My maternal Gramma’s brother Regis was the only other member of her family we saw on a regular basis, most of them living in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania while we lived in Los Angeles. By the time I was born in 1962 Uncle Regis lived in the beautiful hills near Sebastopol in Sonoma County, California. For quite a few years we visited him in August for a week or so, after meandering up the coast, usually stopping at one or two of the California Missions and at scenic places like the Monterey peninsula along the way.
Gravenstein apple orchard near Sebastopol, California. Photo by Frank Schulenburg via Wikimedia Commons.
He had 18 rural acres and a house filled with books and family heirlooms, including a few very old large bibles. Once we decided to defrost his refrigerator while he was out and we broke his hammer. When we told him we had broken his hammer he said “Well of course it broke, it’s over 200 years old.”
My sister, Uncle Regis and me in 1973. From that picture window above you could watch the fog roll into the valley.
The quiet there astonished me. Often the only sound was the wind in the evergreens up on the ridge or the lowing of the neighbors’ cows. Thick fog rolled in almost every evening and the weather in August was always cool and pleasant. His long driveway was lined with rain lilies which were always in bloom during our visits, and the air smelled of sweet grassland.
He grew an enormous quantity of ‘Seneca Chief’ corn every year, which he said must be cooked for eight minutes within twenty minutes of harvest. (I still cook corn for eight minutes.) My sister and I shucked the corn and sometimes gave the shucks to the neighbor’s cows who relished them. We picked Gravenstein apples from his trees and made sauce with uncle Regis. He also grew red potatoes and showed us how to dig them. I don’t remember any dinners there that did not consist of good beef, mountains of corn on the cob, salad and mashed potatoes but we must have eaten other things.
He knew a tremendous amount about his ancestors and had a lot of ancient family papers–a few dates I have only because my mother copied them down from papers at his house, the church records being lost. He never married. He never held a regular job as far as I can tell, living off of investments for his entire life.
From left to right, Regis, his older sister Alice, friend Hugh Masterson, and brother Bernard Oblenis Bogert II who was known as Bob. Bob became a geology professor.
He stood about 6’4″ and was very kindly, and used the word “certainly” when most people would have said “yes.” He was a practical person who didn’t understand why I would waste my energy jogging when I could have used it to accomplish something. I never asked him much about his own life, though now of course I wish I had. As a kid and a teenager I was more interested in enjoying the rural wonderland and perusing his many interesting books. Here is what I have been able to piece together.
Regis is seated second from the left and my Gramma is just to his right.
Uncle Regis was born 30 Sep 1904 in Paramus, Bergen County, New Jersey to Bernard Oblenis Bogert and Eliza Pell Vermilye, the second of their five children, my Gramma Elisabeth being the third.
With his parents at his Columbia College graduation.
He went to Ridgewood High School and then to Columbia College, graduating in 1929. By the 1930 census he was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico with my Gramma and their sister Lida, known as Lee, though all three are also listed in the same census as being in Paramus with their parents. The siblings rented a house at 1204 Central, which seems to have been torn down since. Regis remained in Albuquerque after his sisters had left, earning a Masters Degree in Political Science from the University of New Mexico in 1934. He was always interested in history and politics and was a lifelong Republican.
In 1935-1936 he traveled quite literally around the world, visiting the South Pacific, the Middle East and most of the countries in Europe. He posted letters home fairly often. He wrote from Algeria, saying that it was so much like New Mexico, that that is where he would have thought he was if he didn’t know better.
Envelopes from letters Regis wrote home while traveling the world in 1935-1936.
From 1936 to 1938 he studied law at Stanford University but did not graduate. Afterwards he went back to Bergen County, New Jersey and became active in civic organizations and in local politics. He was a Councilman for the Borough of Paramus 1940-1942.
On 15 Aug 1942 Regis joined the U.S. Army and entered basic training at Fort Dix, 16 miles southeast of Trenton, New Jersey. He spent three years in the Pacific Theater as a Special Agent in the Counterintelligence Corps and was honorably discharged 21 Aug 1945. He was awarded the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the Victory Medal. I am sure he had a few adventures during this time and I need to ask living relatives if they remember him saying anything about his time in the Army.
Regis in uniform.
After the war he settled back into life in Paramus, serving on various municipal committees and as Secretary-Treasurer of the Bergen County Welfare Board. He was involved with several clubs and organizations, including the Rotary Club, which he would support for the rest of his life. In 1953 he joined the Holland Society, “a historical and genealogical society founded to collect and preserve information respecting the early history and settlement of New Netherland by the Dutch.” Like most of his ancestors, he was a member of the (formerly Dutch) Reformed Church.
- Regis and my grandmother were descended at least nine times from early New Jersey settler Albrecht Zabriskie (1638-1711).
In 1959 Regis made the big move to Sebastopol. I am not sure why he uprooted himself and settled on the opposite coast. In Sebastopol he continued his heavy involvement with Rotary, tended his large vegetable garden and graciously entertained his relatives and friends.
Uncle Regis died 1 Mar 1978. Though his obituary says he was to be interred at the Chapel of the Chimes in Santa Rosa, in the end he was cremated with his ashes spread over his corn field.
Regis in 1929.