My maternal grandmother was born 109 years ago today. Hard to believe. I loved my Grandma Kreykes and was blessed to know her into my own adulthood.
Hendrikje (Henrietta) or “Hattie” Van den Bosch Kreykes, the daughter of Dutch immigrants, was born in and lived her whole life in northwest Iowa. The area was settled by Dutch immigrants in the 19th century. Those settlers included her own parents and two of her grandparents. It was, and to some extent remains, a conservative culture strongly influenced by the Reformed Church.
Grandma’s father, Gerrit Van den Bosch, came to America as a young man from Doornspijk, a village near the very old city of Elburg in the province of Gelderland. Her mother Marrigje (Mary) Van der Maaten, whose family originated from the same region of the Netherlands, arrived as a girl with her parents, Herman and Lubbigje (Lucy), and some of her siblings.
Grandma’s early years were spent on a farm with eight siblings. Her mother died at the age of 46, when my grandmother was only 16, no doubt having a profound effect on the family. Sorrow continued to follow the family for a time when the youngest child, Margaret, died only a few years later at the age of 5. Grandma’s family eventually moved into the small town of Boyden, where Grandma and her siblings took on extra responsibilities due to the loss of their mother. Grandma married my grandfather, Joe Kreykes, in Boyden in 1930.
My grandparents spent their first years as a family in Boyden, where my own mother, one of four children, was born. They would later move south to farm near Seney, then eventually into the town of Orange City, which is the county seat of Sioux County. In Orange City, they ran a hardware store on the main business street downtown. While my grandparents lived their whole lives in northwest Iowa, they were able to take vacations to places such as Colorado, New York, Texas, Utah, Canada, and even back to the Netherlands in their retirement years. They also visited us in New Mexico, a place that probably remained a bit of a puzzle to them.
We used to visit my grandparents in Iowa in the summertime, traveling from our home in New Mexico, and I remember spending at least one Christmas there. These are happy memories for me. I earlier wrote about our visits to Orange City, where we helped Grandma pick vegetables from her backyard garden, snapped beans for dinner, played in the neighborhood park and pool, went to church at First Reformed, where Grandpa always had a bag of peppermints on hand, visited neighbors and relatives, went for ice cream, and sometimes concluded our visits with a walk to the Dutch Mill Pharmacy for a souvenir. We also spent a little time in the hardware store, where my strongest memory is of making bows for packages on the device they kept at the front counter. I wrote about the hardware store earlier as well.
When I am working on my family history, I often think of the time that Grandma brought out some old family photos, including one of her parents. While I didn’t fully grasp their importance at the time, I remember Grandma remarking about how much they meant to her. The moment has always stayed with me, although it means even more to me now than it did then. I’ve never really forgotten one of the photos she showed us of her parents, which appears at the right.
Grandma was a quiet person who had strict standards and didn’t like me using words like “golly gee,” which I learned after casually singing a song that contained those words. She was kind and patient in correcting me.
She went through a battle with breast cancer in her later years, and eventually suffered from a form of dementia that may or may not have been Alzheimer’s. I remember that while her short-term memory had suffered, she still was able to draw up old memories that pre-dated me. She passed away in 1995, a couple years after my grandfather. I’m exceedingly grateful to have known her for as long as I did. I find that, more and more, I am realizing how much I learned from her that mattered. I love and miss you, Grandma. Rest in perfect peace.
This is the third in a series, Birthday Profiles, which includes brief descriptions of ancestors on the anniversary dates of their births. It is one good way to slow down and focus on individuals in their totality.