b. 18 Jan 1890 Walnut, Pottawattomie Co., IA
Raymond - my Uncle
by B. Rowenna Schram Erbach
Raymond came into this world with a learning disability. Grandma used to tell me how grateful she was to a certain rural school teacher who challenged himself to teach him to learn to read, write, figure and think. He kept him in at recess and worked with him to do this. Perhaps some of the rest of you can supply that teacher's name. If my mother were living I would go to her and she would supply it and I would marvel that she could. Even when she was old and in the home in Ponca, I often went to her for information I had forgotten and I wrote it on a paper so I'd have it later. I didn't think to ask that question. The price of Uncle Ray's learning was the loss of a lot of play relationships, but those other skills were very valuable to him in his life. He always enjoyed memorizing and often contacted us on our birthdays, wedding days, etc. He loved his expanded family very much. His letters always told us of other things happening in this big circle. He was the only one who called me "Row" and that was always his salutation. He drove a model T coupe and it was in excellent condition when he sold it to the K_____ family in Harlan, Iowa for $25 in the late forties. I loved to talk to him both as a child and as an adult. I'm so glad our family had him.
From Ruth Grow KenneyRandolph
We visited Grandparents several times at Harlan. We usually ended up playing croquet with Uncle Ray, and he was famous for "coquetting anyone he hit into the street," even if it were to his advantage to play the game differently.
From Rozelle La Favre Noulis
Uncle Raywe loved those malts he bought for us "in town" and the rides in his Model T Ford up and down those Nebraska farm hills. One day the Model T got stuck in the mud half-way up the hill and they had to get a team of mules to pull the Ford back down the hill. What an experience that was! Almost frightening!
From Wayne Christensen
The history of the Christensen family would not be complete unless a few words were written down about Uncle Ray by some of the cousins that probably remember him the most. I first remember Uncle Ray when we were living in Wakonda, South Dakota. Uncle Ray had never married and as a result he worked as a hired hand for some of his brothers and other people in what ever area he was in. He went from Wakonda to the Cedar Falls area where his parents lived. When they moved back to Allen, Nebraska in 1931 Uncle Ray came with them to farm the place there. Uncle Ray had a perfectly matched span of mules and he had them always with the best of harness. We kids used to laugh at the way he drove and cared for them just like they were his kids. They would do anything that he asked.
We knew Uncle Ray the best when he was in Allen because we lived just over the hill from Grandma and Ray from 1933 on until they left to go back to Harlan, Iowa to live. Uncle Ray always liked the nephews and nieces very much as we probably were the kids that he never had. He was so generous with us. Even in the dirty thirties when money was so scarce he loved ice cream and pop and always had a nickel or more for an ice cream cone, bottle of pop or strawberry sundae for us. Uncle Ray had a 1924 Model T. Ford coupe that he kept very clean and would let us nephews drive when we went someplace. I think that all of us either learned to drive or at least drove Uncle Ray's old Ford. When his parents moved back to Harlan due to poor health, Uncle Ray moved with them and spent the next five years helping to care for his parents. He was most kind to them and I know that they were much happier and better off for the work that he did. We all have a soft tender spot in our hearts for Uncle Ray. Hardly any one of us are not indebted to him in some way or place.
From Ethel Christensen (Shutts) Swain
With warm feelings and tears I write of my beloved childhood friend and playmate, my special brother Raymond. For an often lonely little girl so many years younger than the others, he helped fill those lonely moments when the others were busy.
Growing up in a family who were quick in intellectual pursuits must have been difficult for Raymond. How I wish he could have been in the Minneapolis Schools where I taught! They had programs for everyone and developed these children to their greatest capacities. In Raymond's time, parents were frustrated and punished these children when that was exactly what they did not need. There were no magazine articles, books, psychologists, and doctors who could help. They muddled through, sometimes trying to hide these very special loveable children, so dependent on them so they could cope with a world not geared for them. Fortunately for Raymond, Frank Hansen, an insightful teacher, came to the Cuppy's Grove school. Seeing Raymond's potential, patiently he taught him to read, write and "cipher." I believe God sent him there for Raymond.
On rainy and slow days, Raymond and I would go up to the attic of the Nebraska farm home, that marvelous sanctuary. There we would talk about our imaginary farm, where I was the owner and he was my hired man. Both of us had vivid imaginations, and for a while we lived in a world created by us, a world of joy, work, and acceptance.
Raymond built a little barn for me in the grove across the road north of the house. It had a haymow and stanchions for my stick horses very fancy ones which he made for me. Each one had a name. The other brothers built me a playhouse with a basement. What fun!
Everyone remembers Spot, my ornery, lovable Shetland pony -- black and white like father's Holsteins! Harvey and Raymond bought him for me. Ezra bought the darling little saddle which I had to use to keep him from bucking me off.
Raymond loved games, and I was always ready for one. He taught me Dominoes (he was good at it). Flinch, Checkers. Our family played lots of cards in the winter oh no, not "playing cards" but Somerset and Rook. Raymond was a very good player. What a surprise I got years later to learn that Rook is really "500", only not played with a "uchre" deck. Raymond was a whiz at "mental arithmetic". He could figure out quite complicated problems connected with farm business. We never knew his process. Most of us need pencil and paper (pardon me
no computers). He wrote many letters to his family. He was an avid reader of the Harlan Republican, and kept a subscription to it all his life.
Raymond's first car was a "kelsey" body Ford. It was the only one I have ever seen. It had a maroon body with a different shape a really sporty model. Harvey patiently taught him to drive. He next owned a cute little Ford coupe, which he had for many years, even after moving to Harlan, where it was an antique curiosity. Lydia laughingly told me of a little kid in the neighborhood remarking, "Your daddy drives a kiddie car!" What my parents would have done on the farm after Father's stroke, I do not know, if Raymond had not been able to take them around in his kiddie car.
For the time before Ezra came down to take over the Nebraska Farm situation and get the folks moved to Harlan, Raymond was the mainstay. He had a span of mules that he adored. Jack and "jinny" were tricky, but he knew them and they knew him - a fabulous combination!
In his younger years Raymond worked for Anna and Marinus, and also other people in the Shelby County area. He worked for Ezra in South Dakota, and finally after our parents death, he went to live with Harvey at Cedar Falls and helped him where he could. Lydia was living part of the time in the little house on Harvey's farm. Every day Raymond came over for coffee. Lydia always managed some favorite goodie. These were precious moments for both of them. They had shared a life in Harlan in our parents' last days, part of the time both parents helpless in bed. Harvey showed great understanding of Raymond, and Mildred and all their children had respect for him. Mildred so kindly cared for Raymond after Harvey died until finally it was necessary for him to go to the Lutheran Home in Cedar Falls. The family continued to take him to special family occasions.
Raymond was a tall man with a fine slender body and a head of beautiful auburn curls, which he kept well-groomed.
He was a member of the Spring Bank Quaker Church (Friends) near Allen. Our family liked these people and often went to their services. Mildred's family, the Lamms, were members there.
I never heard Raymond say a derogatory word about anyone. How many of us could say that about ourselves? He was a completely honest person; he was thrifty.
As I look back over my eighty years, I have arrived at this conclusion: everyone was put here for some purpose. Some never find it. Raymond did. He was one of the mainstays of our parents in their old age. Truly the least of these shall be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
These are my memories on March 17, 1987, Boone, Iowa.
Ethel Christensen (Shutts) Swain
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