We have an unusual artifact in our museum that really ought to be somewhere else. It is a tombstone.
I choose to mention this tombstone today because it includes the death date of June 23, 1864. It is the tombstone of a person whom I have described as one of the prolific fathers of Perry County, Missouri. In fact, a post was written with that title, A Prolific Father, and it was about this gentleman, J. Gottfried Hemmann.
This tombstone at some time in the past had been knocked down, and it somehow slid down a hillside in the Grace Lutheran Cemetery in Uniontown, Missouri. Some members of the Hemmann family made the decision to ask our historical society to take this tombstone because the place for his grave was not precisely known. They considered our museum to be the most appropriate place for this tombstone to be. We have almost always had it on display somewhere in the museum. It does not get moved often, partly because it is quite heavy, and we do not want to take too many chances that it gets broken any more than it already is.
One of our museum workers, Gerard Fiehler, says he sometimes gets asked by students who visit the museum, “Why do you have a tombstone in your museum?” Gerard likes to answer them that we have it because he is buried under the floor. Of course, he eventually tells the truth to the horrified students.
I am also using this Hemmann tombstone and the story I just shared in order to tell a different story that we consider important around here. Today is Gerard Fiehler’s birthday. Not only is it his birthday, but it is a big one. Gerard turns 65 today. Exactly 88 years after a prolific father died, Robert and Lillian Fiehler were blessed with a little baby son that became a prolific storyteller. They named him Gerard. He has lived in Altenburg ever since and now loves to tell the story of the immigration and the history of East Perry County to anyone who wants to hear it…..and even to some that don’t.
When I need information for one of our blog posts, Gerard is my #1 go-to guy. If he doesn’t already know the answers, he almost always knows where to look in order to find them. I cannot begin to tell you how important Gerard is to our organization. To honor him on his special birthday, I now present you with a gallery of photos showing Gerard in action….and sometimes taking a break from the action. Click to enlarge…..that is, if you want to see a larger Gerard.
If you get a chance today, give Gerard your birthday greetings. Then sit back and listen to him tell some stories. As I often tell people, he has a million of them…..and some of them are true.