As people across the county gather to honor our nation’s independence, one group in Bremen, IN is celebrating another type of history—family history.
Thursday afternoon members of the extended Laidig family assembled at Community Gospel Church for their 90th reunion. And, like every previous reunion it was held on July 4.
“The date has special meaning” said Bill of the ‘Moran Branch’ of the Laidigs. The original gathering started as a picnic hosted by the Yellow River on Independence Day.
John and Mary Laidig were immigrants with twelve children, each of whom went on to start a “branch” of their own. As those twelve children married and moved away they continued to come together every Fourth of July to celebrate. For the Laidig family patriotism is big, God is big, and family is even bigger, says Catherine Vera-Burgos.
The tradition has grown and expanded with the family’s size. Many members flew and drove in from places like California, Minnesota, Washington D.C., Texas and even Arizona. When asked how many people attended no one had a clear answer, “it’s somewhere between 250 and 300” said Vera-Burgos.
With that many people a sign-in sheet and name tags come in handy.
“Well I’m grateful for the name-tag, that is really helpful” said Janine Zeltwanger. Zeltwanger helps keep the entire family connected by compiling the Laidig monthly newsletter. It’s full of updates on the happenings of each branch and sent out once a month. Besides the newsletter the family started a Facebook page of their own to keep in touch on the 364 other days of the year.
“A lot of these people I only see each and every year at the family reunion, so it’s a special time to come together and renew our family fellowship” Bill added.
The day started with a prayer, pledge of allegiance and a potluck lunch with enough food and desserts to serve the hundreds of guests—and then some. This year, just like in years past, the reunion is spent sharing stories of marriages, births and notable events from the year.
“I'm 73 years old and my whole life I’ve only missed a Laidig reunion twice. It’s where you are on the Fourth of July,” said Bill.
Different branches take turns organizing the annual event, picking a unique theme to focus on. This year’s theme was love and marriage.
According to Mary Teeter the marital theme serves as a way to introduce some of the newer members to nostalgic stories of how they met back in the day and were married.
With dozens of couples, each with their own love story it is difficult to chose a favorite. But special tribute was paid to the love story of the only surviving member of the original 12 Laidig children, Aldean Laidig-Feldman.
Aldean is 97 years-old, about to turn 98 in a few months. Her husband passed away earlier this year, just a few months before the couple could celebrate their 70th Anniversary. They met as teens traveling to school together and the relationship grew from there, or as Aldean said “the rest is history.”
Celebrating 90 years of family history and tradition keeps this very large and very tight-knit family connected despite distance.
Bill summed it up perfectly when he said, “It’s just that they cherish these family relationships, it’s very unique today I believe.”