August 7, 1947 was a very important day in Benkelman, Nebraska. Well, maybe, it was just important to Gerald and Berniece (Ham) Russell. Their first (only) daughter (me, Penelope Ann (Penny)) was born at 1 p.m. MST. I had 3 older brothers at home; Jim-1938, Walter-1940 and Fred-1946. Two years later we welcomed baby brother Kenneth. I heard many times growing up that I was harder to raise then all of my brothers put together. But, golly, Mom and Dad had more boys to practice on!
In early 1956 my Daddy had a major heart attack at age 47. I thank God that he lived another 28 years.
Until March 1958, we lived on my Grandpa Russell’s farm. Later we moved to a farm near Huntley, Wyoming where I finished fifth and sixth grades. WOW!! I was in the big time! There were 27 kids in my class – the most kids I’d ever seen in one room. We then moved to a ranch and I went to 7th and 8th grades in Torrington, Wyoming. After two more moves we were back at Huntley, Wyoming where I graduated from high school May 18, 1965 along with 15 classmates.
I was very active in 4-H from ages 7 – 17. I had projects in cooking, sewing, yard beautification, room redecoration, poultry, swine, sheep, health and was a Jr. Leader.
As a senior in high school, I took a Civil Service exam hoping for a job with the Federal Government. I scored in the high 90’s. I then waited for the phone to ring. I got a phone call and on September 8, 1965 I started work with the Bureau of Reclamation in Casper, Wyoming as a Receptionist-Clerk-Typist for less than $3000 a year. Dad co-signed so I could buy a car and I’ve been in debt ever since.
While in Casper, I took some college courses and worked part time. I received several promotions while at the Casper Reclamation Office. I transferred to Fort Morgan, Colorado in 1977 as an Administrative Aide. I was there less than a year when President Carter defunded the project so I worked in Denver. I was then sent to Grand Island, Nebraska. Finally in the spring of 1978 I transferred to Oroville, Washington. I was an Administrative Assistant and basically did all the office work – payroll, correspondence, filing, purchasing, vehicle management, etc. until more staff was hired. I loved it in Oroville and think it has been my favorite place to live (sorry Burley). Just before I transferred to Burley, Idaho, my Daddy died in Nebraska in April 1984.
I moved to Burley in August 1984 as an Administrative Assistant, then a Contracting Officer and Property Management Officer. I really liked my job and was very good at it. I HAD to go to Jackson Lake Dam once a year to inventory moveable property. What a sacrifice!! About two years before I retired I got a new supervisor who knew nothing about my job so when Congress authorized early retirements I jumped on it and retired January 1, 2000. Ironically, when I retired they hired two people to replace me.
My Mom died December 29, 2002, on my oldest brother’s 64th birthday.
For the past few years I have been volunteering at the Burley Library. This has been fulfilling and fun. The staff is great to work with. During the school year, I help some friends out with their children.
I believe it was not in God’s plan for me to marry. I love kids and have been blessed with 8 nieces and nephews and 9 great nieces and nephews. Children seem to be drawn to me which brings me much joy.
God has truly blessed me with wonderful, caring friends wherever I have lived.