A family reunion with a new friend

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau America’s population is over 327 million. Of those, there are only 27,989 people with the surname Rankin. A few weeks ago, WWII veteran Dan Rankin captured the hearts of just about everyone when the media came calling and shared stories on TV and in print of how for years customers of Dueling Irons in Post Falls had been buying his breakfast to thank him for his service. There was a waiting list of people wanting to buy breakfast for Mr. Rankin.

He comes in for breakfast most days and on Tuesday, Bert and I stopped in to see if he was there. We pulled into the parking lot and I saw Mr. Rankin just getting out of his 1973 Buick. I walked over to his car, introduced myself and told him I was a Rankin. And then we were off to the races!

We shared a table and stories, not of his military service but of all things Rankin. It’s not a common name so when the news stories first broke quite a few people were asking me if I was related to the new local celebrity.

Dan was fascinated when I told him how many — actually how few — Rankins there are in the U.S. He said in his years of driving truck through 48 states he always looked for the name in phone books, rarely seeing any Rankins. I had to laugh with him because I’ve always done the very same thing.

Dan’s father, Henry H. Rankin, who lived to be 90, was from Harrisburg, Pa., and as a young man found his way to Montana. He cooked in the logging and mining camps and then in a cafe in Helena, where Henry met a pretty — and much younger — French-Canadian girl, Marion LePlante. The two were married and eventually had nine children, four girls and five boys. Dan is the youngest and has outlived all of his siblings.

The Rankins homesteaded in Newport, Wash., until the family farm was wiped out in the fire of 1910 and they moved to Cusick.

Dan has survived two wives, he and his first wife losing their two children in infancy. He’s lived in Post Falls since 1983 and my husband and I moved here in 1985. We were all astounded that until Tuesday we’d not met or known of the Rankin connection.

Bert and Dan hit it off, sharing some similar interests, both diesel mechanics who have no use for everything automotive that’s now computerized. They talked “shop” and both kidded me about my smart phone while comparing their preference for flip phones just to make or take phone calls. And, at 95, Dan posed with me for his very first selfie.

We talked about one of the most famous Rankins, Jeannette Rankin of Montana, who in 1916 became the first woman to be elected to U.S. Congress in this country and to this date is the only woman Montana has ever elected to Congress. Neither of us know for sure if our family tree includes Jeannette, but we agreed we’ll claim her.

I’ll definitely do some further exploration into our Rankin family tree to see if there’s any shared relationships on long ago branches. Dan told me I reminded him of one of his sisters. I similarly felt like I’d known him long before Tuesday’s breakfast. No matter the DNA, we’ll stay in touch, because we Rankins are so few and far between, we need to stick together.

And for the record, we let Bert buy our breakfast — since he’s only a Rankin by marriage.

•••

Things to Do Highlights:

Tonight is the annual Community Business Fair, hosted by the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce at the Greyhound Park Events Center. More than 100 local businesses will be displaying their wares from 4 to 7 p.m. Free admission, free parking and families welcome.

Thursday the INW Milestone lecture series featuring historian Robert Singletary will feature Coeur d’Alene in the 1960s and ’70s. 7 to 9 p.m. at the Coeur d’Alene Library

Friday is the third annual Bowls for Scholarships, presented by the Hauser Lions Club to benefit local high school seniors. Spaghetti dinner and keep the hand-painted bowl for $20 per person, 4 to 7 p.m. at the Rathdrum Lions Clubhouse, 16114 N. Meyer Road.

On Saturday, the OoozaPaloooza Food Truck Festival comes to Coeur d’Alene City Park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Over a dozen food trucks will be in the park.

Saturday morning the annual City of Post Falls Community Recycling and Prescription Drug Turn In Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at City Hall.

Saturday evening the Coeur d’Alene Chamber’s annual Aw$ome Auction runs from 5 to 10 p.m. at Best Western Coeur d’Alene Inn.

Sunday, the CDA Makers Market is at the Coeur d’Alene Resort from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

•••

Happy birthday today to Mary Watson, Dan Taylor, Pascale Cafferty, Hayley Gabriel, Dea Lenz, Lori Rogers, Mark McWhorter, Chris M Willoughby Sr., Mike Regusa, Eric Haakenson, Jordan Ketzenberg and Tim Ketzenberg. Tomorrow Matthew Wild, Cheryl Burchell, Lori Hess, Patricia Keller, Cathy Biby, Tom Hern, Krystal Arthur, Eric Haynes and Joey Grunden put on their party hats. On Friday Marilyn Desjarlais, Sandy Landberg, Patrick Lippert, Tim Skelton and Doneda Allen celebrate. Dee Sasse, Steve Kane, Frank Jackson and Brittney Blaski take another trip around the sun on Saturday. Sunday birthdays belong to Glorie Ward, Tootie Reynolds, Martin Teall, Linette Freeman, Sue Barnard, Beth Bollinger, Barb Forgacs, Star Hart, Corinna Whiting, Jana Pool, Kristina Lallatin, Caitlin Rielly and Larry Locke. On Monday Steve Wilson, Tanner Mort, Chris Cooper, Stephanie Brodwater, Jeremy Jones, Patty Muhlhauser and Susan O’Neill make a wish. Bailey Jaworski, Michele Jensen, Amy Lyons, Christina Bollman, Keith Ekness, Luke Griffin, Louise Zimmerman and Jai Nelson will party on the last day of April.

•••

Kerri Rankin Thoreson is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the former publisher of the Post Falls Tribune. Main Street appears every Wednesday in The Press and Kerri can be contacted on Facebook or via email mainstreet@cdapress.com. Follow her on Twitter @kerrithoreson.

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