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Down the Lane: Been to a family reunion lately?

As you may be aware from my columns, I am a believer in going to family reunions. I guess it is in my blood, (no pun intended) since my Mom and Dad were also believers.

Through their ties to their families, I have gotten to know and love my kinfolk from both sides of the family. We have been there for one another in the good times and the sad times, during sicknesses or the loss of a family member.

Yesterday I went to the Willoughby side family reunion, which also includes the McCall side of our family. Yesterday was the 49th year for the reunion. We voted to have one more year to make it the 50th year reunion in honor of our descendants.

As I reminisced about the first reunion I attended, I recalled what was important at the time was seeing my aunts, uncles and cousins again. I remember all the excitement Mommy and Daddy seemed to have on the drives to and from the reunions. On the drive up, we five kids were told how to behave and if we were spoken to, we were to speak up and use our manners.

On the way home, unless one of us had gotten out of line, the conversation was usually about how happy they were to have gotten to see someone who had driven a great distance to come to the reunion and seeing other family members. There was always a happy lilt in their voices. It was always a fun time.

Yesterday I was given a treasure trove of goodies by the oldest living member of our group, Allen Willoughby and his wife, Norma Jo. She came to me early in the reunion and gave me a box full of mementos and history that my great aunt Mayme Willoughby had kept through the years of past reunions. I was beyond happy. She could have given it to anyone else in the group and I got it. She told me she knew I was interested in history and she is right.

She also handed me a paper from the early days of the reunions. It read, “a man and his wife with the “Willoughby” name came from England to Massachusetts and settled near Boston. It was in early colonial times. They had twin sons, James and John. Something happened to the man. They think he either got lost in the woods or killed by some wild animals or captured by Indians. No one knows what became of the mother at the time, but John and James came to Kentucky. Legend tells us they were among the earliest settlers who passed through the unclaimed Bluegrass and settled in Montgomery and Powell counties. Alonzo was the one for the first of James’ descendants to live in Montgomery County. Alonzo was my grandfather, Cort’s father.

From the Daughters of the American Revolution records, we can go back even farther than this when they came over on a boat. I am not surprised that one of my siblings had twins in his family since they were prevalent on both my father and mother’s side.

The paper also read that Richard (Dick) Chiles who was an eminent lawyer of Mount Sterling and interested in genealogy said that the Willoughby family was a part of the English aristocracy. (I wondered if the Mary Chiles hospital where my oldest daughter, Kim was named, came from this man’s family. More history for me to find out.)

Sid Calk (Calk Lake) also said in searching for the Calk family roots, he learned the Willoughby family was of noble ancestry.

I love hearing anything about my ancestry. I know without my ancestors, I would not be the person I am today. To some people, getting that box of mementos about my ancestry might mean papers or clutter. To me, I felt I had been handed the greatest gift. I love my family so much and miss all those who have gone on. Life is so precious to me. I value my being.

Last year, we had a cousin at the reunion who seemed to be doing fine and visited with everyone there. He was worried about his wife who was ill. We all thought he was doing great but could tell he was concerned about his wife. A week later he had passed away and we were at his funeral. As his brother stated yesterday, each day is precious. Our families are precious. We never know when our time is up. We need to make each day with our families count.

This year, I have two brothers battling cancer, one with lung cancer and the other one with leukemia. They were at last year’s reunion but were unable to make it this year. Life changes fast.

I am once again encouraging you to go to find out more about your family. Family is important.

Sue Staton is a Clark County native who grew up in the Kiddville area. She is a wife, mother and grandmother who is active at First United Methodist Church and Towne and Country Homemakers.