Remembering My Sister Cindy

40 years ago today, on 10 March 1977, my sister Cynthia Lynn Lange died at the age of 7 after falling into a river and drowning in Indian River, Cheboygan County, Michigan. I was 9 years old and we had been playing near the river when she slipped on ice and fell in.  I was able to reach her and grab the hood of her winter coat, but the weight of her and her wet clothing began pulling me into the river, as well, so I let go.   That single act has haunted me my entire life.

Today I honor her memory.

This Straitsland Resorter (Indian River, MI) news article published on 17 March 1977 (reprinted with permission) and death certificate are in the author’s private collection.


My Grandparents’ First U.S. Presidential Election

After the presidential election last week, I became interested in what my grandparents’ experiences would have been when they were first old enough to vote for a U.S. presidential election.

My paternal grandfather Walter Carl Herman Lange was born on 05 March 1908 in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan to Wilhelm Friedrick Lange and Emma Brosch.  His first opportunity to vote for a U.S. president would have been at the age of 24 in 1932, as the 26th Amendment (lowering the voting age to 18) wasn’t added to the Constitution until 1971.

His wife (my paternal grandmother) Hazel Genevieve Wehrmeister was born on 04 October 1909 in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan to Gustave Rudolph Wehrmeister and Evalena Ludvine York.  Her first opportunity to vote for a U.S. president would have been at the age of 23 in 1932.

My maternal grandfather Charles Edward Maudlin was born on 15 December 1910 in Shiawassee County, Michigan to O.D. Maudlin and Amina Myrtle Ehl.  His first opportunity to vote for a U.S. president would have been at the age of 21 in 1932.

In 1932, the following were the nominees of their parties:
♦ Franklin D. Roosevelt – Democratic Party
♦ Herbert Hoover – Republican Party
♦ Norman Thomas – Socialist Party

According to’s page on Michigan voting history, Michigan was a strongly Democratic state.  Of the 1,372,082 votes cast in the state, 70.4% were for Roosevelt (965,396 votes) and 28.9% for Hoover (396,762).  Roosevelt won the election with 472 electoral votes compared to Hoover’s 59 (none went to Thomas).

On 24 August 1940 in the city of Wayne, Wayne County, Michigan, my grandfather married my maternal grandmother, Shirley Belle Havens (born on 26 September 1920 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan to Lester Clarence Havens and Cleo May Sample).  My maternal grandmother’s first opportunity to vote for a U.S. president would have been four years after their marriage, in 1944.

In 1944, the following were the nominees of their parties:
♦ Franklin D. Roosevelt – Democratic Party (the 22nd Amendment that put term limits on the office of the president wasn’t added to the Constitution until 1951)
♦ Thomas E. Dewey – Republican Party
♦ Norman Thomas – Socialist Party’s information about Michigan in the 1942 election shows that the Democratic party didn’t have the same stronghold in Michigan that year.  Of the 2,205,223 votes cast in the state, 50.2% of the votes went to Roosevelt (1,106,899 votes) and 49.2% went to Dewey (1,084,423 votes).  Roosevelt was re-elected with 432 electoral votes compared to Dewey’s 99 (and again, none went to Thomas).

I do not know for certain (yet) how my four grandparents voted in their first U.S. Presidential election, but I know both families were strongly Democratic, and I can imagine that they all cast their votes for Roosevelt.

I’m going to continue compiling this same information about my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents’ first presidential elections and state results, and I’m excited to learn more about the political history of Michigan during their lives.

What was the political history of YOUR grandparents and the states they lived in?

Michigan Genealogical Council’s Annual Fall Family History Event

The board of the Michigan Genealogical Council in association with the Archives of Michigan is excited to announce an upcoming seminar featuring genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger on Saturday, November 12, 2016 from 9am until 4pm at the Michigan Historical Center (702 W Kalamazoo St, Lansing, MI).

Blaine will give 4 presentations about the use of DNA in genealogical research, and additional speakers will provide breakout sessions.

Details including session descriptions, lunch costs, syllabus availability and more are here, and you can register online here.


A Eulogy for my Uncle Vern

uncle-vernToday we buried my dad’s brother, my Uncle Vern.  The family requested that I give a eulogy, and it was an honor to do so.

One of the difficulties I encountered in writing the eulogy, though, is that I don’t share my uncle’s religious beliefs.  But those beliefs were the most important part of his life, so I had to honor him (and his family) by removing my own lack of those beliefs from his eulogy to keep it about him, not about me.

The family and his friends expressed their appreciation for the words I offered, so I know I made the right decision.

Here’s the eulogy:

When I was young, my father’s brother Vern seemed intimidating.  He was tall, stout, and had a commanding voice.  I didn’t see him often as child because we lived 4 hours away.  And it wasn’t until adulthood, when my husband and I lived an hour away, that I really got to know my uncle Vern.

I quickly noticed how similar his eyes were to my own father’s eyes – his gaze, like my Dad’s, was kind and gentle, and his blue eyes lit up when he talked about his loved ones.  They sparkled with joy when he shared entertaining stories and jokes.  And it was this recognition of my dad’s kindness mirrored in my uncle that erased any intimidation I felt, replacing it with a sense of fondness, admiration and enormous respect.

My uncle Vern and I had lovely conversations each time I visited with him, and during those times, I became aware of four extraordinary things that I want to share with you today.

The first was his sense of humor – he was a man who loved to make people laugh.  He told everyone he met the silliest and corniest jokes, and as he got older, he often repeated the same jokes.  But I continued to laugh as hard as the first time I heard them, because his face would light up, his eyes would sparkle, and he’d slap his knee while chuckling so hard at his own joke.

The second extraordinary thing about my uncle was his dedication to service.  He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1957, and did 8 weeks of boot camp at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, followed by 8 weeks of advanced training at Fort Carson, Colorado.

After these 4 months of training, he was given a 7-day leave, so he rode a train home to his young bride Shirley, and together they packed up their 1953 Ford Victoria and drove to Fort Bliss, Texas where he received advanced electrical training in missiles designed to attack bomber aircraft.  Uncle Vern bravely served our country during the Suez Crisis, and after completing two years of active-duty with the Army, Uncle Vern and Aunt Shirley returned home to Michigan.

He became a fireman for the City of Taylor, and he worked his way up to the rank of Captain before retiring after 23 years of service.

Uncle Vern’s dedication to service continued well after retirement, providing generously to charities such as the Easter Seals, the March of Dimes, and Boys Town, just to name a few.

And right up until his death, he served as a loyal and loving husband caring for his wife as she struggled with advancing Alzheimer’s Disease.

The third extraordinary quality I witnessed in my Uncle Vern was his love of family.  He grew up adoring his big brother Duane, and in adulthood, Duane continued to be the first person he sought for companionship.

And Uncle Vern loved his sons Curt and Mark more than anything – they remained his priority even after they had grown to adulthood, with the father-son relationship evolving into a beautiful friendship with the men he was most proud of.

I witnessed my uncle’s love of family as I watched him and his siblings organize multiple family reunions over the years.  He loved these reunions, surrounded by those he cared for the most:  his wife, his sons, his grandchildren, his brothers & sister, everyone’s spouses, his nieces & nephews.  Memories of those reunions feel like they were just yesterday:  Uncle Vern playing horseshoes, leading the meetings, manning the grill, and helping the kids dig through sawdust to find buried coins.

My visits with him were never complete until he had shared with me the most recent stories of his sons, his daughter-in-law, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren – stories of their accomplishments, the time they were spending together and the projects they worked on.

He was immensely proud of – and enormously grateful for – the assistance that his grandchildren provided to him and Aunt Shirley.  He puffed up with pride each time he showed me photos of them, and he was so delighted to be a great-grandfather to two incredibly beautiful great-grandchildren.

Family:  never EVER doubt how much he loved you, and how immensely proud he was of each and every one of you.  You were his world.

What I want to close with is Uncle Vern’s extraordinary faith.  I truly believe that this is what he would want to be remembered for more than anything else.

Uncle Vern had an unwavering belief in the certainty that he was saved, that he was a born again child of God, and his deeply personal relationship with Christ sustained him in all things and brought him great comfort.

Every night before bed, Uncle Vern recited the Lord’s Prayer to Aunt Shirley, and I know that she, too, received great comfort in that.

And it wasn’t enough for him to know that HE had been saved – he was profoundly concerned about the spiritual welfare of his family and friends.  He worked tirelessly as a servant of Christ, tasked with insuring that all those he encountered had heard the Good News.

Uncle Vern knew without a doubt that God was his Father almighty, and he knew that the sacrificial death of Christ atoned for his sins.

And because Uncle Vern had been baptized in the name of Jesus, he was assured of the promise of eternal life, where he would be reunited with those who had gone before him.

I would like to imagine that, at the moment of his death this past Wednesday morning, he was immediately greeted by his parents, he was once again at the side of his beloved brother Duane and all of his siblings who’d gone before him, and most importantly, welcomed by Christ with open arms, who patted him on the back, and said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Well done.  Welcome home.”

Does Your Family Have Your DD214?

Yesterday I learned that my Uncle Vern Lange, my father’s only remaining sibling, passed away.  Uncle Vern lived in Taylor, Wayne County, Michigan for most of his life, where he served as a fire fighter for the local fire department, retiring at the rank of Captain after 23 years of service.

Additionally, he served for two years in the U.S. Army during the Suez Crisis (1957-1959).

Uncle Vern had made advanced pre-paid arrangements for his funeral, but in doing so, he hadn’t given the funeral home a copy of his discharge papers (called a DD214) from the Army, showing his eligibility for full military funeral honors.

I assisted his granddaughter in trying to obtain that form, but despite two days of phone calls, faxes and emails to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis; the National Archives in Washington, DC; and the Wayne County Court in Michigan, we were unable to obtain the form in time.

please Please PLEASE – if you are a veteran, or if your loved one is a veteran, insure that you have the DD214 on hand before it’s too late so you won’t have to go through what we did.  The veteran can order his/her DD214 online through a simple process that starts here.

Once you have the DD214, file a copy with other end-of-life papers such as a will, an advanced directive, and advanced planning funeral arrangements. so that it’s available when you need it.

Rest in peace, Uncle Vern.