Today my “Sing Praise” article space in the Bulletin is dedicated to the story of the death of Fr. Rick Hartmann’s Dad fifty years ago. We will be celebrating that Memorial at the 11:30 Mass on October 7 here at St. Aidan. Since his retirement, Fr. Rick has celebrated various Masses with us here - as he considers this his retirement-church home. He loves our Community and feels welcomed here by us. We hope you can join us to pray and celebrate with Fr. Rick’s family next weekend - or at least come and hear a prelude (before Mass recital) by his grand-cousin Mr. Alex Kinmonth (principal oboist with The Detroit Symphony Orchestra) as part of this remembrance mass. In the meantime - for whatever you may celebrate and remember - keep singing!
Kurt Hartmann (Fr. Rick’s Dad) emigrated to the United States in 1929 at the age of 24. He was a young, single man looking for a new life. He was a baker by trade and an amateur boxer living with the dream of “making his fortune” like Joe Louis and Max Schmelling in the boxing ring. While working for Stahl's Bakery on the East Side of Detroit, he met Anna Doser, who also immigrated in 1929, and was working as a housemaid and child care worker for a doctor’s family in Grosse Pointe. Kurt took Anna to a couple of his boxing matches while they were dating; Anna told him if he was interested in her he would go back to baking; or otherwise “no go!” They married in 1934, living on the East Side and then in 1941 moving to the West Side of Detroit, buying their first bakery on Woodrow Wilson.
Kurt and Anna had five children and lived in the apartment above the bakery until #5 came along. Needing more than the two bedrooms, they moved behind the bakery into a three-bedroom home on Richton. They expanded the business to three bakeries, also buying an industrial catering company next door on Woodrow Wilson, with trucks going out to factory workers to sell soup, sandwiches and other sundry items. We all worked in the bakery and catering, and grew up in a happy, hard-working family. In October, 1968, however, life changed for my family.
On October 4, 1968, at 7am in the morning, a man on drugs came in the back door of the catering bakery with a gun in his hand. He had my Father Kurt and two other workers lie on the floor and he shot all three of them. He killed my Dad and the other man and wounded the other worker. At the time, my younger brother Paul and I, were both studying in the Seminary for the priesthood. My oldest brother, Kurt, had left for one of the truck routes a few minutes before the robber came in; and my sister, Marianne, had already left for work. My other sister, Helen, was married and living with her husband and four children. During the robbery, my Mom was across the street in our home on Richton, making breakfast for Dad for when he came over from the business.
Life would never be the same for any of us. Paul and I both talked about quitting the Seminary and coming home to help our brother Kurt run the business; but Mother insisted that Dad would want us to go back to what we were doing rather than change our lives… both of us obediently went back to St. John's Seminary, Paul in his second year of Theology and me, in my first year. But of course, life changed anyway; our Dad was gone because in a moment of desperation, this person took him from us. In the past, from my priests’ pulpit, I have told this story of my own struggle for letting go of the anger and my search for forgiveness of this perpetrator of sad. It never fails that other people would approach me afterward and tell their own stories of loss and grief. All of our lives are a journey of love and faith; seeking the comfort of God and each other. Thanks for letting me share my story with you! Dad, you are still missed.
Yours in Christ,