Prayer for Peace

May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be free from their illnesses.

May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free.

May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another.

May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wildernesses–the children, the aged, the unprotected–be guarded by beneficent celestials, and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood.

–The Buddha

Twelve prayers for peace from many religions

Otto deGruyter

My great-grandfather, Otto deGruyter, was the last of my ancestors to make it to West Virginia, sometime just before 1880.  In the 1880s he went from farm to farm in southern Roane County with a pack and a chest of tools, repairing clocks and watches.  He boarded for a while in Sissonsville, and then lived on Canoe, near Linden, where he was apparently known as “the old Dutchman,”  although he was only in his late thirties at the time.  Otto married Jane Hill in 1885.  Her parents were Henry Robert and Caroline Cosby (Taylor) Hill, who were both from early settler families along the Elk and southern Roane County.  Otto was 40, and Jane only 24, but Otto told her he was 34.  His christening record in Germany and the 1880 Census say he was born in 1845, but every census after that and his gravestone say 1851.

Otto deGruyter on right

Otto deGruyter on right

Jane and Otto lived in Geary District, where my great-aunt Eunice, my grandfather Olen, and my great-aunt Iona were born.  Otto went to work for C.D. Springston in his shop on the courthouse square in Spencer. In 1909, they bought a farm at the edge of town, on the Parkersburg Pike in the hollow between College and Cemetery Hills.  They moved to a house on Chapman Avenue, on College Hill, in 1912.  It was started by John Arnott and completed by Jane’s brother John Hill.  Mr. Springston died, and Otto bought the store.  Olen went to the Philadelphia Institute of Horology to become a watchmaker, and the store became deGruyter and Son.  Iona, who never married, clerked and did jewelry repair in the store for 50 years, working for her father, her brother, and her nephew.  Otto died in 1937.  His grandson, my father, Ferd deGruyter, joined his father Olen in 1946.  The store, with much of the block, burned in 1956.  Ferd rebuilt it.  It was the oldest operating business in the county when he and my mother, Anna Mary McVaney, were killed in a car wreck in 1982.  Watch repair had become a victim of digital watches, and the store building now houses a restaurant, the Main Street Cafe.

Otto was one of five brothers from a family in Venlo, Limburg, in what is now the Netherlands.   Before Otto was born, his parents, Ferdinand Jan deGruyter and Louisa Arnoldina Alydce Venhorst, moved to Moers, which now a part of Dusseldorf, Germany, not far across the Rhine from Venlo.

Brother Martin went to the University of Heidelberg, and then came to the United States, where he served as a major on General Echols’ staff.  Brother Henry went to medical school at the University of Brussels and followed Martin.  A brother, Arnold, and a sister, Josephine, stayed in Germany.   Martin and Henry married sisters, Cynthiana and Julia Crockett, daughters of John B. Crockett, a farmer and salt manufacturer at Marmet, and cousin of  David Crockett.  Henry  was a pharmacist and printer, and Martin a salesman, in Covington, Kentucky, with business interests in Cincinnati.  Otto came first to Covington, where he was naturalized, and then to Kanawha Co., where Martin went in the early 70s.  Martin was a brewer in Charleston, but finally lost all his property.  His son Julius became mayor of Charleston and postmaster, and his grandson Julius a writer and Kanawha County historian.   His son Ferdinand prospected for gold in Nevada and Alaska, before returning to settle down in Sissonsville.

Not a White Christmas in Tennessee

“United States coal plants produce 129 million tons of postcombustion byproducts a year, the second-largest waste stream in the country, after municipal solid waste. That is enough to fill more than a million railroad coal cars, according to the National Research Council.”  From the New York Times article on the TVA coal ash spill in Harriman, Tennessee.

This is clean coal?

For more information, see

Leaving Home

I left West Virginia 30 years almost to the day of the day we closed on our new old house here.  Back then, of course, I had no idea it would be so long before I would return.  I was going off to graduate school to learn more so I could come back and do good.  One thing, of course, led to another – marriage, a job in Tennessee, children, a move to Texas.

The house I was leaving had been my great-grandparent’s, looking out over Tanner’s Run across to Reservoir Hill in Spencer:

Hill home, high above the hollow
The north wind comes cold tonight
Seeping silent through your crevices
Aged phantom footsteps tread your boards
Father of my father’s father
The boards you nailed up still run true
Mother of my father’s father
Still and warm I sleep tonight
Beneath the featherticks and quilts you sewed

A Civilized Life

One of the joys of our recently retired life is the ability to work on our own schedules.  After decades of getting up before daylight because of our work schedules, the kid’s school schedules, and living on the far western edge of the time zone, we can sleep until dawn.  So as day breaks we get up and have cappuccino.  (We’re on our second cappuccino maker.  The first was one of the best Christmas presents I ever gave Robert, and he’s is a great foamer.)  I admire the sunrise and the view from our patio, no matter how cold.  As long as there is no wind, even 15° isn’t bad (in a hat – as I told our children for years, 60% of heat loss is through your head.)  We work for a while – the last month, mostly physical labor, cleaning, pulling up carpet, caulking, scraping.  Robert is telecommuting half-time; I am researching and writing.  Then a real and leisurely breakfast – oatmeal with cream (the oatmeal counteracts the cholesterol, right?), buckwheat pancakes, or waffles with whole cranberry jelly (Norwegian lingonberry jelly being hard to come by).  More work, and lunch, although we are thinking of adding elevenses.  Perhaps a drive, a walk, shopping, or outdoor work, and then tea, in the den, which has a sunset view.  I have been making yeast-raised teacakes occasionally.  Time to prepare a real dinner; we have had take-out only twice in more than a month.  All that cooking is more work than the quick meals and takeout we had fallen into were, but the work is a pleasure.


Locksmithing is apparently one of those dying trades.  I’m not sure why, since there are ever more doors and locks.   I called a locksmith after Robert spent half an hour going up and down Main Street trying to locate him from the address in the phone book.  The neighboring businesses disavowed all knowledge.

“Where exactly are you located?” I said.

“On 19 across from CVS,” he said.  This is nowhere near Main Street, but about half a mile from our house and we’re by there regularly to the supermarket, CVS, and the Go-Mart (which stocks the best brand of pepperoni rolls.)

“Oh”, I said “You’re not on Main Street?”

“No,” he said, “Never have been, but the phone book has been wrong for about 5 years.  I’m not there anyway, I’m in Fairmont.”

“When might you be back?”

“Don’t know, I’m working on a safe.”

“Oh, well, we’re going to Food Lion anyway, so we’ll check then.”  So we did, and there was a sign on the door (which has faint old Subaru dealership signs, but is now a trailer and U-Haul place, plus there was a “Safe Sale” sign) that said “Back in 30 minutes.”  We went grocery shopping and went back; there was someone there, but the locksmith had gone home for the day.  We went looking for another locksmith, but since the address was a home with no signs, we didn’t go knock.

All this was in aid of getting a key for the lock on the basement door so there is a door besides the front we can get into from the outside.  It was a nice old Yale lock, and we like to repair things rather than replace them if we can.  The next day, Robert called the first locksmith, who was in Philippi working on a safe this time.   He called the second one, who said yes, he worked out of his house, but if his truck hadn’t been there, he wasn’t there anyway.  Robert took the lock over, but the locksmith couldn’t get into it, had no barrel that would fit, and “it’s a spring lock that you could open with a credit card anyway – get a deadlock.”

So we went off to the Ace Hardware in Bridgeport, got a deadlock, and Robert installed it.  (That makes it sound easier than it was, but he is very handy.)


This is why many people choose to have their floors refinished while they are out of town.  I  am in our bedroom, the only room on the first floor without at least one open doorway, with our three cats and the litter box, where I will remain until the first coat on the floors is dry, a few hours, we hope.  Although when I asked yesterday, “How long until we can walk on the floors?”  Joe said “Until they’re dry.” With a grin.  He likes to yank my chain. He told me “As warm as you keep the house it should be dry by the evening.” We keep it at 65° during the day. Yank, yank.

And this is only the first coat of three.

The cats have decided that our bedroom closet, a new addition by the previous owners, floor to ceiling on one whole wall, with layers of shelves and three sets of folding doors, is a giant cat house.  There are sometimes spectacular crashings as they leap from shelf to shelf.  They spend most of the day there; nights they spend barreling around the nearly empty house, echoing like mad.  So we didn’t have to round them up, just close the bedroom doors.  Robert is in the kitchen, with access to the back door.  He has opened the basement door so he can go out and back in to the bathroom down there.  The front door, across a huge expanse of newly finished floor, is the only one that can be unlocked from the outside.  We are on an odyssey in search of the locksmith to re-key the back door lock into the basement, but that’s another story.


The floor guys, father and son, showed up bright and early Monday morning to sand and finish the floors.  We had hoped they could just be stripped, but after 90 years, at least 50 of them under carpet, it would have taken weeks of hands-and-knees stripping.  And the hands and knees would have been mine and Robert’s.

Here are the floor guys, Joe Fincham and Joe Jr.,  at work:

Joe Fincham Joe Fincham Jr.