June 19, 2004
Updated Father's Day/Birthdays - June 19, 2016
Happy Birth Day, Baby Girl
Since I can’t be there to hold you and tell my granddaughter, your Mommy, how proud I am that you chose my birthday to make your grand entrance into the world, I decided to have my daughter, your GrandMoke, write this letter for me. On June 19, 1909, some 95 years ago, I, too, made the same journey. There is so much I want to tell you.
First, let me tell you a little about myself. I was christened Frederick William N at the St. Elizabeth church in East St. Louis. That’s where I went to school and served as an altar boy. Things have sure changed since I came along. Why I saw some wondrous things happen. I remember the time when I saw my first airplane and when our family could finally afford to have a telephone. We had streetcars to get around town. And wasn’t it a happy day when we my dad bought his first Model T. No, there was no television, but we did have a radio that we listened to a lot. It was great fun to sit in front of our big box radio and listen to the ball game. I use to collect baseball cards when I was a lad - even kept them until I was an old man. I bet you are in for some wondrous things as you pass through this world.
Other things that I enjoyed during my stint down on Earth were bowling, crossword puzzles and my biggest past time was playing bridge. Your GrandMoke never quite got the hang of that game, but she had talents of her own. One year she gave me a book on Father’s Day. It was full of letters written to a famous bridge player by the name of Goren. Your GrandMoke had written her own letter about me to Mr. Goren on one of the blank pages. You can imagine haw surprised I was to find it several months later.
I remember when your GrandMoke was growing up. She was such a character! That’s what I called her “character.” Maybe that’s why she became a storyteller…because she was such a character. She even wrote a couple of stories about me. I hope she tells them to you someday. Did you hear how she got the nickname “Moke?” Well, let me tell you. When my first grandchild, Jennifer Jo, was about 2 years old, she couldn’t say “Aunt Marilyn” so, she called her “Moke.” After that, all the grandkids called her that. She was Aunt Moke for a long time. Now she’s your GrandMoke.
I had 20 grandkids in all. Your Mommy was number 6. Do you know why I remember that? Well, on June 19, 1979, I was 70 years old.
Your Mommy wore a t-shirt that said “Grand Kids” and your Mommy had a number 6 on the back. Aunt Amy was number 9 and Uncle Brian was just a baby – not even 6 weeks old, and he was Number 19 (there’s that number 19 again!) Oh, was I ever surprised at that party. Your Mommy and all my “grand” kids sang songs and did little skits. Your mommy always had the strongest voice and she could really belt out a song. I hope she sings to you. Did you know that your mommy had blond hair when she was a young girl? She often liked to wear her hair in two long ponytails with colored ribbons, and she liked to wear purple socks. She was quite a character, too. I think that’s why she loves acting so much…she’s a natural born character. Yes, that birthday was very special. You see, it was my last. God had other jobs for me to tend to. So, he called me home later that year.
It’s been sort of my duty to welcome the family as they have been called to a greater after life. I sure missed your Great Grandma though. She finally joined us in 1997. Her name is Vera Adele. We met one day while playing tennis. It was our little joke that our “game” was a “Love-match.” I can only hope that you someday marry the love of your life and know the happiness that we did. We had four children altogether – Bill, Chris, Marilyn (GrandMoke) and Melissa (Mi-mi).
Life wasn’t always so easy. As a child and young man I lived through World War 1 and 2. I never had to serve in the military, but I was a great supporter of the United States. I thought I’d never see another war after the Korean War in the early 50’s, but then, along came Viet Nam, and more of our young men died defending our freedom. Besides that, there was “The Great Depression.” Now that impacted my life a lot. I finished East St. Louis High School, but never got to go on to college. I had to work to help support my family. I worked at the Railroads back then.
But, hard times come and hard times go. Vera and I courted for many years before we could even afford to get married in 1938. She worked at the Western Union Office in East St. Louis and often sent me telegrams. Telegrams? Why, I bet you don’t know what a telegram is. Maybe you can look it up in the encyclopedia. Oh dear, there I go showing my age! Of course, you can look it up on the computer.
After Vera and I married I moved to her house in Fairview. It was only called Fairview back then. We lived there with her mom and dad. Let’s see that would be your great-great grandpa – Joe Klein and your great-great grandmother – Adele Lauman Klein. Oh, forgive me child, I just love genealogy. I even figured my Niemann family tree all the way back to Oldenburg, Germany.
I had an inquisitive mind. I would have loved to work on computers. But, that was after my time. I worked as a chemist at the Monsanto Chemical Company in Sauget. I had these overalls that I wore at work and, when I came home with them on, your GrandMoke would wrinkle her nose at me and tell me I smelled. What else would I expect from my character? One time I went to New York on some trip. I bought a little gift for her – a stuffed lamb. She called that lamb “Lamby-pie.” She carried it with her everywhere she went.
Sometimes your Mommy and Aunt Amy would come over to my house after they went swimming at their Uncle Chris’s. His house was next to ours. They came into our house all drippy-wet and hungry. Of course, I couldn’t refuse to give them a piece of candy from my candy-stash. Just between you and me, I think they snuck into my bedroom and helped themselves…but I couldn’t swear to it. Sometimes, I would make them laugh, when I took my false teeth out and smiled a toothless grin.
I have to tell you something about this birthday we share. You see, every so often it lands on Father’s Day. I always felt a little cheated when it did, because my kids would sometimes “combine” my Father’s Day and birthday present. They usually got me a tie or a new deck of cards. But, I remember one year when your GrandMoke gave me a spiritual bouquet. It was the most thoughtful gift she ever gave to me. She drew a picture and promised to say some prayers for me. I can always use a prayer or two.
I was never an overly religious man, but I did go to church every Sunday at St. Albert the Great. Sometimes your Mommy, Aunt Amy and GrandMoke sat in the same pew that we did. I let them put my envelope in the collection basket. They usually fought over who got to put the envelope in. After church, we sometimes went out to breakfast or came over to my house for donuts. Your mommy looked so pretty the year she made her First Holy Communion. There was a big party for her at her Grandma Kinsella’s house. I think there may even be a picture of that somewhere.
I hope your Mommy tells you about Christmas at our house when she was a little girl. We loved to do it up big at that time of the year. I wonder what she would choose as her best memories. Be sure to ask her. Your mommy is a “holiday girl.” Here is favorite picture with her cousins and Amy. She loves to give presents a much as she does getting them. I’m sure you will have lots and lots of memories of holidays and birthdays and special occasions.
Well, Baby Girl, I could go on and on. But I want your mommy to tell you stories about her great grandpa. It’s like your GrandMoke always says, “No one ever really leaves us, as long as we tell their stories.”
And, when our birthday lands on Father’s Day, send a spiritual bouquet my way. I can always use a prayer or two.
Your “Great” Grandpa Frederick W. N.
It was my honor to write my Dad’s letter to you. He brought many gifts into this world. These are gifts that he has passed on to you…
Honesty – my father, to my knowledge, never lied, never even stretched the truth. He was as honest as the day is long. May truth light your path.
Responsibility – Dad took his job as father very seriously. He saw to it that his family always had “just enough.” He never spoiled us, but he made sure that we had the best education. May you find responsibility an honor and never a burden.
Intelligence – Although my dad only received his high school diploma, he was mainly self-taught. He loved books and could do a crossword puzzle in a matter of minutes. He won holy cards when he went to school in many subjects. He was especially good at mathematics. May you delight as the world unfolds its many mysteries unto you.
Optimism – Even though my dad had some rough times, he never let it get him down for very long. May you face adversity with your shoulders back and a smile on your lips.
Talent – My dad’s passion was playing bridge. He became a bridge master even though he started rather late in life. May you find your passion and follow it with wild abandon.
Family – My father was never very demonstrative. He was not a big hugger or kisser. And yet, not for one minute, did I ever doubt his love for me and for his family. He proved that time and time again in the many ways he was always there for us. May the love of family give you strength.