Sunday, August 31, 2008

Out of the blue...

Last week I received a voice mail message from my cousin Jim Smith. Jim told me he sent a copy of his family history book to me. I, in turn, left Jim a message about how excited I was to receive it. Jim and I share the same passion for family history. We know about this passion from other family members since Jim and I met in person only one time in 1970 when my family visited his mother in La Puente, California.

The book Zemaitis Family History by James Zemaitis Smith arrived late last week. At two inches thick and spiral bound, I quickly glanced through the pages. Jim's research is incredible. He has accumulated a tremendous amount of data and a multitude of photographs, many of which I've never seen filled with many people I recognize.

The first pages I opened were to pages 129-130.These pages became my immediate favorite because it was a recap of my great-grandfather's 85th birthday. In the past I've seen one picture of my great-grandfather and a few of my grandmother and grandfather. I never knew what great-grandfather looked like until a year ago when I found a picture of him from another cousin in Sheboygan. Now I have a second picture which includes both of my mother’s parents I so this book is a great treasure. Sometimes good things come out of the blue. The picture includes Philip Reimer, Fred Herzog and Sophie Reimer Herzog plus Sophie's sisters taken on November 24, 1939.

The group is in the front yard of the home in which my mother grew up on Superior Ave. in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Bundled in their winter coats, anyone can tell it is a cold day in November yet their eyes squint from the afternoon sunshine.

Jim included a clipping of the newspaper article from The Sheboygan Press which listed all of the guests. My mother was listed as Doris age 12. The article also mentioned “they served chicken dinner.” Apparently, eighty-five years is an age for celebration and food always dominates a German-Russian get-together.

So, I have much more to review and continue to ask my Mother when she returns in to Arizona this winter. Sometimes the best things happen when you have no clue what's coming.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Argentina on the horizon....

The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia plans a trip to Argentina in November. I thought at length about the pros and cons of going with the group. Let's first consider the cons:

1) The trip is a two week commitment. In corporate America, two weeks away can be career suicide.

2) It's a foreign country, and my Spanish "ist nicht so gut."

3) The flight to Argentina is a minimum 14 hours in the air.

Now let's consider the pros:

1) Argentina is home to many German Russians who moved there in the late 1800s. Once there, they established villages and used the same names of their Russian colonies for their new homes. My ancestors came from Mariental and there is a town called Mariental in Argentina. Could there be family there?

2) One of my good friends from the Arizona Sun Chapter has planned to go to Argentina since we first heard of the trip last year.

3) The schedule includes a stay in Buenos Aires, and visits to the historical immigrant museum, tango show and German Russian homes in Entre Rios.

4) A fabulous tour of Iguazu falls. Check out the video clip below and you will see what I mean.

After much internal debate and contemplation, I decided to travel with the group. Now I can hardly wait to get there.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Memories continued...

My daughter Ashley wrote some of her memories of her grandparent's house this week. What tops that in the world of family history? I'm elated.

August 15 is Ashley's paternal grandmother's birthday. When we saw the movie The Natural was on television last night, we decided to watch it.

The Natural, in case you have forgotten, is a baseball movie starring Robert Redford, Glenn Close (yes I saw her on Broadway), Wilford Brimley, Kim Basinger, Darren McGavin and Richard Farnsworth. Ashley never saw the movie. I have watched it many, many times.

Baseball is part of our family history. It was the sport for both of Ashley's grandfathers, her great uncles and many other family members who made their names locally and regionally from it. Ashley's father has even been mistaken for Kirk Gibson, whose famous home run most resembles the end of the movie.

When Ashley saw Richard Farnsworth's character, Red Blow, she asked where she had seen him before. She believed she knew him. I thought of all of Farnsworth's movies, but could not imagine Ashley had seen any of them. We checked for all of his credits, and not one made a connection to her.

Of course, I knew who in our family history, most resembled Red Blow. From his mannerisms, to his baseball knowledge, to his unassuming style of communication, Richard Farnsworth reminded everyone of Ashley's grandfather, Stanley Sr.

One of my favorite scenes is when Iris Gaines, the woman in white, stands up during a crucial at bat. Everyone thinks she is an angel. Of course, Grandma B was Grandpa B's angel.

Why did this actor strike such a reaction in Ashley? She never met Grandpa B. He died in 1985, she was born in 1991. I can't explain it, but I know recognition when I see it. Sometimes we just can't tell exactly where the memory comes from.

Happy 86th Birthday Grandma B.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I've been back in Chandler for a week, yet I still have the glow of my trip to Casper. I have a lot of work I need to do, but instead of focusing on my work all weekend, I created a phenomenal dinner last night. The four course meal was tailored to please the appetite of vegetarians and vegans, so there was a good deal of planning required. While the food exceeded expectations, the meal was overshadowed by a wonderful conversation where everyone shares and you learn something you never knew about the participants.

One friend shared some Sicilian family history which ironically mirrored stereotypes of an Italian family. This individual is quite a far cry from those realities, yet the history stirred memories and events long forgotten. These memories generated more stories until my daughter shared some of her recollections of visiting her grandparents in Wisconsin.

Her detailed memories included aromas and how the house looked to her as a small child were incredibly fun to hear. Children see life differently because their priorities to do match adult priorities. And, thank goodness! She helped me to remember much I have stored away but have not recorded. Which brings up my point for today.

My daughter is only sixteen but she needs to write down these thoughts and memories. Her grandfather has been gone for six years, yet the ten years she knew him can fade fast. What I heard last night needs to be captured so she can readily share these stories with her children and grandchildren. Writing her stories will make it that much more memorable and embedded in her mind. I will continue to encourage her to do so, in between homework, tennis and the other activities that occupy her.

I might even become a pest, nagging her to do so. And, if she doesn't, I will continue to create phenomenal meals as a bribe to hear more memories until she succumbs and records her history on her own.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

August 3...Home Again...Reflecting on Images of Casper

I arrived in Phoenix, Arizona at 10:52 a.m. today.

It is wonderful to be home yet I miss all of the great people I spent time with during my visit to Casper. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from my journey. Click on each image to view a larger version of the picture. Already looking forward to seeing everyone in Medicine Hat, Alberta next year.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

August 2....Final full day in Casper

So much is happening, there is no way I will catch up with it all. The workshops are wonderful and the luncheon/dinner speakers are outstanding. Larry Miller created a blog for our convention months ago, and his updates are fantastic. Check out the details at Larry has the conference story fully covered with excellent speaker photographs.

At our luncheon meeting today, the Arizona Sun Chapter was acknowledged for our thirty year anniversary. I received our award from Jerry Siebert and immediately gave two thumbs up to Lew Marquardt, Michael Miller and Dona Reeves-Marquardt. They immediately responded in kind.

During my lunch hour, I met Ray Weinberger. Ray grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Ray contacted me when I was named Journal Editor and we agreed to meet at the convention. I asked earlier in the week if he was registered, but he hadn't arrived at that point. Lew Marquardt pulled us together. Ray shared with me his confirmation picture from Trinity Lutheran Church. In the second or third to last row was my uncle, Fred Bauer who I recognized. Ray did not stay for the lunch, but will meet up with me during the dance. Ray and I sang together at the group sing along.

My only wish is that he and Don could have met. Maybe next year.

August 2 Blessings

I have been blessed this week with the company of many great people in Casper, Wyoming. There are a few who stand out.

My friend Don Kraemer of Tucson, Arizona attended the conference and brought his sister, Marianna. Don and I originally met at an Arizona Sun Chapter meeting a few years ago. Both of us were born and raised in Sheboygan, Wisconsin so our conversations trigger memories of our youth for both of us. His sister, Marianna, just as quickly became a fabulous friend. They had to leave the convention early this morning and I will miss them during my last day here. We shared many laughs together, and I nominated Don for the AHSGR national board. I know with Don so close in Tucson I will see him at our next Sun meeting. When I have the opportunity to travel to Sheboygan again, I will be certain to visit Marianna.

Yesterday afternoon I met with Maxine and Ron Fiman and Cleon Davis. I have corresponded with Maxine for over a year since she emailed me about our common family name. Her grandfather was Nicolaus Thalheimer (Dalhaimer). Maxine, Cleon and I share the ancestral village of Marienthal on the wiesensiete of the Volga River. Maxine and Cleon share Rohr family lines, and Cleon and I may well share Herrmann lines, but there are so many Herrmanns we could not pinpoint where.

Maxine shared with me her interview with her grandmother, Pauline Dalhaimer. Pauline's information verified the oral history passed down to me from my grandmother. Both Nicolaus and Johannes Thalheimer went to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. They worked the beet fields across the country. My grandmother adopted my Aunt Tinie in Fresno, and Pauline's interview mentions Johannes while in Fresno.

Maxine's uncle John, who is 97, lives in Washington. Maxine will ask him if he remembers anything about my grandfather Johannes. Her uncle John was born in 1910 and I have always wondered if when Johannes left Sheboygan, he contacted Nicolaus again. Maxine has tried to discover more information from her uncle John in the past without successs, so cross your fingers. She will also pursue DNA testing with him.

I never thought I would contact someone who could understand the Thalheimer family. I am so delighted that Maxine does.

Friday, August 01, 2008

July 30 Revisited

On the morning of July 30 I walked to downtown Casper intent to visit the Nicolaysen Art Museum. I quickly learned everyone in Casper calls it "The Nic." The former power company building was extensively renovated in 1990 for use as the local art museum.

Their discovery center is a phenomenal ways to kids to experience and live art in a well conceived environment. As a museum lover, I applaud allowing kids to experience art their way while I try to experience as an adult.

I discovered an artist with whom I was not familiar. His name is Bob Coonts. Since I draw coloring books, I enjoyed the clean lines of his work and the bold burst of color. Check for yourself at

The main draw at the Nic is the new Pulp Function exhibit. Yes, paper is the primary medium in this exhibit. I was awed by the imagination and skill of the artists. Some of the dresses in the exhibit would be winners on Project Runway. Two works of curator Lloyd Herman's masterpiece stood out to me because of their titles and the synchronicity of my visit to Casper.

**Joseph (The Life of Joseph) by Anna Kronick

**Maggie's Walk by Arlene Gitomer

I bought the brochure about the Pulp Function exhibit and the two dimension photographs of the works are excellent, but the three dimensional work affords a better appreciation of what the artists have truly accomplished with the paper medium. For more information on the exhibit, visit

OK, now I'm caught up on the art trek. Two more days of historical conference to catch up on and only one day of the conference to go!

Wondering what happened to July 30 and 31?

The AHSGR/GRHS joint convention is running like a historical society conference on steroids. So many fantastic speakers, workshop, and displays I am active from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. minimum. Last night I was going strong until midnight!

Unfortunately, in the rush of genealogy chasing, people meeting, question asking sessions, the blog has had to take a back seat. However, I have marvelous notes and pictures to come over the next couple of days.

One of my favorite highlights occurred this morning. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Arthur Flegel, who is "the man" among Germans from Russia. Obviously, I couldn't pass up the photo opp and our picture is attached.

I couldn't do justice to explain everything Mr. Flegel has done for Germans from Russia, however I will provide a few links for your review including information regarding his recent Ellis Island Medal of Honor award.

Rest assured, there is plenty more to come from Casper.