|Feature Story January 2007|
Sunday Morning Memorial Moment
By Donna Heim Epley
|Relatives and friends of this congregation: I am indebted to Carolee Heim and Bob Williamson for some of the words in these remarks as well as for guidance in directing the thoughts as they migrated to the page. Equally important, I have been able to glean remembrances from Roger Iliff, Marge Weber, again, Carolee Heim, Frances Whited, Martha Hoig and David Heim—all grandchildren or their representatives of Henry and Regina Heim.|
The dwelling, now known as The Penn Colony Museum House, was made a home by Henry and Regina and their seven children, giving the walls a vitality of joy and love. These words from a lyric by my niece, a storyteller by profession in Colorado:
Home — Hey, children, every house is a home. Look at the world around and find you’re not on your own. A nest is a home to a bird in the sky. A stream is a home to a fish passing by. A mountain is home to a big mountain goat. Every house is a home where you can hang your coat. And we get love and affection, warmth and protection, share happiness and conversation. With love and affection, every house is a home. Your house, your home.
Yes, these children of Henry and Regina had received a basis of truth and have passed that nurturing spirit of Christian love on to their children. An unknown author has written: Watch your thoughts; they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character for it becomes your destiny. That destiny of the value of peace, generosity, hospitality, love of home and faithfulness to God was unanimously echoed by the cousins who responded to me for this event.
Roger Iliff, a senior cousin actually lived in the “the big house,” his parents having set up housekeeping upstairs. Lotta and Clyde Iliff were married there, as were Jessie and Jim DeWeese.
By 1930, Regina and Henry had moved into Dawson and the big house was home to son Paul and Bess, 1930 to 1950.
Fran Whited lived in the “little house” across the road. One day Uncle Paul was harrowing when the horses bolted and became unhitched. They got hung up on a culvert but not before running over Paul in his vain attempt to halt them. Fran’s brother, Buddy, was a boy of eight or ten and saw the incident from his view up in a tree across the road. He remembers waiting outside Paul’s hospital room in Omaha to see if Paul would pull through—it was a grim time.
Frances joyfully remembers that “I used to go down to the barn and Uncle Paul would be milking and he would tell me jokes. When I laughed, he would squirt milk into my mouth. I even had my own little milk stool.” She continues, “Aunt Bess had chickens, but she didn’t work in the fields. She always fixed me treats: a slice of homemade bread with brown sugar on top with thick cream drizzled over the top. Yum. It tasted like caramel frosting. I also played Chinese checkers with Grandma Little. She always let me win—I know now, anyway.”
As for Ron, he taught Fran to high jump. He had set up a rig in back of the big house and he practiced there. Ron was a great pole-vaulter in high school.
David Heim, son of Vera Triggs and John, now living in Minnesota, tells us that most of all he remembers the annual picnic down in the pasture: stepping into cow pies, chasing fire flies and getting bitten by chiggers and mosquitoes. “Then we went to Ron and Carolee’s,” he says, “after a visit at the Heim Cemetery. The house seemed to stand out as we approached. We sat visiting in the main room while the women were busy in the kitchen. Soon Paul, John, Claudia and Jim took me out to see the grounds and the barn. I remember the rain barrel, the horse tank and the workshop with all the tools. I remember the women in their aprons, the corn cob stove in the kitchen and how hot it got in there.”
Martha Hoig’s sister, Norma, recalls the bountiful holiday dinners she enjoyed. Their mother, Jessie, wrote “Tales of a Happy Childhood,” which can be found in Folklore of a Pennsyl-vania Colony in Nebraska, 1955. She too writes of Regina and her mother, Margaret, and their celebration of Easter with egg rolling contests and happy songs in German. Jessie writes that her grandparents worked hard, lived simply and lavished their love on their children and grandchildren and the “greats” that followed. “To this day,” she writes, “I still feel the influence of their teachings upon my life.”
It is told that Lottie, Roger’s mother, is said to have come home from school to announce that everyone should speak English now, so she set about to teach the family; and she did!
Several have commented about Henry and Regina’s love of music. It is appropriate that this Penn Colony House have a music room, as did the original. The family and friends gathered there to sing hymns inspiring and lovely—what a fellowship of home! Regina sang as she went to get the cows. People in Dawson could hear her clear, sweet voice. “Silent Night” is said to have been her favorite.
Have you met “Grandma Fern”? According to Roger, each grandchild got a start of “Grandma Fern.” She always sat in the south window of the dining room, leafy and green—a beacon of hospitality.
At Henry and Regina’s home in Dawson, 1930, Marge Weber recalls she and her sister, Betty Lee, once spent overnight with them. Marjorie says that in the morning before they sat down to breakfast, grandmother and grandfather would kneel on the floor with their hands placed together, as for prayer. So she and Betty Lee followed their lead. Then Grandfather gave thanks to God in prayer for all our blessings and added prayer needs and other gratefulness to His Holy Name. “Being on the floor kneeling was new to us,” she says, “so the impression never left us. It was a sweet, blessed time.” Back at the farm, Marjorie remembers splashing in the big horse tank—as do Fran, and Donna, with her sister, Betty. Fran remembers that Ron showed us the pipes that went from the well to the horse tank—all hollowed out of wooden 4×4’s. That horse tank was such a cooling treat to us little ones.
Grandma Regina and Grandpa Henry had eight years in Dawson. She died in June 1938. Henry followed just nine months later. Grandchildren visited them in their town home. Frances recalls going there after church on Sundays. Regina was bedfast and Frances could see through the sheet at her bad leg. Meanwhile, Buddy got to sit in the living room to listen to the Jack Benny show and Allen’s Alley. Sorrowful, but dedicated, Fran stayed with Grandma. Paul, Harlan and the others cared for Grandma those last days and tried to relieve her suffering.
We hope this has evoked even more memories for you. As in other families, we all remember differently according to our age at the time. So, share them the more as we meet today. Indeed, the Penn Colony Museum House and farm resides on hallowed ground. A precious writing is part of our family’s heritage: A letter Regina wrote to Henry on their Fiftieth wedding anniversary. [Ed: This letter appears on page 3.]
With the insight only inspiration can give, Martha Hoig characterizes Henry and Regina’s family as Godly, admirable, inspiring, loving, dignified, creative, musical, kind, and to borrow a phrase: “strong, good-looking and their children, above average.”