Happy Birthday Jeanie!

Every family has a month that’s filled with birthdays. For the Amos family, July is one of those months. This coming week marks the birth of a very special lady—Coyla Jean McCargar Amos Pfauth.

Coyla Jean. That’s such a beautiful name, isn’t it? Even though most of us knew her as Jeanie, a given name so pretty as Coyla Jean is one to be remembered, as is the woman herself. She’s the one who “twisted Bruce’s arm,” as he says, into getting married way back when and having their beautiful children Vicki, Shelley and Scott.

As Vicki and Shelley tell us about their mom, they do so with big disclaimers.

“This is what we think we know,” says Shelley.

“It’s harder to write this than you think,” says Vicki. “You wonder if what you remember is correct.”

Coyla Jean, or Jeanie, was born in Owosso on July 3, 1934, to Ira and Ruth McCargar. According to Vicki and Shelley, Ira’s family owned mercantile businesses in Owosso and Perry.

“Sometime during her pregnancy or right after Mom (Jeanie) was born, Ira fell in love with another woman and left Grandma. This was probably pretty scandalous in those days in small town America!” writes Vicki. “Not much was ever said about that marriage—our mom never really knew her father. She said she received two cards from him growing up—one for her 16th birthday and one when she graduated from high school.”

Later Jeanie would learn that her father remarried and had children. She wanted to meet them, but as far as Vicki and Shelley know, she never did.

When Jeanie was growing up she lived in the small community of Henderson with her maternal grandparents Phillander P (PP) Bishop and Ida. Her mother, as a single parent, worked and lived in Lansing and needed her parents to care for Jeanie.

“If all the stories were true, she was a handful for them…always curious, always on the go!” writes Vicki.

Coyla Jean and her mother Ruth Bishop McCargar Pierce

“Mom loved the farm animals and was always out in the barn or the pens with them,” adds Shelley. “When she would get into trouble with her mother she would go hide among the cows because grandma was afraid of them and mom knew she wouldn’t come after her. One time, when she was two (so the story goes), she climbed to the top of the windmill and then didn’t know how to get back down. Another time she tried putting kickers on a cow and the cow kicked her in the chin, making her bite her tongue almost in two. She lived on mashed potatoes, ice cream and other soft foods for several months while her tongue healed.”

When Jeanie was 12, something big happened in Henderson. It turned out to be big for her as well. One of the town’s two grocery stores went up for sale and a bookkeeper from Chicago bought it. He shipped his family’s fancy, big city furniture in advance, including a baby grand piano—can you imagine the buzz going ‘round this little town of 250 people?

Word also got out he had a daughter Jeanie’s age.

Larson's Grocery and Market

Joining the group in front of Larson Grocery and Market are Carol, in the middle; Jeanie, front left; and Carol’s sister Judith, front right. Circa mid-1940s.

As the story goes, when the family arrived from Chicago, Jeanie was waiting there on the storefront steps. The daughter’s name was Carol, and from then on Jeanie and Carol’s lives were intertwined.

But let’s not jump too far ahead.

According to Shelley, when Jeanie was in high school she started taking the train to Lansing on weekends and would show up at her mother’s apartment. Her mother would send her back to her grandparents in Henderson.

Jeanie would show up again.

Finally, her mother let her stay with her in Lansing and Jeanie began attending Sexton High School. Is this starting to sound familiar?

“She attended Sexton High School where she met Bruce, who had been transferred there after being kicked out of Eastern for misbehaving,” writes Shelley “They started dating and would hang out with Bruce’s brothers, especially Jerry because he had a car and money, which the other two boys didn’t seem to be able to hold on to.”

Of course, we know the story well. We know how one night Bruce and Duane were cruisin’ Benny’s Drive-In when they spotted Jeanie and a friend. The friend turned out to be Carol. And that’s how Jeanie and Carol became not only best friends but also sisters-in-law.

Isn’t life fascinating?

Over the years Jeanie worked a variety of jobs, part time positions while her children were younger and full time when they were older.

“One job we heard most about was when she worked for WJIM TV-Channel 6, in Lansing,” says Vicki. “Another was when she worked with Grandma (Ruth McCarger Pierce) at the Michigan Hardware Association. She also sold real estate for a while. Before retirement she worked for the Michigan Road Builders Association for several years.”

Outside of work, Jeanie loved cooking, home decorating and was an excellent housekeeper. And she loved shoes!

“She had stacks and stacks of shoe boxes,” says Vicki. “Shoes for each special outfit.”

Vicki also says the very best gift her mother gave her was the ability to take a 20-minute nap.

“Mom had that perfected and those 20 minutes would keep her going through long days of work, gardening, canning and freezing,” says Vicki. “She used to can 52 quarts of dill pickles each year to keep Shelley supplied with pickles —one jar per week for a year!”

Perhaps one of the most special things about Jeanie was her way of bonding the Amos family. Remember how the Amos Boys’ wives set a precedent of getting along? Decades later, after 26 years of marriage, Bruce and Jeanie would divorce. But they too got along and cared for one other even when they both remarried.

Facing the camera, l-r: Bruce and Shirley, Bob and Jeanie

“I remember when Dad and Shirley and Mom and Bob were all sitting together,” says Shelley of her parents. “Mom and Shirley were just chatting away. Someone came up to Mom and asked her what that was all about. Mom said ‘we like each other!’’

In 1991, when she was only 57, Jeanie was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“True to her style she didn’t tell any of us kids until she was positive of the diagnosis,” says Vicki. “Not until the end of her fight did we learn that the initial prognosis was six months. She fought a good fight for almost six years.”

Jeanie died on December 20, 1997.

The Amos family has a void without her. What a very special woman she was.

Creating New Memories

It’s been a week since our reunion and it kind of feels like post Christmas blues. We all had such a good time! It was so wonderful to see people we hadn’t seen in years and get to know those we hadn’t yet met.

Two things are for certain—those of you who couldn’t come, you really missed out. And those who did, want to do it again! So let’s start talking now and get some plans in the works!

And now for the recap!

Although the reunion actually started days and days before when Duane, Jan, Dave, Sam and Sarah set up the venue and Jerry, Elaine, Jerri Lynn, Jenny, Shelley and Cheryl prepared the food, we officially kicked off the day with our Legacy Tour Breakfast at Cinders Grill in Laingsburg.

Cinders served us a delicious breakfasts and patiently put up with our excitement (boisterous greetings and hugs without regard) and jovialties (loud and continuous laughter). The picture above shows us looking rather lethargic. I assure you we were not.

Thanks Cinders, you were the best! And thanks Laingsburg News for featuring us in your weekly news!

After breakfast we stepped outside and literally took over the town (remember Laingsburg is not that big). Jerry handed out the Legacy Files he meticulously compiled, complete with family tree information and maps. And Elaine stepped inside this store—how interesting, it turns out the store is owned by grandsons of Gladys’ husband Leo Klotz.

Not a good picture of the house but a great one of three lovely ladies! L-R: Jenny (Jerry’s daughter); Ruth (Duane’s granddaughter); and Cheryl (Duane’s daughter).

We walked by the empty lot where Peter Laing’s second tavern and inn once stood. We then checked out this house, located on 117 North Laing St, where Dr. Peter Laing and his wife Laura lived when their son Paisley was born. You can find a better picture of the house in the Legacy Files, and also on page 13 of the book Hill and Below.

From here, we all hopped in our cars and drove to the cemeteries.

Dr. Peter Laing and his second wife Laura Kemp (Paisley’s parents) are buried in the Laingsburg Cemetery, located just outside of town. 

Jerri Lynn (Jerry’s daughter) became the appointed “rubber” and is assisted here by Shelley (Bruce’s daughter).

We stopped at the farmhouse on Stoll Road where Paisley and Anastasia Laing once lived. The current owners were gracious enough to let peruse their lawn and take pictures. Here, we’re re-enacting this photo (gee, if anyone has a better shot, I’m sure some of us wouldn’t be the least opposed to replacing this photo).

We found Paisley’s gravestone in the St. Patrick Cemetery, also his daughter Fannie Laing Hart’s (Maggie’s sister and the Amos Boys’ great-aunt). But we couldn’t find Anastasia’s gravestone.

Next stop: Gulick Road, to visit this well-kept farmstead where Perry and Fidelia Gulick once lived. Gladys was born in a house right next door, which is no longer there, and she also spent many years living here with her grandparents Perry and Fidelia.

It wouldn’t be at all alarming to learn that this shifty-looking crowd was hanging out in your driveway while you were gone, would it?

Jerry and Elaine planned in advance and notified cemetery sextons that we would be visiting—good thinking, because these country cemeteries could easily have been locked.

John and Fanny Capen (Fidelia’s parents) and Perry and Fidelia Gulick are all buried in the Foote Cemetery on Sherwood Road, in the rural Williamston area.

At the Summit Cemetery on Beeman Road, Williamston, we sang Kum Ba Yah to Gladys, in remembrance of our many nights singing around the campfire. We might have made it through without any tears except for the look on this guy’s face…

Our last stop on the Legacy Tour (by now many of us were wishing for a bathroom…) was the Rose Lawn Cemetery in Perry. Here, Margie (Maggie) Laing Adams is buried.

Jerry and Joel check out the family tree charts and tables of photos.

Back at Duane and Jan’s, the reunion started off with finger food and great conversation. Which led to more and more food. And more great conversation. And lawn games. And a slide show from the 60s. It couldn’t have gotten any groovier!

To top it off, we took more photos for more memories!

Duane’s family.

Bruce’s family (Shelley’s children and grandchildren were also here, but missed out on the pictures).

Jerry’s family.

Brothers Duane and Jerry with a cane handcrafted by Perry Gulick.

Our reunion hosts: Elaine and Jerry, Duane and Jan. Thanks SO MUCH for putting on this most special event!

We’re in the News!

Planning the Laing family legacy tour and reunion are, from left, Duane of Corunna; Shelley of St. Johns, daughter of Bruce; and Jerry of Lansing.

Hey folks! The big weekend is here and we are in the news! The Laingsburg News and surrounding publications covered our reunion. Here is an adapted article…

Four generations of Peter Laing descendants will gather in Laingsburg on Saturday, June 16, to revisit historical sites meaningful to his legacy. The group will meet at Cinders Grill at 9 a.m. and then take a road tour past family homes, churches and cemeteries in Shiawassee and Ingham Counties.

“Dr. Peter Laing and his family came to Michigan from Sarasota County, New York in 1833, settling first in Ann Arbor, where he practiced medicine. Following the death of his wife a few years later, he set out with his son William and son-in-law Mason Phelps, and took up land claims in Sciota Township, on the Grand River trail. Peter erected the first building in the township and opened a tavern, which soon became a popular stopping place along the trail. Dr. Laing later petitioned to open a post office at the tavern, and at his request the settlement was called Laingsburg,” adds Ed Buskirk, Laingsburg News editor.

The legacy tour is part of an Amos family reunion for brothers Duane, Bruce and Jerry Amos, who are great-great grandsons of Dr. Laing. Since January, the brothers have been meeting weekly via telephone conference calls and their conversations have sparked a renewed interest in the Laing and Gulick family histories.

Ed Buskirk, Laingsburg News editor adds: “The Laingsburg Business and Community Association recently formed a committee, chaired by Dean Veith, to make plans to celebrate the city’s 175th anniversary in 2013. Persons interested in helping plan the event may contact Veith at deevee413@aol.com. ”

See you tomorrow folks! It’s going to be so fun!

Happy Birthday Jan!

dankers dairy

The reunion! It’s next weekend, folks! Are you getting excited?!!

As you know, the big event is at Duane and Jan’s house (I’m emailing information) and since many of us haven’t seen each other in a while, it’s very possible you haven’t met Jan. So this week, let’s get to know the very lovely Jan, who has blessed our family for the past 11 years and who also is celebrating an upcoming birthday!

Jan was born in Saginaw, MI, on June 22, 1944, to Clarence and Arleatha Henny. (This information alone is all we really need to know since for the past decade many of Duane’s children have been mystified by the possibilities of Jan’s age—she’s an ageless wonder!)

“I arrived on my parents 10th wedding anniversary,” says Jan. “I was brought home to the family farm and welcomed by my Grandpa Dankers and my only sibling, Ruth Ann, who is five years older than me.”

The family all lived together on 120 acres located between Bridgeport and Frankenmuth. Her great grandfather, a German immigrant, settled with other German families in this area east of Saginaw and set up farming, built log cabins and established the Lutheran church Jan’s family still attends.

“Grandpa Claus cleared the land and eventually built a Michigan farmhouse there where my nephew still lives,” says Jan. “They built up a herd of registered Holsteins and began Dankers Dairy. I don’t remember the cattle much since they were sold when I was very young but I remember the dairy well. My mother and a great aunt ran the daily operation until it was no longer profitable. It was a great place to go to get a pint of wonderful whole milk.”

An elusive quest thus far for Jan has been to find a Dankers Dairy milk bottle. Hey folks, keep your eyes peeled for one!

Jan’s father worked for GM Buick in Flint for more than 40 years and her mom, as Jan describes, “was the best volunteer at church and our schools that there ever was.”

“They loved having a garden and nurtured a love of gardening in both my sister and me,” says Jan. “We also had a cottage on Long Lake near Hale, MI, where we spent nearly every weekend in the summer. My sister and I still own it and enjoy time there. My dad always said it was good to work half a day on cottage maintenance and play the rest of the time. I still think that’s a good idea. Lots of good fish fries came out of the play part of the day.”

After graduating from Saginaw High School, Jan began studying elementary education at Michigan State University. Yes, those who know her, have no doubt of Jan’s Spartan loyalties—green is truly her color of choice!

“My program was a year-round program in conjunction with Delta College that involved time spent at Delta and MSU campus, plus regular student teaching, plus a year of internship in a school district in the area,” says Jan. “It was pretty intense but I graduated with all that in three years plus a semester. I really knew I was in a career that I loved when it was over.”

Two weeks after she graduated from college, she married her husband Ron on New Years Day, 1966.

“We had met up north at the cottage but he then went to Delta when I was there,” says Jan. “He went on to Albion College and graduated from Ferris State in pharmacy. We lived in Big Rapids where I taught school in Morley-Stanwood School until he was through school and then we moved to Grand Rapids where he interned and worked at Blodgett Med for six years.”

In 1973, Ron took a position as a pharmacist at Owosso Memorial Hospital, and later as the director of pharmacy. Here in Owosso, the Wyatt and Amos families began to cross paths. Ron and Jan bought a house on Garrison Road, around the corner from Duane and Carol’s. The Wyatts joined Salem Church and sent their children to Salem School, where the Amos’s also attended.

“We had four children; Kristen, Dale, Aaron and Katie,” says Jan. “During that time, I taught and was director of pre-schools. I was fortunate to be able to stay home with the babies until they were old enough to go back to school with me. When they were all older, I taught kindergarten and 5-6 grades at St. Joseph Catholic School in Owosso and then 6th grade in Owosso Public School. They were both wonderful places to work.”

You know, sometimes in our lives God has seemingly hard-to-understand ways of making things happen. That’s how it’s been for Duane and Jan.

In May 1995, Jan’s husband Ron was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma. He passed away in March 1996, just ten months later.

“By then, Kristen and Dale were both married and living in the Detroit area. Aaron was 17 and Kate was 14,” says Jan. “I was working at St. Joe’s and started working part time at Jo-Ann Fabrics to make ends meet. It was a scary time but we had also some wonderful and funny times charting our new path.”

In 1996, Duane’s wife Carol was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. For three years, Duane and Carol battled her disease, but in August 1999, she passed away.

This brings us to June 9, 2000, when one evening Kate answered the phone and gave it to Jan, saying “Mr. Amos wants to talk to you.”

“I answered and he asked me if I would like to celebrate the end of the school year and go out to eat,” says Jan. “I thought Terri had put him up to this because she too was celebrating the end of a school year. I then answered with the most romantic phrase that I still haven’t been able to live down: ‘Sure. Why not.’”

“The rest is history,” says Jan. “The last 11 years have been so wonderful. We have laughed, cried, worried and been totally content. We know we will make it through anything together. As it should be.”

These days, besides putting up with Duane (sorry, Dad, I have to interject with some Amos Boys’ humor), Jan is also the wonderfully involved mother to her four children, who live in southern Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. She’s also a doting grandmother to Hannah, 15, Peter, 13, Jack, 2, and a new baby girl, due one month from our reunion.

So here you have it, as Jan says.

Janet Kay Henny Wyatt Amos,
Child of God.


Happy Birthday Elaine!

 It’s been said in our family that the prince married the princess.

This year, the princess—Elaine—is having her birthday on a special day. It’s the same day as our family reunion! And because some of you attendees may not know Elaine, or those of us who do, may not know her as well as we think, this week’s post is dedicated specially to her.

Back on June 16, 1936, when Jerry was just a few months old, a baby girl was born to Norris and Inis (Franklin) Hotchkin, of Lansing. They named her June Elaine, and she immediately decided to go by Elaine.

Elaine had two brothers; Norris, Jr., who was 11 years older; and Don, who was eight years older.

“Because of the age difference between my brothers and I, and being the only girl, that made me the princess,” says Elaine. “Norris and Don were always good to me and I was included in some of their things that maybe if I had been closer in age, I wouldn’t have been.”

Elaine’s childhood home, from age 4-15

Elaine’s dad worked as a toolmaker for Lansing’s Oldsmobile. Her mother was a housewife.

“Her home was her castle and her family was all-important,” says Elaine. “I’ve always said I could tell what day of the week it was by what task she was doing that day. I was never that disciplined. I’m still not.”

Growing up, Elaine had a busy life with all her neighborhood friends, of which she was still the youngest. She talks about playing the same games the Amos Boys did (although surely in a more respectable manner)—games like Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, Ante I Over (throwing a ball over a garage roof and running around both sides to catch it) and softball.

“Sidewalk roller skating took up a lot of my summer days,” says Elaine. “And if it rained we played barefoot in gutters of the street where the water ran down to the sewers. I lived in that neighborhood from the time I was 4 until about 15.”

If we remember back, Jerry told us he met Elaine at a junior high dance. Elaine tells us more.

“When I met Jerry we were in the seventh grade. It was April, and the YWCA in downtown Lansing had Friday night teen dances,” recalls Elaine. “A girlfriend of mine from my neighborhood and I went. It was a time when girls could walk safely the almost-two miles from my home to the YWCA.

“Someone I knew was with Jerry and we talked, and Jerry offered me a pop. After the dance my friend Barbara and I walked back home, and Jerry and his friend followed us. I think it was weeks before he could remember my last name.”

From then on, the Hotchkin household took on a new fixture—Jerry.

“We got a television fairly early on and Jerry would come over and watch,” says Elaine. “I don’t know if it was me, the television or my mom’s cooking that he was most interested in!”

Those who know Elaine, know her as one of those industrious, go-to women—if you want a job to get done, you go to her. Apparently, this started way back in high school. When she was 16, she started working for a dry cleaner, first behind the counter and later in bookkeeping.

She also worked in her high school’s co-op program.

“I went to school half a day and worked the other half,” says Elaine. “I worked for a finance company that made small loans. Five hundred dollars was the top amount, which now seems a small amount, but at that time you could buy a new Ford sedan for $2,000.”

After high school Elaine worked as a payroll clerk for the Lansing board of education. She and Jerry were married in 1957, and she continued working there while he finished his senior year at Michigan State.

And then came the girls!

In 1959, Jerri Lynn was born. In 1961, Jennifer was born. Elaine began her career as a stay-at-home mom and no longer worked outside the home.

“I should say I did not work for a paycheck,” says Elaine (she says this in an email, but I can picture her laughing).

Once again, anyone who knows Elaine, knows she didn’t just sit at home ironing little girls’ dresses. How’s this for a resume…

For many years she served on the township park board, where she was secretary, treasurer and president. She scheduled activities. She helped acquire a federal grant to develop a park over a former landfill. And she was chairman of the Labor Day Chicken Bar-B-Que, complete with games, beer tent and music.

And then there were the Girl Scouts!

“Girl Scouts were a big part of my time away from home,” says Elaine. “My friend Donna Wells and I had a troop from Brownie Scouts 3rd Grade to Senior Scouts thru 12th Grade. Our meetings were Mondays after school and Jerry could never remember where I was on Monday afternoons. But he always supported us girls in all our activities.”

Once again, Elaine got the job done. Over the years her troops raised money for a trip to Chicago and another to historical sites out east. They also went camping several times a year, where the girls learned the fine art of outdoor living.

“We were a close group and some years after I would receive Mother’s Day cards from some of the girls,” says Elaine. “Later I saw one of the scouts and she told me scouting was greatest thing during her childhood and the songs she sang and taught to her children were the ones our troop sang.”

When Jennifer went to college, Elaine went to work (like, duh, what had she been doing all those years?) She took a paying job with a moving company, where she worked for 25 years as a bookkeeper and many other roles.

“During some of those years he had two companies and I did the books for both,” says Elaine. “I bought a truck and the company leased it from me.”

So what’s with the prince and princess bit?

When I talked with Elaine on the phone, she mentioned a thought she and Jerry had together. Looking back, Jerry also was a youngest child. And being the only one of the Amos Boys to live with his maternal grandparents, he was the sole recipient of their doting (albeit sometimes drunken) attentions.

“Jerry says it’s a case of the prince marrying the princess,” Elaine laughs. “It’s amazing we’ve gotten along so well all these years!”

Christmas 2010

Nowadays Elaine enjoys being a mom, grandma and great-grandma. She and Jerry have this awesome family together, some who live in the area and some in Chicago, and they maintain a wonderful closeness with all of them.

“Looking back and forward, I think my goal all along has been to be a mother, grandmother and great-granny,” says Elaine. “I want to be a part of all their lives.”

This princess has accomplished her life’s goal and so much more.