• Comments

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Devoted Volunteer Service Award Certificate: Verla BLAKEY Williams

Verla Williams holding the crystal bowl she was awarded for her devoted volunteer service. Images courtesy of Vincent Williams.

Citation for Verla Williams, Recipient of a Vesterheim Heritaqe Award
Jon Hart, Presenter
October 21, 2006
Vesterheim Biennial Folk Art Benefit Auction Dinner

Tonight I am pleased and honored to present a special Vesterheim heritage award to Verla Williams for her devoted volunteer service to the Vesterheim Genealogical Center & Naeseth Library.

For over 25 years Verla has sat at an electric typewriter in her home in Iowa City, where she has typed somewhere in the neighborhood of 80,000 index cards containing the names of Norwegian immigrants. Beginning in January 1981 with a list of emigrants from Holla, Telemark, Verla worked her way into much larger projects including the complete list of Norwegians in the 1900 Iowa census, followed by the 1900 Minnesota census. In 1900 there were 11,000 native born Norwegians in Hennepin County alone! Verla is the Genealoqical Center's longest serving volunteer, and the census indexes she created have helped countless people find information on their family histories.

Blaine Hedberg, who is the Naeseth Chair of the Vesterheim Genealogical Center, is unable to be here with us tonight, but says this about Verla Williams: "I wish we had a way to duplicate Verla; she has really been vital to the resources at the center. . . . Researchers for generations will be talking about her efforts to document the Norwegians in Iowa and Minnesota. When I think of Verla, I think of extreme persistence and dedication. Please extend my greetings and thanks to Verla for all the wonderful help she has given over the past years."

Verla, on behalf of the trustees, staff, members, and friends of Vesterheim, I present you with this small token of our appreciation for persistence and dedication. Thank you.

"Volunteer Corner," Norwegian Tracks 34/1 (Fall 2009), p. 5.

Verla Williams of Iowa City, Iowa, has won the distinction of being the Norwegian American Genealogical Center and Naeseth Library's longest-serving volunteer. Verla has logged nearly 30 years of loyal service to NAGC & NL.

Verla began volunteering in 1981 preparing a first name card index of emigrants from Holla in Telemark, Norway for Gerhard Naeseth. She went on to complete other immigrant lists including those who emigrated from Birkenes and Bygland in Aust-Agder, a card index to the head of households for Winneshiek County, Iowa, and a card index for all Norwegians listed in the 1900 census records for every county in Iowa. By October 1987, Verla had completed the index for all counties in Iowa, which took her approximately 1300 hours to record 23,634 Norwegians, plus their families. In 1989, Verla began a similar project for the 1900 Minnesota census and she typed over 100,000 index cards of Norwegians in Minnesota census. Verla telephoned recently and said she had found the last Norwegian in Minnesota!

In addition to her volunteer efforts, Verla has been working on her and her husband's genealogy for many years. She has provided the NAGC & NL with copies of four manuscripts, Asbjørn Hallvardsen Raa Family, an 1852 immigrant family from Laerdal, Sogn og Fjordane; Seming Hogansen Haarset family, an 1880 immigrant family from Nes, Akershus and the Sigvart Williams Descendants, history of an 1864 immigrant family with roots in Kråkstad, Akershus, who left from Toten.

Verla has served on the NAGC & NL Advisory Council for the first year of its existence. Her knowledge of genealogy was a great benefit to the organization, helping to look to the future with a keen eye on all that had gone before. She decided it was time to step aside from her role on the Council and she will be greatly missed by all the Council members and NAGC & NL staff that work with the Council.

Verla and her family have lived in Iowa City since 1977. At that time husband Vincent, a dentist in Decorah, Iowa, joined the faculty at the University of Iowa - College of Dentistry, retiring in 1997. The Williams' children are Jené, Dawn, Mark, and Arik.

Verla is an inspiration to all of us and we are grateful for her dedication and commitment to the mission and goals of the Norwegian American Genealogical Center & Naeseth Library.

Monday, June 29, 2009

RIP Gordon Robert BLAKEY (26 Dec 2018): Memories

Earlier today I received word from my cousin Lynden Blakey that his father, Gordon, had passed away peacefully at about 2:00 p.m. MST.

Gordon and Shirley (Jurgens) Blakey. Image courtesy of Holly Blakey-Walker.

Several years ago I had asked my cousin, LeAnn (Blakey) Thomas, if she would see if Gordon was willing to fill out a Memories document similar to the one my mom did with Grandma Blakey. I recently came across it and put it away in my files. It seems appropriate to post it now.


These memories are being shared by Gordon Blakey on 3/2011.

Growing Up

I was born in Jackson, Minnesota–at home on the farm.

My birthdate is 12/16/1929.

My parent’s full names and birthdates are:
  • Father: Verland Edward Blakey 9-10-1902.
  • Mother: Agnes Marie (Roe) Blakey 8-22-1909.
They had the following occupations:
  • Father: Farmer.
  • Mother: Stay-at-home mother/Farming.
I remember these amusing incidents from my childhood:
I was 8 or 9 years old. One night I was chasing cats in the barn. It was winter time and at night. There was a stock tank in the barn and it was partially covered with boards. I accidentally dove into the stock tank and had to be carried back to the house. Mamie Paulson was at the house.

I was 12 years old on the farm north of Jackson. LaRue, Roland, and I were walking from a farm building to the house. The farm dog was by the windmill. LaRue said he was going to kick the dog. It was a black and white dog. I said you better not because he will bite you. LaRue kicked the dog and it bit him. He had to go to the hospital and get stitches.
The names and birthdates of my brothers and sisters are:
  • Verla Ardis (Blakey) Williams 4-28-1932.
  • Averland Virgil Blakey 4-9-1934.
  • Sharon Joy (Blakey) Asche 2-20-1946.
  • Pamella Sue (Blakey) Bergan Wilmes 11-9-1949.
An interesting story about my brothers, sisters and me is:
I was about 12 years old. Lightning hit the chimney and came out of the chimney, hit the cook stove, jumped over to the window above the sink and went outside. It broke the casing/wood around the window. Verla let out a blood-curdling scream.

I remember giving Averland a penny so I could be the first one to get a drink of water.
My grandparent’s names and birthplaces are:
On my mother’s side:

Minnie Roe
Albert Roe

On my father’s side:

Lottie Blakey
George Blakey
This is where they lived:
Roes lived northwest of Jackson by a river.

Blakeys lived on a farm southwest of Jackson.
This is what I remember about my grandparents:
Grandad Blakey had a mustache like Geraldo Rivera.

Grandpa Roe when he would come over would sit and twiddle his thumbs the whole time he was talking.
Some things I remember doing with my grandparents are:
I remember being on a horse and sleigh because the snow was so deep on the roads.
Other members of my extended family who were important to me include:
I remember going to Duluth with Orville in his 1941 model car.
These were the first memories I have of myself as a child:
I remember the old house where I was born south of Jackson. Dad and I went down there one time and the house was still standing.
When I was a child, this is how my family celebrated Christmas:
Everybody came to our house north of Jackson. I remember I got a giant pencil with a big eraser on it. We had a Christmas tree with real candles.
Unique celebrations my family had were:
May Day–Verla and I took a may basket to the neighbors. We hid in the ditch so they didn’t see us.

Sunday afternoons we would go down to a park in Iowa and buy candy kisses for a penny.
When I was a child, some of the gifts I received and gave on holidays were:
Clothes or shoes–Christmas and birthdays.
Electric Circular Sander–Christmas/birthday (didn’t want).
The pets I had as a child, and their names, were:
We had dogs but they weren’t really pets. They were working dogs. Didn’t really have pets.
When I was a child, Roosevelt was President of the U.S.

My favorite meal my mother made, and what made it so special, was:
Glorified rice–jello, rice, and cream (whipped, I think). My mom made it for one of the Hoganson’s funerals. I ate so much of it, I was sick.
These are some of the things I remember about trips my family took as I was growing up:
Had picnics with family in Fork-u-fines(?) in Iowa.
This is how I would describe the house and neighborhood I lived in as I was growing up:
1st house: 2-story, 4 bedrooms, N of Jackson, outdoor plumbing.
2nd house: Big, square house, 4 bedrooms, wood/coal heater in the living room.
These are ways that neighborhood has changed over time:
1st house in Jackson is still standing–nobody lives there.
When I started school I was 6 years old.

One of my favorite teachers in elementary school—and why—was:
Ms. Tobison–She gave me a ball for completing a task.
I didn’t like one of my teachers (Mrs. Schudeberry) because she had “an attitude”–she didn’t like my mom.
This is how I got to school each day:
Either our folks took us or we would walk.
Things I enjoyed doing most as a child were:
Rode a small bike, drive a tractor, grind feed once in a while. Was in the school play. Botched my part.
These are the things I remember most about my teen-age years (friends, activities, school, special events, favorite foods and songs, jobs, heroes, etc.):
Delbert Ring was a friend. Didn’t have a job. Attended school in a one room school house. At Christmas time, there was always a Christmas tree with real candles.
This is how I would describe myself when I was a teenager:
Quiet, didn’t get into mischief.
This is what I remember about my first date:
Don’t remember my first date.


My first job was:
Artificial inseminator.
The work that I did in that job involved:
Reaching inside the cow and spraying the semen inside.
The things that I especially remember about my first job were:
Quite a bit of driving all over the county. Farmers would call when they had a cow in heat.
Other employment I have had over the years included:
Worked for Art Vold doing construction.
The jobs I liked the best, and why I liked them, were:
Didn’t like any of them.

Marriage and Children

This is how I met my spouse:
Through Lyle Jurgens. Shirley went to Alabama with Audrey Jurgens and I met her there.
Before we were married, we dated each other for about IDK years. We were married on November 23, 1953.

When were first married, we lived:
The old house on the Windom farm.
We bought our first house in Bingham Lake for about $6,000. Our first car was a ‘49/’50 Ford and cost about $10K.

These are the homes and communities I have lived in since I was married, and here is how they’ve changed over the years:
Bingham Lake, MN
Howard Ketzenberg’s farm
Aurora, Colorado–grown very much
Brighton, Colorado–grown very much
Some important things I have learned about marriage are:
After losing my spouse, there were simple things she wanted to do that I could have and should have done.
These are the names and birthdays of my children:
  • Laurene Ann – September 11, 1954
  • Lynden Mark – November 12, 1956
  • Leslee Roberta – July 20, 1958
  • LeAnn Kay – September 28, 1959
  • Lisa Carol – December 10, 1960
  • Larry Douglas – October 18, 1964
  • Leah Lynn – January 16, 1973
My spouse and I and our children celebrated Christmas, birthdays and other holidays by:
On Christmas Eve we either went to my parents or her parents. For birthdays the kids would pick what they wanted for dinner.
Family traditions that we began were:
Oyster stew on Christmas Eve.
I best remember these trips which our family took as our children were growing up:
Camping trip to Blue Mound, near Worthington with Slayton.
Camping trip to Colorado with Lyle Jurgens.
Camping trip to S. Dakota with Chet Bennet.
Camping trip to Wisconsin with Kermit Twait.
I remember these humorous or memorable stories about our children as they were growing up:
When we lived in Aurora, Larry took a scooter to the open field and he got it stuck in the mud. I chewed him up one side and down the other. Also, LeAnn and Lisa were backing out of the driveway. LeAnn backed into the trash cans. Lisa got out to move them and was snickering the whole time. LeAnn looked at her and said, “Shut up!”
My grandchildren remind me of my own children in these ways:
I don’t know.
What I have enjoyed most about being a parent is:
Parenting was not always fun. I’m glad I had so many kids to take care of me.
Some of the things I have learned as a parent are:
Parenting was not always fun.
This is how I would describe our family over the years, in terms of its character and unique aspects:
Kids always seemed behaved and disciplined in public. Got complimented for it several times.

Other Areas of My Life

As an adult, I have enjoyed these hobbies or pastimes:
If I could teach a special hobby or skill to my grandchildren, I would choose:
As an adult, these friends have been especially important to me:
Kermit and Betty Twait, Archie Amundsen
Numerous historical events have occurred during my lifetime (the depression, World War II, the Korean War, the war in Vietnam, the assassinations of important leaders, the space program and many more). Some events that I particularly remember or that affected my life, and the reasons why, include:
I remember going to Camp Rucker, Alabama. My job was driving truck – it pulled a big gun – this was used for training new recruits for Korea.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Obituary: Gordon Robert BLAKEY

Obituary. Gordon Robert BLAKEY. Image courtesy of Mark D. Williams.

Gordon Robert Blakey

December 16, 1929 – December 26, 2018

Gordon Robert Blakey, 89, of Brighton passed away on December 26, 2018. He was born on December 16, 1929 in Jackson, Minnesota, the oldest of five children born to Verland Edward and Agnes (Roe) Blakey. He was baptized on January 5, 1930. Gordon was a 1947 graduate of Windom High School in Minnesota. He married Shirley Jurgens on November 23, 1953 at St. Frances Xavier Catholic Church, in Windom, Minnesota.

Gordon grew up working on the family farm. He served four years in the US Army during the Korean conflict at Ft. Rucker, Alabama. After the Army, he worked as a carpenter building homes in Minnesota. In 1970, he moved the family to Aurora, Colorado, and began building homes for Sanford Homes giving 100% to his employer. When their children left home, he and Shirley moved to Brighton, Colorado. A talented woodworker, in retirement he spent hours in his garage shop making shelves, picture frames, and other keepsakes.

Gordon loved country western music and his ice cream. He wasn't a talker, but when he did he was wise with his words. He was a hard worker, teaching his children a strong work ethic; yet he cherished his rest and Sundays of worship at Zion Lutheran Church, Brighton, CO, where he was a faithful communicant member and an usher for many years. Gordon was adored by the youngest grandchildren and loved by everyone around him. He left a legacy with many good memories. He will be greatly missed.

Survivors include his children, Laurene (Ken) Klassen of Mountain Lake, MN; Lynden (Julie) Blakey of Commerce City, CO; Leslee Stowell (Roger Jardee) of Westminster, CO; LeAnn (Kevin) Thomas of Kiowa, CO; Lisa Minton of Lochbuie, CO; Larry (Diane) Blakey of Brighton, CO; and Leah (Danny) Wagner also of Brighton, CO; siblings, Verla Williams, Sharon Asche and Pam Wilmes; 22 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Verland and Agnes Blakey; his wife, Shirley, in 2009; and brother, Averland Blakey.

Funeral Service for Gordon are at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, January 4, 2019 at Zion Lutheran Church, Brighton, Colorado. Interment will be on Monday, January 7, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. at Ft. Logan National Cemetery, 3698 S. Sheridan Blvd., Denver, Colorado. Memorials may be given to TRU Community Care Hospice: trucare.org/donate

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gordon Robert BLAKEY Memorial (1929-2018)

Memorial. Gordon Robert BLAKEY (1929-2018). Images courtesy of Mark D. Williams.