For Justin – Who You Are – Part I

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SCAN2992Maybe you need to know something about your genealogy.  It might help put the world into perspective.  The family on your mother’s side weren’t nuts, most of the time, they were just plain crazy, starting with Grandy’s mother’s family.  She was the product of 2000 years of selective inbreeding.  It’s amazing we can even walk upright, let alone be functioning people of intellect.  It’s a joke – but highlights the fact that, in many ways, quite often, our family tree did not branch until after Edward III.

The Froehlichs came from a military background, from what I’ve been able to learn.  I’ve done very little work on their side of the family, primarily due to the fact that many of the records were in/out of Eastern Germany.  Even after the Berlin Wall fell, they were very difficult to find.  We are related to the manufacturers of the Froehlich rifles.  Pa’s father, Sebastian, came from a family of big-time Lutherans.  They attended the same church which once boasted Johan Sebastian Bach as a member.  He fell in love with a woman who was Catholic.  In order to marry her, he had to literally run away, to this country.  He became a Hessian mercenary during the Civil War. The North was in such great need of soldiers, that anyone who offered to come to this country and fight, for so long, was automatically granted citizenship.  This is what Sebastian did.  Family lore has it that Lincoln was present when he became a citizen.  He sent for the woman he loved, and married her, and ended up in Maryland, as a coal miner.  That lasted for awhile.  He became a Catholic for her.  Something came up and he did not get along with the new priest.  He told him to go to hell, then went to the Methodist church.

Pa and Ma were Methodist lay ministers.  Pa had a prison ministry in Palm Beach County.  He was also a butcher.  His shop was about a block and a half from the field where the Philadelphia Athletics did Spring Training.  From Pa we get our love of baseball.  He was such a regular that he would go hang out at the ball park with the great Connie Mack.  He would take my mother with him.  Ma believed that anytime someone came to your house, they must leave with a gift, even if it consisted of a few cookies, wrapped in a napkin.  They were so progressive, when my mother was a teenager, they took in a young man who was having a sex change, providing a home for him during his surgery.  They also shared an alley with the aunt and uncle of film legend Marlena Dietrich.  She would visit them, always dressing like a man.  My mother would see her out walking, and she would stop to visit.  Then, one day, her aunt and uncle were arrested as Nazi spies.  She then began spying on the Nazis to make up for what they did.  Nana and Grandy had a beautiful two-story house on the Dixie, near where Proctor’s Restaurant once was. They would rent rooms.  One of their regulars, who would come in with their family and maid also turned out to be a Nazi spy.

Because of the Froehlich name, evidently various and sundry individuals in Germany assumed they were Nazi sympathizers.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  During the War, Grandy was the Blackout Officer for the county.  There, it was a very big deal.  German U-Boats would patrol off Palm Beach.  Grandy’s sister, Mary owned a big-time beauty salon in Palm Beach, with a strictly A-list of celeb client. Both she and her sister Juanita once sang opera in Maryland.  The family loved opera almost as much as they did baseball.

This man walked in front of the window of Mary’s shop.  She thought it was either Grandy or Uncle William.  He came in, asking for her.  It was quite obvious he was German.  He kept asking questions about the family, trying to ascertain where their sympathies were.  He brought her silk stocking, chocolates, and things which were in short supply during War World II.  Naturally, she told Grandy, who told the authorities.  The next night was quite exciting.  The Navy blew up a German U-Boat off Palm Beach.  They never saw the man again.  It was assumed he was on the U-Boat when it was destroyed.

My mother, Donna, and their friends would go to the beach, even when it was ‘off-limits’ to watch pieces of the German subs wash ashore.

With the exception of Mary, every one of Grandy’s brothers and sisters graduated from college.  Aunt Glad (who was my personal favorite) was part of the first graduating class of nurses from Mayo.  Everyone else graduated from the University of Maryland.  Grandy majored in animal husbandry.  For years he struggled to buy enough land to start his first dairy.  When he bought the land, he and his brothers went into the failed subdivisions out by there house was, digging up tabby blocks to build the barn.  He borrowed six cows, and was in business from then on, until he sold the dairy in the mid 1980s.  He became the largest independent dairyman in the state.

He was also on numerous state commissions, one of them being the chair of the state water commission.  Even before it was popular, he advocated protecting the water table, and doing everything possible to prevent pollution in the Everglades, and protecting it as much as possible.  The other members of the commission said he was a senile old man, and forced the governor to have him removed.

One of his good friends was John D. MacArthur. Grandy loaned him the money to go into the insurance business, encouraging him to work out of his car rather than open an office, so he could save his money.  The rest is history.  When MacArthur wanted to visit with Grandy, he would go go Grandy, not the other way around, even flying into NC, to drive up to Big Ridge to see him.  He would go out in the back pasture when Grandy would go hunting, to bird hunt with him.  That’s where I remember him. When he died, Grandy was one of his pall-bearers.

You had the most amazing great-grandfather there ever was.  He was brilliant, funny, and had an absolutely perverted sense of humor.  That came from his mother’s family.  There was no practical joke too elaborate for him to attempt, and he attempted them.  You never knew what would happen when he and  his siblings were together.  One year, up in the mountains, he and Uncle William taught us how to find apples which were almost rotten, but still intact.  They taught us just were to put the firecrackers, and just how to throw them at their sisters so that the rotten apples would explode, all over them!

They were the ‘normal’ side of your family.  Your great-Uncle Wilfred, at the time he finished, was the oldest person, to date, to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail.  Uncle William was a botanist.  The one thing I learned from him was that a weed was a weed, only in the eye of the beholder. Uncle Arthur was a Presbyterian minister who had a church and a school near Orlando.  During the early 1950s, when it was a big deal, he was the only non-head of state to address one of the Geneva peace conferences.

Grandy’s mother’s brother, Uncle Feltman – as in Edwin Feltman – was a Rough Rider.  He was one of the men who helped ‘blaze’ Military Trail through Florida. He was a dude.  We have a picture of him, that I need to copy.  He looked exactly like your Uncle Rodney.

Tomorrow – Nana’s family.  (They’re the crazy ones).

 

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