I was born in Burbank, California about where the airport is now. When I mentioned this to a Montana neighbor she said “Forever more! Why were you born there?” “Because I wanted to be near my mother” I replied.
So begins the delightful booklet “Sagebrush Days” written in 1991 by former UCH member Vera Kueffer as a way to pass along her memories and experiences to her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Happily, Vera also shared copies of her collection of memories to many of us here at the church where she and her husband John spent the later days of their lives.
Vera was born in 1904 and at age 4 her family moved to a remote desert ranch in Southern California’s Palo Verde. After a devastating flood the family moved once again to Redlands where Vera recalls traveling by mule driven covered wagon to Loma Linda to visit her dying grandmother. After years of struggling in Southern California’s remote deserts the family made the difficult decision to move to Iowa where Vera attended school and completed her education, graduating from Iowa State Teachers College in 1926. Vera, a tough and independent woman accepted a teaching position in a remote one room log cabin school house in Morehead, Montana. With just $8.00 of her own money, a personal loan to cover the train ticket to Montana, a small suitcase and a sack with several apples and peanut butter sandwiches she made her way to Morehead. It was there at a community social that she met rancher John Kueffer. Vera and John were married in Sheridan, Wyoming and made their home for the next 40 years on their growing homestead raising cattle and a family. Most of those years without electricity, running water or a phone. “Those were the best of times and the worst of times. We survived drought, depression, grasshoppers and crickets, dust storms, hail storms, blizzards and heat waves. We survived Hoovers prosperity just around the corner and Roosevelt’s New Deal”
In 1966 Vera and John gave up the increasingly difficult ranching life of managing a herd of over 100 Hereford cows, calves and 3 purebred bulls and moved to Hayward to be near their children Carolyn and Paul and their grandchildren. They also found a new church home on Mission Blvd. where Vera would remain active in church, the community and senior activities well into her 90’s.
In this stewardship season we are reminded that our responsibility is not just about managing our assets but is also about keeping the story alive of all who have passed through our doors. The next time that you are in our church patio, take a few moments to contemplate the covered bench and take note of the JV brand. A reminder of our brother and sister John and Vera Kueffer. -Bill