When I was a kid, the oldest person in our family was “Aunt Jen.” After the death of her only child, Aunt Jen went to live in a group home for elderly ladies run by the mother of one of the 4th grade teachers at Haverhill Elementary School (Portage, Michigan), Mr. Sweringer. My fourth grade class was directly opposite that of Mr. S who made kids put a penny in a jar if they cussed.
My daughter’s middle name is Jennifer, and I gave her this name in honor of Aunt Jen.
Aunt Jen was born Jennie DeKorn in Kalamazoo, on March 8, 1873, to Richard and Alice (Paak) DeKorn. She was the oldest of the three siblings, which included Cora (my great grandmother) and Joseph (the photographer).
At age 23, on May 20, 1896, Jennie married Lambertus Leeuwenhoek.
Lambertus, known to everyone in the family as Uncle Lou, was born in the Netherlands on May 3, 1972. He passed away April 20, 1949 in Kalamazoo. Uncle Lou’s parents were Arie Leeuwenhoek and Mary Hoogedoom. The story I was told by Grandpa is that Uncle Lou and his brother Gerard were orphans. He told me that Uncle Lou was a very intelligent man.
Additional info added later: I discovered a letter from Phil DeKorn, son of Joseph, to my parents, which says that Uncle Lou was a wizard at chess and checkers.
He also said that Uncle Lou was a direct descendent of Antony van Leeuwenhoek, the inventor of the microscope.
Uncle Lou and his brother-in-law, my great grandfather Adrian Zuidweg, spent a lot of time together.
Aunt Jen and Uncle Lou had one child, Alice Leeuwenhoek Moerdyke. She was born in Kalamazoo on April 16, 1897. I suspect she was quite spoiled because:
a. I have so many photos of her!
b. She had a lot of pretty clothes–much nicer than the rest of the family.
c. My grandfather once told me so .
Aunt Jen and Uncle Lou lived the rest of their lives in Kalamazoo. They celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1946 and the Kalamazoo Gazette ran their photo.
When I was little, she attended our family get-togethers, and she wasn’t a mother or aunt of anyone from my generation or my mother’s. I couldn’t grasp that she was my grandfather’s aunt, as that seemed to me impossible. My parents took me to visit her regularly, and I always respected them for their attention to her.
On March 15, 1968, at the age of 95, Aunt Jen passed away.