I Write. He Paints. We Preserve History.

I write. My brother paints. We are both preserving history.

Since the early 1960’s our parents took us to the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Indiana to play in the water and waves of Lake Michigan. We hiked the trails, explored the blow outs, climbed the sand dunes and conquered Mount Tom and Mount Baldy.

It was a place for us to roam freely with acres and acres of sand dunes vs our suburban neighborhood with houses built side-by-side.

On a cold day in 1967 while we explored the beach, my brother, Jacob, sat in the sand and made sketches of an abandoned cottage that still stood on the lakefront. He later created this painting. Shortly after, the cottage was demolished. All of the cottages that once stood are gone.

However, fifty years later the memory of this cottage remains as the picture hangs in my living room. And it preserves an era of cottages that were built one hundred years ago by owners who, like us today, relished their hours spent on this beautiful lakefront.

We don’t know the original owners or history of this specific cottage, but in the early 1900’s many folks from Chicago traveled to the Indiana side of Lake Michigan to enjoy a time of recreation at the Indiana Dunes.

It was so well-liked that eventually a group of Chicagoans incorporated the Prairie Club in 1911 and two years later built a beach house for members. Members would come to spend weekends and the summer and slept in tents.

Later in the 1910’s and 1920’s landowners began renting small parcels to these Chicago folks. Simple, inexpensive one story wooden cottages along the lakefront would be built on the rented parcels.

Alarmed by industrial sand mining destroying large areas of duneland and steel company land purchased, the Prairie Club members and others began a campaign to create a state park. The cause to preserve the Dunes began in 1916 and that campaign finally came to fruition in 1926 when the Dunes opened to the public as the Indiana Dunes State Park.

In 1966 with the drive of Illinois Senator Paul Douglas to save the dunes, the park was authorized as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. With perseverance from multiple groups the preservation of more land was granted.

The Indiana Dunes today stands at 15,000 acres. What I will remember of that extensive amount of land, because of my brother’s sketches and painting, is the small portion of land where a cottage was built and an unknown family or individual’s memories were made.

I have over fifty years of good memories made of experiences at the Indiana Dunes from my childhood and with my children and eventually with my grandchildren, and I have recorded my memories on paper.

Pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of the Indiana Dunes or of your nature preserves for your descendants to read.





Practice Makes P-E-R-F-E-C-T


My mother passed away eight years ago yesterday and my favorite memory of her concentrated on her love of words and the game of Scrabble. She often challenged family members and loved to win.

She enjoyed playing Scrabble and kept an “official” Scrabble dictionary to settle word challenges. She loved to be competitive and would challenge both her adult children and grandchildren. She often played competitively with many two letter words that would rake in high points.

After she died I found well worn papers with coffee cup stains on them showing at some time she had perused a dictionary and copied two to three letter words that she could use which proves she actually studied to win.

That was one of Mom’s life lessons that she taught us by example… If you want to be good at something, you have to work hard behind the scenes to learn how to accomplish the goal and continually practice to make yourself better.

This memory and others of my mother have been written and recorded for my children and grandchildren to read after I am gone. If I hadn’t preserved the memories of my mother, she would have been forgotten.

Preserving the legacies of your parents will prevent them from ever being forgotten and future descendants will be able to read these life stories and understand their family heritage. Pull out your laptop and grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your parents starting with the following questions:

  • In what ways are you like your parent(s)?
  • What did you enjoy doing with your parent(s)?
  • What was your proudest moment of your parent(s)?
  • What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your parent(s)?
  • What is the one thing you most want people to remember about your parent(s)?


My Grandfather…the Personal Historian


My paternal grandfather was born 121 years ago on December 19, 1895 and died nine days short of 94 on December 10, 1989.

I never had a close relationship with him when I was a young child partly due to the hundreds of miles between us as he lived in San Antonio, Texas and I lived in Northwest Indiana. In the early 1980’s when I was in my early twenties, I began to visit him on my own. I’m so fortunate that I came to know him better because he opened up a door for me stirring my interest in my family lineage.

My grandfather introduced me to my ancestors and to my heritage. I became intrigued with his oral stories and family pictures he had of his family. He shared with me his journals that he kept. He showed me the paper with his father’s writing recording the day that grandfather was born. He also show me the genealogical notes that he had on his family. He was a personal historian himself.

I went home after that first visit and started recording my ancestors’ and immediate family’s dates and facts. I began to interview and record family stories. Little did I know it at that time, thanks to my grandfather, the personal historian in me was born.

In 1974 he wrote about his service in World War I: “I was in France, Company F. 360 Infantry 90 Division, American Expeditionary Force. It was Sunday, November 11th, 1918 and we were advancing under heavy fire from the enemy. We had orders to take ‘Metz at all costs. We already had taken St. Michiel where the French lost 40,000 men. In that fighting we lost some men including two lieutenants and my captain was wounded. Many of our men were wounded too.

At 11 a.m. on that cold, rainy day of November 11th the War came to an end. Week later we went to Luxembourg for a rest of two weeks. Then to Berncastle, Germany. Stayed in Germany almost one year. So 56 years have passed since. I was almost 23 years old. So today the 11th day of November, 1974 I give thanks to our Lord Jesus for all the blessings I have received all those years of my life.”

And I give thanks that my grandfather recorded his memories and lit the fire in me to continue his mission as the family historian.

It is said that after two generations family stories can be lost if not recorded. However, there will come the day when I have a grandchild or a grandniece or grandnephew come to me with questions about their heritage, and I will be able to tell them about their ancestors as far back as the early 1800’s because my grandfather shared it with me. And hopefully there will be one in that next generation that will become the next family historian.

What priceless story from your grandparents can you preserve? Now is the time to open up your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of stories that your grandparents had shared with you. If your grandparents are still with you, take the time to record their memories.


100 Years of Military Service


For the past one hundred years I’ve had four generations of family members serving our country joining the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

At young ages along with fellow soldiers and sailors, they willingly traveled hundreds of miles from their families to serve in Europe, the Pacific and Middle East.

Today on Veteran’s Day, I wish to honor these family members.

At age 22 my grandfather served in the Army during World War I from 1918-1919 and served in Europe.

With World War II going at full strength, my father at age 17 quit high school in 1944 and enlisted in the Navy and traveled to far away countries in the Pacific.

In 1969 during the Viet Nam War my brother at age 20 received a draft notice soon after he was married. He elected to enlist in the Air Force and served from 1969 – 1973 stationed in Morocco, Alaska and Oklahoma.

A niece at age 19 enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1994. Another niece enlisted in the Air Force in 2004 at age 19 enlisted in the Air Force in 2004 during the Iraq War and stationed in Europe, Middle East, South Korea and currently remains in service in the states.

These family members have been an integral part of our U.S. history and it is important to record their stories and memories of the experiences they encountered overseas, how they adjusted emotionally being separated from loved ones and how they dealt with tragic circumstances.

It is essential for you to be interviewing and recording lifestories of family members who are veterans or current soldiers.  Pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of them preserved for future generations honoring their service and showing they were valued.

  • Where did you serve?
  • What unit were you in?
  • What did you think of the equipment, food and conditions you lived under as a member of the military?
  • What were you trained to do?
  • Where were you when the war ended?



Our Last Hug and Wave Good-Bye


The first picture I have of me with Aunt Priscilla is dated July 1969 and the last picture I have is dated September 2016.

Sadly, Priscilla Kathleen Madden Reynolds is gone. She was born on February 17, 1932 and passed in her sleep on October 21, 2016. The last time I saw her was on Wednesday, September 21, 2016. It was sad for me when we pulled out of her drive and waved good-bye to her for the last time. I will never forget that moment.

When my mother died in January 2009, my Aunt Priscilla stepped in for me to fill that empty spot. She and I called each other regularly, and I made annual trips to visit with her.

I admit my love and devotion to her was selfish. She was my last surviving family member of my mother’s family, and I grasped on to her as a rope that kept me connected to my mother, to my grandmother and to my extended family. When we visited her a month ago, there were a number of times I just sat still and watched her because I could see my mother. The way she walked, the way she held her purse, the way she spoke, the way she gestured with her hands…I saw my mother.

That rope is now broken. I hurt but I will survive. I’m from a lineage of women who have been strong willed. Priscilla shared in a 2011 interview I had with her regarding her daughter Susan Reynolds Young, who was a victim to cancer and suffered immense pain throughout her body, “She was strong enough not to whine about it. She was a lot worse than we knew about. My mom (May Madden) was strong willed. She didn’t let you know how she felt. It has been said that our generation of women were pretty strong willed. But you just have to go on. You can’t give in. You just gotta keep on going. Mom left a good legacy and passed her strength on to us.”

Another generation is gone, but these women before us have left us (we are now the oldest generation) a legacy to follow and pass on to the generations after us.

With her interview I was able to preserve her life story on video and in book form. She will never be forgotten, and when I have grandchildren, I will be able to share not only faces and names with the pictures, but I will be able to share characters and personalities.  I wish I had the same with my great aunts and uncles who grew up in the late 1800’s, and then I might understand their somber faces shown in their pictures.

Preserving the legacies of your loved ones will prevent them from ever being forgotten and future descendants will be able to read their life stories and understand their family heritage. Grab your laptop or paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your loved ones.





I Will Never Forget That Day…

My beautiful picture

Today I am married, my children are grown, and my parents have passed away. I commute to Chicago by train and work at a law firm. I daily see tightened security and it is always in the back of my mind to be aware of activity around me. I will never forget that tragic day fifteen years ago that changed our culture.

It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I was a single mom with three young school age children, and I commuted to work in Chicago on the train. The kids and I woke up at 5:30 that morning ready for another day. As routine goes, we had prepared the night before with our clothes set out for school and work. My children had their lunch money, books and homework in their backpacks and my commuter bag and purse were set at the door ready to go.

However, plans went astray when my eight year old son awoke not feeling well enough to go to school. I called my mom to ask her to babysit so I switched plans to drive in to work rather than take the train.

While driving my ten year old son to school, breaking news was broadcast on the car radio that at 7:46 a.m. (Central Time) an airplane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Buildings in New York City. Discussion on the radio was a possible mechanical failure. From school as we drove on to my mom’s house, more breaking news came on the radio. At 8:03 a.m. (Central Time) another plane had crashed into the second tower. Now the discussion on the radio was terrorism.

Once at my mom’s home, I got my son comfortable in the front room and settled him in to watch cartoons. I then joined my mom and dad in front of the small television at their kitchen table watching in disbelief the terror of 9/11 unfolding as we saw the Twin Towers burn and slowly collapse. We saw people running frantically away from the smoke and flying debris. My elderly parents had already lived through the experience of Pearl Harbor and World War II, but the greatest difference this time is that this was occurring on American soil.

I contacted my supervisor at work, and she said to wait to come in because federal and state buildings in Chicago had already closed and our law firm was waiting to hear when they were going to close. Notice came at 10:30 a.m. An email was sent notifying everyone that our office was closing. Our firm joined the mass of people who like herds of cattle evacuated Chicago due to the possible threat of attacks on government buildings, the Sears Tower or any other skyscrapers.

After watching hours of television with my parents, my son and I went home and we pulled out our American flag and proudly displayed it on our front porch.

The days and weeks following changed dramatically. I felt it the next day when the train car had a subdued silence as commuters sat reading the morning newspapers with the details of the attack. I felt it at work when I was now required to show my building security card to be able to enter the building and ride the elevators. I felt it as I sat on the 37th floor near a window that had a southeast view of Lake Michigan and the skies were completely clear of air traffic as all flights were now grounded and it was now eerily silent.

Keeping Your Memories of your experience will preserve this moment of history for future generations to reflect on.

– Where were you on 9/11?
– What changes in security have changed for you in your work place?
– Do your children or grandchildren remember this tragic day?






My Dad – Forever He Will Be


Today on Father’s Day memories of Dad flood my heart and soul:

I remember Dad as a gentle, patient man. By example he quietly taught me life skills. He taught me to have good character and work ethics. I watched him work responsibly and diligently in taking care of his home and property. I watched him rise early in the morning to get to work on time. I admired him for his patience and tolerance.

When I was a little girl, Dad worked long hours as a freight conductor on the Pennsylvania Railroad. I don’t remember him being home, but I never thought of him not being home. It was just that Dad worked and that was life.

Dad would send us across the street to DeLock’s, a small corner grocery store, to purchase the afternoon newspaper for him but did not always ask for the change back from the

Dad gave me the necklace that I wore in my kindergarten picture. He also gave me a little yellow ring with flowers printed on it which I wore every day in kindergarten. Every year he gave me a Valentine’s Day card and gift. I still have all the cards he gave me.

Dad was a handy man. He could fix anything. He would work on his cars. He would work on the yard. Anything that needed to be fixed, he could do it.

Instead of sending me to school for drivers ed, Dad taught me how to drive when I was sixteen years old. He was a patient man. Behind our house we had a field with an alley that circled it. He had me drive back there until I got used to the feel of driving. Then he took me out on the streets to drive.

Fortunately, he was a quiet person and didn’t anger easily. For the number of his cars that I, and some siblings, damaged he never yelled at us.

Dad always changed the oil in his car himself and when I was a teenager, I asked him to teach me to do the same. He was willing to show me, however, I did not have to change it often as he did it for me.

I remember Dad at the Indiana Dunes racing up and down the steep sand dunes faster than us.

Dad passed in February 2007 making this my tenth Father’s Day without him. He’s physically gone but my memories of him keeps him close to me

Preserving the legacies of your father will prevent him from ever being forgotten and future descendants will be able to read his life story and understand their family heritage. Grab your laptop or paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your father starting with the following questions:

  • In what ways are you like your father? And not like your father?
  • What did you enjoy doing with your father?
  • What was your proudest moment of your father?
  • What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your father?
  • What is the one thing you most want people to remember about your father?