updated 03/01/2017


Thornton Manor Residents
Lansing



Thornton Manor Memories of Christmas Past
By Jo Konichek

Several residents of the Thornton Manor Nursing Center recently shared some of their favorite Christmas childhood memories. After listening to their stories, it makes one appreciate such things as plug-in Christmas tree lights, lots of delicious food for Christmas dinner, many beautifully wrapped presents under the tree, embossed greeting cards with angels, and many other holiday delights we sometimes take for granted. Now, and hopefully in the next millennium, sharing family Christmas traditions will keep the true spirit of the holiday season alive in the hearts of young and old alike.

Lucille Byrnes

Lucille Byrnes

Lucille Byrnes spoke of hitching up their team of horses to the sleigh with big blankets to wrap in and hot flat irons on the floor to keep their feet warm. They painstakingly cut their way through huge snowdrifts in the bitter cold to make it to church, then it was on to Grandma’s house. Lucille usually got clothes and a doll for Christmas, but she was happy.

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Notes: Lucille Loretta (Mauss) Byrnes, 02/15/1912-06/21/2000, buried Gethsemane cemetery.

Marguerite Beck

Marguerite Beck

Marguerite Beck said, “My favorite thing was to wait for Santa. He’d knock on the door and my brother was so scared, he wouldn’t go near him.” She said her mom would never put the tree up or decorate it with candles until they were in bed. They usually received lots of gifts, mostly clothes. Her parents put away $7 each month in order to pay for the Christmas presents. And the next thing you knew, Christmas was upon them again. She said, “One year I got a big, beautiful doll and my brother got mad, threw it down the stairs, and broke its head off!” Marguerite cried then but she laughs about it now.

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Notes: Marguerite Deborah (Gibbs) Beck, 07/21/1919-05/24/2000, buried Oak Hill cemetery.

Luella Gibbs

Luella Gibbs

Luella Gibbs got her last china doll with real curly hair at age 11. “We usually got two gifts, most were homemade,” she said. They would put their Christmas tree up the Sunday before Christmas. It would reach as high as the ceiling. They rode in bobsleds with blankets over their heads. “When my husband was little, all he had one Christmas for dinner was bean soup with hardly and beans! It took them three days to get groceries in North Dakota where he lived,” Luella stated. Luella said there were hard tmes as well as good times. She’ll never forget one year when there was a flu epidemic. They couldn’t go to school and they hated getting shots from the doctor. “My mom almost died from the flu, it was so bad many children didn’t survive,” she reflected. On the lighter side though, she remembered, “Mom used to make popcorn balls and lots of candy.”

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Notes: Luella Val (Smith) Gibbs, 11/26/1909-01/20/2005, buried Oakland cemetery. Obituary

Ruth Hawes

Ruth Hawes

A favorite memory for Ruth Hawes was her coffee grinder. When her mom would come home with groceries, including coffee beans, Ruth would take some beans and put them in her own little grinder. She would be so tickled. They would cut their own tree, decorate it with popcorn strands, candles with holders, and colored paper ornaments. “One year my sister came down from Dubuque and tried to cook our dinner. She cooked the goose so long it was too tough to eat!” Ruth said.

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Notes: Ruth C. (Farley) Hawes, 05/07/1910-10/23/2002, buried Paint Rock cemetery. Obituary

Gert Darling

Gert Darling

Gert Darling will be celebrating her 90th birthday this Christmas Eve! Her favorite childhood memory is when her mother made doll clothes out of taffeta, trimmed with pretty buttons. She misses those happy days with the smell of pine throughout the house and their cast iron stove. “We were happy with what we had. Christmas is too commercialized now,” she stated. Gert also said how amusing it was when her husband used to trim the branches of the Christmas tree until there was almost no tree left.

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Notes: Gertrude Eugenia (Ghelf) Darling, 12/24/1909-03/07/2000, buried in St. Joseph's cemetery, New Albin.

Sarah Wilkins

Sarah Wilkins

Sarah Wilkins loved her fancy dress, and doll with a buggy. Each of the kids would get a cup and saucer with one toy. They had a cabinet with glass where they would put a toy, but they weren’t allowed to play with it. However, they were always happy at Christmas. There were nine in her family. They would string popcorn for the tree. “But we couldn’t light the candles on the tree unless mom was right there to watch it in case of fire,” Sarah remembered.

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Notes: Sarah J. (Conway) Wargin Wilkins, 03/27/1899-08/08/2009, buried St. Joseph's cemetery, New Albin. Obituary

Biography & more photos

Lenore Spinner

Lenore Spinner

Santa came on Christmas Eve at the Spinner home. Dad would play the violin and the kids would sing. Postage stamps cost two or three cents. Lenore Spinner smiled as she recalled the events that took place at her home as a child. They had to go to bed early for church Sunday where they would sing Christmas carols. “We would go around town and greet everyone with a Merry Christmas.” Lenore said she has many fond memories of days gone by.

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Notes: Lenore Spinner, 1910- 6/24/2001, buried in Gethsemane cemetery.

Anna Kulps

Anna Kulps

“Where does Santa come in Daddy?” Anna Kulps recalled as one of her favorite memories. Her dad put up storm windows that only opened up a little bit. “I always wondered how Santa made it through the little gaps in the windows!” she said with a gleam in her eye. “We had different colored wafers with imprints of Jesus, Mary and Joseph that were blessed in church then brought home. We would break them for our Christmas Eve dinner.”

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Notes: Anna (Paulauskas) Kulps

~Allamakee Journal, Lansing, IA, 22 Dec. 1999
~photos & article contributed by Errin Wilker
~additional notes added by Allamakee co. coordinator

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Thornton Manor Residents Celebrate 100th and 110th Birthdays

Happy 100th birthday to Laura Fruechte (left) born March 29, 1909, and happy 110th birthday to Sarah Wargin Wilkins (right) born March 27, 1899. Both are residents of Thornton Manor Nursing Center in Lansing, Iowa.

Lansing Centenarians Celebrate Birthdays

Thornton Manor residents Laura Fruechte (left) and Sarah Wilkins (right) recently celebrated birthdays. Fruechte turned 100 March 29th, and Wilkins turned 100 March 27th.

Two residents of Thornton Manor in Lansing recently celebrated their 100th and 110th birthdays this past March. Now 100, Laura Fruechte was born March 29, 1909 in Lansing. Sarah Wilkins was born March 27, 1899 in Harpers Ferry and is 110.

Want any sage advice on how to live a long time? Sarah says she takes an asprin every day. Laura says it's because she still has a lot of interests. The Thornton Manor staff concur that Laura and Sarah both stay active and continue to participate in the activities offered.

Sarah's face lights up when you mention the Toe Tappers, a group that played for her birthday party last month. She recalls walking five miles to Harpers Ferry to school and back home again every day. Sarah would quit school after 8th grade, as was usual for women in her era. She and her husband, Harry Wargin, reared four children. Later, after Harry died, she married Wilbur Wilkins. She and Wilbur traveled extensively overseas. She enjoyed sewing and music and never drove a car. Her younger sister, Marcella Strub, age 102, lives in New Albin.

Laura smiles a lot and remembers games of hop scotch, hide and go seek, and jacks when she was young. She was born and raised in Lansing at 515 Dodge Street, right behind the Old Stone School, and later attended college. She was married young she said, "At 19," and proudly shows her wedding picture. (She married Leo Fruechte, but they had no children.) Although she didn't realize her childhood dream of becoming a nurse, Laura did attend to the sick and elderly in their homes. She was a member of the German Presbyterian Church, which was always..... [the remainder of the article is missing]

~newspaper clippings & photos, March or April 2009
~contributed by Errin Wilker
~Notes:
Sarah J. (Conway) Wargin Wilkins, 03/27/1899-08/08/2009, buried St. Joseph's cemetery, New Albin. Obituary * Biography & more photos
Laura (Bishoff) Fruechte,03/29/1909-08/16/2011, buried Oak Hill cemetery, Lansing. Obituary & another photo

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