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Monday, May 2, 2016

Gray Matters:Deep roots

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Roots run deep and are tightly secured in the lush soil of northwest Iowa. I was reminded of this during a recent Sunday service at Trinity Lutheran Church, rural Marcus. That morning, Brette Tillie Bentz, infant daughter of Adam and Bobbi Bentz, of North Liberty, Iowa, was baptized in that church, of which her Great-Great-Great Grandfathers, Johann Nicholas Specht and Jacob Mayer, were founding members in 1879. After several wooden incarnations, the present lovely brick structure was built at the suggestion of her Great-Great Uncle Henry Specht in 1918. An announcement was made from the pulpit one November Sunday morning that an Armistice had been reached ending WW I. At which point Henry stood up and proposed that building a new church would be an appropriate gesture of gratitude, to God, in appreciation for the cessation of hostilities.

Great-Great-Grandparents, Great-Grandparents and Grandparents have been married at that place. And, on less-happy notes, generations of family members have been carried from there to their final resting places. One particularly sad event took place when Brette Tillie's Great-Grandfather Art Johnson, victim of a fatal accident, was buried weeks before his daughter Faith Johnson Bentz was born.

In a lovely post-script to that sad story, the exquisite baptismal dress worn by little Miss Brette was fashioned by a cousin, Maryrose Johnson, from the bridal gown, which had been worn by Catherine Johnson Wendt when she and Art were married -- in Trinity Church, of course.

I must tell you of some further twists and turns to this story. Adam, the little one's father, is the son of John and Faith Bentz, Marcus natives, who now live here, but who were Harlan, Iowa residents while Adam was growing up. A gifted athlete, he participated and starred in that school's vaunted football program. He spent his first two years of college at Iowa Central and the final two at Buena Vista, starring on football teams in both places. From college Bentz went to coaching in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, first as an assistant, and now as Defensive Coordinator of the Cornell College Rams.

Dr. Larry Dorr, Orthopedic Surgeon in California, did his undergraduate work on a football scholarship at Cornell. He has since kept in close touch with his alma mater, visiting the campus often and contributing to its scholarship programs. Though Dr. Dorr was never an actual resident of Cherokee County, he spent several summers in Marcus with his Grandmother Anna Specht Dorr and other relatives while working on farms and in a feed mill to earn college money. Grandmother Anna and Brette Tillie Bentz' Great-Great-Grandfather John were brother and sister. You see the connection.

The first time Dr. Larry was at Cornell after Adam had joined the staff, there was some sort of special occasion at which Iowa Coach, Kirk Ferentz, also a friend of the doctor, appeared as featured speaker. Family members have copies of a great picture of those three walking across campus. At that point, Dorr and Bentz had no idea they were related. You can only imagine the delighted surprise when they were subsequently informed that they were, in fact, "third cousins, once removed," if I have that terminology right.

Oh yes, Tillie, the little one's middle name, was a pet nickname of her late Great-Grandmother, Lurline Bentz, another area native. As I said at the outset, roots run deep and are well-secured in this lush Iowa soil!