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Kaitlyn Amundsen

Through My Grandpa's Eyes
(As told to his great-ganddaughter by his son)
By: Kaitlyn Amundsen
College Now Course - BSS 1

For most people, it was another ordinary day. January 7th, 1890. In the history books, the date is unknown, seemingly unimportant. In the modern world, the date is not celebrated. It has simply melted into the past with all the other trivial days that no one now has ever lived through. However, to the Wiemann family, this day is more than significant. It has proven to be the turning point in the Wiemann's history. January 7th, 1890, marks the day that Dietrich Frederick Wiemann was born. Little did anyone know that, over a century later, Dietrich's ancestors would be living the life that his decisions set forth for them.

Dietrich Wiemann was a brown haired, blue-eyed boy of a fair complexion. He lived in Germany with his family until he was thirteen years old. Then, in 1903, he decided to follow the trend of many Europeans and leave his home country. Alone and knowing only the German language, Dietrich boarded the "Kronprinz Wilheim," or Crown Prince William. Destination: America.

When Dietrich reached Ellis Island, he quickly realized that he had to depend solely on himself to learn the English language. He had no one to support him financially either. He had a few family members in America, but they were all distant relatives. Also, the language barrier proved to be a problem. For example, when Germans speak, they make the "w" sound when they pronounce the letter "v," and vice versa. Therefore, if they wanted to say, "Put on a vest and go West," it would sound as if they were saying, "Put on a west and go Vest." Therefore, not only did Dietrich's lack of English cause a problem, but it was hard for Americans to comprehend the few English words he knew. Because of this, while he was on Ellis Island his name was changed from "Dietrich" to "Richard," For the rest of his life, he was known as "Richard Frederick Wiemann."

When he finally stepped onto the "land of the free," Richard found a home in New York. Initially, he worked at a delicatessen. During the early 1900s, delis were where most Germans found jobs. For the next twelve years of his life, Richard made a living in America. His English improved. He came to America by himself, and at only thirteen years of age he was able to independently support himself. His life was good. However, when he was twenty-five, Richard decided that it was time for him to return to Germany to visit his family. His mother had died a few weeks after childbirth, but his father and stepmother were still alive. Therefore, in 1915, Richard returned to his homeland.

Conveniently, Germany became entangled in World War I while Richard was there. The German government wanted to put him in the German army because, according to his birthplace, he was German. However, an obstacle stood in his and the government's way. Richard was a nationalized citizen of the United States. He went to the American embassy in Germany, where there was a "big-to-do" about his proof. Finally, Richard was proven an American citizen. He went to the Netherlands, which was where the port that would enable him to get back to the United States was located. By boat, he departed from Europe for the second time in his life and returned to his official homeland, America.

In 1917, America declared war on Germany. At the time, Richard was working as a grocer at a local A&P. Ironically, he joined the American army to fight against the Germans. He went into the infantry and belonged to the 69th Regime from New York. His service originated from Camp Upton, New York, which is still a camp today. He fought for two years and was honorably discharged on April 29th,1919. According to his discharge, he was five feet eight inches tall and had an excellent character. He had no AWOLS, no absences, and no wounds. He only fought in one battle, which was at Saint Mehiel in France.

When Richard was done serving his time in the army, he returned to New York. He became a supervisor of the A&P and was able to open his own business in Brooklyn. In 1921, he met the girl of his dreams, Cecilia Elizabeth Margaret Mary Thompson. They got married within the same year. Richard and Cecilia had two children, Marie and Richard William Wiemann. From the beginning, young Richard W. was destined to follow in his father's footsteps.

Richard W. was born in 1925. His life was carefree, full of joy and laughter. He was a mischievous little boy, with jokes on his mind and tricks up his sleeve. However, he had to abandon his lighthearted ways when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese on December 7th, 1941. America declared war on Japan. The Second World War had begun. Two years after the devastation of Pearl Harbor, Richard W. followed his father's example and became an American soldier.

Richard W. was trained in Fort Benning, George. In 1944, he went overseas, where he manned in South Hampton, England. After that, he traveled by LST, which is a ship, across the English channel to Le Harve, France. He then traveled to Belgium, Luxemboug, and finally Germany, which was where his heritage originated from. Throughout the war, Richard W.'s courage and leadership skills enabled him to become a sergeant in the army. When the war ended, he was honorably discharged in April 1946. When he returned to America, he became a police officer in Brooklyn.

Richard W. met the love of his life on a blinddate. She was the sister-in-law of a police officer he worked with. The officer set up the date. Richard W. inquired about this "mystery girl," and found out which Mass at Saint Thomas Church she attended. "To make sure he was willing to commit himself to a date with this girl," he went to that particular Mass and recognized her immediately from the description his coworker gave him. As soon as he laid eyes on her, he knew he wanted to be with her. According to her, he must have "liked what he saw." Unaware that he saw her at Church, she and Richard W. went to see Matchmaker on Broadway and then went out for dinner. They both felt it was the perfect show to see on a first, blind date. It was really on a 'half-blind' date, though, because Richard W. had seen the girl before at Mass, yet she was meeting him for the first time. That was in October of 1956. On Passion Sunday in April of 1957, she and her family went to Richard W.'s house for a turkey dinner. In the kitchen, Richard W. proposed to the woman he had fallen in love with. When he gave her the ring, she screamed, causing her mother to run in and see what had happened. The scream was one of pure delight, however, because the couple got married on July 13th, 1957. They are still together today and are in as much love as they were when they first met. The "mystery woman" is my grandmother, Joan Theresa Wiemann. I am proud to be given the privilege to call Richard W. my grandfather and Richard "Dietrich" Wiemann my great-grandfather.

When I called my grandpa to ask him to tell me about his father and his trip to America, he was more than willing to give me all the information he could. He located old records, including his father's army discharge. Unfortunately, he couldn't acquire all his father's records because they weren't all available to him. I was so intrigued by the story he told that when he initially finished it, I begged him to continue to tell me about his life. I realized that my family consisted of two brave men, two heros, two men whose decisions had an indirect impact on my life today. If my great-grandfather hadn't moved to America, I wouldn't be here today. I wouldn't be able to call myself an American. If my grandpa didn't meet my grandma, I wouldn't have become the person I am today. I am Norwegian, Irish, Scottish, Swedish, and proudly German. I love being a mix of different nationalities, and I owe that to my great-grandparents and their children. Also, my mom was able to learn about her father's and grandfather's history through reading my grandpa's memories.

I am extremely proud of my grandpa and his father, just as he should be of himself and his dad. Richard is an inspiration to me every time I think I'm unable to make it on my own. He began a new life in a foreign country an an extremely young age, served his country, and managed to raise an amazing family. Richard W. fought in World War II, witnessing the world through the eyes of a soldier. He also found true, everlasting love with my grandma and became a husband and head of a family of four children, one of whom is my mom. My grandpa is an irreplaceable man, and the stories from his childhood are invaluable. He was more than excited to share his history with me, and I was more than excited to hear and learn about it. I can only hope that, eventually, the story of my life will be one worth telling!