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  • I always loved looking at the old family photos. I never met my grandparents and knew very little about them and almost nothing going farther back. My mother's mother was the oldest of six children. She came with her parents from Germany to America in 1892 at the age of 9 mos. My mother's father's family was Swedish and came in 1888. All I really knew was that the families did not get along. I later found out there seemed a natural distrust between the two communities.

    Both sets of grandparents settled in South Bend, Indiana where most of the family remained. Others went to nearby Chicago as young adults but returned to South Bend to raise their families. My German great grandmother never learned to speak English. By the time my mother was born in 1912, they had changed their name from Heinrikowski to Henry. I found this out by finding my mother’s parents wedding license on Ancestry.com,where her mother is listed as Hattie Heinriskowski. Thinking my mom certainly must know about the name change and might like to see the license, I shared it with her. I was shocked to find out how shocked she was at never hearing about a name change. She refuses to believe it to this day even though numerous early documents with photos of family members references the name Heinriskowski, one of many family secrets I've since stumbled upon in my research.

    Through the Ancestry site, I've been in contact with other family members I never knew who have shared through their own experience or through family stories that it was a tight-lipped secretive family. It's likely my relatives from Germany were Jewish. My grandparents were escaping from the hostility of the Germans toward the Jews by coming to America. They were very fearful of anyone finding out and so they changed their name to Henry and spoke of the past in only general terms. I never knew any of this until about 10 years ago. It explained much about the generational fear of not being enough or of being "found out" Sadly, not knowing what was behind it led some of us to internalize it and take it personally. Rather than attributing it to geographic or historical sources, we took it to mean that we, the individuals were not enough and from there it took on a destructive life of its own.

    This ancestral journey has resulted in many teachable and AHA moments for me. The most profound being that a sick tree does not bear healthy fruit. How ironic and sad that two courageous young couples from different parts of the world were willing to sacrifice all that they came from and all that they had to start a new life in a foreign country where they could not read, write or speak the language so that their children would be safe and free. However their fears overshadowed their dreams and unconsciously, they created the very thing that they risked all to escape. Their secretive life style also robbed the generations that followed from knowing what amazing, strong, imaginative roots we came from. The following is a newspaper article none of the children, grandchildren, or great, great... ever saw. I discovered it in the paper’s archives. I believe that love and forgiveness and understanding transcend death so I hope Grocie and Fater know how proud I am to be a member of their family.

    STUDEBAKER AUTO PLANT PAPER
    MR. HENRY JOINS 50 YEAR MEN'S RANKS AND GETS THRILL OF LIFE

Jun 1 turned out to be a big day in the life of Frederick Henry, who fits guides to door and windshield glases over in the body plant. Late in the afternoon, Industrial Relations director, Walter S. Gundeck, called him away from his work. He followed Walter to Mr. Hoffman's office.

There, Photographer, Carl Tuveson, posed him with Mr. Hoffman and Mr Vance as the latter two unveilded a silver service set. The shot was taken and Mr. Henry heard himself being congratulated on his 50 years with the company by Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Vance. he left the office unmoved and Doris Heidt and Rachel DeMaegd helped with the packing of the silver set.

"We'll have to hurry and work here 50 years, Mr. Henry, so we can get a beautiful set like that", Doris said. He realized then for the first time that it was his 50th anniversay with Studebaker.

"That's for me, isn't it?" he asked and then he tore back into Mr. Hoffman's office. When he came out of the office he was visibly agitated; "By God, that's me for you, I almost forgot to thank him. That's a fine gift. I'm here 50 years"

Mr. Henry came to Studebaker as a blacksmith and is responsible for perfecting a dump wagon that would distribute the dumping of a load where it was wanted. For a long time he made wagons that were used in hauling plate glass. "That was hard work," he will tell you.

It was Mr. Henry who conceived the idea of using a softer metal than steel for car window guides. "Steel is too hard, it doesn't go well with glass, and there was lot of breakage. I couldn't stand that so I just figured it out and now we don't break much glass".

Yes, Mr. Henry is a craftsman. And he carries on in his home. He fashions Cathedral clocks, ornately carved woodwork and what's more, he made most of the power tools he uses, himself.

He, his wife, daughter Marion and son Al, live on Bowman Street, hard by the Studebaker golf course. Al used to be a machinist at the old South Bend Watch Company. Now he has a hat shop at 917 Western Aveneu. Al, although a camera fan, is lens shy himself. When pictures were being taken at the home, he "ducked out".

And don't let us forget Meredith Wickey. She is Mr Henry's grand-daughter and she is the apple of his eye.
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