My late grandfather was born on the first day of 1903 in a small town in Central Iowa. It was a Thursday and, for context, apparently the same day President Theodore Roosevelt and his wife Edith unveiled new renovations to the White House.
Just as both my grandmothers were born in March, both of my grandfathers were born in January. Today, though, is the 117th anniversary of the birth of my paternal grandfather, Carl Harold Hendrickson, in Kamrar, Iowa. He would have been born in the heart of winter. It was probably cold and there may even have been snow.
Grandpa was American through and through, but his name was pure Norwegian. His mother Petra was born near Lillehammer. His father Martin was born in western Illinois, the child of Norwegian immigrants from the Stavanger area of coastal Norway. Grandpa’s parents had each found their way to central Iowa before marrying in 1889. My grandfather was their fourth of six children. He had one brother and four sisters. His younger sister Alice Sylvia died at age 2.
Grandpa was baptized in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, on the same day in 1907 as his younger sister Alice, and parts of his baptismal record are in Norwegian.
He grew up on a farm near Kamrar, about 30 miles north of Ames. At right is a picture of him with what is described on the back of the photo as a “pet lamb” (though it seems to be approaching ‘sheephood’ to me). The picture below is my grandfather, probably a few years later, near the Boone River that runs through Central Iowa. Newspaper clippings of the era indicate that he attended family reunions and events and once was in a buggy accident as a young man.
Grandpa graduated from high school in Kamrar, then attended Grinnell College in Iowa, leaving there to go to work after three years of study. His college years and his decision to leave are something I wish I had discussed with him more. He married my grandmother, Dorothy, a high school English teacher, in 1927, in Sioux City, Iowa, at which time Grandpa’s stated occupation was “clerk.” He would work in sales in one form or another for much of his working life. Although baptized and married in the Lutheran church, he was a Methodist for most of his adult life and a member of Grace Methodist of Sioux City, perhaps an influence from his mother.
He had one son, my father, whom he and my grandmother raised in the Morningside neighborhood of Sioux City, as well as four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He retired with my grandmother in southern California in the 1970s, where they both enjoyed the sunshine.
My grandfather was a social man with a healthy sense of humor but not what I would call gregarious. He was a conservative and relatively reserved man who was clearly devoted to my grandmother, whom he cared for patiently after she became ill with Parkinson’s Disease.
He was a gentleman, my grandfather … a man of his era from the Midwest. He rarely talked about himself … at least to me. I wish he had, though, and I wish I had asked more questions. Grandpa worked hard but enjoyed life, too.
My grandparents and I lived in different states but visited regularly … resulting in a collection of memories of my grandfather that seem random but probably are not.
He liked to watch and talk about football and had played a little when he was younger. When he traveled or visited some place new, he routinely collected “literature” or brochures to learn about the place he had just visited. I may have picked up this habit from him. Except in warm weather, my grandfather in his later life often wore a sweater … and that is the visual image of him I usually carry in my mind. He had definite opinions, but his manner was kind, if sometimes stubborn.
Grandpa also loved to golf, and he pursued this into his 90s before suffering a stroke in 2000 at the age of 97. He had survived my grandmother by nine years, and I know he missed her. I reflected on the two of them in an anniversary post in November.
My grandfather’s speech patterns and mannerisms made enough of an impression on me during his lifetime that as my own father aged, I could not help but notice the uncanny similarities between them … the way they walked, a certain expression they took on when they were thinking hard about something … the older my father became, the more frequently the similarities stopped me in my tracks.
I am grateful for everything that I learned, usually more indirectly than directly, from my Grandpa Hendrickson. I loved him very much, think of him often, and miss him. May he rest forever in perfect peace.
This is the ninth in a series, Birthday Profiles, which includes descriptions of ancestors on the anniversary dates of their births. It is one good way to slow down on gathering data and focus on individuals in their totality.