Reinhold “Dixie” Degenhardt 1915-2013

Reinhold "Dixie" Degenhardt, Altenburg, B 09-25-1915, 11-08-2011I’m starting to work on a project in Perry County tentatively called “The Last Generation,” about the members of the early pioneer families who were the last to speak German as their primary language. My subjects range in age from their 60s to one who is over 100.

I’ve had the pleasure to photograph three members of the Degenhardt family, including Reinhold Degenhardt. I didn’t know his real name was Reinhold until I saw it in his obituary today because everybody always called him “Dixie.”

Reinhold A. Degenhardt’s obituary

Reinhold A. “Dixie” Degenhardt, 97, of Altenburg, MO died March 5, 2013 at Perry County Memorial Hospital in Perryville.  He was born on September 25, 1915 in Wittenberg, Mo., son of August G. and Mathilde S. (Poppitz) Degenhardt. He married Thekla Koch on April 21, 1940. She preceded him in death on October 31, 1975. He married Margie Engert Johnson in May 1978. She survives in Altenburg, MO.

Reinhold "Dixie" Degenhardt, Altenburg, B 09-25-1915, 11-08-2011Initially Dixie farmed and was later employed as a meat cutter in Jackson, MO. He held various leadership positions (President, Elder, Treasurer, Trustee) at both Trinity Lutheran and Immanuel Lutheran churches in Altenburg. He held various leadership positions with the local chapter of MFA Oil Co. He was active in the Lutheran Layman’s League. He served numerous years as committee man for the Perry County Republican Party. Dixie played baseball for the Altenburg Aces in the 1940’s, softball for the Trinity Lutheran team in the 1950’s, and Dartball for the Trinity Lutheran Layman’s League. He sent food and clothing to the Degenhardt relatives in East Germany following World War II. In 1960, he brought second cousin and East German refugee Heidi Schultz-Netzer to America, providing a home for her, and sent her to high school. Heidi married Albert Boettcher, Jr. Dixie worked at East Perry Lumber Co. from 1967 through 1980. He continued beef cattle farming until 1990.

 Survivors include four sons, Larry L. and Pearline Degenhardt of St. Louis, MO, Dewey D. and Marilyn Degenhardt of Jefferson City, MO, Lynn J. Degenhardt of Altenburg, Dean A. and Marguerite Degenhardt of Lisle, IL, one daughter, Connie S. Degenhardt Levy (Griff Gresham) of Columbia; two stepsons, Wayne and Lillette Johnson of St. Charles, MO, Kenneth Johnson of St. Louis; one sister, Paula Holt of Perryville; one brother, Wilmar W. Degenhardt of St. Louis; grandchildren, Grant and Christy, Ryan Degenhardt and Jeanne Aubuchon, Tyler and Sherlyn, Clay and Dori, Jennifer, Dawn, Monica, and David Degenhardt, Carly, Carrie, and Casie Levy, Marvin, Reina, and Tiffany Johnson; and seven great-grandchildren.

Wilmar Degenhardt

Wilmar Degenhardt 11-17-2010I have to credit Wilmar with showing me how important old photos are. I scanned the first batch of Wittenburg photos from 1966, had a stack of Walmart 4×6″ prints made, and showed up at the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum in Altenburg to see if anyone there could help me identify the people and places. Director Carla Jordan said I should talk with Wilmar.

When we flipped through the aerial photographs, he suddenly exclaimed, “Ohhhhh. This is a rare find. This is the house where I was born.” You can hear him in this video.

Wilmar talks about Seelitz


This was the first inkling I had that my photographs had captured things that perhaps nobody else had. Or, maybe that nobody else had held onto for all these years. Seeing his reaction fueled my interest in doing projects like this.

Lynn Degenhardt

Lynn Degenhardt in Seelitz 10-28-2011Lynn showed me Wilmar’s birthplace, which, along with most of the other buildings in the aerial, is still standing. He’s an expert on Seelitz, one of the early German settlements. He explained that the communities in the lowlands like Seelitz and Wittenberg didn’t survive as well as the ridge communities like Altenburg and Frohna. Floods and disease took their toll on the settlements closer to the river.

 

 

 

Storm Is Jan’s Fault

Lightning storm c 1966My road trip partner, Jan, a native Floridian, wanted to experience all the things she’s never seen in the Sunshine State. She got to shiver through sub-zero wind chills, freezing rain, snow and ice. Somebody joked that maybe she’d get to hear tornado sirens before she flew out of St. Louis on Wednesday.

They didn’t know how right they were. She and Mother went on a pecan search, then we dropped by Annie Laurie’s, planned to eat at the Pie Safe in Pocahontas (but they were closed), stopped in at the Altenburg museum where Carla and Gerard convinced us to go to the Mississippi Mud for the best cheeseburger around. It was.

On the way north, Brother Mark encouraged us to stop at the St. Mary’s Antique Mall. After about 30 minutes, I told Jan I’d take a nap in the car and she could take as long as she wanted. She said a group of women came back into the mall to report “there’s a man sleeping in a car with Florida tags with the lights on.”

They were right on all counts. My car battery was tested and passed.

Rain as bad as as a hurricane

Twenty-five miles south of St. Louis, the sky turned dead black, the winds booted us all around and we hit a wall of water. I’ve covered 13 hurricanes and had four pass over our house, so I’m a pretty good judge of rain. This was as bad as any hurricane I ever drove through. On top of that, when I was covering tropical storms, I was the only dumb fool on the road. Today’s rain caught us at evening rush hour.

When I called Cape to tell Mother we had arrived safely, she said she was hunkered down in the basement after telling our neighbors who don’t have a basement that she was going to leave the front door unlocked. “I’ve never heard the wind roar like that,” she said.

When I checked with her later, she said the wind had passed, but there was still thunder and lightning in the area. She heard a loud thump on the roof, but she won’t know what broke off the maple trees on the side of the house until morning.

Please, Jan, don’t ask to experience an earthquake before you get on the plane.

[Note: that’s a file photo of lightning. I was trying too hard to keep us alive to think about shooting pictures.]

91st Birthday Season Kicks Off

After my preview presentation of Ordinary People in Altenburg Tuesday night, the staff of the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum surprised Mother with a cake, flowers and balloon, kicking off the start of her 91st Birthday Season. Several of Wife Lila’s Class of ’66 showed up, including Terry Hopkins, who came all the way from Florida.

Friend Shari and her mother attended. It’s not often that someone can say that his first high school girlfriend and his last high school girlfriend are attending an event. Brother Mark came down from St. Louis.

A very receptive group of 37 (if I heard correctly) watched my photos and videos and listened to my war stories. They were actually TOO receptive. My goal was to figure out how to cut about 30 minutes from a presentation I did this summer. Riding Partner Anne warned me that if I played off my audience’s reaction, I was going to go long, not short. That’s exactly what happened. Now I have 46 minutes to cut. I needed someone to yawn or check their watch to clue me in that the listeners were getting restless.

Thanks to Carla Jordan and her staff for doing a great job hanging my photos, offering hat-stretching compliments and recognizing Mother’s Birthday Season. I would go into more detail, but my brain is fried. I don’t see how teachers do this kind of thing every day.

No Tomatoes Were Thrown

Perry County is experiencing a bumper crop of tomatoes this summer, so I was a little uneasy about facing an audience at the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum in Altenburg. Folks up in the ridges aren’t shy about expressing their opinions, and I was hoping not to come home dripping rotten tomato juice.

The purpose of my visit was to have the audience help narrow down some print selections for an exhibit this fall and for me to gauge response to to my talk about regional photography.

I didn’t do a head count, but museum director Carla Jordan said about 40 people attended, about twice what we had anticipated. It was a good group. I went longer than planned, but I didn’t hear any snoring and I didn’t hear any boards creaking that would have given away anyone who tried to sneak out early.

Brother Mark and his friend Robin Hirsch came down from St. Louis. Robin was kind enough to shoot a couple of these photos.

Last resident of Wittenburg

Joanne Holley, in the front row, left, is the last resident of Wittenberg. Her husband, Dave Holley, storyteller extraordinaire, died April 11, 2012. Two of the videos featured him and one was dedicated to him. Her daughter, Kristie, and her grandson are also in the row.

Talking photo technique

Cape photographer Tom Neumeyer stopped by to talk technique and share shooting war stories. Central High School Class of ’66 classmate Dick McLard reminded me that Thursday is the monthly brunch, but I have other commitments that day. Wife Lila would certainly be there if she was in town.

Carla’s introduction was so flattering that I wondered if  she had grabbed my eulogy by mistake. Warren Schmidt was equally kind at the end of the evening. Gerard Fiehler humped stuff out of my car and helped get the speakers working.

Sick cat excuse

Mother is an old hand at the museum, but this was Friend Shari’s mother’s first visit. LaFern Stiver admitted that she didn’t know how she was going to occupy herself in what she thought was going to be a tiny, small-town museum since I had to go a couple hours early to set up. She was pleasantly surprised to see what a great job Carla and her staff do in pulling together the exhibits.

If you’re in LaFern’s bridge club, don’t be surprised to find yourself being hauled up to Altenburg one of these days. (Shari couldn’t make it down from St. Louis. She said something about a sick cat. That sounds vaguely familiar. I think she may have used that same excuse when we were in high school.)