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Monday, May 30, 2016

In Memory of My Fallen Ancestors

I post this every year and I'll never stop because it bears repeating.

Memorial Day isn't just about a day off from work and enjoying barbecues. It is a day to remember those who gave their lives in military service to our nation.

Whatever your plans are today, please remember to honor the sacrifices of America's fallen military heroes. 

The photo above is of my fourth great-grandfather, Major John Bennett Dickson (1793-1876), who served in the War of 1812 under General Andrew Jacksonfirst in the 1814 Creek War and then at the Battle of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815, the final battle of the War of 1812, where he was wounded and nearly lost one of his legs. Had he been killed, I wouldn't be here.

This 1890 painting of the Battle of New Orleans was created for the lithograph firm Kurz & Allison and is now in the Library of Congress.

Born in North Carolina, Major Dickson moved to Bentonville, Ark., as a young man and became a prominent businessman. He later moved to Fort Worth, Texas, and helped establish the square in what is now that city's historic downtown district, where he owned a successful mercantile business. A widower, he raised several of his 12 children in Fort Worth.

Two of his sons, my third great-granduncles Dempsey Powell Dickson (1843-1862) and Ephraim Albert Dickson (1840-1862), followed in their father's footsteps and volunteered for military service. They enlisted with the Texas Confederate Cavalry during the Civil War.

Dempsey, having enlisted upon leaving college in 1861, was killed in the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, in March 1862. 

This 1994 painting depicting the battle is by Andy Thomas.

I have visited this battlefield twice in my life. I can't adequately explain the emotional feeling of standing on such hallowed ground.

When John Bennett Dickson learned that Texans slain on the battlefield had been rolled in their blankets and buried apart from other soldiers, he sent a relative to have Dempsey's body exhumed and moved to the Dickson family cemetery near Bentonville, Ark. 

On July 8, 1862, Ephraim, who was his father's business partner, was shot through the head during the Skirmish at Paroquet Bluffs in Arkansas, which was also part of the Pea Ridge campaign.

He was buried at Paroquet Bluffs with other Texan soldiers, and later his father had his body moved to the Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

Crippled by grief due to the loss of his two youngest sons, John Bennett Dickson closed his mercantile store and spent the rest of his life as a recluse on a farm near Fort Worth.

* * *
This photo is of Elizabeth Gaines Easley (1818-1894), my second great-grandmother, who was married to my second great-grandfather Joseph Easley Jr. (1805-1883). (Easley is my maiden name.)
It is difficult to imagine their reaction and subsequent grief upon receiving word that two of their beloved sons, my great-granduncles Hamilton Easley (1837-1862) and William Easley (1841-1862), had been killed while serving side by side on the same day during the Battle of Perryville -- Oct. 8, 1862.

This sketch of the Battle of Perryville by Henry Mosler appeared in Harper's Weekly on Nov. 1, 1862.

Hamilton and William had enlisted in the Union Army together in August 1862. They served as privates in the 15th Regiment, Company B of the Kentucky Volunteer Infantry.

Hamilton's military records state that he stood 6 feet tall, had a light complexion, blue eyes and dark hair. There are no records of his burial; he is presumed to be buried somewhere at the Perryville Battlefield. [5/30/16 update: I will visit that battlefield in mid-June.]

According to William's military records, he stood 6 feet, 1 inch tall and also had a light complexion, blue eyes and dark hair. He is buried in the Easley family cemetery near Harrisonville in Shelby County, Kentucky.
Hamiton's and William's brother, my great-grandfather Edward Merritt Easley (1846-1903), survived the Civil War, which is why I am here. He served in the Union Army's 20th Regiment, Company B and as a corporal in the 30th Kentucky Mounted Infantry, Company G.

He fought in several Civil War battles and skirmishes, including the Battle of Lebanon and the Battle of Shiloh.

This drawing of the Battle of Shiloh appeared in Harper's Weekly:

Before the Civil War Edward Merritt Easley was a successful real estate agent.
After the war, he began showing signs of what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder and could not do much more than manual labor.

These kinds of disorders were misunderstood back then, and no treatment was offered by the U.S. government. He was still exhibiting behavioral issues, sometimes believing suddenly that he was back on a battlefield, when he married my great-grandmother, Ellen May Crouch Easley, in 1881 in Linn Creek, Missouri (they settled in his hometown of Lebanon, Mo.). She was only 16 and he was 34. She and their children simply had to put up with these ongoing issues, which became worse over time.

Finally, in 1902, he was admitted by court order to the Federal Soldiers Home in St. James, Missouri.

From there he was admitted to State Lunatic Asylum #3 (a horrible name) in Nevada, Missouri, where he died in 1903.

May Easley became a widow at age 39 with five children to raise, including my beloved paternal grandfather Jess Harper Easley (1891-1983) at the front right in the photo below and as a young man in the photo below that after enlisting for military service during World War I.

He served in France during World War I on the Western Front at Ch√Ęteau-Thierry and Belleau Wood. Of the 310,000 Americans who fought in France during World War I, 67,000 were killed in action. Thankfully my grandfather survived -- another reason why I'm here. He passed away in 1983 and I miss him dearly to this day.

This photo of American troops at Hill 24 at Belleau Wood is in the National World War I Museum:

There are many other stories of people in my family line who served in wartime, from the American Revolution to World War II.

I won't tell all the stories now, but I'm glad to have an opportunity to honor a few of them today.

Photo credits: Easley/Elliott family collection (in my possession), Library of Congress, Andy Thomas, Ann Erdman, Kentucky Kindred Genealogy, FindAGrave, Missouri Digital Heritage, Lyndon Irwin, National World War I Museum.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Looking for Something to Do? Free Events May 28 to June 3

Here are free events for May 28 to June 3.

All events are free, so take a look -- and don't you dare say there's nothing to do in Pasadena!

The California Senior Games Championships, featuring fierce athletes ages 50 to 90+ competing in nearly 30 sporting events from archery to volleyball, are ongoing through June 26. Come cheer them on!

Meet in front of the Eaton Canyon Nature Center for the guided Family Nature Walk Saturday, May 29, from 9 to 11 a.m. Walking shoes, sunscreen, water and a hat are recommended.

Children ages 9 to 12 will use sweet ingredients to create candy sushi Tuesday, May 31, at 4 p.m. at Hastings Branch Library.

In celebration of LIGO and the 100th anniversary of gravitational waves, a multimedia concert by composer/percussionist Andrea Centazzo Tuesday, May 31, at 7:30 p.m. in Caltech's Ramo Auditorium (inside Building #77 on this map) will be accompanied by personal stories of discovery by leading scientists. Although the event is free, tickets are required from the Caltech Ticket Office (first come, first served).

What Happens Next? Paintings by Joan Rita Pounds will be on view from Wednesday, June 1, to Sunday, July 31, in the Fireplace Lounge at the Pasadena Senior Center. Pounds was a successful portrait photographer when she became disabled more than 20 years ago and her ability to walk, talk and perform fine motor skills became limited. She reinvented herself as an artist, holding a paintbrush in her fist, and her works are included in a new book titled "What Happens Next?" with children's stories and illustrations. You do not have to be a member of the Pasadena Senior Center to see the paintings.

Sunny Tales: Down by the Seaside Wednesday, June 1, from 11 a.m. to noon at Pasadena Museum of History will feature a storyteller regaling tales about the sea to preschool-age children in the Finnish Folk Art Museum followed by each child creating a nautical craft to take home.

The Encore Saxophone Quartet will perform Wednesday, June 1, from 12:10 to 12:40 p.m. for the popular Music at Noon recital series at Pasadena Presbyterian Church.

This month's Free Family Night at Kidspace Children's Museum is Wednesday, June 1, from 4 to 8 p.m. Children will celebrate the coming summer by making flower crowns, creating their own sun dials, listening to folk tales about the cosmos inside the Star Lab inflatable planetarium and enjoying a special 6 p.m. performance.

Don't be a bystander during a cardiac emergency! The Pasadena Fire Department and Huntington Hospital will sponsor Sidewalk CPR Day Thursday, June 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Garfield Promenade (street level) at Paseo Colorado. Practicing on mannequins, you'll learn the basics and proper techniques of hands-only CPR, then you'll be able to receive certification,

A new load of garden-ready mulch from Pasadena Public Works Department street-tree trimmings will be available beginning Friday, June 3, at the southeast corner of the parking lot at Victory ParkBring your own shovel, container and gloves anytime between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The mulch supply is replenished once a month from February to October and is available to Pasadena residents only.

Admission to the Pasadena Museum of California Art is free the first Friday (and third Thursday) of every month. On Friday, June 3, from noon to 5 p.m. enjoy the current exhibitions Claire Falkenstein: Beyond Sculpture, Brett Weston: Significant Details and Kat Hutter and Roger Lee: Another California Day plus everything else the museum has to offer.

"Joy" (2015, PG-13) starring Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro will be shown Friday, June 3, at 1 p.m. in the Scott Pavilion at the Pasadena Senior Center. The film is based on the true story of a young woman who founds a business dynasty despite betrayal inside and outside her family. You do not have to be a member of the Pasadena Senior Center to attend.

The first Friday of every month is Free Admission Night at the Norton Simon Museum. On Friday, June 3, from 5 to 8 p.m. enjoy the current exhibitions Drawing, Dreaming and Desire: Works on Paper by Sam Francis and Duchamp to Pop as well as everything else the museum has to offer.

Photo credits: Today, Pasadena Star-News, Sweet Lil You, Andrea Centazzo, Joan Rita Pounds, Fave Crafts, Encore Saxophone Quartet, Kidspace Children's Museum, Sarasota Eventful, Gardening Know How, Crocker Art Museum, Twentieth Century Fox, Norton Simon Museum.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cynthia Rosedale -- A Celebration of Life

Our hearts broke when Cynthia Rosedale passed away on March 29.

Yesterday we celebrated her life.

About 250 people in the Scott Pavilion at the Pasadena Senior Center wept, laughed and remembered Cynthia fondly for her friendly demeanor, exceptional work ethic, encouraging manner and selfless generosity. People like Cynthia are born, not made. There will never be another like her.

A quartet of the Crown City Symphony, which Cynthia co-founded, played in the lobby as people arrived and later performed on stage.

Akila Gibbs, executive director at the Pasadena Senior Center, served as emcee and was simply magnificent as she made her way through the proceedings.

Cynthia touched so many people. California Senator Carol Liu came personally to speak about her experiences with Cynthia and to provide senate resolutions and proclamations to the Pasadena Senior Center as well as to Cynthia's daughter Katie.

Marc Riker, CEO of the National Senior Games Association, came all the way from Baton Rouge, La., to attend the celebration and had nothing but wonderful things to say about Cynthia, who served on the board of the National Senior Games for several years. At the time of her death, she was the vice chair of the board of the California Senior Games Association and organizing the California Senior Games Championships in three counties.

Katie was very brave to come up and speak about her memories of her mom in the context of the Pasadena Senior Center. This was a tough day for Katie, and she pushed through with courage and love.
Pam Kay and a few of The Tap Chicks performed to Cynthia's favorite song. Everyone loved it!

After the presentations and performances, lunch was served with all of Cynthia's favorite foods. Former PSC executive chef Jerry Salthouse returned in Cynthia's honor to prepare a gigantic baron of beef and Abel Ramirez and some of his staff from El Portal presented an entire buffet of Mexican food. Cynthia would be licking her chops!

So many people were there -- community leaders, PSC staff, volunteers and members, athletes who have competed in the Senior Games (including the remarkable Vivian Stancil, whom I featured in this blog post two years ago) and others whose lives had been affected in such heartwarming ways by Cynthia over the years. It was nice to visit with many of them.

Farewell, Cynthia. You will be in our hearts and minds forever.

All photos (except the top one) and video by Ann Erdman

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Generosity and Compassion

I was honored to be invited, along with nearly 20 other Huntington Hospital Cancer Center patients, to Tangles Salon on Wednesday, when the owner locked the doors at 5 p.m. and the entire staff donated their time to help make us look and feel beautiful during their annual Pink Ribbon event.

From massages and makeup to manicures and hair styling, their generosity and compassion was such a gift (including dinner). No fees were charged and no tips were accepted. Each person who donated services said it was their pleasure and their honor, which was such a kind thing to say. 

As you can imagine, many of the patients, including yours truly, were emotional throughout the evening.

The services I chose were a shoulder, back and neck massage, makeup, massage of arms and hands (by a manicurist) and a scalp treatment and massage plus hair styling by the young man below.

In the photo below are the breast cancer survivor (front left) and the Tangles owner (front right) who organize this annual event; a patient (back left) who is in the same breast cancer support group as I am; and Tina Ivie (back right), the registered nurse navigator who has been with me every step of the way ever since I was diagnosed in April 2015. 

Tina connected with me immediately after I was diagnosed, answered all my questions (and still does) and helped coordinate, along with my oncologists and others, every aspect of my care while encouraging me to take an active role in making informed decisions about my treatment plan. As you can tell, I love Tina Ivie! (Another Huntington registered nurse navigator, Nancy Cushing, was at the event as well.)

I don't think any of the patients can fully express our gratitude, but suffice it to say we were all tickled pink!

Photo credits: Tangles Salon (top photo collage, from their Facebook page), Ann Erdman, Tina Ivie, Doctor Goodsmiles.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Looking for Something to Do? Free Events May 21 to 27

Here are events scheduled Saturday, May 21, to Friday, May 27. 

All events are free, so take a look -- and don't you dare say there's nothing to do in Pasadena!

Experience traditional Native American dancers, drummers, musicians, singers, storytellers, artisans and more plus special exhibits during the Spring Awakening Festival Saturday, May 21, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, May 22, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Eaton Canyon Nature Center. 

Teens are invited to an anime afternoon Saturday, May 21, from 2 to 4 p.m. in Central Library's Story Room. Episodes of "Pumpkin Scissors" will be shown and everyone will help plan the anime screenings that will be scheduled this summer.

Children ages 5 to 12 are invited to read books to gentle, well trained dogs at Barks and Books Tuesday, May 24, at 3:30 p.m. at Hill Avenue Branch Library.

Pittance Chamber Music with members of the LA Opera Chorus will perform Wednesday, May 25, from 12:10 to 12:40 p.m. for the popular Music at Noon recital series at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. 

"Stand and Deliver" (1988, PG) starring Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips will be shown Wednesday, May 25, at 1 p.m. in the Donald R. Wright Auditorium at Central Library. The film is based on the true story of Jaime Escalante, a high school math teacher who successfully inspired his dropout-prone students to excel at calculus. 

Rob Schmitz, a China correspondent for NPR's "Marketplace," will discuss his life and work in Shanghai Wednesday, May 25, at 7 p.m. in the Crawford Family Forum at Southern California Public Radio. Although the event is free, you must reserve a ticket.

Sounds on South Lake presents Meli Melavasi performing Latin pop-rock Friday, May 27, from 5 to 7 p.m. at 251 S. Lake Ave. (next to Massetti Caffe Mobile).


The Open Studios Tour Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and 5, will feature 75 artists at 41 locations where you'll experience an intimate view into the the artists' lives and studios and how their creative ideas are conceived and developed, plus live music, poetry and more.

Photo credits: Crazy Crow, Animax, Analia Saban, Pittance Chamber Music, Warner Bros., Travel Massive, Meli Melavasi, Nicole Aquillano.