This photo was taken 73 years ago today. It shows Junior (George) Florenz Weil holding his days-old son, also named George Florenz Weil. The elder Junior was in the U.S. Army Air Corp, and was likely on active duty when his son was born. This photo was likely taken on or near Pyote Army Air Field in Ward County, Texas, where Junior was stationed. Junior and baby George’s mother, Catherine Lawhorne, were married in Ward County the year before.
The little one was the third generation to be named George Weil. George Florenz Weil Jr., born 2 March 1945. His father was George Florenz Weil Jr., born 9 January 1920, and was typically called Junior. His grandfather (not pictured) was George William Weil, born 2 October 1889.
My great-uncle, Ted Jordan, passed away unexpectedly last week. I last saw Ted when I was five years old, when he came to Christmas in Illinois. I don’t remember much about our encounters that year, but I remember him as jolly and friendly, and had a genuine smile. Although I didn’t know him well, I’ve gotten to know him through talking to those who worked with him, cared about him, and were his family. Below is my memorial to him.
Ted C. Jordan
Ted Clarence Jordan was born July 28, 1939 in Chicago, IL, and died February 15, 2018 in Portland, OR at the age of 78 after being struck by a vehicle while crossing the street. He was the son of Erwin and Dorothy (née Mueller) Wischmeyer.
Ted in Chicago, about 1941.
Ted and his sister Trudy, about 1943.
Ted with his parents, Erwin and Dorothy Wischmeyer, and his sister Trudy, about 1942.
Ted with his mother Dorothy and his sister Trudy, about 1947.
Ted grew up in Chicago, and the family lived for a short time in California. After Erwin passed away in 1944, Dorothy married Waldemar “Wally” G. Jordan in 1949. Ted and his sister were officially adopted by their stepfather and they changed their last names to Jordan. They all moved to Seattle, WA in June of 1949. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in Seattle in 1959. He lived in several cities, including Pescadero and San Diego, and ultimately settled in Portland, Oregon in about 1972. During that time, he also loved traveling with his parents and sister, and they visited sights like the Grand Canyon and Door County, WI. Ted played in an accordion band, and loved to sing and act.
In Portland, Ted worked at Lewis and Clark College as a “Bon Appetit employee extraordinaire.” He was known as “Yogi” and was beloved by the students. (He apparently earned the nickname Yogi when he was growing up and playing baseball with some neighborhood friends. They said “hit the ball like Yogi” and the name stuck.) He took pride in his work and became the steadfast friendly and smiling face that welcomed the students every day as they ate their meals. The would affectionately refer to the Lewis and Clark students as “my kids,” even if they had graduated a long time ago and had kids of their own. He encouraged the students by handing out balloons, jokes, and smiles. He especially enjoyed giving out Mickey Mouse balloons. One of his coworkers, Ryan Jensen said, “Most people on campus have fond memories of Ted handing out balloons and welcoming students every day, attending arts and athletic events, and offering his generous smile to all of us. He was a fixture of campus life that can never be replaced.” When Ted encountered some financial difficulties, the students helped him get on his feet again by starting a GoFundMe campaign. The funds helped him stay in his apartment and help with daily living expenses. He worked at the college for nearly 40 years.
His kindness and generosity extended beyond the community college campus. He built friendships with people everywhere he went. He was well known all around Portland as he walked and used the public transit to attend every cultural event, dinner, and classical concert he could find. He loved to meet new people and hear their stories. He knew every part of Portland, and knew how to get anywhere using the bus, tram or train. In the summer, he loved the freedom of traveling in the areas around Portland, and to enjoy the mountains and fresh air. He dreamed of traveling abroad to London or Australia. Ted also loved music. He believed that “the most important thing a parent can do is get their child an instrument.” In his early years, he played cymbals for the Lewis and Clark pep band, and especially enjoyed a cappella groups on campus. He still had dreams of learning to play the organ at Flanagan Chapel at Lewis and Clark, and Grace Lutheran Church, his home congregation. At the end of his memorial service, the organist played Ted’s two favorite organ arrangements, which are full of joy and energy.
He had been a member of Grace Lutheran Church ever since he arrived in Portland in the early 1970’s. He loved his family there, and had a profound and joyful faith. His pastor Thad Bitter said that those who knew him knew how blessed he was. His “unique sense of fashion” and his rough exterior was just a shell to the beautiful, joyful soul that he had. The pastor described Ted as a beautiful flower that was planted in an old rusty pail. The flower didn’t match his temporary container, and could only grow so big while in its small pail. After death, Ted’s flower has now been transplanted into the heavenly garden and can flourish on its own. He had the unique ability to be content with whatever circumstances that he was in, and to share his joy for life with others. In his faith, he lived ready to meet his Savior, and didn’t let his earthly troubles discourage him from sharing his faith and joy for life. One of the hymns during his memorial service seems to describe his life well, saying “When peace like a river attendeth my way, Whenever sorrows like sea billows roll — Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Ted touched so many lives through his friendship and enthusiasm for life. Fellow members of his congregation described him as “the nicest man I’ve ever met,” and “very knowledgeable about people and Portland.” He was beloved by students, who said “Thanks for being you Yogi!” and “For the years of jokes, balloons, and words of encouragement.” and “Thank you for creating a friendly and safe environment in the Bon, and for working so tirelessly day in and day out. You’re one of my favorite parts of this school.” He was clearly an important part of daily life for both his “kids” and his coworkers at Lewis and Clark. His coworkers at Bon Appetit wrote to him saying, “The kitchen is not the same without you. Know you are loved. We all carry you in our heart.” and “You are a shining example of someone who enjoys life.” Another coworker wrote, “Your conversations, personality and balloons are an essential piece of the cafeteria. We are all missing you…”
Every year on February 14, he would sing “Happy Birthday” to the state of Oregon. Unfortunately, he was unable to sing for Oregon this year, but I know he inspired others to continue the tradition. He passed away the following day, on February 15. He will be greatly missed by his friends, family, students, congregation, and coworkers!
Ted is survived by his sister, two nephews, four great-nieces, and five first cousins. He is preceded in death by his father Erwin Wischmeyer; his mother Dorothy (Mueller) Wischmeyer Jordan; his stepfather Waldemar (aka Wally) G. Jordan; his cousins Rowena (Jordan) Koshinski, Elbert Jordan, and Jim Diener; and his niece Jean (Weil) Wensink. He is also remembered by his Grace Lutheran Church family, his Bon Appetit and Lewis and Clark family, and his countless friends.
A celebration of Ted’s life was held at Grace Lutheran Church on Monday, February 19th at 3:00 pm. He will be buried in the family plot in St. Luke Cemetery in Chicago, IL.
One of my favorite photos from my family history is actually a set of photos. My grandparents, Ed Drake and Millie Kaiser, were out on the town and visited a photo booth. This set of tiny photos are the photos that were taken there! When I asked my grandmother about them, she said they must have been taken when a fair came to town. They both look so happy, and you can see some of the mischief in my grandfather’s face. He could always make us laugh. I remember both of them that way. I love these photos because although I knew them later in life, I can see that they had the same spirit when they were younger, too.
Two of the photos were placed into tiny frames, and the other three were in my grandmother’s military photo album. I think these were taken about the same time that Millie joined the Navy WAVES, about 1944. I’m guessing that Ed kept the two framed snapshots with him while Millie was away. Millie kept the other three with her while she was in Florida. They would be married about two years later.
What are some of your favorite old family photos?
Interview with Mildred (Kaiser) Drake, conducted by Eva Weil, 2015.
M. Kaiser WAVES scrapbook, Drake-Kaiser family photos, 1944-1946.
Drake-Kaiser family photos, private collection, ca. 1900-2010.
Happy Thanksgiving! Today is the day for family, food and traditions! At our feast today, we made pies with my Nana’s pie crust, Papa’s pumpkin pie filling, my Mom’s Cranberry Apple pie filling, and a ten-year-old cousin’s mincemeat recipes. We also had my aunt’s casseroles, traditional cranberry relish and my sister-in-law’s baked macaroni. It all came together into a delicious feast!
I recently came across this photograph of my great-grandmother Dorothy (Mueller) Jordan making a turkey dinner in the 1950’s! Her small turkey likely fed only her family of four. It was taken in their house in Seattle, Washington, probably on Thanksgiving. Dorothy is hard at work!
My grandmother (Nana), Millie Kaiser, joined the Navy WAVES in April of 1944. As mentioned earlier in the series, she was stationed at Saufley Field in Pensacola, Florida. While much of her time was spent at work, most of her fondest memories were spending time with her friends during their off-hours.
Free Time with Friends
Millie was pretty shy, but she quickly made a few friends. She became very close friends with two girls in particular, Ski and Francis. Fran was from Grand Rapids, Michigan and worked in the office. Ski worked in the mail room, and was from Chicago. Most of Nana’s memories from her WAVES days were centered around the adventures that she had with her friends in their free time. Going to the beach became a favorite on warm days. A woman who worked in the office with Fran had a car, and would take the girls to town to get watermelons or visit the beach. Fran and Ski went into town every Friday to attend mass, and Millie would tag along, waiting in the back pew until it was done, and then they’d spend a couple hours around town or enjoying the sunshine in the park. They also went shopping and sight-seeing with friends in Pensacola and nearby cities. Millie recalled, “We went to New Orleans a few times, though we weren’t supposed to, because it was over 200 miles away, and it was out of bounds, you know. We also went to Mobile and some other cities.” The trio loved to take trips out of town when they had a day off. Luckily, no matter how far they went, they always made it back to the base without a problem. During longer holidays and leaves, they would often visit each other’s families. The three of them stayed close friends for the rest of their lives.
She sent frequent letters home to her family and to my grandfather, Ed Drake, whom she had already started dating before she signed up for the WAVES. Ed was exempt from joining the military because he was a farmer, and farmers were still needed at home to provide food for the country. Millie had a long break for Christmas, so she and Ski took the train from Florida to Chicago, but there was no way to get out to DeKalb where she lived. Gas was rationed, and no one was able to drive her the 60 miles home. Ed was a farmer, so he had gotten a few extra gas rations for his tractor. He had saved up enough gas to drive to Chicago to surprise them with a drive home!
“It was quite an experience.”
After the war was finished, Millie was discharged in February of 1946. She had spent 22 months as a Navy WAVE. She went back home to Illinois and four months later, married Ed. Although she was proud to serve her country, she was also very humble about her time in the WAVES. She knew her service was important, but she felt that she hadn’t sacrificed as much as others did during the war. She highly respected the men and women who served overseas and in combat. WWII was the first time that women could serve in large numbers in the military, and after the war, they didn’t receive the same benefits as the men, such as the benefits from the G.I. bill. Luckily, over time, women’s military roles during WWII have been gaining more recognition. Even though they weren’t always on the front lines, the women serving state-side were nevertheless essential to the war effort and our eventual victory.
To sum up her experience as a WAVE, she said, “It was quite an experience.”
Interview with Mildred (Kaiser) Drake, conducted by Eva Weil, 2015.
Interview with Mildred (Kaiser) Drake, conducted by Rebecca Weil, 2015.
Interview with Mildred (Kaiser) Drake, conducted by Eva Weil, 2005.
Photos from private collection, Mildred (Kaiser) Drake’s WAVES photo album, 1944-1946.