A Most Difficult Year

The move to Cape Coral was accomplished by three round trips of the Olds, towing a large U-Haul trailer. We brought everything, even the wooden garden frames Mr. Harris had built for Mary Charlotte. I got some help from the new church we intended to join. We had only two weeks to get settled when Will arrived with his whole family to help us celebrate the Christmas season. Apparently he brought winter with him, for we had the coldest spell of weather we have experienced in Florida. Half of our trees and other plants were killed by that cold, and we are thankful we have not had any repeat of the experience. Even though the weather was cold, we had some warm fellowship!

1990 was a difficult year. Our Homestead house did not sell until April, and then we had to take a several thousand dollar loss. In one of our several returns to Homestead, I had an accident, which caused considerable front-end damage to the Olds, and $2,000 damage to my pocketbook. In spite of these setbacks, I got the brainstorm of writing “My Biography” and did everything but print the covers and bind the 100 books. I also did a similar task for Margaret in preparing for her 400 copies of “Pithies & Tersities” for printing the covers and binding. She split the cost of equipment and supplies with me.

Mary Jo and Clyde had their fiftieth wedding anniversary on April 13, 1990, attended by most, if not all, of their big family. Clyde was not to live long enough to celebrate their 51st! In the photo at the left are shown their immediate family (left to right): Charles, Steve, Clyde, Mary Jo, and Randy.

When census-taking time arrived I decided I would try my hand at it, and spent two weeks in May canvassing a small neighborhood in Fort Myers Beach for the few people who had not gone North for the Summer. Just before this, we drove to Daytona Beach to attend the wedding of Margaret’s grandson Timothy Fee to Joanne Minoka on May 5th. It was a gala wedding, complete with dinner, a dance band, and several hundred guests. When I first saw Caroline, the groom’s mother, I didn’t recognize her — she looked like a teenager. My principal recollection is an opportunity to get acquainted with Bruce and Susanna Caruthers, Blake and Adele’s two adopted children.

For the first time in my adult life, I felt more miserable each morning as I started out to count noses for the Census, and finally succumbed to hospitalization. Mary Charlotte drove me to the hospital in Fort Myers, and then was terrified to learn that she would have to drive home alone. She got lost three times! It took 15 days to reveal my physical problems as kidney stone, inflamed stomach lining and parasite infestation, and cost me my bonus for not completing my Census assignment. I can still recall those long, dull days in Lee Memorial Hospital waiting for the doctors to make up their minds about my infirmities.

On top of all these woes was the requirement to pay $600 to the Australian woman whose suitcase I had mistakenly taken at the Hawaiian airport two years earlier. So the maturing of our CD’s in late April came at just the right time to keep our financial noses above water. We even bought 400 shares of Citizens Bank stock, which had fallen to a 20-year low that Summer. We doubled our money on it 18 months later.

The rest of the year is a blur of yard work, minor troubles with the appliances, getting acquainted with our fellow church members at Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), and helping Mary Charlotte with her raised garden beds, particularly scrounging the supermarkets for suitable compost material.

We did manage one trip, a tour of Newfoundland, via southern Michigan in August for our annual visit with Mary Jo and Clyde. The Olds was the wrong vehicle to take on such a trip, as gas prices in Newfoundland are horrendous. One tank-full of gas cost me $50! And we had many tankfulls — $750 worth of them. But it was a very interesting trip and took us all the way back in time to Eric the Red’s landing in Newfoundland 500 years before Columbus “discovered” America. According to Canadian archaeologists, his party spent one winter there, and left a number of structures to prove it. We also visited Labrador at Red Bay, once the whaling capital of the world, with its very interesting museums and ruins. The Grenfell home, now a museum, was another reminder of the pioneering days in northeast North America. But the most interesting feature of all the many such in Newfoundland were the birds. There are several “bird islands” where numerous species (including Puffins) winter and mate. At the right time of year (which wasn’t when we were there), one can see tens of thousands of these birds nesting in the cliffs of the islands. At one such place, the island is only about 100 feet from shore, and even at the wrong season, there were thousands of birds squawking, fighting, courting (?), and eating. I took a good ten minutes of videotape to document the scene.

Clyde had noticeably deteriorated that summer (1990) and autumn. After a bout with an ear infection, he and Mary Jo went to Houston to spend Thanksgiving with son Chuck and family. Here, the doctors discovered that Clyde was suffering from bone cancer, and it was so far advanced that treatment was useless.

Mary Jo reluctantly returned home, leaving Clyde in the M. D. Anderson hospital, where Chuck was head of surgery. Even with a son who was one of the leading cancer specialists in the United States, Clyde could only expect a few more weeks of life. Chuck brought him to his home in Englewood during the Christmas holidays, and Mary Jo and the hospice nurses cared for him until he died on February 13, 1991. Mary Charlotte and I cared for him several days during that period to give Mary Jo a break.

Visit to Alaska, June-July 1991

After much planning, correspondence and advance payments, we flew to Seattle to begin our odyssey by bus, train and ferry of western Canada and Alaska. When I plan my travel, I want to cover everything within reach of our route, and this tour was no exception. On the way north in between bus and ferry rides, we slept in Vancouver, Victoria, Port Hardy, and Prince Rupert, (in Canada) and Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau, and Skagway (in Alaska) on our way to Canada’s Yukon Territory, doing as much sightseeing as schedules permitted. The best of these was Sitka, where we spent four days in a bed-and-breakfast operated by a Pentecostal couple, who invited us to their church on July 4th for a delicious meal from the largest salmon I had ever seen. This formerly Russian capital had many historic places to visit, but we enjoyed its modern environs even more than its historic ones. The only pluses for the rest of this part of the trip were the occasional whale(s), and the glacier at Juneau.

From Skagway, we crossed the mountain range to the Canadian border on the railway built for the would-be gold miners who swarmed into western Canada and Alaska at the turn of the century in search of gold (which few found). We then had several bus rides from Skagway to Whitehorse (where we went to church) and on to Fairbanks. The lady who operated our bed-and-breakfast in Fairbanks was a dear soul who insisted in meeting our arrival bus, taking us to our several tour rendezvous, and to the airport at our departure. She had no help in running her big house, with eight or more guests, for whom she cooked whatever they wanted for breakfast. At 74, she must have worn herself out, for we got a note from her daughter two years later in answer to our Christmas card, that she had died shortly before.

From Fairbanks, we took a long bus ride up the pipeline road to the Arctic Circle, a train ride to Denali Park, where we stayed two days, and a boat ride down the Tanana River to the Yukon. While on the bus ride to the Arctic Circle, we were shown several videos of the pipe-line construction and its effect on the animals, of which I later was able to get copies. The trip back to Cape Coral by Delta airlines was a scramble of close connections at Anchorage, Salt Lake City, and Dallas, but we made it and so did our bags.

We move to Gulf Coast Village

Upon returning home, Mary Charlotte was horrified to discover that someone had stolen her most cherished plants from her raised bed. This so upset her that she was willing to look at a retirement center I had visited in my church sick-people visitation program, and we signed up and made our deposit before the end of July. Selling our house was another matter. The city was in the process of installing a dual water system (potty water, Margery Henney calls it), and our neighborhood streets were all torn up. Not only that, but at least 20 other people within two blocks of us were trying to sell. We didn’t have an offer in over six months. Finally, the Gulf Coast Village management offered to buy the house in part payment of the required “deposit” on the 2-bedroom apartment we had contracted for, and we moved in on April 16, 1992 (see right).

Several Years of Events Only to Others

Life at Gulf Coast Village was not that different from life at 4008 Second Avenue. Our horrendous monthly payment included one meal a day apiece, and I took mine virtually every day. Mary Charlotte soon tired of the cuisine and elected to cook most of her own meals for the rest of our stay at GCV. Fortunately the rules allowed us to use up meal credits by inviting guests, and we managed to use most of her meal credits that way. Of course, she ate in the dining room when we had guests. While the management provided a program of activities and transportation for groceries, doctors, and the like, we used very few of those amenities, preferring our own transportation and amusement. My primary recreation was shuffleboard, to which I looked forward twice a week. We got acquainted with many of our near neighbors and dinner companions, but were shocked to realize that in our first full year at GCV ten of our former dinner companions had died.

I believe we managed to visit Mary Jo in her summer home in Michigan nearly if not every August for the rest of the decade. While there in 1992, we were watching the news of Hurricane Andrew. The newscasters did not know just how bad that hurricane was, but they knew it was bad. We finally got to visit Homestead more than six weeks later, and saw for ourselves. Most of our friends there had weathered the storm in their homes, but they all had tall tales to tell. We were also shocked to hear of the terrorist attack on St. James Church in Cape Town a year later, during a Sunday evening service. Eleven people were killed (we knew two of them) and 55 injured seriously (we knew some of them also) by three young blacks who shot into the pews with an AK- 47 and tossed two grenades into the shocked worshipers. When we visited Cape Town in 1995, we asked the rector, Frank Retief, what effect that massacre had on the people of South Africa. He replied that it brought more people to Christ than a national Billy Graham Crusade would have done. It also brought many new people into St. James Church, so that they had to double the size of their sanctuary. If you are interested in more details of the tragedy, see St. James Massacre

Of course we had weekly visits with Margaret and Mary Jo, alternating in their homes and ours. I began to teach an adult Sunday School class called “Walking through the Bible” in the Fall of 1992, which I continued right through until its completion in May 2000, covering all the books of the Bible except those few that largely repeated others. My annual reading of the Bible from cover to cover since 1956 really paid off in my acquaintance with the Biblical text in other places as we studied each particular book.

The big family event of 1993 was Glen Balch's marriage to Alison Smith on July 24th. Since she was the daughter of Astronaut Captain Smith of the ill-fated Challenger, the wedding was well attended by their many friends in Houston including astronauts. Mary Charlotte and I didn't attend, but Will and Judy and most of the Balches and other family members did. This tranquil period of existence came to an end in April of 1994, when I accompanied Chuck and Elouise Corwin to Old China.

Peoples Republic of China, April 1994

Chuck Corwin had put his superb knowledge (for a Westerner) of the Japanese language to good use some years earlier when he produced an idiomatic dictionary of Japanese and English. This was so good that it became a standard textbook not only for Japanese speakers learning English, but also for English speakers learning Japanese. Its organization was built around themes such as love, hate, envy, fear, etc. Each such section was closed by a Bible verse illustrating the theme. For years Chuck had been trying to include Chinese as the third language in the dictionary. Once an almost-completed manuscript was lost when his briefcase was stolen from his hotel room in San Francisco. A second attempt was actually completed and printed in Hong Kong, but the Old China universities refused to use it in their language departments. When China opened up her gates to western tour groups in the 80’s, Chuck took such a tour, and managed to get permission to visit language departments in several large universities in Shanghai and Beijing. In one of these he found a professor who was willing to undertake the work, and it was ready for the printer in early 1994.
Chuck felt it essential to personally present it to classes in advanced English at several of the universities in Shanghai and Beijing. But he also wanted a Christian witness. So he invited Lou Nelson, a computer expert from his church in Newport Beach CA, and me (see right) to go along with him and Elouise (see left). At long last I was going to be able to visit Old China! Mary Charlotte didn’t want to go, but didn’t object to my going. I had checked the miles carefully and found I needed to have three car rentals to make the 20,000 miles then needed for a free ticket on United Airlines. We spent three days each in Shanghai, Beijing, and Tokyo. I addressed two classes in Shanghai and two in Tokyo, speaking about the space program as I had done back in the 70’s. I took along with me the Apollo 13 documentary and “The Time of Apollo”, and prepared a presentation for the faculty of space and aeronautics at the University of Beijing on the problem of computing the orbit for the safe return of the astronauts in Apollo 13. My efforts seemed to be very well received and I was kept a half hour or more at each lecture with questions about space and Christianity. At no time was I hindered in any way. On one of the evenings in Beijing, I was able to visit Quentin and Karen Nantz, missionaries with ELIC (English Language in China).

On our last day in Beijing, we visited the Great Wall of China (see left), the Forbidden City, and the famous Peking Duck Restaurant, where five generations of restaurateurs have served only duck dinners for over 150 years.

The time in Tokyo provided one opportunity to address the boys in Tyrannus Hall, and to renew fellowship with Osamu and Masako Okamura and their children (see right).

Hawaii and California, 1994

Part of the bargain with Mary Charlotte was a trip to Hawaii that summer. I had promised to take her to her favorite places as the years went by, and Hawaii was high on her list, which also included Israel, England, South Africa, and California. We visited California and Hawaii that year and the others in 1995. Although we had accumulated enough miles on Delta for a free round trip to Hawaii, I figured that by paying for that trip (at a bargain rate) we would qualify for a free round trip to Israel and Europe, which worked out, as I will relate soon.

Since we had spent a week each on Oahu and Maui on our previous visit to Hawaii in 1988, we decided to major on the Big Island (Hawaii) this time. My trip to China had earned me nearly 20,000 miles on United (the car rentals making up the difference), and I found to my surprise that these miles would provide two round trips each between any two islands in Hawaii, with a free half-day on a car rental. Thus we ended up with a 7-day stay on the island of Hawaii, and on the final day, went to Kauai, rented a car, drove as far as we could around the north end of the island, and returned to Hawaii, stopping in the Honolulu airport each way. We enjoyed the leisurely tour of the Big Island in our Geo jeep, exploring nearly everywhere the roads went. We particularly enjoyed the two church services at the Hilo Baptist church.

Returning again to California, we visited Fran Mcune at her new LA home (see left) and the Bowens in Visalia (see right), and where Lance was already suffering with the prostate cancer that killed him two years later.

As soon as our Delta miles from the Hawaii trip were credited to our frequent flyer accounts, we booked our free trip to Israel. Even so, we were too late to get the dates we wanted and had to settle on arrival on their Sabbath and over one holy day (with their cessation of bus services). I tried every way possible to figure out how to get from Paris (where our free ticket took us) to London and back for our visit there and our trip to South Africa. As it turned out, my efforts were wasted, because a few months after we booked, Delta gave up its Paris-Tel Aviv run and turned over its Israel services to Swiss Air. Hence, we found ourselves routed through Zurich to Tel Aviv. Delta allowed us to return from Europe via London rather than Zurich, and I immediately planned an extensive trip across Europe by train to allow us to visit our missionary friends in southern France and Madrid (Spain), as well as to take the new Chunnel train from Paris to London under the North Sea in just three hours. My back still aches when I think of those nine trains we had to board and unboard with our nine pieces of luggage!

Third Family Reunion

Mary Jo and Margaret organized our third family reunion, held in the clubhouse of their park, Alameda Isles, Englewood FL, July 1-2, 1995. As with the two previous ones, it was not possible to get everyone of the clan there, but we had a goodly representation. In addition to updating everyone on each family represented, we had photo albums that provided hours of nostalgic memory tickling. Those present, by family, were: Morgan and Evelyn Huff; Tom and Margery Henney: Chuck, Margie, and Mike, Jolene and Sarah Henney; Margaret Caruthers: Nan and Scott, Bruce; Lynne Shaw: Kerry, Greg and Jeanie; Caroline Fee: Michael and Susan Fee, Timothy and Cheryl Fee, Jennifer and Benjamin; Herb and Mary Charlotte Mitchell: Will and Judy Mitchell: Mark, Emily; Mike Rhode; Mary Aguilar; Mary Jo Batch: Chuck Balch: Glen and Alison, Alan and Mark; Steve and Lyn (Reagan) Balch: Graham, Colby and Ryan; and Randy and Cyn Balch, James and Christopher. Also present were Elizabeth Balch (Clyde’s sister-in-law), Chuck Cook and Lori Cashell (Margaret’s “cousins”).

My family had its own family picture (see left).
Since the last reunion (1985) there has been one death (my sister Marion), but there have been several losses through divorce (i.e., Jim Shaw, Frank Fee and Richard Johnson). None of Morgan’s or Evelyn’s children or grandchildren were there, nor were many of Tom and Margery’s progeny. Mary Francis represented her family. Only Carol Balch and her daughter Laura were absent, due to Carol’s illness, among Mary Jo’s offspring, and Margaret’s families had only Christine and her family absent. But the additions greatly outnumbered the losses, as the family listings show. It was a fun time, and needed to be done more often than every ten years.

Israel, England and South Africa, Fall 1995

I don’t remember anything else out of the ordinary occurring earlier in 1995, but I’ll never forget the six weeks we spent on this trip! We arrived after dark on Friday, October 12, at the International Airport halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. We picked up our rental car, but I neglected to get instructions on its controls, and had to drive all over Tel Aviv looking for a place to stay without lights. The place we had expected to stay and confirmed, we thought, from the airport, had no room when we finally found it, leaving us to go to the high-priced seaside hotels, where we got a room well after midnight. As soon as we could the next morning we left for Jerusalem, and again had a hard time finding the place we had engaged by phone and credit card. It was on the third floor — walk up! Mary Charlotte was stunned, but we were stuck with it for four days. She managed to get in and out the twice a day we had to for meals and sightseeing, but it was no bargain at $63 a night!

We went by bus Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday to the several areas of the new city that seemed attractive, including the museum storing the Dead Sea scrolls, and another place where miniature Jerusalem of the first century had been built for 20th century eyes. On Monday, Yom Kippur day, we had to take a taxi (at triple the usual fares) as no buses ran until after dark. This time we went to the Old City, and spent the day walking through its narrow, jammed-with-people, streets. We had toured the Old City back in 1958, and of course the ancient places there hadn’t changed. I don’t regret this visit but have no desire to go again.

I got my rental car as soon as I could Thursday morning, and brought it to our “hotel”, but it was nearly noon before I could get it loaded and we could leave for the Dead Sea and the Kumran Community site. It was extremely interesting, but I found later archaeological sites seemed all the same. I had wanted to go to the ancient fortress of Masada Herod had built on the top of a mountain overlooking the Dead Sea, but Mary Charlotte had enough for the day, and we headed for the modern city of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Here we again had a hard time finding the hotel we had engaged by phone from home, but were agreeably surprised by our accommodation, elevators, parking lot, and very friendly management. They did our laundry twice and wouldn’t take payment. We were able to cook most meals, and ate out only once a day. With a brand new Fiat (very small one), we toured the entire northern half of Israel — from the Mediterranean to Golan Heights and everything in between — all the places around the Sea of Galilee mentioned in the Bible as well as Crusader ruins both on the coast and inland. That week made our visit worthwhile. We drove to Tel Aviv the day before our flight departure to get our baggage inspected and turned over to Swiss Air, as our flight left at 7:00am the next morning (Thursday). It took most of the day to make the 300-mile round trip and then we had to get up at 3:00am to return. But it all went well and we got to Zurich right on time.

Then began the nightmare of the train ride across Switzerland, change trains at Geneva, again at Lyon, and finally arrive just before midnight at the train station in Montpelier, in southern France. The much-touted fast train from Paris was a half-hour late arriving in Lyon and lost another half hour getting to Montpelier. John Leonard had met three trains from Lyon, and was told there were no more that night and left a half hour before we arrived. No taxi driver at the station would take us and our baggage. I tried to call John but was driven out of the station by the watchman who said he was closing up. (The station was still open an hour later!) I walked around the station area looking for a taxi stand a kind German had told me of, and finally found it and an Arab driver who agreed to take us and our bags. We finally made it to John’s house and woke him up. The taxi fare was only $30. What a day! Two kind ladies had put our bags on the train at Lyons when I couldn’t get back to the platform after entering the train, due to the crush of people boarding. Fortunately our seats were reserved, but not baggage space.

Nevertheless, we had a very pleasant visit with John, Christie and their three daughters Kimberley, Katie and Betsy (who had given us her room). We went to two services on Sunday, one of them in English with John preaching. I videotaped a lot of the people on John’s mission team, who were successfully evangelizing Muslims (there were more than 10,000 in the Montpelier area).

Monday morning we got to the train station at 7:00am to get the first of four trains that were to take us to Madrid, which we reached about 11pm after much rushing, waiting, hauling bags and riding. We had an unexpected train change about an hour out of Montpelier, as the tourist traffic to Spain was so low that time of year. We had 10 minutes to make the change, including going down under the tracks and up two platforms away. I couldn’t possibly have gotten our bags to the other train in that time! But two railway workers, seeing my plight, picked up my two loaded baggage carts and carried them over to the other train. They refused any money!

The whole Hendrix family (Rick, Jan, Jennifer and Jaime) were on hand to meet us in Madrid, and soon had us safely in their comfortable apartment, with its three bathrooms — one for the parents, one for the two daughters and one for the two cats. Our two-day stay was well occupied with trips to the American school where the girls attended, and a home meeting the first night very well attended to hear me talk about the space program and the testimony of the astronauts. At the noon meal, a crown came off of one of my teeth. Jan called her dentist (a German who spoke English), who agreed to take me after his normal quitting time that afternoon. He patched and replaced the crown and said it would last at least three months. It is still going strong over ten years later. The second day was November 1st, All Saints Day, universally honored in Catholic Europe, and so we had a quiet day at home. We had to get a 6:30pm overnight train for Paris, and got to the station well in advance of departure, so Mary Charlotte and I could get the lowest of the three berths on each side of the compartment. The train was not particularly comfortable, but it got us to the Paris station on time. Here we had to take a taxi to Gare Nord where the Chunnel train started. I had to rustle our bags up one flight and then down another in the process of being herded to the correct departure platform, but our car was not full and we had our baggage with us for the journey. Once while speeding across the plains of northern France, the speaker came forth with the information that we were traveling at 85mph! We made the 300 miles to the London station in exactly 300 minutes. Another taxi ride to the bus station, a two-hour wait for the bus, and a four-hour bus ride got us to Cheltenham after 9pm where Austen Dundas (see left) was waiting for us. We had a late supper at his apartment, with Elizabeth and 12-year-old Matthew, before being taken to our hotel, where Austen had engaged two rooms for us. The following afternoon, we again took the bus, which deposited us in the middle of Heathrow Airport and a local bus took us to the departure building for our flight to Cape Town, South Africa.

Laura Haas (see right) was on hand to meet us at the airport when we arrived at Cape Town the next morning, and took us to her little guest house she had prepared for us behind her own house. It was formerly used by a colored live-in maid, but had been spruced up for our occupancy. We lived there quite comfortably for 2-1/2 weeks. Our visit was a whirlwind of dinner and lunch invitations, trips to Khayelitsha (where Laura had her work among the black squatters and residents of that 1,000,000+ squatter city). We had many trips to the area provided by Laura and others, and attended most of the Sunday and mid-week services at St. James Church, now seating nearly 2,000 persons and always full at every service. It was good to renew fellowship with old friends, particularly Frank and Beulah Retief, Drina Binedell and her associates, the Harris’s, Keets, Higsons, Albert Retiefs and the Elmes’s, to name but a few.

Albert (see left) interviewed me over a new Christian radio station funded by HCJB, since the movie “Apollo 13” had just come to South Africa. It was a fun visit, but somewhat marred by the heavy colds and exhaustion we both suffered from after our hectic trip thus far.

Returning to England, we enjoyed nearly a week with Dorothy and Reg Emery (see right), and their sons Mike and Tony, and Tony’s wife Pam and son Matthew. (Tony, Mike and Matthew are missing from this photo, and Pam’s mother is on the left.) It was our second visit with them in their new home in Cranleigh, about 75 miles south of London. But it was sure good to get to our home again!

Church Work Team to Ecuador, June 1996

The main event in 1996, for me, was to participate in our church’s work team to help out at HCJB’s facilities in Quito and Shell, Ecuador. The work part was carried out in the HCJB hospital in the jungle town of Shell, reached by a hair-raising ride down the mountain over a former oil-company road now being rebuilt by the government. Several times I thought we would have to turn back, and wasn’t at all sure that would be successful, but we finally reached the hospital area to stay in the guest house. I managed to help paint a new missionary home under construction, and assist in massaging the extensive floors of the hospital. The only other thing I did in Quito was to reinstall Windows-95 for one of the teachers at the High School for English-speaking children. That was the toughest computer job I had done since the advent of desktop computers, and rubbed my nose hard in the complexities of the software that power these modern machines. It was occasioned by a bug in one of the options in Microsoft’s installation program which utterly disabled every bit of software down to the lowest level. I had to reformat the hard disk and reinstall all of the many layers of software that underlie the Windows-95 system — a task I don’t want to have to repeat.

In addition to our work, we had many short tours of the city of Quito and nearby tourist spots, including one that is located right on the equator, which is represented by a distinctive brick “road” running through the area, reminiscent of the “Yellow Brick Road” leading to the Land of Oz. I brought home some nice souvenirs.

This picture (see left) of Mary Jo and Clyde’s sister-in-law Elizabeth Balch with the portrait of Clyde is dated July 18, 1996, 5-1/2 years after his death. The scholarship fund established in his memory has grown to over $50,000.

The year was closed out with the wedding of Steve Batch and Lyn Reagan (see left), showing them, Cyn and Randy, Carol and Chuck, and Lyn’s brother and wife.

Visiting Our Christmas Card List

Early in 1997, Mary Charlotte conceived the idea of visiting as many as possible of the people on our Christmas card list, so I set about lining up the various locations and trying to figure how to reach them. We separated the places by West and East, making two trips from Florida. I decided to fly to California June 13-23, rent a car, and visit only those close to Los Angeles.
We visited the Corwins, Bert and Edna Rowe (see right), Fran McCune, and the Willans’ in the LA area, Cora Bowen in Visalia and the Scotts near Las Vegas. But we did have to give up Washington State, Texas and Denver, where we had friends and relatives.

Even before we left on our trip to the West Coast, Alan Balch married Valerie Mau on March 29, 1997, as the photo on the right testifies.

We did better on the second loop August 20-September 20, where we had our own car. In addition to friends in Florida, Alabama, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia, we saw Will and Judy in Shreveport, several of Mary Charlotte’s relatives in Florida and Tennessee, Mary Jo and Emily in Michigan, Margery, Tom and several of their children in the Washington (DC) area, and even managed several days in Branson MO with the Lawrence Welk theater as our principal target. It was to be Mary Charlotte’s last trip by car.

The wedding of Emily in Bay City to Mike Rohde (see right) on September 13th was almost another family reunion --at least our part of it. It was held in the First Presbyterian Church of Bay City, one of the oldest churches in the area, although Mike was brought up Roman Catholic. The young couple had already bought their house, and had a barbecue in its big back yard the evening before the wedding. There we met Mike’s family, who were long-time residents of Bay City. Mary Francis and Paul attended on their vacation to Niagara Falls, but we saw very little of them. The reception was held in the Bay City Valley Resort Hotel, where most of us out-of-towners stayed, and it was a gala affair.

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