Montague three-reunion vacation

Julie and I went to my hometown—Montague, Michigan—for five days, spanning Independence Day.

The vacation began as a get-together with my immediate family on the 4th. Then I learned the annual Eilers reunion would be on Sunday. Along the way, an impromptu gathering happened with some of my mom’s side of the family.

I wish I had taken more photos. Here are the better ones I snapped, in chronological order.

Our first morning in town, I headed out for a run, a favorite thing to do wherever I go. Along my route, I passed my first school. I attended Oehrli Elementary until we moved to Hart in November 1964, when I was in second grade. My first three children were students here, before we moved away in 1992. Now, two of my grandchildren attend here.

Independence Day began with another run. I was on the rail trail, heading toward downtown. It was almost parade time, so I looked for family. My first wife Kim was settled in with three of our grandkids: Maggie, Charlie, and Margot.

Montague boasts the world’s largest weathervane. Yes, it works. And, yes, couples get married under it!

On the 4th, we gathered at my son and daughter-in-law’s place, two miles north of Montague. In this pic, from left: grandson Oliver, daughter-in-law Tara, sister-in-law Jo, sister-in-law Debbie, granddaughter Margot, brother Dave, brother Tom, son Addison, and my first wife Kim.

Friday morning, I contacted Rhonda Bogner, who was one of my good buddies during our Hart years, when we were ages 7 to 11. Rhonda became a good friend again through Facebook, and I saw her in 2013, but had never been to her house. She lives outside of Muskegon, only twenty minutes from Montague. She was home and gladly welcomed our stopping by, and she finally met Julie. We had a lovely visit!

Friday afternoon, Julie and I drove to Lake Michigan, where the channel connects White Lake to the big lake. The boat traffic was heavy, as it should be on July 5, with sunny skies and temps in the 80s.

Lake Michigan’s water level in June measured a few inches short of its all-time high. Everyone had told me, “There’s no beach left.” As you can see, there is, but … see the man at left, standing in the water? I suspect in a typical year he would be on dry land.

My folks are buried in the Montague cemetery. I don’t have the need to visit often, but we had a few minutes when we returned from the lake and it popped into my mind to stop. Mom’s stone is more dull than Dad’s because she’s been there 24 years longer.

I had posted on Facebook that Julie and I were in Montague. Cousin Kim Wiegold (far right) saw the post and said that a bunch of my mom’s side of the family would be in Muskegon for the weekend. Friday evening, we gathered at Rebel Pies, which just happens to be co-owned by my son Addison.

I had not seen my uncle Ky, who is my Godfather, since his wife, Aunt Ginger’s, funeral in 1994. He’s the gentleman in front of me. With us are his three daughters and some other dandy folks from the Vogel side of the family.

While Indianapolis has been a blessing for Julie and me, I am a small town kid at heart. I miss the wide open spaces of Montague. On Saturday, I jogged the rail trail to the west of town.

The trail became a reality because of my uncle Bill Field:

Saturday afternoon, Julie and I made a quick trip to Hart, a half-hour north of Montague, where I lived from 1964-68. Julie gazed at the lake from a spot that is a block from where we lived.

When I go home, I most often stay at what I lovingly call the Todd B & B. I’m even more welcome when I bring Julie with me! Saturday evening, Grace “Mom” and Tim, who’s been my best friend since 1975, and Julie and I enjoyed a meal at the Old Channel Inn, on Lake Michigan.

Our five days were capped off by the annual Eilers reunion, twenty minutes northwest of Montague at Claybanks Township Park, which sits on Lake Michigan and is only a couple of miles west of the family farm:

It was only the second one I’ve been able to attend since leaving Montague in 1992. 45 were in attendance, including all three of my dad’s living siblings: Betty, Pat, and Margaret.

We departed the reunion for the long drive south on US-31, our hearts filled with joy for our week chock-filled with family and friends.

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