To those who came before us

100 years ago today this man stepped off of the RMS Celtic and onto the shores of Ellis Island.  He was born in Sweden on February 16th, 1872.

Carl was a doctor who immigrated to America in 1888.  He had gone back to his homeland to visit his parents who were still in Sweden.  I can imagine he was eager to see the wife and children he had left behind.

By this time, three of Carl and Jennie Lind’s boys would have already been born.  At the ages of seven, five and almost three I think Jennie was also eager for Carl’s return.

Their fourth boy, my grandfather William, was born less than three years later.

Among other things (store keeper, town lawyer, your basic “Jack of All Trades”), Carl’s father worked as a tailor.  Karl (Carl?) Ludwig seems to have passed some of his tailor knowledge and skill onto his son.  The first job Carl took after he entered the US was in a tailor shop.  He must have been good at it because he did all of the heavy sewing for his family, while leaving the fine, delicate stitching to Jennie’s also well-practiced hand.  At one point he took an old and worn boy’s jacket, cut it up and made a beautiful little girl’s coat.

Carl worked as a tailor to pay his way through medical school from which he graduated in 1901.  Before his graduation however, he joined the Army Medical Corps.  The Spanish-American war was taking place and he was probably honored to volunteer his many skills to be used in defense of this wonderful country, of which he had only been a citizen for ten years.  I know he felt honored to support those who were liberating the Spanish occupied Islands in the Caribbean.  He had come here for freedom and opportunity.  It was only natural that he want to help expand that freedom to oppressed countries.

While stationed in Tennessee he lost most of his hearing from Typhoid Fever.  He didn’t seem to let it slow him down though, after graduating in 1901 he went on to be a doctor for the next 48 years.  He volunteered twice a week at John Hopkins free clinics.  While there he would see the poor who would come for treatment in the winter with their lone set of winter underwear sewn on them to keep them warm and to prevent it from being stolen.  Carl knew the importance of personally taking a hand in helping those less fortunate.

Carl also had a love for carpentry.  In his spare time he would build and refinish inexpensive pieces of furniture into beautiful works of art that even his in-laws were proud to use.

They were a very thrifty family.  As a doctor, even in the early 20th century, he couldn’t have been a pauper.  They knew that money didn’t grow on trees, and living back before the days of credit cards they knew that a penny saved was a penny earned.  This mentality probably came in very handy during those long depression years.

Of his father, Lester said:

I am very proud of my father — as a Swedish immigrant he came to America and by hard work he gave us collectively about ninety years of education.  We did not have any automobiles and we had shiny pants with no money in our pockets, but we got our education.

Carl’s wife, Jennie also placed a premium on education.  She may not have even completed high school but like me, she loved to read and she loved to learn.

Being of the opinion that you can get a great education anywhere and under any circumstances, Jennie would go to the home of a professor who taught on the great American books and study those books in her free time.

Coming from a long line of strong business women, Jennie liked to run a tight ship.  She had their dog “Jazz” so well trained that she could tell him to go wake up specific children in their rooms and the German police dog would gladly carry out her wishes.

It’s funny how knowing just a little bit of their stories can turn impersonal names on a paper into family.  A week ago all I knew about Carl Richard and Jennie Lind were their names.  Now they are part of me.

I hope that Carl looks down on me now and feels a sense of pride every time I pull out the saw to build something new or sand a piece of furniture I rescued from the side of the road.  I think he approves of my choice in husband.  He is a doctor serving in the military as well.  I can even see Jennie cheering me on every time I pull out a book from my many bookshelves saying “Darn right you don’t need to spend a lot of money or have a degree to be educated!”  I imagine she thought several times, as I do, that a piece of paper that says you have an education means nothing if you haven’t learned anything.  She knew, as well as I do, that education starts in your heart and home.

I love them and their example.  They are more than just names on my family tree, they are my friends and kindred spirits.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Courtney Burnham says:

    Very nice job. I have a little of his tailoring genes in my blood. Took up sewing and quilting a few years ago and am doing well with no actual classes taken. Thank you for honors our great gransparents memories.


  2. Lyndsey says:

    Love it. :)

    I’m so glad to have learned more about Jennie Lind….for obvious reasons. :)


  3. Heather B says:

    Thanks for sharing that! I didn’t know anything about them either.


  4. Holly Beem says:

    I loved grandfather and Jennie very much. They helped raise me. The last picture was taken at Bloomington Country Club for their 50th anniversary. I didn’t get to go because I was too young but my brothers did. Any family members would like more info, I can tell stories of these two wonderful people.


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