Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Henry A. Phend - Part 3 of 3

This is the third and final installment in the biography of my great-grandfather. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.
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Henry's first job in Columbia City was with the Heel factory but his lifelong occupation was that of building contractor. His firm was responsible for the construction of many homes in the Columbia City area as well as many churches (Columbia City EUB, Collins EUB, Hively EUB, Big Lake Church of God and the Trinity Methodist Church). More than 50 of the storefronts in downtown Columbia City were remodeled by him and his employees in the early 1950's. His last 'job' was in 1952 when he served as inspector of the Mary Raber school.

In addition to the three children mentioned in part 1 (Vic 1893-1991, Cecil 1894-1991 and Gladys 1896-1931), Henry and Susie had seven more children: Bernice Gertrude 1899-1991, Russell Lowell 1900-1983, Donald Dwight 1903-1987, Virgil Gilbert 1904-1972, Paul Eugene 1906-1982, James Gerald 1908-1994, and Richard Lincoln born February 12, 1915 and died February 14, 1915.

Most of Henry's sons worked for him at one time or another. Two of them, Don and Gerald, followed in his footsteps and made the construction business their own life's work. The Phends were known for good workmanship and high quality; when someone hired Henry Phend or his sons, they knew the job would be done right.

My grandfather, Victor Phend (oldest son of Henry), often told of being pulled out of school to go work for his father. While still in grade school he would have to help carry bricks or mix mortar. He spoke of a church that was being built; the workmen had finished laying the exterior bricks and were doing some inside work. Henry went in, took a look around, and told them to start tearing the wall down, as it was out of alignment. The workmen did as they were told; grandpa and another boy had to scrape and clean all of the bricks so they could be used again.

As a teenager in the late 1940's, my uncle, Bill Phend, worked for Henry for a summer. One day on the job, Bill was doing some work on a foundation. He happened to be sitting on the edge of the foundation and reaching down. Henry came along and said to him, "William, it would be better for you to stand up to do that job. You'll look busier that way. Anytime you can stand up to do some thing, then you should stand up." So Bill stood up to do the work, he still had to lean down over the edge, but he was standing up!

Another time, Henry told Uncle Bill how to test a ladder to see if it was sturdy enough to work on safely. "William, take that ladder and lay it down against the curb so that it extends into the street. Now, walk on it and if it doesn't break, then it is strong and good." Then they took the ladder and climbed up to the roof of a house they were working on. At that time Henry was in his eighties, but he was apparently a spry old man. Henry went first up that ladder without a second glance to the ground, Bill followed nervously. Henry never asked anyone to do something he could not do himself.

Susie had become a resident at the Irvin Nursing Home in September 1954 when she suffered a stroke. She died April 29, 1956, aged 84 years. On January 29, 1956 Henry fell at home and fractured his hip. He too became a bed-patient and lived at the Irvin Nursing Home till his death at the age of 92 on July 10th, 1958.

They had lived at their home at 502 South Chauncey street for more than 35 years and had been residents of Columbia City for more than 50 years. They were active members of the Evangelical United Brethren Church in Columbia City. At the time Henry died in 1958 they had 30 grandchildren and 51 great-grandchildren. Now there are 99 great-grandchildren plus two more generations of descendants.

I really don't remember Henry and Susie at all. I would have only been 6 years old when Susie went into the Nursing Home. Back in the day, little kids didn't visit 'old people' in nursing homes and they didn't go to funerals either, at least not in our family. After Henry and Susie's 60th wedding anniversary, their children revived the Phend Family Reunion, which had begun in 1897 and continued until 1942. The reunion has now been held annually since 1952 but attendance has been dropping each year.

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