September – What’s In Your Closet?

It is useful at times to stand back and take a look at your life. Most people I know regret not asking their parents more questions about ancestry and I am no exception. What do you know about your ancestry and what will you pass along to future generations? I had two brothers and a sister who were great story tellers about the family but they are now deceased. As the last of a generation, I suddenly realized that I had better start writing some things down while I still could remember them.

I decided that I not only wanted some family dates, but interesting stories about who they were and what they did. So, I wrote down what I could remember and ended up with 250 pages. I then sent those pages to 12 cousins to see if they could add additional material. WOW, I have some interesting relatives with interesting stories.

I had already documented my family history, tracing my father back to 1410 in Germany and my mother to 1235 in Switzerland. I had also recently documented interesting people I personally have known and worked with in my book, What Your Planning Professor Forgot To Tell You, including, Kevin Lynch, Mike Dukakis, Barbara Boxer, Bill Press, Caesar Chavez, and others. But here is what my cousins came up with:

  • My Uncle Ray Argenbright once ran a gas station and filled up a car that included Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and likely Henry Kaiser. He later drove a business man to Dallas and discovered that Henry Ford was in town having breakfast in the dining room of his hotel. He went in, introduced himself, and was invited to sit down and chat;
  • Uncle Ray was a key Democratic worker in Ohio and was the driver and confident of Governor Frank Lausche of Ohio, standing next to him in receptions and tipping him off to whom he was about to talk to;
  • Uncle Ray was a sparring partner for Jack Johnson, the first African American world heavy weight boxing champion;
  • My cousin, Rev. Levon Spath, was a missionary to Argentina and Chile and had an important meeting with Juan Domingo Peron shortly before Peron was removed from office;
  • A distant cousin, Louie Vito, is an Olympic champion snowboarder and was also on Dancing With The Stars;
  • Eliot Hess, who captured Al Capone, was a personal friend of my Uncle Jo White and at one point, they were in business together;
  • My cousin’s brother was a friend of Al Capone and used to play cards with him;
  • When Mafia king Joe Bonanno was arrested, my three sons saw his picture in the newspapers and said they knew him. They said they went to his house trick or treating and always saw him down at the corner in a phone booth;
  • My Great Grandmother Augusta used to play with Wyandotte Indian friends, but the family kept rifles at the ready. The Wyandottes were the last Ohio tribe to be removed to a reservation;
  • My Aunt Helen was a key pollster for Lou Harris. When she wanted to quit he begged her to continue since she was so good at talking to people. She did one poll about an unknown congressman from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy;
  • My father was a hard core lifelong Republican. Once while we were touring Boston in my VW convertible, we were stopped at a street and President Kennedy’s open limousine drove by. That even impressed my hard core father; and
  • My cousin Gene Smith’s college roommate was Bo Schembechler, the 30 year football coach for the University of Michigan.

I’m not certain what all of this means but isn’t it interesting? Give me your stories and we will share them.

aka, the Management Doctor

Reader Response

This was a fun subject you did for the September newsletter. I am a family history fan too, and I have some of the older generation members of my family who have really taken the lead on research, but I need to do what you did and write down the stories I know too. That is awesome what you’ve done for your family’s history.

One resource you might want to check out is the FamilySearch Library at 4195 Camino Del Rio South in San Diego. It’s run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the side of a church building, and is free & open to the public (Full disclosure, I’m a Mormon), but no one will try to convert you if you go. They have a lot of good resources (microfilm, online, print) and volunteer consultants if you need help, and they even have a German interest group meeting once a month. But if you’ve already traced back to the 1200’s and 1400’s, you can find almost any resource you could image at the Salt Lake City Family History Library next time you do a management seminar in SLC. It’s worth spending a whole day there, as they have a treasure trove of records to search.

Matt Brady
Former planner currently in corporate Agriculture GIS