Written by Mark Doland
Second District Republican State Central Committee Member
Bare trees and remnants of snow mark the way as we drive into the east side of Des Moines on a chilly November day. For most people around, this time of year is filled with memories of times past. Warmth from fireplaces and ovens fills our hearts with joy. The aroma of turkey and pumpkin pie swirls through while thinking back to family gatherings.
For my wife and her sisters, the warm fuzzy memories are much less. On December 18th, 1986 Missy, Becky, Jenny, and Libby lost their mother to a brain tumor. The family was devastated. At the ages of 12, 10, 9, and 6, these girls had their lives changed forever.
Fast forward twenty-seven years. All grown up, most with families of their own, stories are shared of their past. The love from the members of the community of Hartford, Iowa is one of the great memories that is talked about as that is where they lived at the time of their mother Jane’s passing. “People brought over lots and lots of food,” Jenny and her sisters recall.
Thanksgiving is a great holiday that brings family together to share in fellowship with food and love. This family has had to create a new generation of traditions and holiday past times. Each year, the family gathers at the Rising Sun Church of Christ for the annual family reunion. This is a time of year the girls look forward to as their beloved mother’s relatives are all in one place. They get to reminisce and ask their aunts and uncles stories of their mother.
One of the only memories that the girls have from Thanksgiving with their mother is a story that involves Governor Branstad. My wife and I are politically involved with the Republican Party so we have had opportunities to see our Governor. When my wife sees Governor Branstad, she recalls a time in the early 80’s. The girls lived with their mom on Des Moines’ east side in the River Hills Apartments.
It was Thanksgiving time and Jenny remembers living in poverty. She shares many times when she can recall having less than enough food to get by on without being hungry. Jenny recalls, “Governor Branstad brought a pumpkin pie to our apartment for Thanksgiving when my mom was still alive.” When inquiring further, Missy adds, “He didn’t just bring us a pumpkin pie, he brought us a complete Thanksgiving meal.” The girls are thankful for this memory.
I caught up with Governor Branstad at his birthday party a few weeks ago and shared the story with him. He told me, “My wife and I used to deliver Thanksgiving meals on the east side of Des Moines in the early 1980’s.” He then thanked me for sharing their story. I told my wife of his reaction and she was awestruck. She couldn’t believe that he remembered. Jenny then asked me to write the story to share it with others.
At his birthday party, the person who introduced Governor Branstad said nobody loves Iowa as much as he does. Our family is a recipient of a memory that will last a lifetime. He is a man of character that we appreciate and admire. Our family would like to say thank you to Governor Branstad and his wife Chris, and Happy Thanksgiving.