Gathering to remember
It happens when large families get together after prolonged absences.
There are old stories to tell, family legends, laughter and even a few tears remembering aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and parents that are no longer with them.
This weekend in the old house the family used to own on South Evergreen Road, the Dhaenens will celebrate the occasion, 100 years ago, when Belgian immigrant Peter Dhaenens bought an apple orchard through a mail-order catalogue. He immediately started planting other things, since the orchard was only about 2 feet tall when he arrived.
The land covered the area that is now between 12th and 16th avenues, from Evergreen to McDonald roads.
Dhaenens and his family built the house over a period of two years while they lived in the barn.
One of his sons, Aziel “Ace” Dhaenens inherited the house, where he and his wife, Ada, raised a family of six boys and two girls.
Ace and Ada’s oldest son, Robert, had seven children of his own, and they are all gathering along with many cousins, grandchildren and other family members.
Much of the land has been sold since Ace and Ada Dhaenens died in 1992. Ace passed away in February of that year, and his wife of 67 years several months later.
“I think she couldn’t live without him,” said Monica Adkins, Ace and Ada’s granddaughter.
While the orchard is now a housing development – Dhaenens Square – the house still stands, but the Dhaenens don’t own it. Jim and Sheri Shafer moved into the house in 2001 and eventually purchased it a few years later. They opened their home to the Dhaenens for the reunion and anniversary.
Adkins was at the house Thursday to prepare for the weekend of activities. She was joined by her oldest sister, Cathy Youso, brother David Dhaenens and youngest sister, Mary Ann Cart.
Their brother Tim Dhaenens lives in Florida. Brother Pat Dhaenens is making the trip from Bonney Lake, Wash. One sister, Becky Fleming, died in 1995.
Adkins said she is organizing the weekend based on three “Rs.” Friday was all about “Reconnecting,” when everyone – probably around 40 to 50 relatives – received a memory book and a schedule of events.
Today will be about “Remembering.” Everyone will receive a notebook, and when they begin to reminisce about days gone by, they will be asked to write down their stories.
Sunday is about “Respect.” Everyone will meet at St. Joseph’s Cemetery on Trent Avenue to clean up the areas and headstones of the many family members who are buried there.
Youso remembers the corn her grandfather grew along with huge red potatoes, raspberries, watermelon and cantaloupe.
She also remembers the large spruce that stood in the yard.
“Every Christmas, Grandpa would decorate that tree,” she said. They remembered the large neon star Ace would place at the top – you could see that star from Sprague Avenue.
Adkins remembers the kitchen where her aunts and uncles and grandparents would play pinochle.
“You didn’t want to come in here,” Adkins said. “There was a lot of cussing and swearing.”
Sheri Shafer said she didn’t mind opening up her house to the Dhaenens for a weekend. Many of the family said Shafer is always willing to let one of them visit.
“I just love this kind of thing,” she said. While her own children have grown up and moved out of the house, she hopes to keep the old homestead and pass it along through her own family.