Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Final Blog - (for now - not forever)

As I indicated at the end of the last blog – our travels for this summer are coming to an end as we are moving.

From our current house in Florida we are moving about 6 hours west – to Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi. Did I just really sat that? We are going to live in Mississippi? And in an area that was totally devastated by Katrina? In a word – yes. We found this really cute house on a canal that leads to the Jourdan River and on out to the Bay. We have a small dock and hope to get a pontoon boat for cruising and fishing. We are close to miles and miles of beaches, good fishing, casinos, and only a 1 hour drive to New Orleans. We can go to NO for dinner – or whatever!

The area is great. It is really coming back from Katrina – which was 7 years ago this coming August. When Katrina is mentioned most people think of New Orleans. I guess because it is more heavily populated and more people know about it – that is where all the news was reported from.

Bay St. Louis is where Katrina made landfall and this entire part of Mississippi from Ocean Springs to the east to the Pearl River on the west was wiped slick. If you go back and look at satellite pictures – there was nothing left here for miles and miles. Pretty much everything south of I-10 was gone. Just gone. There was a 27' storm surge and where we are buying the surge pushed up through the bay and came in from the north. A couple of miles to our south is a Kmart. Picture, in your mind, a Kmart sign on a pole and how high above the ground that sign would be. Now picture water at the bottom of that sign – that is how high the water was. We are betting that it won't happen again. And if it does – we will deal with it. Just as our friends in Oklahoma deal with tornadoes and massive hail storms or our friends in the Northeast deal with blizzards, or people who live close to the Mississippi River deal with massive flooding in some years.

So farewell for now dear friends. We have much work to do to get moved.

And once again – thanks for sharing our travels with us.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Oklahoma - The Last Day

If you go back several blogs you will see that I told you to remember that Aunt Anna Lilac was 88 at the start of the week.
On our last day in OK, July 9, we celebrated her 89th birthday. Her birthday is July 10 but on that day Monte and I were going to be on the road headed south and she was going to be on the road headed back to Colorado. 
Aunt Anna's day began when DeAnn took her to visit her life long friend, Betty Grace. Seriously, these two have been best friends since first grade. First Grade! And it was amazing that Betty Grace lives in OKC where Anna Lilac was visiting. They had last seen each other 5 years ago and had a very nice visit.

While DeAnn and Anna Lilac were out galavanting around, Cheryl and I were plowing through family stuff trying to get as much scanned and organized as we could. Well - we got lots scanned but it is not organized yet and I need to add lots of stuff to our tree but - all in good time.
Friday evening was spent celebrating Anna Lilac's birthday with great mexican food and ice cream cake and just relaxing and enjoying our last hours together. I am so very lucky to be a part of this family – you all are great.

This has been a jam-packed two weeks. Time to take a break! Or not!

Moving on south! Literally. More about that soon.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Oklahoma Days - A Gathering of Cousins

A bunch of geese are a gaggle, crows - a murder, eagles - a convocation, goldfish - a troubling, or there is a charm of finches. You get the idea - every group of animals has a collective name.

So - when trying to name a get together that we had on Sunday, July 8, I decided on the obvious - A Gathering of Cousins.

I have not been surrounded by so many of my cousins since I was a small child and still lived in Oklahoma. Some of these cousins I knew fairly well, others I had met, and a couple I was meeting for the first time.
The day was fantastic. We talked, told stories, ate quiche, and swapped lies – not really lies, just probably embellished tales or the simple fact that so many of the stories occurred 70 years ago or more. 
 Anna Lilac, Cheryl, Norma, Shelley, Susan
 Susan, Cheryl
 Norma, Anna Lilac
  Echo (back to photo), Imogene, Susan, George and Peggy, Norma, Anna Lilac

We paged through photo albums and albums filled with genealogy research. Peggy brought a boat load of information with her from New Mexico. Peggy's dad, Neal Weekes, had spent much time, effort and $$ in the days before the Internet researching family ties and roots.
 Shelley, Susan
 Norma, Imogene
 Cheryl, Anna Lilac, Shelley, Susan, DeAnn
Cheryl, DeAnn, Tom, Cheryl Merritt, Hank and Echo Backlund
The three family history books that Cheryl has put together are phenomenal.

I spent most of the day picking the brains of all of the older cousins so that I could fill in blanks on our family tree that Cheryl and I share on While I was documenting family info on the computer, friend Becky (honorary cousin), was running the video camera and interviewing everyone and capturing the day in general. Eventually I will upload the video to Youtube but that won't happen until I get back to my home in Florida. For the time being this one video will have to satisfy your curiosity. Keep in mind that everyone in this short video is between 86 and 89 years of age.

I could not figure out how to draw a family tree in the blog which would have been much more instructive so this is the best I could come up with.

As I list people I will try to indicated what their relation ship is to my brother Tom and I.

My dad's mother, Gladys Weekes Carpenter had 3 sisters and 3 brothers.
Cousins that descended from that generation on the Weekes side that attended were:

Anna Lilac Carpenter Richardson Swihart (aunt), CaƱon City, CO
Imogene Weekes Cambron (1st cousin once removed) Oklahoma City, OK
Shirley Cambron Hielman (Imogene's daughter, 2nd cousin) Oklahoma City, OK
Echo Lipe Backlund (1st cousin once removed) Oklahoma City, OK
Norma Harris Black (1st cousin once removed) Oklahoma City, OK
Peggy Weekes Gervais (1st cousin once removed) Maxwell, NM

My dad's dad, Pearl Eugene Carpenter, Sr. had numerous brothers and sisters. His brother Dan's granddaughter attended: (Dan's son, Daniel Clay was my dad's and Anna Lilac's 1st cousin)

Susan Carpenter Pettit (1st cousin once removed) Edmond, OK

Trying to explain all this is too confusing!

1st cousins from my generation:

DeAnn Merritt Parham, Oklahoma City, OK
David Merritt, Oklahoma City, OK
Tom Carpenter, (brother) Broomfield, CO
Cheryl Richardson Monaghan, Bellevue, WA

Cousins from a generation or two (makes me feel old) after mine

Michaela (Anna Lilac's great granddaughter, Cheryl's granddaughter) Bellevue, WA (1st cousin twice removed)
Merritt Parham, Oklahoma City, OK (1st cousin once removed - DeAnn's son)
Carpenter Parham, Oklahoma City, OK (1st cousin once removed - DeAnn's son)
I think I got everyone (not spouses in attendance just cousins)...but I don't have pictures of everyone.  I did not get a chance to take many pictures and did not keep track of what I had/had not taken.  I still cannot believe that not one person thought of taking a group picture.  That is really sad as there is a good chance that this group will not be together again...Hard copy pictures or not - the real pictures are engraved in each of our memories - and those memories are very special.

Cousins Explained

Before I post the next blog you might want to understand how cousin relationships work.
Be it known:  This is 100%, unashamedly, plagiarized from Cousins Explained at

If someone walked up to you and said, "Howdy, I'm your third cousin, twice removed," would you have any idea what they meant? Most people have a good understanding of basic relationship words such as "mother," "father," "aunt," "uncle," "brother," and "sister." But what about the relationship terms that we don't use in everyday speech? Terms like "second cousin" and "first cousin, once removed"? We don't tend to speak about our relationships in such exact terms ("cousin" seems good enough when you are introducing one person to another), so most of us aren't familiar with what these words mean.

Relationship Terms

Sometimes, especially when working on your family history, it's handy to know how to describe your family relationships more exactly. The definitions below should help you out.

Cousin (a.k.a "first cousin")
Your first cousins are the people in your family who have two of the same grandparents as you. In other words, they are the children of your aunts and uncles.
Second Cousin
Your second cousins are the people in your family who have the same great-grandparents as you., but not the same grandparents.
Third, Fourth, and Fifth Cousins
Your third cousins have the same great great grandparents, fourth cousins have the same great-great-great-grandparents, and so on.
When the word "removed" is used to describe a relationship, it indicates that the two people are from different generations. You and your first cousins are in the same generation (two generations younger than your grandparents), so the word "removed" is not used to describe your relationship.
The words "once removed" mean that there is a difference of one generation. For example, your mother's first cousin is your first cousin, once removed. This is because your mother's first cousin is one generation younger than your grandparents and you are two generations younger than your grandparents. This one-generation difference equals "once removed."
Twice removed means that there is a two-generation difference. You are two generations younger than a first cousin of your grandmother, so you and your grandmother's first cousin are first cousins, twice removed.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Oklahoma Days - Saying Goodbye to Dad

On Saturday, July 7, 2012 at 11:00 a.m., a service was held at All Souls' Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City to memorialize the life of my and my brother Tom's father - Pearl Eugene "Gene" Carpenter Jr.
High School Graduation

Dad passed away the morning of January 19, barely 2 days after his 86th birthday.

Dad at 85

Our mom's cremains were already interred in Oklahoma City and we thought it fitting that we bring dad back to his roots where he could rest with the love of his life (yes, that love was our mother!) The only negative to this was that dad had always said that he would NEVER move back to Oklahoma. Oh well - we don't always get what we want...

Father Bright at All Souls conducted a wonderful service and Tom's eulogy of Dad was a perfect summation of Dad's life.   These pictures are from after the service in the Chapel and just prior to the actual interment of dad's ashes.

 Tom hugging Dad for the last time

 A gathering of family and friends

Gene's immediate family
Tom, Marsha, James, Shelley, Monte
(Gene's granddaughter Kelly could not join us)

I would like to share a poem that Tom adapted especially for dad and read to end the eulogy.

Miss Me But Let Me Go

Although I build the roads
I have come to the end of mine
And the sun has set for me.
I want no tears in a gloom-filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little-but not too long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the fun that we once shared
Miss me – but let me go
For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone.
It's all a part of the Master's plan,
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick of heart
cherish each of us here, as the friends we know.
You are not here to bury me, but to let me go
I will see you down the road.

After the service we retired to cousin DeAnn's home for fellowship and food. 
 Shelley, M.A., Neil, Brooke

 Jerry Williams and daughter Linda Durbin

James and Tom with cousin David Merritt and wife Cheryl Merritt

We were very honored to have so many family members and friends join us for the celebration of dad's life. In addition to the local Oklahoma family and friends those that that traveled long distances were: Cousin Cheryl traveled from Bellevue, Washington and brought her granddaughter Michaela and stopped in Colorado to pick up her mother, dad's sister, Anna Lilac.   M.A. Hannifan, daughter Brooke and husband Neil drove from Plano, Texas. M.A is a life long friend of mom and dad's and Brooke was a childhood playmate. Cousin Peggy Gervais and her husband George came from northern New Mexico.

Dad wasn't one to stand on ceremony but he would have loved this one. No – he did love this one as I'm positive that he was there with us.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Oklahoma Days - Episode 3


With high hopes and fingers crossed we left Harrah and went "1 mile east and 2 miles north from the bridge over the North Canadian River." Those are the words that would have been spoken to anyone trying to find the Carpenter Farm back in the day.

On the day we went farm hunting Anna Lilac was 88 years old and it had been 50 years or better since she was back at the home that was built by her parents when she was 2 years old. None of us really expected to be able to find the exact place where the house had been because we assumed it would be long gone. But, driving the old back roads she took us right to - THE FRONT DOOR! As we turned off of the "main" road and up a long dirt side road Anna Lilac exclaimed "That's it! That's the house!" What joy was felt by all in that car cannot be described.

This is the house my father, P.E. “Gene” Carpenter, was born in 86 years and 6 months ago and it was the day before his scheduled memorial service. I was in awe.

Clay Tipton and Anna Lilac

As we drove up by the house, but tried to stay a respectful distance away since we were trespassing, I volunteered to go knock on the door. A gentleman answered the door right away and I said "Hi, I'm Shelley Carpenter and my grandparents built this house." The expression on his face was first shock and then he was beaming and said "Come right on in". I explained that we had a car load of folks, main among those Anna Lilac who had been raised in the house and he was thrilled and wanted everyone to come in.

So began our visit with Clay Tipton. Clay has owned/lived/been the care taker of the house and several acres around it for the past 29 years and he absolutely loves it. Clay could not have been a better host.

Other than a small addition that has been added to the back of the house, it was pretty much as Anna Lilac remembered it.

The cellar with the concrete floor where she and dad roller skated was the same (except for the newer furnace). The cellar had been hand dug by Grandpa Carpenter and probably Uncle Ralph. The foundation of the house, on top of the cellar walls, was made of stone quarried on the farm by Grandpa and Ralph. But who actually laid the foundation? Why none other than Gladys Weekes Carpenter, my grandmother and her sister Lilac (Ralph's wife). AND they were both pregnant at the time, Gladys with my dad and Lilac with her son Buddy. Seriously - these women were pioneers and made of some hardy stock.

The Cellar, showing the hand dug walls topped by
the foundation laid by Shelley's Grandmother and Great Aunt.
Another view of the foundation
And now I'll just let some pictures (with a few words from me) speak for themselves.
The Family that made this house a home.
Anna Lilac, Gene, Gladys, Pearl, Crystal

Anna Lilac and Gene
Easter 1933

Crystal and Anna Lilac

 The Original - Crystal Carpenter
The re-creation - Crystal's daughter DeAnn

Gene and the watermelon.  Pearl grew lots of watermelons.
The addition that can be seen in the top 2 pictures on this page
was put on by Pearl and Gladys.  There is another small addition
at the back of the house that was added later.
The "Hebco"  brought electricity to the farm.
 Another stucture built by Pearl Eugene Carpenter Sr. 
And he hand dug a well which still exists
and still has water in it!
Michaela, Anna Lilac, Cheryl, Shelley, DeAnn

In years past DeAnn and I had talked about trying to find the farm but we just never seemed to find the time when I would be in Oklahoma.  Now, we are happy that we never found the time because it was so much more special to be there with our Aunt Anna Lilac and our cousins Cheryl and Michaela.

The old adage of "You can't go home again" just might be wrong.

We are not done with Oklahoma Days yet!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Oklahoma Days - Episode 2 - Read On!

Week 2 starts

This year's stay in OKC had much more purpose than usual. On Saturday, July 7 we were to hold a memorial service for Shelley's dad, P.E. “Gene” Carpenter, at All Souls Episcopal Church. But before we get to that - we have to gather together some family members and take a day trip to Harrah, OK

You all remember Shelley's Aunt Ann from Colorado? Her name is Anna Lilac and at the beginning of the week she was 88 years young (remember this for another episode) and she is Shelley's dad's older sister. Her daughter Cheryl who lives in Bellevue, Washington drove to Colorado, joined on her road trip by her grand daughter Michaela, picked up her mom and drove on to OKC.

On the day after their arrival, Aunt Ann, 1st cousins Cheryl, Shelley and Deann (Deann's mom, Crystal, was Anna Lilac's and Gene's baby sister) and 1st cousin once removed Michaela headed out to Harrah. Land where the Carpenter clan was raised.

First stop - the Harrah Historical Society Museum. Of course it is closed – but a phone call to the number on the gate got a quick response and within 5 minutes the doors were unlocked and we were invited inside.

For a place that Shelley thought would take 5 minutes to go through – it was pretty amazing and we were there for about 90 minutes. We found some great pictures of the graduating classes of Anna Lilac in '41 and Gene in '43. These were the original that hung in the high school for years.

Anna Lilac Carpenter - Class of '41 Valedictorian

 Pearl Eugene Carpenter - Class of '43 Valedictorian

Crystal Carpenter - Class of '51 Valedictorian

The ladies that helped us both knew Gladys Carpenter, mother to Anna Lilac, and Grandmother to 3 of us and great-great grandmother to Michaela. For many years after leaving the farm Gladys wrote “Harrah Happenings” the local gossip column for the Harrah Herald so she was well known around town.
Gladys Carpenter - Early days at the Harrah Herald

And Gladys in later years with "Her Paper"

Next stop – Glady's home after she left the farm. This is the home that Shelley remembers from her childhood. The place where she ate the best ever chicken and noodles and learned to love fried okra and bit in to a blackeyed pea and then realized it was a look-alike worm (Shelley would not eat blackeyed peas for many years) and where her grandmother taught her to bake bread. So many memories in this little house. Today, we were joined by a thief. Yes, a thief. Deann – took a brick from the back yard and dug up a day lily bulb or two to take home as a part of Gladys. It was a great visit but we were reminded of how much she meant to each of us and how greatly she is missed.
 Stealing Flowers - Did I mention that the house is now owned by the church and
is used as a food bank and thrift store?

3 of 4 Generations - Anna Lilac- mother, Cheryl, daughter, Michaela, great-granddaughter
Michaela is standing in front of her 2nd great-grandmother's home in Harrah, OK

Next stop – a couple of cemeteries to pay respects to our antecedents.
Anna Lilac explaining how there is "a spot right here for me"

 Gladys and Pearl Eugene Carpenter Sr.  Shelley's grandparents.

 Why include the headstone for Mable Robertson you ask.  For those of you who are old enough you will remember Dale Robertson, who played Jim Hardie in the TV show Tales of Wells Fargo. Dale was also from Harrah and this is Mable, Dale's aunt who married Jesse Carpenter, half brother to Anna Lilac, Gene and Crystal.  Jesse and Mable had one son, Jesse Jr, born 1918, who was a WWII bomber pilot and was killed on a bombing run over Italy in 1943.  So Shelley refers to Dale as Uncle Dale although I don't think you can be more distantly related than they are.
Then – having no idea what to expect but with high hopes - we headed 2 miles east and 2 miles north.

Not to be missed - the next episode – The Carpenter Farm.