Category Archives: Book of Me

Book of Me – Prompt 15: Snow

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week fifteen’s prompt is Snow.

  • Do you live in area where you routinely have snow?
  • How old were you when you first saw snow?
  • Do you remember it?
    • Did you make snowmen?
    • Throw Snowballs
    • Sledge Rides
  • What is the image that first came to mind when you read snow?
  • What does snow
    • feel like,
    • smell like
  • How do you see snow?


Christmas is all very new - 1971-12

Christmas Is All Very New
By David Yegerlehner (alias ‘papa’)

Our daughter, named Deborah, is now just past two.
So this business of Christmas is all very new.
First came the snow, and what a delight;
Debbie looked out the window to find the world all white!
The snow set the mood,
And even mama and papa could not be subdued.
So we got in the car—all three,
And very shortly came home with a beautiful tree.
We moved the couch and shoved away the chair,
And left a great big spot bare.
This scurry to rearrange (Debbie’s look seemed to say)
Is certainly all very strange—
And she wondered even more
When we brought that big tree right through the door.
But soon that big bare space was no longer bare,
For the beautiful tree was standing right there.
And now, all covered with balls and with lights,
It is truly a sight with thrills and delights.
Each hanging ball is a colorful mirror,
So Deborah gazes into each tiny sphere.
“Debbie! Debbie!” she coos when she sees her reflection,
And so we now know the tree passes inspection.
Our daughter, named Deborah, is not just past two,
So this business of Christmas is all very new.

Growing up in Massachusetts, snow was a common occurrence during the winter. I have spent the last 20 years in California in an area where snow is not common. The central valley is basically at sea level. I still don’t completely understand the science behind this phenomenon, but we are too low in elevation for it to snow. The temperatures can be below freezing but it. just. doesn’t. snow. I think there have been two instances in which it actually snowed here. It was a passing illusion that delighted the local children before it quickly melted. My hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts has an elevation of around 500 feet and I remember it always snowing when I was a kid. I guess geography does really play a part with weather conditions. Less than fifty miles to the east of where I currently live, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it does snow. We often hear on the weather reports at what elevation the rain changes to snow. During particularly cold storms, the snow might reach as low as 1,000 feet above sea level.

1978-02-07 David Yegerlehner

David the day after The Blizzard of ’78

My father wrote the above poem about me in December 1971. I don’t really recall the first time I saw snow. I just remember it always being part of winter. For me, snow is winter. In some ways, moving to California has definitely disrupted my annual rhythms. As much as I enjoy the slightly warmer temperatures (and the lack of shoveling), I yearn for snow. My children will never know the joy of a snow day or experience the anticipation of sitting by the radio, waiting to hear if school was cancelled for their district or not. They will never know the true silence that comes during a snowfall or the sense of isolation. I often talk about the Blizzard of ’78 and how we missed school for three weeks. I think the concept is inconceivable to them.

We make a point of visiting the snow at least once a winter. Because the snow only comes to the mountains, there are inherent difficulties in reaching the snow. Many of the local roads are closed if the snowfall is too heavy. Chains are also required for driving (which is another difference from my childhood). In California, there are designated snow parks which are open on a daily basis in favorable conditions. Parking requires a permit which can only be purchased away from the snow. Our favorite snow haven is outside of Yosemite National Park at a very nice hotel at the southern entrance of the park. Once we get there, we can spend the weekend sledding down their hills or skating at their rink. Last year, the snow was gone by the time we arrived so we headed further up in elevation to Badger Pass, a ski area within Yosemite. Some years, when camping at Lassen Volcanic National Park for Memorial Day weekend, we have also enjoyed the snow.

I love snow. I miss it. If I still lived in an area where snow was more common, I might miss it less. I definitely don’t miss shoveling or driving on icy roads. Watching falling snow is one of the most peaceful experiences I have ever had. I consider snow to be one of nature’s gifts. It is truly a joy and a delight for me.

©2013 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found at:

Book of Me – Prompt 14: Special People

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week fourteen’s prompt is  also Special People and is a continuation of the last prompt.

If you had to hold a dinner party and could invite a maximum of 12 special people who would you invite?

You CAN include family this time. Perhaps they are ancestors you have never met or people that you know/knew.

What meals would you serve and why?

Perhaps include the recipe or a photo if you decided to actually cook the items.


My dinner party would include family members who have all passed on at this point. Most of them I have never known. I have lots of questions for them because they didn’t write anything down or leave much for me to discover about their lives.

The Guests

Alfred M. Dicks and his first wife Ruth Reynolds: They were Quakers. Their families were part of the Quaker migration to North Carolina in the mid 1700s. After staying in the south for several generations, the Quakers began migrating north again. Slavery was a huge issue in the early 1800s. Some remained in the south but many moved in the decades before the Civil War. Some of the North Carolina monthly meetings were decimated by migration. Ruth’s parents migrated a few years before she was born. Alfred traveled as a young man in the 1830s, sometime after the death of his father in 1833. Ruth died young after bearing six children in the 1850s. I know very little about her. Her name appears in very few documents. When she and Alfred married in 1840, their marriage was a civil one which got them disowned from the local Quaker Monthly Meeting. I suspect the meeting was too far away which made it difficult to attend regularly. Also there were lots of strong political feelings and divisions between the monthly meetings in eastern Illinois and western Indiana at that time. I have lots of questions for Alfred, too. He managed to avoid the census takers in 1860. I do not know exactly when Alfred or Ruth died or where they are buried.

John Alden and Priscilla Mullins: I have always known I was a Mayflower descendant.  The lineage of John and Priscilla was the first that my grandmother proved. We “know” so much about their fabled courtship and little else. John’s parentage is unknown. We have very few dates for this couple, including when they married, the births of the children, and when Priscilla died. Hearing about their daily struggles to create a new life in this country would be fascinating.

George Rea and Sarah Ann Jewell: George Rea was an Irishman by birth. He journeyed to America and settled in Greene County, Indiana. So far I have uncovered little information about George’s life in Ireland. He was a presumably successful farmer who owned a sizeable acreage of land in Indiana. George was about 20 years older than his wife Sarah but she died first, perhaps in childbirth. I am currently trying to prove Sarah’s lineage. There was only one Jewell family in Greene County and I think I know how she fits but I have no direct evidence. Again, I have lots of questions for this couple.

David Yegerlehner and Magdalena Strahm: The patriarch of the Yegerlehner family in America and his wife left their homeland to settle in America in 1851. Why? Where & when did Magdalena die? David was a carpet weaver. I would have enjoyed watching him weave. Perhaps they could teach me Swiss or share stories of their life in the Alps.

Michael Schiele and Elizabeth Krieble: I think I have enough questions about Michael and his German ancestry to warrant an invitation to this dinner. Elizabeth’s daughter Nancy raises lots of interesting questions as well. Nancy’s descendents would certainly like some answers about her father.

Roscoe S. Yegerlehner and Gladys Foster: Now that I am old enough to ask the hard family questions, my grandparents have long been gone. Since starting this project, the number of questions that I would have liked to ask my grandparents has increased exponentially. Even sitting with my grandmother for a few hours and having her identify people in the sea of photographs would be a treat.

The dinner

I would like to have a potluck picnic like I remember from all the family reunions of my childhood. Every summer we traveled to Indiana to visit my grandparents. Generally, at some point, a family reunion would be held during our visit. A few times, the reunion was held at my aunt and uncle’s house. At that time, their house was on the outskirts of Centerville. The house was surrounded by corn fields on the two sides, the road to the front, and a wooded area to the back. All my mom’s cousins would come over and all the second cousins would run around for hours. Everyone brought some kind of dish to share.

Since my family does not have a tradition of family recipes being passed down, I would like each of my ancestral couples to bring a family dish that was special for their family and time period. One dish sticks out from my childhood. It appeared on the table for most picnics or special occasions. I am not sure which side of the family the recipe came from. Since my own children have an aversion to food with “sauces,” the tradition hasn’t been continued.

The recipe –

Five Cup Salad:
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup mandarin oranges
1 cup of shredded coconut
1 cup of mini marshmallows
1 cup of sour cream

Throw all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together.

©2013 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found at:…special-people/

Book of Me – Prompt 13: Special People/Iconic Figures

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week thirteen’s prompt is Special People or Iconic Figures.

  • If you had to hold a dinner party and could invite a maximum of 12 special people who would you invite?
  • You can NOT include family in this – the special people could be famous or historical people.
  • What meals would you serve and why?
  • Perhaps include the recipe or a photo if you decided to actually cook the items!


The theatre has always played a part in my life. I grew up listening to musicals. I experienced my first Broadway show when I was in elementary school. My father took me to see my first opera, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, when I was six. We had family friends who were members of the repertory cast of the local theatre company. As a young adult, I was a theatre major at my university. When I graduated, I studied costume design at the graduate level for three years. I also worked professionally for several theatres during my twenties.

I am also an Anglophile. I grew up outside of Boston which has one of the best public television stations in the country, WGBH. They were and still are the producing force for many British dramas that come to the United States. I was introduced to Doctor Who in elementary school. I’ve watched countless hours of Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Keeping Up Appearances, and so on. I have watched David Suchet play Hercule Poirot since he debuted in the role. I watched all of the Jeremy Brett episodes of Sherlock Holmes and I can’t wait for the next installment of Sherlock. And don’t even get me started on Downton Abbey. I am a certifiable Masterpiece Theatre addict (and have been since I was a kid).

My randomly selected twelve guests are all major players in the British theatre community today.

Benedict Cumberbatch
David Tennant
Alan Rickman
Patrick Stewart
David Suchet
Ian McKellan

Emma Thompson
Helena Bonham Carter
Maggie Smith
Helen Mirren
Kate Winslet
Julie Andrews

Since if I ever got to meet or work with these people, I would probably be speechless or turn into a babbling idiot, I would choose a less stressful location in which to have our dinner party. I would prefer a meal at the local pub with a beer or two. In my case, I’d have a cider because I can’t stand beer. Perhaps we could just have fish & chips or a ploughman’s lunch to nosh on. I love the chips but I’m allergic to fish, so I’ll skip that one.

The Ploughman’s lunch is a traditional cold meal served at the pub and generally consisted of cheese, chutney, bread and beer. The meal has evolved over the years and can be quite gourmet.

Ploughman’s lunch (Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

©2013 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found at:…iconic-figures/

Book of Me – Prompt 12: Year of Birth

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week twelve’s prompt is the year you were born.

What happened?

  • Historical
  • Films
  • Music
  • Books
  • Television


1968 was a pivotal year in 20th century United States history. The year was marked by great gains and losses.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.  The Vietnam War was in full swing. Protests against the war were common on college campuses and metropolitan areas. Civil Rights protests and disturbances were occurring every month, and they were continuing to be increasingly violent. In April, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. By the end of the year, Johnson also signed the Gun Control Act of 1968. NASA  launched Apollo 7: the first manned Apollo mission broadcast the first live television coverage from space. Later in the year Apollo 8 would enter orbit around the moon. As the year ended, Richard M. Nixon was elected president and the Zodiac Killer began his killing spree on the west coast. Several books and articles have been written about 1968, including 1968: The Year that Rocked the World by Mark Kurlansky and The Long 1968: Revisions and New Perspectives edited by Daniel J. Sherman, should one wish to learn more about this amazing year in history.

Top Ten Grossing Films of 1968:
2001: A Space Odyssey
Funny Girl
The Love Bug
The Odd Couple
Romeo and Juliet
Rosemary’s Baby
Planet of the Apes
Night of the Living Dead

Other notable films were: A Lion in Winter, The Green Berets, The Thomas Crown Affair and Rachel, Rachel.

Notable rock groups of the year were: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Diana Ross & the Supremes, the list could go on and on. It was also the year that Johnny Cash finally married June Carter.

Debuting On Broadway:
Promises, Promises
George M!

Lloyd Alexander – The High King
Isaac Asimov – Asimov’s Mysteries
Agatha Christie – By the Pricking of My Thumbs
Arthur C. Clarke – 2001: A Space Odyssey
Phillip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?
John Christopher – The Pool of Fire
Ursula K. Le Guin – A Wizard of Earthsea
Peter S. Beagle – The Last Unicorn
Anne McCaffrey – Dragonflight
Beverly Cleary – Ramona the Pest
Charles Portis – True Grit
Alexander Key – Escape to Witch Mountain

Hugo Award: Roger Zelazny – Lord of Light
Nebula Award: Alexei Panshin – Rite of Passage
Newbery Medal:  E.L. Konignsburg – From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Caldecott Medal: Ed Emberley – Drummer Hoff

On Television:
In the 3rd season of Star Trek’s original run, the groundbreaking episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” featured the first interracial kiss on television.

Doctor Who was played by the second actor in the role, Patrick Troughton. His companions were Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Zoe (Wendy Padbury). The Doctor regenerated at the end of the sixth season  in the spring of 1969. The Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) had a recurring role and John Levene made his first appearance as Corporal Benton.

©2013 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found at:…-year-of-birth/

Book of Me – Prompt 11: Military

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week eleven’s prompt is the Military.

Did you join the military?
Were you encouraged or discouraged?
Did a family member?
Regular or for a particular incident?
Did you or your family serve overseas in the line of service either during a war or as a posting?
Any thoughts, photographs, relevant memories?

Malcolm W. Leonard

My great grandfather
Malcolm W. Leonard, 1918

The military was something that never appealed to me. I consider myself a pacifist and I dislike guns and violence immensely. The thought of putting myself in the line of fire or anywhere near guns terrifies me. As a child, I remember reviewing possible future professions. Any job involving blood or violence was immediately excluded.  A medical career was also stricken from the list. This fear also extends to travel in foreign countries where violence towards humanity is higher than average.

When I came of age in the 1980s, the United States was not involved in any military conflicts. The Vietnam War was still an open wound and the Gulf Wars were yet to come. A career in the military wasn’t even a consideration.  For women, there were very few options in the military back then. My family has no recent veterans. My father escaped service during Vietnam as well as all my uncles. We were not touched. Having so many family members in religious professions may have had an influence. Some distant cousins may have fought in either Vietnam or Korea, but the last true family veterans came from World War II.

Yegerlehner, Christian - Clay City, Indiana, c1890

Christian Yegerlehner
Civil War Veteran

I readily admit that my opinion of the military has changed over the years. My limited exposure to the military colored my opinion for much of my youth. During college, I was disgusted by the machismo of my ROTC classmates. However, as our modern conflicts have dragged on, I have come to hold our military service members in high esteem. I cannot fathom the sacrifices they have made and the injuries they have suffered.

As I have studied my family’s history, I have felt pride for my ancestors who fought for our country in World War II, World War I, the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War. They experienced untold horrors to mold the country that we live in today. One of my greatest hopes is that neither of my children (or my descendants) will have to make similar sacrifices to defend our country. I hope that one day we can solve our conflicts through peaceful means.

Perhaps this is one of the photographs from Dr. Lentz's roll of film

The veteran dearest to my heart is my grandfather, Roscoe S. Yegerlehner. Please take a moment to explore my blog and enter his world during World War II.

©2013 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
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Book of Me – Prompt 10: Unexplained Memories

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week ten’s prompt is Unexplained Memories.

Do you have an unexplained memory or memories?

  • Items
  • Places
  • People

Things and times you can remember, but not sure how they fit into your past.

I really don’t have any unexplained memories that I can think of. So instead of this week’s prompt being easier or more reflective for me, I found it rather frustrating, mostly because I want to write and I have nothing to write about. Instead, I shall share a memory that I have that I know happened but the adults involved deny it occurred.

When I was six, my parents experienced a life shattering event. After years of denying his feelings, my father decided that he needed to accept who he was. This was during the mid seventies and the world was very much different then. One of my favorite childhood albums was Marlo Thomas’ Free to Be You and Me.  This message resonated throughout the house on many levels. It was much harder to come out of the closet then as it is today. After ten years of marriage and two children, my father chose to finally come clean. Amongst the family papers that I have now become steward of, I have copies of my parent’s divorce papers as well as letters that were written to and from my father from different family members. I always cringe when I read the divorce papers. My mother sued for divorce citing “intolerable cruelty.” My father is a gentle and kind man. I have never known him to be cruel or intolerable. So it hurts when I read those cold, legal words. Even during this turbulent time in my family’s history, my father (in one of his letters) tried to explain how my mother was suffering. To her, it was if her husband had died.

During this time, we were living in the Methodist parsonage in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. The house had a basement with stairs that led down from the kitchen. One of the improvement projects that my parents had done on the house was to finish part of the basement. The front half of the basement was a den or family area with old couches and chairs. On this particular day, the day of my memory, my parents were having a huge row in this part of the basement. Since I generally don’t even remember my father ever yelling, most of the noise must have been coming from my mother. My younger brother and I had heard the argument upstairs and had snuck down the steps to see what was going on. He was only three so I sincerely doubt he remembers these events. I recall that we sat there for a while listening and then quietly tiptoed upstairs before we were discovered.

Years later I mentioned this event to one or both of my parents. No one had remembered that this had happened. Or they denied it in order to protect me. Since it was such an emotional and traumatic time in our lives, I am not surprised that no one recalls this particular fight.

©2013 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney

Post originally found at:…ained-memories/

Book of Me – Prompt 9: Halloween

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. The Book of Me prompt for week 9 is Halloween.

Have you ever participated in a Halloween event?
When was it?
Where was it?
What did you dress as?
Trick or Treat?

Yegerlehner, Deborah - Halloween, 1990s (U. of M)

A Dancer of the Ballet Russe, c1990s, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor

Halloween is on my top ten list of  favorite times of the year. Heck, who am I kidding?  It’s in the top five and often ties for the top spot. I can’t ever remember not celebrating Halloween. As someone who grew up to become a college theatre major and costume designer, this one is a no brainer. We got to dress up and get free candy?!? Sign me up, please!

When I was kid, we did all the traditional stuff. Of course, we dressed up. Some costumes were store bought, but mostly we were very creative and made our own. One year, my brother and I made a robot costume out of a giant cardboard box. We were both in the box and it was complicated. This is also back in the days when you could still wear a costume to school for Halloween, even in high school.

We went “trick or treating”. I don’t really remember my mom going around with us like I’ve always gone with my kids. We were on our own. When we were younger, our route was the three streets that made up our neighborhood. Some years my church tried to con us into taking the small UNICEF boxes around to collect donations instead of candy. That didn’t take too well. There was a dentist who lived on our street. He usually handed out toothbrushes instead of candy. An elderly woman around the corner passed out change from her coin jar. Our well earned loot would be parceled out and gobbled up over the next few weeks.

Yegerlehner, Deborah - Halloween, 1984 or 1985

Last time trick or treating, mid1980s

As we got older, we wandered through all the neighborhoods off our section of Chandler Street, basically from our neighborhood all the way down to Worcester State. We made it pretty far and were gone for hours. Growing up in New England, it also tended to be fairly cold some years. Heavy clothing was often incorporated into the costume. I also remember a couple years in which we crossed our fingers that it wouldn’t snow. When I got older, I went out with my high school friends. I think the last time I went was probably my junior year in high school.

I recall Halloween parties which included bobbing for apples and eating donuts off strings. My brother and I built haunted houses in our basement. We would hang sheets and blankets from the metal supports of the drop ceiling. Another year we rigged up stuff in the front yard to scare the “trick or treaters.” This involved fishing wire and the big tree in front of the house.

Yegerlehner, Deborah - Halloween, 1985In Worcester, there was always a haunted house put on by the Worcester Science museum. Or it was by the Museum. It was a tradition for many years. I think they closed it down when I got older. The haunted house was a two story building that they decked out every year.  It was pretty scary, at least for an elementary school aged kid.

We always carved a pumpkin. This required a trip to a local pumpkin patch. Back then, the pumpkin patch was just a farmer’s stand, not the big extravaganzas we see today. I don’t remember the name of the one we usually went to but it was over the city line in the small town of Paxton on route 9.

Sweeney - Pumkpin Carving, 2010Nowadays, I get to watch my kids follow the same traditions. We always carve a pumpkin. Everyone is old enough that each gets his own (including the adults). Tomorrow will be our annual jaunt to the pumpkin patch. Besides the pumpkin purchase, there will be animals to pet and games to play. One of the local teachers opened up their land a few years ago and created Fog Willow Pumpkin Patch. Lots of kindergarten students in the district have their annual fall field trip there. Pumpkin carving will be executed in the afternoon. Last night, my Girl Scout troop hosted a “Monster Mash” Halloween party for the younger girls in the service unit. We had almost 200 girls in attendance. And on Thursday night I will accompany my children around the neighborhood while my husband mans the door with the bowl of candy.

Sweeney - Fog Willow, 2009©2013 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney

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Book of Me – Prompt 8: Time Capsule

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. The Book of Me prompt for week 8 is the Time Capsule.

  1. You can choose who to create the time capsule for as that will influence what you put (or would put into your time capsule)
  2. The creation of a time capsule
    1. You can do this in the literal sense or
    2. You can simply write what you would place into your time capsule and why. It is much more fun to create though!

Drakes Beach - 2010-06I just don’t know what to say about this one. I have absolutely no interest in doing this. I mostly think time capsules are a waste of time and very contrived. Speaking as an overworked mom with two careers, I would much rather spend the time with my kids now than crafting a message in a bottle for them some day in the future.

Many kuddos to those of you who have the time and energy to do this. I’m skipping this one.

©2013 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found at:…8-time-capsule/

Book of Me – Prompt 7: Grandparents

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. The Book of Me prompt for week 7 is Grandparents.

What were their names?
Where were they from?
Were they related? – Cousins perhaps
Where were they born? Another County or state/area?
What did they do?
Did you know them?
What was your relationship with them?
If you didn’t know them have you researched about them?

I was fortunate enough to know all of my grandparents. All four lived into their eighties and beyond. The first of the four to die lived past his 84th birthday and the last lived to celebrate his 100th birthday. Both my grandmothers lived into their 90s. Growing up, I lived near none of them so I only got to see them during summer vacations and special holidays throughout the year. After my parents’ divorce in the mid 1970s, I didn’t get to see my paternal grandparents as often as I would have liked. I often wish that I had lived closer to family growing up. As an adult, I made a conscious choice to live near part of the family. As a result, my children are growing up knowing and interacting more with at least one set of their grandparents. Now if I could only figure out how to make the commute to New York City faster….

Despite the distance between us, I got along with all my grandparents and loved them dearly. As an adult, looking back, I struggle with my feelings regarding my maternal grandparents’ chosen profession as religious missionaries. I know that they were well respected by their students and they maintained many friendships with them over the years after they retired and returned to the United States. I have many strong feelings against the practice of sending missionaries to convert native peoples. However, they were my grandparents and they lived in a different era when such practices were acceptable. I think I inherited some good qualities from each of my grandparents.  I hope that I am honoring them and keeping their memories alive by writing their stories.

“We’re all ghosts.  We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.”  — Liam Callanan, The Cloud Atlas

Roscoe, circa 1920s

Roscoe, circa 1920s

Roscoe Schiele Yegerlehner was born in 1904 in rural Clay County, Indiana. He was the son of a farmer and his second wife, born the sixth child out of seven. His father’s family descended from Swiss immigrants who arrived in the United States in the early 1850s. His mother’s line was equally all German, including descendants of a small Protestant German sect that settled in the Pennsylvania Dutch area in the 1730s. Although Roscoe was not related to his wife, he was related to himself. He was the product of several degrees of cousins intermarrying across the generations.

Roscoe graduated from high school in 1922. He worked as a teacher in the rural county schools for several years, while attending the Indiana State Normal School in the “big city.” During this time he met his future wife and they married in 1929. Roscoe continued to teach and eventually moved up to the high school and became principal for a while. During the 1930s (The Great Depression), a shift occurred and Roscoe decided to become a doctor. He continued to teach while attending medical school and eventually the family moved north to Kentland, Indiana where he practiced medicine for almost 30 years. He was a Mason, a Rotarian and he also served on the school board in Kentland, Indiana.

Gladys outside her office where she worked as a stenographer, c1924

Gladys outside her office where she worked as a stenographer, c1924

Gladys Ruth Foster was born in 1905 in Terre Haute, Indiana. In comparison to her husband Roscoe, Gladys was the sophisticated city girl. Gladys was the youngest of 6 children born to her mother. Although the census records of 1900 and 1910 show that Gladys’ father lived with the family, by 1920, he was mostly out of the picture. Gladys’ mother kicked him out after she had enough with his alcohol problems. Gladys graduated from high school and afterwards took a stenography course. She worked as a stenographer until she married in 1929. The first few years that Gladys and Roscoe were married, they lived in Clay County with Roscoe’s parents. When Roscoe went back to school to become a Doctor, Gladys took a beautician’s course to help support the family. Afterwards, she handled the correspondence and accounts for Roscoe’s medical practice. Gladys’ ancestry was mostly English and Irish. One branch of her family descended from the early Quakers who settled in Pennsylvania with William Penn.

Eugene, c1950s

Eugene, c1950s

Eugene Oliver McGraw was born in 1909 in Falmouth, Indiana and grew up in rural Fayette County and Centerville, Indiana. He was the oldest of four sons. His father was a farmer and harness maker. “Mac” graduated from high school in 1927. He attended university at both Earlham College and Oberlin College. Eugene became a minister and a teacher, and eventually a missionary in Asia. He met his future wife in Malaysia while working for the Methodist mission.

The ship burning after it was bombed (Photograph by Eugene McGraw)

The ship burning after it was bombed (Photograph by Eugene McGraw)

In 1941, they married and less than a year later, they were forced to flee back to the United States to escape the Japanese. They narrowly missed being on their ship when it was bombed in the harbor.

Eugene’s ancestry was a mix of German, English and Irish immigrants. With the exception of his Irish great grandmother who emigrated from Ireland in the years prior to the potato famine, all his immigrant ancestors arrived prior to the American Revolution, with several serving in the conflict.

Louise - College Graduation, 1936

Louise – College Graduation, 1936

Estelle Louise Leonard was born in 1915 in Holbrook, Massachusetts. She was an only child. Her parents separated before she was born (although they reunited many years later). Louise grew up with her mother and her maternal grandparents. When she was a few years old, the family moved to California, living in both Oakland and Alameda. Louise graduated from high school in California and then attended the state Teacher’s College in New Jersey (near where her father lived). She became an English teacher. After graduating, she worked on several Indian reservations in the west teaching English before she joined the missionary service. Louise was also related to herself. She was a descendant of several Mayflower passengers as well as several early 17th century immigrants to Massachusetts. Over the generations, many of these lines crisscrossed and tangled. On one branch alone, she was descended from same ancestral couple six or seven times.

©2013 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found at:…7-grandparents/

Book of Me – Prompt 6: Diaries and Journals

book of meThe Book of Me – Written by You is a weekly blog prompt created by Julie Goucher of the blog Angler’s Rest. This is a fifteen month writing project to highlight my life so that I will have something to leave behind for my descendants. Week six asks about personal diaries and journals. For those of you who have been following along, this week I am not using my traditional 3rd person narrative. I did not feel that the prompt supported that format.

  • Do you keep a diary or journal?
  • When did you start?
  • What information do you record?
  • How do you keep a journal – written or electronic?
  • If you have a written journal, do you always buy the same one or buy whatever takes your fancy?
  • What are your succession plans for you journals & diaries?
  • Do you include pictures & other items as a way of recording events?
  • What do you use to write your journal – a special pen, or a fountain pen, or even the closest writing implement to hand?
  • Have you inherited any? If you have what are your plans for them?
Failed journals

Failed journals

When I first read this week’s prompt, I admit my first response was to be a little flip. Do you keep a diary or  journal? No. When did you start? Not applicable. What information do you record? Not applicable…and so on. I have attempted to write a journal in the past. It was mostly in my young, carefree and unattached adulthood. Back when I had time to spare, and little responsibility to anyone beyond myself. I never wrote one when I was a kid, at least that I recall. I do have the four journals that I attempted to use to express my feelings and daily activities. These were all purchased in the late 1980s or early 1990s. One is filled with poetry that I liked at the time. Another is virtually blank. It was also purchased to record inspiring quotes and poetry. The third book I used as a travel journal on my big adventure through Great Britain in 1991, although it had been started a couple years earlier as a combination budget book and who knows what else. Again, the book is only half filled. The fourth book does have some more traditional diary like entries but it is not completely used either. Half the pages are empty, like a broken promise.

The fact of the matter is I am just not that kind of a person. I have my daily routines, like having tea first thing in the morning, every morning, rain or shine, no matter what. I can’t stand coffee. I even travel with my own tea bags so I can have my tea. But writing is not part of my routine. As I stated in one of my early blog posts last year when I began my blog, I have never thought of myself as a writer. I’m an artist. I express myself in other ways. I have never used words as my medium before. So the questions remain hanging in the air. Do you keep a diary or journal?

No, but I have other things that paint a picture of my life. There are the quilts that I have made for myself and my children. I have the programs of all the theatrical shows I worked on during my college and graduate school years and some from later on when I started to work professionally. I have renderings of costumes I designed, pictures of costumes I constructed (and sweated over), and clothes that I have made for myself. I am the family photographer. I have photographs. I have scrapbooks that I made using some of those photographs. I manage the collection of photographs that chronicle all the trips we have taken, the special events and holidays, and the ordinary. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? And now that I have taken the steps to “become” a writer, I have my blog. Granted the major focus of my blog is transcribing the letters of my grandparents. But doing that is part of my daily routine. When my descendants look through my daily chattel, they can deduce what I did every day for 3 or 4 or how many years it takes me to get through this immense stack of letters. And in today’s (and the future’s) age of technology, I am sure my descendants will figure out a way to see all my ordinary everyday Facebook posts. That’s about as close as I am ever going to get to writing a journal.

The above photographs were all taken by Deborah Sweeney

P.S. On a side note, my father has been keeping a daily journal since I was one month old. Let’s just say I am officially middle aged so that is a really long time! I have already made my case as the family archivist that I want those journals and he has already made provisions for the journals to be passed on to me when he is gone. So no, I haven’t inherited any journals yet but I will someday but I am more than happy to wait.

©2013 copyright owned and written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found at:…s-and-journals/