What makes you happy?

What makes you happy?


More than anything else what makes me happy is my family.

Back: Wendy, Zach, Butch, Lance, Cherise, and Karen. 
Front: Augie, Wyatt, Ben and Rachel. 2016

I’ve always had some interest in my family tree, but about 1985 I became much more interested. I started to try and find out who my ancestors were, but the information was a little thin. Since the family line included my kids of course, that also meant the Karen’s people were just as important as ancestors as were my own. Luckily, there were tons of them in the area and I found out a lot of stuff about them pretty quick.

The Thorpe side came a little slower. As I got better at the techniques of research and I talked to more people, especially on my side, resources started to open up. I visited my dad’s cousin, Emily Mumm, and wrote to my second cousin, Nettie Rose Caulfield Thomas. I got many old pictures and pedigree information. 

Early on, the research was difficult and expensive. Back then most of the phone calls you had to make were out of town and had long-distance charges. Even to write someone had a lot of postage expense. My wife Karen told me this might be too expensive a hobby for me to have. There were no internet, no email, no online resources. All the data collected had to be entered into a genealogy program if you wanted to keep track of what you found or organize it in any way. One example of the difficulty was census data. Many libraries had a microfilm collection of local censuses, but you had to have an idea of where your people lived in order to look at the reel where your information was. Then you had to scroll through every frame to see if it included your ancestors. In about five years I only had about five items of census information. Then the LDS church published a nationwide index of the 1880 census. Whamo! I had a whole slug of new stuff. They followed hard on that with the 1850 census. That got Ancestry interested and pretty soon there were indices for all the censuses. After that in just two months of looking I had nearly all the ancestors that got around to answering the census. They did the same thing for the English census, all my mom’s ancestors.

I now felt a part of the flow of history.

English reunion – 2019

I have been able to find and take many family gathering photos over the years. Here are a few:

Prior family reunion – 1939

Thorpe family reunion – c. 1890.
Rollie (3), Ned (1), Kenneth Fox (4), Gertrude Thorpe (5), Winfield (6) and Nettie Hinckley (7), Monroe Thorpe (8), Hattie Fox (2), and Uriah Thorpe (9).

Lance and Cherise’s Wedding reception – 1999

Paddy’s Christmas present – 2009

Ruby’s 80th birthday party – 1993


I would have to say that overall, my family is what makes me happy. I love our friends and get great joy from some of my interests in doing and making things but the close relationships with my family provides love, deep satisfaction, and happiness.

Spicer Kids – 2002 Linda, Sue, Diane, Dick, Karen

My relationship with my family as a child was the beginning. Of course as in every family there were squabbles but as we grew older my sisters and I formed a friendship that I treasure. I love my older brother but the age difference and living distance was too great for us to have a close friendship. I suppose “the girls” developed our bond because we lived together for a longer time and had common interests. Over the years we have gotten together for holidays, visited each other in our homes, and talked to each other on the phone. Every time there was lots of reminiscing, story telling and laughing. We can pretty much come up with at least 10 stories that have us laughing and snorting by mentioning only a few key words. Not only that we had all those Scrabble games, Boggle, and we can’t forget the cocktails that added to the fun.

Butch and Karen’s Wedding Reception – May 1, 1969
Butch and Karen – 2019

Butch, Robert Archer John Thorpe, my husband, has been my partner in all things since our marriage in 1969. He is the brother of my best friend, Judy, so we have known each other since I was in 7th grade. We were married young and against a few odds, we have had a strong and loving marriage. We were lucky to live near our families on both sides who deserve some of the credit for our success. Both of us finished college and earned Master’s degrees after our marriage at great sacrifice in money and time. We each built careers on our talents and have made a comfortable life in our retirement. I think that having little money through most of our early marriage helped us to focus on our family and appreciate each other. We have had many adventures together traveling the world and our country. We have made many friends and enjoy being together with just each other as well. He is the person I want to laugh with and the one who shares all my troubles.

Lancelot Aubrey Duncan Thorpe was born on September 5th, 1969. We were very young parents and the awesome miracle and responsibility of a new baby consumed us. We had to learn what to do as we went along but thank goodness both sides of our family were as much in love with him as we were. He used to be placed in the center of every gathering while everyone sat nearby admiring him and delighting in every move he made. He was a bright and sunny boy who did everything on the run. Surrounded by adults, he talked early and had an interest in everything. He made friends everywhere including other kids, neighbors of all ages, and strangers. Our kids grew up as probably the last generation of “free range kids.” Lance took off on his bike and traveled our safe neighborhood without many restrictions. Later I found out that he once traveled so far afield on his bike that he got quite lost and spent a couple tense hours finding his way home. He has always loved the outdoors and nature and his experiences with family camping led him to the Boy Scouts and the accomplishment of an Eagle Scout award. His family enjoys camping in their travel trailer from spring through fall. He has grown into a responsible man who is very family oriented and works hard to take care of everyone, including us sometimes. He and his family live nearby in Iowa City and we see them often. We are very proud of the man, and friend, he has become.

Karen and Lance
Karen and Wendy Thorpe – 1972

Wendolyn Lorelei Thorpe was born on September 14, 1972. From the first she was our awesome princess. She was a girly girl who loved dolls, pretty clothes, crafty things, and reading books. She was born happy and easy going and captured the heart of everyone in the family. She also was an early talker and could actually talk the ears off pretty much everyone as a child. Wendy was a reader from an early age and loved books, school, and learning as much as I had when I was a kid. Unlike me, she was a born collector. Butch’s mom, Paddy, was a resident manager at K- Mart when our kids were little. She spoiled them with all the latest and greatest toys. For Wendy, one of her heart’s desires was Strawberry Shortcake dolls. These were small dolls with the gimmick of being scented with smells matching their names. Wendy was the luckiest child who received every single doll as soon as a new one came out! The amazing thing was that she carefully saved the boxes they came in, and all of the accessories and took care to keep them safe and in good shape. And, she still has them! Most of all, I admire Wendy’s independent nature and goal orientation. In high school she acted in plays, went out for the track team, and even performed a solo song. She decided that she wanted to attend a women’s college and gained entrance and scholarships to Mills College in Oakland, CA. After she graduated, she stayed in California and has made a life and career there. While I wish she lived closer, we have enjoyed many trips there to be with her beautiful family. She achieved her goal of writing 2 books. Wendy is a woman that I admire. She has a wonderful sense of humor and is very creative. We are very proud of her.

Our grandchildren are a delight. I loved them as soon as I knew they were on the way. Each one is completely unique in personality and even looks. Lance has a girl and a boy, Rachel born in 2000, and Ben born in 2005. Rachel and Ben live close by and have been the most accessible to us. That means we have had lots of sleepovers and opportunities for day to day contact.

Karen and Rachel Thorpe riding a camel, Milwaukee Zoo
Karen and Ben – 2016

Wendy has two boys, Wyatt, born in 2004 and August born in 2008. Wyatt and Augie live in California which has given us the chance for long term visits that include lots of adventures and excitement. Each time we go we have the chance to take advantage of the ocean, the beautiful scenery, and the interesting things to do there. I feel totally blessed to have such a wonderful family and the opportunity to see them grow and mature. That’s what makes me happy!

Augie, Karen, Butch, Wyatt
This entry was posted in Autobiography, Family, StoryWorth. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What makes you happy?

  1. Daniel Chen says:

    Nice family pictures you have collected! I could relay to your international phone charge in the 1980’s. I remember it was $2.99 per minute calling home in Taiwan.

  2. craig behrndt says:

    great pictures!

  3. Wendy says:

    We love you too!

  4. Wendy says:

    Also, Wyatt looks 8 feet tall in this photo!

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