Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

Cousins Find Each Other Around the World

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A World of family and ancestors, united by DNA

Today’s technology and DNA testing provide all kinds of exciting opportunities in genealogical research.  Many of us, and I am surely one, believe that each individual has the right to know exactly who she/he is and to know her or his ancestors. As my own genealogical research progressed, it helped strengthen my identity– as I learned about the ancestors whose DNA coursed through my own veins as well as theirs, hundreds of years ago.  Lately, I’ve learned that nowhere is this “need to know” stronger than for adoptees. Many, probably most adoptees feel the need to know their own individual identities and heritage.

I have a cousin named Bradley who was adopted. We didn’t know each other until we both did our DNA tests on Ancestry, and discovered our match.  Bradley and I have worked together a lot over the last year or so.  We have used AncestryFTDNA-Family Tree DNA23 and Me, and Gedmatch.com as well as other genealogical research sites and have learned amazing things.

Before Bradley contacted me about our DNA match, he had met another cousin named Courtney–DNA proved she was my cousin also!  I have to tell you, one of us is from California, one from North Carolina, and one from New York–we cover the whole of America, and we are cousins — united by DNA and ancestors/genealogy.

 

People united by DNA

Bradley is a force of nature, who makes things happen. He found two other cousins, Stella and Zoe, both of whom were also adopted, and who are also related to him, and to Courtney and to me by DNA! That is truly incredible!  In my experience, finding five people, unknown to each other, from all over the world, all of whom are related by DNA to each other–well, I would wager that it would be a zero probability that we would find each other!  However, the miracle continues, even more amazing to me is that Stella had met another DNA matched cousin  named Eva and she was related by DNA to the rest of us as well!  That made six of us, three from across the United States, and three from Central Europe — the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland.  We are three adoptees and three who know their parents, all 4th, 5th, or 6th cousins! 

Bradley then organized us into a group on Facebook, so that we could communicate more easily.  He invited one other DNA match of his to join the group hoping she might also match some of us. Laura did indeed match another one of us, another cherished cousin.  I asked my daughter Ali to join our group, as she speaks and reads German and French fluently, and was also a cousin of course! Eight of us, what a wonderful group of people, all dynamic and interesting to know!  Typically, the Europeans all speak and read English with different levels of experience, while we Americans only speak English, except for my daughter Ali, whose linguistic abilities did not come from her mother, but from other ancestors.

Eight people, eight cousins, three adoptees from all around the world– united by a desire to know our common heritage — awesome!  We truly engage in “Worldwide Genealogical Collaboration”!

We have been working together for a few months, but we may have just discovered our common line of ancestors, one of Netherlander origin.  We still have research to do to be sure.  As we identify our most recent common ancestor–possibly 4th, 5th, and 6th great grandparents depending on our cousinship and as the ancestral lines fall in place, birth parents are often– usually identified.  It is a fact of research.  What happens next is a choice that adoptees and their birth parents, if living, have to make. Reunions can be fulfilling and joyful, or full of rejection. With DNA, technology, and our heritage research, identities can no longer be secret — instead they can be stronger than ever.

There is one more phenomenal situation that we have discovered with our genealogical work together.  Our common ancestors, the Vreeland family, came to America in the mid 1600’s from the Netherlands to New Amsterdam (New York) in Colonial America. They helped found New Jersey, buying land from the Indians, and fighting in the Revolutionary War. Now, 350 years later, eight of us are getting to know each other and one completes this circle of migration.  Zoe was born in America, in New Jersey.  After her adoption, as a very young child of 2, she was taken to the Netherlands to be raised by her adoptive family. She brings OUR family full circle–from the Netherlands to New Jersey and from New Jersey back to Europe!  Isn’t that amazing!

Worldwide Genealogical Collaboration— aren’t we blessed to be a part of it! Enjoy finding your cousins all over the world. 

Until next time, Helen

 

Map depicting migration of colonial settlers from Europe to America and back to Europe. –From DNA Genetic Communities, Ancestry.com.

Originally published in Worldwide Genealogy- A Genealogical Collaboration , 27 July, 2017

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Mapping My Genealogical Research

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Mapping My Genealogical Research
by Helen Y. Holshouser
-first published on the Worldwide Genealogy–Genealogical Collaboration Blog, May 27, 2017

In honor of Mother’s Day, May 2017, my daughter Annie gave me a world map, cork to post it on, and a large box of colorful push pins!  What a lovely gift to give a Mom who is totally “into” genealogy!  As we opened the gift, she explained that she thought we could post it on a wall and use the pins to mark some of my genealogical discoveries.  I was touched by such a thoughtful gift. 

We had so much fun not only posting the map, but placing the push pins according to  things we thought important.  We have just started this project, and already realize that we need a larger map!  How wonderful is that! 

The first thing we did, was place red pins where our immediate family lives. That is mainly in three places, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, USA.  Next. we looked at the family trees I had developed for both my side of the family, and for my husband’s side. We also looked at the genetic ancestry, or ethnicity maps that Ancestry gave me based on my DNA testing.  It was exciting to see the details of our family represented on a map, and like my own genealogical work, the map evolved as we thought it through. It is still a work in progress, and I would welcome your suggestions for other things to add. 

From working on both family trees, I knew before doing my DNA, that I personally was a melting pot American.  On my mother’s side I had inherited traits from Irish, English, French, and Italian ancestors mostly. Perhaps that is where  the  passionate, emotional side of my genetic makeup was nurtured.  On my father’s side, I have the more practical traits of the German and Scottish. (Stereotypes, I know!)  My husband Max’s ancestral make up is mainly English and German.  On our map, I used orange push pins to symbolize our ancestral heritage.  Notice how they are clustered in Western Europe– well, that is 99% of my heritage according to my DNA results.  Look how ancestry breaks it down on this map: 


I keep thinking I need to make a list of all the cousins I have met through my research and on facebook where the many genealogical and family groups enhance our meeting  DNA matches as well as ones found in encouraging each other’s research. For awhile I kept telling people I had met 100 new cousins through my research, then 200, now I have no doubt that it is  500  or more new cousins who have come into my life with a similar interest–genealogy and family  history!  How exciting and life enriching is that!  I used blue pins on the map to represent all the cousins I had met in the States and in Europe and Australia!  Obviously, I did not have a big enough map, nor enough blue pins, to represent all the wonderful cousins I have met. 


The yellow pins stand for the focus of my most recent genealogical research and DNA detective skills that improve with experience. One of the great joys of my life, has been the honor of joining an adoptee’s search for their own ancestral and biological roots. I used the yellow pins to represent some of the adoptees whose journey’s I have joined. Sharing these life experiences–life stories–has been intensely  rewarding—and intensely painful.  There have been the joys of reunions, the pain of rejection, death, lies, hiding, and even discovering horrors like the fact that your biological parent was a rapist or other criminal!  We must look for biological roots with wide open eyes–bracing for the worst that can shake our identities, and allowing joy for good news, which can still shake our identities. We must work to center ourselves before embarking on such a search, which should ultimately enhance, deepen, and expand our sense of self–not shake it to the core! You are not your parents, not your DNA traits, you are who you choose to be. 

This new ancestral map hangs in the hallway in the center of our home. How wonderful to pass by it many times a day and think of all the individuals and their unique stories and personalities–all the new family I’ve come to know and appreciate!  Still it’s evolving.  

All of the authors of this blog engage in genealogical research, most of you  readers are interested as well. What a life enhancing experience doing genealogical work has been for me.  With my severe heart disease, I was told years ago that my time on earth was limited–the joy of this work, the joy of being involved with the people the work represents, well, that has brought an immense quality to my life.  Mapping a few of the projects is a wonderful representation of the joy I feel.

Until we meet again, I am wishing you the very best, and that you meet new cousins who add joy to your life as well!  Helen


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Happy New Year 2017–Looking Back and Looking Forward

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Until yesterday, when I posted my first post of this year, I had not blogged since June, 2016!  Some of you missed me, thank you very much.  It’s been an interesting six months, good and bad as real life always is.  This is my family’s story, part of it for 2016.

The less than good events were of course, my continuing battle with heart disease, and angina, which only creates problems if I walk too far, more than  20 to 35 feet, or stand more than a few minutes, or get too cold, or too hot!  

Health issues continued to try to bring us down, but didn’t succeed!  My husband of 45 years, Max had cancer last year.  He had surgery and treatments, and appears to be cancer free.  We are keeping an eye on his numbers of course, but so far it’s been great!  Max, who is never sick, but our strength and rock, also had bronchitis which would not stop!  We all had viruses as well, so we kind of quarantined ourselves for a couple of weeks, with coughing and hacking being the ultimate sound in our house!  LOL

 Our adult  daughter, one of them,  hurt her back and has been unable to return to work for over a year! Treatment after treatment, doctor after doctor, she had to give up her apartment and move home–then there were the medical bills. Thank God for Obamacare!  Oh, you say Republicans are going to get rid of it? You say they won the elections?  How did I miss that? Not!

Even in my family of origin–normally healthy people were sick last year! Seriously ill. My sister had quintuple bypass and an ablation for afib.  The ablation failed and in a month they did a cardioversion!  Vasculitis set in, so forth and so on!  She continues to improve, but what a battle!  One brother fights severe diabetes, and another had cancer surgery also!  It’s true what they say…

http://www.criticalchristian.com/view.asp?file=431.%20The%20Latest%20Chapter(1).htm&id=3&feature=Essays&title=The%20Latest%20Chapter%20in%20Growing%20Old

http://www.criticalchristian.com/view.asp?file=431.%20The%20Latest%20Chapter(1).htm&id=3&feature=Essays&title=The%20Latest%20Chapter%20in%20Growing%20Old

So you can see that health concerns overshadowed our lives this past year.

Good news buoyed us however, our faith sustained us and fun and adventures brought joy!  Max is much better, I am stable, and our daughter is improving, slowly but surely!  So why did I not blog for six months?

I kept thinking I would.  But besides health issues, I got into helping people find their birth parents and their true heritage, genealogy!  It was so rewarding, and so much fun, I felt like a detective!  Amazingly, and as we all know, the universe works in strange ways. Most of the people I had the joy of being involved with were people who matched my own dna on ancestry!  I’ve written about a case or two before actually, but in the last six months, the numbers of folks topped fifteen that I was involved in searching for roots with! I can hardly wait to tell you about some of them, some successful, some not, some still in progress. However, all were successful in one way, I met a new cousin!   I met generally  3rd, 4th, even 6th cousins who had been adopted, and were kin to me!  Amazing adventures!

Of course my other special hobbies, of my 3 g’s, besides genealogy, are grandchildren and gardening. They each brought us so very much joy this year, that we can still smile,laugh,and enjoy life…and maybe even blog a little.  

Fully present in the moment, children help you focus on joy! Fully beautiful at the moment, flowers do also.  And don’t forget Elvis, it’s his birthday!

 Lift your head, look around, breathe, smile, life is worth living. Wishing you all the best, and looking forward to the journey. 

Personal photo collection, grandchildren enjoying first snow of 2017

Personal photo collection, grandchildren enjoying first snow of 2017

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Personal photo collection, lillies in our garden

 

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“We Are the Storytellers, Called by Our Ancestors”

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“We are the storytellers– called by our ancestors.

 In each family there is one who seems called to find the 
ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live again, to tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.

Doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the storytellers of the tribe. All tribes have one. We have been called, as it were, by our genes. Those who have gone before cry out to us, “Tell our story!” So, we do. In finding them, we somehow find ourselves.

 How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh.

 How many times have I told the ancestors, “You have a wonderful family; you would be proud of us.” I cannot say.

It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who am I and why do I do the things I do. It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish, how they contributed to what we are today. It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family.

With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are they and they are the sum of who we are. So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take my place in the long line of family storytellers.

That is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and restore the memory –or greet those whom we had never known before.” Author Unknown
While many of you may have seen this writing, author unfortunately unknown, I have only read it recently.  As a person who has been telling family stories for years, this message speaks to me.  It also reminds me of so many of you whom I have come to know.  You, the genealogy bloggers, the researchers, the family reunioners, the bedtime story tellers about great grandpa folks, you are the Storytellers of your family, and  I know how valuable you are, how much it will be appreciated in years to come, how much I appreciate others who left stories and information for me to find.  

This poem inspired me to get back to blogging, and to start 2017 with enthusiasm and renewed energy.  Looking forward to being in touch with you all again.  I am also wishing you the very best in 2017!  

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Memorial Day–Remembering Two Who Died Serving Their Country in the Armed Services or Collaterally

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All over the world, people pause to remember those who fought and died trying to protect their countrymen.  Different countries use unique ways to celebrate and honor their lives.  In my opinion, war is a terrible thing. If it can be avoided, I would hope leaders all over the world would choose peace and collaboration over pain and suffering.

In the USA, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. It is a federally declared holiday. Flying our flags, family picnics, parades of soldiers and sailors, decorating cemeteries, and remembering the many who gave of their lives to serve their country are some of  the ways it is celebrated.

Like countries everywhere, we have lost millions of lives in our many wars. Today I want to tell you the story about  two of my family members who suffered dramatic deaths/wounds that represent the tragedies experienced by almost every family in the world.
 

World War II saw millions of people all over the world die due both to armed battles, and/or as civilians caught in those fights. In 1943, one of my aunts, my mother’s sister Nancy, had the opportunity to marry her sweetheart Bob while he was home from the war on leave. He was an Air Force Pilot, and she was so proud of him! I wasn’t even born yet, but my mother told us this story many times.

Kerse sisters at Nancy's wedding

Five sisters participate in their sister Nancy’s wedding to Bob Guthrie in 1943.  l to r, Katherine Kerse Buck with husband Roger next to her.The next two adults are Guthries, she is Cilla Guthrie, sister of the Groom. The child is the flower girl, Claudia Burnett Williamson, daughter of Julia Louise Kerse Burnett standing with her. In the middle you see the bride Nancy Langhorne Kerse and her husband Bob Guthrie. Next is Margaret Steptoe Kerse Youngblood, with an unknown man next to her. The last sister shown is Janey Bell Kerse Sommers, and behind her on the end is Cecil Hogue Youngblood, Margaret’s husband, my father.

When their boyfriends and husbands were at war, several of my mother’s six sisters lived together in an apartment.  My mother Margaret and her sisters Nancy and Julia lived together. After having been married for a very short while, Nancy was missing her husband terribly. One Saturday  afternoon, she napped in her room. Suddenly she ran out into the living room crying and talking rapidly. “No, no, no!  Bob is dead! Bob is dead, I can’t stand it, I can’t say goodbye!”  Her sisters thought she was still sleeping and having a nightmare. However, Nancy soon explained that she awakened to see an image of Bob sitting on the bottom of her bed. She said that he spoke with her kindly, saying he was sorry, but he had to leave her, had to say goodbye. “He told me he loved me, and wanted me to have a good life.”  “No!”, she moaned in inconsolable grief, so sure of the reality of her dream.  The event shook all of the family, but most believed it was just a dream.  However, within 24 hours, two military personnel came to the door and notified Nancy officially that Bob had been killed! The extreme joy of a wedding, dreams of the future,  and it all died that day with her beloved Bob Guthrie. Apparently, Bob had truly appeared to my aunt, how else would she have know that news before it was delivered?  Every Memorial Day as I was growing up, we heard this story which became a family classic. Other relatives died in the wars, but this one stood out. A group of Bob’s classmates at the Military Academy wrote and sent this to my Aunt Nancy:

“Courtesy of His Classmates

United States Military Academy

Robert Wood Dailey Guthrie

14 May 1920 – 14 August 1944

Died near Brest, France, aged 24 years

Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

As June 1944 approached, many divisions including the 78th were raided for privates and lieutenants — among them First Lieutenant Guthrie. Even the goodbyes were hasty and Bob sailed for Northern Ireland as one of the many fillers destined for Normandy. His assignment was in Company “D,” 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division.

On the fourth of July 1944, the 1st Battalion entered into the severe combat of Normandy and over a month of testing for Bob. The baptism of fire began on the 8th and 9th of July against a determined enemy. This was the most costly combat for the battalion; 124 enlisted men and five officers. But more was yet to come. The best ground over which to break out of Normandy lay in front of the 1st battalion. But the enemy knew it as well. On 25 July, the battalion spearheaded the St. Lo breakout through which moved two armored divisions and the 79th Division. For that action the unit received battle honors in Army orders. In the breakout the battalion went 50 miles by foot to join in the capture of Rennes. In early August, the unit cleaned up enemy resistance and took in more than 300 replacements.

Then the 8th Division and the 6th Armored were sent west to surround the fortified port city of Brest. Here a German hero from Crete commanded three divisions plus many other units and was under direct orders from Hitler to hold out for four months. It was the lot of the 1st Battalion to be the first divisional unit to hit these fortifications. From 8 August, the battalion began to learn how to deal with piercing the forts as they closed the noose around the garrison. But the airfield had to be taken in order to close the last route of escape. On 11 August, while leading his men in that attack, Bob Guthrie was mortally wounded by enemy machine gun fire. He died in a field hospital on the 14th — an infantry combat leader of great courage hit at the head of his troops.”

American Flags Are Placed On Gravestones In Arlington To Honor War Dead

ARLINGTON, VA – MAY 27: A member of the U.S. Army Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), salutes after placing a flag on a grave stone at Arlington National Cemetary May 27, 2004 in Arlington, Virginia. An event called “Flags In” takes place before every Memorial Day weekend in honor of those veterans who have lost their lives. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

When we think of the men and women who gave their lives protecting their countries, most of us think  of the actual fighters, and rightly so. However, “50 to 85 million people worldwide were killed during WWII.”  (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II)  “Over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of WWI.” (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I)  How is it that we choose this suffering for our world!   

Civilian deaths are sometimes called “collateral” damage. Their families might feel collateral  is not the right term. My maternal grandmother was one to be counted as collateral damage from WWI, but I’m sure she was not included in the numbers. On Memorial Day I have come to think of her wounding and death.  

It’s hard to believe, but this wonderful woman, a nurse by profession and by all reports a superb one, met tragedy at the hands of a patient. She was caring for a comatose private duty patient, a veteran of WWI. She had bathed him and went to empty the water, as my mother told the story. When she returned to the room, he yelled out for her to get away and called her by the derogatory name of some of our military adversaries in  WWI. He was delirious, but afraid. Unfortunately, there was a rifle hanging on the wall that was still loaded, no one had realized or dreamed it was still loaded!  In his delirious state he shot my grandmother in the head! Within a couple of hours, he was dead of his own illness, just that last semiconscious rousing  turned her whole world upside down and that of her children and husband also! She was shot on January 28, 1930, but not killed. The bullet apparently split in half, half traveling down her neck, and half lodging in her brain, inoperable. She lived, but was unable to talk and walk well for the rest of her life–and she had six children!  Shot by a mortally wounded soldier, she was a victim of the war herself.

Kate Steptoe Houchins Kearse, w out border

Even though I’d heard this story all my life, as I worked on my genealogy,I found several newspaper articles in archives regarding her being shot. Her death certificate, and the patient’s certificate  were available to me in a records search. Since this was my mother’s mother, I heard the story from family repeatedly.

 These are two deaths that I will remember specifically on this Memorial day. There have been many more in our own family, and in yours, I know. This Memorial Day I will remember and honor the dead, but I will pray for leaders who seek peace.

 

This blog post was initially published by this author in the Worldwide Genealogy~A Genealogical Collaboration.

 

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Honoring the High School Teachers in Our Family

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Teacher support without date

High School is a whole different world from Elementary and Middle School. Students– some, are thinking about careers and college. Some are thinking about girls…or boys!  Hormones are raging, anger spills over easily, there’s driving, dancing, and football!  There are the shy introverts, and the wide open extroverts –and then there are teachers and principals! Bravest of all souls on earth! We have at least twelve high school teachers in our family and two principals, plus one assistant principal already recognized!

Max Holshouser, 2013I have to start with my most favorite high school teacher in the world of course–my husband, Max Holshouser. After teaching for twelve years, Max retired  almost two years ago now.  Max earned a BA in Industrial Arts Education at North Carolina State University and has taught woodworking as well as his other subjects. Although trained as a teacher, Max spent  25 years as a mechanical designer in industry.  He designed things like the  mechanical components  for uninterruptible power supply sources, and million dollar pharmaceutical bottle filling 061313093651machines!  When he decided to teach, he brought all of that experience into his classroom.  He taught drafting, Computer Assisted Drafting to be exact. He also taught Architecture and Engineering honors classes at Wakefield High School in Wake County, NC.  Max taught woodworking in a community college setting and to middle schoolers along the way. It was always interesting for me to visit his school and classroom and see the high esteem his peers and his students had for him. Everywhere we went  were students speaking to him, “Hi Mr. H.! What do you think of this! Look what I did!”  After they graduated, several students got in touch to let him know how things were going in college.  Recognizing my bias on his behalf,  I wrote an in-depth blog post about Max previously, so if you’d like to see some of his woodworking you can at this 3 part post: Max Alexander Holshouser, Family Man and Extraordinary Craftsman.

TRAVIS 6

Architectural model built from CAD design in classroom of Max Holshouser, abt. 2012

I think it is so great to find out what family has been doing and to learn more about them! With that in mind, I want to tell you about more  of the high school teachers in our family both past and present!  I will present them in alphabetical order according to their surnames!

Claire Fallon with crown of flowers, croppedA cousin through my Scottish Hogue family, Claire Fallon is a young woman I have known all of her life! Her mother and I were college roommates discovering we were cousins after I got involved in genealogical research in my  60’s.  I have had the honor of watching Claire grow up and become this amazing teacher!  From childhood on, Claire was very independent and creative. She developed into a strong individual with philosophies of life well-defined.  She was blessed in my opinion, to grow up in Hawaii having been born in Pennsylvania, and to have spent her early childhood in North Carolina.  In Hawaii I believe, she embraced a healthy lifestyle, danced and became interested in theatre and yoga.  She earned a BA from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. She also took extensive training in yoga at the Yandara Yoga Institute on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.  

In 2010, this courageous young woman opened and taught in a school for yoga and meditation. The school was named The Culebra Institute of Yoga and was located on the beautiful island of Culebra, Puerto Rico. Amazingly, when Claire moved back to Hawaii in 2014, she opened a branch of this school in Honolulu! She then became a business tycoon as well as a teacher at heart. Loving theatre and dance still, Claire took a position teaching both of these at St. Andrew’s Priory School in Claire in playHonolulu, Hawaii which includes grades K-12! Claire teaches music and movement to K-5,  and directs theater productions in 6-12.  She is currently directing an all female  Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, and she and the students are very excited about it!  Just look at a typical day in the life of this dynamic young educator:

Started off my morning with some meditation and yoga, taught 4 classes of music and movement for young children, led a status acting workshop for older kids, went snorkeling and saw a school of unicorn fish, watched a sunset on the beach, got take out from Shaloha, and in bed before 9pm! That’s a day well lived!”

Claire Fallon yoga pose in water

Last year  Claire  taught  a sunset yoga class at the Yoga School of Kailua, in Kailua, Honolulu County, Hawaii. In October, 2015, Claire will start teaching a new yoga class through her new endeavor called Clarity Yoga. You can find information about Clarity Yoga on facebook , just click on the name.

Just in case you were hoping Claire would do more for you and our world, she does!  Claire is the owner/consultant of Hawaii Green Living. Through her efforts there she teaches people to live a healthier life and to decrease their footprint on our earth. You rock Claire! We are so proud of you and your efforts to make the world a better place.

Susan Elswick Ferrell, Math Geek Teacher of the YearSusan Elswick Ferrell is part of our extended Spangler family. She is officially retired from teaching in high school, but like many teachers,  continues because she loves the students and the job. Susan has had an amazing career. She started college herself at Southern West Virginia Community College then finished at West Virginia University Institute of Technology with a degree in Mathematics Education in 1977.  In 2004 Susan earned her Masters Degree from University of Phoenix in Technology and Curriculum. 

Susan’s career varied as well from beginning to end with some amazing peaks and valleys of course.  Just after finishing college, Susan taught remedial classes for college students at her alma mater. After that she taught 7th grade Math and coached cheerleading at Summerville Junior High School. Then she taught Special Education on the Junior High level for three years. She began to teach in high school and loved it. Moving to  Montgomery, WV. and  Valley High School, she taught every Susan Elswick Ferrell cartoon math teacherMath course offered there and some computer programming for the rest of her high school career, retiring in 2011. However, that is not all she did–she was the advisor for the yearbook most of her time at Valley  High School and loved it. She coached cheerleaders for a few years.  As well as all of that,  on a county-wide level, she piloted the computer grading system and taught it in the different schools. Awesome! 

Even while teaching in high school,  Susan also taught part-time at West Virginia Tech.  During eight summers Susan  taught “Upward Bound” programs which encourage children from low-income or low opportunity situations to learn that they can succeed  in college and beyond.   Since retiring she has continued to teach part-time, two courses a semester where she has generally taught developmental math, or Finite Math.  

What an amazing career with many mixed experiences as well.  We know that Susan was an extraordinary teacher also, because in 2006, she was chosen Secondary Teacher of the Year not only from her own school, but also from the whole of Fayette County, West Virginia! I am not surprised that they were as proud of her as her extended family is! You know Susan was an excellent teacher when she states emphatically that “It’s all about the kids!” and says she misses them since retirement! That’s a teacher to love! 

We have many more high school teachers in our family tree, some who came before us  and laid the groundwork  for our family.  I will have the joy of telling their stories in the next post. I can hardly wait to hear what some of you think of these three incredible teachers! We are blessed with talent in our families! 

Teachers need 3 bones

 

 

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Honoring the Teachers in Our Family

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School is starting again this week for millions of children around the USA and the world. What a perfect time for me to tell you about some of the teachers in our family tree. I can count almost forty teachers in just a couple of generations!  What a legacy they are leaving, what an example they are and have set! I am so proud of each of these educators, and so pleased to be counted among them and related to them!

Teachers are so important, how is it that we, as a society forget that, or neglect them sometimes?  All it takes is to send your 5 year-old child or grandchild off to school under someone else’s control, influence, and guidance all day, to realize just how important they are! As the years progress, not only do we count on teachers to socialize our children, we count on them, depend on them to actually educate them! We want our children not only to read, write and do math, but to learn to think critically and solve life’s problems well! We might also hope they learn a sport and sportsmanship. What about a foreign language? Art, music, theatre, calculus, geometry, history? Yes, we want it all–and we don’t want our teachers to complain that they are poor or to act out in any way!  Wow! Tall order!  I am proud to say many men and women in our family have chosen this noble profession!  

This post will highlight family members who have chosen Special Education and Elementary School Teaching for their career.  The next couple of posts will  feature Middle and/or Junior High School teachers then climb the ladder through High School, and meet the Principals are in our family tree! There are also family members who’ve taught in our business schools, community colleges, and Universities as well! All of these educators represent a  great deal of brain power! 

Special Education Teachers are teachers who teach children with cognitive and/or developmental impairments, learning disabilities, and behavioral  and emotional difficulties that impede learing. They are courageous and magical! 

Kerse, Janey Bell

Janey Bell Kerse Sommers

Previously I wrote a blog post about my Mother’s sister, my Aunt Janey Bell Kerse Sommers! She was a teacher of students with behavioral and learning problems. She spent over twenty years dedicated to helping them do the best they could do, then became the Special Education Supervisor for all of Forsyth County Public Schools, Forsyth County, N.C.,  mentoring other teachers along the way. You can see her story “Janey Bell Kerse Sommers, 1923-2002, Brilliance and Joyfulness Dimmed by Alzheimer‘s” by clicking on the title.

Helen Y. Holshouser, about 48 years old

Helen Y. Holshouser in 1997

  What is amazing to me, is that even though Janey Bell Somers had no children of her own, she inspired several generations of young people to teach and to learn. She motivated me to teach students with special needs–in learning, in behavior, which I did for seven years before I became a family therapist. I taught children in elementary school at first, then I moved to a Junior High where I had children ages 12-16 in my classroom . Their academic skills ranged from about 3rd grade to 9th grade, and I prepared individualized plans for each student at their level in each subject!  Every day we worked on social and behavioral skills and goals as well. One student got angry while in time out, and set our classroom which was in a mobile unit (trailer) behind the school, on fire! Another time a student attacked me physically and took me backwards, over the sofa where I was seated, onto the floor! One student hot-wired and stole my car! (He brought it back after a brief joy ride!) LOL, no wonder I had a heart attack at age 50!  I was challenged everyday with these students, and cared for them deeply. 

Youngblood Kerr, Susan

Susan Youngblood Kerr

One of my younger cousins is still teaching Special Education– Severe Behavioral Needs Children, now in her 33rd year! Susan Youngblood Kerr who lives in Missouri with her husband and three children,  has two Master’s Degrees, one in Special Education and one in Educational Leadership. She served as a Language Arts teacher to General Education students for several years and worked for others at the Middle School level. Susan was honored when one of her former students got in touch with her recently with a heartwarming message: (This from a student she had in 1985. He was from the projects–no dad–she never met his mom.)

“Hi Young lady well so nice to hear from you. I was unforgettable– I hope that’s a good thing. how’s your family doing? fine I hope. they have the greatest mom in the world but you already know that. well I’m doing great myself –just retired last year from the Navy after 20 years of service. I live in Japan with my lovely wife and 3 beautiful kids. yes who would ever think me a husband and a father! well for what it is worth I’ve always known that you cared about us kids even then. when I think about any teacher that cared and made a difference in my life, you are #1 on my list and I mean that from the bottom of my heart!  so you see you did make a change in a little boy’s life, but now I’m a man. thanks and God bless.” 

Wow! The above brings tears to my eyes–what a great tribute! 

 

Nichols, JonathanRemarkably, we have another young cousin, also through the Langhorne line, who taught students with behavioral and emotional difficulties!  Jonathan Daniel Nichols is my second cousin, and he taught in Maryland. He is smart, caring and well-respected.  He continued a family tradition he didn’t even know existed when called to teach the most challenging students.  We especially need men to serve as role models for this population of students. I am so proud of him.

Special Education seems to be a calling for many in our family,Houchins, Mrs. John L. Josephine Ellis Bell as we had a Great Aunt Josephine Bell Houchins who taught deaf students at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Staunton, Virginia for many years. I remember how interesting it was to go and visit her and her husband my Great Uncle John Langhorne Houchins, and see her talking with the students in sign language. During breaks I was mesmerized to watch the students gather with their friends and engage in animated sign language chatting just like we did between classes at school, only they were quieter but more expressive.  

Jamie Beck SkinnerAnother Youngblood cousin, my second, once removed, Jamie Beck Skinner is a Special Education Paraeducator at Abingdon Elementary School in Abingdon, Maryland. While the teacher leads a group activity, Jamie might be giving another student private reading lessons. She is truly a para–beside–educator who teaches where and when the teacher cannot. It makes it possible to reach some students, to prevent melt-downs, to teach to certain strengths and weaknesses not possible with only one teacher in the room! What a blessing a paraeducator in the classroom is! 

Goodell, Mary, edited from weddingIt’s hard to believe, but in our immediate family system, I have another cousin who is a Special Education Supervisor! She serves the people of New Hampshire!  Mary Casey Goodell is a dynamic, dedicated educator who has been mentoring other Special Education teachers for many years now!  So, two supervisors of Special Education, and eight special education teachers in one family, pretty amazing!  I wonder if there is a call to serve others embedded in our dna?

Elementary School Teachers

Those who teach kindergarten through fifth grade work with children as they meet a great number of their developmental milestones, socially, physically, and intellectually.  Teachers and parents are the ones who help mold and shape us at these formative ages. My sister Anne Youngblood Prince Anne Y. Prince, 2015has retired now after teaching fourth, fifth, and sixth grades in both public and private schools for over 36 years!  She earned her Master’s Degree in Reading at the University of Richmond (Virginia).  Most of her teaching career was spent guiding fourth graders at St. Christopher’s School, a private Episcopal school for boys in Richmond, Virginia. Anne was highly dedicated to her students and was an excellent teacher who was always thinking about, training for, or putting into practice her myriad skills to give her students the best education possible. You couldn’t ask for a kinder, smarter, more successful teacher. She taught long enough to teach the children of some of her students who were so proud to have their children in her care. 

Youngbloods, Liz, and her children, Mary taylor, Susan, and Lewis IIIOne of Anne’s mentors was Elizabeth Walker Youngblood, wife of Lewis Jr. and mother of  Mary, Lewis III, and Susan. As described above, Susan is now teaching for her 33rd year! What a great influence Liz was for her children and many others.  Liz and Anne, my sister,  taught fifth grade at L.L. Beasley Elementary School in Prince George County, Virginia at the same time, and my sister remembers her as creative, skilled and highly motivated to do an excellent job.   I remember Liz also as a wonderful, firm, kind, and very intelligent woman.  Unfortunately, she is the second teacher in our family taken ill by that crushing disease Alzheimer’s! Liz also served as an assistant principal  as well in a school in Colonial Heights, Virginia.

My sister Anne tells an interesting story about how she first met Elizabeth Walker Youngblood in 1952.  Anne was in fourth grade at Bon Air Elementary School, and was her classroom’s representative to the Red Cross School Committee. Elizabeth was the Red Cross School Coordinator for all the schools in Chesterfield County,Virginia.  Liz sat right down beside Anne and introduced herself as the fiancée of her cousin!  (Her husband Lewis Jr. was our father’s first cousin.)  “Let me show you my ring. I just got engaged to your cousin!” Elizabeth was so kind to ten-year old Anne, that they became friends for life and then coworkers.

My first cousin once removed, Susan Youngblood Rawls, Youngblood, Susan Rawlstaught fifth grade for ten years at Crestwood Elementary School in Chesterfield County, Virginia.  She is now the Director of a preschool. Energetic, enthusiastic, and smart as a whip, she is quite amazing! How lucky are all the little children, all the families who enter her school! She will help get them started in the right direction, will help lay the ground work for their happiness and their learning the rest of their lives!  That is one tall order and a major accomplishment! 

Lauren Ruby editedLauren Ruby, daughter of Jamie Beck Skinner and another Youngblood cousin, teaches Kindergarten at Taneytown Elementary school in Carroll County, Maryland. Do you remember the poem by Robert Fulghum that reminds us what we need to succeed in life we learned in kindergarten? Well, that’s Lauren– preparing her students to succeed in life and in school! A tall order that she handles with aplomb! 

Kindergarten all I ever needed to learn

Maryrose Youngblood, my first cousin once removed in my wonderful family tree, taught fourth grade like my sister for many years in Highland County, Virginia. These Youngblood women– we are hard workers, and we are directors at heart and by dna!  Kind, efficient, smart…Maryrose was an outstanding  teacher. 

Youngblood, Marshall daughter kathy Lee Pack 2015Kathy Lee Pack, daughter of Marshall Youngblood Lee and Robert Lee, has been teaching at the elementary school level in Florida for 31 years this year!  All of those years were as a 4th grade teacher until the last two when she changed to second grade! Kathy has four adult children and grandchildren to keep her busy. She is my second cousin once removed, and a Youngblood woman through and through. By that I mean she can handle a room full of 30 restless 6 year olds and make them feel good about themselves because they chose to complete their math assignment while she was reading with a small group! 

A cousin through the Voorus, Hogue, and Spangler family lines, Vorus, BessieBesse B. Voorus was born December 12, 1893.  Miss Voorus was graduated from Pleasantville High School and received her bachelor of arts degree from Slippery Rock Normal School. She was an elementary school teacher for over 43 years, teaching in both the Oil City and Meadville School Districts in Pennsylvania.  One of her great nieces remembers her mother talking about having Bessie as a teacher and her encouraging them to learn about Geography especially.  Wouldn’t it have been a surprise to realize a little girl you taught in elementary school would grow up to marry your nephew and her children would be your great nieces and nephews! 

Besse taught for forty-three years  and died in 1992 at 98 years old! Can you imagine what she witnessed in her lifetime!? The things she witnessed and was able to teach her students–she lived through horse and buggy days to automobiles and rockets to the moon! She saw cooking with wood to gas, electricity and even microwaves! Television didn’t exist in her childhood, but later became a huge part of our lives! Talk about having to be adaptable! Just to live successfully she had to be willing to change, grow, and adapt–weren’t her students lucky to have such an experienced teacher and a versatile one! 

Vorus, Dorothy Pearl VorusBessie’s sister, Dorothy Pearl Voorus Hogg was a teacher also, teaching in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Her husband was also a teacher who will be featured as well.  Dorothy and Calvin had six children of their own, can you imagine how busy this lady was day in and day out! . She began teaching in a one-room school-house with all grades together, and taught long enough to enter a modern elementary school building in the 1950’s and into the early ’70s! This kind of longevity always inspires me. 

Lena Voorus is the third sister to teach in the Elementary Voorus, Lena had a stroke, very sweetSchools of Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania! Born in 1889, Lena died in 1978 all in Venango County, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, Lena had a stroke and became wheelchair bound. Her sisters took care of her and stayed supportive of each other. Her great nieces and nephews remember her as sweet and kind, a great tribute. What’s amazing to me, is that these women, born in the late 1800’s, at a time when women didn’t generally work outside the home, went out and got their education, and worked at a profession. That takes a lot of courage and fortitude, good for them! 

Julia Houchins Patterson

Julia in the 1940’s

My Great-Aunt Julia Houchins Nichols became an attorney. However, she was only 15 in 1900 when her mother died. Her father soon deserted his six children and moved out-of-state. Thank heavens the children did have a guardian angel and grandparents nearby. Nonetheless, never one to let grass grow under her feet, Julia went out and got a job teaching.  The story goes that Julia, only a teen still, went to apply for a teaching job in the mountains of southwest Virginia in Patrick County, where she lived.  The person interviewing her asked her what she could tell him that would impress him and make him think she was smart enough to teach. She told him she could tell him exactly how many boards for lumber he could get from any sized tree.  She had caught his attention, and he pointed to a tree outside the window and said “Okay, tell me how many boards could you get from that tree? Julia solved the problem aloud, and her reasoning and math skills so impressed the man, he hired her on the spot! Later she told family that she was so thankful that her family member, I’m not sure who, had worked in a sawmill, so that she had learned this skill. I’m sure she was an excellent teacher, she had four younger brothers to wrangle with after her mother died, children didn’t scare her! Julia lived from 1885 to 1969, another witness to travel by horse to travel by rockets to the moon! She served as the very first female Assistant District Attorney in the State of Virginia. Julia was a force to be reckoned with, and was highly loved by her family and still is today by grandchildren who are now grandparents themselves! 

Eight Special Education teachers, and ten Elementary Education teachers–what a group to be proud of, but they are not all of the educators in our family!  In the next post I will tell you about our Middle and High School teachers as well as our  Principals, and College Professors! What a legacy they are creating or have left for our family.

 It’s Fall– “time to go back to school”– it seems that teachers  hear this call in their souls!  

Teacher , Thank-a-Teacher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This gallery contains 26 photos