Sophie Katz Vogel and Her Family: A Brick Wall Falls in My Katzenstein Family

Back in October 2017, I wrote about a brick wall I could not break down involving the children of my cousin Rosa Katzenstein. Rosa was my second cousin, twice removed. She was the granddaughter of Jacob Katzenstein, the older brother of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.

Rosa was the oldest child of Mina and Wolf Katzenstein, born on June 19, 1859, in Frankenau, Germany.

Rosa Katzenstein birth record arcinsys
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174, p. 7

She married her third cousin, once removed, Salomon Feist Katz, son of Joseph Feist Katz and Brendel Katz of Jesberg. Rosa and Salomon were married on June 28, 1881, in Jesberg. They had four daughters, one of whom died as a child, but three survived to adulthood: Sara, Sophie, and Recha.

Marriage record of Rosa Katzenstein and Salomon Feist Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3836

I had a great deal of trouble learning what happened to two of those daughters, Sara and Sophie. I knew that Sara had married Otto Loew and had two children and that Sophie had married Isaac Vogel, with whom she’d had two sons, Heinz and Carl, but that was all I could find. Then, with incredible help from my friend Aaron Knappstein, I learned that Sara and Sophie as well as their sister Recha had all left Germany in the 1930s and escaped to Argentina.

But I did not know what had happened to the two sons of Sophie Katz Vogel, Carl and Heinz. Now, thanks to more wonderful research done by Aaron Knappstein, I not only know more about their story, I actually have photographs of the family and am in touch with two new cousins.

In April, 2019, Aaron received an email with a packet of information and photographs from Ingo Sieloff, the director of the Borken museum. Back in 2009, Carl Vogel’s daughter had exchanged emails with Heinrich Broz, then the archivist for the town of Borken, and had sent him photographs and other documents and a history of her family. Mr. Sieloff sent all of this to Aaron, and  Aaron sent them on to me. Last week I took a chance and sent Carl’s daughter an email using the email address she’d had in 2009. That same day she responded and shared it with Heinz’s daughter, and now I have two new cousins with whom to share and exchange family information.

Here is more of the story of Sophie Katz and Isaac Vogel. Most of the information in this post came from my correspondence with their granddaughters and the documents and photographs they shared with me.

Sophie Katz married Isaac Vogel on June 9, 1909:

Sophie Katz marriage to Isaak Vogel
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5624

Their son Carl was born on March 30, 1910, in Borken, Germany:

Birth record of Carl Vogel

His brother Heinz was born two years later on July 18, 1912, also in Borken:

Birth record of Heinz Vogel. Courtesy of the Vogel family

During World War I Isaac Vogel served in the Germany military, fighting in France, and then was a city councilor in Borken in the 1920s.

Isaac Vogel (right). Courtesy of the Vogel family

Isaac Vogel, seated far right. Courtesy of the Vogel family

Isaac worked with his brother Moritz as a cattle trader. It was a business that Isaac and Moritz had taken over from their father Ephraim. It was a small business, but enough to support two families adequately.

Here are three photos of Carl and Heinz and their parents taken between about 1910 to about 1924 in Borken, Germany:

Heinz and Carl Vogel, c. 1910. Courtesy of the Vogel family

Sophie, Heinz, Isaac, and Carl Vogel, c. 1917. Courtesy of the Vogel family

Vogel family, c. 1924. Courtesy of the Vogel family

According to Ingo Sieloff,  the Vogel home in Borken was located at Hintergasse 125 and included a house and a stable; the house was 105 square meters or about 1130 square feet in area. It appears to be larger than that in this photograph:

Hintergasse 125, Borken. Courtesy of the Vogel family

I don’t know when this photograph was taken or the identities of the people standing in front.

As a child, Carl Vogel was an avid reader and a good student, and his parents decided to send him to grammar school in Kassel. During the week he lived with his uncle Moritz Vogel. Carl graduated from high school and then studied at the Philosophical Faculty of Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin. He also attended lectures at Rabbinerseminar and worked as a religion teacher.

These three photographs are labeled “Schule,” one with year 1921. I can find Carl in the Gymnasium photograph below (the third one); he is the young man standing fourth from the left in the back row. I assume that either Carl or Heinz is somewhere in the other two photos. Can you find them? I have guesses, but am not sure.

Courtesy of the Vogel family

Courtesy of the Vogel family

Courtesy of the Vogel family

Heinz Vogel was also a very talented boy, but his parents could not afford to send both boys to high school. Instead, Heinz completed his apprenticeship as a retail merchant in Kassel at the Tietz department store.

Until 1933, the family lived a normal life. They saw themselves as Jews and as good Germans. They lived a quiet life, although there were occasional verbal anti-Semitic attacks .  But once the Nazis came to power, the Vogel cattle business suffered because farmers were not allowed to do business with Jews. Heinz Vogel also found his livelihood affected; although he was considered the best salesman in the store, he was released from his job. He then completed an apprenticeship in a practical trade in Frankfurt to prepare for emigration.

Carl read Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” and recognized that the family needed to leave Germany. Sophie’s sister Recha Katz Goldschmidt had already left  for Argentina by 1932 after her husband Julius was beaten by the Nazis.

Carl and Heinz prepared to emigrate to Palestine, but then decided to go to Argentina since they already had relatives living there. Heinz and Carl first emigrated in 1935, and one year later their parents Isaac and Sophie and Sophie’s mother Rosa Katzenstein Katz followed. They sold their home in Borken for 9113 Reichsmarks. One source says that there were 2.5 Reichsmarks to a US dollar during World War II, so the price of the house would have been about $3,645 in US currency or about $48,000 in today’s dollars, according to this inflation calculator. They settled in Buenos Aires.

In Argentina, Carl and Heinz had to start their lives all over. But the family adapted well to their life in Argentina. The philanthropic association Asociación Filantrópica Israelita or Jüdischer Hillfsverein helped the newcomers adjust to their new country. In Buenos Aires, Isaac and Sophie continued to have a traditional Jewish home and went regularly to the liberal synagogue founded by German Jews; services were conducted in German and Hebrew and in later years, also in Spanish. Isaac and Sophie never learned Spanish, but it did not matter because they were living amidst other German Jews who had escaped from the Nazis. Isaac also tutored boys for their bar mitzvahs.

In 1943 Carl Vogel married Beate Hamburger from Frankfurt; Carl was very active and well known in the Jewish community and served as a deputy rabbi and as a bar mitzvah tutor. He also taught German and Latin. Beate also was a teacher; she gave private instruction in German and English. Carl and Beate had two children.

Heinz Vogel married Gertrud Lippman from Ludwigshafen in 1943. They had one child. Heinz started work in Argentina as an industrial worker in the meat business. Then he became a white collar worker in a big Argentina-owned multinational firm called Bunge & Born. For his job he was required to travel all over the world, including a six-month stay in India in 1954. He became the General Manager of the Jute department and traveled many times to India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Although Heinz lacked the formal education his brother Carl had received in Germany, his daughter described him as a “very cultured and interesting person.” She said that her parents lived a secular life and had friends from many different backgrounds; their connection to the synagogue was limited to Yom Kippur and lifecycle events for family and friends. Heinz’s daughter also told me that Heinz was very proud to be an Argentine citizen and that when he received a diploma from the Argentine government on the fiftieth anniversary of his becoming a citizen, he was very emotional.

Isaac Vogel died on April 16, 1960, in Buenos Aires;1 his wife Sophie died five years later on May 5, 1965.2  Carl died in 1981, and Heinz in 2005.

I feel so fortunate to have found the granddaughters of Sophie and Isaac and to have learned so much more about the courage and determination of Sophie, Isaac, Carl, and Heinz, who all started their lives over in a new place after being forced to escape from Nazi Germany in the 1930s.



Cousin Jane’s Parents

In my last post I shared the photograph of my second cousin, once removed, Jane Schlesinger Bruner—the woman my father called the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen when he met her the first time when he was a young boy.

Today I received this photograph of Jane’s parents—Sidney and Nan (Levis) Schlesinger.

Sidney and Nan (Levis) Schlesinger

Sidney and Nan (Levis) Schlesinger

I have already written about Sidney and Nan in my earlier posts, but just to recap here. Sidney was the fourth child and third son of Jacob Schlesinger and Brendina Katzenstein, my great-grandmother’s older sister.  He was born in Philadelphia in 1880 and lived his whole life there.  He was a successful furniture salesman.

In 1911, Sidney married Anna Levis, who was known as Nan. Nan was born in Philadelphia in 1886 to William Levis and Caroline Bopp; her father died when she was eleven years old. She had been working as a stenographer in a bolt factory before marrying Sidney.  Sidney and Nan’s daughter Jane was born in 1913.  She was their only child and the only grandchild of Jacob and Brendina Schlesinger.

Sidney died in 1935 when he was 54.  Nan survived him by forty years, dying at age 89 in 1975.  As I wrote earlier, she was the first member of my father’s family to meet my mother after my parents were engaged.

I am once again so grateful to Jane’s granddaughter for sharing this photograph and allowing me to see the faces behind the stories.


My Father Wasn’t Wrong

In a prior post, I told the story of my father’s first impression of his second cousin Jane Schlesinger whom he met her for the first time when he was a young boy.  He thought Jane was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen and told her so.  Jane, who was thirteen years older than my father, must have been quite charmed by this little boy, who was quite adorable himself.

John Nusbaum Cohen, Jr.

John Nusbaum Cohen, Jr.

When I heard the story and wrote the post, I wished that I had a photograph of my cousin Jane.  Now, like manna from heaven, I do.  I’ve been in touch with one of Jane’s grandchildren, and she sent me these two photographs of Jane and her husband Marvin.

Jane Schlesinger and her husband Marvin Bruner

Jane Schlesinger and her husband Marvin Bruner


Jane (Schlesinger) and Marvin Bruner

My father was not wrong.  She was indeed a stunning woman.


Are These Two Photographs of the Same Woman?

Sharon, one of my readers and a fellow genealogy blogger, asked in response to my last post whether I thought the woman in this photograph of Lawrence Baer and his son John Degen Baer could be John’s grandmother. Certainly the way his hand rests on her shoulder suggests that she was someone he knew well and felt comfortable with:

Lawrence Baer, John Degen Baer, unknown person, 1924

Lawrence Baer, John Degen Baer, unknown person, 1924

John’s paternal grandmother was Amalia Hamberg, the woman in the photo I’d posted in an earlier post. People thought that photo was taken in the 1880s or about 40 years before the one above:


Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer


Could the woman in the top photo also be Amalia? In 1924, Amalia would have been 73 years old. Her face is obviously much thinner in the later photograph, but are the mouth, nose, and eyes similar? Do you think this is the same woman in both photographs?

And if any of Amalia’s descendants can help, please let me know.

(I tried to use the pictriev tool that Cathy Meder-Dempsey blogged about, but the photo of Amalia and Jacob was too small for pictriev to detect the faces.)

Double Cousins…Everywhere!

The best part of my discoveries of the Goldfarb and Hecht families is that I have found more new cousins, three of whom are my double cousins—Sue, Debrah, and Lisa. They are descendants of Julius Goldfarb and Ida Hecht. Sue’s daughter Lisa shared this wonderful wedding photograph of Julius and Ida.


Wedding photograph of Julius Goldfarb, my grandmother’s first cousin, and Ida Hecht, my grandmother’s niece. Courtesy of the Goldfarb/Hecht family


Julius was the son of Sarah Goldfarb, my great-grandmother’s sister; Ida was the daughter of Tillie Hecht, my grandmother’s half-sister.   So I am related to both of them.

Julius and Ida had four daughters, Sylvia, Gertrude, Ethel and Evelyn. Sue, Sylvia’s daughter, shared with me this precious photograph of her grandmother Ida holding her as a baby:


Ida Hecht Goldfarb and granddaughter Sue

And Debrah shared this photograph of her grandparents, Julius and Ida, with her mother Evelyn:


Julius, Evelyn, and Ida (Hecht) Goldfarb

Julius, Evelyn, and Ida (Hecht) Goldfarb

One thing I wanted to define is how, if at all, Julius and Ida were related to each other, aside from being husband and wife.  Hecht/Goldfarb family lore says Julius and Ida were “distant cousins.”

Julius was the son of Sarah Goldfarb.  Sarah’s sister Bessie Brotman was the stepmother of Ida’s mother, Toba, as Bessie married Toba’s father Joseph after his Toba’s mother died.  Although that makes things complicated, it does not alone create any genetic connection between Julius and Ida since Bessie (and thus Sarah) had no blood relationship with Toba.


But if Brotman family lore is correct and Bessie and her husband Joseph Brotman were first cousins, then Joseph Brotman and Bessie’s sister Sarah were also first cousins. Sarah’s son Julius married Ida, who was the granddaughter of Sarah’s first cousin Joseph, making Julius and Ida second cousins, once removed.


That is, assuming that Joseph and Sarah were first cousins as Brotman family lore reports, Ida and Julius were in fact “distant cousins,” as Hecht/Goldfarb family lore indicates.  So maybe together the Brotman family lore and the Hecht/Goldfarb family lore validate each other.

Sue and Debrah, who are granddaughters of Julius Goldfarb and Ida Hecht, thus are both the great-granddaughters of Sarah Brotman Goldfarb, making them my third cousins on my great-grandmother Bessie’s side, and the great-great-granddaughters of Joseph Brotman, making them also my second cousins, once removed, on my great-grandfather Joseph’s side. (Lisa is one more step removed on both sides.) Renee is my second cousin; her mother Jean Hecht was my mother’s first cousin; her grandmother Toba was my grandmother Gussie’s half-sister. And then I’ve also found a cousin Jan, whose grandfather was Harry Hecht, Toba’s son, and my mother’s first cousin.


Harry Hecht and his wife and children 1945 Courtesy of the family

And, of course, if my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie Brotman were in fact first cousins, the relationships get even more convoluted. But I think I will skip that calculation.  At least for now.  Maybe some brave soul out there wants to try and figure it out?

With all this shared DNA, I was very curious to see if there were any family resemblances among the various members of the Goldfarb, Hecht, and Brotman families.  My newly found double cousins Debrah, Sue, and Lisa shared some family photos with me, including this one of Toba/ Taube/Tillie Brotman Hecht:


Toba/Taube/Tillie Brotman Hecht Courtesy of the Goldfarb/Hecht family

Here is a photograph of her brother Max Brotman that I’d earlier received from his family:

Max Brotman

Max Brotman, courtesy of the family

Do you see a resemblance? Unfortunately I don’t have any photographs of Toba’s other full siblings, Abraham and David, to help with the comparison.

But here are photographs of Toba’s half-siblings, Hyman, Tillie (Ressler), Sam, and my grandmother Gussie:

Hyman Brotman

Hyman Brotman

Tilly Brotman

Tilly Brotman Ressler

Sam Brotman

Sam Brotman

Gussie Brotman

Gussie Brotman Goldschlager

I can see some similarities—in particular in the shape of the noses.  But it appears that Max and Toba do not have faces that are as round as those of their half-siblings.  Perhaps the shape of their faces was a genetic trait they inherited from their mother Chaye, not their father Joseph Brotman.

Here is one other photograph of the extended Goldfarb and Hecht family.


Goldfarb Hecht family gathering for Chanukah

Standing on the far left is Julius Goldfarb.  Seated at the head of the table is Ida Hecht Goldfarb.  On the right side of the table starting at the front are two of Ida’s sister, Etta and Jean Hecht.  Also in the photograph are Julius and Ida’s four daughters as well as their spouses and a few of the grandchildren and other cousins.

It’s sad to think that in 1917 Julius and Ida were close enough to my grandmother that they came to visit when my aunt was born, as did Ida’s mother, my grandmother’s sister Toba Hecht, but somehow the families all lost touch, and my mother only has a few  memories of some of the Goldfarbs from her childhood.

On the other hand, I feel very fortunate that now, almost a century after my aunt was born, I know who the Goldfarbs and Hechts were and I am in touch with a number of these “new”  cousins of mine.


Like Manna from Heaven

Last Monday I posted about my third cousin, Betty Oestreicher Jacob, who passed away on July 19, 2016.  Betty and I were related through our mutual great-great-grandparents, Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg.  Her great-grandmother Hannah Schoenthal and my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal were sister and brother.  Betty’s grandparents were Sarah Stern, Hannah’s daughter, and Gustav Oestreicher.  Her parents were Sidney (Oestreicher) Striker and Esther Siff

At the time I posted about Betty’s passing, I had only one photograph of Betty and none of her grandparents, parents, or siblings.  But within hours of publishing my post, I received a comment on the blog and then emails from Betty’s nephew, Steve, the son of her brother Gerald.  And Steve generously shared with me numerous photos of all those people and then some. Now I can place faces to the names of the people I have researched and written about.  And what gorgeous photos these are.

In this post, I will share some photographs of Sarah Stern and Gustav Oestreicher and their three children, Sidney, Frank, and Helen.  In a later post, I will share the photos of Sidney’s children, Gerald, Betty, and Elaine.  All are courtesy of Steve Striker, who so generously spent his time scanning and emailing these to me and answering my many questions.

First, here are some photographs of Sarah Stern Oestreicher, my grandmother Eva Schoenthal’s first cousin.  I’ve written about Sarah’s life here.

Sarah Stern as a child edited

Sarah Stern as a young child in Germany, probably before her mother married Solomon Stern in 1874. Sarah was born in 1865, so this picture was probably taken between 1870 and 1872.

The photograph below of Sarah was taken in Pittsburgh.  She emigrated to the US by herself around 1884 when she was nineteen years old.

Sarah Stern

Sarah Stern

I assume the photograph below was taken sometime later than the one above, but I am not sure. Does Sarah look older or younger in this photograph? The hairstyle in the one above seems more “contemporary,” but Sarah’s face seems softer and somewhat younger than in the one immediately below.

Sarah Stern Oestreicher

Sarah Stern Oestreicher


A while back I had posted the next photograph, which I’d received from my cousin Maxine Stein, and she and I had wondered whether the woman on the left was Sarah Stern, her grandmother’s sister.  Now I am quite certain that it is in fact Sarah.  What do you think? Is the woman on the far left of the photograph the same woman as the one in the photo directly above?


Jennie Stern Arnold, center, and perhaps Sarah Stern Ostreicher on the right and Edith Stern Good on the right

Jennie Stern Arnold, center, and perhaps Sarah Stern Ostreicher on the left and Edith Stern Good on the right

Sarah married Gustav Oestreicher, the man she met while he was staying at her mother’s boarding house in Pittsburgh in about 1890. Gustav, an immigrant from Austria, was working as an artist and photographer in 1900.

Gustav Oestreicher

Gustav Oestreicher

What a dashing man he was!

Here are Sarah and Gustav’s three children, Sidney (1891), Francis (Frank) (1893), and Helen (1895).  You can see that the children inherited their father’s piercing light-colored eyes.  I would guess that these were taken in the late 1890s, perhaps 1898 or 1899, from the ages of the children.  They were also probably taken at the same time as the photos above of Gustav and Sarah, as all five photos were mounted together in a frame.  Perhaps Gustav himself took these photos.

Sidney Oestreicher

Sidney Oestreicher

Frank Oestreicher as a boy

Helen Oestreicher

This photo of Gustav and Sarah was taken in 1915, when their children were already grown.  By this time Gustav was no longer working as an artist, but was a merchant in Pittsburgh.
Gustav and Sarah Stern Oestreicher

Here is a photograph of the Oestreicher store in Pittsburgh:

Oestreicher store

Here’s a photo of Gustav and Sarah and their three children in about 1910, I’d guess, given the ages of the children. Unfortunately, Sidney’s head was cut off either in the photo itself or in the scan.

Rear: Frank, Helen, Gerald (with head cut off) Front: Gustav and Sarah Oestreicher

Rear: Frank, Helen, Sidney (with head cut off)
Front: Gustav and Sarah Oestreicher

Sidney Oestreicher (later Striker) married Esther Siff on November 16, 1915, in Chicago. Sidney was working as a traveling salesman, and as his daughter Betty told me, he met Esther at a dance in Chicago while there on business.  Esther’s father was also a traveling salesman. (I have more pictures of Sidney and Esther, but will share them in my next post.)

Sidney and Esther 1915

The second son, Francis, better known as Frank, served his country in World War I. (Sidney was exempt as he had a wife and young child.)  The postcard below shows Frank’s dates of service:

Frank postcard with military service dates

He was gone for just over a year—from June 25, 1918, when he left for camp, until July 17, 1919, when he arrived home.  He had gone overseas on September 24, 1918.  As I wrote about here, Frank served in the Meuse Argonne Offensive, one of the most important if not the most important battle in World War I. He was a member of Company C of the 301 Water Tank Train in the American Expeditionary Forces.

According to Richard Rubin’s book, The Last of the Doughboys:The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), p.220, a water tank train was actually a caravan of white trucks used to carry water to the front.  According to his honorable discharge papers, Frank served as a private, which Rubin’s book suggests meant he was likely an assistant driver of one of the trucks.

I found this photograph online depicting Company C of the 301 Water Tank Train.  I wonder if Frank is in the photograph:

Company C, 301 Water Tank Train, H. E. Edwards, Capt. M. J. C. U. S. A., Arthur Armstrong Paler papers, Box 1, World War I Photographs

Company C, 301 Water Tank Train,
H. E. Edwards, Capt. M. J. C. U. S. A., Arthur
Armstrong Paler papers, Box 1, World War I

Francis Oestreicher (Frank Striker) discharge papers

Francis Oestreicher (Frank Striker) discharge papers

As you can see below, he was awarded a Victory medal for his service. (Steve has also sent me some of the letters Frank wrote home during World War I; I will post those separately once I have a chance to review and transcribe them.)

Frank Striker WW1

Francis Oestreicher, later known as Frank Striker

Frank Striker WW1 medal

Frank Striker’s Victory Medal for service in World War I

Gustav and Sarah’s third child was their daughter Helen. Here she is in 1917 when she was 22 years old.

Helen Oestreicher 1917

Helen Oestreicher 1917

As I wrote earlier, Helen married Robert Steel Kann in 1920, but he died a year later at age 26.  Sometime before 1929, she married Aaron Mitchell Siegel, known as Mickie, and they had a daughter Betty.

Helen Oestreicher Kann Siegel and her family

Helen Oestreicher Kann Siegel and her family

I was tickled to see this item in Steve’s collection:

invitation to Henry Schoenthal 50th anniv party

As you can see, it is an invitation to the 50th wedding anniversary celebration in 1922 for Henry Schoenthal and Helen Lilienfeld, about whom I’ve written extensively.  Henry Schoenthal, my great-great-uncle, was Sarah Stern Oestreicher’s uncle, brother of her mother Hannah Schoenthal Stern.

Steve sent me this photo labeled Aunt Helen by his uncle Frank, and I wonder whether this is Helen Lilienfeld Schoenthal, who would have been Frank’s great-aunt.  Frank received a long letter from his great-aunt Helen and great-uncle Henry while he was serving in Europe; the tone and content of that letter suggest that Helen and Henry Schoenthal had a very close relationship with the Oestreicher family. (I will post the letter in a separate post.)

Aunt Helen--maybe Lilienfeld Schoenthal

Frank returned to Pittsburgh after the war and worked as a salesman in the family dry goods store. After the family store went bankrupt in 1933, the Oestreicher family began its migration west to California. Although neither Steve nor his cousin Ron was sure of who first went to California or why, the 1940 census indicates that by 1935 at least Helen and her family and Gustav and Sarah had settled there.  I was not able to locate Frank on the 1930 or the 1940 census,nor do I have any address for him between 1920 and 1942, but his World War II draft registration indicates that by then he was definitely living in California along with his parents and his sister Helen.  Sidney and his family did not move west until the 1940s.

Here is a photograph of the Oestreicher family in Los Angeles in 1936.

Oestreicher family edited 1936

I found this letter written by Sarah Stern Oestreicher to her son Frank in 1933 to be very touching in its religious tone and its affection for her son.  Perhaps it was written around the time that family members were planning to move to California.  From the text of the letter, it appears that Frank had just visited, perhaps before he was leaving to move out west or his parents were.



Letter from Sarah Stern Oestreicher to her son Frank, dated January 11, 1933

My dear Francis!

Always remember that The present is under God’s guidance, the future in His keeping. God is guiding, directing, controlling and suplying His children with all good.  His Love and [?] is with you always. Thanking you for all your kindness and the pleasure of having you with us will be the the most pleasant memmories to us.

With my love I remain your devoted Mother. January 11—1933

Here is a photo of Frank in 1940.

Frank Striker 3

One of Steve’s favorite stories about Frank is that he offered to take photographs at Steve’s bar mitzvah, only to discover there was no film left in the camera.  There is only this one photo taken by Frank that day.


Although Steve has many photographs with Frank with women throughout the years, Frank never married. He died in Los Angeles on April 23, 1990, at the age of 96.  His sister Helen died in 1989 when she was 94.

I am so grateful to my cousin Steve for sharing these amazing photographs with me and allowing me to post them on my blog. There is just nothing better than a photograph to help bring to life the people whose lives I’ve researched.

More photos and stories about the Oestreicher family in my next post.



Ray, Arizona: Home of Gertrude and Hettie Schoenthal

Some of you may remember that about six months ago I wrote about Gertrude and Hettie Schoenthal, two of the daughters of Simon Schoenthal, brother of my great-grandfather Isidore.  Gertrude had married Jacob Miller in 1898 and moved to Arizona. Jacob and his brothers were merchants in the Tucson area. Gertrude’s younger sister Hettie followed her out there around 1906, where she met her husband Henry Stein and eventually settled as well.

Eventually both the Millers and the Steins moved to the small mining town of Ray, Arizona, where they lived for several years before returning to Atlantic City, where most of the members Schoenthal family were still living.   Hettie and her son Walter Stein wrote wonderfully descriptive memoirs of their rough and tumble pioneer life in Ray, Arizona.  I quoted extensively from their writings in this blog post.

A week ago I was Skyping with Sharon Lippincott, who is married to Ezra Lippincott, grandson of Hettie Schoenthal, and Sharon and Ezra were excited to share with me a photograph that their daughter-in-law had found somewhere on the internet.  It is a panoramic view of Ray, Arizona, taken in the time that Hettie and her sister Gertrude were living there.  In fact, you can see the Miller Brothers store in the photo if you zoom in to the right side of the picture.  Just click, and then click again to zoom in to the photograph to see it more clearly.

Ray Arizona Panarama from Internet

Here’s a closeup of the section showing the Miller store:

Ray Arizona Panarama from Internet (2)

Both Hettie and Walter described their first house in Ray.  Walter wrote:

Our first house was placed on the side of a hill with one door. The back of the house was against the hill. To reach the house you walked up steps that also took care of other householders on the hill. I cannot remember the location of the outhouse. I do remember to bathe, water was heated on the stove and then poured into a galvanized tub that had been placed on the floor.

Hettie’s description is similar:

I will tell you a little about the house. It was up on a hill, just four rooms no bath or toilet. It was terrible. I did not think I could live there, but we did. Your grandfather and a helper built a room and we bought a tub. The pipes had to be on top of the ground. Well, the sun was so hot we had to draw the water and let it stand for hours before bathing.

Can you locate the house in the photograph above?  The houses are all to the far right in the panoramic photograph, and I have a guess as to which one was the home of Hettie Schoenthal and Henry Stein and their children.  Which one do you think it was?  (Look first before looking at my guess at the bottom of this post.)


In my head I am humming the Final Jeopardy theme song.














Here’s my guess:

Ray Arizona Panarama from Internet (3)

See the house in the left foreground with the huge cactus in front?  I think that’s it.  It’s built into the hill, and there is a staircase behind that leads to the other houses.  It looks like the outhouse was right in front of the house.

What do you think?

My thanks to Ezra and Sharon Lippincott and their daughter-in-law Carrie for sharing the photograph with me.

Are These My Great-Uncles?

As I wrote about here, while in Denver, I visited Temple Emanuel where the confirmation class photographs of my grandmother Eva Schoenthal and of her brothers Gerson and Harold were posted on the wall.  It was easy for me to find my grandmother in her class photograph as I knew her face well.  But it was more difficult to identify which boys in the other two class photographs were my great-uncles.

When I got home, I asked my father and also compared the one photograph I have of Gerson and several photographs I have of Harold to see if I could pick out Gerson and Harold in the confirmation class photographs.  Now I think I have, but I’d be interested in whether others agree with me.  My father said he really has no memory of Gerson, but agreed with me as to which boy was Harold.

This is Gerson’s class photograph.

Temple Emanuel 1908 confirmation class with Gerson Schoenthal

Temple Emanuel 1908 confirmation class with Gerson Schoenthal

And this is the only photograph I have of Gerson as an adult:

Dad Uncle Gerson Eva

Here are some closer shots of the faces of the boys in that class:


20160524_170007605_iOS 20160524_170011278_iOS

I think Gerson is the tall boy in the center of the top row (first boy on the left in the bottom photograph and the boy to the far right in the top photograph: same boy).  The one photograph I have of Gerson is of terrible quality, but there is something about the shape of the head and the ears that seems most similar to the boy in the middle.  Do you agree?

Here is Harold’s class photograph:


And here are closeups of the boys in that photo:

20160524_165837031_iOS 20160524_165844844_iOS

I think Harold is the first boy on the left in the top picture.  Here are some other photographs of Harold as a young man:

Hilda (Katzenstein) Schoenthal, Eva Schoenthal Cohen, Eva Hilda Cohen, and Harold Schoenthal

Hilda (Katzenstein) Schoenthal, Eva Schoenthal Cohen, Eva Hilda Cohen, and Harold Schoenthal

Harold Schoenthal

Harold Schoenthal


Again, the ears, the shape of the head, and the mouth seem most similar to the boy on the top left of the first photograph of closeups above.  Do you agree?

It would have been so much easier if they had listed the students in the order in which they were standing instead of alphabetically!


Another Delightful Conversation: My Cousin Maxine

I love it when a cousin finds me.  Usually I am the one searching for them, hoping they will be interested and open to sharing their family histories with me.  So when a cousin finds my blog, it is a delightful experience—I know they are interested, and there is none of the awkwardness of trying to explain who I am and that I am not a scammer trying to get money from them or steal their identity.

I’ve had that great pleasure again recently when my third cousin Maxine found my blog and left a comment about her connection to me and her family.  Maxine is the daughter of Hattie Arnold and Martin Schulherr, about whom I wrote here.  Maxine’s grandparents were Jennie Stern and Max Arnold, and her great-grandmother was Hannah Schoenthal Stern.  Hannah was my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal’s older sister.  Thus, Maxine and I are both the great-great-granddaughters of Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg.  We are third cousins.

Relationship Amy to Maxine Schulherr


Maxine was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area and has lived there all her life.  We had a wonderful phone conversation and have exchanged many emails since.  Maxine knew many of the cousins about whom I’ve written, including Lee and Meyer Schoenthal, Erna and Werner Haas, and the members of the extended Oestreicher family.  She was able to bring to life many of these people, who thus far had been mostly names and dates and occupations to me.

Her grandmother Jennie lived with Maxine and her parents for a number of years, and Maxine even shared a room with her grandmother during that time.  She knew her well, and so I was hoping that Maxine would have stories about Jennie’s youth.  Jennie came to the United States from Germany in the 1880s with her mother Hannah when she was thirteen years old, and I was interested in hearing any stories about Jennie’s life in Germany or about her experiences as a teenager settling in western Pennsylvania.  But as with so many immigrants, Jennie did not talk about the past.  Maxine said she never heard her grandmother talk about Germany or about her early days in the US.

But she did have some old photographs of Jennie with two other women whom we both assume are Jennie’s two sisters, Sarah (on the left) and Edith (on the right). (All photos in this post are courtesy of my cousin Maxine.)


Jennie Stern Arnold, center, and perhaps Sarah Stern Ostreicher on the left and Edith Stern Good on the right


Stern sisters


Maxine then told me about her grandmother Jennie’s life as an adult in Pennsylvania.  Jennie married Max Arnold, who had originally owned a dairy called Sweet Home Dairy. (Maxine was named for her grandfather Max.)  It was the first dairy to deliver milk to homes in the Pittsburgh area, according to Maxine.  Max had to close the dairy when he had trouble hiring reliable men to come and milk his cows, and he then went into the meat business, as I wrote about here.   Max eventually he retired and his son Sylvan ran the business when Maxine was a child.  Max, Jr., helped his brother Sylvan doing deliveries, but after having several accidents he moved on to other endeavors.

Sylvan closed the meat market when he enlisted in the army during World War II.  He would not have been drafted, given his age, but according to Maxine, Sylvan was looking to get away as his marriage was failing.  He and his first wife Ada divorced, and Sylvan remarried while in the service and stationed in Arkansas.  Based on Maxine’s information, I found a marriage record for Sylvan Arnold and Gladys Evans dated June 20, 1945, in Saline, Arkansas.  He and his second wife Gladys later moved to California, and the family in Pittsburgh never met her.

Here is a photo of Jennie and Max with their first child, Jerome, who was born in 1897.


Jennie Stern Arnold, Jerome Arnold, and Max Arnold, Sr. c. 1897


Jennie and Max had five children, and Maxine had this wonderful picture that she believes is of those five:


Children of Jennie Stern Arnold: Hattie, unknown, top; Jerome, possibly Max, Jr., and Bernice, center row; and Sylvan, foreground at bottom, c. 1913

Maxine’s mother Hattie is the girl in the light dress on top next to an unknown girl.  Her uncle Jerome is on the left and her aunt Bernice on the right in the middle row, and her uncle Sylvan is the boy on the ground in the front.

The little boy on the swing might be Max, Junior, but the age seems off, so I’m not sure. Since Jerome looks to be no more than sixteen here, I think this photo is probably dated no later than 1913.  In 1913, Jerome was 16, Hattie 14, Bernice 12, and Sylvan 10, and that does seem to line up with what I think are the maximum ages of the children in the photograph. I actually think they look even younger than those ages.  What do you all think? Are the children older than that?

So if the photo was taken in 1913, Max, Jr. would have been two years old.  Does the little boy on the swing look to be only two years old?  I think he looks at least three or four.  What you think?

From Maxine, I also learned more about the lives of Maxine’s mother Hattie and Hattie’s four siblings. Hattie was very proud to be one of the first women to learn to drive in Pittsburgh.  She was sixteen, and her father brought home a car that he couldn’t drive, but somehow Hattie and her brother Jerome learned to drive it.

Hattie’s sister Bernice was married twice, first to Julius Averback, whom she later divorced.  Maxine was very fond of Julius and recalled that he had taken her to the circus where he bought her a pet chameleon. Maxine told me, “The circus sold chameleons in little boxes with a string around their necks and a  safety pin at the end of the string so you could pin it on your clothes!!”  Even though he was divorced from Bernice at the time, Julius sent Maxine eighteen roses for her eighteenth birthday. Bernice’s second husband was Abe Sultanov.  Bernice did not have children with either husband.

All three of Hattie’s brothers worked in the meat business initially, but Max, Jr. later branched out into the movie theater business, living in Morgantown, West Virginia for some time before returning to the Pittsburgh area where he owned another theater in Verona and then worked in the furniture business after his brother-in-law Abe, Bernice’s second husband, made some connections for him (Abe was a manufacturer’s representative for a line of furniture).  Later on, Max, Jr. owned a drive-in theater in the Pittsburgh area known as the Maple Drive-In.

According to Maxine, her grandmother Jennie as well as Jennie’s older sister Sarah Stern Oestreicher converted to Christian Science at some point in their adult lives. Maxine recalled going to church services with her grandmother.  But Martin and Hattie remained Jewish, and Maxine was confirmed at Rodef Shalom synagogue in 1944, the same synagogue where her mother had been confirmed about thirty years earlier.

Maxine was married to Alan Stein in August, 1948.  She generously shared with me these pictures from her wedding day:


Hattie Martin Maxine Alan Henrietta Stein Alan's mother

Hattie Arnold Schulherr, Martin Schulherr, Maxine Schulherr Stein, Alan Stein, Henrietta Stein (Alan’s mother)


Hattie Arnold Schulherr, Max Arnold, Jr., and Bernice Arnold Averbach Sultanov

Hattie Martin Ceil RIchard Lou Ann daughter of Jerome and ELlen, Maxine, Max. Bernice and Ellen

Hattie Arnold Schulherr, Martin Schulherr, Richard Arnold (son of Max, Jr.), Cecilia Lefkowitz Arnold, Lou Ann Arnold (daughter of Jerome Arnold), Maxine Schulherr Stein, Max Arnold, Jr., Bernice Arnold Averbach Sultanov, and Ellen Schwabrow Arnold

In addition to her grandparents, parents, and aunts and uncles, Maxine also knew our mutual cousins Lee and Meyer Schoenthal quite well, and she was able to answer one of my lingering questions about Lee.  When I wrote about Lee’s draft registration for World War II, I’d been puzzled by the person he’d named as the one who would always know his address, a woman named Mary Reinbold.

Lee Schoenthal World War II draft registration The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II draft cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania; State Headquarters: Pennsylvania; Microfilm Series: M1951; Microfilm Roll: 278

Lee Schoenthal World War II draft registration
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II draft cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania; State Headquarters: Pennsylvania; Microfilm Series: M1951; Microfilm Roll: 278


Maxine shared with me that Mary Reinbold was Lee’s girlfriend for many years.  They were together a long time but never married because Mary was Catholic and Lee was Jewish.  Maxine recalled that Lee and Mary regularly came to her parents’ home for Sunday dinners.  She remembers them both very fondly.  She said Lee was a successful tailor who sold made-to-order men’s suits; her father Martin owned suits he purchased from Lee.  Lee’s shop was in the basement of building on E. Beau Street in Washington, Pennsylvania.

He must have done quite well, as Maxine told me, “Lee always drove a Lasalle car which in it’s day was in the Cadillac or more expensive class.  And he belonged to a club in  Washington, called the “Arms Club” although he never went hunting.  It was a bar, some tables, slot machines, a dance floor, and other games of chance.” Maxine said that Lee always brought her mother candy that he won at the club.   Her father Martin was also a member of the club, and Maxine visited there as well.  She told me, “I liked to pull the handle on the slot machine and watch the coins come out!!  And Daddy would stand beside me and hand me the quarters.  (I never had to spend my allowance, which then was probably one dollar a week.)”  I just love the images that this anecdote evokes.

Here are some photographs Maxine shared of Lee, Meyer, Mary, her mother Hattie, and herself as a twelve year old, taken in about 1940.


Lee Schoenthal, c. 1940


Mary Reinbold and Lee Schoenthal, c. 1940


Mary Reinbold, Meyer Schoenthal, Hattie Arnold Schulherr, and Maxine Schulherr, c. 1940

It’s just wonderful to be able to see the faces that go with the names.

Maxine also remembers Lee and Meyer’s sister Erna Haas and her son Werner, but does not remember Lee and Meyer’s other sister, Johanna, the one who survived the Gurs internment camp in France and came to the US with her husband in 1947.  Since Johanna outlived Lee and Meyer and also lived in Pittsburgh, I was surprised that Maxine had no recollection of meeting her nor any awareness of this fourth sibling.  Perhaps Johanna’s suffering during the war had made her less able to interact with the extended family.

Maxine also knew members of the Oestreicher family, that is, the family of Sarah Stern and Gustav Oestreicher.  Sarah was her grandmother Jennie’s older sister, as discussed here and here.  Maxine knew Sarah’s son Sidney and his children, Gerald, Betty, and Elaine very well.  She said that Elaine had lived with her family for a while in the 1940s when Sidney and his wife Esther moved to New York and Elaine wanted to finish the school year in Pittsburgh.  But Maxine didn’t know what had happened to Elaine or the rest of the family after that and was curious to learn more about her long-lost second cousins.

I told her I would see what else I could find as I also had not yet been able to learn much about the Oestreicher family after about 1940.  With a few clues from Maxine, I was able to find those long-lost Oestreicher cousins.  I will report on what I’ve learned in a later post after I’ve had a chance to speak with my other third cousins, Betty and Elaine.


Part II: Hettie Schoenthal, An Indomitable Spirit

In my prior post, we saw how Hettie Schoenthal Stein described the early part of her life in the memoirs she wrote to her grandson Ezra Parvin Lippincott, Jr., in 1973 and 1974.  After a childhood in Atlantic City with her many siblings, she had followed her sister Gertrude to Tucson, Arizona, married Henry Stein, and then moved with him and their two children Walter and Blanche to Ray, Arizona, a mining town over ninety miles from Tucson.

Walter and Blanche Stein, c. 1915 courtesy of their family

Walter and Blanche Stein, c. 1915
courtesy of their family

The website provided these insights into what might have attracted Hettie and Henry to Ray, Arizona:

The small town of Ray, Arizona, located in the south central portion of Pinal County, was founded in 1870.  By 1873, prospectors were engaged in silver mining and by 1880 high grade copper ore was being mined in Ray. The original founders were most likely a group of copper miners operating a small mine in this copper rich area. One of the miners, Mr. Bullinger, is said to have named the town Ray, after his daughter, Ray Bullinger. By 1909 The Arizona Hercules Copper Company had purchased the rights to the mine and constructed the town as a company town.  The mining operation in Ray enjoyed a worldwide reputation because of the innovative mining practices employed in the underground mine.

Ray, Arizona copper mine y Palmercokingcoal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Ray, Arizona copper mine 1916
y Palmercokingcoal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The FamilySearch page also conveys a sense of what life was like in Ray in the early 20th century:

The original town of Ray consisted of one short main street with small businesses on both sides of the street. By 1909 the company had constructed a hospital and there are birth certificates from the hospital that date back to 1910. There was usually a doctor in Ray and the hospital employed at least 3 nurses and a cook according to Census Records. …  The elementary school (Lincoln Elementary) had grades 1 through 8 in eight classrooms. …. Ray High School was a short walk uphill from the elementary school.  ….  Ray didn’t have a newspaper, but people in the small town subscribed to The Arizona Republic, a newspaper in Phoenix. Ray had four churches….

Obviously, Ray was a booming town by the time Hettie and Henry moved there in the mid-1910s or so.

Ray, Arizona 1916 By Palmercokingcoal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Ray, Arizona 1916
By Palmercokingcoal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Walter, their son, wrote about his own perspective on the town and his family’s life there:

To my knowledge the Steins and Millers were the only Jews living in Ray. My uncle Jake [Jacob Miller, Gertrude Schoenthal’s husband] and his brother, also called Uncle, had a dry goods and shoe store, and a general merchandise and grocery store. The general merchandise had hardware, mining equipment, farm equipment, guns, and shells. My dad ran the bakery and delivery of bread and pastries from a wagon, pulled by a horse (named Tom). One day my dad stopped for lunch at home with the bakery wagon. While he was having lunch, something frightened Tom and he bolted. There were bakery products all over the neighborhood. Tom was caught and calmed. Tom was not hurt.

My cousin (Harry) [Gertrude Schoenthal Miller’s son] used to spend the summer in Ray. He lived in Tucson and went to school there. While in Ray, Harry worked in the store. His job was to solicit orders at the houses in the residential sections of Ray. This was done on horseback.

The big event at the grocery store was uploading one hundred pound bags of flour, sugar, and salt that were skidded into the cellar on a slide. Lots of fun! We kids rode on the bags.

(From “Recollections,” by Walter Stein.)

From this excerpt, I get the impression, consistent with what I wrote about here, that Jacob Miller had moved to Ray, but left his wife Gertrude and family behind, perhaps so that his children could continue to go to school in Tucson.


Ray, Arizona 1916 By Palmercokingcoal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Ray, Arizona 1916
By Palmercokingcoal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


Walter’s description of his boyhood in Ray in many ways sounds idyllic:

I got in the swing of things, with friends I had made. Rode burros, mules, and spent plenty of time in the ball park. The burros ran loose, so you could grab one and jump on his back. If the burro was inclined to go, it was fine. If not, the burro would not move.

The mules were used at the copper mines. My friend Joe Garcia (his father took care of the mules) and I would go to the corral. One of us would bring one of the mules over to the side of the corral. The other one would climb up the side of the corral as the mules were too big for us to get on.

One thing that was standard at every house we lived in in Ray was a chicken coop with two to three dozen chickens and one or two roosters. Of course it does not take too many guesses as to who was assigned the care, feeding, and cleaning of the coop. Also a couple of rabbits and a dog (pedigree unknown).

(From “Recollections,” by Walter Stein.)

Walter Stein, c. 1919 when he was nine years old courtesy of the family

Walter Stein, c. 1919 when he was nine years old
courtesy of the family

Blanche Stein, c. 1920, when she was seven courtesy of the family

Blanche Stein, c. 1920, when she was seven
courtesy of the family

From Walter’s perspective, it was wonderful place to grow up, but their life in Ray had some challenges.  Walter described their two homes in Ray:

Our first house was placed on the side of a hill with one door. The back of the house was against the hill. To reach the house you walked up steps that also took care of other householders on the hill. I cannot remember the location of the outhouse. I do remember to bathe, water was heated on the stove and then poured into a galvanized tub that had been placed on the floor.

We didn’t live there very long. Our next house was in back of the ball park. This house had both front and back doors. Standard out house. No bathroom. After we had lived there a short time, Dad had a bathroom built. Still must use out house. Bathroom contained washstand and tub. In summer to bathe, one ran water into tub, and then waited for the water to cool. The water pipes from the reservoir laid on top of the ground and the sun heated the water too hot to bathe until it cooled.

(From “Recollections,” by Walter Stein.)

Hettie[1] had less fond memories of their house in Ray:

I will tell you a little about the house. It was up on a hill, just four rooms no bath or toilet. It was terrible. I did not think I could live there, but we did. Your grandfather and a helper built a room and we bought a tub. The pipes had to be on top of the ground. Well, the sun was so hot we had to draw the water and let it stand for hours before bathing.

Hettie leading a donkey

Hettie leading a donkey

The accommodations were not the only challenges.  The wildlife and the weather also provided challenges.  Hettie recalled:

One day I was stung by a wasp and another time a Scorpin this happened in Ray Ariz. We lived up on a hill. We had a few chickens and it was so hot some time when I gathered they were hard boiled and this is (no joke)

Once I remember I came across some eggs in a nest and I took them and put them in the ice box. In those days we had to buy ice. A little later on I opened one egg and found a little chicken so I hurried and put the others back in the nest and a few hatched and I called them my ice box chicks. …

I learned to ride horseback. One day my brother Maurice took me riding. We rode to the Mission that was about ten miles out of town and a big rattle snake got in front of my horse, so my bro. got down from his horse and stoned it to death and had a belt made for me. It was very pretty.

English: Arizona Black Rattlesnake

English: Arizona Black Rattlesnake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found it interesting that Maurice, one of the brothers who lived in Chicago, traveled out to Ray, Arizona, to see his little sister Hettie.  It seems that even though the siblings were quite spread out across the US, they still stayed in touch and even saw each other. Hettie also mentioned that in 1969 she visited her brother who lived in Los Angeles, that is, her younger brother Sidney.  And here is a photograph of her brother Martin with his niece Juliet Miller and nephew Walter Stein, possibly taken in Arizona when he visited from Chicago.


Martin Schoenthal, Juliet Miller Ferrin, and Walter Stein

Martin Schoenthal, Juliet Miller Ferrin, and Walter Stein


Here is Martin with Blanche, Gertrude, Hettie, and Walter.

Martin Schoenthal, Gertrude Sch., Hettie Sch Blanche Walter

Blanche Stein, Martin Schoenthal, Gertude Schoenthal Miller, Hettie Schoenthal Stein, and Walter Stein c. early 1920s


One of the most amusing anecdotes Hettie shared in her memoirs involved the time her son Walter had to have surgery in Phoenix and she rented a room to stay with him while he had post-operative care:

After Walter got out of the Hospital I thought it would be nice if I could get a little apt near the Hospital as he had to go for treatments. Then I could have Blanche with me, so I found one. It had all new linens and silver and looked so nice. Your grandfather [Henry Stein] brought your mother [Blanche] up that weekend and the next day he was walking in the hall and a girl invited him in her apt. Then when he came in he said what kind of place I was in. Well, I was in a fast house. The first day I was there when Walter and I came out of the apt a couple of men smiled at me and I thought it was just because Walter’s head was bandaged. In the west people were very friendly. A lot of people asked me what happened to the boy and wished for a speady recovery. I moved out of there in a hurry.

Poor Hettie—she must have been mortified to realize she had taken her son to a “house of ill repute!”

In either 1923 or 1924 (various sources differ), Hettie, Henry, and their children left Ray, Arizona.[2]  This was also when Gertrude and her family left Arizona to return to Atlantic City, as I wrote about here.  Hettie’s description of their travels is colorful:

Now it is March 24, 1924 we are leaving the west to make our home in Phila. My brother-in-law [Jacob Miller] and your grandfather [Henry Stein] were driving to Phila. I forget what city it was but they put the car in a garage and it caught fire and every body lost there cars.

They had to take the train the rest of the way. When they arrived in Phila, they phoned us. We left the next day and a couple days later we had one stop over for one hour so my sister Gertie, your mother [Blanche] who at that time was about 12 years old and Walter took a walk. We were crossing the street when a car came along and I was run over. It was like in the movies. I was down and before you knew it I was up. All I could say is Thank God I am O.K. one wheel ran over my thigh. This man wanted to take me to the hospital but I said no. I think he gave me a card with his name and address on so in case I had any ill affects from it I should let him know. When we got to Chicago my two brothers [Maurice and Martin] wanted me to go to the hospital but I said I am O.K. I know God was with me.

(Perhaps the photographs of Martin with Gertrude and Hettie, shown above, were taken when the families stopped in Chicago.)

A few things struck me as interesting about this passage.  First, I was impressed by the fact that Gertrude and Hettie traveled alone by train with their children across the country while their husbands waited for them on the East Coast.  Also, once again there is evidence that these widely separated siblings stayed close, as Maurice and Martin, the two brothers in Chicago, urged their younger sister to go to the hospital.  But mostly I was struck by Hettie’s spirit, which seemed as resilient as her body, jumping up after being run over by a car.

Once they reached the East Coast, Gertrude went on to Atlantic City where she and Jacob became involved in the hotel business.  Hettie and Henry settled in Camden, New Jersey, and then in Philadelphia:

My sister husband and your Grand father bought a moving picture house in Camden N.J. we had that for a while then sold it and moved to Holmesburg Pa. that is part of Phila. I was the cashier, your grandfather was the ticket taker and your uncle Walter helped the operator. We all got along nicely.

I had lots of fun. There were three German men who came most every night so one night I said in german do you speak german? Well you should have heard them. I made them understand I only knew a few words but my husband understood better. They told me they came to learn the English language.

Hettie, the daughter of two German immigrants, knew only a few words of German.  In some ways, that is rather remarkable as it indicates how fluent her parents were in English.  But it is also somewhat sad that they did not pass on to their children the language of their native country.

Blanche Stein, high school graduation picture

Blanche Stein, high school graduation picture.  Courtesy of the family

In 1930, Henry was working as a hosiery salesman.  Walter was living with his aunt and uncle, Gertrude and Jacob Miller, and working in their hotel as a bellman.  Blanche was still living at home in Philadelphia, working as a typist.

Blanche Stein and Hettie Schoenthal Stein, 1930, Mayfair, PA courtesy of the family

Blanche Stein and Hettie Schoenthal Stein, 1930, Mayfair, PA
courtesy of the family

By 1940 Blanche and Walter had both married (more on that in my next post), and Hettie and Henry were living in Philadelphia.  Henry was now an office equipment salesman.

Henry Stein Courtesy of the family

Henry Stein
Courtesy of the family

Around this time, Hettie’s nephew Bob Klein, son of her sister Estelle and Leon Klein, came to live with them.

We had a five room apt. My nephew Bob Klein lived with us. I loved to paint so I did all the painting when I got the brush in my hand there was not telling where I would stop. I painted the toilet seat and forgot to put a sign on and Bob sat down you can guess the rest.

During World War II, Hettie volunteered for the Allied Prisoner of War Service.  While doing so, she made connections that led to a home-based business for her:

In Phila I volunteered one day a week for the Allied Prisoner of War Service that was in 1944 we shipped food to the War Zone. We had to show a card before we were admitted. One day one of the ladies asked me what I was to to do after we finish work so I said I am going to go get some yarn to make a wooley dog so they wanted to see them so the next week I took a couple in and they wanted to buy them so I realy got in business. Then your grandfather told one of his customers*, a florist, about my dogs. He wanted to see them, so I took six with me. He liked them so much he bought them and put them in the window. Some sailors came along and bought all six. I no more than got home when the phone rang and it was Mr. Jones. He said the dogs were gone and he would like to have 50 at once. I stayed up all night and took him what I had made the next day.

A salesman from Chicago saw them at the Florist and wanted to know how he could get in touch with me. He came to see me and ordered all I could make I had my sister Estelle and your mother and your grandpa helping and I sent him as many as I could. Then I had others that wanted them for there stores, my business got to big for me. I had to drop it.

Sadly, Henry Stein died on February 16, 1951, from prostate cancer; he was 79 years old.

Henry and Hettie (Schoenthal) Stein, 1951 courtesy of the family

Henry and Hettie (Schoenthal) Stein, 1951
courtesy of the family


After he died, Hettie lived for some time with a friend and for many years on her own in Atlantic City.  She continued to have a very full and active life, as you can see from these photographs.

Hettie Stein, 75th birthday April 24, 1961 courtesy of the family

Hettie Stein, 75th birthday April 24, 1961
courtesy of the family

Hettie Schoenthal Stein, 85th birthday 1971

Hettie Schoenthal Stein, 85th birthday 1971

Even at 88, she was still volunteering for her synagogue’s rummage sale.

Hettie Stein's 90th birthday 1976

Hettie Stein’s 90th birthday 1976 with Blanche and Walter. Courtesy of the family.

When she was 95, Hettie moved in with her daughter Blanche in Medford, New Jersey. When Hettie turned 100, it was written up in the May 8, issue of the Central Record, the local newspaper for Medford, New Jersey:

Hettie Stein Celebrates 100 part one

Hettie Stein Celebrates 100 part two

Reading this interview warmed my heart.  Even at 100, Hettie remained upbeat, gracious, and independent.  Her description of her childhood—“We were one happy family.  We would all do for the other, and we all got along nicely”–is certainly consistent with the photographs, the writings, and the facts I’ve seen and read about Hettie and her siblings.

Hettie survived her much beloved husband Henry by almost 38 years, dying on January 15, 1989, when she was just a few months shy of her 103rd birthday.  She, like so many of her siblings, was blessed with remarkable longevity.


I will close this post with the closing words of Hettie’s 1974 memoir, as they best convey the spirit and personality of this adventurous and upbeat woman:

Well, this all happened in my life time. I did have two men that wanted to marry me and two weeks ago the third one asked me. I was walking on the Boardwalk and a man I met about ten years ago came up to me and said, “Can I walk with you?” So I said yes. I knew his wife. She passed away a year ago. He wanted me to go to his apt for dinner. He had made a lamb stew. I thanked him and said my dinner was waiting for me. We talked for awhile and then he asked me if I would marry him. He has money, two sons, one a Dr., the other a Dentist and he is very good looking. But I am happy as I am.

I must tell you, I was getting some telephone calls from some man or boy. He kept telling me he wanted to come see me and give me some loving and I would hang up. On Sat. morning my son Walter took me shopping and when we came home the phone rang and it was the same person. I said wait, and I will let you talk to my husband. He hung up in a hurry and that was the end of that.

Two day is the 4th of July, 1974. A beautiful day. Your Ma [Blanche] called me. I am so happy she is enjoying life.

Hettie Excerpt 2




[1] All of the quotes by Hettie Schoenthal Stein are from her memoir, “This is My Life,” written in 1973-1974 for her grandson, Ezra Parvin Lippincott, Jr.

[2]  In the 1950s, the company that owned the copper mine in Ray expanded the mining area and moved the residents to a nearby town it built.  Today Ray is a ghost town.