Treasured Memories: A glimpse into the past of Nelson and Shirley Stearns
By their daughter, June Stearns Butka
In reflection of the new year approaching, I find it important to remember our loved ones. Those with us and those who have gone before. Today’s post is in loving memory of my parents. My father, Nelson William Stearns, died 12 Aug 1988 and my mother, Shirley Beatrice Pease-Stearns, 28 Apr 2001 are deceased. In Christian beliefs they are in heaven at the side of their Lord. In Native American beliefs they moved on to the spirit world. Others believe they are buried in the ground for eternity. I believe they are in my heart guiding me through the journey of life. I feel their spirit, their energy and even occasionally smell their essence. My Dad always smelled of car grease and Mom like Lilly of the Valley’s.
Nelson and Shirley Stearns always spoke about the fact they would have had a “Bakers Dozen” of children if she didn’t miscarried four time trying for a boy to keep the family name going.
Nelson was an Auto Mechanic and by his own words “A Jack of all trade, a master of none.” Shirley was a Nurse’s Aide as well as helping Nelson with his service station in Pembroke, Merrimack, New Hampshire in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Nelson and Shirley were baptized 29 July 1984 by Rev. Stephen Brewer, St. Saviour Pond Limerick, Maine. That same year they both passed their GED Exam becoming High School Graduates.
He died of heart attack after a long battle with Colon Cancer and Alzheimer’s. Thankfully he was dealing with Alzheimer’s, which helped him not remember the pain. She died from complications of Lymphatic Cancer after a long fight, both medically and spiritually. She spent her final months cutting out quilts squares for each of her grandchildren to be given on their wedding day. She also crocheted granny squares and attached a Bible verse to each one to be given out to those who attend her funeral. She dealt with her pain by working on her projects, planning her funeral arrangements and listening to her gospel music CD’s. She taught her family how to be “heaven found” with grace and composure.
INTEREST IN MUSIC
Nelson and Shirley were avid country music fans. You could find them singing with Shirley playing the guitar; Nelson played the spoons. The girls and Nelson Neal would join in on the singing and dancing. On occasion Nelson and Shirley would go to the Circle Nine Ranch Epsom, New Hampshire for yodeling contest. Maybe they would travel a little further to the Merrimack, New Hampshire to sing and dance at The Lone Star Ranch. A family friend, Gene Maltais of Rock -A- Billy fame, would join in the sing along.
Shirley made quilts by hand with lots of love and care. She made them for her children when they were married and for her church to raffle off. Shirley carried that tradition on by teaching her daughters and her granddaughters. Julia, a granddaughter, helped Shirley to make a Wedding Ring quilt that was given to June and Michael on their tenth anniversary. That same quilt was then passed on to June’s sister Susan when she married Christopher. Shirley was “heaven found” by that time. Both Julia and June felt Susan should have a wedding ring quilt made by her mom, Shirley. Tears of love were shared that day.
Nelson and Shirley had moved twenty one times between 1953-1969 and only four times from 1969 to 1988 when Nelson was “heaven found.” They had lived in five of the six New England states. Rhode Island did not become their home. Sometimes the moves were work related other times it was family related. Family and community support was a strong sense of duty and passion that Nelson and Shirley passed on to the next generation.
Another past time for Nelson and Shirley was playing Cards. Nelson and his family would camp at Carrie Lulu (Stearns) Perkins home in Sutton, Merrimack, New Hampshire, every summer. When fishing was done and night time had settled in, you could find them playing Canasta until the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes even the girls would join in. Those camping trips bring back the memories of baking in wood burning stoves, putting clothes through the ringer washer, chopping wood and outhouse duty. The only modern convenience Aunt Carrie had was electricity for lights only. You even had to pump from the well to get water for cooking. We would usually sneak to the brook for spring water to drink.
We all have family fishing tales of whose fish is the biggest. Town histories even get into telling fishing tales. That is a good thing for those of us looking for our ancestors. It gives a residence, a year and sometimes an occupation for them. Here is one page from “A History of the Town of Industry, Franklin County, Maine …” page 21
Industry Maine 1892 History
The 1892 history of Industry, Maine tells the tale of Isaac Webster, a shoemaker by trade “who died, at an advanced age, a few years since, in Taunton, Massachusetts.” Isaac moved to Industry from Stark and settled in the village of Allen’s Mill for several years.
The largest trout caught by Isaac weighed 17 ¾ pounds.
Others listed for catching large fish are:
John Wesley Norton
James C. Luce
Luther Luce, Sr.
Rueben Hatch, Sr.
Nelson W. Fish
John Atwell Daggett
John F. Daggett
William R. Daggett
Fred F. Backus
Truman Luce (1833)
Daniel Sanders Collins (1857)
Harry Pierce of Farmington (July 1890)
John Richards of Boston (July 1890)
Chas. E. Oliver of West Mill’s (1885)
John L. Sterry of Stark (1891)
George W. Dobbins of Boston (1889)
Herbert B. Luce of Allen’s Mills (1883)
Henry O. Stanley of Dixfield (1883) State Fish Commissioner
Chas. Augustus Allen of Farmington
A history of the town of Industry, Franklin County, Maine, from the earliest settlement in 1787 down to the present time, embracing the cessions of New Sharon, New Vineyard, Anson, and Stark. In two parts, including the history and genealogy of many of the leading families of the town
In Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of the rainbow, a messenger for Zeus and Hera who rode the rainbow as a multicolored bridge from heaven to earth. In ancient times, the Iris was considered a symbol of power and majesty, the three petal segments representing faith, wisdom and valor.
May I be like the Iris, representing faith, wisdom and valor. When the time comes I will ride the rainbow bridge from earth to heaven bringing messages to loved ones. May that time be long in coming.
I am Here. I am Loved. I Love others with my whole heart.
My goals for 2015 were: The Percent of achievement are in brackets)
A Positive Mental Attitude (99% )
Listen to my body: Pace myself in all I do (85%)
Exercise in moderation (walk dog)
Make intelligent choices in my diet (90%)
Make informed decisions (95%)
Improve my genealogy skills (95%)
Accept what I cannot change with grace (95%)
Spend more time with family (95%)
Encourage and support my family and friends in their choices (99%)
Most of all Enjoy every moment life has to offer (99%)
I’m human, not perfect. I continue to strive to reach those ideals daily.
Happy, Healthy New Year to all my family and friends!
Remember to enjoy every moment of each day.
Ninja Buddy and I greet the New Year with a walk on a mild 36 degree morning with a light wind and cloudy skies. The snow covered ground reminds us it is winter after the above normal temperatures in December.
Only one goal for 2016:
Take each day as it comes with as much love and gusto that life offers.
The past twenty-eight days I have been sharing all my positive memories. Life is not about only the happy times. Life provides challenges to help us grow as individuals and families. Today memory’s is about the good, the bad and the ugly side of cancer.
The GOOD is the support of family and friends. A husband, Michael D. Butka, who is at your side daily, taking a step down in his job so he could be at your side. A daughter, Tyna Butka, who helps you see the beauty in yourself when you hair is all gone. A son, Michael J. Butka, who is serving his county in the Air Force still calls you to let you know you are loved from a distance but there beside you in spirit.
Friends, Devine Derry Dames Red Hat Society, who take you out to breakfast on the day you decided to remove what hair hasn’t fallen out on your pillow each day. A decision is made they will have the honor of shaving my head. A friend, Lynn Anderson, even decides to shave her own head in support of you. Even though you tried to convince her not to, because the holiday season was approaching.
A Medical team that is caring and supportive each step of the way. Some of that team were the same ones who cared for my mother in 2000. They remember her and shared those memories with me providing a comfort I’m not sure they fully understood they provided me.
The BAD is the many days of illness from the chemotherapy side effects. You have not energy to even lift your head off the pillow, to smile, to even visit with your loved ones.
The UGLY, is seeing your hair in large clumps on your pillow when you awaken in the morning. Having to deal with the cancer in your body, feeling like you have no control over what is going to happen to you.
YOU DO HAVE CONTROL of your mental attitude. I grab that control and held onto a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE during one of the rest times in my life. I helped me stay the course, to endure the discomforts and remember that life is full of surprises, good and bad, that make you stronger for it.
I AM more than A Survivor. I am a stronger woman, mother, wife, sister, and friend who will remain positive no matter what life offers.
I remember the loving support more than anything else from my cancer adventure. That is the way I will always want to remember that time in my life.
Here are a few poems I wrote during my 2005-2006 Cancer Adventure
May the fear, sadness and anger
Be subdued by the comforter
A Positive Mental Attitude
Mind Wandering after Diagnosis
How many doctors
Doctor appointments galore
Surprise breakfast calls
Wig choice fun
Sadness Short lived
Hair loss Wigs
Low blood count Isolation
ONCO Study Care-giving
Positive mental attitude Healing
Rise early, take meds, shower and check e-mails
One hour later eat, take more meds and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Forty-minute drive to chemotherapy
Check in, labs, results, doctor appointment
All before a four-hour treatment
Medication one hour before eating
Trying to keep food down
To prevent nausea, vomiting
Maybe a week without symptoms
It starts all over again
Unexpected surprises occur
Cards, people visit, daughter calls
A stuffed animal from a friend or two
A smile from across the room
Can you remember their names
Marge, Janet and Monica are a few
Radiation End Nears
Six more boosts to go
The end is just so
The time just flew
Enjoying morning hue
Travel thirty minutes to and fro
Five times a week
The radiation did seek
Excitement of journey’s end
Fear did suspend
Happy days here again
Self-time around the bend
Waiting for Treatment End
Here I sit glancing at faces
Reading, thinking, glaring spaces
Radiation treatment number fifteen
Nineteen more waiting in between
Sad eyes, smiling eyes, quiet eyes
All waiting to say goodbye
The ringing bell
The end does tell
Cycle of Life Season of Death
The season of life overlaps
The season of death
Death is a release, a flight home
Sufferings end, pain free
You can walk again
Trapped in a body is a
Death in itself
To be free is the life of hope
Comfort measures are for the family
Our comfort is to be free
We suffer for loved ones at least
Through one cycle of treatment
But when is enough, enough
Quality verses quantity of life
Can only be decided by thee
She found solace in her photography. It was her way to deal with her cancer. The treatments had ended. She was waiting to find out if she was in remission. The wait is the worse part of cancer or any illness. The not knowing takes a toll on even those with a positive mental attitude. She was of the belief in a positive attitude, focusing on what you can control, not what you can’t is the best way to recovery.
She and her dog would take daily walks around her new surroundings. They had moved across the river to another southern New Hampshire town after the completion of her treatment. Her husband’s and adult children’s relief when the house sold can best be described in her daughter’s statement; “Now there won’t be a third death in this house. You are going to survive.” Her mother and nephew had both died in that house. She was the caregiver of her mother when she was dying of cancer. Eighteen months later, on Halloween night, her nephew went into cardiac arrest. CPR was immediate and non stop even when the ambulance arrived within a matter of minutes. The hospital doctors told the family that unless he was at a hospital where cardiac surgery was performed, her nephew couldn’t have survived. He was in between two cardiac surgeries. The doctor had said he was doing well two days before.
She had felt the presence of her mother and nephew. She had smelt their scent when their spirits were near. This provided her with comfort. She had been aware of spirits surrounding her since childhood. The eldest female of her mother’s line all had the gift. The gift was being able to sense the spirits, of being aware of another dimension of support from past family members. It was how she knew when things would be fine or when a rough patch was ahead. She would hear a voice or smell their scent when they were near. She had felt alone during her cancer treatment because the voices and smells had left her. The support of her family couldn’t give her the same reassurances that the support from past family members could.
She knew this happened to her mother during treatment as well. The chemicals in the body prevented the gift from getting though. She felt the gift would return as it had with her mother. The voices and smells were there supporting them both and guiding her mother home. Her photography played an important part in her healing and getting to know her new surroundings. The comfort of focusing on something concrete helped her stay positive. She had remembered coming to the town of her new home as a child to visit relatives but could never remember the specifics of where or who, only that the visits stopped when she was six years old. She decided that if she became familiar with her surroundings, maybe the fifty-two year old memories would return.
She spent the evenings with her husband, watching their Monday shows. After eating they would watch the recorded shows. At nine o’clock they would watch their nightly shows together. This routine varied slightly during the week. After watching the recorded shows she would watch her shows on Lifetime Movie channel or Food Network channel. Her husband would watch the recorded late night’s shows from the night before.
She was having what she calls a “down period.” She would have very little energy and slept almost around the clock except to take out her dog. She had been doing this through most of her treatment. She would spend a day walking and photographing then having to sleep a few days away. She kept hoping that it would resolve once treatment had finished. She was trying to stay positive. She was hoping the gift would return. She was hoping to feel the past family support again. She is still waiting. Five years later. Why isn’t what we have enough?
This post is 10 year since my last treatment for cancer. I want people to remember to look for the positive in life and in death. Yes, even death can be a positive, when one in trapped in a body that causes pain daily and doesn’t allow you to walk. It set you free to walk without pain. Death doesn’t mean you want it to come before its time but the understnading that when it is time you will greet it as a old friend and release yourself to freedom it offers with grace and dignity. Life is a cycle we all go through, we are born, we live, we die. What we make of that time is what we choose to be remembered by. I want to be remembered as a person who met life head on with a positive mental attitude, strength, love and caring for all who touched my life. Even those who touched it briefly in a time of crisis.
Genealogy Do-Over Week # 2 Self-Interview or sorts
I know what I wrote is presumptuous. It’s how I roll.
What do I want people to learn about me?
I want people to know that I’m a lover of life, a survivor, but more than just a survivor, I grasp the positive side of life. I am a person who sees the glass half full not half empty. Family always comes first.
If I had to write my own obituary it would go something like this:
The Silent Reaper spread his wings over our community of Merrimack, New Hampshire, last night and took to his home above our beloved neighbor and friend, June Lee Stearns Butka. Mrs. Butka, although strong in mind, she was weak in body for a great many of years, suffering from multiple other health issues, including breast cancer, succumbed to her final sleep at the Lord’s side. June was born 23 August 1954 New London, Merrimack County, New Hampshire, the daughter of Nelson William Stearns and Shirley Beatrice Pease, who are waiting to greet her on her final journey home. Her brother William Nelson Stearns will also greet her at her parent’s side. She is survived by her husband, Michael Daniel Butka of Merrimack, New Hampshire; daughter Tyna Butka; her significant other Josh of, Massachusetts; her son Michael Butka, his wife Jennifer Butka and her grandson Blake Butka of Wisconsin; her sisters Vickie of , New Hampshire; Marjorie of New Hampshire; Eleanor of Oklahoma; Susan of New Hampshire and brother Nelson Stearns of New Hampshire. She is also survived by 14 nieces and nephews, 7 1/2 grand nieces and nephews, multiple cousins (9 first cousins) and her sisters in life, not by blood, Claudette Dufrense of Australia and Crosleen Powell of Texas.
She attended grammar school in Monmouth, Maine, Lynn, Massachusetts, and Saugus Massachusetts; she attended middle school at Emerson school Saugus, Massachusetts. She started her high school years at what was the new Saugus Junior High School transferring her freshman year to Pembroke Academy in Pembroke, New Hampshire during a freak October 1969 Blizzard where she graduated in the last class before the school became public. She attended the first drug and alcohol counseling program at Dartmouth Hitchcock in Hanover, New Hampshire during the mid-70s, continuing her education, at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord, New Hampshire, New Hampshire Hospital School of Nursing, Concord, New Hampshire until the illness of both her parents sent her home to care for them and her younger siblings; graduating from New Hampshire Technical College, Portsmouth, New Hampshire with a diploma in Nursing. June was a lifelong student taking courses at various Colleges in the medical field, Human Service administration(Springfield College) and in later years online expanding her knowledge of genealogy, history and whatever else grabbed her interest.
On 20 April 1978 Sherrill K Moulton, Justice of the Peace of Kittery, Maine united June in marriage to Michael Daniel Butka. They move within three months to Randolph, New Jersey for the next 6 years, giving birth to both her children, before returning to her native state of New Hampshire for the reminder of her lifetime.
She worked in various cities and towns throughout New Hampshire, as well as in Morristown and Dover, New Jersey. She began her medical career with Mary McKerley, founder of the McKerley Nursing homes, as a companion in Pennacook, New Hampshire. Do to a disability she ended her nursing career of over thirty five years with the Rockingham Visiting Nurses Hospice Program on 10 Sept 2001 to her great sadness. June provided care from birth(Parkland Medical Center, Derry New Hampshire Maternity Ward in the mid 1980’s) to death. Her favorite saying was “I did from birth to death including the nuts and bolts in-between. Now I’m finding my roots.” She was very active in the communities where she lived. She served as a member of various human service counsels, Red Hat Society, Nursing Societies, American Red Cross instructor, an advocate against child abuse, for early cancer detection, a participant in the inaugural Breast Cancer 3 Day-60 mile walk against Breast Cancer for both New York City (a Media Walker) and Boston, Massachusetts (crew coordinator.) She also volunteered for various charities including Miss Derry, Miss New Hampshire, and Wolverine Football Association at the local bingo hall or answering phones in the office for Miss New Hampshire. Even in her youth she was a member of her local church, Rainbow Girls, a 4H member and participated in displaying her creations at the Topsfield Fair, Topsham Massachusetts and in later years at Deerfield Fair Deerfield New Hampshire where she won various ribbons.
Mrs. Butka was a kindly neighbor, always ready with a cheery word of greeting and ready to assist others whenever the need was there. Although not able to visit as much as she liked she was always happy when friends and neighbors called, her door was always open to everyone. June Butka was the symbol of what a friend really is.
Funeral Services were held at the Veterans Cemetery, Boscawen New Hampshire surrounded by her family and friends. In lieu of flowers the family requested that donations be made to your favorite local charity in her honor. They wanted to continue her tradition of giving to those in need, it did not matter to her where the need was, and she would support them as much as she was able. Please pay it forward in her memory, as she paid it forward in her lifetime.
My local grocery store is only quarter mile down the road. I like to shop the clearance racks before planning my meals for the day or the week depending on what I find. I last blogged about the Vegetable Stew, Stuffed Mushrooms and Chili. Yesterday I found Sweet Green and Red Peppers for .99 cents. I purchased two packages providing me with four peppers. I sliced one package of the sweet peppers yesterday for dipping into my Tahini. I still have some slices left for the week.
Todays purchased included a whole chicken for $ 2.50, two pounds of Riblets for $2.00 (both in the freezer for another day,) two bags of Goose Valley Rice and Bean Fusion for 1.00 each and two pound “Fresh” Strawberries $1.99/package. My total purchase for these items was $7.49; include the sweet peppers from yesterday a grand total of $9.49.
Now the major decision; what will I make with these items. I washed and slice the strawberries in half. Packaged them into one cup serving containers for my husband lunches. I looked into the refrigerator to see what I had for leftovers. I found, one cooked chicken sausage, one third cup chopped onions and a half loaf of stale bread.
My first thought was stuffed peppers using the two remaining peppers, one package of the rice and bean fusion and the leftover onions for my half. I added the chopped chicken sausage to the other half.
Add three cups of water the rice and bean mixture, three ginger Chai tea bags and a dash of ginger honey vinegar (or spices to taste) to a saucepot, bring to boil. Remove tea bags. Cover and turn heat down to simmer for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the tops off the peppers, set aside, remove pulp, and discard. Cut large peppers in half place each half in a ramekin. Cut the good part of the pepper from the tops and dice.
Add the diced sweet peppers and diced onions to 1 teaspoon of butter and one swirl around the fry pan with olive oil.
Sauté until al dente. Remove from heat. Dice cooked chicken sausage set aside.
Drain rice and bean mixture; let set for 5 minute. Fluff mixture.
Add vegetables to rice and bean mixture. Fill two halves of the peppers with mixture.
Add chopped chicken sausage to the other half of the rice and beans. Fill the remaining two peppers. Set any leftovers aside, for now.
Place the pepper filled ramekins into the pan you used to sauté the vegetables. I added a half cup of frozen squash I had on hand to roast with the stuffed peppers. Cover. Place in the preheated oven for 25 – 30 minutes. If serving immediately cook until fork tender. If going to be re-heated cook until the fork meets resistance. This will prevent over cooked stuffed peppers. Squash should be fork tender, as well.
Now to use the stale bread and remaining rice and bean mixture.
I had six slices of stale bread; two of which were the end pieces. Remove crust of four slices of bread, as shown in photograph. Set crust aside. Flatten each slice of bread. Place once teaspoonful of rice mixture in center of bread. Fold bread in half. Place them in the non-stick portion controlled brownie pan. If you don’t have a portioned control brownie pan use a cookie sheet.
Take the two end pieces and reserved crust; cube them into quarter to half inches pieces depending on what type of container you are cooking them in.
In a separate mixing bowl combine two cups milk, (I use almond milk,) and four slightly beaten eggs. Add one teaspoon vanilla, fourth cup good old grade a maple syrup, and pumpkin pie spice (your spice of choice here). I like the pumpkin pie spice because it has mace, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in the mix. Mix the ingredients until well blended. Set aside.
Add the cubed pieces of bread to the portioned control brownie pan. It can over fill a bit because with the milk mixture is added the bread absorbs it and shrinks down. Carefully pour the milk mixture into each section, until the bread stops absorbing it. I sprinkle Craisins on top (you can use raisins.) If you have leftover milk mixture pour it into vegetable sprayed ramekins. Sprinkle a little pumpkin pie spice on the top pf the bread pudding and custard mixture. Place the brownie pan and ramekins onto a cookie sheet that has a little water covering the bottom.
Today’s meals for $1.99, leftovers and pantry staples provides four servings of stuffed peppers; four servings stuffed sandwiches, eight servings bread puddings and three serving of custards. Squash for another meal or as side dish with Stuffed peppers.
Rice and bean stuffed sandwiches with Tahini and sliced Sweet Green Peppers
Bread pudding with Craisins yogurt purée and sliced strawberries.
Stuffed Sweet pepper with side of roasted squash.
The original recipes were my mother’s Shirley Beatrice Stearns, tweaked by me, June Stearns Butka. My tweaks are in parenthesis. I also use the portioned controlled pan for cooking. I reduce the time by about ten minutes and add more cooking time if needed.
I hope a future descendant or two of mine find these recipes. Make them and adjust them to their taste with my best wishes and love.
Butka, June Lee Stearns, Reeds Ferry Historic District, Merrimack, New Hampshire. 11 Mar 2014
This may not be a typical genealogy post; I know if I was a descendant and I found one of my ancestors recipes that showed creativity, thriftiness and something I could try. I would be doing the Happy Dance.
What would you do?
Here is my citation for future generations.
Recipes created by June Stearns Butka on 7 march 2014 to utilize what was found in her refrigerator when deciding what to have for lunch.
Her residence at the time was the Historical Reeds Ferry District, Merrimack, New Hampshire.