The challenge for this COG is to select one or more December to mid-January birthdays and/ or anniversaries on our family tree, and then to write a short tribute of those birthdays and a toast to the anniversary couples! [Part 1]
The second part of the challenge [a separate blog post] is to write up a list of what we’d like Genea-Santa to bring us and share it in the COG. [Part 2]
With that in mind, here is Part 1: “The Other Holiday Happenings!”
During the month of December and leading to mid-January there is only one birthday that stands out like a beacon among others. That of my grandfather, Henry Condar Dreher, Jr.
Henry was born on December 31st 1902 to Henry C. Dreher, Sr. and Josephine Benzel. Both of these were first generation German-Americans and grew up in homes where German was spoken much, much more than English. My Grandpa always said he learned to speak German before he learned English!
Henry Sr. and Josephine had ten children: Florence, Frank, Henry Edward, Anna, Minnie, George, Walter, Henry Jr., Joseph, and Mary. [There were actually 3 sons with the name Henry in this family: Frank Henry Dreher, Henry Edward Dreher, and Henry Condar Dreher.]
Henry Sr. and Henry Jr. are often found listed with the middle name “Conrad”. However, Grandpa told me on numerous occasions that Conrad was NOT his middle name! He stated that the name Conrad was Russian, and therefore “Communistic”, and his father insisted that their middle name was CONDAR and never Conrad.
Grandpa had aspirations to become an opera singer when he was a young man. His deep, baritone voice made him a likely candidate for becoming so! However, his father persuaded him, after he’d studied opera only a short time, that there was no security in singing. And so Grandpa gave up his dream. However, when he was happy, he would often burst forth in song, and how I loved to hear him sing! [Think George Beverly Shea, and you will have an idea of this man’s talent!] My favorite was to listen to him sing Christmas carols in German. The one that enthralled me was “Still Nacht” [Silent Night]. The song was written in Austria for a choir. The beautiful words in German sound much more appropriate, and fit the tune much, much better than those in English. How I miss hearing that voice sing those words!
After a spiritual experience, Grandpa decided to become a minister. And so he studied with a Lutheran program for two years, planning to become a preacher. However, in 1923 he met and fell in love with Irene Banet. A young, petite, Catholic girl who told him she did not want to marry a preacher of any kind!
Grandpa walked away from his studies. I believe he always regretted the decision. However, he never walked away from studying the Scriptures. He arose ever morning at 3:30 a.m. and studied the Scriptures until 6:00 a.m. when he would begin his workday. I never knew an individual who knew the Holy Bible as completely as he did. He could quote Scripture as no one I ever knew! However, he never went to church. Grandpa stated that he the church was filled with hypocrites and he would not darken their doors. Instead, he worshipped God in his own manner, in his home, in the barn, or in the woods. And when he prayed aloud, you knew you had been taken before the throne of our Lord, and his petitions were heard there! Just listening to him pray was a spiritual experience unto itself! I’d give anything if I could but hear Grandpa pray once more!!!
Grandpa was a master carpenter and cabinet-maker. He made tables, chairs, chests, cabinets, barns, homes, etc. that survive today. And they are all treasured for their unique craftsmanship. I have photographs of several of the items he made. How lovely they are!
Grandpa quit driving while he was still quite a young man. He walked to town and back whenever he went. Sometimes that was 10 miles each way. When he and Grandma needed more groceries than he could carry in his arms, then he would hire someone with a car to come and get them and take them to the store. It’s a long story as to why stopped driving, and it is best to say he was emotionally hurt by something a relative did regarding a pickup he owned, and he never forgave them for it. His “retaliation” was to never purchase another vehicle or drive again. [We used to tease him and say he was a stubborn, hardheaded German!]
Grandpa loved to debate politics, and during the 1970’s and Nixon’s Watergate trials, he was so animated with the excitement of the times! Many a time I heard him say that the United States was the only insane asylum that was run by its own inmates! [Hmmm… I do believe he may have been right then, and now!]
Grandpa was a tall man. He stood 6’6” inches. In his later years he was a big man. Not fat by any means, but robust. He had a large chest. And his hands and feet looked enormous to me! I can remember once, when I was about 10 years old, my sister and I had been arguing and he overheard us. He said, “There’s nothing wrong with the two of you that a good spanking wouldn’t fix!”, and he raised his hand as though he might spank us. [Now Grandpa wouldn’t have spanked either of us if his life had depended upon it! But at that moment, neither of us knew it!] His hand looked bigger than anything I’d ever seen at that moment! I could have sworn that it was 2 foot long, and half again as wide! I could only imagine the pain it would have incurred upon my backside if he had used it on me! Needless to say, I never misbehaved in front of my Grandpa again! It was one of the few times in my life I was scared into behaving myself!
Grandpa was a voracious reader. He read anything and everything he could get his hands on. I suppose I take that after him. [My mother, his daughter, was the same way before a stroke debilitated her reading ability.] I’ve seen Grandpa read everything from Shakespeare and Plato to Xavier Hollander! From Pat Robertson and Billy Graham to Helen Hayes. From “how-to” manuals, to medical journals. [I was so desperate for something to read once when I was a young, newly wed in 1977, that I took the vegetable cans out of the kitchen cupboard and read the labels over and over until I could get to the local library! I believe Grandpa would have done the same!]
Grandpa had an abdominal aneurysm in 1977, and died on May 17th of that year. He is buried in Georgetown, Indiana. When my Grandma died 12 years later, she was laid to rest beside him. Their grave lies under a huge old oak tree in the Wolfe Cemetery there. I haven’t been back there since Grandma passed away, but it’s pleasing to know they lie in a pleasant spot.
I think Grandpa would be proud of the woman I’ve become. That I have been fulfilling my dreams. That I continue to study and read as voraciously as he did. That I am always wanting to know more, learn more. That curiosity has never left me.
But mostly I think that Grandpa would be proud that I am recording our family history and keeping the memory alive of not only him and Grandma, but of his parents before him, of his brothers and sisters, and his grandparents, etc.
Each New Year’s Eve I can’t help but remember that it is also Grandpa’s birthday. And as I sip my New Year’s Eve cider, I raise a glass and toast the man who gave me so much of myself: Henry Condar Dreher, Jr. My Grandpa.
Is there an anniversary that stands out?
Oh my yes! You see, my parents were married on December 12th, 1958 at the post Presidio in San Francisco, California. Mama was an Army WAC and Daddy was a Navy sailor. They were perfect for each other then, and they still are! They will be celebrating their 51st anniversary this very week!
So, with that in mind:
Here's to the couple beyond compare
A love like yours is so very rare
You've given so much, an anomaly
To make the finest of family
Examples you've set for others to see
Lives that are rich, as rich can be
So I raise my glass to toast to two
Of the finest parents....that's you!
Happy Anniversary Mama and Daddy! I love you!!!