31 October 2008

Charles Albert Barnhart

We were in Rochester for the second time this month to lay Grandma’s brother, Charles, to rest. He suffered from Parkinson’s disease, was hospitalized for pneumonia, then his heart gave out. He was 81. He died on the 23rd. We were at the funeral home for the private service, then went to the cemetery for the service there. His wife and two sons were devastated by his death, as they were a very close family. I liked Charlie. He had a great sense of humor. Every once in a while, I’d call him an old fogey, and he’d say that was the pot calling the kettle black. I always had to agree, since I’ve had my old fogeyish moments. He called his sister “Brat”, and she came right back with “Rat”; they talked every Sunday. Toward the end, he was losing his hearing, so Grandma would have to shout into the phone. When they were done, she would tell me about the conversation and I’d have to remind her to stop shouting. We’ll miss him.

15 October 2008

A Promise To Keep

Grandma and I are about recovered from our trip to Rochester, NY for the funeral of Uncle Henry. While at the Memorial Service, I stopped to talk with a cousin, Clarence Carman, Jr. and his wife, Ana. We talked about our great grandmother, Wilhelmina Steinmetz Spies Plock (nee Kell), and the circumstances of the death of her first husband, Wilhelm Steinmetz. Clarence had a theory, from something he heard as a child, that Wilhelm had been murdered by a soldier who was in love with Wilhelmina and wanted her for himself. Somehow or other, the soldier was killed, resulting in Wilhelmina having to quickly leave Germany with her three daughters. Clarence and I had had this conversation before, and last Saturday I promised to do everything I could to find out the truth, and then let him know. Unfortunately, Clarence died on Monday, the 13th. I'm sure he has since learned the truth of the matter, but so far has not been able to reveal it to me. I'll keep on researching the question, though, because I had made a promise.

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.

05 October 2008

DNA Test

Ancestry.com had an offer last month for half price to have one's DNA tested, so Grandma and I signed up. We received the swab kit last week, swabbed three times, and returned the swabs in the enclosed envelope. Now to wait for the results. Will I find I'm related to Cain or Abel? Time will tell.

03 October 2008

Ah, Autumn

This morning, Grandma and I had a bunch of things to do. We stopped at Home Depot to buy Geraniums, then went to the house to pull out the Vinca, which was beginning to die out, and replace them with the Geraniums. On to gas up the Escape ($3.339/gal.). We noticed that a local drug store was offering flu shots, so we stopped in and got suitably punctured and bandaged. Then off to the library to pick up a book that Grandma had ordered. Back to Westminster Village and the bank here for Grandma to make a deposit and to straighten out our address in their records. All before 10 a.m. Now to relax before meeting with some neighbors for dinner tonight.

The forecast is for the 100 degree days to become a not-so-fond memory, with temperatures dipping into the 80's and a storm this weekend. I suppose it won't be long before the air conditioning is turned off and the heat goes on. We are able to have the doors open in the morning and could have a cuppa coffee on the balcony. Hope you're all enjoying the seasonal changes.