Search for wife's roots takes man across Europe


January 06, 2000|By Jean Marie Beall | Jean Marie Beall,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN SOME PEOPLE become widows or widowers, they join support groups, do volunteer work or become more active in their church or social groups.

But for one Union Bridge man, the best therapy was to take a seven-week trip to Europe in August to do genealogy research about his late wife's family.

Stanley Holcombe said that after his wife, Dorothy Knode Holcombe, died, he made up his mind to find out more about her family.

"My late wife's family was from Germany and went back to the 1700s," Holcombe said. "I had wanted to do some genealogical research about her family."

But taking the trip alone seemed rather boring.

Holcombe contacted a college classmate who lived in California and also was a widower. Holcombe and his former classmate Tom Banks graduated from Shepherd's College in Shepherdstown, W.Va., in 1964.

"He had been in the Army and had been in Germany," Holcombe said. "I called him, told him what my plans were and asked him to join me. So early last year we began planning it."

Holcombe said he had certain places he wanted to visit, including places where people with the name of Knode lived.

"I had looked on the Internet and found some Knodes in Germany," Holcombe said. "I did find a Wolfgang Knode in Trier, Germany, who owned a fabric shop."

According to literature from Germany, Trier is considered the oldest city in that country, dating to 16 B.C. Holcombe said the two widowers hadn't taken trips together since their college days.

"It was the first time in a long time," Holcombe said with a laugh. "We did hitchhiking trips together when we were in college."

Holcombe said he and Banks sat down one weekend and started planning the places they would like to visit and how long they would be gone. They ended up visiting countries besides Germany.

"We went to Germany, France, back to Germany through the Black Forest and then down into Switzerland," he said. They also visited Austria.

The two left Baltimore and flew Iceland Air, stopping in Reykjavik, Iceland, before going on to Frankfurt, Germany. One of the first stops was to view Wartburg Castle in Germany.

"This was where Martin Luther took refuge," Holcombe said. "He wrote many articles here."

One stop Holcombe said he wanted to make was the birthplace of the Church of the Brethren. Holcombe belongs to the Church of the Brethren in Union Bridge.

"We went to Schwarzenau, Germany, a town where the Church of the Brethren all began in 1708," Holcombe said.

Another must on the trip was to visit Wolfgang Knode, whom they found. Pictures of the fabric shop owner fill Holcombe's album. It's unknown if Knode is related to Holcombe's late wife.

"We're not sure," Holcombe said. "But we're still working on it."

Holcombe had interesting tales to tell of his trip, such as their visit to Hallstatt, Austria, a town built next to a lake on steep hills and cliffs.

"The church [there] has very little room to bury their dead," Holcombe said. "They have such a small area, they have to bury them standing up. But that's not the half of it. They [the deceased] only stay there 25 years and then they take the bones and place them on shelves in the Charnel House. They put names on the skulls to identify them."

Another interesting item was the vineyards in Germany, he said.

"The vineyards are very steep and they need trolleys to get up to them," Holcombe added. "They then tether themselves to ropes so that they won't fall back down."

Holcombe also visited a salt mine in Austria.

"The salt mine is 200 to 300 feet below the earth," he said. "To get down into it you slide down what looks like a long banister."

Holcombe estimated his trip cost about $3,500. Visits to friends along the trip helpted to defray costs.

"And the exchange rate was very favorable to us," Holcombe said.

It might have been Holcombe's last trip with his friend.

"He told me he is going to be getting married again," Holcombe said.

Christmas tree pickup

Taneytown and Taneytown Volunteer Fire Department are sponsoring a Christmas tree pickup Saturday.

According to Linda Hess, Taneytown's clerk-treasurer, after trees are picked up, they are taken to Taneytown Memorial Park where a county chipper machine grinds them into mulch.

"We stockpile the mulch there until spring," Hess explained. "City residents then can come by in the spring and get mulch. There is no limit on how much they pick up."

Trees must be on the curb by 8 a.m.

Information: 410-751-1100.

FSK High rededication

The rededication of Francis Scott Key High School will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday at the school outside Uniontown.

The school has been undergoing construction and will be considerably larger.

"It is at least a third bigger," said Sherrie Frech, an office manager at the school. "The rededication is open to the public."

Jean Marie Beall's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

Pub Date: 1/06/00

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