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It's all about Hett-itude

Strong family ties keep them coming back for generations

Staff writer

“People who remember coming as children are returning with their own families, seeking to strengthen the family bond,” Wendy Hett of Marion said.

More than 240 descendents of Heinrich and Katharina Hett will be in Marion this weekend for the 100th Hett family reunion.

They will compare and update family trees, old photos, and stories to be passed down through the generations.

Planning can be intense, especially during the final week, but nothing rests on one person’s shoulders.

“This is a family that shoulders responsibility together to work toward a goal. Teresa Higgins has been combing social media since January, searching for cousins in other branches who have lost touch over the years,” Wendy said.

The journey started in 1878, when, in his late 40s, Heinrich Hett moved his wife and 11 children from Ontario, Canada to Marion County.

“We don’t know for sure why he moved the family here, so it’s still a mystery,” Wendy said. “But can you imagine starting over in a new country at age 48 — which was considered old then — with your wife and 11 children?”

“We are a large clan, especially here in Marion County. Some of us have moved away but I’m always surprised at how many there are within a five to ten mile area,” Wendy said.

Of the Hett’s 11 children, all lived to adulthood — which were incredible odds in the 1880s — and raised 57 children of their own.

“You can see from those numbers how we got started and continue to grow,” Hett said.

The family is now seven generations deep in Marion County.

Kids activities are a priority, because if the younger generations enjoy their reunion and each other, the tradition will continue. The mini version of “Cousins’ Camp” makes its debut and is something Shelley Stafford of Hayes, has been doing for years for the John Hett Jr. family, Wendy said.

Dennis Hett, ‘historian of the family, according to Wendy’ said 2018 is also the 141st anniversary of the arrival of the first Hett’s in the county.

“The Hetts have been meeting in Marion County for 100 years because this is where Heinrich and Katharina started it all. A destination reunion just isn’t for us, because Marion is home,” Wendy said.

It’s not known when the reunions started but Wendy thinks it was pretty close to when the family got to Kansas.

“We like keeping track of things, Wendy said. Since the beginning, there has been a family business meeting and we’ve found minutes starting in 1919.”

In 1938, when Heinrich’s last child, Casper Sr., died at age 79, his final words to family were “he didn’t think he’d be there for the next reunion so he sure hoped the family kept it up.”

His wish has been granted for the last 80 years.

Last modified Aug. 9, 2018

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