Hartland's Greatest Generations Fading Away
Military burials Thursday remind us time is short to honor elders by learning their wisdom.
Ivan G. Reader, 95, was a former Hartland school board member, World War II Marine Corps veteran and charter member of American Legion Post in Hartland.
Earl F. Wyckoff, 93, also was a WWII vet and a former Hartland volunteer firefighter for 30 years, who as a youth rode in the 1926 Chevrolet fire engine with his firefighter dad.
Amid raindrops, families, friends and the Hartland American Legion Post nobly paid tribute to both with solemn military burials Thursday in the historic Hartland Cemetery — the latest of several the post has dutifully attended in recent months after many years when there were none at all, according its Commander Doug Kuhn.
It's the latest sign of how all the experience of the older generations who grew up during World War I and the Great Depression, fought and won WWII and helped America become the world's superpower is becoming lost to time. But that doesn't mean we have to forget the best of what they taught us, especially in smaller, more close-knit communities like ours.
Now's our time to step up
Their loss is a reminder that we should do what we can to learn and recognize their wisdom before it's too late — a feeling that's shared by many in the community and first raised to me by Linda Brown, who wrote a vividly touching portrait of Hartland native Mary Rowe in December for Hartland Patch after her death.
Her father, Harry R. Brown, died in August.
Harry, 77, was known to most people as an affable, easy-going man who drilled their wells for water (Brown Drilling Co.) whose strong love for the community was anchored in a rich family history here that dates back to the 1830s.
More than 300 turned out to a memorial service at Waldenwoods Resort & Conference Center, including the American Legion because he, too, was a vet.
Kuhn and others said Harry was somewhat of a jokester who liked to tell stories that illustrated the past in which he also laughed about himself. (One I found was how he describes a legendary school bus driver Hartland: Weaving the Past with The Present who had no problem throwing him off a bus and into a snow bank for being "too rowdy."> But he also could be serious when it counted.
"All the old-timers here, their handshake was there contract and Harry was like that and he expected everyone to do the same," Kuhn said. "He cared about his community, his family, neighborhood and friends."
Heritage Day can help
So, what can we do, especially in our busy lives, especially those who are parents or college students or working two or more jobs or saddled in debt with no job at all?
In my family, we're celebrating this weekend the 90th birthday of my wife's grandmother, who still lives on her own in the house she raised her children in Port Huron and remains ever fiesty that conservative principals are what's best for the country. We don't see her enough but keeping our elders relevant and part of our lives by honoring them is a start.
Next Saturday, I think Heritage Day is a similar opportunity to talk with the more experienced of our community about what worked well in our past that we shouldn't forget. It's from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the village area of Hartland and offers ample ways to learn our unique history.
As someone who only moved here in 2005 then as a commuter, a visit on this day a few years ago helped me learn how this small little town pulled together like the nation did during the Depression and WWII. They formed important institutions that remain with us to this day such as the Cromaine District Library, the Hartland Music Hall and the Hartland Area Community Council.
And just attending and learning about Hartland would honor their memory and helps us understand we can build on what they valued most — community.
Feel free to share memories
Here are more of those who've we lost in the recent past:
John V. Dale, 83, who was one of the original 12 men who formed a safety team at the General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford that developed shoulder harnesses and safety bumpers.
Don Rhodes, 83, a former township supervisor who's steady hand helped quell bring about political peace following a recall.