Sunday, May 29, 2016

For the Glory: Eric Liddell's Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr

I was barely into my twenties when I met Dr. Maybell Marion Holmes. She had been born to missionaries in China and later returned to China as a missionary. Her parents fled China during the Boxer Rebellion. Her father Rev. Thomas D. Holmes wrote a book, China Stories, about his experiences. Marion lived into her nineties. I only knew her for a few years before my husband's work brought a move.

While reading Duncan Hamilton's biography on Eric Liddell For the Glory I chastised myself for not having probed Dr. Holmes for stories. She had first hand experience of events of which I was totally ignorant. To think of what I could have learned!

The Chinese resented how the Western was influencing their country. Comprised mainly of peasants, the Boxers rebelled by destroying railroads, killing missionaries, and attacking foreign enclaves and diplomats. President McKinley joined Europeans in sending in troops. The Manchu Dynasty joined with the Boxers. It was the beginning of the Chinese Revolution.

Eric Liddell's parents were missionaries in China during the Boxer Rebellion until his father suffered a stroke. Eric idolized his father. "Be ye perfect" became Eric's goal, an example set by his father's embodiment of the ideals taught by Jesus.

Most people know Eric Liddell only from the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire which follows his career as a runner in the 1924 Paris Olympics.  The movie portrays Eric as a high minded idealist, adamant about keeping the Sabbath; he will not race on Sunday. A friend exchanges races; Eric runs feeling God's pleasure and wins a medal. The movie ends with a few lines about Eric becoming a missionary and dying in China.
1925 Liddell as painted by Eileen Soper
The story behind Eric's Olympic win is set forth in the first part of Hamilton's book, and he brings Liddell's personality and gifts to life. He comments on ways the movie altered truth for the sake of story.

But it is Eric's life after winning the gold that becomes most riveting, especially the last third of the book about his missionary career in China while under Japanese occupation during WWII. The author is certain he is writing about a saint, and makes us believe too.
Liddell returning to Japanese occupied China as a missionary
The man in these pages has the mind of a winner, the determination and drive to push himself beyond endurance. It is a trait he takes into all his life.

Eric was sent to an isolated village mission which fell under Japanese occupation. After a vacation break the mission society sent Eric back to the mission. It was a fateful decision. The missionaries were put under house arrest then rounded up and sent to a concentration camp in a run down former mission school. In over crowded, unsanitary, and claustrophobic conditions, the internees struggled to deal with the waste and developed a Black Market to supplement their scanty food supplies.

Eric kept up a public face of encouragement while teaching in the camp school, but also hauling water, cleaning excrement, offering non-judgmental counseling, and organizing sports events and races. His health steadily declined, and he died in the camp, emaciated and weak, after suffering several strokes. He had brain cancer.

For the Glory is a wonderful biography, inspiring and glorious, horrifying and sad. But beyond the sadness there is hope. Liddell's example of loving your enemies inspired a camp internee, Steve Metcalf, to become a missionary to Japan. Metcalf called it 'passing the baton of forgiveness.' To have witnessed the atrocities the Japanese inflicted on the Chinese, and yet forgiven them, came out of their deep faith and obedience to the teaching of Jesus.

Eric's daughter, whom he never saw, grew up resentful until she realized her father was meant to be in that camp, touching the lives of many, part of a bigger plan. She realized her family was meant to share him.

Eric's favorite hymn was Be Still My Soul, translated by a fellow Scott. Did he know these words would be needed to comfort him during his earthly trial?

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still now
His voice Who ruled them while he dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, his heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all he takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast'ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change are tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall he view thee with a well-pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

For the Glory
by Duncan Hamilton
Publication May 10, 2016
$27.95 hard cover
ISBN: 978159420627

Friday, May 27, 2016

Thoughts At The Symphony

 Orchestra Hall
Since returning to Metro Detroit we have been enjoying the Detroit Symphony Orchestra directed by Leonard Slatkin. At Orchestra Hall or the neighborhood concerts, on the DSO to Go app or Livestream internet television, it has been a delight. Maestro Slatkin does a wonderful job bringing the music to the people.
Every time I hear the symphony live I realize how listening to a recording or radio is lacking.

Last evening we heard Joshua Bell performing Lalo's Symphonie espagnole, which I had only heard on radio before. It is a real showpiece for violin and Bell was amazing! The concert started with a tribute to Steven Stucky, performing his Dreamwaltzes, which Slatkin first directed 30 years ago. And the concert ended with Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major.

The program notes quotes Prokofiev: "I wanted to sing the praises of the free and happy man: his strength, his generosity and the purity of his soul. I cannot say that I chose this theme: it was born in me and had to express itself." It was written in 1944 "as a means of putting into music all of the mind-boggling suffering which Russia had endured during the Nazi invasion, but also to look forward to what many people then felt was an almost-sure final victory."

The symphony premiered in Moscow the day that the Soviet Army crossed the Vistula on their victory march into Nazi Germany. Prokofiev lifted his baton but was delayed by the sound of gunfire. As the symphony came to its end "it became clear that the end of the war was indeed insight."

With the coda, the martial sounds of war with the drums and percussion instruments driving the music louder and more belligerent, the couple in front of me turned to each other in silent laughter. I wanted to give them a Gibbs head slap. Where I was experiencing the impact of war into human life they thought the 'intrusion' was funny.

But I had been thinking of how 1944 was less than ten years before my birth, how I grew up thinking the war was ancient history while around me my parents and grandparents knew otherwise. And I considered how lucky I am: my grandmother and her family, and my husband's grandfather, left Russia a hundred years ago. And fifty years before that the German Ramers. Because had they been in Russia and Germany they would have lived through the war--or died in it.

Great music at once engages my rapt attention while also freeing my mind for free association, forging connections between my knowledge and experience to the music.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Leaving Blythe River by Catharine Ryan Hyde

Ethan has been estranged from his father ever since he and his mother caught him 'entertaining' his secretary at home. But when his mother needs to help her ailing parents her only choice is to send Ethan to live with his father who has moved into the wilderness.

Ethan has never received his dad's approval. City boy Ethan is small and timid and book smart. His dad is athletic, a risk taker, a womanizer. Their reunion is not going well.

One day Ethan's dad doesn't return from his typical twenty mile run. The local police can't find him and are not convinced he didn't just skip town. Ethan could have walked away but he can't leave until he has gone on his own search for the man he hates and loves.

With the help of three local misfits Ethan takes a journey into the Blythe River National Wilderness on an adventure that brings him self-knowledge, revelation, and personal growth.

Catherine Ryan Hyde 's latest book Leaving Blythe River will appeal especially to YA readers who will identify with Ethan's struggle for parental approval. His personal growth is the focus of the story. The supporting characters are well drawn and memorable. The wilderness journey will propel readers to keep reading. The ending is realistic.

There were some unanswered questions, such as how was Ethan's dad supporting himself while living in the wilderness and going on runs. As a mom, I was not convinced why mom was so accepting of her son's going on the dangerous quest into the wilderness.

I have been a fan of  the author for several years. The author's last book was Worthy which you can read about at

I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Leaving Blythe River
by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date May 24, 2016
$14.95 paperback

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dystopian Futures

I read David Mitchell's The Cloud Atlas for my book club and  Paolo Bacigalupi's  The Water Knife after reading the beginning through the First Look Book Club from  Random House. 

The Cloud Atlas was not easy to get into, but by the third section I started to see the connections, and by the time I got to the stories set in the future I was hooked. I ended up impressed and moved and loving the book. 

The novel is told through stories that cross time, each written in the language of a different genre. The structure is linear but then reverses backward through time as the ending of each story is revealed. As A.S. Bryant advises in her review appearing in The Guardian, you have to "trust the tale." It is worth it! 

The issues raised are deep and relevant: how humans perceive the world, what motivates human society and individuals, the way we condone and whitewash evil, the power of money, the evils of war, our denial of uncomfortable truths. The stories take us to a future that has reverted back to tribal warfare. But ending where he began, in the past, we are shown that individuals who choose to do good can, perhaps, alter the course of history. 

The Water Knife is set in a future world devastated by climate change where the Southwest and Western states are ruled by water cartels. The 'fivers' live in lush Chinese built communities where water is recycled; the poor, made of refugees from communities whose water has been turned off, live with Clearsac recycling of their own body fluids and huddle around water sources provided by charitable organizations. 

Angel is a Water Knife, hired to carry out the dirty work for the Vegas water lord. Lucy is tired of writing for the 'blood rags' reporting on ruin porn and follows a lead to perhaps another Pulitzer. Maria is a Texan refugee, on the lowest rung of society, just trying to survive. 

I really liked the issues explored in the novel. I did have trouble with the graphic violence and the descriptive kinky sex; I don't think these added to the story. But the novel does raise interesting issues and warnings of what could come. 
Emily St. John Mandel book signing 
Last week I attended a talk and Q&A with author Emily St. John Mandel whose Station Eleven I read a year ago and which I reread last month for book club. She addressed the issue of why dystopian novels are so popular and mainstream today. Emily listed reasons for the huge interest in dystopian novels which people across the country have suggested to her.

As Emily states in an NPR interview found here, post-apocalyptic fiction can be a reflection of the anxiety of life in an ever-changing world. No one likes change. Or perhaps we secretly like the idea of a do-over, another chance to get it right. Or perhaps the future is the only frontier left to explore.

I think this fiction allows us to see a projection of what will happen if we don't change and adapt. The visions are a warning, prophecies of doom based on our present actions. What I love about The Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven is the aspect of hope, that something of value is worth saving, that individuals who think morally original can challenge cultural norms and bring society one step closer to ideal. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers

Pets are a product. They are developed, marketed, and sold for profit says the author of The Dog Merchants, Kim Kavin. And too often buyers do not consider all the ramifications of what their dollars are supporting.

Once we understand the business, what can we do about it? Kavin believes that smart shoppers can make a difference, even in the dog industry.

I am a lifelong dog owner.

I was about four years old when my father brought home a puppy, Pepper, a mutt  I loved dearly. She would follow me to school. One day appeared she at my classroom door and I had to walk her home again. When my little brother began walking my grandparents took Pepper in; she was getting crotchety and needed a quieter home. When she was old and in pain my family let her go, and it broke my heart.
my Pepper in old age
After we lost our house trained bunny my husband and I bought two dachshunds from a pet store, adopted a dog through a want ad, came home with a home breed pure breed Shiba Inu, and fostered one adopted two more Shibas who were puppy mill breeder rescues. Eight dogs, eight sources that illustrate the cycle of dog ownership over sixty years: from mutts to commercially bred dogs to home bred to rescued.
our beloved foster Kara, who spent 9 years in a Missouri puppy mill.
He had serious health issues and lived nine months after rescue.
Kim Kavin's fine book considers every aspect of the industry that provides us with our animal companions. She explains the impact of the AKC breed standardization on canine health and well being and how dog competitions fuel a desire for designer dogs. Kavin reveals that puppy farms are producing dogs in expectation that the rescue societies will buy them! That sends chills down my spine.
We brought PJ from a pet store when grieving for the loss of our first dachshund Pippin.
We were ignorant about puppy mill breed dogs sold at pet store chains.
I respect Kavin for telling the truth in an objective and informative way. She offers examples of canine abuse without being manipulative.

I hate those commercials seeking funds that prey on one's feelings. Kavin never stoops to such tactics. I don't think I could stand 'the details' of puppy mill life any more than the details of combat. I saw the ramifications mill life had on my foster dog Kara and adopted girls Suki and Kara.

Our first Shiba Inu, Kili, lived over 16 years, locally home breed.

Everyone who loves dogs, or who are considering adding a dog to their family, should read this book. It will help in making informed decisions on all the vital questions: are you prepared to take responsibility for a dog, what are you willing to invest, what you should ask before making your purchase.

The book is published in conjunction with a website where pet owners can share knowledge through product-style reviews and ratings of breeders and rescues. Visit The Dog Merchants website

I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Dog Merchants
Kim Kavin
Pegasus Books
Publication Date May 2, 2016
$27.95 hard cover
ISBN: 9781681771403

Friday, May 20, 2016

Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick

Nathaniel Philbrick's new book Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution, like his previous book Bunker Hill (my review found at here), changes how we think about the American Experience.

Philbrick tears away the veil of myth to reveal a far messier path to Democracy, one rife with conflict. We see that Washington was not always right and Arnold was a brash hero who resented being overlooked. The Revolution was, Philbrick points out, in itself an act of treason.

The book started slow for me, then picked up interest and in the end swept me along to its conclusion.

Benedict Arnold was motivated by ruthless self-interest, his betrayal based on a desire to be lauded for bringing peace to the war-weary Americans by reuniting the colony to Britain.

 I am hoping for a next book to continue the American story.

I was just finishing the book when I happened to catch NPR's interview with Philbrick on the book. You can read the interview at

I was visited by an aching nostalgia while reading about so many places I had lived near or had visited. I wished I had understood more deeply the history of these places. Particularly moving for me was the account of the Battle for Fort Mifflin.

We visited Fort Mifflin several times. It sits on Mud Island in the Delaware River south of the city, not far from the airport. The fort is restored to its 1834 condition. The first time we visited was on a warm summer day. The stone powder room was cool and dark. The air hummed with the sounds of nature. We watched a Green Heron sitting on a tree near the water. Suddenly a jet came overhead and at that moment the Heron started and took off, the two flying in tandem. It was an awesome sight that summed up everything I was struggling with at the time: the battle between the man-made and God's nature, the pull between the excitement of the city and the peace of the Maine woods.

Oh, had I realized the blood that had spilled on those grounds! I would have seen ghosts and heard the cries of anguish instead of the frogs and birdsong near the still waters. Reading the account of the Battle of Fort Mifflin I could not connect that summer stillness to the continual bombardment of cannonade, the groan of the wounded, the sleepless weeks under barrage.

After the British took Philadelphia they wanted sea access to bring in supplies. That meant clearing out the Patriot forts. Fort Mifflin's four hundred American soldiers held off thousands of British troops and 250 ships for several months. Philbrick's account is devastating to read, the horrors endured by one soldier accounted the worst he had undergone. The end the British ships drew up to the island and lobbed in grenades. The fort was finally abandoned. 250 of the 400 men were killed.

Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. The focus is on loyalty and personal integrity, evoking a Shakespearean tragedy that unfolds in the key relationship of Washington and Arnold, who is an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians fatally destroy his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. As a country wary of tyrants suddenly must figure out how it should be led, Washington's unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enables him to win the war that really matters. from the publisher
I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Valiant Ambition
Nathaniel Philbrick
$30 hard cover

Old Fort Mifflin
by Nancy A. Bekofske

Wide vistas where once colonial soldiers trod
with its perimeter of aged barracks,
the cool dark recesses of powder houses,
slit windows looking out into summer sun,
history's memory, empty and still
but for voyeurs peering on the past's leavings.

Nearby the river ran round like a moat,
catchment of brush and reed, crickets
and frogs singing and leaping,
and looking down in contemplation
sitting on its barren branch, a heron.

Unexpectedly, a mechanical roar disturbed
this Eden of river and fort.
Above us hovered a great silver belly
its mass blocking out the sun,
its labored ascent a mystery.
We believed we could have stroked the silver belly,
it hung so low above us.
Machine made holier than all else
diminishing the heron's tandem flight
parallel under the great belly.
Convergent deities of flight
vying for preeminence.

And when the two had flown
we were left godless on the wide vistas
of a wasteland past.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Himelhoch Brothers Department Store Hanky

In a West Branch, MI antique mall I found this hand painted rayon handkerchief in it's original box, including the paper lace doily that covered it.

The handkerchief is made of rayon, mimicking silk. The edge is not bound, but has a frayed edge. It has a lovely Columbine flower, delicately hand painted.

The box read Himelhoch Brs & Co, Detroit. I needed to know more.

Being a 'recent' transplant to the Detroit area (1963 when I was ten years old) I am not familiar with much of its history. When I was a teen my friends liked to window shop at Jacobson's in Birmingham. Mom liked Federal's in Clawson. But before the suburban shopping centers, people went downtown to shop.

And Himelhoch Brothers and Company was one of the big downtown Detroit department stores.

Michigan Jewish History has a full article on the Himelhoch family and business. You can read it at

In the article Marilyn Shapiro writes that in 1907 the Himelhoch family moved its Caro, MI store to downtown Detroit. (Caro was in the heart of the lumbering area.) The automobile executive wives money attracted New York stores like Saks to locate in the city. With funding from Marshall Fields the Himelhochs built a . store near Hudson's Department Store and B. Speigel on Woodward Ave.

The next decade was a time of huge growth. The store was moved to another Woodward Ave location, to a building being remodeled by renowned architect Albert Kahn. An article found in Goggle Books here details the luxurious new store:
Will Rebuild Store-Garment Retailing Concern to Have Handsome Eight Story Structure
A handsome eight story building of reinforced concrete fireproof construction is to be erected on the site now occupied by the store of Himelhoch Bros 8 Co retailers of women's outer garments, Detroit, Mich and will be used in its entirety by that concern.
The new building is to be completed before the close of the present year. The exterior walls to the height of the third story will be faced and trimmed with marble. The walls above will be of ivory white terra cotta trimmed with cream glazed terra cotta. The cornice marquee and window casings will be of copper. The vestibule will be deep thus increasing the extent of the display windows. The interior finish on the first and second floors will be in Circassian walnut, on the third fourth and fifth floors in mahogany, and on the other floors and in the basement in fumed quartered oak. The equipment will include two electric passenger elevators enclosed in polished wire glass and an electric freight elevator. The offices will be located on a balcony over a part of the main floor. Sanitary locker rooms and rest rooms will be provided for the employees and there will be a handsome rest room for customers. A vacuum cleaning system will also be installed. The firm have been in their present location five years and now find a serious need for the additional space which will be provided by the new building.  
The high end store included furs and a bridal department and the novelty of rest rooms for customers.

With the growth of the suburbs the family built stores in Grosse Point, Birmingham, and Northland (once one of the world's largest shopping mall whose last store closed in 2015, It has been torn down.) Fewer people went downtown to shop. The flagship store downsized. The suburban stores did not carry high end goods, but focused on sure sellers. Himelhoch closed in 1979, hurt by the rise of the suburbs, the race riots, and flight from the city.

The business had a life cycle of fifty years. The demise of Detroit killed it.

Learn about the Detroit department stores at HOUR magazine here. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ogemaw County, MI Quilts and Ancestors

Sunset over Lake St. Helen
We took a week to go 'Up North' and stay at my brother's cabin on Lake St. Helen, MI. The area is famous for being beloved by actor Charlton Heston who owned a great deal of the lakeside property which he kept natural for outdoor sports. We went down the road to West Branch, MI.

The West Branch Historical Society showed me their recently acquired appliquéd coverlet.
The green fabric was amazing--no fading! So was the Chrome orange and Turkey red.
 The family history was that the coverlet was made in 1864 by Harriet Gordon.
 It was hand appliquéd, machine pieced, and one layer finished with red binding.

In a downtown West Branch antique store I found this quilt. It has cotton appliqué and embroidery on cotton and wool with a pieced cotton outer border.

It may have been bought at auction near Mio, MI. For $99 it was a bargain...if only I had room to store it! 

West Branch City Hall next to the library with a great resale shop
Of course we also hit the West Branch Library and brought home several dozen books!

The Ecker Family of Ogemaw County, MI

We went on the Genealogy Trail for my husband's g-g-grandparents Henry Ecker (Ecer, Acker, Acer) and Sophronia Van Slyke (Slack) whose child Jennie Melissa Ecker married John Hazen Bellinger. Their child was Loretta Valdora Bellinger Bekofske who I wrote about in the post Girl, A Lamp, and the Shipwreck Coast.

We went to the West Branch Public Library, the Rose City Public Library where the historical society holds its library, and to the library at Tawas, MI. We searched the cemeteries at Prescott and Tawas.

Henry Ecker (Acker, Ecer) and Sophronia Van Slack (Slyck) were born in Ontario, Canada and immigrated to the States in 1890. Their daughters had already come to Iosco County upon their marriages: Jennie married Jacob Hazen Bellinger and her sister Margaret married his brother John Wesley Bellinger.

Henry and Sophronia's children included Margaret, Ettie, Jennie Melissa, Abraham, Joseph H., Sarah Elizabeth, Charity, Leona, Cynthia S., Ralphie (Ralphia/Rafee/Ralph), Allen Thulman, and Truman.

Henry and Sophronia Ecker were some of the earliest land owners in Prescott, Richfield Twsp, MI, purchasing 40 acres in 1890. Prescott was 'lumber camp No. 6" belonging to C. H. Prescott. He developed the town which grew to have a post office, church, and all the other small town highlights.

Henry shows up on the 1900 Federal Census with his family "Safrona', Jos., Rafee, and Truman."

Henry appears on a 1903 Plat; he owned 40 acres in Logan Twsp. A Prescott history shows Henry was baptized into the newly built Judson Baptist Church along with his son John H. Ecker in 1891.

In 1903 Jacob and Sophronia with their children Elias, Robert, and Ethel were admitted into the Indiana Quaker Meeting. In 1906 they were "disowned." There is a story here. Especially as Jennie died in 1906!

Jennie Ecker Belliger
We discovered a 1919 probate notice for Henry Ecker in the name of Sophronia.

Then Henry disappears.

The Children

Raphie/Raphia/Rafe Courtland Ecker bought land near his father's farm in 1913.

Joseph H. I believe died in 1939; he had been living with his mother in Burleigh Tsp, Iosco Co, Tawas, MI. Joe died from alcoholism.

Truman was the youngest child born in 1890, the year of his family's immigration. His death certificate shows him living at the Ogemaw County Poor Farm near the present golf course in West Branch. He was 50 at the time of his death.

We found marriages and death notices for the children and grandchildren. I pieced together a history of tragedy for Ralphie. In 1906, at age 21,  Raphie married Miss Louise 'Lonsay' Jane Van Meer. She died in 1907 from "eclampsia" and their baby Mary S. died of convulsions ten days later. In 1909 Raphia Cortland Ecker married Ellen Nichols, 19 years old. She died of measles. In 1929 R.C. Ecker, 44 years old, married Mrs. Arletta Barrington, nee' Brown. She appears as Synthia Arletta on the 1940 Federal Census.

Abraham married divorcee' Ellen Fountain, nee' Kerr, in 1906. Their baby girl Sohpronia was stillborn later that year. Abe's occupation on the 1920 census was 'trapper of fur', 'farmer' in 1930 and WPA worker in 1940.

In 1907 Allan Ecker married Mary Van Meer (sister to Lonsay Jane who married Allen's brother Raphie). Allan's wife.

Ettie married Edward Sheehan; their child was Jennie Elizabeth. Sarah Elizabeth married James Augustus Farrand.

After Edward's death Ettie married William Warner.

Sophronia (Saphronia, Sofronia, or Synthia/Synthie) lived to be 99 years old. She is buried in the Richfield Township Cemetery near Etta. But her husband Henry does not show up on any list of internments in the county.

Joseph H. is also buried here but I found no headstone.

Raphie Courtland's son Henry and his wife Ettie are buried near Sophronia.

I am still searching to see how Ralph Delton Ecker fits into the family! He was born in 1945.
And also David H. Ecker.
Bellinger Family

We also went to Tawas, MI to find the grave of Jennie Melissa Ecker Bellinger (daughter of Henry and Sophronia who married Jacob Hazen Bellinger). She died at age 44 from complications of childbirth; shortly later her baby also died. The date reads June 1, 1889. She left behind a large family, including my husband's grandmother Loretta Valdora. (Whose brother Elias Howard also lived in Ogemaw Co and is buried in West Branch.)

It is hard to read, but the top of the headstone reads "WIFE."

Her son Edward and daughter-in-law Martha are also buried there. We found no headstone for her brother-in-law John Wesley who appears on the cemetery list.
Our next step to find Henry Ecker's death date and burial place is to go to Oscoda, MI and the Huron Shores Genealogy Society library and if that fails apply to the State of Michigan.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

How "The Great Humanitarian" Herbert Hoover Failed as President

A man was quoted in my local newspaper as saying that the idea of having a businessman as president is a good idea, but it had to be the right man. The speaker added that he had lost faith in politicians.

Americans have elected a number of businessmen to the presidential office. Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the President by Charles Rappleye show how the 'wrong' businessman failed to alleviate the ills of the Depression and failure of farms during the dust bowl days.

I requested the book because I wanted to know how a great humanitarian who orchestrated massive relief efforts to Europe, saving hundreds of thousands of lives, came to be remembered as distant, uncaring, and unmoved by American's sufferings.

Rappleye's detailed study on Herbert Hoover shows how his personality, experience, and beliefs impacted and derailed his presidency.

Hoover's intractable belief in the importance of charity at home and non-government involvement in relief were based in his own life experience. He grew up in rural poverty, was orphaned as a child, lived with uncles on an Indian reservation and in a sod hut, and scrambled to get an education. He became an successful engineer. That was life as he knew it, and he expected others could do as he did. He believed 'charity at home' was essential to building American character.

Hoover's success also meant he believed anyone could do the same. "If a man has not made a fortune by 40 he is not work much," Hoover said in his thirties. (My grandfather was born to a single woman, orphaned at age nine, worked hard to get through college, and had a long and varied career. It is done. Gramps also had intelligence, an uncle who rewarded academic achievement, and an excellent high school education.)

Hoover also believed in the power of positive thinking. He wanted to keep up morale. But suffering Americans thought Hoover was out of touch. Behind the scenes, Hoover's wife Lou handled the hundreds of letters and requests for help, aiding those she could, and giving of away his presidential salary to charity.

Farmers were starving, their children did not have clothing so they could attend school. Urban unemployment in some cities soared to 40%. It was feared that "slackers" would misuse government relief. Instead of direct relief the president worked with business and labor leaders and banks, increased Federal spending, limited immigration, increased tariffs, and increased taxes to keep a balanced budget.

Hoover recalls Richard Nixon: both of Quaker parents, both thin skinned and prone to anger, both sending staff to break into political enemies offices, both disdained by the press. Hoover was a pacifist.

'Bonus Army' of unemployed WWI veterans came to Washington D.C. to demand the bonus promised. The homeless men and families were installed in empty buildings and in a camp along the Potomac. When disorder sprouted up, and reports that radicals and communists had infiltrated the camps, Hoover was convinced to give carte blanch to Army Chief of Staff MacArthur. Mac Arthur was to return them to their camps. MacArthur ignored the president's instructions and the veterans were routed out of the city by soldier using tear gas and swords. Hoover failed to repudiate MacArthur for disobedience. Hoover was vilified as cold and heartless.

This book shows how hard Hoover tried to solve the problems of the country, but also how his fatal flaw of personality left him the legacy of being an ineffectual president. He was a shy, private person who avoided eye contact and read his speeches. As the publisher's promo says, Hoover had "a first-class mind and a second-class temperament"-- the "temperament of leadership."

The idea of electing a businessman to the presidency as a response to mistrusting politicians is not a good option. History has shown that businessmen make for failed political leadership. Consider the failed presidencies of businessmen like Warren G. Harding and Jimmy Carter. In fact, according to studies and ratings NO president with a successful business background is among the top rated. The skills of business and the ability to lead in government are not the same.

Presidential success is based on empathy, persuasive eloquence, and compromise. Hoover's failure to appear empathetic and his ineffectiveness as a speaker clearly hurt him. Considering the hundreds of thousands of lives he saved after WWI and WWII organizing relief abroad I know he had empathy. What a complicated man.

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Herbert Hoover in the White House
Charles Rappleye
Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
$32.50 hard cover
ISBN: 9781451648676
Herbert Hoover/Curtis silk campaign handkerchief. Collection of Nancy A. Bekofske

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Love For Lydia by H. E. Bates

Lydia arrived an awkward girl, bloomed into an attractive woman, discovered men liked her, and gaily left a wake of bodies in her path. When she saw what she had accomplished she tried to burn herself out in a two year binge of dancing and drink and ended up desperately lonely and guilty in a sanitarium.

Some might believe Lydia was a tease and vixen, partying her way into destruction. Others may feel she was a girl-child who, when released from the 'cotton-wool'  prison of her girlhood, mishandles her sudden sexual power over men. Or is she the genetic product of her profligate parents, an alcoholic mother paid off to keep away and the distant, womanizing father who proscribed her sheltered girlhood?

Love for Lydia by H.E. Bates is an autobiographical homage to his home town, with the narrator Richardson sharing Bates' early jobs and family.
It is the story of young people growing up, the thrill and torment of first love, the end of a way of life, and class stricture. It is the story of what happens when four young men fall for Lydia and how she handles their adulation. It is the story of learning what love really means. It is a love story to England's pastoral beauty.
A cuckoo flew with bubbling throaty calls across the wheat-field, disappearing beyond the copses. In the still air I caught again a great breath of grass and hawthorn and bluebell and earth beating through new pulses of spring loveliness to the very edge of summer.
The novel begins in 1929 when Richardson is nineteen and a reporter for the town paper. Richardson is sent to the Aspen manor to learn about the eldest Aspen brother's demise. The deceased's elderly spinster sisters introduce Richardson to his heir and daughter, Lydia. The aunts suggest he take her skating, show her some fun, for they don't want her growing up in isolation. Ill dressed and stick thin with candlestick curls, Lydia is having fun with peers for the first time. It is a magical time.
Above the trees a mass of winter stars, glittering with crystal flashes of vivid green, then white, then ice-clear blue, flashed down through a wide and wonderful silence that seemed to splinter every now and then with a crack of frost-taut boughs in the copses, down where the drive went, above the frozen stream.
Richardson discovers that Lydia is game for anything, pushing him past his comfort zone. And into regular clandestine meetings where she enjoys his physical attention. As Lydia fills out her aunt's hand-me-down dresses Richardson falls in love, and Lydia claims to love him too.
'Oh! Darling--don't stop loving me'--she said. 'Don't ever stop loving me-'...'Even if I'm bad to you--would you?--will you always?''Yes,' I said.
The aunts press the young people to attend dances and Lydia's social network expands. Richardson's best friend, Alex, local yeoman's son Tom, and chauffeur Blackie all fall under Lydia's charm and vie for her love. Lydia is 'excitable and impulsive," following her instincts thoughtlessly.  In the battle for Lydia's attention hearts are broken and even a death occurs.

The descriptions of the landscape are beautifully written. Richardson seeks out nature as a respite and for its restorative effects. The town is a center of shoe manufacturing, an unattractive and crowded place. Richardson is very aware that the loveliness of the land has been infringed upon by mankind.

In 1977 I watched and enjoyed the Masterpiece Theater's series Love for Lydia but had not read the book until now. I am so glad I did. I will look to read more by Mr. Bates in the future.
Anyone interested in the English Language must read Mr. Bates, one of its outstanding masters. Times Literary Supplement.
Learn more about H. E. Bates at
See a clip of the series Love for Lydia at

I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Love for Lydia
by H. E. Bates
Bloombury Books
Publication Date May 12, 2016
ISBN: 9781448216444

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

New Quilt Idea & 1857 Blocks & Nancy Meets Author of Station Eleven

I loved making William Shakespeare so much I want to do another portrait. I am thinking about fabrics for Edgar Allen Poe.

Last night I attended a talk and Q&A with Emily St. John Mandel whose novel Station Eleven is the 2016 Michigan Reads book. I read her novel last year and again last month for my local book club. Read my review here.

Mandel's presentation was thoughtful and revealing. She walked through how her decision to write Literary Fiction with a strong plot and crime element leading to her being considered a Noir genre writer. To avoid being typecast she wanted to write a novel that was completely different. Her first thought was to write about actors. She also wanted to write about the awesome wonder of our world--the technology that we take for granted. She decided to set up the loss of modern marvels due to a pandemic and traced her research back to ancient Rome when soldiers brought smallpox back to Italy, devastating the population. As it did to the Native American of North America during the earliest days of exploration.

Mandel had first visited Northern Michigan on a book tour to Traverse City and thereafter made excuses to return. The novel is set in the upper section of Michigan's lower peninsula, where the traveling Symphony stays close to the fresh water of the Great Lakes.

I loved the second reading of Station Eleven. I think I helped my book club appreciate some of the themes and messages of the book.

I have completed two more 1857 Album blocks, mostly finished another, and have the fourth ready to appliqué. I also need to add some embroidered details on the bird in the cherry tree.

What is it?

nearly done
ready to go