Merry Christmas 2012 and Happy New Year 2013

With 2011 being a year of concerts and travel, we began the year 2012 wondering “What’s next?” Not content to wait until the travel season, we took off in mid-January for an overnight trip to Carmel-By-The-Bay, California. Little did we know that not only would this be our only trip until several months later, we didn’t even travel more than 25 miles away from home during the next four and a half months. So, what to do with all this idle time? Roger took it upon himself to do some genealogical research into Cece’s family. She had grown up not knowing much about her father’s side of the family, so after thirty-five years of curiosity, Roger finally decided it was time to do something about it. First on the list: find out if she had any aunts, uncles, grandparents or cousins that were still alive. Add to the list: try to locate her two half-sisters. And while he was at it: find out her family’s heritage. It had always been a challenge to let our kids know that they were Swedish, Norwegian and Russian on dad’s side, but on mom’s side? We knew her maternal grandmother came from Canada, and her maternal grandfather came from Germany, but on her dad’s side? Zilch.

A little bit of Internet digging turned up the first nuggets. First, her grandparents’ names, and the names of their children, and that led to almost a flood of new information that opened up clues to an ancestry that led back to colonial times, and even back into Renaissance-era Europe. Roger even discovered that Cece and President Thomas Jefferson shared a common ancestor. The third President’s grandfather, also named Thomas Jefferson, was Cece’s seven-times great grandfather.

While these revelations brought a lot of interest, it wasn’t until we made contact with Cece’s 83-year-old cousin Rose in Indiana that the lost family started to come back together. A simple letter to a found address was all it took. When she called us back a week later, it was the first contact that Cece had ever had with any of her father’s family. We revealed to Rose that we were planning a trip to the Illinois/Indiana area in early June, and would like to have a chance to meet her. That got the ball rolling, and before long, the first Bennett family reunion ever was organized for June 5. Everyone was excited to meet this “new” cousin from California. As it turns out, Cece was the only one at the reunion who actually had been named Bennett. All of the others were Bennett descendants, though.

The trip was fruitful in more ways as well: not only did we get to meet Rose’s family, but also cousin Shirley and two of her daughters, and all the grown “children” (they’re all older than Cece) of Cece’s late cousin Mildred. Cece also got to visit the graves of her father, grandparents, several great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents and even a great-great-great-grandfather. Plus, those of her aunts and several other cousins.

But amidst all this joy, there still lacked one goal: meeting her two half-sisters, Alice Larue and Phyllis. Although several of the other family members had had contact with them over the years, recent contact had not been maintained. A few clues as to their whereabouts were researched, but still led to dead ends. We returned home, happy, but still mystified.

But Roger did not give up, and continued his research path. Finally, locating what seemed to be a viable mailing address for Cece’s half-sister’s son, another letter was written, and the response via telephone came about a week later. Yes! By the next day, we had spoken with the eldest half-sister, Alice Larue, and began speculating on when we would return again to Indiana to finally meet her. She had been under our nose the whole time. We had even driven past her home while in Indiana in June.

We had already planned an October trip to Texas and other points east and south, and realized with a little route-tweaking, we could make yet another trip to Indiana (via Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois). The meeting with Alice Larue and Phyllis took place on Tuesday, October 9. We spent most of the next day traveling with Larue (as she is known) and revisiting some of the gravesites that we found in June. The family was complete, with not only one, but two sisters named Larue! Onward we continued our travel travel through Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana before returning home from Texas.

Complete? Well, not exactly. There was still one more cousin that had not yet been found. No one knew much about his whereabouts, but more online clues indicated that it was likely that he lived in Southern California. Yet another letter was written, and on Saturday, November 17, Bill called us and confirmed that he was Cece’s cousin. The final piece of the puzzle had been solved!

Believe it or not, there were a few other things that happened in 2012, and they will help to shape 2013 as well.

Roger was appointed to the office of Area Governor in Toastmasters, overseeing four clubs in Roseville and Rocklin. He also completed his Advanced Communicator Bronze award, and he and Cece managed to slip in a few Todd Rundgren concerts, as well as The Beach Boys (on New Years Eve), Ringo Starr, The Monkees, Rick Springfield, Three Dog Night, America, The Happy Together Tour featuring The Turtles, The Grass Roots, The Buckinghams, Mickey Dolenz and Gary Puckett, and the Lost 80’s Live tour, featuring a number of 80’s bands. Plus a production of “Wicked” in Sacramento and “The Great Passion Play” in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. They look forward to what probably will be the final show of the year, Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Cece found herself reassigned to Wilson Riles Middle School, a move she was glad to make after spending a year at the elementary school level. She continues to improve her health with regular visits to Curves and Zumba sessions, and occasionally brings home the big bucks (sometimes as much as $10!) with a win at her monthly Bunco group.

Brad started the new year with a new car (to him.) He traded in his ailing Dodge Dakota and got a Dodge Nitro. Brad ended his nearly four year run at McCormick and Schmick’s by taking a new job as lead prep cook for Beerman’s, a restaurant in Lincoln, California. And he gets to stay home to take care of the cats while Roger and Cece spend time on the road.

So, as we look again toward 2013, we once again ask “What’s next?”