Monday, February 2, 2009


Poge never did drive. He lived in Chicago when he was younger and he always used public transportation. When he moved to Chemung with my parents he always walked or hitchhiked wherever he wanted to go. In those days you could do that, safely. Our village was only 3 miles from Harvard. When he took a job in Woodstock 12 miles away he found that he could pay a person to take passengers to work as long as they had the same shift.
When he went to service and he told people that he couldn’t drive--they wouldn’t believe him. In the Army his nickname was “Rosie”(so they wouldn’t have to use the long Rosenbalm.)
One time during combat an officer said,” Rosie, get in that truck over there and move it.”
He said,”Sir, I don’t know how to drive.”
The officer said,”Rosebalm,every one knows how to drive-- get in that truck and put it in gear and move it,NOW!!!”
Poge reluctantly climbed into the cab, turned the key,put his foot on the clutch and promptly shot into the only tree in the vincinity.
The officer came running over, “Rosenbalm, are you hurt? You really don’t know how to drive. Well, your a hell of a medic,but you sure as hell don’t know how to drive!”
Poge said ,”Yes, sir, I told you I didn’t.”
Poge loved telling his only driving experience.
When Poge was about to retire he ask me if I would teach him how to drive and I told him yes. I took him to get a learners permit and we began. He was obviously nervous but he soon got over that and when ever he was around I would go with and let him drive. He said he would like to buy a car. I told him to decide what he would like and after the first of the year we would get his license and then look around for a car. He died in late 1959 and we never looked for a car. He was so excited about looking for a car ---I think he would done just fine but we never did find out. He just left this world too soon. He was only 45 years old.


I wonder if there is a sadness about all children that cause their Mother’s death upon on the birth of their own. Poge was such a child. He had a remarkable sadness about him and when he would laugh or really think some thing was funny one would feel so rewarded with his smile. Yet he had a quiet good humor about him.
Poge was my mother’s brother and there was 12 years age difference. So he was raised in our home as our older brother. He was bright,smart and the most avid reader I have ever known. We loved him in an extra special way. My mother told us they both had been abandoned by their father and though in later years they seemed to mend the hurt, I don’t believe that Marlyn Robert Rosenbalm ever healed from the pain of being the cause of his mothers death.
Poge was the strong silent type. But had a tender spot for us kids. He was tall, lean and raw boned and I remember riding on his shoulders. I was a chatty little kid and I would try get him to talk and he ‘d look over his book and give me one of his scowls and I’d just move on. Those deep blue eyes shining out from those dark eye brows was my signal to stop. It worked.
When the WW2 broke out he came to my mother and dad and told them that he had been to the recruiting office and he found out he could train to be a medic if he enlisted and maybe he should enlist before he was drafted. My mother had a fit when he told them. The three of them talked it over and over.
Poge drew my mother to a stand still when he said, “Billie you cannot make my decisions for me anymore. I am going to join the Army and that is that!” He turned on his heel and went upstairs to his room. My father held her back as she got up to follow him. We children came from the living wonder what was going on.
Bob asked,”Was that Poge yelling?” We had never heard him raise his voice to anyone--that was the way he was. He only spoke in that deep straight even tone. This was an event in our young lives. Poge yelled at mother!! Dad sent us back to the living room while he and mother talked. Later on we heard mother go to Poges room and they talked quietly.
We never heard any more about it until Poge told us the next day that our dad had driven him to Harvard to the recruiting office. And he had joined the army.
Bob said,”I’ll probably have to go as soon as I graduate.” I threw my arms around Page’s neck and cried. How could I live without Poge and my brother?
Mother talked to us with Poge and explained that someone else had made all of Poges decisions and he now wanted to make his own. He was right and he needed to do that. He wanted to help people and he felt that the Army would offer him good training. He soon received his orders to to report Camp Grant at Rockford,Illinois. He took his basic training in Fort Leonard Wood,Missouri and was home for a weeks leave and left for “points unknown” (which turned out to be England,France and Germany.)
My mother had a terrible time with Poges leaving and so did I. It seems like we both cried for days when we spoke of him. Eventually,we adjusted and got used to his weekly one page letter that told us a little about what was happening. He missed very few times in his twenty years of service life when he did not write my mother and if he did not write her he wrote me--where ever I was. In the Army he traveled all over the world. Bob and I had lived in Georgia for 2 years and he wrote me there.
He sent me a letter from Japan and told me he was sending me a little china. I received it over a period of of two weeks and it was a service of 12 with all of the serving pieces. It was so beautiful and I have now passed it on to my daughter. I never used that quiet gift but what I always thought of him.
In the years that followed he came in and out of our lives like smoke. He spent at least 30 days a year or more. He came quietly visited, and expressed love for us ; we did the same and he was gone. His room always left neat and tidy, awaiting his return.
Even after I was married and was raising my children. Then he would come home on leave and stay with our family. I was still his” little Sis.” We had a big old victorian house with a lot of space. I would let him sleep. And I would spoil him by cooking his favorite foods. All of his life he was very thin and wiry and it never changed that he could eat enough for two men and never put on an ounce.
When he was 39 he met younger friend of my mothers and they were married. She made a nice home for him when they were in service. They bought a home and they were going to retire in Sharon,Wi.
In 1959 my ex-husband was Sunday school superintendent at our local Methodist Church. Poge was home on leave and he and his wife went to church with us to the Christmas Sunday School Program.
The church was full and the program went off very well and my ex-husband got caught up in the spirit of the season and announced this invitation,”This has been such a great program, you are all invited to our house for coffee and Christmas cookies.”
My mouth dropped open and my mother asked,” Did you know he was going to announce that invitation?” I numbly said no. I hurried home and ask my Dad to bring 6 chairs. I had a 30 cup coffee maker and I put it on. Started taking all the cookies out of the freezer so they would thaw,got napkins and paper plates and all the extra stuff we needed. And sure enough,people filled our house, we had 90 people for coffee and cookies and we had a wonderful time.
That night Poge visited with people he hadn’t seen in years. He sat in our living room holding our daughter Robin (9 months old) and laughed and talked. He teased Bob about his announcement as we all did but Poge said that " was fun."
He and his wife went back to her folks to spend the night in Sharon, Wi. (They were waiting for their house to be repainted inside.)
That night Poge died in his sleep with a silent heart attack. Poge was 45 years old.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Gladys Walter Nash was my Father’s only sister. She was the oldest ,my father “Dutch”Harold Alderman Walter (the unruly middle child) and “Chip” Russell David Walter was the youngest( he was wild and unruly,too.)

She married Ben Nash and had three boys--David,Walter and Robert. Over their long years of marriage Gladys and Ben seem to live in Chicago,Rockford,back to the country as his work would take him. Gladys loved the city even though she was raised in the country. She would always encourage Ben to change employment if he had a chance to improve their lives. She moved around wherever his job took him with out complaining with all the enthusiasm of an army wife. Ben was a salesman so they moved with whatever was selling at the time and he always made good choices in his jobs. She could trust him to do that.

She looked at everything as if it was an adventure. She was such an important part of my life. She would hug me and say,”Why didn’t I have a nice little girl like you instead of those smelly boys?” She would say it of course so the boys would hear it. She adored her boys but she loved my brother and I as if we were hers. She knew that her brother in those days drank to excess and there were times that life was hard for us. She and my Mother were very close and she had no tolerance for her brothers drinking.

Wherever they lived in Chicago she rarely worked and she was always anxious to show me the city. We would ride public transportation and we would go to parks and museums and downtown. She would always allow time for just the two of us to special things to do. We would shop and window shop and go to a matinee and be back home in time to make supper for Ben and whoever was home. Sometimes the boys were at camp or working for their father during the summer.

They usually lived in apartments and I thought that was so great. They had a huge second floor flat in Rockford in one of the old brownstones a block from the Ing skating rink. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when they moved there. I loved to skate and I spent hours skating all day long. I spent two or three weeks over the summer wherever they lived.

One summer my Uncle Ben called Aunt Gladys and ask her to ask me if she and I would like to go to watch the Rockford Peaches play ball. I loved to play ball and I said yes. My Auntie stopped her washer and we were ready when Ben came home to pick us up. That was just the way she was. She would drop what ever she was doing and do whatever anyone wanted to do. She never thought they were imposing or anything about it. She believed that if an opportunity came ---like seeing the Rockford Peaches play ball came along we should do it.

I will never forget that day. When we came home that night Auntie called my Mother and I got to tell her about my big day. “Mother, when Uncle Ben called and asked if we would like to go to the baseball game Auntie just stopped her washer and we got ready to go.”( Something my mother would have never done.) When I told her she laughed and she said lovingly said,”That’s your Auntie.”

She was apart of my life until she was 63 years old. They had moved back to the country to Big Foot, Ill. Where Ben was a feed salesman and mill manager until his retirement.

We spoke with each other almost daily. The day before she died she called to say she had been to her doctor ( her blood pressure was high) and he told her she needed to slow down or she would be having a heart attack. When I expressed concern. She said, “Oh, Honey,don’t worry. Don’t you know doctors tell every one that these days.”
In the morning, my Uncle Ben found her lying beside him dead.

My Auntie was the most spontaneous, fun loving person I have ever known and I am so lucky to have a daughter just like her. Must be the genes--those Walter children knew how to have fun. My daughter does not remember my Aunt Gladys but she looks at life the same as Auntie did and she will always squeeze the very best out of life just the way Auntie did.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


We traveled usually more than twice a year to see my Grandfather. Our family was fond of camping and particularly liked the Devil’s Lake area. It was about 12 miles from where my Grandfather lived. On July 11,1966 we were camped at Devil’s Lake and were unaware of what was about to happen.
The night had just the right chill for a camp fire. As was the usual custom-----I got out my guitar,tuned it and we began to sing. Folks began to bring their folding chairs and blankets and before we knew it we had 30 people around our campfire, singing laughing, talking and enjoying each other. The group was just a happy one, we had a great time. I fortunately knew lots of folk songs and I played until my fingers hurt. Finally about 11 pm we decided that we had better quit before the rangers stopped us.
The next morning we woke to one of those muggy,misty mornings that you can some time have in July. I had a terrible headache and was feeling slightly unsettled and strange. I mentioned this to my family as we breakfast on cereal.
Bob suggested since the weather was not good for swimming that we should go into Baraboo do a little shopping and have lunch there. Good idea. My Mother and Dad were coming up for a long weekend; staying at a motel nearby but they would spend days at the lake with us. We did need some extra things. So we followed our plans.
We all were feeling somewhat somber and completely ” out of sorts” and as we talked about it. But it did not seem to correct our feelings.We finished shopping and I went to a pay phone and called my Aunt Alice . I wanted to tell her that Mother and Dad were coming up and I invited she and Arland to come out to the lake for supper. Before I could get my invitation out she told me that Grampa had a stroke and the home had just called her and she was headed there. She would try to reach me when she had any news.
“Oh,no!” I said,that is why we have been feeling so awful.”( I have had these premonitions before when bad things were happening.) We had a very quiet lunch and we talked about Grampa. We still couldn’t shake our somber feelings. We headed back for camp.
We arrived about 4:30 pm. There was a note on our trailer door. “Come to Ranger station.” Bob volunteered to walk over. “Probably your folks calling to tell us what time they are coming.”
“OK. Let me get this stuff in the cooler and I’ll be right over.” He nodded. The kids were getting things out of the car and were looking forward to swimming suits soon. The sun was shining and it was warm.
Seems like I had finished the tasks at hand and I looked up. Bob was walking towards me with a very serious face.
“Harvard Hospital called and they want you to call back. Your mother has had a stroke.”
“I knew something had happened!” I ran toward the ranger station pay phone with Bob at my heels.
I was shaking as I dialed. The switchboard answered. I asked, “Is Beth Horn on duty to day?”
“One moment,please.”
“Beth Horn,” she answered crisply.
“Beth, this is Jean Fleming.”
She responded first in a calm,quiet voice,” Yes, Jean.” She was an old friend and she was nervous.”Your mother had a stroke in the Dr.’s office. She collapsed in your fathers arms.”
“Is she all right?”
There was a long pause and Beth was breathing like someone who has been
running. “You better come home as soon as you can,your Dad needs you.”
“I’m begging you Beth,did my mother die or is she dying?”
“Oh, Jean I will lose my job if anyone finds out I told you. Your Dad said you were 140 miles away.”
“Beth, they will never hear it from me,my god, you are my friend. Is she dead?”
“Listen to what I am going to say to you. Yes, (long pause)your mother fell into your fathers arms and he thought she was still alive but even with the Dr. there,she never had a chance. “ Beth was sobbing and I was,too.
“Thank you,no one will ever know. Beth,I am sorry I pressured you but I needed to know because my Grandfather had a stroke up here in Wisconsin around noon today and he may not make it.”
I heard Beth gasp.” Oh. oh, no, Jean.”
“Thanks, Beth. Please tell Dad we will be there as soon as we can get packed up. Thank you again, Beth.”
Beth gave me a tearful goodbye and said,“Please,please,drive carefully,Sweetie.”
It was not until much later did I realize what I had asked this dear friend to do and I did apologize for putting such pressure on her,but she did handle it with such finesse.
Bob put his arm around my shoulder as we walked back to the campsite. My Mother was only 59. She had pancreatic cancer and had gradually going down hill since last October. In the spring I took a 2 months leave of absence from the newspaper and spent almost every day with her trying to keep her interested in life. Her day ended at 6:30 pm.
Prior to last year there was no one in her circle of of her friends that could keep up with her. She worked tirelessly for the hospital auxiliary; she played cards twice a week; did flower arrangements for the church and spent quality,loving time with her grandchildren. A whirlwind had been shut down.
We needed to tell the kids; I guess our faces told most of it. We hugged them and sat there sobbing our story out.
Robin said, ” I knew something terrible had happened. I could tell that’s
why we all felt so bad.” She sobbed.
Jeff nodded,”I think you are right. We all loved Gramma so much we could all feel her leaving.”
Bob brought us back to reality. “We need to get packed and on the road. Grampa is going to need us.”
I had been seated on the picnic table with my eyes down and trying to compose myself. I knew we had tough days ahead. I needed to pull myself together. I looked up and I could not believe my eyes . There were people walking towards me some with tears in there eyes. How did they know---?

What I didn’t know was Jeff had walked upon part of my conversation with Beth and when I turned around he ran off to the bathroom crying. He was stopped by some of the folks that were singing with us the night before and he told them he thought his gramma had died.
People came from everywhere,they hugged and talked with the children. A woman asked them to tell her all the things they liked best about their gramma and told them to think about that. I told two of the woman helping me pack the trailer ,that my Grampa had his stroke today almost at the same time my mother had hers and he was not expected to make it either. They both looked at me and the one woman said softly,”Oh,my god, this is awful.”
Our camping neighbors were amazing; they helped us packed,take down our kitchen tarp,tended our fire pit,packed our car,hooked up our trailer lights. It was overwhelming, we were ready to go in a little over an hour. It would have taken us 3 hours to do that by our selves. It was an out pouring of love from total strangers. We thanked them the best we could.
A man shouted,”Be sure to fill your gas tank before you get on the freeway.” Such good advice when one cannot think.
I stood next to the car with my hand on the car door and a woman named Terry crushed a ten dollar bill in my hand, “ Buy your mother some flowers. I have never met her--- but I met you and I am glad.”
I wept on the shoulder of a woman that I had met yesterday, and would probably never see again and I was comforted. As we drove down the freeway it was I who thought about the many things I loved about my mother and I chatted with my children about what they liked best about her. That was comforting---what a wonderful suggestion for grieving children.

Friday, January 2, 2009


My mother loved her Grandmother Rosenbalm very much but she still could only look at her father and think that he had abandoned her and her brother.
Andrew went forward with his life and married a women 25 years younger than himself. Lydia bore him 9 children John, Lucille,Alice, Laverne,Babe,Gordon, Tot, Shirley, and Beverly
Andrew tried to offer Josie and Marlyn a home with his family, but his Mother and his daughter never forgave his actions.The years that followed the bear delivery to Brookfield Zoo, my grampa and my mother worked hard at reestablishing their shaky relationship.
Grampa and Lydia would visit our home and there was a stiffness about my mother I had never seen before. She ordinarily had a very charming aloofness about her and we were used to that but a crisp stiffness about her in those days was personally upsetting to me.
My grandfather never lived a life style that my mother thought he should. But he lived a life he enjoyed living. Can one ask for more than that?
Grampa’s abandonment and other transgressions seemed to never leave the conversation when mother spoke of him. But finally, after long talks with my father she made peace with herself and treated Lydia with affection and respect.
Eventually,mother came to know and love the half brothers and sisters. Some better than others. Mother would have the girls come for weekends or over the summer. She assisted the girls by helping the with good manners,education,how to dress and how to conduct themselves
when they were in our home. If they did not appear to care how they conducted themselves, they were simply never invited again.
The problems she had with them that some of them did not seem do the best with what they had---she simply did not have time for anyone that chose to be “shiftless and lazy.”
She was fond of her younger stepbrothers. The boys knew she was a force to be reckoned with but both step brothers and stepsisters loved and respected her.
She was very much a role model to Alice,Laverne, Shirley and Beverly. These girls were ambitious,educated, hardworking. But with Alice she felt a real sisterhood. Even with their age differences they enjoyed each other so much. Her husband Arland was educated, witty and hardworking.
He was described by one of his peers as a teacher’s “teacher.” Alice and Arland their two children, Jerry and Judy were always welcome in our home and were beloved by our family.
When Mother and Dad would visit in Alice and Arland’s home, the brother’s and sister’s would stop by and visit with her or call Alice’s home and talk with her.
It was only now as I write this do I realize what a matriarchal position she held with them. Their own mother Lydia was loved and respected by them but there was something about mother’s position in her father’s life that made them seem to hold her in awe. Her father held her in high esteem and he told her but he also told his second family.
The addition of Mother’s stepbrothers and sisters was a nice discovery for me. Poge and my brother never got to know them so well--Poge joined the regular Army in 1940 and my brother Bob was drafted right out of high school in 1944. Those next years were spent establishing a relationship not only with my mother’s father but also the rest of his family. It provided me with many happy times, the best was having my grampa.
Lydia,my step grandmother died Dec. 9,1956. fibrosis.) My mother and father went to Wisconsin to be with my grampa and I was thankful for that.
As our lives changed and time passed, my mother and I would go up
each year in October and celebrate a birthday with Grampa. It was a time my mother and I looked forward to planning and there were only a few times we missed doing this while my children were young.

As grampa advanced in age. it became apparent he needed some sheparding but he didn’t want live with his children; he wanted to go to the county nursing home. To most people this would have been a” downer” but it was not to him. He loved the outdoors so much. The home sat on a beautiful piece of land and he made the most of his life there. He was very mobile and he took his walking stick and walked the grounds each day.
The first time Bob and I took our children there ; quite unexpectedly we had a chance to spend about 20 minutes talking with the administrator of the home.
We first found grampa in his room reading. We exchanged greetings and grampa suggested we should go to the sunny lobby where there were
plenty of chairs. He was obvious very happy to see us but he kept checking
his watch about every 5 minutes. After about 15 minutes he excused himself and said, “I’ll be right back.”

“But grampa we drove a 140 miles to see you.”

“I know dear,but I’ll be right back.” Bob assured me that may be he needed to go to the bathroom. Oh yes it could be that.
I looked around and thought this is quite pleasant. I saw a man dressed in a suit smiling and walking toward us.
He said,” Are you here to see Andy?”
“Yes”, I explained I was his granddaughter and I proceeded to introduce Jeff and Robin as his great grand children.
“Your grampa is quite a guy. He is truly a pleasure to have here. He does so many fine things that we don’t quite know how to handle him so we just let him go. On good days he has the cooks pack him a lunch and he just sits under a tree or on a bench and eats his lunch. He walks the grounds almost everyday,he told us he was used to being outside. He does other things,too.”,he said.
“What other things?”, I asked.
“He reads go people that can’t see as well as he can. He has fed people
that can’t do a good job and he encourages people all day long by telling them how lucky they are to be here. He has gotten a few people to go for a walk that were never outside this building for anything except going for a
“His roommate was a cantankerous fellow ----his friend here had died and he wouldn’t get out of bed. Guess he thought he would just lie down and die. Andy just kept after him until he finally got him to go for a walk and now he even goes for a walk without Andy. Andy loves to play cards and he shares that skill with others. He is a good man and he fills a need here we didn’t know we had.” He paused and turned to see my grampa coming down the hall.
“Andy ,I was just telling these folks about what a great guy you are.
What are you up to today? You should be out here visiting your family.”
“Well, that’s right Jim but I promised Mrs. Conrad that I would help fasten her bracelet and necklace because her daughter had given it to her and she is going to take her out to dinner. Sorry, Glory Jean.” and he gave me an apologetic look.
Jim patted grampa on the shoulder and said, “They liked hearing what a good fellow you are.” Jim turned toward Jeff and Robin and added “Enjoy your great Grampa.” He waved and walked away.
Grampa spent a few seconds apologizing for not hooking Mrs. Conrad’s bracelet and necklace on sooner. I looked at his own gnarled hands and wondered how he managed to hook a bracelet and a necklace.
“That’s ok grampa. Jim really was telling about the nice things you do here.”
Grampa smiled and nodded and leaned towards the children.
“Jeff, I hear you have taken piano lessons,do you like to practice? “
Jeff smiled and answered a quiet Yes.
“Robin you have red hair just like Billie’s. “She smiled but didn’t say a word. Both children were quiet as my grampa chatted away.
We talked about a lot of things.Talking about Billie and her not liking to camp. How he had lived outside all his life and how he had loved it. How happy he was the Jeff and Robin loved camping etc. So it would go when we would visit grampa, he would be eking out some bits of information and we would share things that about what we was going on in our lives.Things he could carry with him as he trekked around the home grounds.
He particularly loved these two facts: Jeff played the piano.(just like Billie.) Robin had red hair.(just like Billie)
The love for his once estranged daughter always needed to punctuate our conversations. It was so important we knew he held her in high esteem for the things she had accomplished essentially without a father in her life.