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The DeSmet family visits De Smet

Family with 11 siblings is related to Father De Smet

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The DeSmet family came to De Smet on Thursday to see all of the sites and especially the Father De Smet statue that represents one of their ancestors. Three DeSmet sisters, Susie (DeSmet) Paul from St. Peter, Minn., Margie (DeSmet) Dahl and her husband Butch from Marshall, Minn., and Joan (DeSmet) Hennen from Alexandria, Minn., came to visit Jerry DeSmet and his wife Mary in Lake Hendricks, S.D. (on the edge of the Minnesota border), and they traveled together to De Smet for a family reunion.

The DeSmets were a fun group touring the town and shopping on Main Street. They felt lucky it was Crazy Days in De Smet, and they could all act a little ‘crazy.’ The sisters tried on pajama bottoms in front of Prairie Town Gifts, visited the stores on Main Street while shopping the wares on the sidewalks, toured the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites and the De Smet Event Center and grabbed some family photos in front of the Father De Smet statue.

Jerry and Mary DeSmet have visited De Smet several times in the past. Others recalled special memories of traveling through De Smet. Susie Paul made a special trip through De Smet in April this year to have her picture taken in front of the De Smet sign. The Dahls came through in 1975 while on their honeymoon.

“I have always wanted to come back,” said Margie Dahl.

Mary DeSmet recalled stopping at the De Smet Café downtown many years ago. Everyone in the café was so excited to see the name of DeSmet on the check that she wrote, they posted the check on the bulletin board and did not cash it for two months.

Raised on a farm seven miles south of Minneota, Minn., there were 11 children in the William and Margaret DeSmet family. Juliana, Deanna, Pauline and Jeff, three of the oldest children and the youngest brother have passed away. Those still living are Larry, Bernard (Ben), Ronald (Ron), Susie, Jerry, Margie and Joanie.

“We had our own baseball and football teams,” Jerry recalled. “We often worked out in the gardens, and when all eleven of us got out there picking those vegetables, we got a lot of work done in a hurry.”

Susie told the story of how one fellow, who came from a family with five children, asked her what it was like growing up with 11 in the family.

“I want to know what it was like for you growing up with only five kids,” she replied.

The DeSmet’s grandmother came to the United States from Gent, Belgium. She passed stories down to them of being related to Father De Smet, and how he ministered to the Indians. She also told them of her trip as a child to the United States, which took two weeks. They had to live on the deck of the ship the entire way and fixed their own meals there, also. Her parents and five children settled in Indiana, and then Susie moved to Ghent, Minn., where she worked as a housekeeper and met her husband. The town of Ghent was named for Gent, Belgium, with a slight difference in spelling.

The brothers are very proud of serving in the Army. Jerry served during the Vietnam War and Ben during the Korean War. Margie’s husband Butch also served in the Army.

The DeSmets were very impressed with the town, and they loved the noon siren. They enjoyed the many great things to see and do, places to shop and friendly people.

“Everyone waves at you!” said Mary.

And another one!

Ironically, another Father De Smet descendant visited De Smet earlier in the week. Eric De Smet from Kansas City, Mo., stayed at the Prairie House Manor on Sunday and Monday in a pilgrimage to all places named after his family. His grandfather, with many past ‘greats’ in front of his name, was a brother to Father De Smet.

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