13 October 2008


Of all my uncles, I favored Bill Miller and Henry Goebel. As a young boy, I wanted to be named Bill, and I also wanted to be as tall (over 6’) as Henry, “Unc” to my brother and me. Occasionally, when I worked at Xerox Corporation, someone would mix me up by calling me “Bill”, but I never attained the height of Unc; close, but I stopped at 5’10”.

Unc was the fourth child of German immigrants, only two of whom lived to adulthood. In his youth, he built model airplanes powered by rubber bands and entered them in contests. One contest in Cleveland, Ohio resulted in second prize - a check which was signed by Orville Wright; he never cashed the check because he felt the signature to be worth more than the money. He told me the story about winning second prize. It seems that his airplane flew a long time and finally flew out of sight. The judges held a quick conference and decided that they should try to keep the planes in sight, so they followed the next planes, resulting in someone else winning first prize.

He and a friend built the first glider in the area in his parent‘s attic, and took it to a local park where they flew in it. The part I enjoyed hearing about is how they had to remove a double window and frame in order to get the glider out so they could assemble it.

He was the Secretary of the Left Handed Golfers Association, now defunct. In the 40s, I remember him using the stationery for correspondence. He won tournaments around the area, and I had the pleasure of caddying for him occasionally when he belonged to Brook Lea Country Club. Between the 9th and 10th holes, we stopped at an ice cream store adjacent to the course for refreshments. He had the honor of golfing with the great Walter Hagen, but never boasted about beating him. His nickname in his prime was “Hammerin’ Hank”, and, in his later years when I called him that, he laughed and said “Not any more”; but it brought back pleasant memories.

He was a sports nut and enjoyed relating the story of his honeymoon when he found there was a golf tournament in the area. He checked with the tournament director and found there was an opening, so he signed up and spent the weekend golfing. I don’t remember whether or not he won anything. He did have a nice collection of prizes and trophies that he accumulated over the years. As an amateur, he wasn’t allowed to accept any large monetary awards.

At his funeral and memorial service last Saturday, we heard many wonderful comments about his life. The positive effect he had on others will stay with us for years to come, and will echo through the generations of his descendants.

1 comment:

chloespop said...

He's probably playing golf right now on the other side.
Maybe with Walter Hagen.