June 11, 1999
I have always envied families that are big enough to have a reunion. Ousr was so small we could have accommodated every one of them in a large closet, so we never seriously thought about getting our handful of folk together. I was delighted the other day when the Durkee family invited me to share in theirs. They were expecting about 125 adults and children from various parts of the country and it looked like at least that many were on hand for a picnic dinner in the women's building at the fairgrounds.
I am sort of an honorary Durkee. A pretty, dark-haired young lady named Mildred Durkee, from the Billings area, lived at our house in the early 1930s while she completed her high school education here. In exchange for room and board, Mildred helped with the housekeeping and cooking, a common practice in those days before school buses were available for rural students. She was about the same age as my older sister Jeanice and in no time she also became my big sister. When she left to attend business college in Tulsa, we all had a tearful farewell but through the years we stayed in touch.
Eventually she met a young man named Jerry Osborne. They married and started a family in New Orleans. In the process of rearing four sons, she became active in the Parent-Teacher Association and that led to a very serious interest in better schools. In 1969 the New Orleans school district named a new elementary school the Mildred Osborne School in her honor, and around 1,000 students now attend there. Mildred passed away several years ago and her husband died last year. The four boys remain in New Orleans and all of them were here for the reunion. They are genuine Southern Gentlemen, very much interested in the Durkee family heritage.
The original family of Mr. and Mrs. George Durkee of Billings had nine children. Only Charlie Durkee (one of Mildred's brothers) now survives, but he is an active octogenarian still living in the Billings area. A sister was the late Welthy Pursifull, a former Perryan, and another was Margaret, who married Clarence Kukuk. One of the Kukuk sons, Col. Steve Kukuk, a very youthful looking Air Force retiree who now lives in Edmond, also was here. All of them are good people. Other Durkees, including my friends Duane and Cecilia Durkee, are still citizens of Perry and Noble county. We can use many like them.
Helen Neal of Seminole, one of Welthy's daughters, has compiled a fascinating history of the Durkee family dating back to the 17th century. It was on exhibit at the reunion and she will soon provide a copy to be placed on file here, probably at the Cherokee Strip Museum. It is wonderful to see such a close feeling binding a large family like the Durkees together. It was a joy to be included in their celebration.