Friday, June 07, 2019

Sister Trip to Michigan: Part II

Our first full day in Michigan, Sunday, March 5, was a beautiful one.  Since the forecast was predicting rain for much of our trip, we decided it would be a good day to visit the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park while we were in Grand Rapids.  There are many gardens and exhibits, and we easily could have spent several days exploring everything; but since we had only one day planned for it, we chose the indoor art gallery, the Japanese garden, and the Sculpture Park.

"Gilded Champagne Gardens Chandelier"
by Dale Chihuly
Gallery foyer

Detail of "New World Map"
by El Anatsui
Sculptural tapestry made of thousands of recycled aluminum bottle tops

"Blue Phrygian Cap"
by Alexander Calder

Detail of  "Fighting Lions"
by Nina Akamu

"Long Island Buddha"
by Zhang Huan
Japanese garden

The pond at the Japanese garden

"American Horse"
by Nina Akamu
Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci
Sculpture Park

The Grand Rapids Arch
by Andy Goldsworth
Made with native Scotland stone
Sculpture Park

"I, you, she or he..."
by Jaume Plensa
Sculpture Park
These sculptures are made of thousands of stainless steel letters of the alphabet.

"Listening to History"
by Bill Woodrow
Sculpture Park
A favorite of mine!
After several hours at the Gardens, we met up for a late lunch with my mom's paternal half siblings and their family, the Valks, at Golden Corral.  All four of the children of Grandpa Valk and his wife Elaine were there, three uncles and an aunt.  While we had met them all on one of the trips we made when I was 11 1/2 - 12 years old, I really only remember playing with their children, my younger Valk cousins, in the family room in the basement of Grandpa Valk's house.  And of course, my sister was a baby, so she had no memories from that time.  Our mom's youngest Valk brother and his wife came to Spokane last summer for a visit, so we had gotten acquainted with them, but this lunch gave us an opportunity to meet the other uncles and aunt, along with their spouses, and some of their children and grandchildren, our cousins.  There were about a dozen and a half of us, total, and we had an enjoyable lunch visiting for several hours, getting to know each other better, and sharing with them all the family news from our side of the country.

During lunch, as we were talking about Grandpa Valk and Grandma Elaine, I mentioned that I wanted to visit their graves, as I had never been to the cemetery where they were laid to rest.  My youngest uncle and his wife offered to accompany us, and also told us that Uncle Jimmy's grave was there as well.  Jimmy was Grandpa's first child, from his first marriage.

James "Jimmy" Frederick Valk was born 25 February 1939 in Grand Rapids to William Valk and Elfriede Joan Lomker.  He was either developmentally disabled or deaf, or both.  He was institutionalized and died at the age of 19, from pneumonia, as I understand it.

After paying our respects to Jimmy, we turned to leave when I spotted two Lomker graves nearby.  I recognized them as Elfriede's parents, Anna (Kirchdyke) and Herman Fritz Lomker.  It was comforting to me that Jimmy was buried near family, as my grandfather's grave was in a different area of the cemetery.

I have written previously about Jimmy, his mother Elfriede, her marriage to and divorce from my grandfather, as well as her subsequent marriage to my grandfather's brother Chet, who died in the Battle of the Bulge.  You can read that post here.

Next, we spent some time at my Grandpa Valk's and Grandma Elaine's graves.  My uncle and aunt shared fond memories of them, many of which were new to my sister and me.  I especially enjoyed hearing how Grandpa and his three sons would play games of baseball together when they were kids.

Our maternal grandfather, William Valk, was born 30 October 1912 in Grand Rapids to William James and Agnes (Tuinstra) Valk, the third child and son of eight children.  He first married Elfriede Joan Lomker on 13 May 1937 in South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana.  They had one son, James Frederick Valk.  After their divorce in 1941, he married our maternal grandmother, Ruth Lillian DeVries, on 11 September 1943 in Junction City, Geary County, Kansas near where he was stationed in the U.S. Army during World War II at Fort Riley. They had one daughter, our mother.  After their divorce in 1946, he married Elaine Estelle Bennett on 22 April 1950 in Grand Rapids.  They had three sons and a daughter.  Grandpa died 10 October 1989 at his home in Caledonia Township, Kent County, Michigan.

Our maternal step-grandmother, Elaine Estelle Seif, was born to Robert Olive Bennett (a.k.a. Seif) and Treasure Baldwin on 27 January 1927 in Grand Rapids (Elaine's father chose to go by his stepfather Andrew Seif's surname).  Elaine was the second of two daughters.  She died 11 January 2016.

After parting with our family, we went to Meijer,a grocery and department store, not unlike Fred Meyer in the Pacific Northwest, and got a few supplies and groceries for the next few days. We then settled in at our hotel room to watch the current episode of Game of Thrones and enjoy our Cinco de Mayo "dinner" of margaritas and quesadillas ordered from room service.

Sister Trip to Michigan: Part I
Sister Trip to Michigan: Part III

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Joan said...

What a fun trip for you two. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Miriam Robbins said...

Thanks, Joan! I need to write some more posts. I've been pretty busy lately!

River Takeshita said...

What I find interesting in this post is that I have friends with the lastname Bennett that moved to Spokane from Illinois. Do you think they could be descendant or perhaps related to Robert Olive Bennett?