He did not live to see the age of 50; dying at 49 on Christmas Day 1954.
This year he will have been dead for 59 years…10 years longer than he lived.
For much of my life, that was who Max was to me – my mom’s father who died at 49 on Christmas Day. Practically his entire biography, as I knew it, wasn't the story of his life. It was the story of his death. And because of that - and because my mom was too young to remember anything - Max didn’t factor much in our lives (unintended pun! Max factor…get it?!) It wasn’t Max who kept the family in line. It wasn’t Max who raised my mother. It wasn’t Max who was my grandfather. No one kept him or his memory alive. He was just a man in some family pictures whom I didn’t know. Kinda sad.
But a couple of years ago, when I was an up and coming archivist – as opposed to the old, seasoned one that I am now – I had to do a rotation with our reference branch in Washington, DC (where they keep the good stuff like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution). In order to understand how to do genealogy research, I had to do research on my own family as part of my project. Figuring that I’d have more luck researching my mom’s side of the family rather than combing through the billion Kellys, Lees, and Hendersons in the world (hey, I only had a few weeks and half of that time was spent trying to work the microfilm readers!), I started researching the Schellhardts. That’s when I found the ship manifests and census records and a few other things that made me realize that Max was more than a guy who died a long, long time ago.
He is a man who deserves to be remembered.
Meet Max –
He was German by birth.
He was an older brother.
He was married to his wife for 28 ½ years.
He was a bar owner but he preferred carpentry and building things.
He couldn’t tell a splinter from a chicken pox.
He wore glasses.
He is not part of our past...he is part of our beginnings.
And on this day, we remember and honor him.
Happy Birthday, Max.
(And now you know what was in that box of chocolates.)