Our Town’s History – Lou Ann Homan
The note came in the middle of January. At first I thought it was a scam email offering me a million dollars if I were to send out my social security number and my bank routing information. The subject line was in large print: MEREDITH.
Curiosity does funny things, and while I secretly wish the Duke of Any Country would find me a great recipient and care taker of money, I know better. But, one never knows. I open the email.
I blink and read it twice before I realize the weight of the note, the importance of the note and how it was worth more than the million dollars offered to me by the Duke.
Meredith writes that she and her mother, both from the Phoenix area, are descendants of the Hendry family and they would like to know more about them. She came across my writings of Louisa Gale Hendry through KPC. I actually sat quietly for a few moments letting this story sink in for me.
It is no secret that I love my town and the history behind it. During the Angola Carnegie Library Centennial Celebration I portrayed Louisa Gale Hendry at the library. I loved researching her and learning all I could with the help of Peg Dilbone, our county historian.
I wrote back immediately. We chatted through a few more emails until I got the note that she and her mother Yvonne and sister Claudia would come here to Angola to see their family history with their own eyes.
I took my note up to the library and found Peg, as usual, working away. We sat knee to knee talking about this event. Peg had already made a list of all the places we should go. Even Peg’s list made my head swim a little.
“We can’t possibly do all of that in two days!” I remarked to her.
But Peg has an uncanny way of raising her eyebrows to adversity. I just had to smile.
A few more emails, a few more months and the day has come. I want the day to be beautiful with blue skies, wispy clouds, and a cool breeze coming off of our 101 lakes.
It is not to be so. It is gray and rainy with a high humidity, but nothing could daunt away the excitement I feel in meeting the Hendrys. There is so much to show them and so many stories to tell them.
Peg and I meet them at the Potawatami Inn, they are staying at Pokagon, for breakfast. When I arrive there are two large gifts bags at the table of three women. Who needs the sunshine where there are three smiling Hendry women? We become instant friends talking a mile a minute, all of us.
Peg tells stories. I tell stories. They tell stories. They put a photo of Yvonne’s mother on the table as a mascot. She is beautiful. We sit for two hours talking over coffee. They buy our breakfasts and give us the gifts from their home in Phoenix.
Finally we make a plan. We will do a drive through of Angola. They arrived late in the evening and have not even seen the town yet. I am bursting with excitement as if it were Christmas morning with packages strewn across the living room. I want to shout to our server, “The Hendrys are here! The Hendrys are here.” But I know she wouldn’t know what I was even talking about.
We begin our drive through, starting with Trine University and weaving through the town. We stop in front of the court house and Peg and I tell stories of the circle and share stories about our monument. I feel as if I can’t talk fast enough to get all the stories in.
We leave the square and head over to Hendry Park School. I take their photo in front of the school. I must confess that a pang of jealousy hits my heart as I wish my family had a school named after us. We go by the old Hendry site and house, the Hendry flats, the location of the old Hendry Hotel and talk about the fire. We head over to the fire station for photos.
I am dropped off before they meet Amy Oberlin for a story as they head to the cemetery.
Yes, the Hendrys are here. I can’t stop thinking about them, and yes, I am in love all over again with my town’s history.