Childhood graces still in use after 55 years

FAMILY TRADITION—The Wiltse family still use the graces today. Pictured are (l–r) Joe, Dave, Ric and Jake Wiltse.

FAMILY TRADITION—The Wiltse family still use the graces today. Pictured are (l–r) Joe, Dave, Ric and Jake Wiltse.

 

GRACES—Dave Wiltse shows off one of four Thanksgiving graces he made as an elementary student at Parkside Elementary School.

GRACES—Dave Wiltse shows off one of four Thanksgiving graces he made as an elementary student at Parkside Elementary School.

Thanksgiving prayers include heirloom school project

When Dave Wiltse was given the project as a second-grade student at the brand-new Parkside Elementary School in 1954 to create a Thanksgiving grace (prayer) out of construction paper and glue, he did a good job of it. Now, 55 years later, the four graces he made as a youngster have become a family tradition and are still in use at the family Thanksgiving table.

The battered grace Wiltse showed off prior to Thanksgiving 2009 was still perfectly legible, although he admits it is in the best shape of the four he made. He said he brought the four prayers home and his parents began using them every Thanksgiving.

The senior Wiltse was the pastor of Rockford Methodist Church from 1951 to 1958. The Wiltse family kept the graces after they moved from Rockford to Grand Haven, then Alma, Mount Pleasant, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. When they moved into a retirement home in the 1990s, the graces returned to Dave, who had by then grown up and had a family of his own.

The graces have become a tradition for the fourth generation of the family. Now the graces are used in prayer prior to the Thanksgiving meal by Wiltse and wife Marjorie and also by their children Rick and daughter Lyn and her husband Dan. Their child, four-year-old Ronan, is now learning the familiar prayer repeated at the family table for over five decades.

SCHOOL PROJECT—The second-grade Parkside Elementary class of Letha Schultz made the graces for their families. The school had only been opened two months.

SCHOOL PROJECT—The second-grade Parkside Elementary class of Letha Schultz made the graces for their families. The school had only been opened two months.

Now the extended family meets at the home of Dave Wiltse’s brother Ric and his wife Stephanie, along with that couple’s sons Jacob and Joseph. Although the graces are known by heart, they are carefully handed out and read before the meal. The oldest brother of Dave and Ric Wiltse, Carl, lives in Scotland now with wife Pamela, and he almost always calls to share the now-familiar prayers of thanks.

From an elementary project made by little hands and treasured through years of use, the Wiltse family wants to share this simple prayer of thanks with others in Rockford.

We thank Thee, Lord, for happy hearts,
for rain and sunny weather.
We thank Thee, Lord, for this our food,
and that we are together.
Amen


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