For the Love of Henrikson

Diane Henrikson Russell

Like many girls raised in the 1960s, I dreamed that I would marry and adopt my husband’s last name. I even practiced writing my first name followed by the last name of my latest crush in beautiful cursive handwriting.

It’s not that I didn’t like my name. My parents named me Diane Elizabeth Henrikson. I am the fifth generation of women named Elizabeth on my mom’s side of the family.

I am also proud of my Scandinavian heritage. Bernhardt Henriksen, my Norwegian great-grandfather…   Read more

We have a challenge and an opportunity for you. We want you to tell us a brief story about something you did--or experienced—in the past.  You can tell a true story, or you can make the entire thing up. If your story fools our readers, you'll win a fabulous prize. You will discover further details at the bottom of Diane’s story as well as a link to the official OLLI Connects contest page.

9/11: My Story — Episode I

Beryl Byles

REUTERS/Sara K. Schwittek/Files

This week marks the 21st anniversary of the September 11th attack, a fitting time to publish a memoir penned by a fellow OLLI member. Beryl Byles was a passenger on a return flight from Brussels on that fateful day. Over the course of this week, OLLI Connects will run her story in two episodes. Today’s issue recounts her arrival in Moncton, New Brunswick and continues with a description of the hospitality she received from our neighbor to the north.  On Thursday we will finish her story with Episode 2, including her journey home after nearly four days delayed in Canada until tourists were cleared to fly over US air space. —Editors

Day One

While we each have our own individual story of where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001 and beyond, I want to capture my account of being a “stranded yank” in Canada. This effort represents my need for closure, a way to capture the “extraordinary” so that I can get back into the “ordinary” activities of my life. Hopefully, it also will serve as an invitation for you to share your own individual experience.

I had been airborne for just over an hour on U S Air flight #335 from Brussels at the time of the first attack. Four or so hours later, the pilot informed us that we had experienced higher-than-predicted head winds and, although we certainly had enough fuel to reach our destination of Philadelphia, we would be going into our fuel reserve and he did not like to do that. Therefore, we were going to land in (Moncton, New Brunswick) Canada where the ground crew was prepared to take 45 minutes to add the necessary fuel before we would continue on our way. (I think the 45-minute timeframe was geared to allay the anxieties of the majority of the passengers who were scheduled to make connecting flights in Philadelphia.)  Read more

Stormy Travel

Jan Vaupel

The weather that affected my life most recently happened on April 7th on my flight out of Tampa in a lightning-and-thunder filled rainstorm.

I am flying American, not my usual standby, Southwest. I love Southwest. I have their credit card and like their offbeat humor. But I change because my Coast Guard son is flying in from Cali and we want to meet up in Richmond at 4:15 p.m., then drive to Gloucester, our final destination.  On Southwest, I would get in at 11:50 p.m., an unseemly hour, so I find an alternate flight on Black Friday.  Perhaps that should have been a sign. It’s American Airlines, one way, for a great price.

I’m in line outside TIA. I’ve just checked my bag when the lady behind me asks, “Did you hear our flight’s been delayed two hours?”

  Read more

Three Odes to Women

Morrey Grymes
Bruce Zimmerman
Peter Terzian


Poetry has the unique capacity to capture our deepest thoughts, whether they be the experience of mounting grief, tender remembrance or even a flight of fancy. With economy, rhythm and the taste of language on the palate, our three contributors present an array of emotions in Three Odes to Women. –Editors

Favorite Memory of Mom

Ray Ann Favata

My favorite memory of Mom was her ability to produce beautiful wearable items sewn by her hands and heart. She was a good seamstress. Not great, because she could not design and cut out a garment without a pattern like the contestants on Project Runway. She was good because she could purchase a Simplicity (her favorite) pattern, select the fabric and create an outfit anyone would be proud to wear.

She mastered the pinch-pleated skirt. It was always made from a colorful printed fabric rescued from the bargain basement at the local Woolworth 5 and 10¢ Store. Imagine, with just two yards at 25 cents a yard, I had a skirt for a few dollars.

Read more

Cousin Vince and the Kindness of Friends

Diane Henrikson Russell

Author’s Note: I was inspired to write this memoir after taking John Grant’s OLLI class titled, “Life and Death Documents Everyone Should Have.”

I had insomnia on Memorial Day weekend of 2016 and disregarded the advice not to check my phone.

I instantly regretted it when I saw a text message from my second cousin, “Joe.” Our dads were first cousins who were as close as brothers. We both grew up in Des Plaines, Illinois and went to the same church. We had bonded lately over fond memories of our dads.

He reported that Vince, his uncle and my first cousin once removed, had had a stroke and lung cancer. Since he was losing his vision rapidly, he hired a neighborhood woman to be his assistant to communicate with his friends.      Read more

The Soviet Invasion of Zbaraz

In 1939, after denying any hostile intentions, Soviet Russia invaded Poland from the east as Nazi Germany was invading it from the west.  A few days ago, after denying any hostile intentions, Russia invaded Ukraine. Both invasions affected the town of Zbaraz, now Zbarazh, on the border between Poland and Ukraine.

Junia Ancaya’s father, Stefan, a Lieutenant in the Polish army, was captured by the Russians at Zbaraz as they swept through. Junia has told his story in one of her books, and we are publishing the portion here that tells the story of 1939.  The story of 2022 is yet to be written.  –Editor

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Silver Wedding Anniversary

Junia Ancaya

Beginning in 1949, after narrowly surviving WW II in Europe, my parents Marta and Stefan Orzechowski and I spent fifteen arduous years in exile in Argentina—starting from zero. Meanwhile, Poland, our country, was under the vicious heel of Soviet-imposed Communism.

In spite of our limited resources under the tyranny and chaos of Juan D. Peron’s presidency, after several years, we proudly built a one-bedroom concrete-block house, a ”box”. My parents and I built it with our very own hands (with the help of an amateur roofer) in Barrio Roca—on a scarcely populated, low-priced grassy field northeast of greater Buenos Aires.  (More…)

The Flying Aunts Carry Out Dad’s Wishes

Diane Russell

Before his November 2012 death, Dad expressed the desire that some of his ashes be scattered in the Fox River which bordered our family’s 100-year-old cottage.

This treasured property in Johnsburg, a northeastern Illinois village along the Fox River near the Wisconsin border, was a gift to five generations from my great-grandparents, affectionately known as Little Grandpa and Little Grandma Henrikson. In 1919, Little Grandpa and four co-workers from the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad bought five adjoining riverfront lots with identical small square wooden cottages. The cottage served as a much-loved place for both boisterous family gatherings and solitary meditational times. On his final trip to the cottage in October 2012, Dad was still in awe: “It is so peaceful here. I love it.”

We could not afford to keep the cottage in the family. I felt a multitude of feelings when (more…)

The Greatest Generation and a Misspelled Name

My husband and I have always taken pride in our fathers’ World War II military service. Both served in the US Army Air Corp (now the Air Force). Bill, my father-in-law, was a gunner flying B-24s over Germany (in the “waist” of the plane, the middle side behind the wings); my father, Murray Zimney, was a ground crew engineer performing maintenance on the same planes before and after their bombing runs.

Bill’s last name was Beasom. My husband Buck Beasom (he says he kept his own name when we got married) is actually Bill Jr., but has been Buck since his Vietnam-era Navy days. Buck grew up hearing tales of Bill’s flying adventures, mostly (but not always) sanitized for the ears of the four children. My father Murray was far more reserved in sharing information about his days in the military. Perhaps, according to the norms of the 1950’s, his two little girls needed to be sheltered from all disturbing things.  (More…)

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