On the last day of April in 1882, Josef Kappius, our (great-) grandfather, was born in Bochum, Germany to Johann Kappius and his wife Gertrud Haselhorst. Johann had left his hometown Haaren a couple of years prior and had settled in Grumme, today part of the city of Bochum in North-Rhine Westphalia. He and Gertrud, who originally came from Störmede, had married on 8 September 1881 in Bochum, and Josef was their first son; their second son Wilhelm was born three years later.
Josef maintained his connections with his father’s family in Haaren and eventually was apprenticed to his uncle Konrad Kappius who owned and ran a wheelwright’s shop. We assume that it was during his time in Haaren that Josef met his first wife Antonie Lingemann: Her father was first teacher at the village school there. The two got married around 1906, and they had three children together, one son (Jupp, my father) and two daughters (Gertrud and Elisabeth).
The young couple did not live in Haaren, however, but in Bochum with Josef’s parents, or at least with his mother, for by 1907, Johann Kappius had already passed away as far as we can discern. In Bochum, Josef did not work a s wheelwright, but earned a living as a traveling salesman.
The marriage did not last very long, in fact, it probably had failed by 1915 already, and the couple separated. Antonie died in 1924 at the age of 42 in Rostock in north-eastern Germany (over 300 miles from Bochum). How, for how long, or even why she lived there in the end we have not been able to find out.
What either of them did during WWI – both were 36 years old when WWI began – we do not know either, but we do know that the children stayed with their father in Bochum and that Josef married again in 1927. His second wife was Ida Selma, and Josef’s brother Wilhelm, by now better known as Father William for he had become a Roman Catholic priest and was living in Crofton, NE, presided over the marriage: Documents prove that he traveled to Germany for the occasion.
WWII still finds Josef in Bochum, by now 57 years of age and probably too old for regular active service in the Wehrmacht, but he survived the war and kept up his good relations with his relatives in Haaren, especially with his cousin Anton, one of Uncle Konrad’s sons who had inherited and continued his father’s wheelwright’s shop. Anton’s family enjoyed Josef’s long summer visits and many entertaining anecdotes have been kept alive about him to this day. Apparently, Josef was an amiable man who had colorful stories to tell about his many travels and who brought wonderfully thoughtful gifts when he visited. Truth be told, most of what I do know about my grandfather I have learned from the family in Haaren, and especially from my Cousin Katharina who passed away only relatively recently.
Josef Kappius died on 14 June 1955 in Recklinghausen, just 9 miles away from Bochum. When he had moved there, during or after the war, we do not know, but since Bochum was largely destroyed during the last year of WWII, he might very well have lived there the last ten or twelve years of his life.
Rest in Peace, Grandpa Josef. We have not found your grave yet, but maybe one day we will.