For Dick Monson, family is both close and far away.

For Dick Monson, family is both close and far away.
Dick Monson married into the Ledell family, which has had a family reunion every year going back to 1922. This year’s reunion saw 77 in attendance, down from last year’s 97.
Reunions on this scale are unheard of on Monson’s side.
“I wish we could have stayed together,” Dick Monson said. “Everyone moved all over, and there was no one who arranged to get-together.”
Not that organizing reunions is an easy feat for the Ledells. Janet Monson, Dick Monson’s wife, said of her grandparents’ 12 children, nine have living descendents, all of whom are invited to attend.
These descendents live as far away as Italy, though most live in the Midwest.
“It’s amazing how many first cousins and family have stayed in McPherson,” Janet Monson said.
The first reunion was in 1922 in Salina. Since then, the families have taken turns organizing the annual get-together. Janet Monson said the reunions help family members keep up with each other.
“You get to see your relatives and find out what's happened in their lives,” Janet Monson said.
Not everyone enjoys big family get-togethers. Kelsea Kramur lives in Missouri but works in Moundridge and has family in Halstead and Galva. She said her family used to do reunions, but the tradition has since lapsed.
“I don’t mind them, but when we get together, it’s very rowdy,” Kramur said.
She said she remembers playing games and having fun at reunions, but because she was younger, she was picked on.
Still, she thinks staying in touch is important, even if it doesn’t involve getting everyone together at once.
“Contact is important,” Kramur said. “Otherwise, you lose touch, and that makes it awkward when you do get together.”
For Janet Monson, the benefits of keeping in touch go beyond merely keeping up with distant relatives. Despite how far-flung family members are, Janet Monson said she can still see a common heritage.
“We all have a similar mindset, even though we’re generations apart,” Janet Monson said.
For example, when the first Ledells immigrated from Sweden, their children needed to learn English to attend school. Janet Monson said her grandmother made an effort to speak English with her children so they could get an education.
“Education wasn't necessarily important to the first generation, but it was emphasized in the second,” Janet Monson said. “That’s still reflected in the family.”