Remembering Our Ancestors: Paul Heinrich Bücker

Last Sunday 37 years ago, (Great-) Grandpa Paul passed away in Gütersloh, Germany.

When Paul Heinrich Bücker was born on 26 January 1911 in Balve in the German Sauerland, both his father Josef Bücker and his mother Anna Hotmaker were 35 years old.  He had many brothers but only one sister, Auguste, or Gustchen for short, and she died fairly young.  They all missed her terribly; Paul named his first daughter after her.  From the quiet and beautiful Sauerland, the family moved into the Ruhrgebiet during the 1920s, most likely because Paul’s father had to find work in the city to feed his big family.  Times were hard in the Weimar Republic.

There, in the city of Dorsten, Paul grew into a man and married Anna von Hinten on 23 January 1939.  Paul moved his family out of the Ruhrgebiet to the more quiet Gütersloh close to the Teutoburg Forest – yes, the same area where the Cherusci Arminius (or rather, Hermann) beat the Romans in 9 AD -, where he worked for a private rehab clinic as a physiotherapist.  They had two daughters, one at the onset of WWII and the other when the war was over.  During the war Paul served in a medical unit in Danzig.

Paul with 2 grandchildren

In the late 1940s, Paul’s mother Anna, then widowed, lived with them for a few years in Gütersloh before she died in 1950.  His older daughter remembers well her ‘Strickoma’, and the time spent together.  Paul worked at the same place until he retired when he was 70 years old, so that would have been in 1981.

Paul with his wife Anni on a visit to Bremen, Germany, around 1975

Paul died of a heart attack only roughly two years later, on 12 July 1983, in Gütersloh, and lies buried there, see picture below.  His wife Anny followed him fourteen years later.

buecker hain grave 7-12-2020
Here, Paul and his wife Anny lie buried, together with their son-in-law Ingo Hain, whose 51st birthday it would have been on the day this picture was taken, 12 July 2020.

Rest in Peace, dear Opi.  You had a big heart, and from you, I first learned about Goethe’s Faust, the music of Richard Wagner, and why it is a good idea to eat smoked ham sandwiches with knife and fork.  You also were the most cunning Easter-egg-hider in the family!

We love you, and we miss you.

Paul liked to visit the harbor in Bremen. Here he is watching the ships being loaded and unloaded, in 1982.


Classical Sunday: Böhm’s Wagner

Böhm was widely admired for his skillful balance and blend of sound, his feeling for a stable tempo and his sense of dramatic tension.

Selection of Richard Wagner’s famous opera overtures and preludes

01. Rienzi: Overture 00:00
02. Parsifal: Prelude 12:26
03. Der Fliegende Holländer: Overture 24:27
04. Lohengrin: Prelude 35:00
05. Tristan und Isolde: Prelude 44:55
06. Die Meistersänger von Nürnberg: Prelude 56:48
07. Tannhäuser: Overture 01:06:53

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Karl Böhm (1894 – 1981)

Karl Böhm was an Austrian conductor, best known for his performances of the music of Mozart, Wagner and Richard Strauss.  Some consider him one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century.  I’m wondering if he was my maternal grandfather‘s favorite conductor – he quite possibly was.  Grandpa did love Wagner and no mistake.

The paintings shown are:
Arthur Hacker: The Temptation of Percival.
Johann Heinrich Füssli: The Shepherd’s Dream.
Nils Blommér: Ängsälvor (meadow elves).
Frederic Leighton: Tristan and Isolde.

Classical Sunday: Wagner’s Lohengrin

Kick back and relax for three hours and a half:  Here comes Wagner’s Lohengrin, conducted by Christian Thielemann at the Semperoper in Dresden. 

Richard Wagner: Lohengrin – A Romantic Opera in Three Acts

Conductor: Christian Thielemann

Heinrich der Vogler (Henry the Fowler): Georg Zeppenfeld
Lohengrin: Piotr Beczala
Elsa von Brabant: Anna Netrebko
Friedrich von Telramund: Tomasz Konieczny
Ortrud, Telramund’s wife: Evelyn Herlitzius
The King’s Herald: Derek Welton

Staatskapelle Dresden

Saechsischer Staatsoperchor Dresden

The story of the Knight of the Swan, or Swan Knight, is a medieval tale about a mysterious rescuer who comes in a swan-drawn boat to defend a damsel, his only condition being that he must never be asked his name.

In the early 13th century, the German poet Wolfram von Eschenbach adapted the Swan Knight motif for his epic Parzival.  Here the story is attached to Loherangrin, the son of the protagonist Parzival and the queen of Pelapeire Condwiramurs.  As in other versions Loherangrin is a knight who arrives in a swan-pulled boat to defend a lady, in this case Elsa of Brabant.  They marry, but he must leave when she breaks the taboo of asking his name.

In 1848, Richard Wagner adapted the tale into his popular opera Lohengrin, probably the work through which the Swan Knight story is best known today.

Cultured Wednesday: The Flying Dutchman

This was a sight to chill a seaman’s heart: the Flying Dutchman, speeding before her own ghost wind and crewed by a company of the dead.  She augured death to those who spied her.

The story of the Flying Dutchman is quite well known, I should say, and has certainly been the object of many a painting.  I picked two of them for your kind perusal.

Charles Temple DixFlying Dutchman concentrates on the ship itself for effect, and light seems to be the most prominent means to convey ghostliness.  Everything in the picture flees from the source of light, however:  It is not a promise of salvation, but portends doom and destruction.

The Flying Dutchman by Charles Temple Dix

Howard Pyle‘s Flying Dutchman betrays the writer and illustrator: Much like a story often relies on contrast for effect, his central character stands out in his posture – defying wind, defying danger – as well as in color – the red sash, recurring in his eyes and, to a lesser degree, in his ghostly crew.  The waves behind him could just as well be mountains.  Not the kind of fellow you wish to meet on a regular basis, this Captain Vanderdecken, or at all, Pyle stresses.

Howard Pyle The Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman by Howard Pyle

Just in case the story is unfamiliar, here is what the the Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica have to say on the matter:

Flying Dutchman, in European maritime legend, spectre ship doomed to sail forever; its appearance to seamen is believed to signal imminent disaster. In the most common version, the captain, Vanderdecken, gambles his salvation on a rash pledge to round the Cape of Good Hope during a storm and so is condemned to that course for eternity; it is this rendering which forms the basis of the opera Der fliegende Holländer (1843) by the German composer Richard Wagner.

Another legend depicts a Captain Falkenberg sailing forever through the North Sea, playing at dice for his soul with the devil. The dice-game motif recurs in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge; the mariner sights a phantom ship on which Death and Life in Death play dice to win him. The Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott adapted the legend in his narrative poem Rokeby (1813); murder is committed on shipboard, and plague breaks out among the crew, closing all ports to the ship.

howard pyle flying hutchman closeup
Captain Vanderdecken

Forever lashed by wind and rain, forever braced on a rolling deck, the spectral captain of the Flying Dutchman sailed his ship wherever sea roads led.

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