Do you have any notable ancestors?

To the world at large, none of my ancestors have done anything that I’m aware of that would be notable in any famous sense.  However, to me personally, a few stand out for their bravery, skills, and traits that ended up being very much a part of me and who I became.  

The two that were most impactful were my great-great-grandfather Franz Heinrich Moorman and my great-grandfather Eugene Adelbert Otto.  Both immigrated to the United States from Germany in the 1800s and I admire that they, like many other European immigrants, decided to leave their parents, siblings, and homeland, most likely never to see them again, and make the dangerous 4,000+ mile trip to the United States.  People often say that I’m lucky to live in the United States, but the reality is that these two Germans are the reason I live here.  Their dream became my reality and the reason I speak English instead of German.

The majority of my Moorman side were farmers.  They settled and many continue to live in Mercer County cities such as Coldwater, Maria Stein, and St. Henry located about eighty miles north of Dayton.  I might have been a country boy if not for my grandfather Leo Albinus Moorman, who came to Dayton for a job working in the management dining room of John H. Patterson, the founder of NCR.  He moved just before the Great Flood of 1913 and my Uncle Ray recalls that he always talked about how NCR built boats to rescue people from the flood.  Sadly, the only memory I have of Grandpa Leo was as a five-year-old watching him laying on a bed in the living room of his west Dayton house on Lookout Avenue during the last months of his life.

When I was a little boy I had a passion for baking which my mother was very nice to let me explore.  What I would not find out until much later in life is that my Otto ancestors, back to the mid-1500s, were bakers, so perhaps I am genetically inclined to get out the flour from time to time.  Among the favorites I make are homemade pie dough, bread dough, pizza dough, and challah bread.  One of my cousins, Gene Otto, opened a bakery/coffee shop in Olympia, Washington, making our ancestor’s passion his everyday work.

One of the break-the-ice lines I use when starting a speech is “I’m the son of two actors, an engineer, and a cheerleader.  Obviously, both my parents were actors and that’s how they met, but if you think my Dad was the engineer and my mother the cheerleader, you’re wrong.  My Dad was both.”  My Dad was a cheerleader at The University of Dayton where he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.  Mom was an accountant and aspiring actress.  They met at The Dayton Blackfriars’ Guild, married in 1950, and continued their acting passion for about another ten years, even including me for a potential part as a ring bearer in one of the plays.  It was many, many years later that I realized that they were the reason I like to talk in front of an audience.  I am an actor at heart.  Only my brother Martin took acting to the same level as our parents, performing in local theatre groups.  But our other brothers, Greg and Dave, don’t shy away from public speaking or performing.  It’s in our blood.

 

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