24 September 2012

Remembering Dale Siegler

My uncle, Dale Siegler, died the evening of September 19, 2012, at a not unnaturally young age, after many months of struggling with a serious health condition that, whatever the precise diagnosis may have been, amounted to natural causes.  He was survive by his wife, four children, many grandchildren, at least one great-grandchild, and many other relatives.

The life that he and my aunt Rose, my mother's sister, lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan near my maternal grandparents home, was different from that of most of my maternal relatives. He and Rose had children early, stayed close to home where family support was available, and had many children themselves. Rose's two brothers and my mother all went away to college, found professional careers in big metropolitan areas and raised families with two children each. (Kay, their other sister, had been starting college and headed on the same track when an M.S. diagnosis took he on another course that left her a spinster, blind, and spending her final days, in middle age, in a succession of nursing homes).

Dale had worked in the iron mines were he'd found a job for himself as a newlywed man with a baby daughter for many years, and served as a security guard for the closed mine after it shut down. He and his son and his friends hunted deer in deer season, trapping small furry animals destined for coats and stoles and taxidermy, fished, managed family forests, and was a community and family leader, well liked by all.

I remember watching in awe as a child as he neatly filleted fresh caught lake fish leaving them boneless, with just two or three perfect cuts of his fillet knife. He roamed the woods, first with the kids in the generation of my cousins and me, and then with kids in my children's generations, showing them deer trails and his traps.

The life he lived was not unlike my grandfather who had lived most of his life as a lumberjack supplemented by subsistence farming at a home place nearby tucked into hills and forests. As in Dale's own generation, some of his children moved far away to the big city, and all but a couple of his descendants went to college. However, his grandson, his grandson's wife, and their child lived right across the street from him in their little hamlet, in his final days. I never heard the slightest twinge of regret in his voice or his eyes over the road he had taken, although he was always eager to discover what we had experienced.

Despite the fact that his home in a town found in a list of Michigan Ghost Towns was further away from any city of any consequence than my paternal grandparent's place in Dola, Ohio, his world in Northern Michigan always seemed less insular. Perhaps it was the fact that their church retained stronger ties to Swedish speaking Finland. Perhaps the mining companies and tourist oriented operations that dotted the birch and fir forests had more connections to the rest of the world. Perhaps Rose's siblings and his children provide more of a connection to the larger world.

We will also miss him now as those whom he has left behind live his legacy.

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