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Family Case of Diptheria

This year was a busy and eventful year. We had an election that was in John's favor. He won by sixty percent! It was a lot of work, with TV commercials, radio, mailings, and door to door visiting. With the help of many people, he retained his title as "Senator Cowdery". We had a fun time with his campaign.

We also have a new great grandson, Gavin Cole. He was born November 21, 2002. What a pretty baby he is and boy is he ever good. Gavin is our third great grandchild. Zoe turned seven already, and Erin is three years old.

Ashley married Jeff Barney this year. They are building a new home in Anchorage. Our family sure is growing.

Tara & I took many awards at the Alaska State Fair. The drawings and a dragon paper-mache that Tara entered took First Place. The Native Doll that I entered this year won grand champion and people's choice awards. A vase I designed with native style drawing won grand champion. Tara and I have fun deciding what we can make to enter the competitions every year.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…. It finally snowed on December 10th. People were still doing some strange and unusual things for this time of year. One person was caught water-skiing only a few days before it snowed. In fact, we were about ready to mow the lawn again. One person actually did and was on the front page of the newspaper. This has been an unusual winter. Everyone is finally happy to have a traditional Alaskan White Christmas.

I have asked John to tell another story of his growing up days in Missouri. I am sure you will enjoy and reflect on the importance of your own family, as he does in this story.

In 1932, my mother and all four of us boys came down with that dreadful disease diphtheria. I was almost two, and the youngest in the lot. George was the oldest and he was nine. At that time diphtheria was usually considered fatal. We were all in the hospital at the same time. My two oldest brothers George and Carroll were affected the worst. The diphtheria infected them so badly they became deaf, and in order to save their lives the palate in their throat had to be removed so that they could breath. This left them not only deaf but with a major speech impediment. A common person may have thought that they had too much to drink, because their speech was badly slurred. Carroll continued to have problems breathing, and finally our country doctors told us he had recovered as much as he was going to.

George and Carroll both had to go to school for the deaf in Fulton, Missouri. They both had to start over in the first grade. George did not like that, as he had already went through the third grade in regular school. In the deaf school they treated every one as if they were deaf mutes. You learned sign language and could only communicate by sign. If you made a sound, in asking or answering a question, you were severely disciplined even if you could talk. He begged and begged my mother to take him out of the deaf school and not to send him there again.

My Uncle Virgil had mostly daughters and only one son. He desperately needed help on his farm, and said George could work there if he wanted to. Mom finally obliged and let George go work on the farm. He out worked every one else! He was up early and to bed late. Not a chore went undone with George around. He made himself an asset that was very much needed in those hard times during the thirties. George stayed on the farm working until he was 17 years old.

Carroll ended up having the most schooling of all us boys. In 1939, we moved to Arkansas where Carroll went to Little Rock School for the Deaf. In 1942, we moved to California and he went to Berkley School for the Deaf and graduated High School. He came up to Alaska for a few years, and then back to California where he went to work for Kraft's Food. He worked there for 36 years and advanced to position of Superintendent before he retired, and moved to Big Bear, California. I am very proud of his accomplishments and career path.

A special little story about Carroll ...
One day Carroll was out running errands and stopped by the grocery store for some milk and bread on the way home. He was in quite a hurry. While he was in the store he noticed an older deaf couple shopping. He continued on his way, got his groceries, went to his car and started to leave. Compassion over came him and he went back into the store to find the couple. He introduced himself by sign language and asked if they needed any help. They signed back and said they were doing fine. This is a common courtesy among the deaf community.

Carroll told them that he was from Missouri. They answered back that they were from Arkansas. Carroll told them that he had gone to the Little Rock School for the Deaf in Arkansas. They answered that they too, had gone to the Little Rock School for Deaf. Carroll smiled and said that he witnessed the first wedding ever performed in America by sign in the Little Rock School in 1941, when Faye and Vera Palmer were married. They replied by introducing themselves. "I am Faye and this is my wife Vera Palmer". They instantly became reacquainted and renewed their friendships. They started a new tradition of card games and conversation together. What a small world this really is!

Carroll passed away of cancer in 1999. He was not only an outstanding brother but also a great friend. George continued to be a relentless worker his entire life, and loyal to his family. He worked for me in the family business for over 25 years. He too, passed away in 1994, the very next day after we buried Mom. In their eyes, they were not handicapped at all. They did not ever take advantage of a situation they could have, or rely on special accommodation due to their condition. They were not only great brothers, but also GREAT friends. I miss them both, but I guess God needs good friends too. He got some good ones with Carroll and George.

We Wish You A Merry and Peaceful Christmas with your family.

John & Juanita


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