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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

A Grandson Remembers Anna Jesiek

by Phil Baker

Anna Jesiek was my grandmother. Anna married Henry Baker and they had one child, my father, Floyd Henry Baker.  My father was born in 1921 and Henry Baker died when he was about 1 year old.  

He died in the American Legion Hospital in Battle Creek, newly opened in January of 1922.  My Grandmother showed me news clipping of Henry being unloaded from an ambulance.  He was the first patient in this facility. She lost her husband at a very early age and then also lost her only son quite early. I believe that Anna came to live with our family when Dad and Mom and I went back to Grand Rapids in late 1944 or early 1945, and she obviously came with us when he was transferred to Columbus and lived with us for most of the rest of her life.

By the time I was in my late teens I would take my Grandmother to visit her brother Otto at Lake Macatawa, and I would stay for about a week or a little longer. He had a basement full of articles that had been dredged up when they installed the docks. These were mostly things from early sailing days such as spittoons, brass hawsers and caulking irons.  He had a table about 20 feet long that was full of these things.

Her brothers and their father were lumberjacks in the Upper Peninsula.  I guess they moved often to keep up with the supply of new trees to cut down. Anna's Mom said that if they ever got near a large city they would never move again. When the family got to Grand Rapids everyone needed to get a job.  I think that Gus, the eldest, was the focus of this story.  There was a large German community at that time and Gus went to talk to them about available jobs. Otto and Anna (laughing as they told the story) said that when he asked about the best job they responded that if he was a tool and die maker that he could work wherever he wanted.  He had no idea what a tool and die maker was but he went out and got a job as a tool and die maker and got fired about 30 minutes later.  But he learned a little in that time.  He went out after getting fired and got another job and that one lasted about an hour before he got fired.  This process went on for a couple of days but each job taught him a little more.  About 3 or 4 days later he was a tool and die maker and that was what he did for a job at least at that time.

Gus had evidently left the boat business and become a house builder. He had married Myrtle Hesser who was a character and full of life and fun.  She called everyone "dolly.” I remember that my Grandmother got a phone call from Myrtle telling her that Gus had fallen off a roof of a house he was building.  He fell between some lumber that had been leaning against the house and this crushed him.  He died the following day if my memory is clear. Anna died in 1977 and I flew with her body back to Grand Rapids and she was buried next to her husband, Henry, in Mt. Calvary Cemetery.


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