Saturday, November 29, 2014


On November 15, 2013 we met Harvey.

I had been wanting to get a puppy while we still had Mattie, because I believed she would have a calming influence on a young dog, and would make training easier. We tried one dog from the local shelter, whom I loved, but who was afraid of Chuck. When we took her back I started looking for labradoodles and goldendoodles. We found a litter of puppies in Hutchinson and made the decision to go for it.

As I was leaving to pick up the puppy I called out to Chuck, "I have no ideas for a name. Do you have any?"

Chuck loves learning Spanish and one of his techniques is to watch movies dubbed in Spanish. His favorite at the time was a Jimmy Stewart movie about a 6 ft. invisible rabbit named Harvey.

He called out, "What about Harvey?"

It was perfect.

Two days after we brought home this big bundle of fun, Mattie woke up obviously in her final hours. We skipped church that morning and sat with her as her life slipped away.
Harvey's first big outing was to Camp Mennoscah for a weekend celebration of my parents' 60th anniversary on Thanksgiving weekend of 2013.
His second trip was a weekend away with us at Red Hills Retreat, owned by Jeremy and Jyl Ewy in February.

We took him on vacation to O'Haver Lake campground, west of Salida, Colorado where he had a great time in the van, in motels, in the campground and on hikes.
H didn't quite fit on a seat in the van but he would try valiantly until it became to uncomfortable and then he would sleep on the floor.

admiring Chuck's catch

Throughout his life, Harvey was a regular attender at our home church, First Mennonite Church in Newton, KS. He was a big hit with the kids, even winning over some who had previously been quite afraid of dogs.

 He was huge, as you can see from the pictures. In the mornings Chuck would often get up first and let Harvey out of his crate and greet him. Then Harvey would make his way to me, still in bed. He would lay his huge head next to me on the bed and wait for his morning neck massage.

I was planning to work with him as a therapy dog and have been actively training him since we got him. He still had some work to do. It took a long time to learn to walk with a loose leash but we finally got that figured out. He still did not know how to calmly meet another dog. He just got too excited and I was still reading everything I could get my hands on to find the training method that would work for him. (I think I found the right book for that particular problem after he died, so I'll have that info for future use.)

We also had not figured out the best way to keep him from getting on the road. He mostly went there when he was following our other dog, who was a car chaser, so we usually tied up the other dog when we let Harvey out. That worked well. 

But when our lives turned toward saying our goodbyes to Dad, our vigilance relaxed. Chuck was on the phone with me, checking up on things when Harvey needed to go out. In the few minutes it took to finish that call, the dogs had taken off after a car. George made it across. Harvey ran into the car. He had lived with us 364 days.

We have a new pup, whom I will introduce sometime in the future. He is great. 

He does not take Harvey's place. We miss him every day. Chuck has been building fences in his sleep every night and has figured out his plan and priced the materials. But his morning run without Harvey is a pretty lonely time of day.

We are grateful for Harvey, and for the way he touched so many lives beyond our own.
Taken a few days before Harvey died.

Invitation to play

Friday, November 21, 2014

Saying Hard Good-byes

We call this the 'Norman Rockwell' photo, Dad holding me with Grandma Bartel and Aunt Lola helping and looking on
During the thumb-sucking days
I haven't written in a long time, and part of that has been because my siblings and I have been walking with my parents through multiple health issues for my Dad. 

We celebrated his memorial yesterday with things that were part of the man we knew him to be: rousing hymns and a capella men's quartet music and storytelling and scripture. Pastor Anita had a meditation that so well wove the chosen scripture, Psalm 103, in and through the man she and we knew him to be. So many people came, ate with us, and joined us for a lovely hymn sing, accompanied by the incomparable Donna Stucky. It was a wonderful day.

And now...I just miss him. I'm so terribly grateful for a father with whom I have no negative stuff to work through. If I have to do grief, it is this kind of grief I'll do with gratitude.

I'm adding the story that I wrote with the help of my brothers and sister to be read during the service.
The last hot dog roast at our rural home, roasting hot dogs over the fire made of our broken up pool table.
Last family photo at the country place.
Laurence Edwin Bartel
July 19, 1931 – November 15, 2014

This morning we will attempt to share who Dad was. Words can't really do that. Every time someone has written something about our family it has seemed that somehow our lives are smaller on paper than they are in the actual living. With that in view, we'll try to do our best to give you a glimpse into Dad.

As a side note, our comments are printed and will be available as you leave the sanctuary this morning, but for now, let's just remember Dad together, all in the same breath.

Dad could cut corn from the cob faster than anyone else in the family. People find it hard to believe that our family used single edge razor blades to remove the corn from the cob. Dad held his with a vice grip.

He cut corn the way he did everything, with energy and stamina. After he retired, Dad decided to stop the creek east of our house from creeping towards the shed by lining the banks of the creek with something permanent. He found a source for old concrete removed from roads and bought a concrete saw. He cut the concrete into rectangular blocks, lifted them to the back of his truck, and brought them home where he laid them into a beautiful retaining wall that stretches 150-200 feet and ranges from 3 feet tall in some spots to over 8 feet high in others. Then he carefully back filled topsoil right up to the wall so that he could mow with a wheel of the mower on the wall, preventing the need to string trim that area.
Building the retaining wall

Enjoying the finished results
Dad had an ornery streak from the beginning. We've been told that in Drake,Saskatchewan, the hometown of Dad's youth, he and his brother Wilmer were known as the Katzenjammer boys. After looking up Katzenjammer the other night to find out what that meant, we learned that the name comes from a comic strip about two brothers who pulled pranks on authority figures which inevitably ended in a spanking for the brothers. We don't know how often Dad and Wilmer's pranks ended in trouble because all the people who refer to them that way are smiling with fond memories.

Dad committed his life to God sometime in his youth and was baptized in the North Star Mennonite Church, where his father was one of the lay pastors. Dad had an older sister who had a reputation for sometimes being bossy and opinionated. My siblings and I can remember hearing relatives lovingly joke about her eccentricities, and when that would happen, Dad would agree that yes, she was bossy sometimes. Then he would add that when he realized he wanted to become a committed Christian, he looked for someone who knew what that meant. It was easy for him to see that Aunt Leona was a person who could help him and she was the one who prayed with him.
Dad's family at our parents' wedding. Back row; Leila, Wilmer, Grandpa Bartel, Leona, Etta holding Jan, and Peter (Etta's husband) with Ken
Front row: Verna (Wilmer's wife), Grandma Bartel, Dad and Mom, Myrial

Mom's family from left to right; LaWanda and Emerson, Marge and Marvin, Dad and Mom, Grandpa and Grandma Schmidt, Bob, Dorothy, Lola
Dad and Mom celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary this November. They met at a wedding in Canada. Mom was a high school student from Hillsboro, Kansas, and Dad a twenty year old from Drake. When they showed interest in each other, both of them were warned. Dad's sister wondered why Dad would date a 'painted doll', because Mom chose to wear makeup. Mom was told that Dad dated all the new girls. Maybe he was just looking for Mom. At any rate, after writing letters and a few trips to Kansas, they chose each other. They got engaged at about the time she graduated from high school and while she still wears makeup, he did not date any other new girls.
November 7, 1953
Their initial dream was to farm in Canada and Dad had arranged with a farmer near Drake to work together and to gradually take over the farm. Dad was to receive a percentage of livestock sales as his living allowance. Mom and Dad moved to a small, cold, drafty house in the country after their November wedding in 1953. It had a small wood stove and when the fire was hot it glowed red. But the fire didn't last through the night and in the mornings the pot of water on the stove would be frozen solid. The steps to the basement served as the refrigerator. Sometimes rats would help themselves to the leftovers. There was electricity, but no bathroom. There was a path to an outhouse.

Mom was desperately homesick, but also a brave trooper. However, when the first livestock was sold and no money was forthcoming, the intentions of the older farmer had to be clarified. The living wage would come from the sales of cattle that were born after Dad moved to the farm, meaning that for two years Dad and Mom would have no income.
They moved off the farm and Dad worked several months at the local Co-op run by his older brother. Since nothing was keeping them in Drake, they decided to move to Kansas. Initially Dad helped Mom's parents in doing some work on their home, and they attended Brudertal Mennonite Church, where they had been married. Dad taught a Sunday School class of young adults there. He says that on one occasion he made remarks questioning the idea of driving past the churches that are close in order to attend one that is farther away.

When the work on our grandparents' home was complete, Dad decided to do 1-W service. Although he was not a U.S. citizen, he was concerned that military service might be required of him, and he believed in pacifism. Another concern was the rule that 1-W service had to be completed at a site at least 100 miles away from home. The authorities allowed Dad to list Canada as his home, enabling him to complete his service in Newton. He and Mom moved to town and lived across the street from Bethel Deaconess Hospital where he fulfilled his term. The young adults in his Brudertal Sunday School class reminded him of his remarks about driving past churches to attend other churches and Dad listened. They became members of First Mennonite Church, which was only blocks away from their little upstairs apartment, and their membership remains there today.

Dad did the 1-W service as part of avoiding military service, but volunteering his labor was a constant value to him. He participated in many Mennonite Disaster Service projects both nearby and far away. When Bev was in college, Annette in high school, Larry was eight and Randy was five, Dad was given a three month sabbatical because of his years of employment at Prairie View. He chose to spend half of it doing voluntary service, so our whole family moved to Wichita for six weeks to work with housing repair. Three of Bev's children had the privilege of being co-participants with Dad on multi-generational work trips. He also served as he could here at home, showing up for church work days and serving on numerous committees and boards in the community and at church. His last job at church was as a part of the Caring Fund Committee. He reluctantly resigned from that job when his memory losses affected his ability to manage the checkbook.

Dad's employment experiences include working at the Co-op in North Newton, more than 25 years working at Prairie View as business manager, and then selling VALIC investments until his retirement. Dad loved working with numbers and kept records of everything so his jobs suited him well. Dad never had much patience with sales people who were pushy, so sometimes we wondered how he repeatedly won awards for his high rate of sales at VALIC. One day a satisfied customer explained the technique that was working so well. "He is just such a great guy! He was so honest that people felt bad not buying from him." Another client said, "He was always so kind and caring and understood our values, helping us to make financial decisions accordingly. I don't generally like working with finances but I always felt very comfortable when he was advising us."

Because Dad enjoyed hard work, he also wanted his children to understand a good work ethic. In Dad's mind, Saturday was a great day to get lots of work done, and projects were planned that required our help. We all remember plugging bermuda grass to form the lawn for the rural home Mom and Dad built. We also remember pulling weeds from between those plugs until the runners had filled in the spaces. Hundreds of tiny trees were planted and had to be kept weed free and watered. Larry learned to drive manual transmission so that he could take over moving the pickup with a water tank to the trees across the creek. Dad did not like untamed grasses or low branches so mowing and trimming were regular tasks. And then, of course, there was the garden. Whole days of processing wheelbarrow loads of corn or multiple dishpans overflowing with green beans. And growing season was not the only time of year for work. Dad filled many winter Saturdays teaching his boys the meaning of sore muscles with cutting, splitting and stacking wood for the fireplace. We remember Mom telling us that cartoons are only for little tiny kids. We believed her, and were surprised that some of our high school friends spent their Saturday mornings in their PJs watching cartoons. The yard work paid off with a beautifully landscaped property that provided the backdrop for the weddings of Bev and Chuck, Larry and Alyce, and Laura and Greg. After we grew up and left home Dad helped with home repair and yard work at all our homes, and always humbled us by working faster and harder than we could.

weighing the largest potato from that immense harvest

the wood pile
Dad enjoyed people. There were rarely gaps in conversation when Dad was around, but he did not hog the floor. He seemed to know how to help people relax and enjoy each other. Even when we were just at home without guests, we enjoyed conversation at the supper table, and waited to clear until the conversation was complete. With Men's Quartet, Dad was able to combine his enjoyment of social events with his love of music and singing. The quartet met weekly with their families in tow to practice and have refreshments and conversation.

Dad also enjoyed play. In their early married years Mom and Dad enjoyed playing tennis and having picnics in the park with their young children. Every summer included a trip, nearly always to Canada, but often with side trips to national parks and monuments. Sometimes we camped, pulling a pop up camper and fixing our own meals. Twice we managed to get nearly all children and grandchildren to Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp together for family camp and Dad enjoyed hiking the hardest trails each day. Dad took up skiing with Larry and Randy and made as many as ten to twelve trips to Colorado. Dad attended our games and musical performances, and more recently, the sports and music of his grand- and great grandchildren.

Faith continued to be primary for Dad from the time he asked Leona to pray with him until his death. It was the inspiration for his service, and for his loyalty to the church through all the sweet times as well as the difficult times. Dad served many terms on the Board of Deacons including years when difficult schisms developed around issues we were facing. I don't remember Dad speaking often at those tense congregational meetings, but when he spoke, it was gently, sometimes with tears, as he tried to lead us to more unity in our faith.

One thing we all learned from Dad was a refusal to submit to bitterness and rancor. Even in difficult times or times of conflict, Dad refused to speak ill of anyone and tried to keep good relationships with those with whom he disagreed. He was an example to us of how to live with integrity in difficult times.

In recent years there were two trips that have deep meaning to all of us. The first was a trip to Canada to be present for the memorial service for Dad's older brother, Erwin. We knew that Dad was beginning to show signs of memory loss and three of the children and four grandchildren accompanied Dad and Mom for the trip. Dad had become more quiet in recent years and we wanted to visit the places of his youth with him before the memories were forgotten. As we drove, Dad enjoyed the ride but said little while we chattered and joked across the miles. Upon arrival at the church for the memorial, Dad got out of our van and led us into the church, hand extended, greeting the friends from his past by name and engaging them in conversation. We spent time with family and with friends, visited past homes, job sites, and the home church. Dad's gift for telling stories was back in full force as he regaled us with one after another from his childhood and youth. Seeing the sites at the same time as hearing the stories gave us glimpses into the life and times that molded and shaped him. We continued to ask questions and receive answers on the long drive home on this trip of cherished memories.
visiting at the church
near the barn on the farm where Dad grew up

a car the same model as one Dad drove

with the son of Dad's favorite boss in Drake at the farm where he worked before meeting Mom

The second trip was a weekend stay at the Bluestem cabin at Camp Mennoscah for Dad and Mom's 60th Anniversary. Twenty-one of us, including children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren were able to join Dad and Mom for all or part of the weekend of games, walks, slide shows, and sharing cooking and cleanup fun together.

some of us around the table at Bluestem
On Tuesday, November 11, we received results from medical tests which explained Dad's decline in health and made it clear that we would not have long with him. Hospice was started and we gathered in their home. Wednesday was a day filled with good memories. Wide awake and still filled with mischief and teasing, Dad was surrounded by those who love him. After Wednesday, although he no longer could respond to us, it was clear that he could hear us. The closeness we experienced as we cared for Dad together is indescribable. Dad passed from this life early in the morning on Saturday, November 15, 2014.

Throughout this last week, Larry has repeated a phrase that sums up how each of us feels. Dad was an amazing man.

What we've read still does not fully capture who he was, and there are parts of him that you know that we are not aware of. We hope that you will be able to share your stories of him with us during the sharing downstairs, and that you will also join us in singing hymns together as he loved to do.

Larry took this photo about a week before Dad left us.