Every family has a child that picks up the load – I refer to it as “the kid that carries the water.” In our family it is Hookie who seemed to take on most of the responsibilities. When his father died, Hookie was 20 years old and he took over running the family farm. His older brother John was living at home, but wasn’t much on farm work. Hookie also became the surrogate father to his younger siblings that were still at home.
My first Hookie story is about his mother’s illness. When Mary became very ill she went to Yakima to stay with friends. It was hoped that the dry climate would help her control her tuberculosis. Unfortunately, the disease had progressed too far for the treatment to help her. When it was obvious that she was failing, Mary wanted to come home to Lynden. Sadie, who was only 13, had been spending time with her in Yakima and she called Hookie to come help. He took the train over to Yakima and then made arrangements with the railroad to get his mother home.
Mary was too advanced in her illness to be allowed in the passenger car and was too weak to have sat for the entire journey anyway. Hookie loaded her cot into the baggage car and made the trip home sitting on the floor of the baggage car holding his mother’s hand. They made the transfers with Hookie carrying his mother in his arms and a station man moving her cot and luggage to the next baggage car. Albert met them at the station with the car and they took Mary home to the farm where she died. Hookie made all the arrangements for Mary’s burial.
Hookie and his brother Albert were executors to Mary’s will, but Hookie was the head of the household. Sadie went to stay with her older sister for awhile, but she really wanted to be home with her brothers. Hookie convinced his sister to let her come back and he was more father than brother to her in the years before she married. He loaned her the money for canning jars to put up vegetables and fruit to sell, and then let her pay him back after she sold her preserves.
When Bert died suddenly in 1938 it would be Hookie that took on the role of guardian uncle to his child. While all the siblings made sure Bert’s family remained part of the Burgraff family, it was often Hugo that made sure that they were included in all the events.
My favorite story of Hookie is about the death of his brother Ike (Arie). Ike died in the tuberculosis sanitarium in Salem, Oregon, and his body was sent to North Bend where his wife Dorothy was living. Dorothy and Ike were living on the edge of poverty and with no money for a funeral, Ike was going to be laid to rest in a pauper’s grave. Hookie stepped in, and taking his brothers Albert and Marion, along with Dorothy’s mother Lucy Jane Wilson Johnson, he went to North Bend to intercept the body. He brought with him on the train a coffin that he’d built the night previous to their departure and he went directly to the funeral home. There he claimed the body of his brother Ike and placed him in the coffin he brought.
The following morning the family, along with Dorothy and her daughter Donna, left for Lynden to bury Ike in Monumenta Cemetery next to his brother Bert. The two graves had originally been purchased by Hookie for himself and potentially a future wife, but he had given one up for Bert the year before and now he was giving up the other one for Ike. With money being tight only the women rode in the passenger car. Hookie and his brothers made the long ride back to Lynden in the baggage car sitting on Ike’s coffin. Hookie handled all the arrangements for the burial and paid all the bills.
Hookie married Kathleen Elnora Klander on 2 June 1939 when he was 38 years old. I like to think he was waiting until all of his obligations to his family were past. He had seen all of his siblings married and settled and completed his duty as “surrogate father.” Sadly, the man that had been a father to so many had no children. Kathleen was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and spent many years in a nursing home later in her life. Hugo spent some time in a sanitarium for tuberculosis, but his disease never developed to the severe level of his brothers.
When I met Hookie in 1967 my immediate thought was, “I know exactly what my Dad will look like when he’s 65!” They had the same nose and the same lively eyes. Hookie was sweet, kind, and gentle with a warm hug and great laugh. He was adored by his siblings, their children, and their grandchildren.