I want to be able to share this with them and hear them cheer and shout with joy.  I’m thrilled that the Cubs finally did it and there is no more waiting till next year.  Too bad it took 108 years and so many fans like my grandfather, father and brother never got to see it.  Go Cubs Go, see you next year!

Randy Hundley, Cubs Catcher  1969


Copyright © 2016 Gail Grunst

German Letter Transcribed Reveals Family Secret


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If you read my last post on Letters from Germany, you will know that I have some letters written in German addressed to my great-grandfather, Rudolph Kaiser.  From the little we could deduce from them, it appeared he had another family in Germany.

Since writing my last post on Rudolf Kaiser, I have done some searching on his Children in Germany.

I researched on and came up with the following:

  • Rudolf Otto Pielenz (Rudolf Kaiser’s son) born 18 February 1890; Mother: Anna Auguste Emilie Pielenz*
  • Ida Bertha Pielenz (Rudolf Kaiser’s daughter) born 19 December 1891; Mother: Anna Auguste Emilie Pielenz*
  • Rudolf Otto Pielenz Married 7 April 1917 to Pauline Wilhelmine Helene Schauer; son of Anna Pielinz and Werner*
  • Anna Pielenz married Friedrich Carl Wagner 24 February 1894.* Anna Pielenz and Friedrich Carl Wagner’s children are as follows:
    • Anna Louise Auguste Wagner born 16 September 1894.*
    • Emma Bertha Wagner born 15 November 1895.*
    • Otto Robert Wagner born 27 July 1898.*

After finding this information, I went back to the letters written in German.  I was able to pick out the dates 18 February 1890 and 19 December 1891. I was also able to pick out the name Warner.   So I was sure that I had the right people.

I wondered why Rudolph would leave a wife and children in Germany, start another life here with a different wife and children.  It appears they were never married as she did not give the children his last name.  Then I thought maybe his intentions were to save some money and send for them.  But before he could save enough money, she moved on and got married.  She married two years before Rudolph got married here in the United States.  Maybe he wasn’t the scoundrel after all.  Then my curiosity got the best of me, and I had the first of the four letters transcribed.  As you will see as you read the letter, she is very upset with Rudolf Kaiser.  Here is the letter from 30 October 1910 transcribed

Berlin, dated 30.10.10

Dear Mr Kaiser!!!-?

Finally, after many, many years I have succeeded in finding out your address. You, dear Sir, will know that the result in 1890 of our relationship was a boy, and then, as a good-bye ! – a step which was so difficult – also a little girl. – And Anna Pielenz is deserted by the most beloved I once possessed, with two children, fatherless, alone. I have carved out an existence with my children in need of a father, and now that they are both grown, it is always the same lament: Where is our father…

My boy, as you know, has his father’s name, i.e. Rudolf Pielenz, born on 18 February 1890. My character and Your face, which was my consolation. Now he is big and a soldier. He is serving in Allenstein and has grown into a handsome young man. But now he is interested and searching for his father, who has treated him so ignominiously, so completely without interest. And the little girl has grown into a young lady. Born on 19 December 1891, her name is Ida and she also had no idea of her fatherless birth. But now

that they are both grown they will probably be in touch very soon and will greet their father by way of a letter, (because), when the boy was 5 years old and the girl 4, I was forced to get married because I could no longer afford the maintenance for the 2 children. It was just too hard for me, so I married without love and had to be content with my lot, because my love belonged only to one person ? , to whom, after all, I gave everything, and to my children. I have been on my own again for years now, and, as I say, I am content, because resentment and hatred grew more

noticeable all the time; because, you’ll know what I mean ?, a marriage without love is like a soup without salt and thus I am on my own with my children, living with my youngest sister. I hope you have not completely forgotten me and that [your] 14 years were happier than mine were. I really only moped around continuously. Maybe you think back occasionally to times past when happiness was still sweet.


Anna Vägner nee Pielenz

Berlin, S.O. 33

Skalitzerstr. 54a

Both children send their greetings

This opens up more questions than it answers.  How did she find him?  How does one find someone across an ocean in 1910?  I started to think how I would go about it.  Now we turn to the Internet or maybe private detectives.  I don’t think she had the means to hire a private detective.  But she probably knew what ship he traveled on, maybe he told her what city he planned to settle in.  She may have known his friends and family in Germany.  So maybe she found him through them.  It sounds like she never got over him.  I also notice that while she tells him of her unhappy marriage, she does not mention the children that were born of that marriage.  She says she hopes he has been happy the past 14 years.  It took me awhile to figure out where the 14 came from.  From 1890 or 1891 to 1910 is 19 or 20 years not 14.  In 1910 Rudolph was married 14 years.  She even knew how long he had been married.

I do not know who is right or wrong and there are always two sides to a story.  Her side is documented with letters, his side is silent.  There are no letters from him, no stories handed down, and so we do not have his side.  When I thought about her contacting his family in Germany, I wondered what happened to his mother and father.  I have their names and that is it.  When they were born or died remains a mystery.  I never heard my grandfather talk about his grandparents.  I don’t even think he knew their names.  When I started doing the family tree, he was still alive and never gave me that information.  I don’t know if he knew about his half-brother and half-sister.  If any of their descendants are around today, I would love to meet them.  I’m sorry that Anna Pielenz was so hurt.  I hope she forgave him and moved on for her sake.  As with all family secrets, they make for a good story, but I think about how sad it was for those children and their mother.  On the other hand if he stayed with them, I would not be here.  While I feel sad for them, I’m glad he had my grandfather.  Rudolph did something good; he raised a good and decent man in my grandfather.  My grandparents were married 58 years, my grandfather served in the United States Army during WWI, and worked at the same place for 45 years.  He owned a home and raised a son and daughter who were also good and decent people, and life goes on in me, my children, and grandchildren.  Maybe somewhere in the world there are sons, daughters, and  grandchildren of Anna Pielenz and Rudolf Kaiser’s relationship.

*Information from Berlin Germany Birth and Marriage Records at

Copyright ©2016 Gail Grunst