When I was growing up, my family was close to my Aunt Leota’s family. I remember many holiday dinners shared with them over the years. There were ten LaPrairie siblings. It makes me wonder how they had room for a few more, but they were always ready to share.
One of the oldest was my cousin, Dave. He went to work for Western Union and traveled a lot for his job. He wasn’t able to come home very often, but he sent money home to his widowed mother and boxes of oranges and tangerines for his brothers and sisters at Christmas time. I adored Dave.
I don’t remember how Reginald and Penelope got started. It was a game that Dave and I played together when he was home. He was Reginald. I was Penelope. Reginald and Penelope traveled a lot and talked about all the places they had been to. “Where did I see you last, Reggie? Was it Vienna? Perhaps it was Constantinople…” It was an elaborate geography game. And it was fun. I loved it when Dave came home for a visit.
It was on my 13th birthday when I received a phone call from the local Western Union office. They said they had a telegram for Penelope Roll. I was thrilled that Reggie had remembered my birthday. I walked downtown to collect the telegram, and I still have it somewhere.
Dave married later in life to a lovely woman named Jean. She had been widowed twice. We were so happy for Dave. He deserved some happiness—he had given so much of it to his family. It was a shock to all of us when we heard there had been a hotel fire in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Dave was traveling for his job and was staying at the Astor Hotel. There were seven people who lost their lives in that fire in February 1966. And our dear Dave was one of them. They found his body at the bottom of the elevator shaft. He was trying to escape the building and may have become disoriented.
His wife, Jean, was widowed a third time. She kept in touch with my aunt for many years after.