Category Archives: Family

Patty

I had an idea earlier today for a post and time this afternoon to write it, but meanwhile the news came of my cousin Patty’s death. I call her Patty but for most people she’s been Patricia for many years now. I can’ t help it. We were closest when we were kids and she was still called Patty by everyone. By the time she was an adult named Patricia we didn’t see each other very often.

She wasn’t much for traveling. She came out to California once that I can remember. I went through Denver every few years but never as a destination. Unlike many of us, she never lost her staunch Catholic faith. She was active in her church and in her retirement I believe she attended Mass daily.

Still, after many years of declining health, when the news came last week that she would not live much longer, we also were told that she feared death.

I talked to Mom about it last night. (Mom is my chief conduit to the Denver relatives.) I saw parallels between Dad’s final days and Patty’s. Patty was 20 years younger but the long decline was similar as were the mixed feelings I had when death was clearly imminent. Do we wish for a return to health? Of course, but often, as in these cases, we know it’s not going to happen. Mom was pretty tough about it. She said the best thing was for Patty to die. Her ‘life’ was just pain and agony now.

There had been some discussion a few weeks ago of her going back to Patty’s funeral. We don’t know when that will be but Mom already decided she will not be going. She had already made plans to go to Denver in June to put Dad’s ashes in the ground there. She will pay respects at Patty’s grave then.

I believe Patty is in heaven. She led a good life.

Dad’s hangers

I guess it was about a month ago that Mom invited me back to her and Dad’s bedroom to pick out what shirts I wanted from his closet. We wore the same size.

They’ve been coming up in the rotation for the last week or so and I noticed that the hangers they were on were built like tanks. Nowadays if you take your clothes to the cleaners, they come back on wire hangers inside their plastic bags. It wasn’t until I felt Dad’s hangers that I realized how much these simple little things have changed.

No picture, because they look exactly the same. Well, not exactly, because Dad’s old hangers have some kind of black coating on them. The newer ones are a brass metal color and can be bent rather easily. Dad’s black ones weigh about 50% more and are much tougher.

Someone probably did a study and found that clothes hangers didn’t need to be so strong. Kind of like modern cars compared to cars from the ’50s and ’60s. My Corolla has dents that my old 1964 Valiant would laugh at.

At our house we are using mostly the new plastic hangers. I like how they give the shirts a little more area to sit on.I’m going to keep Dad’s real steel hangers, though. Like the shirts themselves, they are a reminder of him.

Dad’s story

I don’t remember exactly how this came up. It was probably related to all the contact with relations that Sepi had on Nowrooz.

She was aware of my cousins in Germany. I had told her of my trip there in 2017 and I had said that any trip we would take to Europe would have to include a visit with them.

Just the other day, she was asking what was the exact relationship that I had with these people so I told her about how Zacharias Hangauer had left Germany and came to America in 1869, married and had a family that included my grandmother. This led naturally to questions about how I knew of the German relatives.

I was astounded that I hadn’t told her the story before. It is one of my all-time favorites.

I present it here in full.

My Search For Unknown Kin
by Bernard J. Wood

How it Came About

In September 1975, I had the opportunity to attend a conference on surface science held at the University in Namur, Belgium. Nancy and I had often talked about visiting Europe, and this seemed to be the time to make our oft-discussed visit a reality. A three-week visit was reasonable, within the constraints of our family responsibilities and our financial resource. The conference in Namur occupied two weeks, so we had one full week to do sightseeing on our own in Western Europe.

When we looked at the travel guides and maps we realized that 52 weeks would hardly be enough to visit every place we wanted to see! We had to make the hard decision to limit our excursion to a few places. The principal limitation became geography; we didn’t want to spend all of our time traveling, so we chose three places that were reasonably close together, yet had some special meaning for us.

We selected Amsterdam, because two friends live there; one is a young woman, Johanna (Honny) M., who was an exchange student in our community a number of years ago; the second is Rutger van S. (and his family) who spent a year at SRI as a visiting scientist.

We chose Paris for the same reason: George A. is an old friend from SRI, and Mike and Trish C. and their family moved away from our parish in the middle ‘60’s. And besides, everyone wants to see Paris!

Our third choise was somewhat off-beat and very personal. The twin towns of Berkastel-Kues, located on the Mosel River in Germany, were the home of my ancestors in my mother’s family. I knew from conversations with my late Aunt Elizabeth that my grandfather Hangauer had emigrated from Bernkastel-Kues sometime around the middle of the 19th century. Indeed, Elizaceth had given me and old souvenir book of the Mosel Valley which showed photographs of Bernkastel-Kues. We had no inkling that any living kin resided in this region at the present time, for noe of my aunts in the American Hangauer line, whom I had know, had ever mentioned the existence of living relatives in Germany. Nevertheless, the reasonably convenient location of Bernkastel-Kues and its connection with my ancestors compelled us to include it in our itinerary.

The Journey to Bernkastel-Kues

On Tuesday morning, September 16, we boarded the Lorelei Express in Amsterdam and commenced a four-hour rail journey into Germany to Koblenz, where the Mosel flows into the Rhine. There we transferred to a Paris-bound train that took us west to the town of Wengerohr, where we again changed trains, this time to an inter-urban type of local that terminated its run in Bernkastel-Kues.

Bernkastel-Kues are twin towns situated on opposite banks of the Mosel, and connected by a bridge. Both are nestled into the hillsides that rise rather steeply from the river’s edge. The vineyards that cover the hills reveal the principal industry of these towns; winemaking. The second industry is tourism. Bernkastel-Kues is a resort area where people come to hike, breathe the fresh air and relax in the sun. the towns have the appearance of classic Alsatian villages, with narrow, winding, cobblestone streets lined with gabled houses constructed of wood and masonry. The village square in Bernkastel looks as if it might have been designed and built by Walt Disney; a perfect stereotype and perfectly charming!

We stayed in a hotel in Bernkastel called Doktor-Weinstuben. The name had nothing to do with the medial arts; it referred to a tavern wherein the famous Bernkasteler-Doktor wine was kept and served!

The Search

We spent the evening exploring the town and the shops. Next morning we inquired of the hotel clerk about the name Hangauer. He indicated there were people with that name in town, but he didn’t know whether they had been around very long, or if they had any connection with Hangauers in America. He suggested we visit a famous historical library in Kues, called the Cusanus Stift, where we might obtain some genealogical information. Unfortunately, the Cusanus Stift was not open until 3:00 p.p., so we had to pursue our inquiry through another channel.

Examination of the street map of the town revealed a number of churches with adjacent graveyards. We walked to the nearest one and looked for the name Hangauer on the grave markers. But we drew a blank. So we walked a few blocks to the next churchyard, St. Briktius, and repeated our scan. Here we found a simple wooden cross with the inscription “Hans Jos. Hangauer”.

The pastor’s house was the next logical place to visit, but the location wasn’t obvious. There was no indication of the priest’s residence in the vestibule of the church. We stepped out onto the street and looked about. Houses and small stores, but no sign or symbol that would identify a parsonage was in view. A woman, however, was leaning out a first stroey window of a nearby house. I approached her. “Guten morgan, meine Frau. Bitte, wo ist das Hause auf der Pastor?”, I said in my rudimentary German. The woman understood me, however, and spewed-out directions in a cascade of words, only a few of which I understood. “Langsam, langsam”, I pleaded, and she repeated her directions more slowly, pausing at strategic points to make sure I understood. “ Auf den Strasse, lenks . . . , richt, . . . ober den Eisenbahn . . .”

It was several blocks distant, and after we had come to the vicinity of the house, we were still unable to identify it. A young mother with two children in tow, approached us on the street. I repeated my inquiry to her. She nodded, then directed her smaller child to take us to the pastor’s house, which turned out to be just a half-block away. We rewarded the young guide with a coin, then rang the bell. The priest came to the door. “Sprechen Sie Anglais?” “Nicht.”

Ach! So I launched into my inquiry with what surely was quite vulgar German: “Meine Name ist Bernard Wood. Ich auf Amerika gekommt. Die Name auf meine Mutter ‘Hangauer’ war, und ihr Vater auf Bernkastel-Kues in achtzehn-hundert-sechzig or siebenzig getreben . . .” The pastor listened patiently, then invited us in. He went to a file and removed a few cards. Then he explained that although he had several Hangauers in his parish, he had no idea whether they were related to a person who emigrated to America in the mid-nineteenth century. However, there were tow sisters, unmarried, who were born around the turn of the century and would surely be able to remember if an uncle had emigrated to the USA. He gave us their names, Anna and Cilli Hangauer, and directed us to their home, just a few blocks away. We thanked him and proceeded directly to Goethestrasse 24.

The Discovery

The bell brought a white-haired woman to the door. I began again my spiel, prefacing my inquiry with Pastor Störmer’s name to lend some kind of respectability to my presence at her door. The woman was not impressed, and with a puzzled look protested that she knew of no relatives living in America. I had decided that my inquiry was futile, that there was no connection between these Hangauers and my grandfather. But before leaving I made a final effort to clarify when and where my grandfather emigrated to the USA. “Aber, meine Grossvater nach Amerika in achtzehn hunderd-siebenzig, in dem Stadt Buffalo in New York getreben!” Just as I was speaking this sentence, the other sister appeared in the front hall. At the word “Buffalo” her face lit up and she rushed to the door. “Buffalo, New York. Ja, ja! Zacharias Hangauer. Ja, ja! Kommen Sie in das Haus!” Then she ran back into the house and up the stairs. Her sister seemed rather bewildered, but led us into the parlor. In a moment, the second sister was back with a box of old letters and photographs. She held up a tintype-like portrait of an old man with a beard. I had seen the very same picture many times before – it was Grandfather Hangauer! Another photo came out of the box: young woman in a white dress. It was my mother, Rose Hangauer, and the picture was a duplicate of a portrait we keep in our own family archives! “Ja, meine Mutter!” I was so excited I could hardly believe the experience was real. I looked at Nancy to verify that we were awake and not dreaming. The Hangauer sisters were likewise excited. Anna spoke rapidly with great animation, and I had to beg her repeatedly to speak slowly. After a short time we settled down to a more calm demeanor, and spoke of many things: about our own family; about the other Hangauer descendants now living in America, and those presently living in various places in Germany; about the beautiful Mosel Valley; about the war (W.W. II) and how it affected the residents of Bernkastel-Kues; about the house in which Cilli and Anna lived, which had been built by their Grandfather Andreas.

Andreas and Zacharias Hangauer were brothers. Andreas’s son, also named Andreas, was born in the same year that Zacharias emigrated to America, 1869. the younger Andreas had 11 children, several of whom still live in various places in West Germany. Four of these children, Hans, Karl, Anna and Cilli, remained in Bernkastel-Kues.

Anna an Cilli served us a luncheon of schwarzbrot, cheese and wine, then showed us their home and garden. We departed from them to take a hike to the castle, Berg Landshut, after promising to return in the evening for supper.

The walk to Burg Landshut on top of the hill above the town was glorious. The day was warm and sunny. The vineyards were in full fruit, as the grape harvest had not yet taken place. And the view of the town and the valley from the castle was magnificent. The ruins of the castle were occupied by a restaurant, so we drank a glass of beer to quench the thirst we had developed during the climb, then returned to the town.

We rang the bell at Goethestrasse 24 about 6:30 p.m. Anna ushered us to their studio dining room and we enjoyed a hearty German meal. Shortly after dinner, Hans Hangauer and his wife, Helena (called Leni), arrived, and we spent a couple of hours looking at old photographs and talking about the Hangauer clan. Hans had cataloged a great deal of information about our ancestors, but he had few facts about the descendants of the American emigre. I was able to supply some information to him. He presented me with copies of letters that Zacharias Hangauer had sent from America to his relatives in Bernkastel-Kues. One of them was written on the day he arrived in New York; a second many years later when he traveled by train to the West Coast.

We then left the home of Anna and Cilli, and walked to Hans’ home. Here we met the youngest son of Hans and Leni: Franz. Franz is a student in his last year at the gymnasium (grade 13 by comparison with U.S. schools), and he spoke English quite fluently. Hans brought out the fine Mosel wine, and we imbibed freely while telling about our children, our experiences and our plans. Franz would like to visit America when he completes his studies next Spring, and we encouraged him to come. We offered him the hospitality of our own home in Northern California, and we suggested that Hangauer descendants located in Buffalo, Denver, and Southern California might be willing to be hosts to him also.

Hans is a civil servant and before we left he presented us with a bottle of fine Kardinalsburg wine to take home. As the hour grew late, we bade goodnight to the Hangauers and thanked them for their kind hospitality. Hans walked with us to our own hotel and pointed out a number of places of interest in the town. Filled with fine wine and warm with gemütlichkeit, we slept soundly.

Our Departure

Our schedule called for us to arrive in Paris the next day, so on Thursday morning we packed our bags, checked out of the hotel and went to the bus stop to meet and board the bus to Luxembourg, where we would transfer to an express train to Paris. Before the bus came, I walked to the post office to mail some post cards, and enroute was intercepted by Cilli. She greeted me and presented me with a small package to take home. The package contained a small basket, a hand-made linen doily, a piece of home-baked bread, and a picture of Grandfather Hangauer. We said good-bye, and I felt sad that our encounter had been so short, yet grateful that we had met at all under such improbable circumstances.

Before the bus arrived, Leni walked to the busstop. She had come downtown to do some shopping and stopped to say good-bye again to us. As the bus pulled away, we waved farewell. What a remarkable experience we had! Leaving Bernkastel-Kues was almost like awakening from a dream. Like Brigadoon, Bernkastel-Kues seemed like a place in a fantasy; something that came into existence just for us, and then disappeared forever into the mists.

Epilogue

Bernkastel-Kues and the Hangauers live! Shortly after we returned home, our cousin and neighbor, Mary S. (a great grand-daughter of Zacharias Hangauer) learned she would be sent to Stuttgart, Germany, for a business trip of about a month’s duration. She corresponded with the Hangauers in Bernkastel-Kues, and they invited her to come to visit them. She is now in Germany, and she plans to spend Christmas holidays with the Hangauers in Bernkastel-Kues.

Happy Nowrooz

Today is Nowrooz, Persian New Year. Happy Nowrooz!

Unlike New Years’ Day in the US, Nowrooz is celebrated over the course of many days . We have been getting joyful messages from various relatives and friends of Sepi the last couple of days. Sepi has spent much of this morning on the phone speaking her curious mixture of Farsi and English.

For myself, I got the idea that I should learn Farsi. It’s not a new idea, but my current plan is to sign up for some kind of class. I need to have someone to report to – not Sepi – for proper motivation.

Last year, Sepi and I went to a Nowrooz celebration in San Mateo. I believe it was my first time out with her in front of her friends. Everyone seemed very nice, but I had to confess afterwards that I worried that a couple of Persian tough guys would come to visit me if I treated Sepi badly. She thought that was pretty funny. In fact, all of the Persian people I’ve met in the last year have been lovely people. After all, they are friends of Sepi!

So Happy Nowrooz everyone! Kiss a Persian today! I did!

‘Mum’s the word.’

The recent death of Clark Ewing has prompted a spate of reflections from many people in many venues. His Granddaughter Claire posted a story on Facebook the other day. It brought to my mind Clark’s use of the phrase, ‘Mum’s the word.’

Claire’s story had to do with Clark being designated as the responsible adult while Claire’s Mom and Dad were away somewhere. Clark being Clark found a way to be naughty with the youngsters without putting anyone in danger.

(This isn’t really my story as I heard it all second hand from my children years later. Perhaps Jeremy can chime in with refinements or clarifications.)

In our house when the children were young we didn’t have sweets very often. In particular, ice cream was rare because their mother had an allergy to it. Clark loved ice cream. One of the traditions at Camp was to go into Jackson to the All Star Dairy where the signature attraction was a concoction called ‘Dare To Be Great’.

‘Dare To Be Great’ was 21 scoops of ice cream and nuts and whipped cream and . . . you get the idea. This was all before Clark had to have quintuple bypass surgery . . .

Anyway, the kids told me that when Clark was out in California visiting us, he would pick them up from school then stop at the ice cream shop on the way home to buy them all ice cream cones. He explained to them that they could never tell their mother what they had done. ‘Mum’s the word,’ was the code phrase for talking about it when they were in her earshot.

I suspect there may have been other transgressions because I heard that phrase a lot in those days.

Nader

Nader is Sepi’s brother. For you Americans, it’s not pronounced like Ralph NAY-der. It is pronounced NAH-der.

Nader lives in Iran and is unlikely to ever come to the US. Everything I know about him comes through Sepi.

Well, not quite everything. What prompted this post was a short voice mail – via an app called ‘Telegram’ that I hadn’t heard of before – from Nader that Sepi played for me yesterday. He was speaking Farsi, so I didn’t understand a word he said, but I heard the love and gentleness. And yearning. Sepi is the big sister.

Sepi told me he was just saying hello and hoping all was well with her. She played for me several other posts of his where he had found links to some of her favorite music and sent it to her. She was playing these songs with a big smile on her face.

I said, ‘Why don’t you send Nader a message back?’ She had excuses related to the time difference. I didn’t press the issue but at the end of the day she showed me some pictures of us and our house that she had sent to him. Within the hour she had gotten a response.

That makes me happy!

Clark is gone

Clark Ewing, the other grandfather of my children, died this morning. It ‘s been a tough couple of months for Jeremy and Sarah. I’ve been thinking about the similarities and differences between the two men.

Clark was three years older and started his family sooner, so he had had his fourth child before I was born. Both men worked hard establishing themselves and their families in the 1950’s and were firmly established in the suburban middle class by the end of the decade. Both came from rather conservative Christian backgrounds and moved to more liberal interpretations as they got older.

Both were active in their respective churches but the nature of their activity reflected their personalities. Dad taught Sunday School and edited the newsletter. Clark led public campaigns.

Dad eventually branched out from the Church activities and became active in the Movie Club and some local charities. Clark was a member of Rotary Club and was prominent in the Toledo YMCA.

I believe Clark’s greatest achievement was his stewardship of the camp run by the Toledo Y in southern Michigan. I tend to refer to it as a ‘summer’ camp, but in reality it was a year ’round operation at the time I came into the family in 1981. Clark had been director for many years by that time. He was passionate about the place and had been instrumental in expanding into its current state. He was not shy about talking about where he thought it should go from there.

Where Dad was solid and careful; a craftsman, with hidden talents, Clark was ebullient and was the first to stand up and say ‘Follow me!’ Perhaps some might say he moved too fast, or reached farther than he could grasp, but he relished the challenge.

At Dad’s funeral, we had a hundred or so people attending. A dozen or so spoke afterwards and were highly complimentary. As word of Clark’s death goes out, there will be thousands of men and women who will reflect back on their experiences with Clark and know how he influenced them positively. Many will travel to Michigan, I predict, to participate in whatever memorial is planned.

Neither is better than the other. We all take our paths in life influenced by opportunity and our own personalities. Both are being mourned by their families and many others. I am the child of my father. He influenced me more than anyone else. Clark showed me another way, and influenced my children profoundly as well. I am happy to have known both men.

I found a little appreciation I wrote about Clark a couple of years ago. Here it is.

24

My mother was about two weeks short of her 24th birthday on the day I was born. My father was about a month from his 25th. Whenever I’ve compared my age to theirs, it’s always been 24 years that I’ve used.

Now Dad is dead. The age comparison, facile as it is, surfaces again. What will my next 24 years be like? I made a bucket list once but I don’t remember where it got to. Should I do another one?

Mom is in relatively good heath. It seems likely that she will survive beyond the next year. What then for my facile comparisons?

I have the daytime off today but must go to work in a couple of hours. I had some ideas this morning of what I could do today but almost none of them have gotten done. I see parallels.

Sepi and I have been talking about taking a trip to Colorado to see Abe and May. I only met them at the wedding and thought they were very nice people. I would like to get to know them better.

It’s possible Mom may come with us and we would all go up to Denver to inter Dad’s ashes there. Sepi and I want to go visit Jeremy and Ashley at their new house. That might be a separate trip or it could be a big circle. The big circle implies two weeks on the road. Do any other sibs want to be in Denver for the interment? When can they get away? Does Mom want to go with us to Washington? Do Jeremy and Ashley want to have such a mob?

All last fall, Sepi and I talked about a honeymoon to Europe in the spring. That would be a minimum two weeks but a month would be better. When can we actually do that? Can we really afford it?

At a certain point, this is all rationalization. Seize the day!

Yes, but in reality we aren’t going anywhere for at least a couple of months. Work tonight, then a couple of days off. Band Monday, dentist Tuesday. The drumbeat of life goes on.

Work this week has been preparing for SoundBox. We opened last night. It was a fairly easy show for sound so I had plenty of time to think about what I was doing there. There are some reasons to give it up but there probably wouldn’t be backsies if I did. It can be freaking awesome. Denise floated an idea the other day that would change my role yet still keep me involved. I’m not sure if, a) I want to do it, b) the symphony would go along, or c) it would work even if the first two conditions were met.

Things to think about.

perfect is the enemy of the good

I’ve been busy lately, but the truth of the matter is that I just haven’t sat down to write posts much over the last few months. I realized this morning that I’ve been waiting for that perfect moment when I can clear my head and concentrate on writing something worthwhile.

I want to give my readers – few though they may be – value for their time. With very few exceptions, I am proud of the writing that I’ve put into this blog over the past 2 1/2 years. It may be that by writing in less than ideal circumstances I may not write up to as high a standard.

So, this is a try.

Dad is gone. Mom is alone in her – their – house. Sepi and I are going down today. There are some more insurance papers to work through but mostly it is just to hang. She is busy, she says, but the nights are the hardest. Last week I went down by myself and ended up staying to about 9 pm. At the point of leaving, the fact of her alone-ness at night in that big house hit me. I almost offered to stay, but I realized that she had already been alone for several nights since Dad’s death and it was a fact that wasn’t going to change.

It’s Presidents’ Day so no band tonight. SoundBox starts tomorrow. Life continues.

time and sadness

It’s been ten days since Dad died. Many people have expressed their condolences to me. No doubt many more have done so to Mom and my siblings.

Yet we’re all pretty dry eyed and matter of fact about it – at least in my company. We Wood’s are famously even tempered but this is our father, for god’s sake!

So I’ve been thinking about why. ‘He had a good life.’ ‘He was ready.’ ‘He had been in a long decline and wasn’t really who he had been for a long time.’

That last is kind of my best answer. He really died a long time ago. The weird part is that it wasn’t a clearly defined event like last week. The breathing stops, the heart stops – he’s dead.

But that begs the question of who ‘he’ is. Preparing for the funeral, Tom created a slideshow for people to watch. We started with 20 or 30 pictures but it quickly grew to nearly 100. That was Tuesday. As of yesterday, it was up to nearer 150. We’ll probably keep working on it right up to when we have to leave for the church Monday.

What was interesting to me was that the exercise brought back into my mind the man who raised me – without doubt the most influential man in my life. Over the last four years that man has slowly slipped away.

I can’t help but contrast Dad’s death with the death of Zach. Two people who were as close to me as anyone could be and yet my reactions couldn’t have been more different. The circumstances were vastly different, of course, so that must be why.

The time that has passed since Zach’s death has muted my feelings. Life goes on. I still get angry about the actions of the two drivers and will approach the DA once more about reopening the case. But the overwhelming sadness that I felt for months afterwards hasn’t shown up for Dad.

The funeral is Monday. We’ll see how that goes.