When invited to participate in this perspective endeavor reflecting on Jamie’s life and subsequent suicide, most family members offered openness to share their story. However, most did not feel either capable or comfortable to write their own perspectives. Therefore, I sent surveys and conducted oral interviews from their responses. These were used to establish primary source material from which to write on their behalf in the first person. In each perspective, you can expect “Reflections on the Interview” and “Brief History.” Both sections are written in the third person. Then, the voice will shift to first person for their Perspective.
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Reflections on the Interview:
This Original Interview was one of my early interviews conducted on July 4, 1997. Grandma Phyllis eagerly participated, answered my questions thoughtfully, and commended me several times for taking on this project to honor Jamie’s memory and help others facing similar loss. She cried some throughout. She delighted to remember Jamie as her little cowboy on the farm when he lived near. And while she had already come to grips with his absence, she remained unsettled with what had gone so terribly wrong for him to sink into such hopelessness.
Grandma Phyllis Nancy LaBue Lundberg (September 18, 1927- September 1, 2013) was the eldest child and only daughter of Philip and Ruth LaBue in Momence, Illinois (Great-Grandparents Grieve (part 1)). She was born September 18, 1927. She grew up in Chicago Heights where she remembered her large Italian (Sicilian) family gatherings with great fondness – usually involving bodies of water, fish fries, and high energy conversation and laughter.
After graduating from high school, she moved with her family to a tiny little farming town in southeast Wyoming where her Dad served as local pastor. It was there she met Grandpa Kenneth Lundberg as he returned from serving in the World War II. They met and married quickly. They were married for 67 years. They “raised” four children – two boys and two girls- on the farm. Their two girls, Karen & Kathy, were Heidi and Jamie’s moms respectively.
Jamie actually lived the first five years of his life on this “home-place”. As is fairly common in the region, multiple houses stood on this homestead. This gave family units some privacy and independent autonomy while also availability for farming operations and interdependence for family and rural community culture.
The three greatest loves of her life … her Lord, her family, and all things beautiful – from sunrises to purring kittens to strawberry patches, painting ceramics and music. At an early age, Grandma Phyllis learned to play the piano and sang with her Dad. Her love for music continued throughout her life. As an active member of local choir, she enjoyed singing solos, duets, and quartets. She read her Bible and prayed for her family & loved ones daily. She enjoyed women’s luncheons. She also dutifully prepared and served many meals to farmers & harvesters in their home. She lit up every room she walked in and delighted to love anyone in her path.
She was an accomplished seamstress and excelled in ceramics. She also owned her own shop -“Phyllis’ Ceramic Den.” She exercised an exceptional ability to paint life-like eyes.
Grandma Phyllis also suffered migraines nearly her entire life. And she and Grandpa Ken’s home of 40 years burnt to the ground in 1982. Not long after, they moved to Leavenworth, Kansas where they delighted to serve military families in their church communities.
Eventually, Grandpa Ken and Grandma Phyllis moved back to the Wyoming homestead community and lived out their final nine years on family farm homesteaded by Ken’s grandparents, Peter and Sophie Lundberg.
written & edited by Heidi L. Paulec (photo of photos by H.Paulec; frame handcrafted by Kenneth R. Lundberg)
PERSPECTIVE: Grandma Phyllis
Before we moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, my husband Ken and I lived on our farm in western Nebraska along the Wyoming border for over 40 years. Ken’s Dad and Gran-Dad farmed the land. After the Second World War, Ken returned to the prairie after serving as a pilot in Asia for the United States Army Air Corps. Although he was nine years older than me. we met, married, and settled into farm life within six months. He was 27, and I was 18 years old. We know we’re oh so blessed to raise our family on the farm.
Our daughters met their husbands when the young brothers, Tim and Carlton, joined the harvest crews that helped harvest farms as far south as Texas working their way north to assist farmers in the harvesting process throughout the summer months. These two young men from Wichita, Kansas loved the country. Farming is tough work, but both young men loved the challenge and adventure in the summer during their high school years. After graduating high school in the spring of 1969, Karen and Tim went to John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas that fall. Tim proposed that winter. They married in July of 1971 and lived in Siloam Spring, Arkansas until graduation. Carlton and Kathy married in August of 1972 just following their graduation from high school the previous May.
Of course, we were thrilled to have Carlton and Kathy living on our farm soon after they married. They lived a short time in Wichita immediately following their wedding. Soon they moved near us and lived in one of the houses on our home place.
Following Tim’s graduation from JBU in 1974, he and Karen moved to a place three miles away in southeast Wyoming. Then, when our first grandson, Carlton Jamison Plinsky, was born – we were completely overjoyed. From the beginning, he was a simply delightfully happy baby. With that little guy living right next door, we got to see him every single day for the first five years of his little life. What a joy! Now and then, he would ask or we would invite him to spend a night in our home. I can still see him teetering on the sidewalk that connected our two houses with that big suitcase. He tried so intently to balance himself. What a sight that little guy!
When Jamie was about three years old, he was visiting our house as I was soaking my feet in a tub of hot water. (This was a method of relaxation for a farmer’s wife who spent much of my days in the garden or standing in the kitchen preparing meals for lots of hungry mouths ready to eat between hours of farming in the summer sun.) Jamie decided he wanted to join me, so he pulled up a chair next to me. He climbed into the chair and plopped his feet into the water. Instantly, he pulled his feet out of the water. With wide eyes, he proclaimed, “Dumb kid!” Oh how I loved and laughed with that little boy!
He and Heidi roamed, and played, and “worked” alongside all of us in those days. Sometimes they helped me weed and pick strawberries in my strawberry patch as I clipped laundry to dry on the line. Then, I’d let them sit on the patio and snack on a berry or two of their harvest. Those two… were somethin’ else. A little ornery. So sweet and silly. And quite well behaved really. Jamie… such a happy boy.
Having Carlton, Kathy, and Jamie, then later Michael, live on the farm with us was such a blessing! They were such a part of our daily life. And we were a part of theirs.
Once when several friends and family had gathered for a meal and some fellowship, Jamie began to choke on a steak bone. His Grandpa (my Ken) grabbed him out of his high chair and dislodged the bone. Jamie did not seem fazed, but he sure scared the rest of us that day.
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.”
Psalm 23 :1-2 (KJV)