The Extended Batke Family with Link neighbors

The Extended Batke Family with Link neighbors
Pictured in the photo: (Back row, standing, left to right) Herman Fredrick, Anna Batke, Henry Batke, Sr., Selma Batke, Henry Robert Batke, William Batke and Arthur Engler. (Front row/sitting, left to right) Donald Fredrick, Robert Fredrick, Katherine Batke Fredrick, Ruth Batke, Edwin Batke, Katherine Reck Batke, Jerald Batke, Edna Kwiatkowski Batke, Mary Batke Engler and Elaine Engler. Taken c1940, possibly to celebrate Henry and Katherine’s 30th wedding anniversary, October 22, 1940. Photo courtesy: Don Fredrick.

About Henry Batke and Katherine Reck

Heinrich Batke, the son of Martin Batke (c1848-b1912) and Anna Lock (1848-1939) was born in Chortitza, Russia on September 7, 1877. Also in Russia, Catharina Reck was born on October 14, 1890. Her parents were John Reck and Renata Shirk. Henry and Katherine married in Russia on September 22, 1910. On July 13, 1912, Henry, his wife and seven month old daughter, Katherine, sailed from the Port of Bremen, Germany on the ship Pallanza. They traveled to Quebec City, Canada arriving on July 28, 1912. They immediately left on a special Canadian Pacific Railroad train to Saskatchewan, Canada. The Batkes homesteaded in Lydiard, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan between 1913 and 1918. On October 3, 1917 Henry Batke became a citizen of Canada. Due to England's sovereignty over Canada, he became a British citizen. Finding farming in Canada difficult, on December 7, 1921 the Batke family, now also including Mary, William and Selma, left for Yellow Pine, Alabama. After the birth of Anna and much hardship in Alabama, the family moved to St. Joseph, Michigan where children Henry, Ruth and Edwin were born. Henry, a furniture maker in Russia, became a machine operator at the 1900 Corporation, a fore-runner of Whirlpool, in St. Joseph. After Henry's death on April 7, 1949, Katherine Reck Batke married Gustav Schmeichel in 1959. Katherine Reck Batke Schmeichel died at the Claremont Nursing Home in Benton, Michigan on October 28, 1979.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Eddie Batke Remembered, 2010

Eddie Batke Remembered by his Nephew
(In Response to the "Making life-long friend on the baseball diamond " Post on Eddie Batke)
Uncle Eddie Batke to me was also special. Between my 5th and 10th birthday a few memories.  He was only about 5 years older than I so he was more of a "beach kids" mentor than an uncle.  I played baseball with his permission and encouragement at his sandlot location near the Engler home and Lake Michigan on many occasions. In the winter he would loan me his ice skates (you wouldn't believe how primitive they were - I think I still have them) and we would go down to Lake Michigan to walk the ice hills, find smooth patches, and skate. The smooth ice patches were about 3 feet thick and the ice crystal clear. The ice hills were something else. They were always rough, jagged, and at the edges where we encountered lake spray, slippery and dangerous on rough and windy days.  I still shiver just a bit as I consider the possibilities for tragedy on those ventures.  It was not unlike Uncle Eddie to bring his 22 rifle along for extra adventure. 

On several occasions during my visits to Grandma Batke's house on Vine Street and for entertainment during the other three seasons of the year we would walk the rails near 714 Vine and away from the train station in St. Joe.  Imagine me at age 7 or 8 standing on the bridge over the train tracks near Vine street while a freight train with two or three smoking engines went beneath that bridge pulling 60-70 freight cars.  I would get chewed at grandma Batke's house afterwards by parents for being covered with smoke and soot from the train, and he for taking me on this kind of a jaunt. I remember Brother Bob involved in some of all of this, but he was too small for baseball and often not allowed to go along for the ice hill trips.

This type of excitement, if known by parents, would certainly not have been permitted.  Uncle Eddie was officially guilty in all this but it was my own mischief that usually got these kinds of things going as well.  

I was too small to remember Bob Rennick's face, but his tribute to Eddie Batke was right on. I do remember some of the ball players on that sandlot -- Strohscheins and Licks, perhaps Bob Rennick was one of the faces I saw but did not know.  Others were classmates at Trinity Lutheran School in the earlier grades. Only after many years of being away from St. Joe and occasional trips back home did I occasionally see Uncle Eddie as a mechanic at a Benton Harbor gas station on duty by himself. I remember the drinking.  After that time, two or three encounters with him and his wife made me realize he successfully and by the grace of God made me proud of his change to a new found faith. His wife was the prime instrument in his change, and I did not see Eddie after he moved to live with her.  I heard and appreciated greatly the rumors of his happiness and felt the distress while away from home at the news of his death. 

Don Fredrick, July 10, 2010

A Remembrance of Edwin "Eddie" Batke, 1933-1997

Making life-long friend on the baseball diamond

We all have special friends, people we’ve grown up with, lived next door to, worked with or come to know as we make our way through life.  I have, and have had friends that I call special.  But, unlike with Eddie, I lived near them, worked with them or kept in close contact with the.

Eddie and I met when we were 9 or 10 years old.  I moved into his neighborhood.   We didn’t become friends immediately, and if the truth were known we probably didn’t care much for each other.

I was the new kid on Eddie grew up in the neighborhood and already had his friendships established. Eddie’s neighborhood was Vine Street and I lived on the pumping station end of Pine Street (now Lions Park Drive), a distance of five or six blocks.  It might as well have been five or six miles, and we didn’t get along.

The only thing we had in common was the Damaske brothers’ store.  It was at the foot of the Park Street viaduct and midway between where we lived and played.  He swam at Silver Beach and I swam at the pumping station.  He went to the Lutheran school and I went to Washington school. We all went to the Cosy theater on Saturday afternoons.

As we grew and our interest in sports materialized, I realized Eddie had a ball field nearer his neighborhood than I did.  It was directly across [the street from] the St. Joseph train depot.  A couple of bats, some gloves and balls will work wonders in bringing strangers together – witness two baseball games recently, on in Cuba and the other in Baltimore.

Our problems took considerably less diplomacy.  The kids from Pine, Vine and Lake streets came together to play ball on a dusty field with not much for a back stop and even less for bases, pitcher’s mound and home plate.

There was a Dorrow kid who was a bat boy for the St. Joe Autos, later known as the Auscos.  He was able to find us some bases, a pitching rubber and a home plate.

At game time, which was every day at about mid-morning, we would choose up sides.  Eddie was always one of the captains.  The other captain changed from time to time, but his role was consistent.  I was never picked early.  We played baseball and I was more in tune with softball.

We honed our skills at that field.  Having come together on a diamond we now wanted a place to showcase our talents.  None of us had ever heard of Little League, and I don’t know if it existed at the time.

What we did have access to was a softball league that played in the summer at Kiwanis Park.  All we had to do was have a team to get signed up.  Eddie took care of that part.  He did it every year we played in the league.  He also found us a sponsor.  Very few of the teams had sponsors, but Eddie always made sure we had one. It was the same one year after year, until we outgrew the league.  He boldly and confidently walked into Mr. Iaggi’s jewelry store every year and said, “Mr. Iaggi, we have a softball team and we would like to have some shirts, caps, a couple of bats and some brand new softballs.”  Mr. Iaggi never failed him.  His answer was always the same.  Eddie, he would say, “go up to the sporting goods store and pick out what you need and tell them I said it’s OK.”  Every year Eddie ordered the same red satin shirts with “IAGGI’S” on the front and a red cap with a big “I” on it.  Eddie the organizer.

Our ideas about school were in total agreement – we didn’t like it very much.  I went to St. Joe High in seventh grade and Eddie came along sometime later.  The Lutheran school hung on to them a little longer than did the public schools.  The Catholic school, by the way, never did turn them loose.

Anyway, by the time we got to high school we discovered many things in common and that, in fact, we like each other.  We played intramural basketball on the same team on Saturday mornings in the winter.  We laughed and joked our way through most of our high school years.

In the end, neither of us stayed around long enough to graduate.  The Korean War came along and gave us a good excuse to “get out of Dodge.”  Eddie went into the Navy and I to the Air Force. He was an excellent swimmer and I only swam to keep from drowning.

Eddie didn’t adapt much better in the Navy than he did in high school.  In time the Navy decided they didn’t want him any more than he wanted them.  I, on the other hand, had decided to make a go of it.  At this point, Eddie and I took different paths.  He took to drink and I took to catching up on the education I had missed and establishing a career.  Eddie pumped gas and greased fittings while I gained security clearances and went to work for the national Security Agency in Washington, D.C.

I traveled the world for the next 30 years while Eddie flitted from filling station to filling station with the occasional time out for unemployment checks.  I visited St. Joe many times over the years and each time I would go looking for Eddie.  Sometimes he was working, sometimes he was not.  Sometimes he was sober, sometimes he was not. Without exception, Eddie and I had good visits.  We would take about playing ball, skipping school, friends from the beach, teachers we liked, teachers we didn’t like.  All the usual stuff.

Eddie was a smart guy.  Easy to talk to, fun to be with.  He hadn’t married.  I had.  About 10 years ago, I visited with Eddie in one of the rooming houses where he usually lived.  He said, “Bob, I’ve quit drinking.  I’ve found the Lord and I’ve found a woman that wants to marry me.”

I was happy for Eddie!  The kicker was the woman lived in North Carolina and Eddie had only been away from home once and that was to the Great Lake Naval Training Station and we all know what happened there.  Eddie was afraid to leave St. Joe.  By late afternoon and our reminiscences coming to an end, I said, “Eddie, go to North Carolina and marry that woman.”

Eddie packed his bag, sold his fishing boat and went to North Carolina and married that woman.  I had occasion to travel through North Carolina on more than a few occasions and I always stopped to see Eddie.  He pumped gas, greased fittings, took his paycheck home and was a happy man.  For the first time in his life, to my knowledge, Eddie was a happy, happy man.

About 18 months ago, Eddie said he had prostate cancer and was going to begin treatments for it.  Eddie got no miracles, and he died last summer.

I still think of him often.  He probably didn’t accomplish much on the scale most folks use.  I judge him for taking charge of the bats and balls at the field, having the courage to walk into Mr. Iaggi’s store and ask for something for his team, and for gathering up the strength to leave his hometown and venture to a distant place for a woman he loved.

Eddie Badtke (sic) died a happy and loved man.  I helped carry his casket and I thought of a dusty ball field, boys who had become friends, men who had taken different paths, and I thought of the happiness he had found late in life.

I am pleased to call the old gas pumper, fisherman, and ball game organizer my friend.  Eddie, I’ll always remember you.

Bob Rennick, Kings Mountain, N. C.

Believed to be the Hearld Pallidum, c1998, St. Joseph/Benton Harbor newspaper.  
Article provided by Cara Batke, December 26, 2006

Batkes and Links Gather in 1942

In c1942, Karl Batke and his wife, Freiderike, were visiting Michigan from California.  Pictured in photo are: Henry Batke, Ruth Batke, Jacob Link, Anna Batke Metzler (daughter of Karl), Frieda Byron, Darlene Byron (child), Freiderike Batke, Mary Engler, Mrs. Jacob Link, Katherine Reck Batke, Don Fredrick (profile), Arthur Engler with Elaine Engler (child) and Selma Batke Smith.  Photo Courtesy: Don Fredrick