Willems family 1947

Helena and Jacob Willems c. 1947

The Gift of Laughter is a family history memoir, the story of my father’s family. My dad was the fifth of the fifteen children born to Jacob C. and Helena Zimmerman Willems. In 1919, the family moved from a Mennonite community in Saskatchewan, Canada to the raisin country southeast of Fresno in California’s great Central Valley. This rich farmland around the small towns of Reedley and Dinuba was a magnet for Mennonites who farmed the North American prairie. The land, captured by the artist Paul Buxman* in the scene at the top of the page, is as much a part of this memoir as the stories of the people growing up on it.

The book will be available on Amazon in December 2016. Preliminary drafts of chapters from the first half of the book can be read by clicking on the desired title in the Memoir Chapters list in the sidebar.

*”Drying the Raisins, 1990” used with Paul Buxman’s permission.

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