In 1990 Gwynne called me at work and told me a lady named Dawn Arrowsmith had just called and identified herself as my half-sister and that she was a twin to a sister named Dianne. Gwynne was giving me a "heads up" and wanted to know if I wanted to call the lady back. I thought back to 1987 when my cousin Margot Hill had arranged a meeting between my half-brother Chris Lomen and me. Born in 1960 Chris and I shared the same father (Jerry Lomen) but it was from a marriage of which I wasn't aware since my mother and father had divorced in 1953. My mother gained custody of my brother Terry and me and I hadn't laid eyes on my father since. My father had had a reputation of a guy who "got around", had a wicked smile and a way with the ladies. Chris is a good guy and we hit it off. It was interesting to hear things about my father although there wasn't anything that made me fell like I had missed much my not having him around as my brother and I grew up.
Our mother Rosanne took us to our first Little League baseball and football practices, encouraged us to go to camp, read to us at night, took us to church, volunteered for the P.T.A., helped us with our homework, played catch with us, swatted us on the butt now and then, taught us how to drive a stick-shift 1951 four-door Studebaker and didn't encourage any guys to be hanging around the house checking out her good looks and direct charm. In other words Terry and I didn't much miss not having a dad around. True, mom "threw like a girl", we couldn't tackle her and I don't ever remember her giving me the "birds and the bees" talk but she was there for all of the important stuff. She never missed a football or baseball game or a cross country or track and field meet from when we were in grade school to seniors at Garfield High School. One summer I remember her being nailed at least three times by foul balls and wild pitches and she had the black and blue bruises to prove it. It was comforting being on a field or a track and looking up into the stands and seeing her there lending support for our next play or before the start of a race.
Knowing my father's reputation I wasn't surprised that I might have other siblings and I automatically believed that Dawn and Dianne were my sisters. Finding out I had two sisters was exciting and the conversation I had with Dawn a few minutes later started out with her answering the phone and me saying, "Hey sis' it's your little brother Will. Where have you been all these years?" She told me about a relationship my father and her mother Irene May had had in Alaska that resulted in the birth of she and her sister Dianne on July 23, 1941. Dawn and I had a nice chat and shortly after, she and Dianne visited Gwynne, Caitlin, Charlotte and I at our house in Seattle along with Chris and his wife Vicky and we had a good time sharing stories and getting to know each other. Over the years we have traded birthday and Christmas cards, organized a family reunion at Hood Canal and just generally kept in touch talking about our families and other normal brother and sister stuff. Dawn is married to a great fellow named Roland Reiss, they live in Los Angeles and have grown children and grandchildren and Dianne lives in Vancouver, Wa. with another great husband Rod Keely and they also have children and grand kids. Another person at that Hood Canal reunion was Geri (Gerene) Shafer another half-sister who tracked me down in 2000 and guess what, she's married to a terrific guy named Roger, they live in Dubuque, Iowa and they also have kids and grand kids. Geri's mother Muriel and my father Jerry married May 12, 1943 in Fairbanks, Alaska and Geri was born October 10, 1944 and were diviorced a few years later. So in the space of ten years I gained one younger brother and three older sisters and a whole bunch of extra in-laws, cousins, nephews and nieces.
It's comforting knowing there are good people out there who share at least one of the same parents with you. I've wondered what it would have been like to grow up with brothers and sisters in a larger family. Along with my brother Terry who was two years younger than me there would have been Dawn and Dianne who are six years older, Geri who is three years older and Chris who is thirteen years younger. I'm sure it would been very interesting and exciting. It would have been cool having all the older guys hanging around the house visiting our older sisters.
I mentioned my cousin Margot earlier and she and her sister Maryel (Mary Elizabeth) are the daughters of my dad's older sister Rosemary. Margot is nine years older than me and Maryel is five years older. They both have families in Seattle, with whom we stay in regular contact, and we all get together every Easter at one of their homes. That yearly event has graduated from a group numbering in the teens to an event with grandpas, grandmas, mothers, fathers, kids, nieces, nephews, husbands, wives and cousins now numbering in the high twenties.
When we have the Easter potluck at Margot's some of the adults inevitably end up in her back hall asking questions about all of her relatives photographs hanging on the wall. They include her husband Tim Hill's relatives also and she pauses as she remembers each name along with some pertinent information as to how they connect with the Lomen's, David's, Hill's or Weaver's (my paternal grandmother Vella's maiden name). At some point I may mention or maybe I've always kept it to myself but I've often thought, "There should be some McCrohan's up here too." Who are the McCrohan's you may wonder? Well if the 1918 national flu epidemic hadn't killed Frank J. McCrohan on December 19, 1918 in Nelson, B.C., Canada then the Lomen name would never have been connected to his wife Vella Vernell Weaver McCrohan, daughter Rosemary McCrohan and son Francis (Jerry) McCrohan. Frank's death certificate indicates that he died at the age of 33 of an "Embolism in the Main" which is a blockage of the main artery of the lung by something such as a blood clot. Apparently his father, Eugene McCrohan who lived in Whitby, Ontario outside Toronto either was with him when he died or handled the identification and the burial of his son in Nelson, B.C. which is 150 miles north of Spokane, Wa. on the extreme West Arm of Kootenay Lake in southern British Columbia.
After her husband Frank McCrohan died it was understood that Vella would move from Nelson, B.C. to Whitby, Ontario and live with the McCrohan family. I don't know the family relationship as to if she felt comfortable with that arrangement or being an American citizen she definitely wanted to get back to her roots in Pendleton, Oregon or what, but soon after Frank's death she received a letter from a former suitor Ralph Lomen. Family lore says that in the letter Ralph sympathized with her husband's death then told her that if she was interested she could use the enclosed train ticket for Spokane, Washington and meet him at the Davenport Hotel. I don't know if Rosemary and Jerry went with her but Vella met Ralph in Spokane and they must have rekindled their former relationship because they were married March 12, 1919.
I know my briefly recounted history is getting confusing and that is usually what happens as we all stand in Margot's back hall trying to connect dates and names and faces as each year everything gets a little hazier and harder to remember. Last Easter someone mentioned that we needed a family Timeline to keep track of where everyone came from and where they have been. That idea stuck in my brain when an event that I had hoped for for many years crystallized into a reality; Margot and Maryel wanted to meet my sisters Dawn, Dianne and Geri. They had already met Chris but my cousins wanted us all to get together so that we could share all the names, dates, photographs and memories we had accumulated over the years. The date was set for December 4, 2010 for lunch at Margot's and I knew that I now had the motivation for a family Timeline.
At that point I started taking notes, organizing family memorabilia and planning how to set up and create the Timeline. Finally Dawn and Dianne came to town staying at the Foxglove Bed and Breakfast on Capitol Hill, Chris arrived at our house from Spokane but Geri was unable to attend because of previous family commitments.She wanted to be here very much and stayed in touch by phone to get all the details. The lunch with Chris, Dawn, Dianne, Margot, Maryel and myself was also attended by Margot's husband Tim and my wife Gwynne. Gwynne was there because she has been with me for the entire family adventure and has a terrific memory for names and dates and Tim was our official photographer who recorded the event.
After eating a terrific meal, highlighted by a unique and very tasty soup Margot adapted from the 1982 edition of "The Silver Palate Cookbook". (Recipe included below:) we all just sat around the Hill's dining room table and got to know each other. We shared the photographs we had brought and the memories we had of the man with whom we all had something in common: Francis (Jerry) Lomen. To Margot and Maryel he was the favorite uncle who would show up unannounced from some exotic location with stories and laughter; to Chris he was a gruff father who grew sick and died when he was thirteen; to Dawn and Dianne he was a name in their mother's Baby Book; and to Will he was a man who was a shadowy figure standing on a hill at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery overlooking his youngest son Terry's funeral.
As we laughed and talked I marveled at the normalcy of the get-together; brothers, sisters and cousins just chatting away as if we had all known each other for our whole lives. We all have physical and personality similarities and looking at the old black and white photographs those similarities are also apparent: mouths, eyes, noses, smiles and stature. A photograph of Vella who looked to be in her twenties could be Dianne except for the sepia colors, high button shoes, ankle length woolen skirt and the high-necked lace blouse. I took a lot of notes and began to form my plan for the Timeline.
One of my prime inspirations for a record of our family was a book of which I had been aware since I was a teenager. Written by Judge Gudbrand J. Lomen and titled: Genealogies of the Lomen, Brandt and Joys Families the book was an exhaustive 361 page record of three families who had roots in Norway going back to the 1600's and their subsequent lives in Norway to their immigration to America. The Lomen family travelled to Minnesota and put down roots in St. Paul with Judge Lomen, identified in the book as G.J., eventually moving his family to Nome, Alaska to pursue business interests. Judge Lomen had started the family project before his family moved to Nome but he stayed in contact with principals at the Mohn Printing Company in Northfield, Minnesota who eventually published the family history in 1929.
The book is filled with black and white photographs of stolid looking, unsmiling men some of whom are in uniform and women with medium cut hair and pearl necklaces resting on formal dresses and children in sleeveless blouses and Sunday formal wear and bow ties. Last names like: Hjelle, Botne, Evenson, Fauske, Berentsen, Odegaard and Andersen serve to remind me of one thing; I am related to none of them. All of these fine looking people have only one connection to me: my step-grandfather Ralph Lomen. A man who married my father's mother, Vella Vernell Weaver McCrohan, and never adopted her children Rosemary and Francis (Jerry) McCrohan. I don't know if they were given his name for convenience sake, but it was probably to avoid confusion and the embarrassing questions that result from parents and children with different names. I am no more a Lomen than I am one of those Scandinavian names in Judge G.J.'s amazing and detailed record of his ancestors. I'm an Irish McCrohan on my absent father's side with some English from the Weaver's side and Irish and English from the Coyle's and the Dalby's on my mother Rosanne's side.
Before I found out about my original grandfather, Frank Jeremiah McCrohan, people would ask, "So Lomen, what nationality is that?" After I would say Norwegian people would look closer at me with my black hair, fair skin and green eyes and say, "Norwegian? You look Irish." Sometimes I would say, "Yah I guess it was the Irish visiting Leif Erickson in Norway or the Vikings making a stop in Ireland on the way to "The New World." That usually didn't answer any questions and nothing against the Norwegians but I feel more like an Irishman than a Scandinavian.
As I got started on my Timeline I envisioned having my first chapter end in 1973 when I started working for Dick Vaughan in the commercial furnishings business, moved into the family house in Madison Park and met Gwynne. Those were all notable events in my life but as I waded into the fourth week of my project I realized that I was going to have to revise my expectations or my Timeline was going to grown into book form. A new date made sense; September 2, 1969, the day I left the Marine Corps for civilian life. This gave me a much more realistic chance at finishing my project and I sprinted toward the finish.
Now I have finished my Timeline and have forwarded it by email to Dawn, Dianne, Geri, Margot and Maryel and have mailed an original to Chris in Spokane. They will all read it but Dawn will be the first one to add her branch to it then she will forward it to Dianne who will forward it to Geri, then to Margot and then on to Maryel. Chris will add his branch, mail it to me and I will meld it into the final copy. This way we will have one original that will be added to consecutively instead of me receiving six different branches and having to add each branch separately.
That's the plan anyway, so at least the family Timeline has been started. I think when my brother, sisters and cousins have read my branch they will be inspired to add their memories. Hopefully next year in the back hallway we will have something to add to the black and white photographs.
Carrot and Orange Soup
4 Tablespoons sweet butter
2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
12 large carrots, 1 ½-2#, peeled and chopped
4 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup fresh orange juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
grated fresh orange zest to taste
1. Melt the butter in a pot. Add the onions cover and cook over low heat until tender
and lightly colored, about 25 minutes
2. Add carrots and stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 30 minutes.
3. Pour the soup through a strainer and transfer the solids to the bowl of the food processor fitted with a steel blade. (I just drained the liquid into a separate bowl and ran the carrots through the food processor in batches and put everything back in the soup pot.)
4.Add the orange juice, salt, pepper and zest then reheat. (The original recipe said to add more stock for “desired consistency”. Since I had no more stock, I served it thick rather than add water.)
Says 4-6 portions but it made 8.
With the proper guidance I think I can make these photos clearer but for the moment "what you see is what you get". Also I am considering providing a link to the TIMELINE.
|Left to right, Dawn, Dianne, Chris, Maryel, Will and Margot|
|Left to right, Dianne, Chris, Dawn and Will|