When I was just a young pup, in the 60’s and 70’s, every year we went to the Icke (pronounced “Ike”) family reunion in Carmen, Oklahoma, the first weekend in August. My grandmother Rachel was an Icke and we rarely missed one. Through my childhood, and into my teen years, there was an old curmudgeon who came from St. Louis named Sam Icke. He was supposedly a cousin of my grandmother’s but it was always a bit fuzzy where he fit into the people who were important to me.
He was old (to me anyway), had a cigar (early on at least if I remember. I always knew that was a no-no), outspoken and opinionated but he did buy all the “sodie” for the reunion. He would go downtown and buy cases of “pop” (which is what WE called it) and on the Sunday of the reunion (while we were, of course, at church), he iced it down and had it ready at the Carmen City Park Pavilion (or alternately at the old skating rink if the park was taken). I’m not sure if I liked Sam or not, given his brashness, but if I did dislike him, it was tempered by his purchase of sodie. As a kid, that balanced things out for me.
Sam would always tell us, “you kids don’t waste that sodie!” because we were always tempted to open one, drink a little, shake it up and squirt each other. He was grumpy that way. As a kid I couldn’t understand the big deal. As an adult I understand. As an adult I am Sam-like that way.
Anyway, Sam would bring his second wife Olga (his first wife had died) along with his grandson Tino. I never understood why his parents didn’t come but vaguely remember being told his parents had died and that was good enough for me the kid. Tino was a few years older than me and he would pal around with me and my cousins like an older brother. He was always smiling. I remember as just a young teenager being struck one year to find out that he wasn’t coming anymore. He died suddenly at 17 from a heart problem. I found that strange but being a self involved teenage-type person it didn’t affect me too much.
Then comes today, November 24, 2012, my 33rd wedding anniversary, and I’m going through the papers, newspaper articles and such, that I got from my grandmother. She lived with my aunt Leta and uncle Loyd Wilson her last years and when aunt Leta passed, uncle Loyd thought it best to pass the papers on to the family so gave them to uncle Vic. Uncle Loyd’s thoughtful that way. Uncle Vic sent them to the last reunion and I brought them home. The last few days I have had a chance to scan some in to put on Ancestry.com.
I found a strange article (it’s below) talking about a tragic accident where a couple were killed when their car went into a river and they drowned. The couple, Mr and Mrs Faustine Abella, left behind eight children and it said the couple was the daughter of a cousin of my grandmother’s. Still not knowing how it all went together, I filed it under my grandmother’s documents and moved on. I then found a full page article about Sam Icke, telling of all the things he does at age 76-roofing, gardening, fiddling, dancing, quilt-making and so forth. As I read the article, it mentions Sam raised his grandchildren after the tragic death of his daughter and son-in-law. Wait a minute-wasn’t Tino’s last name Abella? Then it all came together like a jigsaw puzzle.
I began trying to figure out how Sam was related so I could attach the articles to the right records on Ancestry. He couldn’t be a first cousin because none of grandma’s brothers had a son named Sam that fit (although she did have a brother-wrong age though). Could it be her dad, John Cheatum Icke’s, brother’s kids? Sure enough, a Samuel Lee Icke popped up. Born 1900, moved to Oklahoma as a child, then back home to St. Louis, and died in November 1978. A perfect fit.
Sam had a wife, Minnie, who had died (fit again) and two daughters-one was Jenny May who died in 1957. Was that the right date? I flipped over the article to find an ad for the local theater. It was showing, on January 7,8, & 9, 3:10 to Yuma. I went over to IMDB.com to research and found 3:10 to Yuma was released in 1957. It was showing in Oklahoma in January 1958. Bingo.
Once I input Jenny May under Sam, Ancestry found her death certificate-Los Angeles California in 1957. So I added a husband, Faustine Abella, and up came his death certificate-same place, same time. But I did find he’s actually Faustino Abella and was from, per the certificate, “other country”. I then put in Tino and seven other unknown children under him and lo and behold, up pops Tino’s death certificate. And his name wasn’t Tino-it was Faustino as well. He was less than a year old when his parents died. He passed as well in 1973 at the age of 17-in Illinois where his grandparents lived.
Sam always was a curmudgeon, as I noted at the beginning, but knowing what I know now-the life he lived as a young kid, moving to Indian Territory in a covered wagon, moving back east again, suffering the tragic loss of his child, the pain of his orphaned grandchildren, the loss of a wife, then again of a beloved grandson he raised, can you blame him?
So, why is history so important? These people aren’t just dusty facts. They are real people who live lives just like us. For some it’s harder. Maybe if we know their history, instead of being a curmudgeon, they suddenly become giant heroes. I’m proud to be related to Sam. I hope I’m half the man he was.