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Woodworking column: They don't write obits like this, anymore

My late mother had a fine friend in Evangeline Vold, who watched over me after my mother died when I was a kid. She wasn't my godmother, but you might have thought so by the way she kept in touch until the day she died, showering my wife and me with gifts, like her ten-volume piano library and a quaint tea set with lyrics from her favorite operas.

Most of all she wrote me letters. Evangeline was the daughter of Doc Vold, the town dentist, and her mother was Vernem Ingalls, whose grandfather and the Ingalls clan arrived in what would become Whitehall in 1856, the same year as our family came from out East. I always assumed they were related to another Ingalls family, who arrived nearby in what would be Dunn County in the same era.

Just before she died, I asked Evangeline how she was related to the Ingalls family made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote "The Little House on the Prairie" series.

Evangeline, who taught English most of her life at Central and Logan High Schools in LaCrosse replied, "Alas, we are not related. If only we were..."

Not to worry, Evangeline! Gosh, if only you were still here to discover that one of your ancestors, probably a great uncle, was also an accomplished writer. I recently discovered that Frank E. Ingalls, an early Whitehall pioneer, also tried his hand at the writing game when his wife Mary died. Decades later, a family member shared the poem with the local press and the Whitehall Times published it in 1943. You don't read obits like this one in today's newspapers. Here it is:

"On a stormy night in winter, when

the winds were cold and wet,

I heard some strains of music, that

I never can forget;

I was sitting in the cabin where laid

Mary fair and young.

When a light shown in the windows

and a band of angels sang.

We are coming Sister Mary, we

are coming by and by;

Be you ready, Sister Mary, for the

time is drawing nigh.

I tried to call my Mary, but my

tongue would not obey

Till the songsters' strains had ended

and the singers flown away;

Then I woke her from her slumbers

and I told her everything,

But I couldn't guess the meaning, I

heard them sing.

When the next night came I heard

them, and the third night too

they sang,

As I watched beside the pillow of

my Mary, fair and young;

As I watched I heard a rustle as the

rustling of the wing,

And beside my Mary's pillow very

soon I heard them sing.

Then again I called my Mary, but

my sorrow was complete,

For I found a heart of kindness had

forever ceased to beat;

And I now am very lonely, from the

Summer round to Spring,

And I oft in midnight slumbers,

seem to hear the same ones sing."

I'm not finished, Evangeline. In the same Times issue is a thoughtful prose poem by Francis E. Ingalls. It's about friendship, a gene you obviously shared with your ancestor.

"It is sweet, aye double sweet, to have a friend to whom one can pour out the whole heart; who is a second self, to whom we can hold sweet communication and pour out the secret workings of the soul, the hopes and fears the joys and sorrows of life; to whom, scorned and hated and hunted down by the cold and heartless world, bleeding under the ingratitude and desertions of false friends, we can turn and rest our aching heads upon his bosom."

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.

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