#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks- Week 2- Favorite Photo

man on motorcycle

My dad, Art Bruggeman, on his motorcycle, c1945

This week’s topic for #52ancestors is “favorite photograph”.[1]

That’s my dad sitting on a motorcycle. Years ago, I had heard his younger brother, Uncle Jim, laughingly tell a vaguely remembered story wherein my dad supposedly rode an Indian motorcycle onto and across his high school’s stage. We were all gathered at my father’s after-funeral “reception” thingie, the kind of event you spend walking the fine line between partying with the visiting relatives and feeling gut punched over the loss. The peripheral attendees had gone and the effects of an open bar and a sense of things winding down provided a perfectly balanced forum for the deeper memories to emerge. I tried to imagine a devil-may-care, motorcycle-brandishing version of my teenage dad trespassing his Catholic school’s interior, but didn’t get far. We hadn’t found this photo yet. “Mom sure hated that thing,” added one of his siblings.

I didn’t know my dad very well. We lived in the same house, shared the same dinner table, went to church and watched Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color together. Occasionally, I’d tag along on his weekend errands to this and that store, the gas station, and wherever that cool TV tube tester thing was. He was a nice guy with a great sense of humor who liked beer and popcorn and Sunday drives, especially if they involved tornado damage assessment. He liked my report cards. He expected us all to go to college. He sometimes went to bat for me with my mom. He once lied to the cops for me. He had my back.

I knew he was born in Ohio, grew up Catholic, spent some time in the Navy, and went to Notre Dame. That both of his parents’ deaths involved automobiles. I knew he worked an office job in construction that involved a drafting board, slide rulers, and rolls of building plans. And that his proudest career accomplishment was the Notre Dame library.

But I never knew what he considered his greatest personal achievement. Or what his life was like growing up. Or which was his favorite saint?  Why the Navy? What impact did his father’s early death have? What aspect of golfing had him hooked? What was his biggest regret? His worst day? And I didn’t know any of this because I never thought to ask him. I knew bits but I didn’t now the pieces. I believed he was Republican, but found Kennedy buttons in his keepsakes.

My dad passed away in 2006. After I quit my college degree job, I picked up my mom’s hobby tree and ran with it. I started researching my parents and was floored by how odd that felt. The post Teresa’s-earliest-memory stage didn’t feel creepy, just sad. But because they still adorned my recent memory, exhuming their earlier lives felt a bit like stalking. Like I was putting my nose where it didn’t belong. Like I was sneaking around behind their barely turned backs and it was my own stupid fault. Every revelation was a celebration and a defeat. It was heartbreaking and wonderful.

And now I know this much more about him:

His godparents were Uncle Bill Bruggeman and Aunt Lucille Gropp.

His childhood sweetheart was Evelyn. I’m glad it didn’t last.

Like me, he took typing his Sophomore year; unlike “hand-watcher” me, he could do 39 words a minute and this on a manual machine.

He lettered in high school football.

He enlisted in the Navy just prior to his eighteenth birthday.

He wanted to be a pilot.

The war ended too soon for that.

His dad worked a white collar job in the construction industry.

And died flipping his car into a ditch at 2 a.m. and far from home. My dad, age 22, signed the death certificate and likely identified the body.

He financed his education with the G.I. Bill and as a truck driver.

He sent my mom formal date invitations.

That barn dance photo in the 1949 Notre Dame yearbook may be of their first date.

He aced his Ohio Architectural Engineer’s test.

His name-sake, Uncle Art, helped finance our house on Ewing. (Open wide…)

He served in the Naval Reserves until 1958.

He hit a hole-in-one in 1994.

He worked for the same construction firm for twenty-two years.

He did better with his own company.

And on 13 April 1945, at age seventeen and still in high school, he registered a 1934 Indian CCD 330 with the state of Ohio. There he goes, across the stage.



(Note: For my more astute and/or aged relatives- do I have any errors? Do you have any details to add? Help!)

[1] Amy Johnson Crow, “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks,” Amy Crow Johnson:Professional Genealogical Services (https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/52-ancestors-in-52-weeks/ : accessed 9 January 2018).

Categories: Genealogy

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