Friday, March 22, 2013

The last of the 3

On Wednesday I received a call from an attorney across the country. My father's brother had passed away and it turns out that my brother and I are his next of kin.

I have not seen this uncle since I was maybe 8 or 9 years old... maybe younger. I have vague memories of him at my grandmother's house. I also have vague memories of a visit to our home in Excelsior. He and my dad were close enough at one point that he is named as my godfather on my baptism certificate; however, in later years he and my father were estranged. I sent a high school graduation announcement to him in 1992, and invited him to my wedding in 1997, and sent a Christmas card or two, but never heard back from him. I eventually stopped trying and wasn't even sure of his whereabouts or if he was still alive.

So it was a surprise to hear from this attorney, to hear about my uncle's final years and how he lived.

Strangely, I am sad about his passing, even though I didn't really know him.

He was a college professor, so I did a Google image search to see if I could find any pictures. Sure enough, this one popped up. I was surprised to see how much he looks like my dad. He has the same hair, nose, and eyes. His shoulders are the same. His smile is the same. Did his voice sound like Dad's? How about his laugh? Did he have Dad's rheumatoid arthritis, too? Was he musical? I guess I will never know now.

The last of the Bronstad siblings is gone now. What a strange feeling. Only Jon and I are left of that branch of the family. It's a little bit spooky. Things like this remind me that I really am an adult.


Stefan Ferber said...

Dear Katy,

In your post you raise several questions about Joe. As I am one of his close friends from Germany I can answer most of them. I am one of Joe's former German exchange students and met him in 1994 for the first time.

Establishing and running the American-German exchange program was his personal quest. Because of his enthusiastic work, several hundred students crossed the ocean in booth directions. He took care as we were belonging to his own family.
For many students his exchange program enriched their perspective on culture, language, and also became an important piece for their later career. For example I would never been so successful at the multi-national company I work for today.
It was not only the well known politicians like President Truman building up American-German relationship with the Marshal Plan or Fulbright after the cruel 2nd world war and Hitler's slaughtering. For my life and the life of all the UMassD exchange students, who I would like to represent here, Joe's support was even more important.

And for this we are extremely grateful and we thank Joe for his deeply rooted trust in the German people. We will keep Joe in our heart. 

Joe once said either you are a small fish in a big pond or you are a big fish in a small pond. He was definitely the big fish. 

On Thursday in a small ceremony in Westport we said goodbye to Joe - our beloved professor, teacher, and world traveller. I have set-up a small web-page dedicated to him as we cannot reach out and find all the students across the ocean:

Now it is up to us to keep this memory for future generations.

Warm regards, 

Send From my hotel in Manhattan.

Kate Boyle said...

Dear Stefan,

Thank you for your kind words for for taking the time to write! I am so happy to hear how my uncle lived his last years and touched to many lives. I wish I had known him. The website you made is very nice.

God bless,

Stefan Ferber said...


do you have an update?
Is his urn shipped to Wisconsin?

I would like to add Joe's graveyard to the web-page

Thanks, Stefan