Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ralph Herman Happekotte- the Quincy Years

First, let me say there was never a kinder, more gentler soul than he was. I never ever heard him raise his voice for anything, even when Grandma was on his case about this or that! And we all believe he knew which strings to pull to get Grandma going! It could have been about that limburger cheese that he liked and Grandma hated- mostly because of the smell. They were kind of like that old radio show named the Bickersons. It was all pretty harmless but always present! Grandpa did a lot of pump work and sinking sandpoints in the houses down in Sherwood Park. He didn’t charge people very much because he knew many down there didn’t have much. But Grandma was his bookkeeper and she would get after him if he dragged his feet about collecting the small fee he charged. I truly believe he would have been perfectly happy doing much of the work for free. That was just his nature. I really believe he came by that disposition naturally-- his brothers and sisters were all the same way. They would do anything for you.

This little momento was indicative of how others thought of him. The wording says “Hap the Flood Angel- March 16, 1945 Flood”. On the back it says, “Presented to Ralph Happekotte by the Residents of Sherwood Park”. The spring floods, which were a usual spring happening back then, was when Grandpa really shined. He became the Sherwood Park ferry service when the water came up. Many residents did not have a boat, so he would ferry them to the water’s edge so they could either go stay with others or get groceries and wait it out. Most people, by the way, waited it out. 

Grandpa was born on November 14, 1904 in Quincy, Illinois. In September of 1905, he won a baby contest at a Labor Day celebration in Quincy. The picture here was taken at that time and all I can say is he definitely had the Happekotte feet! We don’t know much about his growing up years, but I was always amazed at how his parents raised such a large family (10 kids) in such a very small house at 620 N. 18th!  There was one sibling born in 1916 and died the same year. His name was Charles Bernard; I don’t know at this time if he was stillborn or died as an infant.
According to notes mom had written, Grandpa met Edna Louise Shepherd when they were working for Otis Elevator Co. The Shepherd family had moved to Quincy from nearby LaGrange, Mo by 1920 when she was about 15. Ralph had worked as a lifeguard at the Casino Pool in Quincy and both of them rowed racing shells for the Southside Boat Club. The highlight of their rowing career had to be rowing at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. Mom always told us that they eloped and honeymooned in Hannibal, MO. They were married by a justice of the peace in Quincy on November 14, 1925. I didn’t realize it until now, but Grandpa got hitched on his 21st birthday! They became parents for the first and only time on November 12, 1926.

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