It’s the season of coming home.
Across Fort Dodge, as Thanksgiving and the holiday season approach, thoughts begin to turn to home and family as we again take stock of all that we are to be thankful for at this time of year.
Each year brings its own changes and challenges, but year in and year out Americans find cause to give thanks. Fort Dodge Living talked with young families as well as residents who have been part of the community for a lifetime; we talked with people who have deep roots in the community and people who are just putting down roots. In the end, we learned we all have so much in common.
It is a time of giving thanks.
A place to call home
Who would have thought that an East Coast girl and a California boy could find a place to call home in the heart of the Midwest? But that’s just what’s happening for the Reverends Austin and Sara Hill.
The Hills met as graduate students at Princeton University and married a year before each earned a Masters of Divinity degree. They sought to find parishes where they could serve and feel as if they fit in to the faith community. They found Fort Dodge, midway between his family in California and hers in Pennsylvania.
Austin is senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Dodge, while Sara is pastor at United Presbyterian Church in Goldfield.
While moving to the Midwest was bound to be an adjustment from such large metropolitan areas, they feel at home here with daughter Lylah and newborn son Everett.
“Both of us feel called to establish roots here, to build relationships and be invested for the long haul,” says Austin.
Nestled in rural Iowa, Fort Dodge is a place where the couple can drive their children to the country in just a few minutes and, on a cloudless night, show them the wonders of the Milky Way, Austin notes.
The couple is also finding the people to be very gracious. That was proven true in recent months when Sara experienced a sudden appendicitis, just weeks after giving birth to the couple’s second child.
When the pain hit unexpectedly, Sara asked Austin to call a nurse friend to get some information and decide what to do next. But the friend didn’t just offer medical advice, she came running to help.
“It was 11 p.m. at night, and she woke up her own 18-month-old daughter, came over to our house so we could go to the emergency room, and then spent the whole night here taking care of our two kids,” Austin says, the amazement at this act of kindness still lingering in his voice.
While Sara is recovering nicely, the family continues to be overwhelmed with home-cooked dinners brought in and other acts of caring.
“There really has been some hospitality here that we haven’t experienced elsewhere,” says Austin. “I think there really is a warmth here that makes up for the cold weather that one experiences in winter.”
They also feel blessed that Sara’s mother had already been planning a visit at about the time of the appendicitis. She arrived a few days later and has stayed to help. Austin had also been scheduled for flying lessons the night of the attack, but clouds moved in and kept him home so that he was there when his wife took ill. Neither of these instances are coincidences to the couple.
“Some people would think it’s just good luck or karma, but we really believe this is God’s providence looking out for us,” Sara says.
Times to remember
Sometimes being thankful is as much about looking forward as it is looking back.
For Judy Cosgrove, there is reason to look back in gratitude and ahead in anticipation.
“I’m looking forward to next year because I’m going to retire,” says Cosgrove.
First elected Webster County Recorder in 1989, Cosgrove has been serving the public in the County Recorder’s office for 30 years. But even after all this time as the officeholder, she still looks back in fondness to the days when she was first starting out.
“I started as a clerk, and Cleo Swanson was recorder at that time,” recalls Cosgrove. “Cleo is just a great lady and really taught me a lot.”
When Swanson retired in 1989, Cosgrove was appointed to fill the position and was elected to her own first term beginning in January 1990. She never faced opposition in all those years and is grateful to the people of Webster County who placed their trust in her.
“I’m very fortunate,” she says.
Cosgrove says the office of County Recorder is rewarding for the opportunities it affords to serve the public.
“We have a lot of genealogy people who come into our office because we have the vital records (births, deaths, marriages) and we have the land records,” she explains.
Local business people, including real estate professionals and attorneys, also depend heavily on the records cared for in the office, and Cosgrove says she’s also enjoyed working closely with those people during the years.
With retirement approaching next year, Cosgrove is looking forward to more time with her family.
“I like to golf, and my husband, Mike, likes to fish and hunt,” she says.
And they both enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren. Son Matthew is the conservation officer at Kennedy Park, while daughter Lindsay Heun lives in Johnston, but still makes it home to visit.
As for Lindsay and her children, there’s no doubt what they’re thankful for this year.
“We’re getting ready to go on a cruise, and we’re very thankful for that,” she says.
For children Bradeon and Avery, it will be their first cruise.
“I’m just looking forward to hanging out and going to the pools,” says Avery.
Brother Bradeon says he’s looking forward to “basically everything. The cruise is on my birthday, so it’s all going to be fun!”
A brand new life
It’s hard to imagine anything greater to be thankful for than the arrival of a new life into a family. For Mark and Susan Laufersweiler, that’s exactly what they are thankful for as Thanksgiving nears.
With two sons, ages 7 and 4, the couple welcomed a daughter when baby Josie arrived on July 17.
“It’s been really busy, just adding a new addition to our family,” says Susan.
One of the greatest joys for Susan this time around has been seeing how the couple’s sons take to the role of big brother to a baby sister.
“It’s been really exciting seeing the boys take over the challenges of being big brothers,” she says. “It’s been really fun, and they’re doing really well. They both help out a lot.”
J.T., 7, clearly enjoys being the oldest in the family, and he’s thankful for all of them this year. And he’s looking forward to eating turkey. Griffin, 4, is a little more shy, but J.T. helps him out — as older brothers are apt to do — and says he’s also thankful for their family this year.
As for dad Mark, he’s thankful for the health of his family and to be able to watch them grow in the same town where both he and Susan grew up. And as part of one of Fort Dodge’s oldest business families, he’s also thankful to see so much development happening in the community.
While Mark grew up on a farm, and his dad Tom continues to farm, Mark joined his uncle, Joe, at Laufersweiler Funeral Home several years ago. The business was founded by Mark’s great great grandfather in 1856 and continues to be an integral part of the community.
It’s been a busy few years of growth and development in Fort Dodge.
“I’m very proud of the growth for Fort Dodge, and I can’t wait to see more,” he says.
All in the family
For Alisa Godfrey and her husband, Matthew, it’s an easy answer to know what they are most thankful for this year as the couple welcomed their second child in to the family.
“It’s been really fun,” says Alisa. “She’s been a good baby, and her sister has helped out a lot.”
Daughter Hadlee is now 3 months old, and older sister Willow is 4.
While being a second-time mom is a little easier than the first time around, Alisa says every child brings something new and unique to a family.
“We knew what to expect this time, but she’s a little different, too, so that makes it fun,” she says.
Baby Hadlee has even had her first camping trip, as the family enjoys camping often at both Kennedy Park and Brushy Creek.
“It went really well,” Alisa says of taking such a tiny baby camping — and choosing parks close to home also makes it easier.
The family also enjoys being close to grandparents. Alisa’s mother, Lisa Buske, couldn’t be happier to be spending time with both her grandchildren.
“I’m just thankful for God and my family, good health and being together with my husband,” says Lisa.