52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, Week 17: Cemetery

As Memorial Day graces May’s calendar, the veterans stand one behind the other in column upon column. As far as one’s eyes can see, the solemnity of the occasion beckons one to appreciate the service of these men and women. Many of the veterans have spouses right near them to accompany them on their journey to eternity. Sacrifices made…destinies, perhaps, altered…lifetimes influenced. In the distance, rifles volley to send out tributes and one final salute. All are at peace in this serene and soothing burial place.

Indiantown Gap National Cemetery rests in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. Nearby is an Army complex that holds a history of training young men and women for service in U.S. Army. It was at this complex in 1942 that my father, Edward Joseph Slabik, came at the age of 17 to train in the Army Air Force. Young men could enlist for duty at the age of 18, but my dad had “fudged” his birth date by a few months. About three years later, he would return here to be honorably discharged…on to begin a different life at the age of 21. At that moment, he did not think that one day a part of him would stay here forever.

In time, he married my mom, Merna Mae Storer, who became his wartime sweetheart. They raised their family, retired, grew old together. In planning for the end of their earthly lives, they decided to be buried at Indiantown Gap. They had driven there one day to inquire about a place for them. They were struck by the serenity and care of the grounds. This was where they would rest.

Dad             Mom

When one visits there, one is struck by all the names. One cannot help wonder what stories could be told, cherished, and remembered. Tears will be shed, and hearts will sigh. Day is done, gone the sun…safely rest…God is nigh…go to sleep…peaceful sleep.


52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, Week 16: Storms

In the summer of 1874, the storms began in the deserts in Arizona and swept across the plains to the east. In time, they alighted in Osborne County, Kansas, where they had suffered from drought the month before. Blackness gripped the horizons…witnesses swore they were watching a solar eclipse. One could hear the rain marching across fields of crops and gardens…marching onward. The storm would last for eight days, and it would do nothing to bring relief to the water hungry soil. It would not drench the land; instead, it would drain the land and its tillers. Instead, it would leave devastation that would remind its survivors of an Old Testament plague.

When the families realized what was happening in the fields, in the gardens, and in their homes, it was incomprehensible. The blackness was gouging the crops. It was stripping the gardens. It was robbing their homes. Why, even the wool on sheep and the clothing on wall pegs were taken! What could be done to stop this destructive swarm of marauders? Only prayers, determination, resilience could fight this battle. The prairie winds would carry the swarm away from Kansas and into other plains states.

clearning_a_field_of_grasshoppers  After the land and homes were ravaged, the survivors set to work raking and burning. What else could they do to rid themselves of the pestilence? What good would come from this? That year’s crops, fruits, vegetables were gone. Would some of the settlers stay to face the future, and would some flee to begin again elsewhere?

In time, one fourth of the people of Osborne County would move elsewhere. The loss of crops and food was too devastating…the grasshoppers had run them off their homesteads. My people chose to stay…to begin again…to face what would come next. And this is part of my story of how I inherited resiliency and perseverance.




52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, Week 15: Taxes

MissScarlett      No, y’all, we do not have any family stories about taxes, such as the time Grandma Scarlett told Miss Mammy to tear the velveteen curtains off the wall so that they could be made in a dress that would make Grandpa Rhett, who was in jail, agree to pay the county taxes on Tara. No, m’am…no, sir. What we do have are times that ancestors might have thought, “This just taxes me to no end. As God is my witness, I will never be hungry again.”

High up on the family tree, we have Grandpa George Soule who arrived on the Mayflower as an indentured servant in 1620. That first winter in Plymouth was deadly to more than half of those people. Grandpa George survived the hunger and sickness that claimed others. With all his strength, he must have vowed to survive…to live on…to look beyond the taxing demands of that moment…to be never hungry again.

Shaking a few nearby branches, we find Grandpa Joseph Story. Just a young family man of 25 years in 1777…lives in New Hampshire. He does it…he signs his name to a loyalty association. “WE, the Subscribers, do hereby solemnly engage, and promise, that we will, to the utmost of our Power, at the Risque of our Lives and Fortunes, with ARMS, oppose the Hostile Proceedings of the British Fleets, and Armies, against the United American COLONIES.”  He hungers for the separation of the Colonies and the Crown. He joins Benjamin Sias’ New Hampshire Regiment. In a few years, he will hunger no more as a citizen of the newborn United States.

Reaching across another limb, Mary Etta Soule, born in New York, presents herself. Just as her Grandpa Soule came across an ocean, she came down the Erie Canal with her family in the early 1850s. He married Grandpa Andrew Storer. Remember him from a previous blog? He had wanderlust. Mary and family migrated from territory to territory settling here and there…Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa.  Was that taxing to her to have no permanent home? When they finally settled in Kansas, was that hunger finally satisfied?

Generations of my family survived the taxing effects of the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Depression, immigration to a new land, and other challenges. The beacons of hope and strength shone when they were hungry no more, as God is their witness.



52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, Week 14: Maiden Aunt

As she faced out to sea, the splash of the currents moved up against her. Her eyes steadily surveyed the horizon…beyond that horizon lie the continents of Europe and Africa. Many a sailor had called out to her, many a voyager had whispered a greeting, many a peasant had sighed her name.  She longed to embrace all men, women, and children who gazed upon her face. Her presence was a gift to all, and she longed to care for those who sought her ideals. Yet, she was married to no one.

She remained constant in her duties, she remained constant in her vigil. She stood fast and firm-footed on the pedestal on which men had placed her. Her vision was theirs, and their loyalty was hers. She remained faithful, true, and steadfast. Yet, she was married to no one.

She carried a torch to light the way. She carried a torch to proclaim a sacred message. In return, many carried a torch for her in their hearts and souls. In people’s minds, she was often coupled with Life and the Pursuit of Happiness…or Pursuit of Property as her forebear Mr. Jefferson had stated. She stood on her own. Yet, she was married to no one.

ellisi  In 1906 and 1912, she was the basis of the welcoming committee for my grandparents. Hers was the first face they saw in America…this grand lady who embraced them and called them forward. Committed to serving and enlightening, she welcomed my father’s family to her shores. Thank you, Lady Liberty.


For this week’s prompt, I played very, very loosely with the words. When I searched my family tree, I could not find a maiden aunt from the last two and one half centuries. (Yes, really.) So…I saw Lady Liberty as an unmarried woman who was committed to her calling. Forgive me if the connection seems so farfetched.