June, 1982. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Bill, Grant, Trudy, Lefty, Dena, Harry, Martin

Who were they? That maniac who brought his boat roaring full throttle in to the dockÖ The man who yanked the refrigerator out of a rented trailerÖ The lady who kept the entire camp awake most of the nightÖ The uncle who fed ashes and pebbles to baby birdsÖ The young woman who leaped into the lake when she had to go to the bathroomÖ And the baffled psychologist who observed all of this and shook his head sadlyÖ

They were Vogels..

And why not? It was the Vogel family reunion.

The idea for the reunion had been born long ago: It had simmered slowly, been warmed in the round-robin letters that circulated among the brothers and sisters. Tentative suggestions had become firmer suggestions; the idea grew steadily past the dream stage, and finally became realty.

The reunion took place June 9, 10, and 11, 1982, at Brouwer Park, near Grand Rapids, Michigan. The 200- acre park, four miles west of Stanwood on the Muskegon River, has many sandy beaches, 8000 feet of river frontage, 230 modern campsites with water and electrical hookups, a boat ramp and many other recreational facilities. Trailers had been rented for those who didnít bring their own Rvs. It was a delightful setting for a delightful occasion, and everything came off smoothly-- thanks to the hard work and planning of Left and Betty, Harry and Betty, and Trudy and Fletch. The Grand Rapids Vogels had made all arrangements, attended to all details, had even arranged for interesting weather--a bit of rain, cool invigorating breezes, and one absolutely perfect day of sunshine.

Those in attendance were the Vogels--Dena, Martin, Grant, Bill, Harry, Lefty and Trudy; their spouses; and some of their children and grandchildren, with some of their spouses.

And which were the Vogels about whom the psychologist was to concerned?

Well, the speed demon was Lefty.

The refrigerator-yanker was Bill.

The pebble-feeder was--no, youíll have to guess.

The lake-jumper--Carol, Leftyís daughter.

The lady who had to be shushed by the ranger? That was no lady; that was Shirl, Martinís daughter.

And the psychologist (who probably is still pondering the whole thing) was John, Andyís son.

The first hour of the reunion was bedlam--relatives to be greeted, sites to be selected, RVs to be parked, newcomers to be hailed as they arrived. A huge area had been reserved, so that all Vogel RVs could be parked near each other, ringed by the many other campers in the park. Groups got together excitedly, to embrace, to chat, to exclaim, to exchange news, to show pictures, to take pictures, and to await whoever would arrive next. There were many surprises--relatives who hadnít seen each other for years, some who had never seen each other before, some who had come unexpectedly; and stories many had never heard.

Vogels kept arriving, until almost all of them were present.

But where was Martin?

Finally Grant phoned Martinís son Del, who said Martin had left a long long time ago, and should have arrived by now.

Worry, worry.

Eventually, hours late, a magnificent motor home rolled it. And from it descended a magnificent fivesome--Martin, Wilma, their daughter Shirl, her husband Jack, and his son Tobin. Jack admitted, under some prodding, that they had come by way of a scenic detour.

The drama of the reunion began at once. Trudyís daughter Connie came running in to report that something in her trailer was saying ďCheep, cheep,Ē and she didnít think this was a reference to the quality of the trailer, either; she thought it meant that something alive was trapped inside the walls. Or maybe that the trailer was haunted.

An investigation ensued. Everyone crowded into Connieís trailer and listened. Sure enough: twittern twitter, cheep cheep. Everyone took a turn at tapping, testing, thumping, and listening. And finally the diagnosis seemed certain: a nest of baby birds. Obviously this particular trailer hadnít been used for a long time; it had been left in one place for weeks, and a pair of birds had built a nest, only to have the whole thing suddenly pulled away from them. The nest was in an almost inaccessible spot; the parent birds had been getting to it through the refrigerator vent on top of the trailer.

Much consternation, much consultation, and many attempts to get at the nest. But it was totally inaccessible. The babies were soundly stuck in the wall behind the refrigerator, and there was absolutely no way to get at them They would starve.

But Connie stated firmly that the babies would NOT starve; if nothing else, the trailer would have to be moved back to where it had been originally, so the parent birds could resume taking care of their babies.

After much discussion, much getting-together of heads ( and even a few mutterings that a good spraying with Raid might solve the whole problem) a solution was found. Bill, with tools, muscle power, and skill proceeded to take out the refrigerator. Everyone hung over him, watching and waiting excitedly. Suspense filled the air; this was like opening a Christmas stocking--what would be found?

Not surprisingly, it was a nest of baby birds--starlings. ConnieĎs little daughter Charity was enraptured; at last the reunion, which until now hadnít seemed a very interesting or worthwhile project, made sense to her. Immediately she established that she wanted to take the birds home with her after the reunion; Connie agreed, although she was a little doubtful as to what Daddyís reaction might be.

Then for a while Connie was very busy, preparing a bed for the birds and finding worms and other delicacies for them. While she wasnít watching, a prankish uncle playfully dropped cigarette ashes and tiny pebbles into those unsuspecting little wide open mouths. (If thy baby bird ask for worms, wilt thou give it a stone? Apparently so.) Fortunately for the birds, Connie didnít let them out of her sight for long at a time, and they survived. And everyone--with the possible exception of this uncle, who shall remain nameless--was delighted, and oozed and aahed over these latest little vogels to arrive at the rrenion.

The reunion-goers were made up of three principal groups: the Vogels; their spouses (hereinafter referred to as the in-laws); and their offspring (hereinafter referred to as the cousins).

Among each of these groups a strong separate theme, a unity of feeling, seemed to emerge and develop. Among the Vogels, the feeling was joy at being together again, joy because the reunion had finally worked out. Joy because all of the beloved brothers and sisters were together again.

Among the in-laws, there was a sharing of this feeling, and more besides. They discussed the hazards, pitfalls, and surprises inherent in being married to Vogels. Most of the inlaws, and at least one cousin, agreed that the Vogels have one trait in common: they are RIGHT. This discovery had been made by each of these in-laws separately over the years, and now they compared notes--giving examples with fondness or affection or exasperation. In any discussion, it was agreed, the Vogels are right; and no amount of argument, persuasion or reason will have any effect.

Among the cousins, the prevailing feeling was one of astonishment and relief at discoveries that were made. In the atmosphere of sharing and revealing, skeletons came tumbling and toppling out of closets, and cousin after cousin learned for the first time that others too had fallen off the straight and narrow path. Besides relief, there was a little resentment at having been kept in the dark. One cousin wondered aloud why she hadnít been informed of any of this before, why she had been allowed to bear the burden of thinking she was the only black sheep in the entire virtuous family. Keeping secrets in an attempt to preserve the good name of a family is perhaps understandable, the cousins agreed--but honesty is better.

For three days people ate, drank and were merry. Small groups got together and talked, big groups got together and talked; everyone changed partners and talked some more. Some people went boating, some played golf, some lazed on the grass. There were marshmallows and wieners, and tales told around the campfire. There was food, food, food, provided by the Grand Rapids people, who had gone far beyond the call of duty in making plans and preparations for every detail of the stay.

Each moment of each day and night, something was happening. There was Lefty, bringing his boat back to the dock at top speed. A cable to the throttle had broken; he had replaced it with a rope, and now he couldnít control his speed; it was come in full throttle or not at all.

There was Grant , in another boat, with a different problem. He had to come in slowly or not at all. He came creeping back to the dock, conserving fuel, and he barely made it. He had assumed that because the other pontoon boat had two gas tanks, this one did also. But it didnít; it had only one, and that one was almost empty.

There were Harold and Fletch, wearing wigs, making grabs at each other, with photographers clustering around recording their outraged expressions. To know Fletch is to love him; to watch him dissolve into helpless laughter over the absurdity or pointlessness or inevitability of something is to love him more.

There was Nancy, with her arm in a sling, claiming throughout the reunion that she had a possibly-broken wrist. Well, maybe. For sure, she was getting out of a lot of work, and people were performing all kinds of little serviced for her--cutting up her food, tying her shoes, etc. Strangely, she resisted all attempts to get her to go to see a doctor, thus adding to the general skepticism about this whole sorry affair.

There was Martin, coming up behind Dena to hug her as she stood listening to a group. Without turning to see who it was, she squeezed his hands. ďDonít you even want to know whoís hugging you?Ē he demanded. ďNo,Ē she said. ďIt feels so good I donít even care.Ē

There was Shirl, whose fascinating conversations and monologues around the campfire held everyone spellbound--and even captured the attention of the park ranger. ďAha,Ē he said. ďSo youíre the one whose voice carries so far. There have been complaints, you know. Itís after midnight, and people would like to sleep.ď Quickly Shirl said, ďIf we go to bed right now are we forgiven?ď (What you mean we, Shirl?) The ranger conceded that he supposed so. Everyone was quite disappointed; there had been hopes that sheíd be popped into jail. Or made an example of in some amusing way.

Those who attended the reunion only part of the time, and/or who cane to the June 12 picnic, which was the grand finale, were John and Arlene Baas, Fred and Esther Feikema, Steve White, Martin and Marie Van Vuuren, Milton amd Dorothy Van Vuren, Art and Rena De Vries, Bill and Bertha Boukama, Elizabeth Vander Steen, Sid and June Vander Wal, Joe Uchima, Debbie Vogel and Greg Vogel.

And hereís a view of the reunion through the eyes of most of the people who attended:

Bonnie Noel (Trudyís daughter): I came here with a need to see these people again, to see why I am the way I am. I feel different from my friends; I feel Midwestern. I feel that I have more common sense. I feel that I am more stable. I think the Vogel familyís stability is so wonderful-- the stability of the uncles and Dena, I mean, not my immediate family. Iíve found it to be what I remembered--except that now I can talk to my aunts and uncles on a deeper and adult level. I wouldnít have been able to face them right after my divorce, but now I havenít felt any sense of disapproval.

Betty (Harryís wife): Itís been nice after all these years to get a chance to talk to certain ones I havenít really known before. Itís surprising to find out how much they think alike, Usually thereís so much rush; this time we can take our time talking to people. Itís been especially nice to see Dena; we donít get to see her very often. We donít get to see Martin and Wilma much either, and we would have liked to spend more time with them. Weíve often thought how good the round robin is; without something like that, no one would know whatís happening in each family. The main thing that occurs to me about the reunion is that it would have been nice to have it earlier when my mother was alive.

Harold (Billís son-in-law: Itís been great.

Wilma (Martinís wife): Speaking as an in-law, Iíd say this is one family that IS a family, with lots of love and respect for each other. I know of no other family that has so much of oneness. Itís been beautiful getting together and learning to know each other and to see some people that we havenít seen for years. Weíve all changed a lot, but our love hasnít changed.

Martin: This reunion is wonderful; I really never thought weíd pull it off. I certainly wanted it to happen, at least once in my lifetims, but I didnít honestly think weíd be able to get everybody together at once. Weíre having a terrific time, I will always remember this as the highlight of 1982. And we certainly want to thank the Grand Rapids people for organizing it and for feeding us.

Grant: My comments are probably the same as everyoneís--this is a beautiful spot, and itís just great that all of us could have this opportunity to get together. And itís nice that so many of the children and grandchildren came. It would have been nice if even more could have made it. As Martin said, weíve been talking about a reunion for several years, but didnít think it would jell. And now itís rather sad that itís coming to an end so soon. Iím hoping the pictures will turn out well, and weíll have a lot of good pictures to remember it by.

Betty (Leftyís wife): I was surprised and pleased that so many nieces and nephews wanted to come, since it was originally for the brothers and sisters. Everyone seems to be getting along fine. One thing that surprised me is how much the Vogels all look alike as they get older--except Dena.

Chuck Brinks (Andyís son-in-law): I think itís tremendous, really. I mentioned this to the people where I work and they were really quite amazed that relatives would come from all over the country for a get-together like this. I have enjoyed it, and havenít felt left out. I had been conditioned to like the Vogels, and now that I have met them all, I still like them. With some families, after three days of being together, thereíd be some animosities, but not here. And thatís not surprising. I expected everyone to have a good time.

Dena: We have anticipated this for a couple of years already. Itís almost like the Lord had led us here. Where else could we have gone? And all arrived safely. I just tell Walter the Lord provided. In a family this size, not all would be able to come to another reunion. The next reunion will probably be in Heaven, and I hope and pray that none will be missing. Andy gave a beautiful testimony the last time I saw him; we had come to see him in the hospital. ďI am so tired,Ē he said. ďI want to go home.ď I said, ďWhere to?Ē and he said, ďEither to Hudsonville or to my home in Heaven. I prefer going home to the Lord.Ē Oh, that just meant everything to me; now we know we will meet him again. And we are looking forward to seeing Leroy there too.

Walt (Denaís husband): I have enjoyed this very much. It seems to be a very cooperative group, well organized; everyone is agreeable, there is no dissatisfaction. It brings back past memories, pleasant memories and associations. What I feel is just plain satisfaction and enjoyment. We are very thankful that all can be here and all seem to enjoy the blessings of good health and fellowship.

John (Andyís son): The main thing I notice is the basic warmth and concern and goodness of everyone in the family; secondly, that this closeness has survived in spite of rather fantastic geographical separation. Driving up here, I was apprehensive, Part of my apprehension was because I am here to represent my father, and I had sensed that they missed him very much.. But I quickly became very comfortable. The Vogels, I would say, have objectivity and at the same time a real respect for the old family values. They cam talk about their grandfatherís values with respect and objectively. I think this family allows for a lot of divergence.

Virginia (Andyís daughter-in-law): I think the idea of having a reunion is good. As we get older we tend to search out our roots. Iím still a bit confused as to whose children are whose. But everyone is very compatible. I think itís fine that we made this effort to get together, especially since John has only one sister. Also, Iíve been surprised our son is as comfortable here as he is, because he doesnít know any of these people either. I enjoyed talking with Helen; I hadnít known her before. Everyone has made us feel comfortable. And a lot of credit is due to Harry and Lefty and everyone who helped.

John Andrew (Andyís grandson): All of a sudden I feel like I am part of the Vogel family; I never did before, even though my name is the same as that of the father of this whole group. I used to be more proud of my middle name, but now I am more proud of my last name, Itís amazing how quickly you can form friendships and get along with people you havenít seen in fifteen years. Iíve enjoyed it; itís a good end to the school year.

Joyce Brinks (Andyís daughter): I think the reunion is just wonderful, and I guess the surprise is that itís even better than I thought it would be. And another surprise is that we all get along so well together, and there is so much love in this family. They all mean so much to me personally--I suppose because my parents are gone. Iím real thrilled with the fact that weíre all getting to know each other, because the way weíre all spread around the country doesnít allow us to get together much. Now itís almost to the point we can consider these people friends as well as relatives--and a real special thanks to Harry and Lefty for putting it all together.

Trudy: Itís been great fun, and we should do it more often. Always, when we get together, we let loose and have a super-great time. Because we are a close family even though we donít see each other much. I enjoyed everything, but especially the chance to see the nieces and nephews that I havenít seen for so long. We havenít kept in touch. I feel the nieces and nephews among themselves are getting as much out of this reunion as the brothers and sisters. My only disappointment is that more couldnít be here.

Helen (Billís wife): Iíve enjoyed everything the way it is. Itís been nice seeing everyone. It seems everyoneís having a good time, having fun talking and listening. Nothing about them seems so much different. They all seem the same. Of course we see most of them quite often. It was nice meeting John and Virginia and Fletch.

Sharon (Billís daughter): I think this reunion was a real good idea, and Iím glad we came. I would not want to have missed it. Last night, I got a real surprise--I discovered weíre not the only family in which the parents have to hang their heads sometimes, and Iím really happy that all these people, after not seeing each other for twenty or thirty years, can talk, be familiar, feel like friends. I had wondered if weíd feel uncomfortable or like strangers. Because there are such big differences between some, but they all get along well. I think itís really neat that a group with such a variety of people can relate to each other so well. And I have a chance to play golf for only the second time in my life.

Bill: This reunion has been long overdue, and we should do it again. Iím not sentimental about going to visit relatives, but this has been very enjoyable. There havenít been any particular highlights, just a very nice time, and we want to express our appreciation to the Grand Rapids bunch for all they have done in making arrangements.

Charity (Trudyís granddaughter): Q. What did you like most about the reunion? A. the boat ride was fun. Q. What else? A. Playing with Amy. Q. Who is Amy? A. The little girl with the pink pants. Q. Who is she? A. My friend. Q. Is she a relative? A. No. Just a friend. Q. What else would you like to say about the reunion? A. The birds are fun. No, put ďbirdies.Ē I have a long story. We got íem out of the side of the fridge. And we took care of Ďem like weíre doing now. And we fed Ďem, and put Ďem to sleep. The best thing about the reunion was getting the birdies. Iíll take care of Ďem till they learn to fly. Iíll feed Ďem till they get fat. Q. You mean the Vogels have their round robin, and so you want a round starling? .A Um Ö I guess so.

Carol White (Leftyís daughter): The most interesting thing that happened to me during the reunion--and I have to report this because Bonnie said she would if I didnít-- when we were out there on the boat for such a long time, I kept asking my dad if he was going to get it fixed, I said I had to go to the bathroom and couldnít wait much longer. My mother said to just jump in the water and I did, but then I was laughing so much I couldnít go anyway. The people on the boat were hysterical. But seriously, this reunion is really nice, especially having it at a park like this. Itís more casual; everyone can be together for a long time, besides, I like to camp.

Harry: Iíve enjoyed this a lot; itís been quite important to me, partly because I havenít seen some of these people in twenty years, and I wouldnít have known them if I met them on the street. I had almost lost track of some of them. And then there are new ones to meet, like Shirlís husband. This has been a good way to get together, to get to know each other and visit.

Lefty: Itís just great that we could all get together for a change. Especially having these young people to keep it lively, although certain ones have to be quieted down when the ranger comes around. They arenít such good golfers, either. Betty and I found that out when we went golfing with Jack and Shirl and Harold and Sharon. Also, they had some problems getting here. John and Virginia got lost, and Jack had trouble reading the simple map which was furnished.

Shirl Hamm (Martinís daughter): Itís been interesting to me, after being away so long, to see the Vogels again. They are different from what I had thought. Each so super and nice. I didnít really like the group I had made them out to be. I had thought they were all in the image of Grandma Vogel; I had thought they were stuffy, on pedestals, had halos. And that our black sheep were the only ones. But I discovered they all have skeletons in the closet, and I have found a new family, one I like, other than the one I had conjured it up to be. I can be comfortable with this new family. I used to have a Shirl for San Francisco, and a Shirl for Mom and Dad, but now I can be myself. Now I can take the real Shirl and put her in there. Itís a nice feeling. Each generation is different from its fatherís; as the world progresses, so do the children I realize our children will have a still different set of values and I hope Iíll be able to adjust to that.

Jack Hamm (Martinís son-in-law): I was disappointed not to see more of the second and third generation here. I had met most of Dadís brothers and sisters. Lefty and Harry did a super job of coordination. I donít know if they should have also had the responsibility of meals and food. I felt that after a short time everybody sort of blended together. The ones itís hardest for are those who donít know anyone. I have seen a good blend of personalities here. Some of the people are living in a closet and donít want to bring their feelings out, and Iíve seen others open up. I think a lot of the family traditions, ones it was assumed would go on forever, are going to disappear; people will be more open with each other in the future, The Vogels donít keep their sons and daughters informed enough. Shirl learned so much at this reunion that she hadnít known before. Even heard about some cousins that she hadnít known existed. But the younger generation here is obviously able to communicate openly. I think there ought to be more reunions, getting the younger people involved, so they will carry it on--or eventually the family will spread out and many of the family members will be strangers to each other.

Tobin Hamm, 11: Itís been pretty fun, meeting people and playing, and everybodyís been so nice. I expected more people. Some of my friends have gone to reunions, and the pictures they show afterward have a hundred people.

Connie Uchima (Trudyís daughter): The best thing about the reunion happened last night when Shirl brought out that each of the cousins thought we were the worst of the family. Now weíve discovered we are so much alike. I have many emotions about this reunion, Iím not sure what they all are. One thing I know, Iíve always wanted to be like Aunt Dena; Iíve always seen her as the happiest one of all. The big surprise, though, was to learn that I havenít been the worst person. I thought I was the one they all laughed about and talked about, because I was so terrible. I guess our parents would like us to be quiet about all this, but we need to talk about it. They were raised differently; they donít talk about things that were done wrong; they keep secrets--and that gives a false pedestal image, one which is impossible to live up to. I think this reunion is the most wonderful thing that this family has ever done. Already I wish we could plan another with at least a yearís notice so everybody could come.

Vernon Fletcher (Trudyís husband): This has been tremendous. Trudy talks about the Vogels so much that I almost feel that I know all of them. And Lefty and Harry do so much for us, they readily volunteer to do things Iím not quite up to doing--and this has probably helped keep me out of the hospital. I think itís impressive that this many can get together for a reunion without any more sorrows and in good health. I havenít met a one that I didnít like, including the in-laws, yet each has gone a different path in life, and no two are alike,

Personally, I shared the emotions of all three groups--the general
satisfation of the Vogels, the fond but exasperated consensus among
the in-laws; the preference for honesty voiced by the cousins. It was
interesting, and a privilege, to interview each person, and I hope I
havenít misquoted anyone. And for me, the greatest delight was the
degree of rapport I felt with the cousins.

(Grant's wife)