Josephine’s Birth

“I see death standing at the door, but God will take care of the baby.”

These were the last words Anna Runia Van Dyk spoke to her husband, Meindert.

Anna and Meindert were Dutch immigrants.  The couple arrived in the United States in 1921 on the ship Rotterdam along with their three young children in hopes of opportunity and freedom.  Sidney, the 3 year old middle son had cerebral palsy. They carried him off the ship onto Ellis Island covered in a blanket, hoping that no one would look at him too closely.  John and Anna feared that he would not be allowed into the United States.  They were relieved when he made it through immigration without being noticed.

The family settled in Sully, Iowa so they could live near Anna’s twin sister.  A few years later, Anna was expecting their fourth child, but there were complications.  Anna had toxemia of pregnancy.  Baby Josephine was delivered on April 30, 1924 weighing less than five pounds.  Sadly, Anna died on her 35th birthday, two days after giving birth.   Meindert was left alone with a premature baby in the hospital, children at home and a job working on a farm.

Twin sister, Josie and Anna Runia.  This picture was taken in the Netherlands before they came to the United States of America.

Twin sisters, Josie and Anna Runia. This picture was taken in the Netherlands before they came to the United States of America.

Meanwhile,  Dick and Jennie VanSant had been married for ten years and were managing their farm in Oskaloosa, a couple of hours away.  They had prayed for  years that God would bless them with children of their own, but now they were in their thirties and hope was fading.  They heard through their church about a tiny baby who would require careful attention.

Dick and Jennie hurried to make preparations. When they arrived at the hospital the doctor warned them not to get too attached, because the baby was very small.  There were not intensive care units for premature babies in 1924.  Her survival was uncertain.

Jennie took Josephine in her arms, the smallest baby she had ever seen.  The doctor’s advice (not to get attached) was ignored. Josephine was dearly treasured by Dick and Jennie.  She was so tiny that she could not suck from a bottle.  For weeks Jennie fed her cow’s milk from a glass dropper, every hour around the clock.  A month after her birth, she weighed just over five pounds.

God took care of the baby, just as Anna Runia Van Dyk said He would.  Josephine survived.

The Birth of Josephine blueandgreentogether.com

Josephine being held by Dick VanSant.

Within a couple of years, Meindert was making plans to remarry, but this also meant he would be moving hundreds of miles away to Kalamazoo, Michigan.  He had a difficult time leaving Josephine behind.  Before he left, there were two things he wanted to tell the VanSants:

  • You may keep Josephine and raise her as you see fit, but you may not adopt her.  Her last name will still be Van Dyk
  • I promise I will never take her away from you.

Josephine was my grandmother.  She lived to the age of 82, having been married fifty-nine years with five children, nineteen grandchildren, and  (at that time) thirty great-grandchildren.

Josephine and Karen in 2005.

 

For more pictures and information on Josephine’s birth family, go here.

Further genealogical information and related links:

  1. Toxemia of pregnancy is now called pre-eclampsia.
  2. Anna Runia VanDyk death record information.  The record says she died at Mercy Hospital, but family members were told by Josephine that she was born at the hospital in Oskaloosa.
  3. Josie Vander Weerdt (twin sister of Anna Runia VanDyk) death record information.  She lived to be 90 years old.  That’s how I realized Anna must have died on her own birthday and what age she was. Anna’s death record only gives an (incorrect) estimated birth year.
  4. Sidney VanDyk, the brother of Josephine who had cerebral palsy resided at the Christian Psychiatric Hospital in Cutlerville, Michigan (now called Pine Rest) after Meindert moved to Michigan to remarry.  He died in 1950 at the age of 33.
  5. The ministers that may have been involved in placing Josephine with the VanSants would have been Rev. Ralph Bolt of Sully Christian Reformed Church and  Rev. Charles Spoelhof of First Christian Reformed Church based on where their charges in 1924. Source:  Christian Reformed Church Ministers Database
  6. The Statue of Liberty- Ellis Island Passenger Search  provided information about the ship and year that Meindert VanDyk arrived in the United States.
  7. Josephine Balkema’s obituary.
  8. Previously on this blog I wrote about Edith Stek.  She was the sister of Jennie (VanSant) Sjaardema.
  9. Also wrote a little story about Henry and Josephine here.
  10. A blog post about my many unique connections to Oskaloosa, Iowa over the years.

Stay tuned!  In the future I hope to share more stories about my grandma’s remarkable life, including how she reacted when her dad, Meindert came to visit her when she was a young girl and how she met my grandpa.

Special thanks to Josephine’s daughters (Mary, Esther and Joanne) and Jean VanDyk (daughter-in-law of Meindert), who helped with several details of this story.

 

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The Faith of Eda Stek

Back then, they called her a mongoloid.  This is now considered a derogatory term, but Eda Stek was born in 1903, one of eleven children.  Her parents were John and Henrietta (De Wild) Stek.  She was a considered a special member of the family, having what we would now call Down’s Syndrome.

Eda was short, sturdy and round.  She always wore a dress (with corset) and sturdy black old lady shoes.  She didn’t speak very clearly but her family could understand her.  It took longer than others, but she learned to write.  She would write Bible verses or short, simple letters.  When Eda’s mother was on her death bed, she made her other children promise to take care of their sister, and they kept their promise.   In those days, the only alternative would have been a poorhouse.

Eda Stek

Eda Stek

When she stayed with her sister Nellie, she always had  her own room in the large farmhouse.  Eda was given the room above the stove, to help keep her warm.  The many children in that family had to share rooms, but Eda had her own spot.  She could be heard at night calling out for another sister, Marie who was a favorite of Eda.  But when she was at Marie’s, she would call out for Nellie.

Eda was terrified of storms.  Sometimes her nephews would tease her about that.

Mainly, Eda helped.  She fed chickens and helped her sister Nellie with  many household chores to her ability.

A great-niece recalled how much Eda loved children.  One day when her great-nieces arrived for a visit, Eda (by then in her fifties) was waiting.  She was so excited to see them, that she jumped up and down, cheering “Goody! Goody! Goody!”.  She filled her scrap books with magazine and calender pictures of children, animals and nature, and she would give the scrapbooks as gifts.

A scrapbook for Mary and Joanne, made by Eda.

A scrapbook for Mary and Joanne, made by Eda.

  

A page from Eda's scrapbook

A page from Eda’s scrapbook

Eda moved around frequently. Census records show that in 1930 she was living with her sister, Jennie and in 1940, she was staying with her brother, William and his family.  She might spend a couple of years with one family, and perhaps 6 months with another, but her siblings kept their promise.

Eda Stek (far right) with family.

Eda Stek (far right) with family.

 

When asked what she remembered about Eda, an  acquaintance from  church remarked,

I remember her most for her child-like faith.

A page from Eda's scrapbook.

A page from Eda’s scrapbook.

All these family stories tell us a little bit about Eda.  But there is one  special story my grandma told me about her when I was seven years old.  I have never forgotten it.   This story has encouraged my faith in God, and my hope of heaven for many, many years.

For the last five years of her life, Eda resided in  the Pleasant  Park Nursing Home of Oskaloosa, Iowa.  She became increasingly unresponsive.  A minister who visited Eda  before she passed away told me that he read the Bible and prayed for her, but she did not respond.

On December 20, 1979,  after weeks of being bed-ridden and not speaking, Eda miraculously sat up in her bed.  Looking up, seeing something nobody else in the room could see, she exclaimed with delight,

MAMA!  PAPA!  Pretty Pretty Pretty!  

Eda sunk back into her pillow and died.

Child-like faith

Child-like faith

Special thanks to Rev. Carl Klompien, Mrs. Delmar VanKooten, Mr. Leo Nikkel, Mary Vlietstra, Joanne Vlietstra, Esther Uramkin, April Hoeksema and Ava Davidson (Pella Chronicle).

******************

This is a post that was published previously, but I did a little editing.  Of all the posts I have written  I would say this is my favorite.  I really enjoyed researching and talking to people who had met  Eda.  Before this post, the only thing I knew about Eda was the story of her passing.  She was my great-grandmother’s sister.

Something funny

The Loft link up is asking us to write something funny this week.

Growing up with five siblings, there was a good deal of name-calling.  One day in junior high, I learned the term “perpendicular bisector” in geometry class.  It’s very likely that I didn’t grasp what the concept was, but the term itself stuck with me and it sounded quite impressive.

 

Perpendicular Bisector of a Triangle

Perpendicular Bisector of a Triangle

 

 

Sure enough, my younger brother picked an argument with me that evening.  (Certainly I didn’t pick the argument!)  My response to whatever he said was:

 Well YOU’RE a perpendicular bisector!!!!

My brother  went into the kitchen and said

Mom!  Karen called me a perpendicular bisector!

Mom looked horrified.  She told me I shouldn’t talk to my brother that way, blah blah blah and finally ended with:

What is that!?

 

 

The Loft

The Loft

 

Age 9 Diary

Introduction:  This diary has survived numerous moves and somehow still remains with me.  I didn’t post all of it.  Many entries were “We went to church” on Sundays, and “We watched Chips” on Saturdays.  A few names were purposely omitted. All spelling/grammar/punctuation errors are left intact for your reading pleasure.

 

Diary cover 1980

Diary cover 1980

Inside front cover:  From Aunt Esther, Christmas — 1979  I am 8 years old!!! and turning 9!!!

Tues. Jan. 1, 1980 Today we went to church, to start the year in God’s house.  The __family came to have dinner with us.  I showed them my Lay ‘N Egg game, my painting, my Fashion Plates.  We went to the farm and cut wood.  Tonight we are going to my grandma’s.  She will make Oleycooten.

Wed. Jan. 2  Today I had piano lessons.  There has been no school for 2 weeks.  For christmas I got a new bike, a purse, nail polish, nail remover and perfume.  I also got a comb, three necklaces, Fashion Plates and an Lay an egg game.  I also got this diary.  We have a dog his name is Spottie.  We threw are cat in the barn.

Thurs. Jan. 3 Today me and my brother went to the farm.  I played the piano in the house (Not in the barn) I called my friend Brenda on the phone.  Tonight we watched the Waltons.

Sat. Jan. 5  Today I went to my friends house.  Me and Sara went to the farm too play.  This morning me and mom changed my room around.  January 7 school starts again and we have to write EVERY SINGLE WORD in cursive!  YUCK!

Wed. Jan 9 1980 Today I went to school.  We had art.  Tonight Dad will finish paneling my room.  I found out I will have purple carpet.  It was Mom and Dad’s Aniversary.  I had piano lessons And it was hot lunch

Wed. Jan 16 1980 Today it was hot lunch at school.  I had piano lessons.  Susie S. called me up and told me a bunch of jokes.

Thus Jan. 17 Today I had school.  Tonight we watched the Waltons.  Fred went to Awana.

Friday Jan 18  Today I went to school Sara D.B. came over to play.

Sat. Jan 19  Today there was NO school.  I went to the farm with Dad.  Grandma, Grandpa and me went for a walk all the way to Nichoulse road.  I got new overalls.  Tonight we watched Chips.

Tues Jan 22 Today I went to school. (as usual.) I went to Kim’s house and played soccar.  She showed me her Barbie perfume maker.

Wed. Jan 23 Today I went to school. (as usual.)  In school it was hot lunch.  I had piano lessons.  Me and Fred hauled in wood. (we always have to. yuck.)  At hot lunch Mom came to my room.

Thurs. Jan 24 Today I went to school (as usual). I made cupcakes.  Mom went to the Gospel mission. Fred went to Awana.  Tonight we whatched the Waltons.

Friday Jan 25  Today I went to school (as usual) It was Dad’s birthday.  Tonight we went to Upper Crust pizza and the walked around in the mall.

Mon. Jan 28 Today I didn’t go to school because I got sick.  Tonight I watched Little house on the Prarie.

Sat. Feb. 2 This morning we whatched cartoons and I sorted out lids.  This afternoon Joel V.D. came over.  Tonight we watched Chips.

Wed. Feb. 6 Today I went to school.  It was hot lunch and Sara came over and we biult a fort in the snow.

Fri. Feb. 8 Today I went to school (yuck.)  Well tonight at school there was a play at school called the Electric sunshine man.  boy I wonder how they can memorize all those parts.

Sat Feb 9 Today there wasn’t any school (yeah) Fred, Randy and Dad went to a harvestore free dinner.  Grandma B. came over and gave me a perminent.  When dad and Fred came home, they were drawin names and we got the grand prize a harvestore picnic basket.

Sun. Feb. 10  Today we went too church.  After Church, we went to Aunt Lena’s and then too Grandma’s house for dinner.  Tonight Aunt Nellie came over.

Mon. Feb 11  today I went to school (of course) After school I went to Sara’s house and we went sking.  Tonight we had a baby sitter.

Thurs Feb 14  Today was valentines day.  I passed out my valentine cards.  Fred went to Awana And we watched the Waltons.

Friday Feb. 15  Today I went to school (of course.)  Tonight Aunt Grace, Uncle Berney, and Betty and Andy came over.  We smoked candy ciggars.

 

Original diary page

Original diary page. Apparently at some point I went through and put blue bingo stamps on every page.

Med May 14 Yesterday there was a tornado.  School is closed because of it.  Boy we’re lucky it didn’t catch us!

Sun. April 19, 1981 Sorry I haven’t written to you for about a year.  Well, I’m 9 years old and going on ten.  In March I performed a program at Miller Auditorium.  It was exciting.  There were about 60 other kids in it.  It took hard practicing.  Today is Easter.  We went to church.  The Senior Choir was pretty it sang with the trumpets, organ and piano.  Tonight our Senior Choir will sing with the Third Chirstian Reformed Church.  This year we have a Junior Choir.  I’m in it.  (I love to sing).  I’m als in Calvinettes, next Sunday is Calvinette Sunday.  I am still taking piano lessons.  I have been going to ROCK CLUB.  Miss Vandyk is my teacher.  I like her.  Next year she’s going to England.  We have a new car.  Kathy’s getting big.  We are having Spring vacation this week yahoo.  My boyfriend is _____________

Mon. April 20, 1981  Today is the first day of SPRING VACATION!  Aunt Esther babysat while Mom went to work for ________ at Friendship Village.  My boyfriend is_________but he doesn’t know it.  Tonight I’m going to Sue’s house to spend the night then tomorrow she will come to my house and go to the church skating party!

(From that point on, the diary is blank.)

 

Your comments are always welcome!

 

 

I want to be like my mom

It was many years before I was able to become a mom.  My first child was born a month before I turned 36.  When he would.not.sleep. on his back,  my mom visited and gently rolled him over on his belly in the bassinette.  She told me to  get some sleep and reassured me she would watch him.  I was a conscientious new mom and trying to follow all the “sleep on your back” rules.  Mom told me “You all slept on your tummies, and you all survived.  I will sit right here and watch his breathing the whole time.  Go get some sleep.”  I watched as she pulled up a kitchen chair right next to the basinette. For the first time in a few days, the baby and I both had a blissful time of sleep.  I think Grandma was pretty blissful too, having some one-on-one time with her first ever grand-baby.

That was the first of numerous times I discovered my mom has great advice about raising kids.

Always happy to be with her grandbabies!

Fast forward six years. A few months ago I called her, disturbed because this same child–who ended up sleeping on his belly from that moment on– was now caught in several little lies.  She told me “Seems like all of you kids went through a stage like that about his age.  You can’t let them get away with it.  Stick with it (discipline/consequences), and it will pass.”  She was right about that, too.

On a cloudy morning last week the kids were having numerous battles and I was overwhelmed. Time to call mom.  She told me to send them out in the yard to pick up sticks.  After another fight or two outside, it worked like a charm, and my husband was pleased with the big pile of sticks they set up to show him that afternoon.  “Make them run around the house a few times” is her cure for loud crazy kids in the house.

My mom is not a stand-out-of-the-crowd type of person in any way.  Unlike me, she is fairly shy.  She is quiet when there are lots of people around, but when she is with her kids or close family members at home, she can be the life of the party.  She is so much fun, and loves to laugh.  When times are tough, she hops on the John Deere Gator to get some fresh air at the farm, or she sits down at the keyboard to fill the room with a hymn.  She always thinks she should get a job!  (How many times has she told me that!?) However, she is always working, even though she doesn’t get a pay check.

 

Ready to go for a Gator Ride!

 

 

I told mom once that I felt her job was called “being available”.  When my dad calls to ask if she wants to run out to Filmore Equipment with him to pick up some parts, she is always ready to go.  When one of my brothers needs a ride to Martin Spring & Driveline to pick up their truck, she heads out the door to pick them up. She takes her sister-in-law grocery shopping nearly every week.  She hops in her car and drives an hour or two to visit her daughter (ME!) who is feeling overwhelmed with life, illness and  homeschooling her kids. This past week she took us all out for lunch.  Stopped and bought supper for us too, so I wouldn’t have to cook supper that night!   If she hears of someone who is ill, grieving, or having a hard time, she will bring them a hot meal–often that very evening. If you are ever at her house, you will hear the phone ring several times.  It is one of her daughters calling just to talk and share the events of the day.  Her sons call nearly as often,  and know there is always a meal ready if they are hungry.  She is a wonderful cook.  She knows 999 delicious ways to fix ground beef, after many years of being married to a dairy farmer.  Nothing makes her happier then taking a little road trip with dad, whether going to a toy tractor show or visiting antique stores and any place that fancies them along the way.  She doesn’t mind a little adventure now and then.

 

Always ready to go for a ride with dad.  On a combine, or in the car.

 

She can be a little crazy.  She will go buy a pack of Swisher Sweets every few years and smoke them with her daughters out on the porch while they laugh and laugh—all of them normally being non-smokers of course!

 

Mom knows how to have fun!

She has always shown by example how to respect the elderly.  As children, she took us to visit relatives and friends in the nursing home.  She still helps every month with a senior luncheon. When her dad wasn’t doing well in assisted living, she moved him into her house and took care of him.  She loved her parents and treasures their memory. My mom would never “toot her own horn”, and most of what she does is behind the scenes. She will blush like crazy to know that others are reading this about her.  She never spoke to us kids about these things like they were a “lesson to learn”.  She just lives it, and we see it.

She’s not a saint.  (Though you might consider her one, if you knew how I behaved during my teenage years.)   She is a sinner, saved by grace. To me and my brothers and sisters, and others who are privileged to know her well, she is a beautiful woman.  There are many godly women I admire and respect and consider to be heroines as well.  Of all of these,   I love my mom the most, and hope to be just like her.

 

My beautiful mom

My beautiful mom

Writing prompt leads to a random memory of Grandpa & Grandma B.

Rcently while attending a Word Weavers meeting, we were given the writing prompt  ”Just know that….”.  The timer was set for ten minutes, and we all began writing.  This is what I wrote, slightly edited:

Just know that it will be all right in the end.

Grandma and I were sitting on her back porch on a sunny spring day.  We each had a tall clear glass of lemonade with orange slices, and were looking at the garden and the bird feeder.  Grandma still had natural blonde hair with a little gray on the side.  She was always attentive, always ready to listen, and always ready to share a story from her own life.

This time we were talking about my upcoming marriage.  Grandma was helping  by embellishing  the wedding dress.  Not only was I getting married, but I was also moving far away from home to Atlanta, Georgia, where my to-be-husband lived.

Grandma had also moved as a young bride on the occasion of her wedding over forty years ago.  She grew up in rural Iowa, but when she was 19 she left Iowa and moved to Michigan to marry my Grandpa, Henry.

It was at this moment that Grandpa joined us on the porch.  He was wearing his classic blue overalls, dark gray short-sleeved shirt, and his black work shoes.  As he greeted us he smiled his huge, hearty grin and touched the brim of his hat, first taking it off, adjusting, and then putting it back on again.  He sauntered over to the table and Grandma scooted into the house to get him a glass of lemonade too.  It was 10 a.m., time for morning coffee (or in this case, lemonade).

Grandpa looked at me with his small sparkling squinted eyes and said “How’s my pal?”  I smiled back and said “Fine!”

When Grandma came back out he told us he had hauled two loads of gravel to Galesburg that morning.

Grandpa & Grandma B. enjoying a scooter ride.

Grandpa & Grandma B. enjoying a scooter ride.

 

Comments are always welcome and appreciated.

The faith of Eda Stek

Back then, they called her a mongoloid.  This is now considered a derogatory term, but it was the norm when Eda was a child growing up in Iowa.  Eda Stek  was one of eleven children, born in 1903.  Her parents were John and Henrietta (De Wild) Stek.  She was a considered a special member of the family, having what  we would now call Down’s Syndrome.

Eda Stek

Eda was short, sturdy and round.  She always wore a dress (with corset) and sturdy black old lady shoes.  She didn’t speak very clearly but her family could understand her.  It took Eda a long time, but she learned to write.  She would write Bible verses or short, simple letters.  When Eda’s mother was on her death bed, she made her other children promise to take care of their sister, and they kept their promise.   In those days, the only alternative for Eda in Iowa would have been a poorhouse.

When she stayed with her sister Nellie’s family, she  had her own room in the large farmhouse full of children.  Eda was given the room above the stove to help keep her warm.  She could be heard at night calling out for another sister, Marie who was a favorite of Eda.  But when she was at Marie’s, she would call out for Nellie.

Eda was terrified of storms.  Sometimes her nephews would tease her about that.

Mainly, Eda helped.  She fed chickens and helped her sister Nellie with  many household chores to her ability.

A great-niece recalled how much Eda loved children.  One day when her great-nieces arrived for a visit, Eda (by then in her fifties) was waiting.  She was so excited to see them, that she jumped up and down, cheering “Goody! Goody! Goody!”.  She filled her scrap books with magazine and calender pictures of children, animals and nature, and she would give the scrapbooks as gifts.

A scrapbook for Mary and Joanne, made by Eda.

A scrapbook for Mary and Joanne, made by Eda.

  

A page from Eda's scrapbook

A page from Eda’s scrapbook

Eda moved around frequently. Census records show that in 1930 she was living with her sister, Jennie and in 1940, she was staying with her brother, William and his family.  She might spend a couple of years with one family, and perhaps 6 months with another, but her siblings kept their promise to their mother, and Eda was spared having to live her life in a poorhouse.

When asked what she remembered about Eda, an  acquaintance from  church remarked,

I remember her most for her child-like faith.

A page from Eda's scrapbook.

A page from Eda’s scrapbook.

All these family stories tell us a little bit about Eda.  But there is one  special story my grandma told me about her when I was seven years old.  I have never forgotten it.   This story has encouraged my faith in God, and my hope of heaven for many, many years.

For the last five years of her life, Eda resided in  the Pleasant  Park Nursing Home of Oskaloosa, Iowa.  She became more and more unresponsive.  A minister who visited Eda  before she passed away told me that he read the Bible and prayed for her, but she did not respond very well.  Eda’s days were drawing to a close.

On December 20, 1979,  after weeks of being bed-ridden and not speaking, Eda suddenly, amazingly sat up in her bed.  Looking up, seeing something nobody else in the room could see, she exclaimed with delight, loudly and clearly,

MAMA!  PAPA!  Pretty Pretty Pretty!  

Eda sunk back into her pillow and died, moments later.

Child-like faith

Child-like faith

Special thanks to Rev. Carl Klompien, Mrs. Delmar VanKooten, Mr. Leo Nikkel, Mary Vlietstra, Joanne Vlietstra, Esther Uramkin, April Hoeksema and Ava Davidson (Pella Chronicle).

GraceTruth-600x800