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Steve Hansen: Do the spirits of lost ones guide us?

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Posted: Thursday, December 21, 2017 5:52 pm

Christmas often reminds us of the past. Perhaps it’s a childhood memory when life was a happier time filled with anticipation of good things to come. It’s also an occasion when we remember relatives and friends who are no longer with us.

One question many ponder is: “Are the spirits of these lost ones still guiding us in our lives today? Here’s a tale that happened to my wife and me concerning this very subject.

It was during the 1980s. She wanted to travel back to Kansas City, Mo., and find her birthplace. Although Diane’s family is old-time Lodi, her father was a TWA pilot, and that led to his relocation to this famous Midwestern city.

She lived there many years ago, and the only evidence my wife had of her family’s Kansas City history was an old black and white photo of the house during the late 1930s. The picture of the stone and brick home was taken after a light snowfall. A cream-colored Cord automobile sat in the driveway. No address was available, but she knew the location was somewhere in the suburb of Parkville.

With such limited information, we figured the odds of finding the place after so many years were slim. But it was worth a try.

The first morning after our arrival, we set out for the TWA museum. Diane was looking for artifacts or information about her pioneer aviator father. He had one of the first pilot licenses (1603) issued by the United States government.

Earlier in California, W. H. (Bill) DeVries was also noted for operating flying services out of the Tracy American Legion Airport and the Stockton Airport during the 1920s and early ‘30s. He also taught aviation at the College of the Pacific.

Several items caught my wife’s interest at the museum, ranging from uniforms, logbooks, pins, and an ashtray with a TWA model plane attached. During those times, cigarettes were as common in public as smart phones are today.

But the moment had come to get down to business, which was to find Diane’s long-lost home. We located the community of Parkville and began driving around the blocks one by one. Diane held onto the photograph while I navigated the streets. We even doubled our tracks but found nothing.

Within an hour or so, I came to an unknown crossroads intersection and stopped the car. It was at the bottom of a hill. At that point, we decided to abandon the search. I got out of the Chevy and took one last look around.

Just then, a vehicle came out of nowhere and stopped behind me. The driver exited from a black sedan.

“What are you looking for?” the man inquired. We showed him our picture and he pointed to the top of the hill. “Right up there,” he said.

He was directing us to follow a road at the exact intersection where we had stopped.

I thanked him, and we headed up the lane. At the top stood a well-kept home that looked similar, but not the same as what appeared in our photo.

But what did we have to lose? I pulled into the driveway and knocked on the door.

A pleasant lady answered. We described our mission and asked the mysterious question:

“Was this the home years ago of Bill DeVries?”

“Why, yes.” She answered. “We have the original deed with his name on it.”

We spent the rest of the afternoon with this charming lady, who happened to be the wife of the Kansas City mayor. The house had several modifications made to it over the years.

After this experience, we had to ask ourselves: Was the finding of Diane’s old home sheer luck, or was there a reason I happened to stop at that specific intersection? Was there a reason why that strange man came to help, or was that a coincidence as well? How about the fact that he knew exactly where the house was located — even though its appearance had changed significantly?

Chance? Well, perhaps. But we tend to believe there were simply too many “coincidences” at one time for that explanation. It wouldn’t surprise us if Papa Bill was “flying” over our shoulders at that very moment and directing the whole unfolding event from his guiding hand.

After all, who’s to say otherwise?

Anyway, that’s our unexplained spiritual story for this holiday season. Perhaps by searching your memory, you will find a special one as well.

Merry Christmas.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.