The beastly heat radiated off of the pavement in waves as we drove the back roads of Indiana in the last week of July. Summer heat is always brutal, but the blazing sun in the summer of 2023 ratcheted the intensity up several notches.
The sun resembled ripe peaches from time to time as the smoke in the upper atmosphere from Canadian wildfires painted the sun orange, but it didn’t lessen the torrid heat any.
Tall corn, taller than me, lined the road on both sides, making it feel like driving through a vibrant green tunnel. I’m still very leery of crossroads, considering what happened back in ‘74 when someone ran a stop sign directly in front of me. I had no idea – couldn’t see them coming because of the corn. I lived, and so did she, but not everyone is so lucky.
White crosses in the grass alongside the roads mark the locations of the unlucky ones – the earthbound legacy of fatal accidents. Technically, I don’t think they’re allowed, but nobody is coldhearted enough to remove them, and they remain, well, until they don’t. Everyone local knows who each marker is for – each life cut short.
On country roads, it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is. You pass pickup trucks and an occasional tractor regardless of whether it’s Saturday, Sunday, or a weekday. And, of course, the chronic plague of orange barrels signals construction.
My mind drifted back to the years I lived in Hoosier farm country in the heartland of Indiana.
We got up before sunup to weed the garden behind the house in the morning dew, at the crack of dawn, before it got hot. We picked beans and ate fresh-picked tomatoes. Sometimes lunch was sliced still-warm tomatoes, salt, pepper, and mayonnaise slathered on white bread with sun-steeped tea or lemonade. Plus, sweet corn drenched in butter. Mmmmm – can’t get that anyplace except at home.
We sat out back, snapping green beans for supper.
Those were the days.
Life was a lot slower back then, and summer seemed like forever.
But it wasn’t.
The next day, Sunday, was the big day – cousin Cheryl Ferverda’s Celebration of Life in Fort Wayne. The purpose of my return.
I spent days preparing Cheryl’s eulogy, searching for photos, and perusing the old newspapers for tidbits about her life. It had to be just right. The perfect combination of respect, reverence, humor, and unadulterated joy. All things Cheryl.
Woven into all of that was Cheryl’s perseverance, her tenacity, and her willingness to simply step right out on the edge, without regard to the consequences, if that’s what was necessary. Cheryl was unafraid. In a time when women were supposed to be conservative, and dare I say it – obedient – she was anything but.
Cheryl left an incredible legacy, and I wanted her eulogy to reflect her spirit. The Cheryl we knew and loved. Sometimes, in spite of her stubborn self. I can hardly complain about that. We share that same Ferverda trait😊
Cheryl was my sister-cousin. We shared secrets, tears, a proclivity for NOT being well-behaved, irrepressible laughter, and much love.
And then, of course, there was that one Easter Sunday in Belgium eating chocolate…but I digress.
And that other time in the Netherlands where we went all out orange to celebrate our Dutch heritage, right along with the locals. On Sunday, I would wear an orange streak in my hair in honor of that day.
It wasn’t Belgium or the Netherlands I was thinking about that Saturday afternoon.
Nope, it was Silver Lake.
Silver Lake, a tiny farm town of less than 1000 residents and about 200 families is nestled in Kosciusko County in northern Indiana.
Cheryl and I have deep roots there.
Probably half of the residents have either Amish, Mennonite, or Brethren heritage. You can still see horses and buggies regularly at the lonely 4-way stop in the center of town.
The town’s layout remains the same, but most of the old buildings are gone today, and more disappear every year.
The first fire, in 1883, burned an entire block of buildings, comprising one-fourth of the Silver Lake business district, which was much more vibrant then than now. Silver Lake grew up around the lake and, at one time, included (gasp) a dance hall and opera house.
Of course, the Ferverda family would have heard about those fires, even up in Leesburg where they lived. Everyone for miles around would have known about the fires.
Two Ferverda boys wouldn’t live in Silver Lake for another generation.
My grandfather John Ferverda was a year old, and Roscoe, his brother, Cheryl’s father, wouldn’t be born for another decade.
John and Roscoe both settled in Silver Lake in the nineteen-teens.
Back in the late 1800s, a hotel thrived in Silver Lake, although I’m entirely baffled as to why. It burned in 1899 and was never rebuilt. That entire block stood vacant for a decade and Kerlin Tractor Sales built on part of that land in 1909.
Of course, most of the buildings that replaced the buildings consumed in the fires have now met their maker, too.
Many activities took place in what was known as the public square, even though there was no square, so to speak, just a crossroads. Weekly band concerts and Fourth of July festivities such as pie-eating contests and climbing greased poles entertained the townfolk.
The picture above was probably nearly all of the residents, not just a few. Everyone turned out for community events.
A bandstand, the round structure shown above, balanced on a single massive cedar pillar, was built at the crossroads, the intersection of what is now 14 (Main) and 15 (Jefferson.) For many years, it served as a landmark, and people gave directions based on the bandstand. “Go to Silver Lake; turn right at the bandstand.” Residents were quite unhappy, and people passing through were confused when it was torn down about 1915 when the “highway” (14) was built. However, the main roads, including 14 and 15, weren’t “blacktopped” until 1930, and an amazing number of roads are still gravel today.
Mom would have been 7 or 8 and would have remembered the road paving.
The local kids probably ran down to see what was going on. Both John and Roscoe’s homes faced Main Street and would have been MUCH less dusty afterward, although generally, oil was applied to the gravel roads in town “to keep the dust down.”
Today, the Lake City Bank is located on the southeast corner of the crossroads, behind where the old bandstand once stood on the corner.
Silver Lake, founded in 1859, was named after Silver Lake, the lake, located half a mile from the crossroads on the northwest corner of town. Even then, Silver Lake was a recreation area.
When Mother and Cheryl were growing up, the homes along the lake were summer cottages. No one stayed at the lake in the winter, so heat wasn’t needed, and the only AC anyplace was opening the windows.
Back in the 1940s, there were less than half as many residents as today. People lived in homes clustered around the crossroads – Jefferson, the north/south street, and Main, east and west.
This 1940 map shows that Silver Lake was just a block or so north and extended about three blocks south and east of the crossroads. The railroad was another three blocks east, and farms were located right behind the houses.
Mom’s father, John Ferverda, and Cheryl’s father, Roscoe Ferverda, were brothers, and both served as Station Agents at the train depot just east of town. John was the agent back in the nineteen-teens, leaving the railroad in 1916 to become a partner in the local hardware store.
That local hardware store building still stands today and was reportedly built around 1850, although that date might be a little early.
I think John Ferverda’s store was the middle “3” arches, or the leftmost segment of the red brick building, but I’m not positive, and anyone who might know is gone.
These buildings may not last much longer. The yellow building is abandoned, and there’s a top-to-bottom crack, roof to ground, on the far side of the red brick portion.
The west side isn’t in much better condition.
I remember the painted sign from decades ago.
This photo from an old 2010 real estate listing gives us a glimpse of the original brickwork. Of course, when John Ferverda’s business was located in these buildings, there would have been no running water, and they would have used outhouses.
In this early photo, about 1920, looking south on what is now Indiana 15, at the crossroads, you can see the building at left on the corner that was the side of the building where my grandfather’s hardware store was located. All of the buildings on the right side, across the street, are gone now but weren’t when I was a child. The store on the corner, under the awning, was an antique shop when I was young. The owner knew my grandparents and remembered them far better than I did.
My grandmother, Edith Lore Ferverda, died when I was 4, and my grandfather, John Ferverda, when I was 6.
Today, the corner where the antique shop was located hosts the local Subway, with the new Igloo Ice Cream shop within view on West on 15. Not to be confused with the old Igloo, owned by the Heckaman family, a few miles further north past the lake, when I was a kid.
On hot summer days, we swam in the lake, rolled all the windows down in the car, blowing our hair dry, and went for ice cream cones which were either a nickel or dime – when we could afford it.
The Silver Lake Centennial book published in 1959 included this donated photo of the hardware store building from 1910, a few years before my grandfather opened his business, and a dozen years before Mother came along.
Cheryl, shown here, cute as a button, in second grade, was born in 1946, 24 years after Mother, but the building outlasted both of them.
Few downtown businesses remain today, except for the obligatory post office, a bank branch, a new Subway, the requisite liquor store, and a tavern called the Silver Inn. Wages are low, and many people commute at least 45 minutes to someplace else, down those same steaming asphalt roads that beckon those who were born there, away.
The only other buildings remaining that the Ferverda brothers or their children would recognize are found on the west side of what is now Indiana 15, just south of the four-way stop.
The little house peeking through at the far left of this photo is the house where Mother was born, at least according to Mom.
I remember years ago, when Mom bought a brick in the neighboring Memory Park, she told me she was born here.
The quandary is whether or not I’ve misremembered and she was actually born where the Memory Park is located, or if this was the doctor’s office or his home at the time.
That seems somewhat unlikely since I know that Dr. Leckrone was a fairly wealthy man, and this home looks small.
And why wouldn’t he have delivered mother at my grandparents’ home?
Checking Mom’s birth certificate reveals that indeed, Dr. Ira Leckrone delivered her – but Mom told me that her mother wouldn’t even take her clothes off in front of the male doctor. Mom thought, as did I, that a midwife welcomed Mom into the world.
You can see my grandfather’s store from the sidewalk in front of the little grey house.
Silver Lake was a very small place.
This old photo is taken from almost the same perspective as standing in front of the little grey house today. The red building in the top photo that I took a few days ago is the same as the first building, at left, above. My grandfather’s hardware store building is visible, but the grandstand had not yet been built on the southeast corner, near the wagon at right.
Silver Lake probably looked a lot like this years later too, then, gradually, the first automobiles arrived.
Directly across 15 from the grey house is this home built around 1900 with rather unique stonework. I remember more of these from my childhood. Today, when driving through the older parts of Silver Lake, in the couple blocks north of the public square, I noticed several porches and chimneys on houses built between 1888 and 1934 that were clearly created by the same artistic stonemason with his signature style.
This sounds like many buildings and businesses, but the blocks were small. Today, the entire southwest corner is pictured above, beginning at the center of town and ending with the Memory Park.
So many memories.
The Memory Park
The Memory Park was created in 2002 on the corner beside the little grey house. At Cheryl’s Celebration of Life, I asked the defacto Silver Lake historian about what was located on this corner before the park. He said it was a gas station, but then that could have been built after a house was here, so I still don’t know if this might have been where Mom was born.
I thought I remembered Mom saying that she purchased a brick for her family when bricks were being sold to raise funds for the construction of the park. I had no idea where our brick was, but I managed to walk right up to the Ferverda family brick. I had to smile. Mom would have been very pleased.
I don’t think Mom ever got to see her brick in place.
I know she never saw the park completed.
The park is beautiful today, but it didn’t look like this initially.
Mom would love the way the park turned out and that it honors veterans in addition to local families.
Kitty corner across the street from the Memory Park is an old filling station that I remember from when I was a child.
Mom and Cheryl both would have purchased gas here. Today, caffeine and candy fuel the residents, when it’s actually open.
Gone today, but to the right of the gas station a few buildings was the old Kerlin Ford dealership.
This wasn’t the original Kerlin dealership though. Nope. The first one included tractor sales, chain saws, and other implements and was located downtown. Keep in mind that “downtown” only extended for a block in three directions. The fourth direction was already “out of town.”
Located at 109 East Main Street, today’s Indiana 14, just to the east of the hardware store, my grandfather sold tractors and then cars and trucks at Kerlin’s Tractor Sales. Kerlin’s was built where the old hotel had been and burned in 1899.
The building still stands today.
Mother used to walk the three blocks from home to the dealership, such as it was, and asked her father for a nickel for a Hershey’s chocolate bar on the way to school. On days when she was successful and he actually had a nickel to spare, she happily skipped the few steps to the drug store in the buildings where her Dad’s hardware store had been, made her purchase, and then hurried off to school with her prize.
Knowing how much she loved Hershey bars, it’s doubtful that any smidgen of chocolate ever made as far as the schoolhouse steps.
It’s not surprising that Mom had a special affinity for her father, and for Hershey bars too, for the rest of her life. This picture was taken on her last Christmas with us. I’m sure Mom and Cheryl are sharing chocolate right now and catching up!
I suspect Mom still loves chocolate in the afterlife, too. Two days later, on what is almost assuredly my last trip to visit her grave, once again, I took a chocolate gift to her.
Schools, of course, are the backbone of any community.
In Silver Lake, all children attended the same school and were taught by the same teacher. Mom (red arrow) is easy to recognize.
Mom started school in this building, long gone, located on Main Street, very close to where her Dad worked.
When Mom was in about second grade, the new school opened, just a block or two away.
The “new” school opened in 1930.
Mom graduated from this building in 1940, as did Cheryl and her husband-to-be in 1965.
Three years later, Cheryl would literally marry the boy next door, someone she had known her entire life.
The “new” school fell into disrepair after it was abandoned in 2006 and was demolished last year.
All that’s left of the school now are pieces of brick that I found in the dirt beside a newly paved parking lot in front of a playground that doesn’t even mention the old school where the lives of every Silver Lake child for more than 75 years were formed.
Every single one of them was educated here.
I hope someone erects a historical marker in Rambler Park to commemorate the old school.
The Silver Lake Alumni still meets yearly, although clearly not here.
Mom, second from right with the white collar, above, in 1995, attended the alumni events as long as she could, Cheryl and her brother Don attended, as did my brother and his wife.
Don was a member of the last graduating class, in 1966. After that, the building was used for younger students until 2006.
Each year, fewer alumni are left. Cheryl somehow managed to retrieve a brick from the old school for both of her sons. By 2022, when the school was demolished, Don had passed away, and Cheryl’s health was deteriorating, but in line with what I would expect from Cheryl, she denied it until she simply could not anymore.
I took a piece of brick from the parking lot where the school previously stood and decorated Mom’s grave two days later.
In Silver Lake, anyone wanting additional education had to travel.
Mom’s parents drove her to Fort Wayne for dance lessons to strengthen her heart for years after she had Rheumatic Fever.
Cheryl drove 10 or 11 miles to Manchester College, founded by the Brethren in 1860. I’m guessing it probably wouldn’t have been her first pick, but I suspect it was either Manchester or nothing. Back then, no one “wasted” money sending “girls” to college. My mother wanted to go, but couldn’t. A generation later, I had to fight for the opportunity.
Something very unexpected happened at Manchester College that literally changed Cheryl’s life – one of those synchronistic fork-in-the-road trajectory-altering life experiences.
Cheryl heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak, in person, about systemic discrimination and his dream. I don’t know what else he said, but it was powerful.
I Have a Dream
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.“
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Cheryl’s life changed in an extraordinarily meaningful way.
She adopted his vision, especially after his untimely death, as her own. She added women to his dream of all men being created equal, and as she matured, she added all groups of people, including those with disabilities, the vulnerable, LGBTQ+, and animals.
If you were a jerk or an abuser of either humans or furry souls, you absolutely did not get a pass and were held to account.
Cheryl strengthened my resolve the longer I knew her.
She was an incredibly brave woman who did not escape without scars.
But change the world she did, via her actions and steadfast example.
In 1968, Cheryl began balancing college and marriage.
She graduated as Valedictorian of the class of 1970 with her degree in elementary education.
Not only was Cheryl beautiful, she was hands-down brilliant and loved science. Born two decades later, she would have been a scientist.
Cheryl went on to Indiana University in Fort Wayne where she earned a master’s degree as well. Cheryl just might have been the first woman from Silver Lake to graduate from college.
She was being prepared for the challenges to come.
The North Side
After spending some time confirming that indeed, I was in the right location and the high school had been demolished, we drove north to Silver Lake, the lake itself, and the cemetery.
I had been back to Lakeview Cemetery many times. My grandparents are buried there, as is Cheryl’s father, Roscoe, and her brother, Don.
No one in Silver Lake ever calls it by name. It’s just “the cemetery,” and it’s pretty much where everyone is buried and has been since at least 1860.
The road to the cemetery holds landmarks that mean nothing to anyone but me and Cheryl.
This house in the second block north of the crossroads used to be the little local library.
There was no public library, so a lovely woman named Neva took it upon herself to create a library, stocked it with books for all ages, welcomed anyone, and loaned her books. All out of her own pocket and the goodness of her heart. I never knew her last name, but I think she was Neva Franks.
To enter the beautiful library in the room with the three-sided window was like entering a mystical portal to other worlds. It was slightly dark and cool, but not frightening. A notebook resided on the front porch where you recorded the books you were taking home. When you came back, you crossed those books off the list and either left them on the porch if Neva wasn’t home, or gave them to Neva. She had read every single book and loved to discuss each one, asking what you thought about them.
She was always encouraging.
Neva had a way with children, and so did Cheryl.
As a child, I was allowed to walk to Neva’s house and check out library books while we were visiting my grandparents in Silver Lake.
So did Cheryl.
It’s not lost upon me that Cheryl’s career was spent at the Allen County Public Library. Neva would be so pleased.
Silver Lake, the town, extends only about 6 blocks north of the crossroads.
Silver Lake’s small Town Office has recently been built across from a home built in 1885.
Next door, the old root beer stand from the 1950s has been rebirthed as a B&K, but the B&K has since closed too.
My grandfather loved root beer.
When my grandfather was able, we all climbed in his car, ate hotdogs and drank icy-cold root beer at the drive-in. What a treat! The carhop, a local gal, brought our food and root beer in frosty mugs, latching a tray to our window. I got to ride in the back seat. Hotdogs and root beer with Pawpaw was heaven.
He fell ill in 1960 or 1961 with Tuberculosis, then liver cancer. He was no longer hungry, but Mom and I would drive to the root beer stand and bring back root beer for him in a megaphone type of rootbeer cone.
It wouldn’t be long before he would be gone too, and Mom and I would drive to the root beer stand one last time. We sat there and cried. Back at the house, which was painfully silent and empty without him, we put the cone in the icebox one last time.
He, too, drove past one final time – on the way to the cemetery. He couldn’t have gotten much closer to his beloved root beer stand.
The root beer stand is marked with the red star at right, my grandparents’ graves at the middle red star, and the public swimming area at Silver Lake, at left.
Mom told me that the kids all used to cut through the cemetery when walking to the lake to swim. Sometimes, they ran through the scarry cemetery – probably if it was getting dark.
I’ve never needed directions to find my grandparent’s graves in the cemetery. I remember visiting with mother as a child, as an adult, and then…without her.
Four years ago, I found the original Ferverda farm belonging to John Ferverda’s grandfather. I was gifted a rock from that farm and found a rock from his parents’ farm as well. I placed both of them on my grandfather’s stone. I was both surprised and pleased to discover those memory stones remain, and I hope they do for a very long time.
Mary took my picture, as this is very likely the last time I’ll be in Indiana.
When visiting Mom’s grave the day after Cheryl’s Celebration of Life, I discovered that both of the Ferverda rocks remain beside her headstone, too.
Silver Lake, The Lake
I have only vague, fuzzy memories of Silver Lake, the lake itself. On the other hand, Mom and Cheryl loved to swim there, and both had wonderful memories.
Leaving the cemetery, we turned left on the tiny street that led past many of the same cottages pictured in this photo from more than half a century ago.
When Mom and Cheryl were growing up, refrigerators were literally ice boxes. Blocks of ice were cut on the lake in the winter, stored in the “ice house,” pictured here, in sawdust, then delivered twice a week to the ice box portion of the refrigerator by the iceman who just came in and placed the ice in the icebox that kept the food cold. No one needed to be home. Doors weren’t locked.
Summer on the lake was quite different of course. Water was the only way to cool off.
The landing or public swimming and boating area has been modernized, but it doesn’t really look a lot different.
Swans lived there, then as now.
I can close my eyes and hear the distant voices of mother and her brother, and Cheryl and her brother too. Children’s laughter and splashing.
They are all together once again.
Cheryl’s ashes will be scattered here soon – near so many of our family members who rest just up the hill in the cemetery.
The Ferverda Families
It was time to visit the last location in Silver Lake that Cheryl and I both held near and dear to our hearts.
Driving back through the center of town and turning left, or east, led to the Ferverda homes.
One block of businesses, then three more. Passing by the church where my grandparents and Mom attended, and so did I when we visited Silver Lake.
The side entrance, which led to the basement, was for the children.
I remember singing, or more like screeching, Jesus Loves Me at the top of our lungs. We were so proud of ourselves.
Of course, the church looks a lot different today.
John and Roscoe purchased homes across the street from each other. Cheryl and my mother were first cousins but were born 23 years and a few months apart. They shared a lot of the same DNA, not to mention mannerisms and characteristics. So did Cheryl and me. We just clicked and were bonded beyond any logical explanation.
John was the station agent at one time, followed a few years later by his brother, Roscoe.
Roscoe served as a telegrapher before his WWI service and became the Silver Lake station agent in 1919 after he got out of the Army. He worked for the railroad for decades and was transferred to Claypool in 1958 when the Silver Lake station closed. Goods were being shipped increasingly by truck, not train, and station agents were no longer needed.
Two catastrophic train wrecks occurred between the 1920s and the 1950s, and the local doctor, Ira Leckrone, who delivered mother was killed at the railroad crossing in 1939. His sons, who were also doctors, tried to save him, but could not.
Neither mother nor Cheryl ever mentioned those wrecks. Cheryl, born in 1946, said that her father rarely mentioned anything about the early railroad days.
Cheryl, shown here in 1961 in 8th grade, grew up where the whistle of the six daily passenger trains and innumerable freight trains reverberated through their home. Truth be told, they probably got so used to it that they didn’t even hear it anymore.
The earliest photo of Roscoe Ferverda’s house was long before he owned it. Taken in 1878, you can see the train in the background.
The train tracks were just a few hundred feet to the east, and Mom said you could set a clock by those trains.
It was here, in this house, that Cheryl developed the foundation of her personality. She found the lost boy, trapped in a doghouse, when she was just 14. And it was here that she developed an inseparable bond with her brother, Don, along with a deep appreciation for community.
Roscoe lived here until his death in 1978 in the midst of a once-in-a-century blizzard. In an incredible twist of fate, his body was taken to his brother John’s former home across the street. Let’s just say he rested in the garage for a few days because no one could get in or out of Silver Lake.
John, on the other hand, died in June of 1962. The house was then sold and became…are you ready for this…a funeral home.
I don’t know if John Ferverda built this house, or not. Zillow says it was built in 1919. He’s noted as renting in the 1920 census, but this is the only home that Mom, born in 1922, ever lived in.
The new owners made several changes to their new funeral home.
Mother was mortified and prayed that she never had to visit. She said she just didn’t know if she could get through the combination of the funeral and it being held in her childhood home.
The screened-in porch was boarded up with plywood and painted white. The original steps were replaced with much more friendly stairs, complete with railings.
Central heat was installed. There was no furnace nor chimney in the original home built in 1919. I suspect the funeral home added air conditioning too, at least eventually. Mom didn’t even want to think about where the bodies were embalmed.
It’s back to being a private residence today.
Looking back over the field, I realized that I was never aware of the field behind the house. It’s just so “Indiana.”
The music room, with the evil cactus that attacked me when I was 3 or 4, was the middle grouping of windows on the first floor. I vaguely remember my grandmother playing the piano. I would sit on the seat beside her.
The kitchen was to the rear, and the back porch where the hand pump was located is enclosed today.
The funeral home installed the handicapped ramp.
The garage is obviously newish and probably housed the hearse.
The rear of the property, back in the day, consisted of a chicken house surrounded by a hedge of impenetrable thorny raspberry bushes. I remember picking berries and eating them as fast as I picked them. My hands bled, but I didn’t care.
John Ferverda raised chickens. Mom’s brother’s job was to catch and decapitate them, and Mom’s job was to pluck and clean them. She earned a nickel for each one and absolutely HATED cleaning chickens. Chickens and vegetables from the garden got this family through the Depression. The only chicken she ever liked was fried, and not often.
Mom was thrilled when my grandfather sold the back half of the property to the Lion’s Club, which is the white building. The wooden fence was the original property line.
The railroad was the transportation hub of Silver Lake. Everything was shipped by train. Chickens, furniture, produce, groceries, manufactured goods, and more. If people were going very far, they too traveled by train. Automobiles were expensive and not terribly reliable.
The horse-drawn drey line transported goods and people to their destination from the train depot.
Train travel was a dress-up affair. In the summer, it was hot, and in the winter, it was cold, but that didn’t matter. Everyone dressed up anyway. This postcard is dated 1908.
As automobiles improved, trucking gradually began to replace trains for shipping goods. Trucks could go where trains didn’t and could deliver directly to warehouses, stores, or purchasers. The dray wagon and horse were becoming obsolete, as were station agents.
The train tracks, then as now, formed the eastern border of Silver Lake, although originally, there was a block or two of space between the last house and the tracks.
When I was young, the tracks were simply marked by crosses on posts. Everyone rolled down the window, stopped, looked, and listened for a train.
The crossings are marked much better today, complete with crossing gates and multiple flashers.
I don’t know if the original depot was on the left or right side of the road.
A curve in the tracks marks the left or north side. There is room by the road for a station.
The right or south side is now the Silver Lake Agri-Center.
Mary and I crossed the tracks once again. Just a couple of hours after we had crossed them the first time, headed into Silver Lake.
In those hours, I had traveled back in time to the beginning of my life. I was born just up the road and came home with my mother to my grandparents’ house.
I drifted further back in time and visited my grandparents, Cheryl’s parents, then Mom and Cheryl’s lives as well.
As we crossed the tracks and drove back down that hilly road, I remembered why I used to get carsick when we drove to Fort Wayne to visit my grandfather in the hospital.
On this final visit to Silver Lake, we passed the church that used to be Brethren, passed by working farms and farms that used to be owned by families I knew. I wonder if they are still in the family. We drove past curves and crossroads that looked familiar but I can’t quite remember why I turned there years ago. Memories fade with time into a lovely blur of color.
Silver Lake doesn’t make me sad like returning to many places of my youth.
Mother was happy here, and so was Cheryl until both of them left the confines of Silver Lake and learned that an entire world was waiting for them elsewhere.
Silver Lake was a good place to be from.
Cheryl spent most of her life after Silver Lake in Fort Wayne as the Communications Director for the Allen County Public Library. She sealed both her personal and professional legacy by securing the Lincoln Collection for the library – but more specifically and importantly – she led the charge to preserve Abraham Lincoln’s artifacts for the public and scholars alike.
When the Lincoln Museum closed and the artifacts were scheduled to be auctioned individually, Cheryl resolved, in the face of nearly insurmountable odds, to save the collection as a whole.
She didn’t want it to be piecemealed out and was concerned about what might happen if it fell into the wrong hands.
In true Cheryl fashion, she simply stepped up and figured out how to address this challenge, just like she did back in Silver Lake when she saved that lost child.
Cheryl not only obtained the funding for the Lincoln Collection, but she also established an endowment and coordinated the efforts of multiple stakeholders.
Our motto. As her life’s work, Cheryl both made and preserved history.
The trip back to Silver Lake drew me closer to Cheryl and helped me prepare, both mentally and emotionally, for Cheryl’s eulogy on Sunday afternoon.
Cheryl and I were close. Very close. More like sisters than cousins.
We traveled back to our roots in the Netherlands together.
We shared many adventures, some of which I wrote about in Cheryl Ferverda (1946-2023), HighwayWoman.
I was honored to be able to provide a loving, yet lighthearted and humorous sendoff for my sister-cousin. It’s exactly what she would have wanted, and providing a loving sendoff for her helped me find at least a modicum of closure.
At her Celebration of Life, we shared chocolate, stories and yes, a few tears.
Cheryl requested that her paperweight collection be given away to her friends, which her sons did at her service. I saw several children selecting paperweights and talking about their memories of Cheryl, which would have pleased her to no end.
She was much loved by so many. She profoundly touched the lives of everyone she encountered. No one was ever ambivalent about Cheryl.
When I saw the paperweights that Phil had placed on the table, I knew immediately which paperweight was meant for me.
A Phoenix from the ashes? A double helix? Both are absolutely perfect descriptions for this beautiful orb.
Another much loved family member sees Cheryl giving me a hug, and someone else suggested that our shared DNA has been woven into a chorus of our combined life songs. I can’t tell you how much I love this.
Yea, I’m still crying.
Our Ferverda DNA continues to reveal a book of stories as yet untold, raising our ancestors from the ashes. It has already provided us with some surprises.
Cheryl’s immortality lives on – from our ancestors – passed to her sons, granddaughter, and future descendants. Our collective family history is not yet written, but Cheryl and Don’s irreplaceable and oh-so-valuable contributions live on in perpetuity. Combined with the genetic record of my mother and other relatives, we continue to raise the veil.
Such sweet tears of joy, boundless love, and equally deep sorrow. I am so incredibly grateful to have had her in my life and so incredibly grief-stricken at her sudden departure.
Her body could no longer serve her, and Cheryl decided it was time to sail away – into the misty distance – the land of the ancestors with windmills on the horizon. She did so on her own terms, just like she lived her life.
I wish her smooth sailing and calm seas – my Dutch version of RIP.
I hope Cheryl has found our stubbornly elusive ancestors and is asking lots of questions. Had I known she was going to depart, I’d have made her a list😊
I’m expecting a dispatch soon, Cheryl…just saying.
Cheryl will always be held close in the hearts of those who love her – never far away. She leaves a sparkling trail of light, joy, and inspiration that will never be forgotten.
Parting and driving away, especially for the last time, is such bittersweet sorrow.