Marjorie Campbell turned 103 last Friday and had a great birthday party. There was a good crowd on hand at Baptist General to help our birthday girl celebrate.
I visit Marjorie – not as much as I should – but with some degree of regularity. Marjorie is always happy to see me and I’m sure she enjoys our visits, but certainly no more than I do. Her vision, hearing and memory are amazing for her age. She can communicate well and has a remarkable memory. She’s special.
But Marjorie is especially special to me because she is a direct link to my mother, who has been dead for 37 years. Marjorie and mom were first cousins and spent considerable time together growing up; they always stayed in touch. Marjorie loves to tell me about mom and mom’s siblings. She enjoys telling the stories and I enjoy hearing them.
Marjorie was a Pinet. My mother’s mother (my grandmother) was also a Pinet. Marjorie’s father and my grandmother were siblings. My grandmother (who had married Henry Oidtman) died in 1911, when my mother was six. She and her twin sister were raised by their older sisters, with a great deal of help from the extended Pinet and Oidtman families. Mom was extremely close to all of her relatives, and it’s obvious why.
It was families like this – and they came to this country by the millions – that made America great. They worked and toiled, loved and supported each other and loved and worshiped their God. And let’s not forget that a lot of these families lost fathers, sons and brothers in the Civil War to bring an end to slavery, and also lost fathers, sons and brothers in Europe and the South Pacific during World Wars I and II, to stave off tyranny.
When someone tries to tell us this nation is not special, we have a right to be furious.
In visiting with Marjorie I have gotten much better acquainted with her son Gayle, who lives here in Linn. I was nothing short of amazed to learn from Gayle and another cousin, Jay Smith, the story of the first Pinets to arrive in Osage County.
In March of 1843, Jacques Pinet and his wife, the former Jeanne Ferry, sailed from the port of Le Havre, in the Normandy area of France. With them were Jeanne’s father (Jacques Ferry) and their seven children (an eighth child would be born in America). Their voyage was horrible. Their ship sailed through a storm (possibly a hurricane) near Cuba and was badly damaged. It took a total of 73 days for them to reach this area. The food supply was critically short. Jacques Pinet and his wife ate almost nothing, leaving what little they had for Jacques Ferry and the seven children.
These 10 folks made it to Osage County, but it would probably be fair to say “barely.” Because of the malnutrition they suffered, both parents died within one year of their arrival. They are buried at the Cadet Creek Cemetery, located between Loose Creek and Bonnots Mill. Before she died, Jeanne had their eighth child. The parents knew they were dying and Jeanne made Jules – the second-oldest of the children -- promise to keep the family together and take care of the baby that was just born. Jules kept that promise.
I did not know this story until about five years ago. I was amazed when I first heard of the story and learned that Jules Pinet was my great-grandfather. Gayle Campbell and Jay Smith – who are also great-grandchildren of Jules – knew this story, but I didn’t. This is a great story. It’s not a great story because I’m telling it. I’m telling this because it’s a great story, with a great message.
Jules Pinet was truly a great American. He and many like him will not be remembered in history, but they are the folks who made America great.
In 13 months, America faces an important decision, do we elect Donald Trump and hopefully keep America great or do we vote for some socialist who is going to do his or her best to destroy the country?