Welcome to our "Annual (Christmas) Letter" Page!
Each year I try to write a summary of key family events. I grew up in the era of Christmas Cards. Each year as Christmas approached people would get out their Christmas Card list and send cards to all their friends. Usually everyone you knew much at all got a card: family, friends, business contacts, co-workers, and more.
Even as a kid I thought it strange to send cards to people you see everyday but it was the polite things to do and most did it. The avalanche of mail buried the post office and they hired all sorts of extra help leading up to the Christmas holiday.
One Christmas I worked at the main Chicago post office as a temp on the night shift. At Wheaton College you could wear a badge that identified you as a temp worker so the profs would know you were working nights and not ding you if you fell asleep in class. (Really.)
Most people sent a card with just a signature. They might add a brief note or even a picture. Some would send a letter inside to catch you up on their lives. This was especially true with friends for whom life had moved in another direction. It was always nice to find out how they were doing.
I determined that I would only send cards to people with whom I would not be able to share Christmas greetings in person. And I liked the idea of a letter to provide more details and a picture. Actually it started out simply and longer letters came as the years unfolded and the list of people from past lives increased with each move.
So, my annual Christmas letter started out while I was in college and continued as Jan and I married and the family grew. The only problem was the discipline required to actually write the letter and mail it out during one of the busiest times in the church year. Most of our “Christmas” letters went out about the middle of January or later. At least one year it did not go out until after Easter!
At least one was drafted but never mailed.
My plan for this segment is to put them in reverse chronological order starting today and adding past years as time allows.
Richard (January 31, 2019)
Picture taken on January 2, 2020
The Concklin Annual (aka Christmas) Letter for 2019
New Year’s Day, 2020.
Did you ever have a “dream come true” and then not know what to do with it? That’s where I (Richard) am as I write this. My dream is to sit down on the first day of the year and write my annual letter. So here I am on New Years Day and the muses are sleeping in.
This has been a year of reflection for me personally. I realized as I passed my birthday that I was an old geezer. I don’t see myself that way, but the years are undeniable. I also don’t think I look old, but the counter kid (anyone less than 30 is a kid) gave me the senior discount without asking me. That kind of hurt.
In May the Wheaton College class of 1964 had a 55th reunion. There seems to be plenty of us left, just more wrinkled. Plans are already in the works for a 60th reunion of the York High School (Elmhurst, IL) class of 1960 in September. The organizers have already declared that they will not be organizing any more reunions after this one. Apparently, they think that they will not be up for another effort in five more years. Sounds defeatist to me, but then I’m not doing all the work! And I can appreciate the wisdom of not pushing past the physical potential that may be left.
Jan and I do have enough energy to teach and to travel and we did some of each in 2019. The District Extension Classes I used to teach have been pretty much pre-empted by on-line courses offered by our Wesleyan Colleges. So, I have shifted my focus to enrichment classes for interested lay people. Basically it is the same material but without the papers and the tests. We did a trial run for our home church, northridgechurchwisconsin.org, with a seven-session Old Testament Survey in the spring. That was well received, so we did a five-session New Testament Survey in the fall.
We are also involved in the small group ministry at North Ridge. Jan has a wonderful and spiritually growing group of ladies that meets Tuesdays. We share responsibilities for a Wednesday evening group where she actually does most of the prep work and we both lead.
About an hour north of us in Hancock, WI, is a small Wesleyan Church. The pastor resigned in June and we were asked by the District to fill in and evaluate the situation, Aug-Oct. We have continued on a limited basis and will be involved there until April.
Our traveling began in January with The Wesleyan Church “Gathering” in Orlando. March saw Tim, Robert, and I out in Las Vegas for a week of defensive firearm’s training. It was Tim’s idea and a great time for the guys. July found us in Russia on a river cruise between St. Petersburg and Moscow (yes, rivers and canals can take you all the way). In August we made our way to Forney, TX, for the 50th wedding anniversary of Denny and Marilyn Leeds. (I was best man in his wedding and he was best man in mine.) The balance of the year involved short trips to the Chicago area and between family sites in Wisconsin.
In anticipation of the Russian cruise we decided to learn some Russian. The language uses the Cyrillic alphabet and we wanted to be able to at least read the signs and say ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’. There was an adult learning class in our local community college and we went for it. When a person is a slow language learner, a college language class is an exercise in humility. Fortunately, the instructor was patient, actively tried to minimize any embarrassment, and succeeded enough to keep us from playing hooky. Affordabletours.com signed us up and gate1travel.com ran the tour. We would recommend them both. The cruise was wonderful and the ability to dabble in the language was fun but not essential.
In October of 2018 Jan’s mom, Gracie Chastain, moved from her senior living apartment into an assisted living situation. Her 92 years were taking their toll and she was needing a walker if she went very far. She was still able to drive around town but her eyesight was not the best. So she got rid of the car and moved.
She was doing very well in the new place until summer when she sustained a fall and then a minor stroke. By September she had lost the use of her legs and needed a wheelchair to get around. It seemed all her body was shutting down at the same time. Thankfully her mind was clear until the last couple of days and she passed away on October 31st. Jan and I were making weekly trips down to Glen Ellen, IL for the last couple of months. Although we helped as much as we could, Jan’s sister Gail was the rock through the whole final years of Gracie’s life. Jan and Gracie talked on the phone almost daily. Those conversations are missed the most and we’re adjusting.
On the second Saturday in September we went to the University of Wisconsin, Stephens Point for the winter graduation ceremonies. Once there we had the pleasure of seeing Tim get his Master of Science in Education degree. He has been working on this part time while teaching at an alternative high school.
Rob and Tracy are also working on degrees, Tracy in math ed, and Robert in both graphic design and visual media.
In May I sold the 1929 Model A Ford Tudor to concentrate on the 1928 Model A Sport Coupe. In December I was elected to my second two-year term as president of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Model A Restorer’s Club (MARC). In summer we sold the 2002 Saturn Vue. We bought it new in ’02 and drove it 270,000 miles! So it did not own us anything. We replaced it with a 2014 Miata retractable in October. We had snow for Halloween and put the top down on Christmas day. A fitting conclusion to a crazy weather year.
Final note. The Concklin Family (meaning Roger, Betty, Tara, me, a couple of cousins, and some friends) Christmas party has been hosted for more than 25 years by my sister in Wheaton, IL. Last year she declared that the 2018 party would be the last one she would host. Into the breach jumped her son Brandon. He and his wife Jenni volunteered to host this year in Tara’s stead and did. It was nice and continued, at least for one more year, the Concklin Christmas party which had its origins at my grandmother’s home in Oak Park, IL, way back in the 1940’s.
After my mother passed in 2007, Aunt Tara and I sat down and reflected on mom’s last few years. We agreed that there is great satisfaction in looking back and realizing that you made good choices and have no regrets. During 2019 I had occasion to reflect on a lifetime of decisions with that same satisfaction.
Even before we married, Jan and I were committed to each other and to a joint lifetime of service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Each decision has been made in the shadow of that commitment. We have been blest with a wonderful family and significant ministries along the way. The world looks for satisfaction with no regrets. We are finding it in Him.
You’re are getting this because, in the providence of God, we have been privileged to share some of our days with you. Thank-you for enriching our life-journey. May your 2020 be filled with satisfaction and no regrets!
Richard & Jan Concklin Web site in progress: www.concklin.net
Thanksgiving 2018 Family Photo—We do Thanksgiving on the Saturday after to avoid scheduling problems with the various in-laws. Jan came up with the idea a few years ago and it is working well for us.<< New text box >>
Back row: Nephew Brandon Tuttle and wife Jenni. Son Tim, wife Jen and granddaughter Abi, Rob’s wife Angie, Jan’s brother Steve and wife Joanne, Son Rob.
Second row: Jan’s mom Gracie (92), Daughter Tracy and dog Teddy, Scott’s mom Joan and dog Chloe, Richard (aka Rick), Tracy’s husband Scott.
First row: Tim’s Ben, Jan, Tracy’s Lauren, Brandon’s Lexi, Tim’s Ryan, Tracy’s Megan.
Concklin’s (Richard and Jan) Christmas Letter for 2018.
Part A, by Jan,
January 2019, (aka Christmas 2018)
As we write this, we are in the middle of a snowy January (-19 currently after a high today of 14 below zero). Which is ok, because this is – after all – January in Wisconsin. To bring you up to date on our family:
Richard is President of the Model A club and we have made a lot of new friends through the Club. The 1928 Sport Coupe (think Rumble seat) is approaching finished, with just some trim items to go. We had a skin cancer scare early in the year, but with treatment, that’s behind us.
Jan continues to find the advantages of retirement. She teaches a Ladies Bible Study on Tuesday mornings and we both lead a group on Wednesday evenings. This past fall, she had a “misbehaving” parathyroid removed surgically: we’re thinking it’s been a couple of years in the making. Immediately, she felt better and is now in the process of rebuilding bone calcium. Jan’s Mom, Gracie (92), moved into an Assisted Living place in suburban Chicago this past fall and seems to be making the transition slowly but surely.
Daughter Tracy is working on her Doctorate in the field of Math Education. With a part-time job for a Professor, she has her hands full. Hubby Scott works for American Family Insurance and is our resident computer expert, and he has been a big help on more than one occasion. Both of them have a full-time job keeping up with the schedules, lessons, and practices for Megan (13) and Lauren (11). Megan is in sports and Lauren is in dance.
Son Tim continues his teaching job in an Alternative Learning School. He started out the “newbie” and as life happened, he’s now the most senior teacher and finds himself with more supervisory responsibilities. Wife Jen has accepted a paid position with a local charity as Director of Operations. It is an organization that meets the needs of the community. In very general terms, think Pantry, Meals and much more. She is their first to hold this position and her organizational skills are being used to a great degree. Son Ben (12) plays the trumpet and is currently in Basketball. Daughter Ryan (10) is in Ballet. Daughter Abi (7), for whom many of you have prayed and often expressed interest, is doing well in school and defying early medical predictions by walking and even limited running.
Son Robert continues working for a specialty printing plant, producing a lot of the food and candy wrappers we all recognize. Wife Angie is working on her master’s degree and holding two part-time jobs in the meantime. They bought and moved into Angie’s childhood farmhouse after her parents built a new home just down the street. Angie was the General Contractor and did a great job coordinating a LOT of moving parts.
As always, but more and more, we are living Psalm 16:5-6. “The lines have fallen for us in pleasant places.” As we look at the things we have (food, clothing and shelter), we are grateful. But we are also grateful for so much more: family, friends, a good church, and most of all a relationship with the Living Jesus.
Listening to the news, we realize more and more that the real Hope of the World is not to be found in passing another law, but for Jesus to change us from the inside outward. That’s change that lasts.
Jan Concklin, for the family. (January 29,2019)
1 May the Lord answer
you when you are in distress;
May he send you help from the sanctuary
May he remember all your sacrifices
May he give you the desire of your heart
Psalm 20:1-4 NIV
Richard's Part B continues here.
Restoration of 1928 Model A Sport Coupe The car is assembled and running. I put 1808 miles on it over the summer. Still cosmetic details and mechanical issues to finish up but the bulk of a frame-up restoration is done. I’d have never made it without the support and help from a few of the men in the Model A club and it still took three years!
Sale of 1929 Model A Tudor. In 1988 I sold my 1928 Roadster and a bunch of extra parts and exited the antique car hobby. In 2009 I got back in when I purchased a 1929 Tudor Sedan. That led me to get involved with the local Model A club. The members there were more than kind and helpful and have become good friends. I have no need for two antique cars—not to mention no room.
Barb and Rob Owsley were part of Faith Baptist Church when we first came to Madison. Barb was our kids’ piano teacher. They went off to teach in China for 30 years. In 2007 we visited with them in Tianjin at the end of our China trip. They have now returned back to the States and we joined the welcoming crowd at their retirement this year.
50th wedding anniversary. Robert was born on our 13th anniversary. My observation to Jan in the delivery room, “You realize of course that this kills our steak dinners for the foreseeable future.” Somewhere around our 45th anniversary we started talking about what we wanted to do for our 50th if we were still on speaking terms by then. Well, our 50th came and went in January 2018 with no special marker. As I write this we have just passed our 51st anniversary and still have not celebrated. But we’re still talking. Maybe this year.
Basel cell cancer. February 2018 evaluations of skin spots indicate that there is no longer any active cells and I’m good until next time. Almost a year later there is no “next time” yet. I can remember my Grandmother coming home from a check-up with her doctor and saying, “My heart is good, my lungs are good. I just don’t know what I’m going to die from!” She was 80 plus something at the time.
Class on the Minor Prophets. I have taught numerous classes over the years for Wisconsin students who are preparing for ministry. The Wesleyan Church has a program for folks who are called to ministry later in life and have work and family responsibilities. The district classes have mostly been preempted by the on-line college courses but occasional traditional classes are offered and I was able to teach an Old Testament class last Spring on the Minor Prophets.
Visit over Easter with Lingle’s in PA. Dave Lingle was a classmate of mine at Gordon Divinity School and a groomsman at our wedding. We visited with them last spring and discussed some possibilities for a belated 50th. They were game to come but the event never happened. However, while we were discussing possible participants the name of groomsman Don Jarka came up. We had lost track of Don and I had tried a couple of times to chase him down but always came up short. Jan went to the computer and came back with his phone number! (I should have turned the search over to her earlier!)
Reunited with Don Jarka. Don and his wife are living in a city near Grand Rapids, Michigan. I called him on the phone and spent almost an hour catching up. He was game to come to a party and we planned to send more details as they gelled. By the time we got back to him he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We drove to Michigan to spend a couple of days with he and Donna. It was a good time with many memories. At this writing he is still hanging on and talking about Jesus to everyone he can. Don is one of the few Christians I know who have a gift for evangelism and can share Christ’s good news with people and never be offensive.
Den and Marilyn’s visit. Speaking again of our 50th, Den and Marilyn Leeds came for a visit to Madison. Den was best man in our wedding and I was best man when he married Marilyn a year and a half later. Den was pastor in a church in Lone Rock a few miles west of Madison. They had a church anniversary celebration and invited Den, as a previous pastor, to come and share with the congregation as part of the celebration. They stayed with us and we went to the service. Den did a nice job. I can hardly wait to hear what he has to say at our 50th—whenever that happens.
North Ridge small groups. Ever since North Ridge Church started small groups, Jan and I have been involved in that ministry. North Ridge is a church plant of the Wisconsin District of The Wesleyan Church. Jan leads a group of ladies that meets Tuesday mornings. And we jointly lead a group of ten adults on Wednesday evenings. Grand daughter Megan attends church youth group on Sunday nights. Jan and Megan were talking about the Tuesday lady’s group and Megan did not know what to call it. So she said, “You know, your youth group.” Jan told the ladies and now they call their small group, ‘our youth group.’
Electrical work at Rob and Angie’s. Rob and Angie have moved into the farm house where Angie grew up. Her parents decided to build a new house for themselves about a city block away and sold the old homestead to them. As part of the refurbishing of the house they asked me to come and help with the electric. Since I worked with electricians at both Wheaton College and Gordon Div. School I have a modest expertise. Other than plastic boxes and ground fault interrupters, it is amazing how little house wiring has changed in the past forty-five years.
Contact lens use in December. Since I was pretty much out of circulation during the time with the Myanmar congregation, other preaching opportunities dried up until late in 2018. As I prepared I realized that I was having difficulty reading my sermon notes. It took more than a glance to see what was next. So it was back to the contact lenses.
Model A Restorers’ Club presidency. At the end of 2017, I was elected to a two-year term as president of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Model A Restorers’ Club. It is hard to run an effective negative campaign when there is no opposition candidate. I did manage to win and we are doing fairly well with cars that are 87 to 90 years old and many owners not far behind.
Hearing aids. “What?”, “I’m Sorry?”, “Say again, please?”. After saying these or similar responses enough, it became obvious that it was time. I went with Beltone and have been quite satisfied. Adjustment has been minimal and Jan does not have to watch TV with her fingers in her ears.
Unusual Christmas gift. Christmas of 2017 Tim found a deal on gun parts and bought them in triplicate. His idea was that he, Rob, and I could get the rest of the parts and each assemble his own gun. A few months later we met in his shop and between the three of us we were able to put together three working guns. Then we actually went out and tried them at a local shooting range and they all worked! We haven’t shot them since, but maybe more testing this spring.
Active shooter training. At North Ridge Church they announced that the city of Waunakee would be offering a special presentation on how to deal with an active shooter situation in school or at your work. Ever since my membership in the Auxiliary Police in Everett, I have been interested in policing and policing tactics so I attended the training. They provided some very practical ideas on how to survive one of the rare but very real scourges of our time.
Para-thyroid surgery. Part of our 50th anniversary lack of enthusiasm turned out to be related to Jan’s para-thyroid. Four small glands each about the size of a grain of rice govern how our bodies use calcium, and impact a bunch of other physical issues. Now that the overactive one has been removed, energy and enthusiasm are returning and life is coming back to the old normal and we are thankful for that.
Tracy’s birthday celebration. In the scheduling of our family Christmas celebration we have bumped to the Saturday after the 25th for the past couple of years. This year Tracy called, “Foul!” because her December 30th birthday was getting short-changed. So we celebrated the birth of Jesus on Saturday at Robert’s house and the birth of Tracy at our house on Sunday.
Abi’s dancing. When Abi (shortened from Abigail to Abby to Abi so she could write it more easily) was born they said that she would never be able to walk on her own. She has since done a number of things that were said to be unlikely if not impossible with Rodriguez Syndrome. She had been walking on her own for several months when she got a present. It was a plastic roll that opened up to show a working piano keyboard about 30 inches long. At one end was a battery box and a small control panel. You can push the keys on the roll and play a tune or you can push a button on the control panel and it will play a few simple songs on its own. When she first opened it she was very suspicious, even afraid of it. We rolled it out and showed her what it would do. After her initial hesitation she pushed the button to play a song. Then she pushed the button again. Then she pushed it again and started dancing around to the music!
To see her dance made us all feel like dancing. It was a wonderful reminder that our suspicions, fears and hesitations can lead to dancing, if we will just push the button.
May our Lord Jesus Christ fill your 2019 with the joy of dancing! Psalm 20:1-4 NIV