Last year, we were standing at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, during a naturalization ceremony… this year, was more personally nostalgic.Jose and I left Chicago this morning at 7:30am, lost an hour through the time change, and my family in Warsaw, Indiana.

Mother, along with my great-aunt, Norma (Grandpa Barmes’ younger sister), and Uncle Jack (Norma’s husband), and my Uncle Danny (he is actually my grandfather’s younger brother – 22 yrs younger, and 9 months older than Mother!) went to lunch, and then paid a nostalgic visit to Dewart Lake – the retirement home of my great-grandfather (Aunt Norma and Uncle Danny’s father). The home was purchased somewhere between 1959-1962. Grandpa Virgil added on to the house, and built a garage, and workshop.

The house is up for sale, and Uncle Danny pounced on it! Within 20 minutes he was discussing the matt! er with the Realtor.

We peaked inside through windows and I took some photos of the original cabinets Grandpa Virgil built. The garage door was open, and there we found even more cabinets!

Uncle Danny, Jose and I walked to the lake and spent some time talking to folks who lived there. The lake, with the island and Grandpa’s pier, was one of the most peaceful, beautiful moments of this trip.

Over in the swamp lived the famed WOOFENWAFUS.

Grandpa Virgil lost two fingers on one hand in an accident with a table saw. To keep all the grandchildren, and later, great-grandchildren from wandering to the lake alone, he created this creature who lived in the lake – the Woofenwafus. Mother said she even use to sit on her hands for fear the creature would chew her fingers off her hands.

One Christmas, when I was about 5 or 6, Grandpa Virgil pulled me on to his lap and told me a hunter had caught the Woofenwafus out of the lake one morning and shot him… the creature died. However, I was assured there wou! ld be mo re baby woofenwafus clamouring out of the nest that following spring… sadly, the creator of the Woofenwafus, known to countless others beyond our family, passed away that September… Grandpa Virgil is no longer with us, but the Woofenwafus lives on in the woods at Uncle Danny & Aunt Bonnie’s farm, and one cousin told me it is sometimes in the trunk of her car when a son wishes to not behave.

Once, my grandfather drove me up to Dewart to go ice fishing with Grandpa Virgil. On the ride up, I was told that Grandpa Virgil was chopping a hole big enough for the boat to fit in… of course, we arrived to the ice house, instead.

So you see, Dewart Lake, to me, is truly Grandpa Virgil. Many gatherings were held here, and many wonderful times.

We left the family and ventured around the lake to Quaker Haven. I knew of the location while growing up, and was re-introduced to the camp in 2005 by Amanda Berlon and her family. Jose and Caleb Berlon went to! camp there for a week, and this was fun for Jose to visit. He took some photos, and eagerly told me of the fun things he had done while at camp… it was finally a break from stories of being with Uncle Destin and Aunt Stacia…

We left Dewart Lake – and for some reason, I believe I will be returning… I arrived thinking of this as sort of a farewell visit as there did not seem any reason to return… however….

We headed north to Syracuse, about 15 miles away, and there I visited one of my most favorite places from my high school and early college years… Smith-Walbridge Drum-Major Camp.

In 1979, I became one of the first freshman drum-majors in the country. Tudy Smith, the nationally known baton instructor was our choreographer at Elwood, and she insisted I attend this camp… and I did.

Four remarkable years as a student, and several as an instructor. Last week, I wrote Gary Smith, the son of the camp’s founder, and he cautioned me that it was run down in appearance… and it is… but still, enough of the camp was still standing.

Twenty-nine years ago on July 7th, I arrived at Smith-Walbridge Camp, and my life changed…

Today was just the best way to end a few fun filled days with Jose, and ending it with family, and wonderful visitations to sites deeply carved into memories from youth….