Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - October 13, 2017

It takes a team

When brother Dave, sister Gaila and I were little, our family traveled to southern California to see our relatives. The train trip itself was a great adventure. The state always seemed so exotic with its palm trees, lemon trees, oleanders, bougainvilleas and birds of paradise. We kids loved exploring Disneyland, Marineland and Knott’s Berry Farm. Adding trips to the beach, with its waves and tide pools, made it a dream-come-true. Watching old home movies and slides and listening to the older folks talk about their younger years was almost as entertaining.

Uncle Stan and Aunt Kay were always a big part of those trips. So with their 70th wedding anniversary approaching earlier this month, I couldn’t help but reflect on those earlier times.

They also traveled to our farm in Kansas many times over the years. We ate fresh tomatoes, corn on the cob, watermelon and homemade ice cream with them. On one memorable occasion when I was small, I even shared “mud pies” with Kay. She pretended to sample one and told me how delicious it was. I don’t think she expected me to follow up with a big bite of my own. I didn’t share her taste for them!

But I remember appreciating Kay’s willingness to actually play with us kids. Stan, too, joined in, when we played catch and caught fireflies in jars.

During World War II, Stan had been in the Pacific with the 100th Air Squadron, patching holes in fighter planes. After the war, he didn’t want to farm, so he joined his brother in California. It was there he met Kay Lloyd, the pastor’s daughter, at his church.

Stan wanted to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., so I joined them there in 2004. We returned the following years and I had the opportunity to meet some of the men from his unit.

Over the years, the two of them were wonderful at “orchestrating” Freeland reunions - in Colorado, Pennsylvania and California. They even inspired husband Art and me to host one in Manhattan, Kansas. Kay joked that Art preferred his relatives dead as he was always visiting cemeteries and doing research on some long-gone family member.

Art and I flew to California to help celebrate Kay’s 90th birthday in May 2012. We also did that in February 2013 for Stan’s 90th, but with some surprises. For one, Art left the house on the pretense of doing some family history and returned from the airport with Dave. When he walked in, Dave, who is a certified public accountant, said,. “I’ve come to do your tax return!”

Dinner at a local pizzeria offered an opportunity for another surprise. Bob and Jeff - two of Stan’s other nephews - and Jeff’s daughter Jackie, showed up unannounced and joined us.

The third surprise was a celebration Kay had organized at their church’s fellowship hall.

When Mom turned 90 in March 2014, they reciprocated, coming to Kansas to help her celebrate.

I saw them most recently in the summer of 2015. Gaila and I had talked for years about visiting Mount Rushmore, but opted instead to go to California. They got quite a kick out of me saying they “took precedence over the presidents.”

Stan and Kay had no children, but they have many nieces and nephews scattered all over the country. The couple holds a special place in all our hearts for so many reasons and I’m confident the others all have their own stories to tell as I have.

And it’s not just the big trips and reunions that have meant a lot to us. Stan and Kay are always intensely interested in knowing what we and our children are doing, and they remember birthdays, graduations, weddings and other special days. After our May 2012 trip, I wrote in my column: “The combination of her sunny disposition and his somewhat wry humor make them magnets for family and friends.”

So all of us wanted to do something to make their 70th anniversary special.

Since we couldn’t be there, I wanted a gift that was meaningful and a little different. I finally settled on making an 11-inch by 17-inch poster focused on the year 1947. I Googled “1947 events”, selected a few items from the thousands that popped up, and put them into categories. Naturally, I had to include the most important event of that year and so, located their wedding photo as well. I also added my brother’s name since he was born that year.

I sent these tidbits to daughter Mariya, who designed little icons to represent the different categories: a newspaper page, musical notes, a film reel, a book, a TV, a baseball and a computer.

After Mariya finished designing the poster, I printed and framed it. Art packaged it first in cardboard and then I wrapped it in silver paper. He found a big box, poured white packing “peanuts” into the bottom, put the gift on top, covered it with more peanuts, and sealed it up.

Stan reported it took him about 30 minutes just to extricate the gift from the box.

The Sunday before their big day, several nieces and nephews organized a get-together, complete with flowers, cakes, a banner and songs. Stan and Kay’s minister asked if they wanted to renew their vows, which they did. Kay said about 70 people signed the guest book, but she said it felt really intimate. They also received gift cards and flowers and so many greeting cards that it took them days to read them all.

So even though the Freeland - Lloyd team is spread across the nation, I hope we did a job worthy of the 70 year Stan - Kay team.

Left: Poster from "Team-Manhattan" celebrating Stan and Kay Freelands' 70 years together; top-right: the minister asks if they want to renew their vows; bottom-right: The answer was, "Yes!," and the deed is done.

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