In memoriam: Ted C. Jordan

1989_Jordan_Ted_Trudy_Xmas copy 2My great-uncle, Ted Jordan, passed away unexpectedly last week. I last saw Ted when I was five years old, when he came to Christmas in Illinois. I don’t remember much about our encounters that year, but I remember him as jolly and friendly, and had a genuine smile. Although I didn’t know him well, I’ve gotten to know him through talking to those who worked with him, cared about him, and were his family. Below is my memorial to him.

Ted C. Jordan
Ted Clarence Jordan was born July 28, 1939 in Chicago, IL, and died February 15, 2018 in Portland, OR at the age of 78 after being struck by a vehicle while crossing the street. He was the son of Erwin and Dorothy (née Mueller) Wischmeyer.

Ted grew up in Chicago, and the family lived for a short time in California. After Erwin passed away in 1944, Dorothy married Waldemar “Wally” G. Jordan in 1949. Ted and his sister were officially adopted by their stepfather and they changed their last names to Jordan. They all moved to Seattle, WA in June of 1949. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in Seattle in 1959. He lived in several cities, including Pescadero and San Diego, and ultimately settled in Portland, Oregon in about 1972. During that time, he also loved traveling with his parents and sister, and they visited sights like the Grand Canyon and Door County, WI. Ted played in an accordion band, and loved to sing and act.

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Ted’s senior high school portrait, about 1959.

In Portland, Ted worked at Lewis and Clark College as a “Bon Appetit employee extraordinaire.” He was known as “Yogi” and was beloved by the students. (He apparently earned the nickname Yogi when he was growing up and playing baseball with some neighborhood friends. They said “hit the ball like Yogi” and the name stuck.) He took pride in his work and became the steadfast friendly and smiling face that welcomed the students every day as they ate their meals. The would affectionately refer to the Lewis and Clark students as “my kids,” even if they had graduated a long time ago and had kids of their own. He encouraged the students by handing out balloons, jokes, and smiles. He especially enjoyed giving out Mickey Mouse balloons. One of his coworkers, Ryan Jensen said, “Most people on campus have fond memories of Ted handing out balloons and welcoming students every day, attending arts and athletic events, and offering his generous smile to all of us. He was a fixture of campus life that can never be replaced.” When Ted encountered some financial difficulties, the students helped him get on his feet again by starting a GoFundMe campaign. The funds helped him stay in his apartment and help with daily living expenses. He worked at the college for nearly 40 years.

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Ted Jordan, 1939-2018.

His kindness and generosity extended beyond the community college campus. He built friendships with people everywhere he went. He was well known all around Portland as he walked and used the public transit to attend every cultural event, dinner, and classical concert he could find. He loved to meet new people and hear their stories. He knew every part of Portland, and knew how to get anywhere using the bus, tram or train. In the summer, he loved the freedom of traveling in the areas around Portland, and to enjoy the mountains and fresh air. He dreamed of traveling abroad to London or Australia. Ted also loved music. He believed that “the most important thing a parent can do is get their child an instrument.” In his early years, he played cymbals for the Lewis and Clark pep band, and especially enjoyed a cappella groups on campus. He still had dreams of learning to play the organ at Flanagan Chapel at Lewis and Clark, and Grace Lutheran Church, his home congregation. At the end of his memorial service, the organist played Ted’s two favorite organ arrangements, which are full of joy and energy.

He had been a member of Grace Lutheran Church ever since he arrived in Portland in the early 1970’s. He loved his family there, and had a profound and joyful faith. His pastor Thad Bitter said that those who knew him knew how blessed he was. His “unique sense of fashion” and his rough exterior was just a shell to the beautiful, joyful soul that he had. The pastor described Ted as a beautiful flower that was planted in an old rusty pail. The flower didn’t match his temporary container, and could only grow so big while in its small pail. After death, Ted’s flower has now been transplanted into the heavenly garden and can flourish on its own. He had the unique ability Flowers_rustybucketto be content with whatever circumstances that he was in, and to share his joy for life with others. In his faith, he lived ready to meet his Savior, and didn’t let his earthly troubles discourage him from sharing his faith and joy for life. One of the hymns during his memorial service seems to describe his life well, saying “When peace like a river attendeth my way, Whenever sorrows like sea billows roll — Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Ted touched so many lives through his friendship and enthusiasm for life. Fellow members of his congregation described him as “the nicest man I’ve ever met,” and “very knowledgeable about people and Portland.” He was beloved by students, who said “Thanks for being you Yogi!” and “For the years of jokes, balloons, and words of encouragement.” and “Thank you for creating a friendly and safe environment in the Bon, and for working so tirelessly day in and day out. You’re one of my favorite parts of this school.” He was clearly an important part of daily life for both his “kids” and his coworkers at Lewis and Clark. His coworkers at Bon Appetit wrote to him saying, “The kitchen is not the same without you. Know you are loved. We all carry you in our heart.” and “You are a shining example of someone who enjoys life.” Another coworker wrote, “Your conversations, personality and balloons are an essential piece of the cafeteria. We are all missing you…”

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Ted with his parents, Dorothy and Wally Jordan, at the Grand Canyon.

Every year on February 14, he would sing “Happy Birthday” to the state of Oregon. Unfortunately, he was unable to sing for Oregon this year, but I know he inspired others to continue the tradition. He passed away the following day, on February 15. He will be greatly missed by his friends, family, students, congregation, and coworkers!

Ted is survived by his sister, two nephews, four great-nieces, and five first cousins. He is preceded in death by his father Erwin Wischmeyer; his mother Dorothy (Mueller) Wischmeyer Jordan; his stepfather Waldemar (aka Wally) G. Jordan; his cousins Rowena (Jordan) Koshinski, Elbert Jordan, and Jim Diener; and his niece Jean (Weil) Wensink. He is also remembered by his Grace Lutheran Church family, his Bon Appetit and Lewis and Clark family, and his countless friends.

A celebration of Ted’s life was held at Grace Lutheran Church on Monday, February 19th at 3:00 pm. He will be buried in the family plot in St. Luke Cemetery in Chicago, IL.



C.D.C. Johnson 1954-2017

Johnson_Claurence_portrait.jpgA short time ago, the world lost a great man and my husband lost his father. My words can’t do justice to his legacy. He was a man who loved his children more than anything in the world, and did everything he could to give them a better life. He believed in hard work, perseverance, family ties and the value of education. He taught his children these values as well. He sacrificed so much to raise four children on his own.

He was born in Guyana, where he lost his father at an early age. He educated himself and became a teacher at the age of 16. Like all young men, he served in the military, and eventually served in the office of the President of Guyana. He married in his late 20’s and had four children. He moved the family to St. Lucia for better opportunities, then later moved to the Bahamas. He raised four young children on his own. He bought a run-down house, and worked hard to make it the best house on the block. He taught his children how to paint, put in flooring and tile. He taught them that if you don’t know something, the answer can be found at the library. He was a teacher and inspired countless other young people to work hard for their dreams. He found time to write poetry, leaving an impressive collection of sonnets, ballads and narratives. He even published one young adult novel. In 2008, he relocated to the United States, where his children had or were attending college. He wore many hats during his lifetime, but his most rewarding job was that of a father.

He also believed in strong family ties and connecting with family. He helped organize large family reunions in Guyana and was one of the founders of the “Gillis/McCammon Family Reunion Organization.” Because of his efforts, much of the family is in contact with each other through the annual family reunions in Hopetown. He kept the rich family stories alive. I hope to do my part to keep them going to his future grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

An essential part of family history is remembering the family stories and legacies of those who have gone before you, and who are now part of you. Family values, just like family heirlooms, are passed down carefully to each generation. My husband is a great man because he had a great role model in his father. I feel honored that he was a part of my life for the past 8.5 years. He’ll be missed dearly.


His obituary is posted here.



Keeping Family Recipes Alive

Many family historians know that recording your family history does not only include recording birth dates and death dates of all our relatives. It’s also important to remember what happened in their life in between the dashes… who they were, what they valued, and what they loved to do.

On my mom’s side of the family, spending time in the kitchen has always brought my family together. When I was young, cooking wasn’t a chore. It was a time to spend with my mom, my Nana, my aunt and my cousins, and occasionally my uncle and my Papa. It was a time to talk and learn and laugh. Almost everyone perfected their favorite recipe: Papa made his peanut brittle, my aunt Pat loved peach cobbler, my mom baked excellent bread and coffeecakes, my uncle George cooked bean soup, and I made speedy brownies. Especially during the holidays, the kitchen was always full of happy cooks.

One of my Nana’s many talents was baking the perfect homemade pie. I know that everyone thinks that their grandma is the best baker in town, but Nana’s pies were truly the best pies around. I’ve never really eaten a pie that can rival it.

Thanksgiving isn’t the same without pie and family! Last year’s pie selection included the last pie that Nana made… Peach!

Surprisingly, my Nana, Millie Drake, didn’t learn how to bake from her mother. She actually learned to cook and bake from her father-in-law, Charles Drake. Charles had lost his father when he was a child, and lost his mother when he was a young adult, so he probably learned how to cook on his own. Nana grew up in town with many siblings, and her mother always took care of the cooking on her own. When Nana and Papa got married, Nana quickly had to learn how to cook and help manage her father-in-law’s farm. I’m not sure exactly where she learned how to bake a pie, but it was likely from him.

Being connected to the farm meant that there was always plenty of fruit and berries to make into pies. After many years of practice, she had perfected her pie crust. In our family, it was said that you could either be a bread maker or a pie maker. It was hard to get both perfect. If your hands were used to kneading bread, you’d tend to knead the pie crust dough too much and it would be tough. If you excelled at making pie crusts, you would probably under-knead the bread dough. (I’m trying to excel at both, but I’m not sure how well I’ll do! I need many more years of practice.)

Nana’s “recipe” for pie crust and apple pie filling. The exact measurements were always adjusted to make more or less dough, or to adjust for weather changes.

Here’s Nana’s recipe for her pie crust and apple pie. Like many older recipes, it’s not something that you can make just from following the recipe. Her written recipes are usually sparse on directions, and just rely on background knowledge. I learned to make the pie crust by watching how Nana’s hands carefully folded the ingredients together, and listening to her reasons for adjusting the measurements for one thing or another. Things like the weather can affect how much milk to add, so you have to watch the dough and constantly adjust. You can’t just mix the flour and shortening, you need to cut the shortening into the flour until it’s crumbly. You can’t mix too much, otherwise it doesn’t stick together well. Likewise, her “recipe” for apple pie filling doesn’t include any directions, just ingredients. And even the measurements would change from one recipe card to another! Most of the spices were adjusted to taste. A good cook can always rely on instinct.

Nana was well-known in our town for her homemade pies. Nana and her friend Jan Campbell used to make dozens of pies for Genoa’s Pioneer Day in August. The pies would be sold at the pie sale. When I was young, I remember going to Mrs. Campbell’s house the day before the sale. Her large kitchen was filled with friends and family making pie crust, cutting fruit, assembling pies, or tending the oven. The pie-making extravaganza was something I looked forward to every year, but it was an exhausting day of baking. I’m sure Mrs. Campbell, my mom, and Nana were relieved when they finally retired from doing the pie sale.

My  sister and I with Nana on her 90th birthday.

Nana’s pies could bring the family together. Most Sundays when I was growing up, my family would get together for a meal. My aunt and her family lived next door, and my Nana and Papa lived close by, so it was easy to see each other often. Nana would make some kind of dessert for Sunday dinner… usually a pie, but sometimes Mississippi mud pie or berry crisp. If it was July, she’d make a pie out of the black raspberries that grew in our backyard. If it was fall, we’d get apples from Edward’s Orchard and we’d have an apple pie. My uncle used to work in the Department of Agriculture in South Carolina, and he gave her a recipe for peach pie that he’d acquired from a local peach farmer. Sometimes she’d get Door County cherries to fill her pies. It was always fresh fruit, and it was always delicious! We’d also have a whole spread of pies for Thanksgiving… Apple Cranberry, Mincemeat, and of course Pumpkin! My Papa had his own special way of mixing up the pumpkin filling.

Whenever I make a pie, I think fondly of Nana and how she loved to share the sweetness of life with others. Nana passed away last summer. We ate the last pie that she made at Thanksgiving last year. This Thanksgiving, I’ll be making the pies. I’m thankful for all her life lessons, and for teaching me how to make something sweet for those I love. These are traditions that I hope to keep alive with my children someday.


Rolling out the dough for one of the pies this year.

Wedding Wednesday: Anniversaries past and present

My grandparents were married 70 years ago today. Before they passed away, they had celebrated 64 anniversaries. This is the first wedding anniversary that they’ll be celebrating together in heaven. My husband and I just celebrated our first anniversary. We hope to share just as many years together!

It runs in the family… Birthdays


My Papa and I at my first birthday, and close to his 69th birthday.

Sometimes I’m amazed at how often certain dates repeat themselves in my family tree. For instance, five living members of my family have birthdays in July, three of which are on consecutive days. My birthday is within a week of my sister’s and my grandfather’s consecutive birthdays, and sometimes we would have a triple birthday party together! My paternal grandparents and cousin share birthdays within 5 days of each other in November. My husband’s family also have birthdays within a few days of members of my family. Further back on my family tree, certain generations will have close birthdays as well.

Although our birthdays were close together, my mom would always make sure that each of our days was special. But some of my fondest birthday memories are the birthday parties with three delicious cakes- especially Papa’s favorite, German Chocolate cake!

My sister, my grandfather and I celebrating our birthdays together one year. My Nana made Mississippi mud cake!