Dear Willy, The True Story of a Life Well Lived

Dear Willy, The True Story of a Life Well Lived

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Dear Willy, is the true story of Willy Oswald Geheb’s life told through journals, letters, documents, and photos found in an old suitcase stored away since 1947. When translated from the old German script, a wealth of information was learned about a remarkable man born in Schmirma, Germany in 1900. In 1923, Willy, the fourth of eight children, left Germany to seek adventure, find success, and provide for the family he left behind. Follow Willy's adventures, endeavors, and conflicts in Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. Get to know the ideals, beliefs, and struggles of his family living in Germany during WWI, the Weimar Republic, Adolph Hitler, WWII, and the aftermath of WWII in East Germany. Although living thousands of miles away, Willy never broke the bond with his German family. He continually sent money and packages of necessities to help them through their struggles. Willy's love of family and strong values were instilled into the American Geheb family which he and his wife, Irma, started in Chicago, Illinois.

Review by Laurel DiGangi, Woodbury University. Dear Willy begins as a coming-of-age memoir about a naïve yet articulate young man who in 1923 leaves his small town of Schmirma, Germany, to discover the world. Willy’s astute observations of life start in 1914 with a diary he kept as a teenager and continue through his military journals. Once Willy moves to Brazil to work as a blacksmith, he details the sights, sounds, and sensations of an exotic land with “cactuses as big as trees” and parties where “frogs and fleas provide magnificent music and diversion.” Next, Willy relocates to Mexico to work in the 1925 oil fields, one day going home leaving “a trail with the oil that ran off my body.” Finally, Willy finds work as a machine fitter in Chicago, during its reign of organized crime and bootleggers. Says Willy, “I am convinced the whole world is upside down with all those bank robberies and killings.” Yet here is where he eventually settles to build his career, marry, raise a family, and eventually become an American citizen. Throughout Dear Willy, detailed communications between Willy and his friends and relatives capture the zeitgeist of several exciting periods of German, American, and world history: World War I, the Great Depression, the Weimar Republic, World War II, and the division of Germany. Willy’s descriptions are vivid, and bring the era and locales as alive as he experienced them. Overall, Dear Willy is a treasure trove for readers who care about history and the immigrant experience. From its humble beginning as an authentic bildungsroman, this lovingly transcribed memoir truly lives up to its subtitle, “A Life Well Lived.”

Review by Virginia Williams, It’s a story few of us are familiar with, if or when we read of the life of the Germans following the end of the war under Soviet rule. It’s another whole side of humanity, the story which is somewhat lacking in other war stories. Still, it’s a struggle won by the familial connection never lost of a prodigal son.

Review by Trevor Pateman, This is an unusually interesting compilation of family letters and personal journals, kept in a suitcase by Willy Geheb (1900 - 1988), a blacksmith's and small farmer's son from Schmirma in rural Saxony in the eastern part of Germany. After the First World War, he leaves his home village to make his fortune in Brazil, Mexico and finally Chicago where he becomes an American citizen in 1934. He maintains - and keeps - a correspondence with his parents and members of a large family much of which survived to be discovered after his death.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780999090343
Publisher: Claire Ohlsson Geheb
Publication date: 01/01/2018
Edition description: Second Edition
Pages: 386
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Claire Ohlsson Geheb, writer and public speaker, lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband John Geheb. She is a retired Medical Technologist and did not expect to publish a book. But, while uncovering the moving story of her husband's family during such a historically tragic time, Claire realized that this is an important story for all Americans. This memoir shows that although years pass the human spirit doesn't change and people will always continue their quest for a better life. She is available for presentations about Dear Willy, The True Story of a Life Well Lived.

Willy Oswald Geheb, born in 1900 in the small village of Schmirma, Germany, provided a treasure trove for future generations. By saving his journals, documents, letters, and photos the editor of this book was able to compile this fascinating memoir. Willy was a very capable writer and a man with unwavering personal strength.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

1. Who is Willy Geheb? -------------------------------------------------------------- 3

2. WWI: "It was an exciting time."------------------------------------------------- 11

3. 1918 Military Training: "Has God abandoned me?"----------------------- 25

4. 1918: "A soldier has to obey." -------------------------------------------------- 37

5. 1919 to 1922: Germany's Demise--------------------------------------------- 47

6. 1923: "Greetings from Brazil."-------------------------------------------------- 51

7. 1924: "My goal is America."----------------------------------------------------- 61

8. 1925: The Mexican Oil Fields--------------------------------------------------- 87

9. 1926: "Three years have passed."------------------------------------------- 115

10. 1927: "I am at home wherever I am." ------------------------------------- 119

11. 1928: "Chicago is the best." ------------------------------------------------ 127

12. 1929: "Please don't worry about me."------------------------------------- 139

13. Late1929 to 1930: "I am married!" ---------------------------------------- 147

14.1931: "Germany gets worse and worse."---------------------------------- 171

15. 1932: "A thousand kisses." ------------------------------------------------- 189

16. 1933: "Hitler is now in power." --------------------------------------------- 211

17.1934: Return to the Homeland --------------------------------------------- 223

18. 1935 to 1938: "I call out Heil Hitler!" -------------------------------------- 247

19. 1939 to 1941: "Is Germany to blame for everything?"----------------- 265

20. Germany and Europe after World War II---------------------------------- 285

21. Aftermath: 1946 to 1947: "We survived the bombings."--------------- 289

22. Willy and Irma’s Trips to Germany ----------------------------------------- 321

Epilogue ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 339


John and Claire Geheb’s Trip to Germany 1994------------------------------ 345

Family Trees and Willy’s Sons’ Reflections------------------------------------- 355

Money Conversion Chart ---------------------------------------------------------- 369

Maps ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 370

Contact information ---------------------------------------------------------------- 373

Book Discussion Questions 375

Summary of Table of Contents

Chapter one tells about through the discovery of old family letters, journals, documents, and photos. It includes the social history of the German Geheb family, the family tree, and German history between 1900 and 1914.

The following chapters include: Willy Geheb's teenage journal and WWI military journal followed by letters written to and from Germany and America between 1918-1947.

Historical information has been added as needed to clarify the time frame.

Over one hundred photos and documents are included.

The addendum includes: return to Germany, family trees, family reflections, maps, contact information, and book discussion questions.

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