This is the story of a special tree in our family: the Drake Maple.
In 1986, my grandpa, Ed Drake, decided that he wanted to spruce up some of the landscaping at his house. He went to a nursery, and with the help of his horticulturally-trained son-in-law, picked out some bushes for the front of his house. They picked out some yews and spireas, and bought a pretty lilac bush to plant by the front bedroom window. As they were walking around the lot, the salesman learned my Papa’s last name, Drake. He said, “I have a tree with your name on it!” He convinced my Papa to also purchase a small maple tree, the Drake Maple.
The Drake Maple is a variety of Acer rubrum, and has brilliant fall colors. A U.S. patent for this new variety was filed by Virgil James Drake (no known relation to our Drake family) in January 1973. This variety is particularly unique in its fall coloring. It is described as “having distinctively colored leaves turning from green to a colored border through shades of blue violet to red and yellow,” and was discovered by V.J. Drake in Van Buren County, Michigan in September 1967. V.J. Drake was able to propagate seedlings through cuttings of the original tree. By the time my grandpa acquired one in 1986, it was available at a few nurseries throughout the United States.
My Papa planted his new tree in a place of honor, directly in front of his house. Every fall, it shows off its brilliant colors. The edges of the leaves turn red, and often the middle of the leaf turns from green to yellow. At different times, the tree may look red or orange from afar, and the variety of color in its leaves becomes apparent at close range. My grandparents loved to watch it change colors every fall, and it was often the backdrop for family photos. I have never seen another one in person. In more ways than one, this “family tree” is quite special.
This week my Papa would have turned 100 years old. My grandfather, Edwin William Drake, was born on May 2, 100 years ago in Genoa, Illinois. He was welcomed by his parents, Charles and Emma (Medine) Drake, and an older brother, Charles. He grew up on a farm near Genoa, and graduated high school during the Great Depression. He met and fell in love with my grandma, Millie Kaiser, just before she joined the WAVES during WWII. After she left the service, they were married in June 1946. They had two daughters and four grandchildren. He lived in the Genoa area for his whole life. He was a farmer, business owner, public servant, and foreman. He accomplished many things during his life, but his family was everything to him. Papa loved his family dearly, and loved to spend time with them whenever he could. Continue reading “Papa’s Centennial Birthday”→
I was named for two very special women in my mom’s life. One of them was Mrs. Eva Busch, who was like a grandmother to my mom when she was young. She lived right around the corner when my mom was growing up, and would often watch her while her parents were at work. Mrs. Busch had been good friends with my mom’s Grandma Kaiser, and although she sometimes took care of other children in the neighborhood, she had a special bond with my mom. My mom would spend time at her house after school and during the summer when her parents were at work. They spent many of their days baking pies, cookies, or bread. One of her specialties was Hickory Nut Cake. In the fall, they would gather nuts from the Hickory trees in their yards, and they would spend many hours cracking them and separating the nuts from the shells. After all that hard work, the cake was quite a treat! On warm days, my mom enjoyed reading a book underneath the large white bridal wreath bush in front of her house. Mrs. Busch’s garden also always had colorful snapdragons, and she would show my mom how to pinch the flowers to make the “dragons” snap open their “mouths.” On cold or rainy days, Mrs. Busch taught my mom how to play solitaire or other card games. Mrs. Busch passed away when my mom was in college. Although my mom always called her Mrs. Busch, she thought her first name, Eva, was a pretty name, and when I was born, she paired it with my aunt’s middle name, Anne, to make my first name. Mrs. Busch and my aunt were very kind, patient, and practical women, and were talented bakers. I’m hoping to live up to my name!
I have always been a ferocious reader, and always interested in the past. My interest in literature, history, public service, and genealogy has led to a career as a librarian. Last year I completed my MSLIS, but my family’s connection to libraries does not start there! Continue reading “Family History at the Library”→
George Frank Astling was born in 1946 in Sycamore, DeKalb County, Illinois, and passed away 19 November 2018 in Sycamore after battling Parkinson’s disease. He was the son of Donald and Vera (Angel) Astling. George grew up on the family farm, and as a youth, was an active FFA member. He often showed cattle at the county and state fairs. He graduated from Sycamore High School in 1964. After high school, he attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale studying Horticulture, and graduated in 1969. Continue reading “In memoriam: George F. Astling (1946 – 2018)”→