Surgeries and Genealogy

Three years ago I experienced an interesting juxtaposition–genealogy visits and surgeries. Even though I’d given up food with gluten, I still didn’t feel well while Mom was at the Stuart Care Center. Thanks to my sister, who’d lived with Mom on the farm, Mom had only been in the nursing home six weeks and two days when she died in early November 2015.

Two months later my symptoms worsened and I ended up with an ambulance ride and emergency surgery. Diverticulitis.

Cousin Jeff Willoughby was due to arrive from California a month later–his very first trip to Iowa–timed so he could go on up to the Twin Cities for business. But I’d just traded misery for recovery, and still no energy.

Jeff is a grandson of Delbert Wilson, the oldest of the Wilson siblings who grew up in Dexter during the Depression. Mom and Darlene were Delbert’s sisters. Jeff’s goal was to see his Great Aunt Darlene–and to see “all things Wilson.” Jeff was just a kid back in 1970, when my husband and I took a trip up the west coast (in a VW bug) after Guy got back from Vietnam.

Since I’m the only one who knows where all the bodies are buried, so to speak, I needed to be perky enough to do this. I’m the also the one who knows which houses belong to which stories.

Son Dan and Renee came from the Twin Cities to help out. We all piled in the pickup and drove to Stuart to see Aunt Darlene.

Back: Dan Kidney, Jeff Willoughby, Guy Kidney. I’m with Aunt Darlene (Wilson) Scar. Feb. 6, 2016, The Willows, Stuart, Iowa.

We drove through Stuart and Guthrie Center for Turn of the Century stories. We sat along a street in Dexter while I told Wilson stories from the Great Depression.

The next day we drove to Minburn and Perry for the World War II stories, and to see where the Wilson stones are in Violet Hill Cemetery.

We had to take Jeff to the Machine Shed Restaurant. Sis Gloria joined us. (I look as zippy as I felt that day.)

Jeff is a delight and it was a whirlwind visit.


When the guy at the morgue sees the huge anchor-shaped scar in the middle of me, plus other punctures, he’s gonna wonder what happened. Five surgeries, over the decades. A couple of punctures were from a routine hernia repair the August after Jeff’s visit.

Only, it wasn’t routine. I’d just been wheeled to a room and settled in bed when the intake nurse coded me. Guy was shocked when the room filled with personnel, including a chaplain, and the nurse was slapping me. I do remember that part. I’d been given too many pain meds.

Guy heard the assistant surgeon tell the nurse, “Good save.” She later admitted that she’d never had a patient with such low oxygen readings walk out of the hospital. Gulp.


A month later, Malinda Danzinger (from California) and her father Bob Marshall (from Atlanta) wanted to come to Dexter to see “all things Marshall.” Well, that would mean me again. I could show them headstones in the cemetery (Miles Marshall–our common ancestor), Dexter’s main street named Marshall (for Maben Marshall who helped plat the town, naming it Marshalltown, only to learn Iowa already had one of those), and some old maps from the founding of the town.

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Facebook sure comes in handy. I asked if anyone on the Memories of Dexter page had Marshall ancestors. No, but Doris Feller said that her sister lived in the “old Marshall homestead.” I’d never heard of it! Bob and Dode Reynolds not only invited us to visit, they and Doris served cookies and lemonade, showed us historical documents, and gave us a tour of their delightful antique-filled home.

Bob and Dode Reynolds, Malinda Marshall Danziger and her father Bob Marshall at the Calvin Marshall homestead north of Dexter, Iowa. Calvin was the Marshall who started Marshall Springs spa, which was expanded and eventually became Dexfield Park. Sept. 21, 2016.
Joy, Malinda, and Bob at the Marshall homestead north of Dexter. Some of the original cabin is part of the house.

Another whirlwind visit, with engaging new relatives. Both “genealogy visits” certainly helped soften my memories of my hardest year, hospital-wise.

The second surgeon had sent me to the internet to watch a video about the Echo Mesh procedure he’d used. So now I’m bionic, but so thankful to wake up each morning, eager to rejoice in the new day which the Lord has made!


And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8




  1. I am sure sorry to hear about all your surgeries and health problems. Also you have had some great people come to visit with you and Guy.

    • Health problems tend to keep us humble, don’t they? It was interesting that both visits were timed the way they were! I really enjoyed having them come, and revisiting stories. Hope Jeff comes again and brings Allyson with him!

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