Aunt Kathy, Grandma and Michelle.
I’d like to begin the way my colleagues of the Klamath Tribes do when they speak before a group. My name is not as important as my people, and my people are:
My parents Douglas Lane and Valeree Brown.
My grandparents Charles Lane, Edna Henderson, Helen Siewert, Lucille Griffin and Eddie Brown.
My great-grandparents Fred Sawyer Lane, Bertha McArthur, Clyde Henderson, Edith Wheeler, Gustav Siewert, Augustina Betker, William Griffin, Annie Jane Fuller, Jesse Brown and Tempie Collier.
Even if you’ve never met me before, there is someone in that list that connects us. At the very center of our connection today is my grandmother Helen Siewert Hogan Lane. I like to think that Grandma could be one of David Muir’s Made in America stories on ABC’s Nightly News.
As with any project, I began this eulogy with a bit of research. In looking at the 1930 Census, I found the Siewerts living in Portland, where 32-year-old Gustav was a riveter. His bride, Augustina, was 29 and at home with three children under the age of nine.
Gustav arrived in the United States in 1919, and the 1920 Census found him in Portland with his parents and siblings. Augustina immigrated in 1910, and the 1930 Census listed them as both being from Russia.
By the 1940 Census, the family was living in Clark County Washington, and Gustav was now a tinsmith. His roots were still in Russia, but Augustina’s were corrected to be in Poland.
By the time Grandma married the handsome sailor Harold Hogan on February 24, 1945, both Gustav and Augustina were listed as hailing from Canada. Augustina was the couple’s witness.
In a period of 15 years we learn that Grandma was the daughter of immigrants, and by 1945 the Cold War was already influencing how personal history was told. As with all documents, there is a possibility of human error, but these pieces make me appreciate Grandma more.
Her service to the VFW in Packwood, and in the World War II shipyards of Vancouver was not rote patriotism. She was promoting the values that so many take for granted, living the American dream.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Grandma and the news reel in my mind shows her walking into Blanton’s and being greeted as Lois Lane. She walks along the Cowlitz and has easy rapport with everyone she meets. She’s a dutiful daughter, a proud sister, aunt, mother and grandmother. People loved her and she loved people.
When she went to Florida to spend some time with Aunt Kathy and Grandpa stayed with us, I saw their love in a different light. On days that Grandma was going to call, Grandpa would get up, shower and shave. This was before Facetime, but she deserved the effort of him cleaning up and being presentable to talk to her.
In my research, I found that they married in Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1961, and again in Coeur d’Alene in 1964. I’m not sure what that was about, but I feel confident that Grandpa felt blessed to be able to take her as his wedded wife not once but twice.
They stand proudly together in our California living room in a photo from my baby book. Whenever there was a milestone, they were there. Grandma was disappointed on my behalf, when I graduated high school without a scholarship. In hindsight it was probably best, as paying for my education made me appreciate it more, and at that point in time I wanted to be a soap opera head writer. They were making $100,000 a month for what didn’t seem to be hard work.
When Doug and Cheri got married, I called before going to work one morning. I got Grandma out of bed to let them know the particulars. It never occurred to me that retired people wouldn’t be up early in the morning. She wasn’t mad, and I’ll always remember their combined laughter when I called to wish them a Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day on its first national celebration.
Aunt Kathy shared that some of her favorite memories are of huckleberry picking at the base of Mt. Rainier, laughing and talking, keeping an eye out for bears. Grandma knew the names and songs of all the birds in the forest and could identify larger animals from their tracks and scat. She had a red squirrel named Rudy that gave her birdfeeders more than one stress test. Grandpa hated the Stellar Jays with a passion, and they came to fear his pellet gun.
I distinctly remember a time they came for a visit in Klamath. We were driving through the small town of Dairy and Grandpa saw two Chevys parked along a driveway that reminded him of a car he once owned. He asked Dad to turn around and go back, but Grandma had the final word: “Charles.”
Another memory I treasure is a visit she made after she moved to Florida. I was working for the statewide literacy program then, and she went to work with me because I had some documents to sign. One of my school coordinators had seen us in the car and she commented on the good time we were having. As I signed payroll, Grandma played a handheld game of poker.
She hesitated when I said we should leave for lunch. She wanted to know where we were going, and I told her that I thought we’d go up to Campus Drive to Applebee’s. She was visibly relieved as she explained that Dad had taken her to his favorite taqueria the previous day. “I don’t think I could eat that food a second day.”
My favorite photo of Grandma is one of her in the swing next to toddler Zach. She loved each of us so much, and relished updates on Zach and Amanda throughout the years.
Earth has lost a beautiful person who saw the best in everyone, but I know she’s rejoicing in the presence of Jesus and the paradise of Heaven. When Barbara Bush passed this year, her granddaughters each recited a portion of Proverbs 31, and the media said we had lost our national grandmother.
Frankly, I appreciated Barbara Bush, but I have an amazing Grandmother of my own. It is written: Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.