Lauper Family Reunion - 1996

an account by Claudia Lauper Bushman

We drove up from Southern California to attend the Family Reunion, my third in a row and Richard's first. We started it early by staying with David Lauper in Danville. Judy invited us although she was away in England studying children's literature. The twins were absent also, but David had flown home his Provo contingent of Michael, Julie, and Troy for the occasion. We had some good visits preliminary to the main bout.

Family Tree
Lauper Family Tree (1997 photo)

We arrived at Wilma and Norman Stocker's place fairly early in the AM to find a good crowd already assembled. This was a first visit to Wilma's fabled place, a perfect site for a reunion with beautiful gardens and trees and its zoned areas, spacious and protected, safe for children and pleasant for the adults. WIlma's crew, a cadre of Brown family workers in watermelon aprons, had managed a number of wonderful extras. All were enchanted by a huge family tree painted on a big board, maybe 5 x 7 feet, with a branch for each of the ten tribes (little twigs for those without issue) and a named leaf for everyone in the family, 180 by Georgia's count. For each expected person, a leaf name tag was attached to the tree. Wilma said she expected about 70, or about half of the family. (The family's sharpest eye, Auntie Vi, counted 69.) This marvelous tree was conceived by Wilma and painted by her daughter Karen. Among the charming aspects was a heart carved into the tree's trunk, "Emile + Emma."

Eric Brown, although unable to attend, had sent along ten big poles to which WIlma affixed ten banners, each representing a branch of the family and of a different color. Those attending took ribbons of the suitable color and tied them to the matching flagpoles. The Browns were particularly well represented with a flagpole bristling with ribbons. ­There were also individual glass mugs to which people attached name tags and kept for drinking from the inexhaustible supply of beverages throughout the day.

The Brown crew had also provided painted T-shirts for the crowd which said Lauper Family Reunion in red and green. Wilma did these individually with some last minute help from other Browns. A special small size shirt was available for each of the 4 babies present, pretty red haired Joanna Lauper--daughter of John and Lory, beautiful poster girl Katherine Talbert--daughter of Ben and Karen, handsome Logan Van Katwyk-son of Rica and Kevin, and sturdy little Marc Blocker--son of Danielle and Nathan. These T-shirts were all donned for a family picture which Ben Talbert took after shooing everybody into place.

The day was warm and the sun powerful. The red, white and blue balloons forming a celebratory arch popped like firecrackers. Wilma had arranged a roofed, pavilion with draped corners for the senior generation, which does not mean that the rest of us did not crowd in from time to time. However, it was still pretty sunny there in the early day. The lazies crowded the edge of the garden in the heavy shade of the trees, munching on the fresh fruit and drinking from our mugs, while others played games.

Three members of the second generation, Viola, Marcel, and Dennis attended along with spouses Frances, Helen and Jane. This constitutes 100% for them. Of the Serge branch, we had Georgia and Crawford (able to come because the 4th of July concert that Crawford conducts annually was already over), dependable regulars Paulie and Gib and Richard and Claudia.

The Browns were in force with all the Dennis Browns--he flipped burgers and hot dogs and Shirley worked the food table. Their children were all there, Bill and his wife Julia who swam like a fish, Gordon and Barbara. Karen had brought most of the Eric Brown contingent from Temecula and Wilma and Norman and the Talberts finished up the Browns. Each of these last two families has a missionary out who was counted in spirit.

Marcel and Frances' branch had representatives from four of the five children's families. Not only were the complete Diane and Warren Smith family with their boys and the complete John and Lory Lauper with their girls present, but Marc John Ellison was there with his wife of a year Yvonne, and Lynette Wardle was there, soon to travel to New York City to attend the Manhattan School of Music.

Auntie Vi was there with all three of her children, the peripatetic Linda and David currently home in Camarillo doing good works, their children David and Elisa Ann Kennedy with her two children Rachel and Christian. The Peterson surrogate daughter Tessie and husband WIlson Crosby were also in attendance. JoAnn was there with her son Matthew, only two days home from a mission which began in Roseville, CA and finished in Independence, MO. Two other sons are still out on missions, and John and Paige will be moving to Kansas for medical school, starting a Lauper outpost in Kansas with the Kennedys. JR was there too, on special assignment at the grill with Dennis, but Susan was unable to come.

Dennis and Helen came in, supported by son Marc, grandson Ryan and granddaughter Danielle with husband Nathan Blocker, who brought great grandson Marc. Four great generations.

Jane Lauper entered in state in a wheelchair, having had a recent foot operation. She was pushed by Rica, carried Logan and was surrounded by Kevin, Cammie, Rusty, Mason, and Vanessa. David was already there with Michael, Julie, Troy, and Jennie. These are the people I recall, but I may have missed some.

At lunchtime we ate burgers and hot dogs with all the fixings. Karen Brown had made potato salad for 65 which meant two 20# bags of potatoes. There was cole slaw and fruit salad, chips, and I don't know what else. Huge amounts of food disappeared down the hungry maws of those voracious Laupers. For dessert, the imaginative committee had placed ice cream ingredients in small cans, inside large cans full of ice. Couples rolled these big cans back and forth for a while, freezing their own ice cream which they then ate with chocolate sauce. Cookies and watermelon also appeared as did candy, etc. There was no shortage of things to eat.

As the shadows stretched across the yard and the breeze arose, the weather became steadily more pleasant. Small groups sat around chatting. A family meeting was held with the family song led by Paulie There were announcements of missions, weddings, and babies. All the July birthday people received individual chocolate cakes with patriotic trimming. The missionary fund set up by Ivan Lauper in his will was announced. The fund will be administered by Trustees Marc Lauper, John Lauper, Dennis Brown, JoAnn Storheim and Rica VanKatwyk and will provide financial assistance to missionaries who are family descendants.

In the afternoon, the pool was opened and people were encouraged to swim and to play volley ball and ping pong, as well as to sit around and talk as they had done previously. Many delighted squeals emanated from the pool where the children and some adults cooled off. As the dusk came on, fires were lit and chocolate bars passed out. It was time for s'mores. Still the event continued into the dark when the committee began to clear up the debris of the day's activities. People gathered up their towels, their T-­shirts, their children, their empty dishes and began to say goodbye for another year. All agreed that it was a super reunion.

Everyone enjoyed the event tremendously, getting acquainted with new people and talking with old ones. There was universal agreement that the reunion had been managed with skill and imagination. A brief chat with the representatives of the Marcel family, which will be running the reunion next year, indicated that it was possible that Wilma might be enlisted to help as hostess in the future, even when the Browns were not in charge. I asked David Lauper, a faithful attender, what the high points had been for him. He said that he thought more different families were represented than ever before. He was delighted that the activity was reaching a lot of people who hadn't had this experience before. He thought that it was exciting to see another generation of little kids. he was used to the old guys, generations two and three, but now the little ones, generation five, were getting to know their cousins. They would make friendships and be part of a larger group. I second David's remarks and hope that all parents of young children will avail themselves of this opportunity to meet the family and know that they are Laupers.

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