Akron German Family Society

Akron German Family Society

Monday, December 30, 2013

A conversation with Joe Geiser...... Akron German Family Society

I am pleased to share this interview, between Rudy Stagl and Joe Geiser. For those that have read our recent GFS Newsletter, you will notice that this is the entire interview. The Newsletter version was edited for space. Please, share your thoughts....:) Nice work Rudy!

As we move to the New Year, I wanted to reflect on Joe Geiser, his long term as GFS president and a few of the many accomplishments he has done for the club. First let me tell you how I got to know Joe and how we  became good friends. I can't tell you when I first met Joe but I can tell you when we became friends. Joe and Konrad Pilz both working with the Youth Group decided they wanted to put a German band together. Joe was the oldest at around 18 years old and I was nearly the youngest at barely 13. We often played in Cleveland and in Mansfield and since I was simply was too young to drive, I often rode with Joe. My parents began to drive me to the Geiser home often early enough that I remember watching Hee-Haw on TV with Joe and his family. I was the oldest kid and with 3 younger sister and often looked up to Joe as an older brother. We continued this for many years until I left for the Military. We sang together and you can still catch us singing harmony together to songs like Belle Maria. I asked Joe if I could do an interview as President of the German Family Society and he was happy to oblige.
Rudy: What is one of your most memorable events at the club?
Joe: Hi Rudy thanks for interviewing me I'll try to do my best in answer all your questions for you.  One, actually I have a number of most memorable events, when I first took over as Jugend Leiter which was back in the early 70's one of the biggest success stories  that our youth group ever had  was our performances at the Ohio State Fair. We made more money in that one performance than we did in the previous 10 years as Youth group Income. Kids enjoyed it. Everything was free. It was just something  brand new for the kids. It was right about that time that our Youth group grew from around 25 kids to about 95 kids in the youth group, that was one, But moving forward the next memorable event was the purchase of our new facility. Everyone was really scared, we needed to get away from that Neighborhood and that was a big challenge and very memorable especially since what I noticed was all of our members, they just banded together and did what was needed to get it done and we worked together like one cohesive unit. So those  are probably two of the greatest events that I can think of at this time.
Rudy: What was your most embarrassing moments as president?
Joe: There was,  oh about 10 years ago at one of our fests, was really great event and I just got done making announcements on the microphone and a man came up and asked me if he could say few words and I thought what's he going to say?,  probably congratulate us on a great event.  Well instead of doing that he started lambasting Jews and it was about Nazis all that kind of stuff.  I was so embarrassed, I quickly took  the microphone away from him and apologized to all the people saying I'm very  sorry. I had no idea of what this man was going to say and thought he was going to congratulate us and I was never let this happen again. I apologized on his behalf. The way it sounds I'm pretty sure he was pretty inebriated. Ever since that I never allow anyone to talk on the microphone unless I know who they are or know what they want to talk about.

Rudy:  What was the most rewarding thing you experienced with the club?
Joe: Oh my gosh, I can't say a reward for me alone, but to me after 50 something years we're still in existence and were growing and were getting stronger, unlike a lot of other ethnic clubs, that have disappeared or gone by the wayside. We're still doing very well and to me that's my  greatest reward.  I think most of the people that work at our club, stay there is because the fact that we do work together, it's like one family unit that there is a future for our kids and grandkids with our culture and heritage.
Rudy:  What motivated you to take the position year after year?
Joe:  First of all I never knew I was going to take this position. I happen to come out to a meeting,  it's right after I got divorced and I hadn't been to meeting in over a year. They had elections and all of the sudden I didn't know Mr Bohnert was not going to be taking it anymore. So they always go around, "would you take it?" to one  or "would you take?" to others. Mrs Lehner nominated me for president and I said to her " I don't think I can handle that job yet", I was 38. She said "why not, you've been with the youth group, you've been with the Tanz group you know how the club works" To make a long story short she convinced me to take it but under one stipulation that I wanted to upgrade and modernize the way things work out at the club and hopefully get other younger people in my age range to help out and that think the same way , But to take it year after year, to me the reason I did that was because I think it's a worthwhile project. Look how many friends that you make over the years,  I've met more people, through the club than I ever would have in my lifetime, permanent and lifelong friends and to me that's the biggest reward its knowing that we do have such a large community of friends.
Rudy:  How did you handle decisions that some people did not agree with?
Joe:  Well, not always the best, I am Human and I may not always handled it the way I would have if I had a little time to think about it. But I would say the best thing to do is before you jump to any conclusion or do anything rash, sit back count to ten think little bit and then try to come up with the best answer to the problem and like I said I did make mistakes but the one thing I do want to say is, Whatever you do make sure what decisions that you make comes from your heart. Sometimes from the heart is much better than from your brain because the heart has feelings where the brain  just thinks logical, so whatever decision you make comes from your heart. and make sure your fully convinced that's what you want. If there are other distracters,  like people that disagree with you , you're in charge. If your let everybody decide everything by always voting, you'll never move ahead.
Rudy:  What was your biggest challenge in this position?
Joe:  Oh I would say keeping peace amongst the members, and keeping us moving forward. Always worried about the future and I say the greatest of all is keeping young people interested. That to me has always been my goal. As long a we have young people involved in our club we'll have a club. Now it may not be percentage wise like it was back in the 50's and 60's but look at how well we're doing compared to a lot of the other clubs. Keeping the young people interested, But!, at the same time never, ever, lose sight of the contribution of our seniors,  what I always said is, we need the experience of the older people and the fortitude and hard work that the young people can produce.
Rudy:  What do you consider your greatest success with the club?
Joe:  Aside from the one thing that I already mentioned, the fact that we still exist, to the strength that we have I think the additions that we've made to our club park and club building is part of it. Don't get me wrong that is, not myself alone should get the credit, there we're a lot of people involved there also, at the beginning talks, and a lot of opposition because many people were against expanding the size  and doing anything to improve because they thought that we would not be here in 5 years. And here it's 20 years later and we're still here. My opinion back then was we had a decent amount of money in our treasury. People at our annual meeting would always comment that we had so much money saved and in the bank and we were debt free, everyone would clap but at the same time our club was so small we could only have 100 or 120 people at each events and have to turn people away or so we're packed in like sardines that they did not want to come. So that became a priority to me with to try to do the best we can.  My thoughts were "spend the money now if we need it on the people that deserve it". Because we don't know who will be running the club in 50 years from now and they may not even care.
Rudy:  What is the Hardest part of this position?
Joe:  Oh my gosh, I got back to making decisions and standing by it. And Dealing with personal relationships its funny so many times I felt like I was Solomon from the Bible. Where I had to make a decision with members arguing between each other and they both threatening to quit. They wanted me to make the decisions who was right and who was wrong. One of the things that, Mr Rickert and Mr Holzer helped me with as Mentors, gave me this advise" Do your best possible, you always have to be diplomatic. You may not like the way you handled it personally but try Diplomacy. Its the most important thing. You can upset more people by making rash decisions or getting involved with one side or that other.
Rudy:  What Advice can you give me as I prepare to take this position?
Joe:  Again, before you make decisions go around to ask others what they would do. Get advice from other people, take time sit down, try not to make rash decisions, always think about things ahead of time, and always come prepared for the meeting. You have a fantastic board, and use them. I think the last 10 years I've been so happy with our board. I can't say enough about them. In the early days there were always arguments they weren't always serious but sometimes shouting matches. That hasn't happened in so long and I'm so happy our entire board works together and I think you as president need show them gratitude and thank them all the time.
Rudy:  What are your plans moving forward both you personally and with the club?
Joe:  Personally, I'm not ready to retire but I don't know how close that I am. I'm probably not going to retire completely I do have a lot of hobbies to tell you the truth as far as the club. I plan on staying as active as you guys let me be. Dont hesitate to c all me anytime, or just to ask my opinion.  I do want to stay active. With the Kulture director with Barbara I think I can help there. We worked together before as Jugend Leiter. I'll do my best to stay as active as my health will allow.
Rudy:  What message would you like to share with the members of the club as we face the beginning of the new year?
Joe:  Number one we have a new President, and want you all to know that I support him 100% and I ask the same of  everybody else too. Stand behind him, now you don't have to always agree with him  but support him and move forward and cut out the little nit-picky stuff and look at the greater picture. Question should always be, what is the best answer for the entire club and its entire membership. And if you look at it that way, I think you'll do well. Support your board, support your new president. I'll be there with him. I may not always agree with him as we have in the past but were still friends and we still  have the same intentions we just may have different angles to look at it  from. Eventually we come up with the right answer because if  we didn't do that we wouldn't be here anymore. I think  we've been successful as a club because we do work together. Remember key word, German Family Society.

Rudy: Thank you, Joe, for this fantastic interview. Your words of wisdom, insight and support are invaluable to me, the board and the membership as we move forward.  Know that we will call you for your opinion, guidance and help on future issues we will face.
Here is my advice for you, my friend:  Rest up, get well, regain your strength and come back to the club.  We Miss you, your ideas and your laughter.  Don’t worry about the small stuff and know that we have plenty of jobs we can use you for……… especially during the festivals. J  I look forward to having a shot with you soon and singing our old favorites together.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The GFS Weihnachts Christmas Program was simply amazing!

The 2013 GFS Weihnachts Christmas program was one of, if not the, largest attended in our club's history. The fascination of this very special event was experienced by so many familiar and new faces. Many new members, and their families, came to enjoy in this event with the performances of the Kindergruppe and Junior Youth Group. During this event you heard the children sing German Christmas songs, share the story of German Christmas history, dance, hear solo instrumental performances, and especially share in platters of delicious homemade cookies.

The children showed such joy, after their performances, when they heard Santa arrive with ringing bells and Ho Ho Ho.... He was received with the children running to the front of the club and surrounding him with cheers. Each child from newborn to the President of our club had a chance to sit with Santa for pictures....

The club was filled to the limit with hundreds of people. Many commented that they were so pleased with the filled hall.

Rudy Stagl, acting president, welcomed everyone to this joyous event and introduced as well the very special and momentous lighting of the blue candle near the end of the program. Mrs. Maria Rickert, Mrs. Barbara Tonhaeuser, and Mrs. Anna Koenig, together, lit the candle that symbolizes the national German connection with remembering our rich history. We come together in America to ensure that our connection with the German clubs throughout the US are held closely in beliefs in families and culture. We are also hopeful and wish good to all our members as well as their families near and far. Everyone together sang "Silent Night" first in German, and then in English. A great end to the Weihnachts program!
Helga Hippich, the Ladies Group President, also shared her joy and appreciation to the youth in their singing, words, and dancing as they conveyed such pride in their club.
A big thank you to Mr. Fred Leipold for providing his talents with the accordion. The music was exceptional!