Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

Karla's Kolumn: Family Reunions


July 15, 2017

Reunions, people love them or hate them. I truly enjoy family reunions, but to be honest I have yet to attend any of my class reunions.

The difference? Good question and I'm not sure I have a great answer except that I truly did not like high school and am OK with moving beyond high school and not looking back. That said, there are a few members of my class that I keep in close touch with, and there are many of my Class of 1986 classmates whom I am Facebook friends with and we keep in touch through social media.

But, family reunions, are different. I get to meet people I haven't seen in a long time, meet people I've never met and just enjoy some good company.

Thirteen years ago my father planned a Schweighart family reunion in the Big Horn Mountains. Planning actually began a year prior to the reunion. He wanted all of the siblings and all of their children to be there. It was a grand time and one that hasn't been repeated.

Last year was a mini reunion with the celebration of Uncle Carl's 90th birthday and induction into the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame. And, then last Saturday I had another opportunity to attend another reunion as the Schweighart clan, about 60, gathered at Hot Springs State Park for a celebration of my Aunt Dot's life. Dorothy (Schweighart) Brunk passed away in October in Ohio and her daughters wanted to have a celebration in Wyoming where Aunt Dot had spent most of her life.

It was a celebration of her life, including many of her favorite desserts such as chocolate cake and double decker cookies. It was a time of remembrance with many sharing memories.

While initially the celebration and mini reunion was planned for Aunt Dot, it also included some memories of Uncle Pat Beckley, of Ten Sleep, who passed away last Thursday. Uncle Pat is survived by his wife, Alice Schweighart, who is my father's twin sister.

For me personally, I have more memories of my Aunt Dot than Uncle Pat, mostly because we lived in Thermopolis and visited Aunt Dot more frequently than we got out to the Beckleys when they lived on their ranch. My most vivid recent memory of her was after my father's passing. Thankfully, his big sister, was with him at the time and for that I have always been grateful. But, we were doing some cleaning and making beds and folding sheets. There's a lot of things I have never mastered like my mother - making gravy from the meat drippings and folding the fitted sheets are among them. Well Aunt Dot assured me that it was easy and took me step by step through folding a fitted sheet and it looked good.

Sorry to disappoint you Aunt Dot but it just doesn't work unless you're standing there. I start out as she instructed but ended just rolling it up.

As a child I also remember going to her house and I loved her lemonade. She would buy the concentrate and we always had Country Time. Nothing beats the sweet, sour taste of "real" lemonade.

The Schweighart clan is an interesting clan. There were nine children who grew to adulthood with 17 years separating the oldest from the youngest. With that age difference, so came an age difference between us first cousins. From the nine, my aunt, Alice Beckley, and my uncle, Carl Schweighart, are still with us and of course photos were taken of them, and with the 13 first generation of cousins that were able to be there and then the second generation of cousins.

Along with the Schweighart family ties drawing us all back together, Wyoming draws them all back as well.

My second cousin who lives in Oregon talked to me during the reunion about how she wants to move back some day. Oregon is nice but there is just something special about Wyoming for those of us who were born here and grew up here.

Will there be another reunion? One can only hope, but as I write this I can hear my dad telling me on that reunion at Bear Lodge - "This will probably be the last time everyone is gathered together because it will fall to all of you (the first generation of cousins) to plan the next one."

Who knows dad, this year was a start, so it could happen. And if it does, I know everyone will be ready to gather in Wyoming, because it's a chance to come home.


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