The fiftieth anniversary of the gathering of the Retzlaff family was celebrated in a wonderful way on July 20, 1997 with 123 relatives and seven visitors in attendance. The meeting place was the St. James Lutheran Parish Hall in Lexington, Texas, and from 9:00 AM to 3:00 or 4:00 PM there was joyful greeting, visiting and catching up on happenings among the many individual families represented.
The family record books were on hand, courtesy of Donnie and Lisa Retzlaff, and eagerly devoured as usual by those seeking more family history -- and to see how last year's picture turned out. Donald and his son, Donnie, soon began the task of getting individuals, groups, and combined groups together for this year's picture taking. Much of it had to be done following the noon meal and before the business meeting. A double wedding-ring quilt made by Elois Retzlaff was used as a backdrop this year. Other quilts in pictures made in this hall were made by members of the St. James Lutheran Church and used as wall hangings.
The excellent barbecue meal was catered at $6.00 a plate for adults and $4.00 for children age 6 to 12. The dessert table was loaded with fruit, pies, cakes, etc. as usual, even though dessert was also furnished by the caterer.
The business session was conducted by Bobby Vance who was in charge of all arrangements. He expressed his joy and appreciation for the large attendance, which turned out to be highest by ONE of the reunions so far. He stated a few were present for the first time, and many here after missing a few times. The minutes were read by the secretary, Bobby's mother, who received recognition for having never missed a reunion since they were begun in 1947. She also spoke of the sadness felt, especially by the Lexington relatives, by the absence, because of death, of Arnold and Margaret Kleinschmidt and Leola Kloss.
The question of who had traveled the longest distance to attend raised a question: Donald Lewis Vance, whose home is in Parker, Colorado, but who is presently working in Austin, Texas -- from where do we say he is attending? Others who drove several hundred miles to attend were from Groves, Corpus Christi, and McKinney, all in Texas, but none knew their exact mileage.
The oldest present was Gussie Vance at age 89, with Ruben Retzlaff, at 87, the oldest direct line descendent. The youngest was easily Dalton Ray Prater at 2 months, son of Cindy and Jeff Prater, and grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Glenn Retzlaff.
Weddings noted were: Shelly Lynn Botard to Peter Barnes, August 24, 1996; Erin Leigh Vance to Josh Hendrick, January 12, 1997; and Teresa Bates to Arron Moeller, July 5, 1997.
Births reported were: Emily Clay Jiang Chen Peterson, January 18, 1995, and adopted by Paul and Sally Peterson August 21, 1995; Schyler Peterson, April 3, 1996; Lauren Rose Peterson, September 19, 1996; Cameron David James, November 1, 1996; Lauren Elizabeth Allen, January 18, 1997; and Mercy Lynn James, April 26, 1997.
Death took three faithful relatives since our last gathering: Margaret Kleinschmidt, August 31, 1996; Leola Kloss, November 28, 1996; and Arnold Kleinschmidt, June 26, 1997.
The largest family group present was that of the Otto Retzlaff family with a combined total of 54. So large was this group from the Bernhard Retzlaff line that they were divided into two groups for closer range picture taking.
Bobby announced that Billie Dell Franks had left hand-outs on the table for anyone interested in hosting an exchange student from another country in their home for a year. He also stated that a few reunion notices had been returned for lack of proper address, and stressed how important it was to keep our mailing list current.
Frieda Placke announced that in 1999 the Lexington Memorial Cemetery, where many relatives are buried, will be in use 100 years. Some relatives have suggested that this reunion recognize it in some way. We are to discuss this at our 1998 reunion, which was set for the third Sunday in July with Mary Beth Gibson to be in charge. It will be at the same place if the hall is available. The total of funds left over for 1998 is $81.75.
Donald Retzlaff spoke of his mother, Emma Christine Retzlaff, or Cousin Emma to us, and the part she played in the gathering of the history of the family and of her putting together the books we so enjoy. He stated he had written a biography of his mother and the book would be available to others. He urged parents to keep records for their children.
Donald Alan (Donnie) then showed us what he is doing by computer with the aging family books. He had completed the book on Germany relatives, and stated he could do the same for the individual families if we were interested. He handed out printed lists of the books that could be done and asked us to check any that we would be interested in so he could get an idea of what they would cost. We were not placing orders -- just giving him an idea of our interest. He will know more at the 1998 reunion.
A few spoke of their memories of long ago family happenings that are always welcome and enjoyed.
The business meeting closed at 3:00 PM and more visiting was enjoyed before departing from the coolness of our meeting place to at least 95 deg. F. heat to begin the journey home.
(Signed) Ruby Vance, Secretary