It was a stifling August day in 1994.
I was visiting the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana to fulfill a promise – a contract actually – that the Embroiderers’ Guild Chapter in the city where I lived had signed with the library more than a year earlier.
As often happens in groups, the best intentions and commitments of others fell away, leaving almost no needleart pieces for the upcoming exhibit. What was I to do? As the Program Chair, I had been the one to initiate contact because the guild was looking for a display venue, and I knew that the (previous) library building had a wonderful display atrium.
I remember being quite salty and thinking to myself something about good deeds never going unpunished.
My life was literally falling apart around me. My relatively young husband had a massive stroke in June of 1993, and my step-father wasn’t doing well, but I’m a stickler about commitments, and I had given my word. Between that, working, and a family, including a disabled husband to care for, I far had less time that the other guild members who had petered out, but somehow, I had to make this work.
I called Richard, my contact at the library, and explained that the guild was unable to, ahem, participate (trying not to grit my teeth audibly,) but I had an idea.
As almost any genealogist reading this will know, the Allen County Public Library (ACPL) is one of the premier genealogy libraries in the country, the second largest, I believe.
While I had “only” been doing genealogy off and on for about 15 years, I had been visiting the library in Fort Wayne for much of that time – cranking on those microfilm machines. The library was about halfway between where I lived in Michigan and where my folks lived in Indiana.
My Mom grew up just half an hour or so outside of Fort Wayne and had a lot of history in Fort Wayne itself – having performed tap and ballet in the Masonic Theater in Fort Wayne before turning pro in the 1940s.
I talked to Mom, then called Richard.
I asked Richard what he thought of hosting an exhibit titled “Seven Generations of Hoosier Needlewomen”? If you counted my daughter, we had needlework of one form or another from a full seven generations, including quilts from a 1933 World’s Fair Winner (Nora Kirsch, my great-grandmother,) several Best of Shows from the Indiana State Fair for three family members over the years, and so forth.
Mom and I, between us, could fill in any cracks with our handiwork.
I would, of course, prepare the genealogy information to round out the exhibit.
Richard loved the idea of both the display and the tie to genealogy.
I spent several weeks compiling the information about each piece we would submit, taking measurements, preparing the quilts for hanging, and sending descriptions to Richard so he could make display cards and plan the exhibit space in advance.
At some point during our regular Sunday planning phone calls, Mom said she hoped that maybe we could see her cousin Cheryl who worked at the library.
“Cheryl. Cheryl who?”
I didn’t remember any cousin Cheryl in Fort Wayne.
“Cheryl Hackworth,” Mom replied.
“Roscoe Ferverda’s daughter.”
Roscoe was my grandfather’s brother, making Cheryl my mother’s first cousin.
“Oh, Mom, you mean Cheryl Ferverda.”
“No, Cheryl Hackworth – she’s married.”
Me laughing, “Whatever, Mom.”
To a genealogist, she was Cheryl Ferverda or maybe Cheryl Ferverda Hackworth.
I knew of Cheryl but didn’t know Cheryl and didn’t realize she worked at the library.
I arranged to meet Mother at the library that August day. She was bringing her own items and most of the pieces from the earlier generations. I had prepared the vintage quilts for hanging, so I brought those along with my own pieces and those of my daughter.
No, this isn’t about my quilts and needlework. That story will have to wait for another time.
When Mom arrived, carrying her pieces, I immediately knew something was very wrong. She was a nervous wreck.
Dad was in the hospital again. Visiting hours were pretty strict, and I think it did Mom good to be with me and my daughter that day. She would head home in time to see him in the evening.
The four of us, Richard, me, my daughter, and Mom were arranging the display items when someone walked across the open atrium. This was a public area, and people had been coming and going all day long, watching what we were doing as they passed by, so we didn’t really notice.
The footsteps stopped.
I can hear that throaty voice yet today.
“Who are you and what are you doing with my Aunt Edith’s things?”
Mom and I whipped around at the mention of Edith, my grandmother. Who could that possibly be?
Richard said, “Oh, hello Cheryl. Do you know Jean and Roberta?”
Cheryl’s frown turned into an immediate smile of recognition. “Why, Barbara Jean, why didn’t you tell me you were coming? This is BEAUTIFUL! Let me help!”
Mom was so glad to see Cheryl. They hugged like they had known each other forever, because they had.
I knew who Cheryl was; I had just never met her as an adult. I expected her to be older, like Mom’s age. Instead, she appeared to be just slightly older than me.
I immediately noticed that Cheryl, Mom, and I looked alike.
Cheryl’s Spirit Animal
If Cheryl had a spirit animal, it would be a Magpie, as in chattering. Cheryl never met a stranger and could talk to anyone – and did. Everyone was immediately at ease with Cheryl. Perfect strangers came up to her and began talking – about anything.
Cheryl was the Communications Director for the Allen County Public Library, and if anyone ever found the absolutely ideal career, it was Cheryl.
Cheryl was perfect. Well, maybe except for answering emails in a timely manner which is hugely ironic for a Communications Director.
I once sent this email to her, which caused us both to laugh. No malice meant. Just a little family shade.
To my dearest cousin Cheryl who may now be deceased or retired because I haven’t heard from her in months:) I’m hoping it’s just my e-mail acting up and that she hasn’t expired or isn’t unhappy with me for some reason:) Actually, I know you haven’t expired as I’ve been working with Curt Witcher on the May program and he says we’re going to work together on PR.
Part of the reason Cheryl got so behind on personal correspondence is that she had a difficult time saying no to requests. She thought everything sounded interesting and was doable, both at the library and her other volunteer activities. She always had time to fit “just one more thing” into her schedule for someone.
Cheryl was kind and generous, to a fault. Every single person Cheryl ever met is better for having known her.
And, now, Cheryl actually IS gone. She passed over to the ancestor realm unexpectedly last Sunday, May 20th, leaving me grief-stricken and ugly crying.
I want to share with you the Cheryl I knew. And you know the great thing – Cheryl can’t even argue with me about it now😉
We didn’t meet, officially, as adults until that August day in 1994, but it was like we had always and forever known each other. We just clicked, immediately. Fate had apparently been waiting for us to get our collective acts together and actually meet. I couldn’t believe how many times we had been in that library together and probably walked right past each other.
I can just see Fate shrugging and saying, “Dang, they did it AGAIN.”
That 1994 exhibit went from something I felt obligated to do and was quite irritated about – to something I was EXTREMELY grateful for.
Not only was I granted the opportunity by fate to be Cheryl’s cousin, we had many common interests, too – like genealogy, for one thing. And travel. And science. And animal rescue. And avidly, cats. And space exploration, particularly meteor showers, one of which we got to experience together overseas.
We discovered that our favorite colors were purple, blue and magenta and we both collected turtles. Her, at one time, and me still.
Oh, and chocolate. How could I forget that?
We wound up working on several professional events together too. Presentations, recording a series on the cable television channel, special events at Science Central, and other things.
As if that wasn’t enough, Cheryl had a wicked, wicked sharp sense of humor. We laughed and laughed.
We had some strange other-worldly form of communication between us too.
Strange things would happen. One time I shared a photo of me standing in a particular place at Cambridge University, on a side street by the Cavendish lab, and she replied: “you’re not going to believe this, but I have a photo of me in EXACTLY THE SAME LOCATION.”
It had been taken years before. What are the chances?
My reply to her: “OMG – we really are geeky cousins of heart:) I could just hardly contain myself at the Cavendish lab.”
We often knew what each other was thinking, and all we had to do was look at each other. Sometimes that meant we’d bust out laughing. Generally, we knew NOT to look at each other if we sensed an inappropriate laugh was going to emerge.
When my brothers John and Dave passed away in the same year, I was crushed and out of siblings. I still have Cheryl’s lovely, loving note to me.
After reading your pieces about your brother, Dave, the long-haul trucker with millions of accident-free miles behind him, sopping up the tears with a Kleenex, I thought, Wow, much of that is Don and me! We’re double the months apart you and your brother were, 14, but so much else the same. It made me experience, to a certain extent, what it might be like to not have Don around anymore, something we’ve had to face many, many times.
You really helped everyone connected to him, though, with your insight and thoughtful words, in spite of the hurt you were feeling yourself. It was a true “Bobbi thing” if ever I’ve heard of one. And of course, you know, your brother would be, and is, so proud of you and full of love for you for what you did for everybody else! The best part of all of this is you both really did get to know and love each other.
Thank you for letting me know about John and especially about Dave. You really must feel some solace for what you brought to his life. He was lucky to have ever known you, at all. Again, it was what you did to bring that about. You are a really good egg, as my dad would have said. You probably know you’re doing good things, but I bet you don’t get told enough that you are really appreciated and loved.
Just know that Don and I are your stand-in brother and sister now.
From your “Cuz” who appreciates and loves you!
You can see why I loved Cheryl. What a good heart she had.
Cheryl was already my “sister,” or “sisten” as my quilt-sister puts it, short for sister-cousin, by that time.
In the Doghouse
I want to share a short story that just sums Cheryl up to a T.
In Silver Lake, when Cheryl was 14 years old, a local boy went missing. The next morning, Cheryl decided to do something about it. I don’t know what the adults were doing, but Cheryl analyzed the situation, where he lived, was last seen, and then headed for that area which turned out to be someplace behind the Ferverda property.
She spotted an old doghouse in the woods, investigated, and sure enough, there he was. The boy had apparently crawled in the doghouse after being late getting home the evening before, figuring he would be in trouble. He decided to hide out in the doghouse, never thinking that once he got inside and slid the door shut, he might not be able to get out again without assistance.
So, that’s Cheryl in a nutshell, even at 14. Insanely logical, cool, calm and collected, and just fixing whatever problem presents itself while others are busy doing who-knows-what.
Quintessential Cheryl. She never changed.
Although they were first cousins, Mom was 23 when Cheryl was born, fairly late in her father, Roscoe Ferverda’s life.
John Ferverda was my mother’s father, and Roscoe and John were brothers.
Not only that, but John and Roscoe purchased houses literally right across the street from each other in tiny Silver Lake, Indiana, where they both lived for half a century, more or less. Nobody ever locked their doors in Silver Lake because how would your family and neighbors get in if they needed something if you locked the door? What a crazy idea.
Both John and Roscoe worked for the railroad, just another block or so down this road.
“Dad didn’t talk much about what went on at the depot before we were kids. He did talk about the time a train stopped for a potty break and he started to talk to this one guy who gave him some small bottles of an amber fluid he called battery oil he said he’d invented. Dad asked him his name………………Thomas Edison! I have two of those bottles and they have Edison’s name on them.”
John and Roscoe were very close their entire lives. Thick as thieves is how the family put it. They might or might not have gotten into some mischief together. What they both did, however, was marry non-Brethren women. They didn’t get thrown out of the family, but many disproving glances were aimed in their direction. Those rebels!
Given their proximity, Cheryl was quite familiar with her Aunt Edith and Uncle John’s things. She was in and out of their house, at left in the photo above, far more than I ever was. They died, respectively, when I was 4 and 6. Cheryl was in her early/mid-teens.
Cheryl knew my older brother, John, who lived with my grandparents well. She laughed and referred to him as a “pistol” and a “handful.” I think there might be stories she neglected to share with me😊
We didn’t see each other after my grandparents passed away except for an occasional chance meeting at a heavily-attended funeral. We didn’t live locally, and Cheryl moved on too.
After Cheryl graduated from high school, just 3 or 4 years after my grandparents died, she attended Manchester College, now Manchester University, obtaining her degree in education, followed later by a Master’s Degree.
I think Cheryl taught for a short while before joining the library staff. She spent the majority of her career at the Allen County Public Library, where she retired in 2016 with around 35 years of service.
Cheryl’s considerable contribution to education would be through the library and expanding services to library patrons in both conventional brick-and-mortar ways along with outreach utilizing new electronic methodologies.
Cheryl was known to stir the pot a bit from time to time, dissatisfied with complacency and leaving the status quo in place simply because it was. She became a trailblazer, urging the organization forward.
While probably occasionally irritating to her colleagues, I viewed her actively questioning mind as one of her most endearing qualities. Cheryl moved things off dead-center and got things done.
I should have gifted her one of my “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History” t-shirts. She earned it.
Cheryl was a history-lover and stickler for preserving history, especially through documents. She drove efforts to obtain rare books and manuscripts for the library, as well as spearheading the Library’s efforts to obtain Abraham Lincoln’s family belongings, manuscripts, books, and other memorabilia when the Lincoln Museum closed. Lincoln lived in Indiana for several years during his childhood.
Her years-long efforts were successful, culminating in the Allen County Public Library’s Lincoln Collection, which you can view here.
Not only was this a crowning professional achievement for Cheryl, it was also a personal statement about her respect for the man, the human, who freed the slaves. She felt it was an incredible honor to work with Lincoln’s artifacts and help preserve his life by making these resources available for scholars and the public alike.
Cheryl was also instrumental in the library’s program to record oral family stories and histories. However, like many carpenters whose children have no shoes, I know Cheryl always meant to record her own memories, but I don’t think she ever got it done after she retired.
Cheryl was also responsible for the library’s cable TV content. When genetic genealogy was in its infancy, Cheryl, a history, science, and genealogy lover wanted to know all about it, of course.
As genetic genealogy developed as a field, Cheryl worked collaboratively with the local science center, Science Central, and the Genealogy Department at the library to facilitate and promote topic-specific presentations.
Cheryl told me she was at a lunch meeting with Science Central personnel once, and someone said they wished they knew someone to do a series of presentations, including a reveal, about DNA. Cheryl wasted no time explaining that she knew the perfect resource, her cousin, and she would see about twisting my arm to make me available. She didn’t have to twist very hard. I was excited to collaborate with Cheryl, the library, and Science Central.
The first time I visited the library for a genetic genealogy presentation, Cheryl’s brother, Don, attended the presentation, as did my brother, John, and his wife. My brother’s health was deteriorating, and it would be the only presentation of mine that he would ever be able to attend.
Cheryl adored her slightly younger brother, Don. Don had always been willing to DNA test for us, but wasn’t personally interested in genealogy and was always busy. However, he loved his sister. Don was such a good sport, swabbing publicly for his Y-DNA to represent our Ferverda family line.
When we received the results of Don’s test, Cheryl sent this:
I know you doubted this would ever happen and it wouldn’t have if it weren’t for two fabulous women in that booger’s life, that would be you and me!
Your brother is just a doll. What a sweetie he is. Not just because he swabbed either.
Don’s DNA wasn’t the only gift that occurred during that presentation.
At that time, I was still writing “Sunday Stories,” recording events and memories for my children. Here’s what I wrote the following Sunday.
There was a second gift for me. Cheryl’s neighbors came to the seminar, a very nice older couple. The lady came up between sessions to visit with Cheryl who was standing by me. She asked me if I was a Ferverda too. Cheryl explained that my grandfather and her father were brothers, so yes, I’m a Ferverda but that’s not my surname.
This lady said, “Barbara Jean Ferverda was my good friend.” I stood there speechless for a minute, looked at Cheryl who was looking at me, then we both looked back to the lady as she was by now looking a bit confused, so she added, “We used to dance together.”
I somehow found my voice and croaked out, “Barbara Jean Ferverda from Silver Lake?”, like there could be two, and she said “yes.” I found my voice again and said, “That’s my mother!!!”
This lady explained about dancing with Mom and then went on to say that she thinks she might have one of her costumes yet. She shared with me how my mother had made dance costumes for her when she couldn’t afford them, and how kind my mother had been to her. I had a really difficult time controlling the tears.
This lady still has a dance studio in Fort Wayne, and she is in her 80s, although you would never know it from looking at her. I was so thrilled to find this lady, and what are the chances??? Infinitesimal. Truly a gift from the other side. I wonder if Mom was watching. Surely, she might have been. Both of her children were there, in one place together, and so were her cousins and a friend.
The session went very well, although I felt somewhat jumbled by my unexpected gift. They taped the session for later playback on their cable access channel and their local PBS station. Hopefully I didn’t say anything stupid. Always a concern of speakers and tape just preserves whatever you say for posterity, bad or good.
All in all, a great weekend, both relative to DNA, presentations and spending some time with the family.
Over the years, I visited the library multiple times for extensive presentations, some of which were recorded in a series of PBS broadcasts provided to the community through Access Fort Wayne TV.
One time, my brother, who lived the next county over, was randomly flipping through channels when he suddenly saw his sister. My sister-in-law called me, laughing.
Curt Witcher, the library’s Genealogy Department Manager was involved with these programs, of course.
During one of those visits, Cheryl, me, Curt and my husband, Jim, were all enjoying a meal together. Cheryl and I were sitting side by side, with the men across from us on the other side of the table. Cheryl and I were rather engrossed in our own conversation, which I should probably be embarrassed about, when we suddenly realized that both Jim and Curt had stopped eating and were staring at us.
Cheryl and I, together, at exactly the same time, with identical inflection, looked at them quizzically and said, “What?” Curt said, “I can’t believe how much you two look alike.” Jim said, “I can’t believe how much you two act alike. You even hold your knife and fork that same way.” We all laughed. If I’m going to look and act like someone, let it be Cheryl.
Most people who saw the two of us together assumed we were siblings or close relatives and had been raised together, yet we didn’t know each other until we were well into adulthood.
Our DNA might have something to do with that.
Cheryl actually matches Mom in red, and me in blue, at a very high level for first cousins to my mother. Ranges vary, but they are in the high first cousin to low half-sibling range thanks to the random nature of recombination.
This might have something to do with our similarity, although I know lots of siblings who are more different than Cheryl and me.
Since we didn’t grow up together, we shared our childhood stories.
Since Cheryl didn’t record her stories for posterity, I’m going to share one of her favorite stories with you.
Cheryl’s Favorite Story
When my brother, Dave, passed away, I gave his eulogy, sharing a copy with Cheryl via email. She replied:
Thanks for sending this to me. It underscores what we often don’t think about until we’re “older,” the importance of sharing specific memories about specific people in our lives with our children in detail. Both of my sons have just recently begun to ask questions about my childhood and the various experiences and people that were of great importance. They do, however, know of how your grandfather saved my life. I’m not sure I ever told you about it.
When I was six or seven, I was a part of the neighborhood group of kids who went trick-or-treating together. In those times in Silver Lake kids didn’t do this only on Halloween, but for several days prior because it took so long to canvas the whole huge town of Silver Lake. Another difference in the customs of the time was that you didn’t just say, “Trick or treat!”, open your goodie bag, collect your loot and leave. Noooooo! You traipsed into the house and the occupants “guessed” who you were before handing you a homemade treat.
Our group consisting of three of the four Jagger kids, Mike Gaylo and Phil, and two Ferverdas, Don and me, visited Uncle John and Aunt Edith Ferverda’s house to take part in the ritual.
The oldest Jagger, Larry, felt he was too old to do that kid stuff anymore, he was going to soap windows instead.
We had to climb those steep steps up to the door of the screened-in porch and wait to be invited on into the living room. The five of us, dressed as farmers, bums, fancy ladies or whatever we could conjure up from clothes found at home, all lined up so that we could be identified. Once one of us was unmasked, the rest were really obvious and went quickly. We collected our treats and back out the front door we went. I was the first one down the steps into the dark where I was stopped by the sight of both barrels of a shot gun pointed directly at my face! I recognized the person aiming the gun at me, Uncle John’s next-door neighbor, Mildred Meredith!
Mildred wanted to know which one of us soaped her windows. “I didn’t do it, Larry did!” were the only words I could muster. Well, she wasn’t having any of that. She wanted her windows cleaned and NOW! About that time we hear Uncle John’s voice calmly saying, “Mildred, what are you doing?, Put that gun down!” She told him we soaped her windows and were going to have to clean them right now. He told her we had been in his house, not out soaping anyone’s windows and that was that. He made her go back to her house. Thus, my life was saved!
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out about, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.” At one of my high school class reunions while talking about the good ol’ days back in Silver Lake, I told this whole story. Upon finishing it and the laughter died down, classmate Larry Puls shook his head and said, “So that’s why Mildred came over to our house (located on the other side of Mildred’s house from the Ferverdas) and told my mom I’d soaped her windows!!! Larry’s mom made him clean them!
I had the pleasure of telling the culprit, Larry Jagger, the story this past summer.
If you’ve already heard that story, I’m sorry for repeating it, but it is one of my favorites.
Perhaps I should put my pen, or computer, where my mouth is and write some of these gems down. Ha!
Not only was Cheryl wonderful company, she was amazingly intelligent and told a wickedly good story.
2010 Ferverda Reunion
Cheryl emailed me in the summer of 2010 that she and Don were working on coordinating a Ferverda family reunion that would take place that fall in the social center of a local church.
While Cheryl didn’t actually want to research genealogy in the same way I do, she was incredibly interested from the historical and personal aspects. What was going on in the lives of our ancestors, where, and why.
One time in the early years when I visited her at the library, she took me back to the stacks and, without even having to look at the reference number, walked up and selected some random book she knew about that held the only known family picture of the Hiram Ferverda family. It included both of their sons, her father and my grandfather. I was thrilled and so impressed.
Cheryl would be responsible for unearthing even more photos a few years later.
Prior to the reunion, Cheryl and I were corresponding back and forth, and she mentioned that during one of her planning trips that:
Bob brought out the Ferverda Bible. I didn’t even know it existed!
WHAT FERVERDA BIBLE?????? Whose Bible is it? I don’t mean the current owners, but whose was it originally and what records are in it? If they are going to be there, I’ll bring my computer and scanner and we can scan away.
Hot diggity dog – what a wonderful discovery you have made cousin.
The gentleman kindly brought the Bible to the Ferverda reunion and allowed Cheryl to take the Bible to the library to have it both professionally scanned and repaired before returning it to him.
Like many Bibles, the pages were chock full of genealogically relevant information. Photos, newspaper articles, and handwritten notes tucked between the pages provided information we knew absolutely nothing about.
I wrote about the Bible and its contents, here.
In retrospect, I was really mad at myself that I didn’t take more photos at that reunion.
Aside from the Bible and documents, which I was scrambling to photograph, I managed to take one photo of Cheryl above, and one photo of Don, below, talking across the table to each other.
This was before cameras in phones were popular, and before you could easily get photos off of phones. Let this be a lesson. Take lots of pictures and ask someone to take photos with your phone.
We actually put disposable cameras on the tables, but if anyone actually used and contributed them, I never saw the photos.
Today we have social media sharing of course, but not then.
Cheryl and I were both rebels in our own way. Both Indiana born and bred, but not confined there.
Case in point – we both “recovered” our birth surnames. So yes, her last name really was Ferverda. She said, “Once a Ferverda, always a Ferverda. That’s who I am.” Amazing for a woman raised in such a small, conservative community and graduating from a Brethren college.
My eyes were opened when I was a teenager living overseas. That experience revealed what could be and that the rest of the world was not the same as Indiana.
Europe was in many ways more progressive, especially where women’s rights and opportunities were concerned.
Cheryl experienced the same epiphany when traveling. She spent time driving the breadth and depth of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. She visited Greece, and perhaps her most memorable trip, at least before the Netherlands, was to China in 2011 on a sister-cities trip. Although I must say, some of those China tales were utterly hair-raising.
Cheryl felt travel and cultural experiences were quite important and, as long as she could, took her granddaughter, whom she completely adored, on driving trips across the US each summer.
I asked Cheryl how she would describe herself once. She paused briefly and said, “I’m curious and not intimidated by much.”
That’s so understated. I laughed right out loud!
This photo, in Belgium, represents Cheryl and the crowd. The crowd might be doing something, following along, and Cheryl would be standing apart, her quizzical mind trying to figure out how something worked.
I don’t think Cheryl ever declined a travel adventure. She loved new experiences and sought to understand different cultures and what drove and inspired people.
She fully believed that we are all related, are truly each other’s keepers, and should be kind to one another, and animals. She lived those words.
Soon, Cheryl and I began to travel together. Our children were grown, and Cheryl had amassed enough vacation time that she could take extended trips.
So, that’s exactly what we did.
The Netherlands Opportunity
In the fall of 2012, I began working with professional Dutch genealogist, Yvette Hoitink. I truly thought I was at a dead end on the Dutch Ferverda line, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
In 2013, Yvette sent this:
I was working on your Ferwerda line and just found something exciting: a photograph of your relative Salomon Ferwerda (1792-1863), the brother of your ancestor Hendrik Ferwerda. I found it at the website of Tresoar, in their photo collection. It is very unusual to find a photo that early in the Netherlands. Most people only started having their photo taken after 1900. To have a picture of somebody who died in 1863 is very extraordinary. Salomon was clerk/recorder at the provincial court, a well-respected occupation that probably earned him a nice paycheck as well. He must have been quite well-off to have his picture taken.
This photo was attached.
I don’t know if Salomon looked like his brother Hendrik Jan or not, but since we don’t have any photos of our immigrant ancestor, this is as close as we’ll get.
Salomon is Hendrik Jan Ferwerda’s brother, meaning Cheryl’s great-great-grandfather’s brother. We have a few photos of Hiram born in 1894, but none of Bauke who immigrated.
In May of 2013, Yvette was approached by the director of the Tresoar Archives while in the reading room working on our family history. They were inquiring whether or not we might be interested in working with them on a pilot project for genealogical tourism.
WERE WE INTERESTED???? Is the Pope Catholic?
Cheryl and I were beyond excited to discover what else might be held at Tresoar, the archives in Leeuwarden where the Ferwerda family originated. And, of course, for Cheryl, there was the added excitement of collaborating with another library.
This trip would take a year of planning, on our part, on Yvette’s part and with Tresoar’s staff. It was truly the opportunity of a lifetime and would take place in the spring of 2014.
We had won the genealogy lottery!
We made many discoveries before, during, and after this trip. Left to right, Yvette, Sietske, an archivist in Leeuwarden, me and Cheryl enjoying our discovery.
That original document still had its wax seal. Just amazing.
Here, Cheryl is showing Leeuwarden archivist Jelle where the Ferwerda family settled in Elkhart County, Indiana.
Our ancestors in the Netherlands were Mennonites. Jelle was kind enough to take us on Sunday to see the Menno Simons Memorial and historical museum.
This would turn out to be such a joyful trip.
Tulips and Windmills
Cheryl and I discussed the trip further and kicked around the option of also doing a Tulips and Windmills river cruise out of Amsterdam.
We figured this was our one and only opportunity, and we wanted to be sure that we included everything, maximizing every minute.
Jim, my husband, decided to take his life in his hands and join us.
“Let’s do it!!!”
Jim’s going along, huh? Does he realize what he’s opting into?!?!?! It’s really fine with me, but he might want to have a physch eval before taking off with us. Ha!
This is going to be so amazing! Woohoo!
Thank you for all you have already done and what else you’ll do to make this happen. And, most of all, for letting me come along! A trip to the Netherlands, including visiting the hometown of our ancestors, has been a dream of mine forever! You are the best!
Jim fit right in, and had he not decided to be brave and join us, we would not have these amazing pictures of Cheryl and me together.
The Ferverda’s are practical jokers, and Jim was a willing participant.
We did embark upon the river cruise which, of course, included lovely meals. Cheryl loved dessert, especially anything chocolate – like any true Ferverda.
We might have picked on her at our table slightly by pushing all of the glasses from the mousses that had already been consumed to look like she ate them.
Of course, she played right along by asking our server for another mousse, then eating two at the same time, or pretending to.
Trust me, no mousse at our table went uneaten. No chocolate was wasted.
The next night the server remembered us. I can’t imagine why. Without asking, he brought Cheryl a tray of five mousses all of her own, packaged decoratively with cling wrap so she could take them to her cabin.
I’m not sure if the server realized that we had punked her the night before or not.
We offered to help Cheryl with her mousse overload problem, but she told us in no uncertain terms to keep our mitts off of her mousses, and took them to her room.
The next morning, she proudly set all five empty glasses outside as we all left for breakfast together. She just grinned at us, a Cheshire cat grin.
I quipped that I didn’t think they served mousse for breakfast, and we all cracked up.
Traveling with Cheryl was never, ever dull.
Our Dream Trip
This is so us – acting goofy. Cheryl grinning ear to ear, and my eyes closed. I can’t tell you how MANY photos I have just like this. Jim took 4 or 5, and every one of them is this bad or worse, with one or both of us looking ridiculous. We laughed about that too.
Two wind-blown Ferverda cousins in front of the tulip fields, having returned to the Netherlands to find our bulbs and watery roots.
Writing about this today makes me teary. Not only do I miss her agonizingly, but we had so much fun. I felt like our ancestors were both accompanying us and also having a bit of a chuckle, in a kindhearted way.
Solidifying our unusual connection, we had a strange situation occur on the way over. Cheryl’s flights got messed up somehow, and she wound up in an airport she didn’t expect her to be in, where we happened to be connecting.
I looked at the escalators, and there was Cheryl, standing at the top, across an open area. Was that really Cheryl, and if so, what the heck was she doing there?
I made my way over to her through the crowds. Thankfully, she stood still, because I might never have found her again.
Sure enough, it was her. I asked what she was doing, and she nonchalantly said, “waiting for you.” I asked how she could possibly have known, given that neither of us knew we were going to be there. She said she just knew. These things happened to her with me, her sons, and Don. She often “just knew.”
We spent time in the airport together, but we couldn’t get the same flights to Amsterdam, so we continued on separately, meeting up again in the airport there to begin our great adventure.
Windmills and Tulips
Much of the Netherlands is below sea level, so the Netherlands is a land of dikes, canals, water, and boats.
Windmills drain the land, both then and now, except many of today’s windmills are turbines that are also used for electricity generation.
At Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site, we saw working, historic windmills. The ones that would have been draining the land when our ancestors lived there.
At Kinderkijk, we climbed the inside of the windmill, just like the family who lived there would have done.
Cheryl was gloriously happy.
We didn’t yet know that the archivists and Yvette had a wonderful surprise in store for us. They had discovered that one of our ancestors owned a windmill. Most of the historic mills are gone now, too expensive to maintain, their work performed by electric motors and pumps, but miraculously, not “our windmill.”
Our beautiful windmill near Huns. Cheryl and I were ecstatic.
If Cheryl was happy at Kinderdijk, she was over the moon here, standing on our ancestor’s land.
They lived, worked, slept, and farmed here not so very long ago.
Yvette took this photo of Cheryl as we approached our windmill. She says it’s her favorite picture of Cheryl.
I don’t think the word gobsmacked appropriately describes our surprise. We were overjoyed to share this part of Dutch history in such a personal way.
Of course, there were tulips too, everyplace.
We had timed our trip exactly right.
We saw strips of brightly colored tulips from the air as we were landing. They looked like a beautiful quilt. Take a look, here.
Brilliant patchwork tulip fields were everyplace.
The Keukenhof gardens were utterly stunning.
We enjoyed that garden tour immensely. Cheryl ordered some tulip bulbs to be shipped home. I hope her sons think to transplant them from her garden.
Of course, tulips and windmills aren’t the only things that the Netherlands (and Belgium) is famous for.
Our river cruise took us to Belgium. Cheryl and my mother LOVED chocolate, and I come in a close third to both of them.
The cases were full of beautiful, luscious chocolates. You could purchase pre-boxed chocolates or select your own.
Cheryl emerged from the chocolate shop with a small bag. We were each eating a chocolate. I said I liked mine. She said she really couldn’t taste the mint in hers.
None of the chocolates had English labels, so I asked how she knew it was supposed to be mint. She said from the picture on top, and showed me her chocolate.
I blurted out, “Cheryl, that’s not a mint.”
“What is it.”
“It’s marijuana, Cheryl.”
“Get out of here!!!”
“It is Cheryl. It’s legal over here.”
“Yes, I’ll go see.”
I had to go back inside the chocolate shop and take a picture to convince her.
Cheryl said that she didn’t taste anything, but it was strangely crunchy inside. She didn’t feel anything either.
She did go back inside and purchase a few more and she might or might not have shared one with me – and Jim.
Cheryl’s concern in the states with cannabis was legality, not morality. We told her that she had to be sure to eat them before returning so she didn’t get herself into hot water in customs.
I couldn’t help but think about what her Brethren grandparents would have thought. They wouldn’t have known what Cannabis was either, but they were assuredly opposed to drinking, so I’m sure their opposition would apply to any similar substance.
Cheryl loved anything chocolate, especially dark chocolate. We tried one of pretty much everything, visiting several chocolate shops.
Even white chocolate strawberries.
We had a picnic in the park with a small obligatory token sandwich accompanied by a chocolate smorgasbord on Easter Sunday.
While many places we visited were historic in nature, there was still a wink and a nod to tourism.
Cheryl left some mighty big shoes to fill.
Just hamming it up and laughing. We couldn’t both fit, but we tried.
After the cruise, one of the places that Yvette took us was Harlingen, where our ancestors had lived. I think there are more boats in the Netherlands than automobiles, and I know there are more bicycles.
We visited several churches in various villages. Our deJong ancestors are buried in this churchyard in Baerd, but their individual graves no longer remain. Burial plots in the Netherlands are reused due to a lack of available land.
Cheryl reading gravestones in the traditional genealogist posture.
Our ancestors sailed boats like this up and down the canals, which were the roads of the day.
One of our Ferverda ancestors, a teacher, even got trapped because there was too much ice to sail but not enough to skate, so he had to stay where he was until the canals froze.
Fog is common in the Netherlands, as is rain. You can always see the next village, identified by the church steeple above the trees in Huins, as viewed from our windmill. The churches were built on small mounds called terps, so the church and cemetery did not flood.
Our immigrant ancestor, Bauke Hendrik Ferwerda (1830-1911), served as an apprentice in a tiny village called Fiifhus – Five Houses.
Yes, it literally had/has five houses, one of which was the baker, who was his uncle.
We walked to the end of the bricked road, if you can call it that, to reach all five houses.
The canal paralleled the road, which would not have existed when Bauke lived there. The residents still use boats in the canal. Cheryl looks out over the canal and field to the next village, Wolsum, where Bauke would have delivered bread by boat each morning.
An Orange Holiday
We just happened to be there for the first-ever birthday of then recently installed King William.
Traditionally in the Netherlands, the monarch’s birthday is a holiday, widely celebrated with a nationwide party.
We were invited to participate, being Dutch descendants, so we did.
The monarchy descends from the House of Orange, so everything is orange for King’s Day. And I mean everything.
At first, I was unhappy that we lost a day of genealogy tourism, but I quickly changed my mind, realizing that this cultural experience was quite unique and something we had just accidentally stumbled into.
Orange everything was for sale, so we bought t-shirts and other paraphernalia and became honorary Dutch citizens for a day.
Cheryl and I prepared each other with our best cosmetologist attempt, then held Jim down while we prepared him. He took a little convincing but was a great sport about all of this, even the very happy drunk guy who ran up on the sidewalk and kissed him. I’m speculating there was a bet involved, and that guy won.
Jim was in shock, wondering what had just happened to him, and Cheryl and I were laughing so hard we were crying and trying to catch our breath. We quickly spirited Jim away from that rowdy bar, just in case anyone else cared to place a bet.
We had the best time, joining the Dutch citizens, eating and merry-making.
The residents of Leeuwarden participate in a form of busking on King’s Day, laying blankets out with things to sell. They have a massive, miles-long blanket sale along the canal that runs through the city center. Just Google “Netherlands King’s Day” and select images.
We were EXCEPTIONALLY refined by comparison and stone-cold sober, I swear.
The archives were closed of course, but we needed a souvenir photo of our magnificent day, dressed to the hilt in Dutch Orange, out front.
We managed to get ourselves in the local paper the following day, although by comparison we were very, very tame. The paper liked the idea that we had returned to visit the land of our ancestors and jumped right into the celebratory spirit, adopting a Dutch custom. And yes, the reason they knew that is because one of our party talked to everyone – not naming names or anything:)
Our genealogy adventures resumed the following day when we met a Ferwerda cousin.
Our family line emigrated, but most remained, and some still live in the area.
Our cousin had heard about the family members who had immigrated in the 1860s, although he couldn’t remember details.
He shared some of his family photos and stories with us through a translator. We were oh so grateful and truly felt connected.
Next, we visited where our ancestors had lived.
Land is at a premium, and many homes are only a few feet apart if not actually touching and connected. This alleyway led to our ancestor’s home and backyard. The current residents were exceptionally kind and invited us in to see the interior, part of which is unchanged from when our ancestors lived there.
Another ancestral location was Bolsward.
Cheryl and me standing on the steps at the City Hall building in Bolsward where our ancestors lived.
I looked awfully serious, but Cheryl was smiling contentedly. While we both enjoyed this trip immensely, it gave us both a lot to consider. Our ancestors survived trials and tribulations that we knew nothing about, and some didn’t.
Early death was common. Our immigrant Ferverda ancestor’s first wife, our de Jong ancestor, died before immigrating, and he had remarried. Children died often.
What could be more Dutch than Delft? We visited the Delft factory.
We shopped for bulbs so that each spring, we would be reminded of our wonderful trip. We also shopped for Starbucks wherever we could find one. Coffee is a very Dutch thing.
We probably didn’t, but it felt like we walked hundreds of miles.
What we did do is eat our way across the Netherlands. Here, Cheryl is enjoying hot chocolate and a shared snack in an outdoor café. It was a mite chilly, but that didn’t matter. We had so much fun and immersed ourselves in Dutch everything.
It was downright cold on or near the water, but that didn’t matter either.
We followed our ancestors’ footsteps, or maybe their oar strokes, with a boat ride up the canal just as our ancestors would have done, beginning at Dokkum.
Being on the water provides a completely different perspective than today’s roads.
Scrumptious Dutch treats, including stroopwafels, coffee, and tea accompanied our wonderful time on the water.
We sailed by the farms and homes where our ancestors would have lived. This was certainly their waterway home, to and from everyplace, just like our roads.
We set out the next day for one last adventure.
It’s not historically relevant from a genealogy perspective, but it’s one of my favorite spontaneous escapades with Cheryl.
Jim did it.
He told us to behave because he wasn’t going to bail us out of Dutch jail.
Then, he had the bad judgement to leave us alone. I think he was lingering on the tour inside, and we got done ahead of him.
Our playful episode has to do with the fountain of Neptune. You can see us posing in front of it, below. I think this photo was taken on the way in. The way out was, well, a mite different.
We confided in another tour guest who was also finished and asked them to take pictures.
Our co-conspirator was all too glad to assist.
For some reason that I can’t now recall, it seemed like a really good idea to emulate the Neptune fish fountain with water from our water bottles.
We tried to synchronize, but every time one of us managed to get a representative stream going, the other was laughing uncontrollably.
Then we were both laughing uncontrollably. And so were other people around the fountain.
Ok, compose yourselves and try again.
Almost, but not quite.
Now, we’re getting wet.
We never did get our fountains synchronized. One of us, not saying who, ran out of water.
Then, we stood inside the fence, had our friend take our picture, and messaged Jim to come and bail us out.
Jim claimed he didn’t get the message, but when we showed him our photos, he said, “I can’t leave you guys together without supervision for one minute, can I?” We feigned innocence.
He said he knew we weren’t really in trouble because we were smiling.
Maybe he did get that message after all and decided to let us stew in our own juices for a bit😊
We were always smiling.
When we returned home, Cheryl and I resumed our jobs and regularly scheduled lives.
As we had always done, we kept in touch. I visited Fort Wayne from time to time.
Cheryl began to experience what I thought were minor health problems.
More concerning was the rapid deterioration of Don’s health.
I knew that Cheryl couldn’t consider another trip until Don either recovered or passed away, but he seemed to go from one crisis to the next like a roller-coaster.
At the end of 2016, Cheryl retired. Don needed more help, and all things considered, it seemed like it was time.
I decided to make Cheryl a retirement quilt.
While in the Netherlands, I purchased fabrics. Always a quilter at heart.
In July 2017, I planned a research trip to Fort Wayne and took Cheryl her retirement quilt. We visited our favorite restaurant, Casa, ordered our favorite foods, and I managed to surprise her with a gift bag. Surprising ever-vigilant Cheryl was no small feat.
Every single fabric in this quilt is either Dutch, from Holland, chocolate, or orange. I made myself a similar quilt with the same fabrics, as well as one for Yvette. The three Dutch musketeers.
Cheryl was thrilled and hugged me an extra long time, right before we left in a horrific storm and drenching rain that resulting in flooding. Good thing we had dinner when we did.
Cheryl later told me that her youngest son had looked the quilt over closely with her and asked about some funny-shaped leaves. He mentioned that they looked like “hemp leaves.” I explained to Cheryl how difficult it was to find fabric with those “hemp leaves” and that the entire local quilt shop was now talking about me.
Once again, we had a hearty laugh.
Laughing and smiling is how I’ll always remember Cheryl.
After my visit, I received this note:
It was so good seeing you again, and I’ve made up my mind not to let over a year pass without seeing you again! Be warned!
I loved her for this, but when I saw her, I realized that her health had been deteriorating somewhat too.
Not much later, I called to ask if she wanted to take a trip overseas with me for a presentation, but she was in cardiac rehab.
Not surprisingly, the thing she found the most difficult about retirement was the isolation. She went from talking to people every day, all day long, to dealing with medical staff and her volunteer work. She had begun volunteering where her son is an Eagle rehabilitator, but her health issues interfered.
What none of us knew is that we were headed into Covid.
Cheryl knew that with her accumulating health challenges that she had to be especially careful. Nothing she had was terminal, but Covid certainly could be. She also didn’t want to expose Don.
Don worsened, and Cheryl moved temporarily to Silver Lake to help care for him. After a long illness, he passed away in the spring of 2021, exactly two years and one day before Cheryl. His illness and death had taken a lot out of her. They were a tightly bonded pair.
About that time, Cheryl told me that she had begun having kidney dialysis. I had no idea her condition had become so severe. She was not a candidate for a kidney transplant, so we knew at that point that she was done traveling.
Cheryl decided to move to an assisted living facility, primarily because she was no longer able to drive.
Also, about that same time, Jim and I made the decision to move to a distant state. No more driving to the Fort Wayne library. I needed to see Cheryl before we left and I’m so incredibly glad I did.
I made Cheryl a smaller quilt, just the right size to take to dialysis with her. Her son picked her up faithfully, three times a week, and dropped her off. I guess I should also mention that he also picked her up from dialysis and took her home😊
In preparation for our visit, Cheryl and I both isolated as best we could, masked always, and took Covid tests before we saw each other. We were so incredibly glad to be in each other’s company again. It had been two years, thanks to Covid.
I picked her up, and we went to our favorite restaurant which was nearly vacant, thankfully. We had chosen to go in the middle of the afternoon and sat in a corner, away from everyone.
I could tell she didn’t feel well and tired easily, but she still had her sense of humor, and we so enjoyed our visit.
I gave her the Dutch tulip quilt that reminded me so of the Keukenhof Gardens which is why I selected those fabrics. I told her it was the perfect size for dialysis.
We lingered over our meal, never wanting it to end. We talked and laughed, just like old times, except this time, we knew it wasn’t.
I drove her home, something I had never done before because she had always driven. I could tell that losing her independence bothered her. Always the optimist, she told me how grateful she was for her two sons and their unwavering loyalty.
We sat in her driveway and talked for a few more minutes, not wanting our visit to end. Then silence fell. We both knew she had to get out of the car, and I had to leave.
I was struggling mightily not to cry because I knew that if I cried, she would know that I knew how bad her health really was. Then she would cry. Then we would both be a crying mess. We needed to maintain the illusion of normalcy. We didn’t want to talk about the elephant in the car. Plus, I know we both wanted to be wrong.
I told her I hoped to return the following year, depending on Covid. I actually wanted to return that fall, but that wasn’t to be.
Cheryl climbed out of the car and walked slowly towards the house. No spring in her step anymore.
I backed up and out into the street, then put the car in drive.
I pulled ahead a few feet, then, for some reason, stopped and looked at her.
She had turned around and was watching me, standing in the middle of the driveway, hugging her quilt to her chest, both arms wrapped around it, and smiling. Not a huge laughing smile, but a contented, loving, accepting smile.
It both warmed and broke my heart.
We both knew in that moment that we would never see each other again in this lifetime.
I didn’t want to believe that, though. We both needed hope. Neither of us was ready. I’m still not.
A few days later, her son texted me this picture of Cheryl holding her quilt when he picked her up for dialysis.
She told me that she loved her quilt because it was a conversation starter. People asked her about it, and she told them the whole story. As bad as Covid had been due to isolation for a woman who loved to talk to people, dialysis was good for her in more than one way.
I was so glad I had given her this gift of love, warmth, and human interaction.
The Final Days
Cheryl had what she expected to be an outpatient medical procedure on Friday, but wound up having to be admitted. Her son who picked her up and took her to the hospital that morning told me she was waiting and covered with her quilt when he arrived.
Once again, it both warmed and broke my heart. I am so very glad she used it and knew how much I loved her when she did.
A couple of weeks earlier, on Mother’s Day, I had texted this picture to Cheryl and her sons.
It had popped up in my Facebook memories, and I figured it would make her smile, if she could see it.
I seldom heard from her because she could no longer see well, plus, as ironic as it seems, personal communication wasn’t her strong suit. Unfortunately, she never signed up for Facebook, which I think would have gone a long way, especially during Covid, toward helping her feel less isolated. For all its faults, Facebook helps us stay connected to those we love.
On Sunday, one of her sons messaged me and said he had somehow missed this photo on his phone on Mother’s Day. He told me that Cheryl was hospitalized and not doing well.
I didn’t even see that message initially and probably wouldn’t have grasped the gravity of what “Not doing well” meant, but I would surely have asked.
Then, the next message arrived. I saw that one immediately, meaning I saw both of them at the same time.
Cheryl was gone. Closed her eyes and slipped away. I was utterly dumbstruck. And so crushed that I had missed one final opportunity to talk to her on the phone. That four-hour window. Maybe she preferred it that way.
Her son thanked me for giving her a final laugh before she passed over.
I was so glad I could do that but felt just gutted at the same time. I still do.
Like she and Don, we were a bonded pair. The wind had been jerked right out of my sails.
How could Cheryl, the woman who could handle anything, be gone?
I’ve left a few things, like names, left unsaid in order to protect the privacy of her sons and granddaughter whom she loved more than life itself.
Cheryl was incredibly proud of her children. Her son who was interested in sustainable farming, her son who served in the military and now in law enforcement, her son who rehabilitates raptors, her son who creates marvelous meals and cooks for holidays, her son who has a special talent for finding travel deals, her son who raised a wonderful daughter, her son who cared for his ill father, her son who took her, and picked her up from dialysis, and so forth. And no, she doesn’t have that many sons. They just have multiple endearing qualities.
She sent this a few years ago:
On Sunday, I’ll be travelling with my son to Shipshewana, Indiana, so that the adult female eagle he’s been rehabbing can be released back out into the wild! It’s such a breath-taking experience to see one of these giant birds take wing. He’s the main handler of this eagle so he’s really proud of her progress. I already have goosebumps!
I’m so lucky they both live close by and get to see them often. They love family gatherings and lots of talking!
She also told me one time in great detail how much she respected and admired her sons for how they cared for their disabled father before his death.
She hoped to join her son in a specialized farming endeavor and was so proud of his education.
She was extremely grateful, as well, that her son that blessed her with a granddaughter made sure she got to spend quality time with that child.
She said her granddaughter chattered a lot. Geeze, I wonder where she got that. I bet they were quite a pair on their cross-country journeys.
I hope that Cheryl had the opportunity to express whatever she felt she needed or wanted to say to her sons and granddaughter before she literally flew the coop.
In case she didn’t, I’m telling them that she said they had turned out to be “fine men,” men she was immensely proud of having as her sons.
Cheryl and I talked about pretty much everything.
We both believe that the body is but a temporary vessel for the spirit, however you define that.
The connection and love we feel are not disconnected because the vessel was broken and no longer served the spirit.
Her spirit flew free, no longer hampered and confined by her broken body.
That’s incredibly, indescribably difficult to remember in the midst of agonizing grief for those who she left behind. But she reminds us.
She is still here.
Love is eternal.
An hour or so after she passed, I was simply sitting, stunned, crying, when I noticed a tiny hummingbird fly up to the bottom corner of my window. No flowers, nothing there to attract it. It fluttered for a long minute or so, looking in directly at me, then turned and flew away. I have never had that happen before.
Cheryl is here in the wind that lifts the Eagle’s wings.
In the joyful laughter of those she loved.
In our very breath.
When my sister died unexpectedly in 1990, I felt this same level of grief. The poem we read at her service ended with:
Your soul in everlasting life has found a better way,
But you will always be, for me,
A little step away.
A day or so after Cheryl’s passing, my friend sent me this YouTube link to the Highwayman. I needed to hear this.
Indeed, Cheryl is a HighwayWoman,
Off on another amazing adventure
In another dimension
Yet still here.
Here in the vibrant colors of the spring.
In the tulips.
Here as an inspiration from afar.
Watching over us.
Her loving spirit lives on.
Until all of those she loves
Escape our Earthly bonds
Rising on the wings of eagles
And join her
Save a place for me.
See you when I catch up, Cheryl.
I love you.