Joe and Anna help other immigrants

By on March 23, 2014
Ruth and Kurt on their wedding day, June 14, 1955 at St. Michael’s Church in Rochester.

Ruth and Kurt on their wedding day, June 14, 1955 at St. Michael’s Church in Rochester.

Shortly after Anna’s niece and family came in 1954, Anna’s nephew Kurt asked about coming to the USA. Since it was so soon after the first sponsorship it was decided that his uncle, Anna’s brother Theodore, who lived in Marion, would be the legal sponsor with the understanding that Kurt would live with Anna and Joe initially. The paperwork was done and travel plans made when another surprise occurred. Kurt had a fiancee who wished to come with him, rather than come alone later. Discussions were held, paper work altered and the green light given for them to come together. They came in 1956, and moved in with us, sleeping upstairs but sharing the rest of the house.

Kurt’s mother had visions of him becoming a Catholic Priest. He wanted to be a carpenter but she felt he was too slight of build for much of the work involved in carpentry. Kurt did not share the priesthood vision and ended up becoming a clerk in their local Social Security office. It was a secure job but did not satisfy his desires. And his choice of a girl friend, who was Lutheran, was not received very well by his mother. It was a recipe for getting away.

The Hitler Youth was part of his life and he recently spoke of how that occurred. The local Nazi Party chairman would get the names of the school boys in the 6th thru 8th grade. Soon they received a request to join the Hitler Youth which met at the school on Friday afternoon after classes. Refusing meant their parents would get a visit from the Party Leader who informed them of the consequences of not cooperating with the government. Those who were adamant in refusing might not be seen again. When asked what they did at these meetings, Kurt’s answer was “well – they indoctrinated us.”

Shortly before the war ended, his Youth group was given rifles and told to be prepared to defend their city. The boys realized how utterly futile this was so Kurt and several others scrammed up into the nearby Black Forest and hid out for a few days until the shooting stopped. Under cover of darkness he made his way home and slipped into the house, where his very happy mother stripped him of the uniform and his ID and burned them. For a few months after that all youth had to work under the direction of the French Occupation Forces doing “make work” projects.

With that background Kurt and Ruth came here and shared a bedroom, much to Anna’s dismay, since they weren’t married, but she tolerated it. They did marry a few months later and rented a little old house on a secluded lot nearby. Kurt also was hired by the builder, Dick Van Valkenburgh, and worked with Uncle Joe doing carpenter work as he always wanted to do. Ruth worked in the cafeteria at the Lakeside Hospital. They pursued their American dream by finding several acres for sale on Salmon Creek Road, with the creek in the back yard and worked together with friends and family to build a house. They were living in the lower level and finishing the upper level when the property was taken for Northampton Park. Their house is now the Knollwood Lodge. They then built another home also on a creek on Lawrence Road and, of course, became citizens of the United States.

Sadly, Ruth died of breast cancer a few months after her 37th birthday, leaving Kurt with 12 year old Scarlett and 5 year old Karen. Ruth’s mother immediately came over from Germany to help care for the girls. Applying her Black Forest practicality I recall her telling me that Kurt “needed to find another wife ASAP for his and the children’s sake.”

Oma stayed four years before returning to Germany, intending to come back soon. Unfortunately it was discovered she had colon cancer so she never came again.  The family did, however, go to visit her, and the girls were able to meet and socialize with all their relatives. While Oma couldn’t replace Ruth, her presence assured that the girls would have the nurturing and guidance necessary to growing up. It also guaranteed that the girls became bi-lingual since Oma didn’t know a word of English. However, during her stay Oma did learn a phrase in English. If no one else was home and the phone rang she answered it saying “Hello, Gramma, Germany, no English.” – and hung up.

Kurt did remarry but not until eight years later. He met and married his wife, Siony, in the Philippines. It took many months until she was allowed to leave and come to the United States. We will never forget her arrival just before Christmas with minimal clothing and nothing that was suited for our climate. She sat at our house in several layers of sweaters and a white parka, directly by the fireplace, and was still shivering. Recently, we learned that she had only $20 with her for the very long flight. A few years later they had a son whom they named John. Siony made it a point to learn to cook some German style foods. Whatever she cooks is good and plentiful. We’ve enjoyed many delicious meals both German and Philippino at their home and never leave with out a “carry out” meal or two.

Kurt, in keeping with the career desires he had as a youth, remained at the carpenter trade working for some other home builders, at Kodak and also in the Carpenters Union, from which he retired.