Landing the immigrant dream

On Jan. 11th, 1911, (1/1/11) a massive steamship, named "Friedrich der Grosse" (for Frederick the Great, a one-time Prussian ruler) pulled into New York Bay. My dad's father, Josef Gärtz, was on that ship, peering out at the Statue of Liberty, greeting him and the other hopeful and exhausted boat-load of immigrants. It was the beginning of a life entirely different from the lives of the family and friends he left behind.

Terror atop the train!

On Christmas Eve 1910, my grandfather, Josef Gärtz, set off on what would become a harrowing journey toward America. His burning dream of a far-off land and the fiery drive he needed to get there, turned out to be the best Christmas gift he ever could have imagined for his future bride and their children and grandchildren. It was a gift that would keep on giving for decades to come.

Santa and the refugees

Tis the season to spread the magic of Christmas to our children–and a letter from Santa can be just the ticket, especially when the letter comes directly to their door, in a real envelope, from a human being, not via email or text. But that letter can do so much more than promise goodies. It has the power to instill empathy early on.

Veterans Day evokes Thanksgiving Thoughts

On Veterans Day, I always think of my beautiful, young, handsome Uncle Frank Ebner, whom I never met in person, yet I feel I know intimately. Why? Because I have nearly 300 letters written to and from him from January 1943 to the end of September 1945. Then the letters stopped coming home.