Thursday, December 8, 2011

2011 Christmas Letter

Les & Jean wish You and Yours a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
As we prepare to welcome the Christ child, to bid 2011 farewell and to welcome 2012, we reminisce on this the 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. How many of you remember Pearl Harbor? We can! Les lost a cousin and his sister husband, and Jean lost a cousin in the European conflict during WWII. We give many thanks to those who have fought for our freedom throughout history.
There have been many good times and unfortunately some sad times in 2011.  We spent most of the winter and early spring in Florida spending much quality time with friends and relatives. At Manatee Hammock RV Park, Wes Freeburn, Pat Berger and Don and Brenda Monn spent brief periods with us in the RV.
We cruised to the Southern Caribbean from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 16 to 25 February on the Holland America Line Noordam with 22 family/extended family members and friends. As always, it was a great cruise, especially when you know 22 of those on board! It was our first visit to St. Lucia, a beautiful island. Charli (Charlene) and Chuck Johnson had their children with them – they love to cruise! Chuck’s mother Jane, sister Betty and brother Richard and his wife Blick were with us. Cousin Bill and his wife Martha Potteiger joined us as did our friends Don and Brenda Monn. Bill retired from NASA 31 January.
Our eldest grandson, Mathew (Matt) Ryan Blake, left Fredericksburg, VA 12 March by bus with a friend to Georgia and the beginning of the ~2180 mile Appalachian Trail (AT) at Springer Mountain. They planned to hike for three months, both having lost their jobs earlier in the year. Well, three months turned into over five months because they decided to hike the entire trail. Matt completed the trail on Katahdin Mountain, Baxter State Park, Maine 22 August, birthday of his Aunt Charli. Matt’s friend just missed completing the hike due to knee problems. Son-in-law Chuck Johnson flew to Maine with his instructor to meet Matt and a hiking friend, Josh from Bowling Green, Kentucky and return them to his home in Amesbury, Massachusetts. We were in Amesbury to greet them 23 August and spend quality time with them before they departed 27 August. Matt can certainly be proud of hiking the entire trail, a feat that not many accomplish. He and friends did take a couple breaks during the hike, for example, one to surprise his mother Anna Elizabeth on her birthday 13 May. Matt posted his experiences on his blog: This was a learning experience that Matt will never forget and we are very proud of him, to say the least!
We attended a Mid-Atlantic Streamers rally at Natural Bridge, Virginia 19 to 22 May, leaving there for Lynchburg to visit with Jane Johnson and family. Leaving the campground 22 May, we were delayed on our trip over the Appalachians to Lynchburg by making a wrong turn and getting fuel. This delay was not planned, but, it turned out to be the talk of the Appalachian Trail that day and thereafter! Not the delay, but what happened on the road. As we were traveling through Glasgow, Virginia we saw four hitch hikers along the side of the road. As Matt recalls, we locked eyes! We stopped as soon as we could safely pull off the road. Matt came running up to us, we packed the four hiker's gear in the car, filling it and they joined us in the RV to return to the trail on top of the mountain! Not many hitch hikers get picked up by their grandparents in an RV who then serve them homemade Easter eggs! At times it is a very small world that we live in!
Prior to the Amesbury visit in August, we spent a week with the Johnsons and other family members at a hunt camp in New York state on the border with Massachusetts. Chuck is a member of the Yonker’s Rod and Gun Club that owns the 1000 acre camp. His late father was a founding member of the Club. We had a great time living in the RV parked behind the bunkhouse on a solid level ground.
In June, we hosted with others the second annual RVFEST (2011) rally at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds, Goshen, Indiana. Attendance was down this year to 111 individuals. Daughter Neena and husband Duane Durham were two of our six co-hosts who were a tremendous help at the rally. Their daughter Kathryn and our granddaughter Nattalie Carlson also were with us in the RV. After the rally, Jean and the others drove home in the Durham car and Les took the RV with car in tow to the Tiffin RV factory, Red Bay, Alabama for service. He had to leave it there so that the floor of the living room slide could be replaced. We picked up the RV in early August before our trip to New York.
Jean had a Pacemaker implanted 7 July and is doing much better. Prior to that her heartbeat was slow and it did not increase with exercise as it should have.      
Jean helped cater a party in June to celebrate Pastor Richard Carbaugh's 30th Anniversary at our church, Christ Lutheran Church, Fredericksburg, Virginia.  She catered Kathy Kravitz' Birthday party in September and helped orchestrate a birthday party for Steve Beneke in October. In September we were pleased to attend the wedding of good friends Bucky Van Horn and Nadine Proffitt at Bethlehem Presbyterian Church, Old Church, Virginia.
We hosted a Mid-Atlantic Streamers rally 13 to 16 October at the Misty Mountain Resort just west of Charlottesville, Virginia. We hosted RVFEST Christmas in Branson 5 to 12 November at America’s Best Campground, Branson, Missouri. We attended 16 shows in 8 days! You can read all about the rally on the RVFEST blog: We took the RV from Branson to Homosassa Springs, Florida where good friends Don and Suzanne Palczynski will look after it for us. It is parked in their yard. We left Florida by car, drove home, and a few days later left Virginia by car for Amesbury, Massachusetts. On the way, we stopped in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to visit with Ellen Emmons.  We spent Thanksgiving with the Johnsons. Chuck got his first deer, a seven point buck weighing over 200 pounds the day after Thanksgiving at the hunt camp in New York.
These are just a few of the good times. There were sad times as well. Sixth cousin Bill Potteiger’s mother Anne Electa Hopkins Potteiger passed away 6 January at 87. His father passed away 13 May 2010 at 92. Bill is their only child. We attended the service conducted by the Rev. Todd Babione, Bill and Martha’s son-in-law, on Merritt Island, Florida before traveling to the National Cemetery, Bushnell, Florida for burial beside her husband Daniel Ezra Potteiger, a WWII veteran.
Former Pastor Preston Dusman passed away in March, just short of his 84th Birthday. He was pastor of our church when we joined in 1967. Pastor Fred Eichner who replaced Pastor Dusman shortly after we joined the church retired after 45 years of ordination. He spent the last nine years at Lakeside Lutheran Church, Littleton, North Carolina where we worshiped 31 July when the church held a retirement celebration for him.
Wesley Emmons, fondly known at times as the 'Jogging Jeweler' and as the 'Mayor of 16th Street passed away 23 May at 83. He was Jean's cousin, the husband of Ellen. He and Ellen had a jewelry store at 258 So. 16th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Wesley designed jewelry for noted personalities Eleanor Roosevelt, George Jessel, John F. Kennedy, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Buddy Rich, J. Robert Oppenheimer and many others. He leaves behind Ellen and their two sons, Wesley W. Emmons, III, M.D. and Hoyt Emmons and four grandchildren. He was a WWII veteran.
Good family friend Gloria Mae Whipple passed away 13 August at 87. Alaska caravan friend Arthur Nock passed away suddenly 17 September at 64. We’re sure other many good friends passed on this year. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those left behind. As the late Cy Johnson, Chuck’s father, used to say: “There is only one thing wrong with getting old – all of my friends are dead!” As we age, this is becoming more evident to us – we are now the eldest generation! This is an unfortunate fact of life that all of us will face and none of us can escape.
We look forward to Christmas with family and friends before departing for Florida after Jean’s doctor’s appointment on 27 December. We spend a lot of time visiting doctors these days! Thank God they are able to keep us going! God is good! We will have a site at The Great Outdoors RV Resort (TGO) just west of Titusville, Florida on Route 50. Bill and Martha Potteiger purchased a beautiful home at TGO early this year. We will spend two months at TGO in our RV before traveling to Sarasota, Florida for a Tiffin RV rally 1 to 4 March. After that we will spend some time visiting friends in Florida before heading home prior to Easter Sunday, 8 April. It has been many years since we traveled around Florida in our RV!
We will host a Mid-Atlantic Streamers RV rally in mid-May near Luray, Virginia. We plan to attend grandson Alec Johnson's Amesbury High School graduation 1 June. June 2nd, he, his father Chuck and Les will from to International Falls, Minnesota to fish for a week in Canada with seven others. This will be Alecs first trip and Les' ninth.
We are committed to RVFEST 2012, our third such rally, 17-24 June at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds, Goshen, Indiana. August we will be at the hunt camp. After that, our plans are fluid!
We give heartfelt thanks to and prayers for all Service, Police, Fire Fighting and Medical personnel who ensure our freedom, keep us safe and healthy. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and you this Holiday Season. May you be blessed with the Spirit of the Season surrounded by family and friends with much fellowship, laughter and love. Have a great 2012!
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Love To All, Les and Jean Potteiger