Late Thursday afternoon last week, I watched Howard Landis walk toward our door, his wife Faythe following him. Facebook had revealed that Howard is related to me through Fannie Martin Longenecker, my maternal Grandmother. Now they had responded to our invitation to stop for an overnight stay on their way from Missouri to Florida.

Yes, Howard and I are related. In fact, we are second cousins, but I’ve never met him in person. As the door opened in anticipation, we said, “Hello” and “Good to see you” immediately. But what’s next? Do I hug him? Shake hands? Right away, my husband Cliff extended his hand for a firm handshake and I, flummoxed, managed an awkward half-hug/half handshake.

His grandfather Joseph Martin and my Grandma Fannie are brother and sister. Grandma Longenecker, born in 1891 and Joe, born in 1895, are children of Mary Horst Martin and Samuel Martin whom I describe in “Grandpa Sam, a Hoot and a Holler.” Typical of family photos of the era, no wide smiles – just somber looks.

My grandmother in a plaid dress stands slightly behind her brother Joe, Howard’s grandfather, in a beribboned shirt of the era


In a generation closer to mine, Howard’s mother (Joe Martin’s daughter) and her husband Howard, senior, posed on Ruthie’s verandah for a photo in 1991, with Aunt Ruthie holding her “Fritzie” Schnauzer.


Howard, their son, born in Hummelstown close to Hershey, Pennsylvania, and his wife Faythe, originally from Iowa, have lived near both coasts of our nation: Fresno, California, and near the middle, Naperville, Illinois and Springfield, Missouri. Married forty-four years, the two have traveled around the world. Howard began his career as a youth minister in the States, and he and Faythe have served in China in several stints as teachers of English as a Second Language.

Peppy and adventuresome, they will be globetrotting again soon, taking their grandsons to experience Chinese culture.


A passage in Mennonite Daughter describes Howard’s stylish mother Mary, whom I wanted to emulate as a plain girl. I read a few descriptive paragraphs to his amusement.


During the visit, we shared a chili supper, an oatmeal breakfast and lively conversation throughout. To our delight, Howard invited Cliff and me to visit Springfield in the Ozarks next year. When they left, I didn’t hesitate to hug my new-found kin, formerly relatives in name only, a couple who now have become our friends.



Howard’s Facebook Profile Photo



Social media, often maligned, is a source of wonderful connections that otherwise would never happen.

How has Facebook, Twitter, a blog helped you make or maintain meaningful connections?



Enjoy this blessed holiday season. I’ll see you again in 2020!