“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.
In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead



Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors
     


Administrative Bios

 

President

   

DAN LARSON
(2013-Present)
NY -USA

"She slept with a revolver under her pillow . . ."

 

I was born in NYC in 1964 and have spent most of my life in the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York State. I was fortunate enough to meet my (DS) Donauschwaben great grandfather twice before he passed away in 1972. I got to spend a lot of time with my DS Oma growing up, although there were many mysteries about her generated by the whispers of the adults now and then. What I found out later was that the adults barely had an inkling of what my Oma went through to survive childhood and how she made her way from a little village in Slavonia to the United States.

In 1984, I shipped a beat up little Honda motorcycle to England and toured Europe on a low budget for 3 months. It was a fantastic journey and I did not want to return home but I was out of money. Once home, I told Oma all about my trip, her eyes lit up and she began correcting me when I told her the places when I had been, telling me the German names of cities in what was then Yugoslavia. I was intrigued. For the next two years I put all my effort into saving for another trip. In 1986 I returned to Wales, where I had put the trusty Honda into storage. I then made my way to Austria where I had made some friends two years earlier, arriving in October 1986. Well, long story short, I ended up staying for 3 years, getting married to a lovely Grazerin in May 1988. In 1989 we moved to NY for better opportunities and I have been working for Anheuser-Busch ever since.

In the intervening years Oma began to confide in me more and more. So much, that my father and uncles began to ask me how I got her to talk. I learned that after WWI men with guns came through her village on a regular basis harassing the German families, and causing many to flee. Pets and livestock were killed and one man was murdered and hung on a fence. She slept with a revolver under her pillow during this period. In 1921 my great grandfather put his family in the care of his cousin and left for America. In 1923 this cousin escorted the family to the train station, sending them on their way here.

Over the years I kept collecting more and more information, writing things down that Oma told me. I began documenting my family tree about 17 years ago. The real break-through came when I began scanning old photos and posting them on Flickr with detailed captions. I soon received an E-mail from Australia, which led to my long lost cousins in Croatia. In 2010, my wife and I travelled to Croatia on a rented motorcycle and made our way to the village of Požega, in the hills of Slavonia. We were warmly welcomed by my cousins, who barely spoke any German due to years of oppression by one group after another. Their young neighbor translated for us and I could barely contain my tears as my cousin explained the story of her grandfather bringing my Oma and her family to the train station in 1923.

This, in a nutshell is a big part of what drives me. Not only learning about my ancestors but also visiting their old stomping grounds and making connections to my family around the world and educating them about our family heritage.

I would not have been able to get as far as I have without the DVHH, with all the helpful members who go out of their way to help answer questions and provide detailed history. I would especially like to thank Robin Grube for introducing me to her fellow Slavonia Coordinator, Zeljko Lekšić, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Đakovo in 2010. Zeljko has given me an astonishing amount of info and help with old records. He even helped me track down the location of my great great grandparent's house in Satnitz.

When Mary Regan contacted me and asked if I would consider taking on the role of President of DVHH for one term, frankly I was flabbergasted. After giving it careful consideration and long conversations with Jody on the phone I thought maybe this is a way I can return the favor of so many people who helped me over the years. For those of you who may have doubts, rest assured that I have no intention of making any drastic changes.

The founding members and volunteers have created something truly special and I intend to protect that while attempting to ensure our members are happy. I bring with me more than two decades of business experience working for a very successful company whose number one priority is customer satisfaction. Now I know you're all thinking, "wait a minute, they sell beer!" This is true, but I believe this drive for customer satisfaction can make any organization successful. Therefore, going forward I will be very interested in hearing from our members about what's working well, what's not, and any ideas to improve what we do. I truly feel privileged and honored to be working with such a wonderful community that the DVHH represents.

~Sincerely, Dan Larson, 2013

Director of Volunteer Services

   

DAN SEDLEY
(2015-Present)
Mount Laurel, NJ - USA

"My interest in genealogy was peaked in 2006 after the passing of my mother."

I was born in 1948 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to 1st generation American parents.  All four of my grandparents were born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 1800s, two of their families from the Banat villages of Bogarosch and Keglewichhausen.  As a child, I was always intrigued by the language spoken when my great-grandma was present.  Since she spoke very little English the adults communicated with her in “schwowisch” German, though the children were not encouraged to speak anything other than English. 

As children, we heard very little about our heritage, but I was interested enough to learn German in school and during college studied for a year in Austria.  After graduation and service in the Marine Corps, I began working for the US Customs Service, where I served in various positions, spending most of my career in Philadelphia, but having the opportunity for frequent international travel, mainly as an instructor on international training teams or conducting security surveys of foreign locations.  I retired in 2009 and since then have done some consulting work in supply chain security.  I have been involved in many civic volunteer activities, including serving a total of 12 years on two different Boards of Education.

I married my wife Kathie in 1974.  She is a registered nurse, who left the job market for about 10 years while raising our three children.  All are now married and we have one grandson.  Thus we are empty nesters, except for Morgan, our Bernese Mountain Dog.  Kathie now works in nursing administration and hasn’t yet decided to join me in retirement.  I look forward to that day, as we will then be able to travel more frequently.    

In addition to travel, I enjoy golf, skiing, bicycle riding and genealogy.  My interest in genealogy was peaked in 2006 after the passing of my mother.  Prior to that time, I had no knowledge of our family heritage, other than they were from Austria-Hungary.  In going through my mother’s belongings, my brothers and I found a treasure trove of materials.  These included baptismal certificates and other official documents relating to my grandparents and great grandparents, allowing me to determine the specific villages where my ancestors were born.  In addition, there were documents my grandfather had written, some typed, some handwritten, detailing not only family genealogy, but also his personal recollections from childhood, including detailed information regarding his journey from Banat to Pittsburgh as a young teenager.  Through these resources and others, including DVHH of course, these discoveries continue to unfold.  Prior to the many generations my ancestors lived in Banat, my family tree shows direct ancestors back to 1714 in Saarland and 1658 in Alsace-Lorraine.

~Dan Sedley, Aug 31, 2015

Mail List Administrator & Guestbook Archivist

   

DARLENE DIMITRIE
(2009-Present)

Windsor, ON - CAN

"I found a shoebox ..."

I was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada to immigrant parents who met and married in Canada.  My father is Romanian, born in Vladimirovac, when it was still part of Torontal County in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  My mother is Donauschwaben from Hrastovac, then in the former Yugoslavia and today in Croatia.  Until the age of 5, I spoke English, German and Romanian, but have lost much of this knowledge as the older members of the family pass away.

I was always interested in my family history, but did not actively start looking into it until the death of my maternal grandmother in 1998.  I found a shoebox full of memorial cards from friends and relatives who had passed away and I started by entering all this information into a genealogy database.  I found that although I knew the basics of my family history, I had no idea of the extent of what I would find out, first from other Hrastovac researchers and email lists like the Banat list and later the DVHH list and website.  I quickly was side-tracked from the genealogy aspect into the history that my ancestors had lived through and participated in, including the atrocities perpetuated with respect to WW II.  I have made many new friends throughout the years and "met" many new cousins all over the world. 

Little did I know that this journey into ancestry and family history is never finished.  It expands continuously, filling my heart and also my home with stacks and stacks of information which I may never get properly organized.

~Darlene Dimitrie, 2015    

Mail List Administrator

   

EVE BROWN
(2009-2016)
MI - USA

I am the first born American in my family – frequently referred to as
“the American baby”. 

My parents came to the US after escaping Yugoslavia in 1944 and then spending time as refugees in Austria until 1951 when the boarded a boat for America to work on a farm.  They came with my sisters Theresa born in Yugoslavia and Leni born in Austria.  My parents were both born in the Syrmien Region along the Sava River with the Obedska Bara (a large swamp-forest/natural reserve) between their villages of Obresch (Obrez) and Kupinovo.

I grew up hearing many stories growing up and as it is with many when they are young it went in ear and out the other.  In 1980 a book arrived at my parent’s home that was a Heimatbuch - it contained family records from my mother’s village – and so it began while I was pregnant with my first child. Having a young family doesn’t make it easy to do research so it wasn’t until 2005 when my online research began and finding out that many things previously believed were simply misconceptions.  Thankfully I still had my parents to verify the things I discovered.

I’ve been married since 1975, have 3 grown children and 3 grandchildren with one on the way.  I just retired from working as a lunchroom cashier in a local elementary school, where I had been for 22 years.  I love working in my flower beds and vegetable garden, mixed media scrapbooking/design,  bowling and entertaining.  I have lived in Michigan all of my life and would love to do more traveling some day, but most of that will have to wait until my husband also retires.  It is a dream of mine to one day see where my parents were born and lived.

~Eve Brown, 2015

Mail List Administrator

 

ROY ENGEL
(2009-Present)
ONT - CAN

 

 

Genealogy Research Director

   

TOM MYERS
(2015-Present)
WI -USA

"it was only a few years ago that I discovered that my ancestors were Donauschwaben"

My grandfather Paul Huber was born in Velika Pisanica, Croatia, formerly known as Groß Pisanitz, in 1908. After serving his time in the Austrian Hungarian army his father along with one brother decided to emigrate to America and made the journey with their families through Ellis Island to Milwaukee in 1912.

Partly because of the time of their arrival and also due to local pressure to quickly integrate into the culture, my family worked hard to speak English and leave many of their German, Croatian, and Hungarian traditions and customs behind. While some dishes and a few phrases persisted, my mother and her siblings along with their children grew up knowing very little of the history and customs of the life our ancestors left behind. In fact, it was only a few years ago that I discovered that my ancestors were Donauschwaben and that their families had lived in Hungary at least as far back as the mid 1700s in Somogy and Baranya counties in the region now known as Swabian Turkey.

Because of my German heritage from both of my parents I did study German in high school and at the University of Wisconsin where I met my wife Kathy. We have been married for 33 years and have 4 children and our first grandchild is due in late December. I am an engineer and have spent most of my career designing and manufacturing medical devices including magnetic resonance (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) imaging systems. As I near retirement I find more enjoyment working with a friend who owns a small company making custom metal stairs, railings and structural steel products. 

I have many hobbies that include reading, hiking, mountain biking, and boating. I am an active member of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and spend time teaching boating safety, inspecting vessels and patrolling the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan to assist boaters in distress. 

I have been interested in genealogy for over 30 years and am a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, the National Genealogical Society, and multiple local, state and ethnic genealogical groups. I am interested in history and work to search for and copy original sources to provide evidence for family relationships and life events. I have found DNA to be a valuable tool to complement my family history research, helping me locate new cousins as far back as 7 generations and even a few with common roots in Austria-Hungary! 

~Tom Myers, November 9, 2015    

Genealogy Research Assistant & Librarian

   

LORETTA ALFANO
(2015-Present)
FL -USA

"I grew up listening to stories of Alt Schowe which became the seed
 for my interest in my family's history.
"

Although I've lived almost my entire life in Florida I have many happy memories of my first seven years living in Cleveland, Ohio.  My mother was from Darkovac but raised in Cleveland and my father was born in Dayton but raised in Schowe.  So I grew up listening to stories of Alt Schowe which became the seed for my interest in my family's history. 

I attended one year of college following high school graduation and then got married.  For the next twenty-three years I raised three children but when the chance to return to college presented itself I jumped at the chance.  I majored in painting and really enjoyed the experience. 

My work experience was with the State of Florida University System and I was employed at three campuses over the years.  After retiring I volunteered in the music library of a large downtown church and the Records Department of the University Club of Winter Park. I really enjoy doing genealogical searches and have helped several friends obtain important information on their ancestors. 

I have three children, two grandchildren and two great-grands! 

I still enjoy art and gardening. 

~Loretta, November 9, 2015    

 

Guestbook Administrator

   

BOB HORVATH
(2009-Present)
ON - CAN

   Parents were from Indjija in Syrmien (Horvath) and Vinkovci in Slavonia (Kuehner)

Retired high school Mathematics and Computer Science teacher.  Member of the Schwaben Club in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

~Bob Horvath, 2013    

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 Last Updated: 28 Dec 2016

[Published at DVHH.org by Jody McKim Pharr]

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