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Jean's Story

What a Shock!

My Mom, Norma Joan Twigg Moeller was only 17 years old.  She loved being the band majorette at the Somers High School and helping her parents at the only cafe in town, Twiggs Cafe, Somers, Iowa,  I can't imagine what a shock it was to her and her devoutly Catholic parents to find out she was pregnant!  It was a very small town and everyone knew everyone! It was 1944. High school was no longer an option and of course, GED's were not even thought of yet.  The picture looked bleak...BUT GOD had placed a love and deep responsibility in the heart of my Dad, Arthur Gilbert Moeller Jr. for my Mom. He immediately took steps to become Catholic so they could marry.

I was born pre-maturely on July 8, 1945 weighing just a little over 4 pounds.  My Mom tells me that I was immediately baptized as everyone thought I was going to die.  But when I didn't die, another problem became evident.  My nose was smashed against my face.  This time, help came from the nuns staffing the hospital. They took turns holding me and pushing my nose into place for many hours each day!  I am sure that as they held me, they also prayed that this child would walk in the will of God! What a gift they gave me!



Dad farmed with his father, my grandfather, Arthur Warner Moeller, who was dubbed "AW"all his life. He was the 13th and last child of German immigrant parents who homesteaded the place in the 1800's. AW was an extremely gifted child, brilliant in math. They had "Square Root" bees and he was the champion "square rooter" for his county, able to calculate square root problems in his head! Though the youngest, he would take over the farm, increase his operation with farms in Minnesota, South Dakota and even one in North Dakota. Together with his oldest son, John, they created  Moeller Hybrid Seed Corn which he planted on all his own farms and sold to others.  It seems life should have been ideal, but personal tragedy struck. His wife, Mary Francis Quinlan, died of pneumonia, leaving AW with 4 young children.  My father, the baby, was only 4 years old. With so much to do, Grandpa had no choice but to hire housekeepers. It was the 1930's; The Great Depression brought tremendously difficult times for nearly everyone.  Many were looking for work, just to eat and provide a roof over their heads. That's when my Grandma Edith came into the picture!  Her husband had died and the bank literally kicked her and her two girls out to the street.  She saw Grandpa's ad in the paper and applied for work - mainly for room and board for herself and 2 children.  She got the job!  Later, she would marry my grandfather.  I spent many hours with grandma Edith; she taught me to sew, decorate cakes, and the joy of just being alive.  I'll never forget her telling me that she had to laugh at herself - running "like a chicken with its head cut off" boiling water to pour in the wringer washer on the back porch so the whole thing would not freeze up!  Her favorite song was "What a Friend We Have in Jesus".  We sang it often while she drove AW truck loaded with seed corn to Perry Iowa to the sorters.  Good times.

Grandpa's house was huge by any standard, 6 bedrooms!  Cleaning that place, baking bread, cooking 3 meals a day for 8-10 people, washing all those dishes, laundering clothes in a wringer washer and hanging them outside to dry, hauling them back in and ironing them; certainly left no energy for "mothering" someone else's child!  Thank God, my dad had his older sister, Mary Eileen, who tried her best to nurture him, calling him "little buddy".  That nickname, Bud, remained with him all his life.  Dad never liked it; I think it reminded him of unhappy times.

On my mother's side were Grandpa and Grandma Twigg.  Grandma was a very pretty lady with a disposition to match.  She worked with Grandpa in the Cafe everyday - preparing food, stocking shelves, and making the famous Twigg donuts.  (Before this, they ran THE COFFEE CUP cafe in Fort Dodge, Ia where grandma invented the "goon legs" (skewers of BBQ meats).  On my birthday(s), she baked me an angel food cake with 5 minute boiled frosting - all by hand of course!  Grandma had a quiet and devout faith in God.  At the age of 80 years, she called Larry and me to pray for her.  Larry read the scripture in James 5:14  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Grandma immediately asked what sin could keep her out of heaven.  Larry replied "Not asking Jesus for forgivness and accepting Him into your heart."  She immediately asked for us to pray with her to accept Jesus!  Larry told her to begin reading the Gospel of John.  But she thought it would be best to start at the beginning!  About 1 year later, she excitedly called us and said, "Now I know what I did!"  She had just finished reading John 3:3-18.  Jesus told Nicodemus, "You must be born again!" 

Grandpa Twigg also was an amazing person.  He was showering at 4:30am and in the cafe by five.  He needed to have a 50 cup coffee maker ready for the 6am crowd of farmers.    Grandpa was mayor of our small town for over 20 years and was instrumental in setting up outdoor summer movies.  He also was the first in the county to own a soft serve ice cream machine.  Personally, he and grandma were some of one of the earliest families to own a television.  I can still see myself sitting in front of that small, black and white screen!  They lived on an acreage which allowed them to cultivate a big garden, have cherry and apple trees, and even raise rabbits.  We (and the cafe patrons) were eating organic foods before we knew the phrase "organically grown"!  They were an amazing couple.


Where's the Dog?

A Little Family History

Within 3 years, minus 1 day,  my parents had 2 more kids, Art III and Margaret.  Needless to say, Mom was swamped, and not even yet 20 years old! She was a servant to our whole family. Each morning, she laid out my father's clothes and didn't put the milk on the table until he sat down, so that it was very cold.  All of us were "taxied" to music lessons, 4-H, sports programs, and church activities.

Sorry!  I'm getting ahead of myself!


I was 4 years old.  The five of us were at the Circus, sitting about 1/2 way up the bleachers.  The trainer and his dogs were doing some acts and my parents kept saying, "Jean Ann, look at the dogs!" My reply? "Where's the dog?"  I can still remember because they became quiet and just looked at each other.  I am sure they were shocked to discover their little girl could not see! It was 1949, and the only place capable of testing young children's eyes was in Omaha, NE, a five hour trip from our home. Though it was time consuming and very expensive, my parents took me many times.  Years later, technology finally allowed doctors closer to home to treat me.  Unfortunately, I was not nearly as grateful as I should have been.  My concern was wearing glasses that looked like Coke bottles!  But, I could see and so my schooling was never a problem.

Three more siblings were born, Karl, Brian, and Brenda.  However, Brenda would seem more like a niece as she was 21 years younger than me.  She was born 3 months after the birth of my daughter, Angie.  My Mom and I were pregnant at the same time; not really a happy thing for either of us. 

                                                  Role Models

I was surrounded by wonderful role models.  First of all, my mother,  Though so young, she was truly content to serve us all.   She kept a very clean house, cooked great food, and managed the finances well.   She and Dad loved each other and seldom quarreled.  She also had great self-control over her mouth! There were  several summers when my Dad's brother would bring his whole family (wife and 4 kids) to stay with us. My mother not only cooked and cleaned up after all of them, but endured such remarks as  "Normie, you do everything so well, I would only get in the way!"  And then with a little smile, my aunt would head to the bedroom for her afternoon nap. She never lifted a finger to help!

Mom also enjoyed being a part of the Methodist church in Somers.  I remember many "Circle" meetings in our home.  After devotions and the business meeting about what project they would do next, came lunch.  Ritz crackers and jello desserts were pretty popular in those days, with Dream Whip of course!

Could I have known?

My mother did not feel well.  She continued to do everything, but with great effort.  Finally, she was diagnosed with a thyroid goiter and a reputable doctor in Eagle Grove, IA removed it.  We all thought she was fine,  I will never forget the day that Roger Brand and my Dad carried my mother out of the house.   After many tests, it was discovered that her para-thyroid gland was not functioning.  More than likely, it had been damaged during the removal of her thyroid.  For years, her body did not produce any calcium creating a terrible imbalance, even in the brain.  The doctor ordered supplements and they helped, but could not solve the problem or eradicate some of the damage already done.

Homecoming Night - September 1971

My little sister Brenda (then only 5 years old) was chosen to accompany the Homecoming Court Queen as a junior attendant.  Mom was trying to get her ready, but felt so sick that she called me over to help. She was having projectile vomiting and could not stand.  It seems the next few hours were a blur. We somehow arranged for Brenda to get to the game and called an ambulance for my Mom.   Larry & I and Dad rushed to the hospital.

She was suffering a cerebral hemorrhage (Stroke). Though only 43 years old, she would never recover, enduring 5 years in a vegetative state.  It was tragic for our family. 

But through this tragedy, our lives were changed.  God began speaking to us to consider eternity.

To be continued...


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