I wore the necklace Helen Hauck has on in this engagement picture at my wedding and then passed it on to C1. Something especially old and especially meaningful.
During March Madness, I had the chance to reconnect with my cousin due to our mutual addiction to University of Kansas basketball. I owe her “big time” because she secured NCAA Elite 8 basketball tickets for C1, RM and myself. We lost a heart breaker to Michigan but we represented the Sunflower State just fine. My cousin spoke so kindly of our Grandmother Helen — she birthed both my dad and my cousin’s father — that I thought it was important to reflect on her impact on our family’s life over her 90 years living in the midwest and the matriarch of the Hauck Family from 1930 to 1999.
Let me list Grandma Helen’s habits, beliefs, and character that made its mark on me…
1. Always set a nice table setting complete with a clean, pressed tablecloth and cloth napkins.
2. Look your best for all occasions where others have put a considerable effort to organize including church activities, cultural events, and family gatherings.
3. When you buy jewelry on the RARE occasion…buy quality.
4. Mind your manners.
5. Have high expectations for yourself and others.
6. Attend church regularly and follow the Golden Rules.
7. When you bake…make it memorable. Hot homemade dinner rolls and pecan sandies were her specialty.
8. Eat a prune every day.
9. Women friends and granddaughters are special.
10. Appearance is important.
Grandma Helen’s life began in Aurora, Missouri, the small county seat of Lawrence County in southwestern Missouri. She was born Helen V. Horn, in 1908. The hills of southwestern Missouri hid a great amount of ore in those days, and her father earned his living through Helen’s earliest years, like many hard-working men in that part of the country, as a miner. It was shortly after World War 1 that a job in the railroad led him to move his family to Newton, Kansas. Helen was in the early years of grade school at that time, and the move proved a good one for the family, and for her. She enjoyed life in Newton, and liked the town so much, she would spend the rest of her life there.
It was in junior high and high school that Helen became aware of a young man from the other side of town whose name was Lawrence Hauck. They were married in January of 1929. She had two boys, my dad, Harold, in 1930 and his brother, Wendall, in 1936. The Haucks were one of the million of families that felt the brunt of the great depression, and throughout those years lived constantly on the edge, financially.
Helen Hauck did not let the family’s lack of wealth keep her from creating a healthy home life for her family. Perhaps most amazing, and commendable, however, is the way in which Helen maintained a sense of dignity, and elegance, even through the financial hardships of those difficult years. In today’s world, we are constantly hearing how psychologists and family counselors preach the importance of family time around the dinner table. Helen was way ahead of the Phd’s on this one. Sometimes twice each week, but ALWAYS on Sunday, she would create a refined atmosphere in the Hauck household, by setting the dining room table with the best china, and with the good silver, and insisting that the Hauck family dine together in what for those times could be described as elegant atmosphere. Helen undoubtedly knew that those were the times of which memories were made. She taught all of her granddaughters how to set a proper table and a healthy respect for dinner time – she had nine granddaughters so she had a big impact!
My dad shared with me a funny story that reveals so much about the personality of my grandmother. After she broke her hip in the late 1980’s, she was not getting the exercise she needed. My dad took her to the gym, hoping she would become interested in some of the workout equipment. They didn’t interest her, but she did hear about this thing — water aerobics — and decided to give it a try at the Newton Community Center. When my dad learned she had stopped doing the workout, he investigated and found out why. Helen would put on her bathing suit, drive to the center, and do her water aerobics. Afterward, she would towel dry, put her clothes on over the top of her wet bathing suit, and drive home. When fall turned to winter, she was unable to continue, due to the cold Kansas air.
This was her one fling at physical fitness, but I think it is a wonderful story because is says so much about who Helen Hauck was. She was a modest, unassuming woman, who lived a life in which there were circumstances that would have drived some to apathy, others to despair, but she always maintained an air of refinement, of simple elegance, and she never lost her dignity.
Grandma Helen died on a Thursday, February 11, 1999 at the age of 90.
Back Row: Lawrence Hauck, Frances Peck, Harold Hauck and Clayton Peck
Front Row: Helen Hauck, Will Peck, Dayle Peck, Wendall Hauck, and Lida Peck