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My grandmother Hilma taught me the value of hard work

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This image of Hilma was on display at her funeral. It's from a Christmas service at Blue Mound Federated Church and affectionately captioned "The Church Lady." This picture was taken by me as part of a documentary project about my Kansas farm family. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • This image of Hilma was on display at her funeral. It's from a Christmas service at Blue Mound Federated Church and affectionately captioned "The Church Lady." This picture was taken by me as part of a documentary project about my Kansas farm family.
My grandmother, Hilma Ungeheuer, passed away earlier this month and my family drove to Kansas to attend her funeral at the Federation Church in Blue Mound, Kansas.

Her 97th birthday would have been next week, but I think 96 is good enough. She raised four children on a small farm near the town of Centerville, Kansas with her husband Donald Ungeheuer.
My grandmother, right, with her sister Betty before school. - AUTHOR UNKNOWN
  • Author unknown
  • My grandmother, right, with her sister Betty before school.


With her passing, a chapter in the story of my Kansas farm family has closed. Hilma and Donald were the matriarch and patriarch of a growing family, many of whom live less than a few miles from the old stone farmhouse where they raised their children and spent most of their adult lives. Hilma was a grandmother to ten and a great grandmother to too many to count.
A portrait of my grandmother as a young lady. - AUTHOR UNKNOWN
  • Author unknown
  • A portrait of my grandmother as a young lady.

After I graduated from college, I spent a summer living with my grandmother on the farm. I helped her can vegetables from the garden, attended church with her and traveled the state to various political functions.  
My grandmother showing off a dress that our family thinks may of have been a wedding dress she wore. - AUTHOR UNKNOWN
  • Author unknown
  • My grandmother showing off a dress that our family thinks may of have been a wedding dress she wore.

Hilma was affectionately known as the Church Lady and a lifelong Republican. She played the piano at church and served on numerous boards. One her proudest achievements was being appointed to the Kansas State Board of Indigenous Defense Services.
My grandmother and grandfather stand in front of the old stone house where they raised four children. Before moving in they renovated the house with help of local mennonites. - AUTHOR UNKNOWN
  • Author unknown
  • My grandmother and grandfather stand in front of the old stone house where they raised four children. Before moving in they renovated the house with help of local mennonites.

My grandmother helped to shape me and foster my career as a photographer. That summer I spent with her was also the summer I made a darkroom in the kitchen of an old farmhouse down the road. I began documenting my family in pictures. It has turned into into a 20-plus-years-and-counting photography project.  
My grandmother with her daughter and also my mother Colleen. This pictures is her mother, right, and grandmother. - AUTHOR UNKNOWN
  • Author unknown
  • My grandmother with her daughter and also my mother Colleen. This pictures is her mother, right, and grandmother.

My grandmother was a wonderful lady, but she was also tough as nails and believed in the value of hard work. It’s her work ethic that I think back on today and am thankful that she impressed that upon me.

She will be missed, but she has left a lasting and enduring legacy that will continue to grow and thrive. Here are some images from the funeral and some pictures from different parts of her life.


Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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