Take a Time Out!

Time for Family
by Just Add Kids Founder, Paula Herrmann

Hansen Rueben

Rueben Hansen 1931-2013

Yesterday we buried my uncle.

My Uncle Rueben lived a long life of 82 years. He leaves my dad, his younger brother, as the last survivor of their immediate family: The Hansen’s of Covington, Michigan. Never heard of Covington, Michigan? Have you heard of Yoopers? Yeah, there’s a band that put out a song called “Second Week of Deer Camp”. Those folks, Da Yoopers, also hail from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

I am Yooper offspring. Read more… And yesterday, took my immediate family, the Hansen’s of Green Bay (my mom, my dad, my older sister, my younger sister, my brother, and myself) piled in my brother’s minivan up to the celebration.

As kids in the seventies and eighties, we Hansen’s of Green Bay (HGB), took many a trips up north. We have a vast number of relatives from both sides of my family: My mom’s, who with her father and siblings settled in Covington from Finland in the 50’s. And my dad’s whose U.P. heritage goes back three generations. My great-grandfather, Hans Vaaja, came to settle smack dab in the middle of the U.P. in a place called Bruce Crossings. Our biggest hangout, was at our cousin’s place in Michigamme, Michigan. My mom’s younger sister and her husband had 3 daughters. Ages lined up pretty closely with me and my sib sisters. I’d say this family, the Wiljanen’s, was the family we spent the most time with and have most of our childhood memories with. We’re obviously all grown now. 5 of us 7 cousins in the Hansen/Wiljanen team have children. One is a grandmother.

Hansen Wiljanen

Hansen’s of Green Bay visiting Wiljanen’s of Michigamme ’71
(our other cousins, the Tarvainen’s at that time of Columbus OH also pictured)

Hansen Wiljanen reunion 2010

The Hansen’s of Green Bay (and a few offspring) reunite with some of the Wiljanen’s of Michigamme on the 2010 Hansen Pasty Tour

My dad is the youngest of 3 brothers.  I never met my grandpa. He passed away years before I was born. I did meet my dad’s oldest brother. I was 6 when he passed away (he has 3 kids all who are 10-15 years older than I). 3 years later, my Mummu (meaning grandma in Finnish) passed away. And now, 40 years later, her #2 son, dies. There had been that long of a time span between deaths in this Hansen’s of Covington family. My Uncle Rueben lost his 3rd wife in ’06 and his oldest son who tragically committed suicide at the age of 19. That latter funeral took place not too long after my Mummu’s. He is survived by a daughter and his youngest son and numerous grandkids and great-grandkids.

Hansen chatting with the Aunties

Visiting with Hansen Aunties in Baraga Michigan during our 2010 Hansen Pasty Tour

Hansen grave

At my Mummu’s and Grandpa Hansen’s graves in Covington Michigan during the 2010 Hansen Pasty Tour

My fondest memory of my uncle I posted to Facebook, as it has remained one of most memorable conversations from my wedding day. The minute I saw his obituary picture, it led me to reflect: He said to me  “Your eyes are twinkling”. He knew how happy I was, which I thought was so profound, as the first time my hubs had caught my attention, I SWEAR his eyes twinkled at me (and I shared that with him). I love this picture of Uncle Rueben, it just captures his twinkling expression perfectly. Interestingly, he died 1 day after mine and my husband’s 20th wedding anniversary.

We gathered in a small funeral home. Reintroduced and reunited with familiar faces from the past. Met others who I might’ve heard had been born in the last 30 years or so. Looked over 5 picture boards of memories put together by my Uncle’s local family, of course, his daughter, his son and grandkids, I imagine. Out of the numerous pictures, there were no pictures of our family, with the exception of a couple of pictures with my dad as a youngster, wedding photos from the 50’s. Now my dad and his brother were close. My uncle spent time down here in Milwaukee at the V.A. hospital for some pretty long extended stays attributed to some heart surgeries. And sadly, I think one of those stays, I found the time to go and visit. I can’t pinpoint. Probably 10 years ago? My parents make a couple of trips up to the U.P. to visit relatives each year. My sister tagged along in early June and thankfully spent some time with Uncle Rueben at his last residence…a nursing home. Knowing that his health was declining, my parents had planned to see him this weekend.

Hansen bros

Uncle Rueben and my dad this past June.
That would be the last time they were together.

After the service, we headed to the cemetery where my uncle, a veteran of United States Air Force, was honored with a 3 volley rifle salute and the customary presentation of the U.S. Flag with the shell casings to my cousin’s Debbie and Jeffery. While there were tears at the funeral home, emotions poured here. I clung onto my daddy so firmly. This part was hard. Most participated in putting dirt over my uncle’s urn that was placed in the ground for burial.

Family and friends then headed over to Debbie’s home. We ate, socialized, and really had a great time with people, we, my sibs and I, the HGB, really never got to know well, or really ever knew. Our family…the offspring of the Hansen’s of Covington.

I am happy to say, and I am sure my Uncle Rueben would be smiling if he knew how his celebration of life, his funeral, brought family together. I’ve got new friends (family) on Facebook. There is a plan to meet my cousin’s ex-wife (yup, she was there) with their daughter in Chicago, as she checks out colleges and talks of a Hansen Family Meet Up in the dells in 2015. I have a feeling that this second half of my life, will be filled with creating memories with this other half of my family. I’m glad I can say, now, it’s not too late.

Thank you, Uncle Rueben. I love you.

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