Portfolios > If My House Caught Fire

Susie, Choteau, Montana
Susie, Choteau, Montana
2018

It’s a wedding photograph of me and my husband Curt Roger Ewinger. We were married on January 5th, 1980, in Aberdeen, South Dakota, during a huge blizzard. This was the last photo the wedding photographer took. I made my hat. I bought my dress off the clearance rack at Crazy Days. He wore the ruffled shirt from the 1980’s, with velvet collared jacket. We met at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, during a keg party. And the day I met him he had on a ratty blue tee-shirt, a Dekalb hat, cut-off jeans, white over the calf socks and cowboy boots. There was this commercial back then for Aldo Cella wine, you know, a cheap wine, and the guy would say, “I’m not a slave to fashion, but I know what women like”. Curt used to say that all the time. And he wore some really-wild outfits. One of the pictures I recently sent to my kids was of him in the old farm house in Iowa, and he had these mustard-yellow shorts on with bright red and turquoise blue, and a madras plaid short-sleeved shirt.

He was color blind. So, in the mornings when he’d get up to go to the law office, he would come out of the big walk-in-closet and say, “Does this match?” He did pretty-good. I don’t think I ever had trouble re-dressing him. Before we were even married I found out we were pregnant. I was afraid to go home after the wedding to tell my parents. But my mom knew, because there was a chance that it was a problem pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy. So anyway, I wouldn’t let Curt get out of the car, and I brought my dad a bottle of whisky, and I told him, not only did I acquire a husband, I was going to have a baby. But I think that’s how I came about too, so, that wasn’t too bad. We eventually had three children, Winston, Meredith and Whitney. We named our first Winston, after my dad, to butter him up, or to play into his narcissism.

Anyway, back to the color-blindness, at Christmas time Curt was always careful about the present he would buy for me. It was always a piece of jewelry. And one Christmas, he, after we were all done opening presents, he brings me this tiny, beautifully wrapped package from the store, and I opened it up, and inside was this very delicate necklace with four diamonds on the points. And it’s a garnet, which is red, and he proudly told me he bought it because it matched my eyes, which are green.

Fifteen-days after we celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary, my husband un-expectantly passed in his sleep from a heart attack. I have jumpy-leg syndrome and he snores, so it came to the point where he slept in our son’s old room. That morning, I woke up and, um, things felt wrong, and um, I fell back to sleep, and it didn’t take, and I looked out the window, he was like clockwork, he would come in, he would go into the bathroom, do all his morning preparations, walk into the walk-in closet, get dressed, come out, ask me again, “does this match?” Then he’d kiss me goodbye, and uh, then he’d go have coffee with some guys in the downtown business area. Later he would go to the office. Then I would show up there, like ten-o’clock, and do his dictation and stuff. But, it was past seven, and he was not up, and his truck was still in the drive, and I went down the hallway, and he appeared to be peacefully sleeping, but when I touched him, he was cold, and gone.

So then, it took me five attempts to call 911, because we don’t learn what to do when you find someone dead. And uh, I just jabbered into the phone, who I was and where I was and, that I found my husband and, obviously deceased and, I don’t know what to do. So, they sent an ambulance of course, but they didn’t come with the lights and stuff going. And they determined it wasn’t foul play, but they wouldn’t let anyone back in the room until the coroner got there. So, it was unbelievable and the day just got more insane as it went by. I was totally in shock. I called a couple of my husband’s friends. They went and got our youngest daughter Whitney from work and brought her home. So, she’s the only one that got to see him. I called the other kids. Winston was in Missoula. Meredith was, was she in LA? I think she was. Yes, she was. And uh, again, another blizzard set in, and my girlfriend who now lives in Canada, Judy, she lived in Sioux Falls at that time, she picked up Meredith from the airport and drove over to Aberdeen through a blizzard to bring her home. And people started coming to the house as word spread through town. He was well liked.

I just recently got his memorial project finished. He was an outdoorsman, and after he’d passed away, you get all this money from people, for the funeral and memorial, and I wanted to figure out what to do, and I talked to one of the young attorneys in town. He was interested in this organization that helps support the South Dakota, Game, Fish and Parks organization. It’s a foundation. And, they had just bought a piece of property on the west side of Bitter Lake, near Webster, South Dakota. They wanted to put a boat ramp and dock for fishermen and hunters and stuff on that west side because there was nothing there. So, we got involved and I put the money in their hands. I went there when I was in Aberdeen this last time. It’s amazing, huge flights of Pelicans went over head. Somebody came in to launch their boat and go fishing while we were there. It was all I could do to not say, “hi, welcome to Curt’s Point. I’m Mrs. Ewinger." It’s called Curt’s Point. There’s a sign. It’s now a memorial water access point. That’s where Curt went to unwind. It was like his church.