Good afternoon, this is November 28, 2006 and my name is Naomi Schottenstein
and I am an interviewer for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society. We are at
the office of the Columbus Jewish Federation at 1175 College Avenue, in
Columbus, Ohio and we’re recording for the Columbus Jewish Historical
Interviewer: Today we are interviewing Mitzi Saeman and we will start with,
Mitzi tell me your full name.
Saeman: Marilyn L. Kastner Saeman.
Interviewer: Kastner was your maiden name?
Saeman: Was my maiden name.
Interviewer: And how do you spell that? K-A-S-T-N-E-R.
Saeman: How do you spell “Saeman”? S-A-E-M-A-N
Interviewer: Do you have a Jewish name?
Interviewer: Do you know who you were named after?
Saeman: My, my father’s father, I believe.
Interviewer: Well , we’re not going to dispute that.
Saeman: I think that that’s correct.
Interviewer: How far back can you trace your family?
Saeman: I know that my father came to America in 1918, I believe. He came from Russia. He was eighteen years old.
Interviewer: Do you know what part of Russia or what city?
Saeman: I forget that.
Interviewer: Those were often lost because the names were so unfamiliar to us.
Saeman: I have that information but I don’t have it with me.
Interviewer: Do you know any? Well we’re going to talk more about your parents in just a
minute. Okay. Do you have any stories of the past that your family shared with you as a
youngster or as you grew up?
Saeman: Well, I don’t know if this is the proper time
to tell you this story but I learned tzedakaha at a very early age because my
family being one of only 35 to 40 Jewish families in Piqua where I was born and
raised. All the Jewish men who were struggling at that time, my mother fed them
at our back door and then they went to my father’s office where he gave them
money I suppose to move on to the next town. That’s a memory, that’s not a
story that’s been passed on.
Interviewer: What do you suppose brought them to Piqua? Just passing through?
Saeman: I guess so. Down on their luck and my Dad was well-known in the community. Not only the
Jewish community but well-known throughout the community and I guess they found
their way to my parents’ home.
Interviewer: I want to talk more about your father and what he was doing but let me fill
in a little more with your family’s structure.
Interviewer: What was your mother’s full name?
Saeman: Sarah Colp Kastner. C-O-L-P was her maiden name.
Interviewer: And what country was she born in?
Saeman: She was born in London, England and they came to America when she was six months old.
Interviewer: Her family?
Saeman: Her family.
Interviewer: What about your father? What was his full name?
Saeman: Joseph Martin Saeman.
Interviewer: Do you how your father came to this country?
Saeman: No, I don’t. I know he came to Baltimore originally. He ended up in Dayton for a short time and some
how ended up in Piqua which is about 28 miles north of Dayton where he started a
scrap metal business.
Interviewer: Do you know what brought him to Dayton?
Saeman: I believe that he had other relatives.
Interviewer: That’s usually what happened. Either a landsman or family member.
Interviewer: Was there anybody in Piqua that he knew when he got there?
Saeman: No. As far as I know he was the only one. He later brought his brother Sam who joined him in
the business to Piqua also and he and his family lived there.
Interviewer: I’ve found that in lot of the interviews that I’ve done that the people
who settled in small towns very often were scrap dealers. Do you have any
clue why that happens?
Saeman: It just maybe was an easy way to get started? I
suppose. I think they probably started out as peddlers. I know I have distant
relative in another small town that started out riding on the truck, gathering
things and selling things.
Interviewer: Do you remember a truck? I mean do you remember hearing that they actually
had a truck?
Saeman: Umm, definitely. And that was in another small town near
Interviewer: Do you know if there were other family members in this country? You mentioned
a relative when your dad came to Dayton.
Saeman: He had a brother in Cleveland. Those are the only three of his family that came to America.
Interviewer: Tell us a little bit about his brothers.
Saeman: As I said Sam was in business with him, my uncle Sam lived to be like 96 years old. Had a wonderful family.
Interviewer: Tell us about his family.
Saeman: His wife also, I think Uncle Sam passed away
first and like six months later my Aunt Dinah passed away. They have been
married for over 75 years. They were beautiful, beautiful people.
Interviewer: That’s really a record isn’t it?
Interviewer: When was it that they passed away? What year? Do you remember?
Saeman: Probably like five years ago.
Interviewer: Oh, not that long ago.
Saeman: Right. They were remarkable people. Warm, wonderful people.
Interviewer: So you always maintained a close relationship?
Saeman: Oh, close relationship.
Interviewer: Did they have children?
Saeman: They did. Three daughters and a son. And we were
all very close. I was the youngest in my family. All of my siblings were eleven,
fifteen, and seventeen years older than I.
Interviewer: We’re going to fill in with your
family in just a second but I want to close up with your two uncles. Can you tell us about, the uncle that we’re talking about, his children?
Saeman: Sure. I believe his oldest daughter’s first name is Edna. She now lives in Boca
Raton. She must be 89. Their next daughter, Clara lives in New Jersey, was an
artist, I think still paints somewhat.
Saeman: Right, that’s the word I was trying to come up with. They
adopted a daughter whose mother was Aunt Dinah’s sister and was killed in an
auto accident. Her name’s Edythe and she lives in Canton, Ohio. They had a son
Irving who joined my Dad and Uncle Sam in the scrap metal business. He has
Interviewer: What was their last name?
Interviewer: What about your other uncle?
Saeman: The uncle in Cleveland? I don’t know what he did for a living, I can’t remember.
Interviewer: Give us his name then.
Saeman: His name’s Harry Kastner.
Interviewer: And his wife?
Saeman: His wife’s name was Minnie. They’ve both been gone a
long, long time. And they too had three children and I can’t tell you much
about those kids.
Interviewer: Okay. Now fill me in with your immediate family, your siblings.
Saeman: I have a brother Bud. His name was really Sanford, and he was nicknamed Bud. He passed
away five years ago. He was eleven years older than I was. I can remember when
he was in high school. I was young and we used to go out and sit on the front
porch when he was home for lunch and he would send me down to the corner, a
little grocery store, he loved those little cherry pies. He’d have me get him
a cherry pie and put it on Mom’s bill. That was an every day thing. I think at
that time they were five or ten cents.
Interviewer: And you were probably happy to do that for your brother.
Saeman: I was. I loved him. Next is my sister.
Interviewer: What did your brother do for a livelihood?
Saeman: He was in the service and he came home and did lots of sales jobs. Had his own furniture store.
Interviewer: What city?
Saeman: In Piqua. He stayed in Piqua.
Interviewer: What was the name of the store? Do you remember?
Saeman: I don’t. This was a small store. It was a very small store. I don’t remember the name.
Interviewer: I was kind of interested in that. Our family was in the furniture business. Was he married?
Saeman: He was married. He married a gentile woman.
Interviewer: Her name?
Saeman: Her name was Jane and they have four kids, none of which were
Jewish. Back in those days my Dad could hardly tolerate that but did. Their kids
are spread all over Dayton, Florida, Georgia.
Interviewer: Can you give us the names?
Saeman: Sure, Carla, Craig, you want to know where they all are?
Interviewer: Yeah. Where did Carla settle?
Saeman: Carla settled in Piqua. Craig is in Boca
Raton. That’s not true. He’s in Florida but not in Boca. Lori is in Dayton.
Interviewer: What is Lori’s last name?
Saeman: Lori’s name is Kastner now. That’s her
maiden name. She was married and divorced. And I don’t remember her married
name. And Linda. Her name is Stein and she lives in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
That covers my brother’s family. My next sister, Clara, her last name in Barr.
She lived in Piqua.
Interviewer: Spell that for us.
Saeman: B-A-R-R. She married a Dayton man, Herman Barr and they
lived in Piqua. Herman worked at Wright-Patterson Field in Dayton and traveled
back and forth. My sister Clara didn’t want to move away from Piqua. So they
always lived there.
Interviewer: How long of a drive was that, time wise?
Saeman: About half hour. It wasn’t bad.
Interviewer: It’s a half hour from one part of Columbus to the other.
Saeman: Sure. Exactly. They have two daughters. Judy who lives in Boston, who now Clara lives with Judy
and her husband David. They have no children. My sister just the 25th
of this month celebrated her 89th birthday and is no longer able to
live on her own. She lived in Piqua in the same house for 60 years and it was
heartbreaking to see her have to give that up.
Her other daughter is Lois Foster, F-O-S-T-E-R. They live in the Chicago area
and they have two children also.
Interviewer: And their names?
Saeman: Jeff Foster, and he’s married to Sandra and they have a
son Joel and their daughter Alicia, is married to Jeffery Levin and they have a
daughter Hailey who will soon be three and a baby that is going to be born on
Interviewer: Oh that’s pretty soon, pretty soon. You really have it down pat, all these
names and who belongs to what.
Saeman: I’m very close to all these sisters’ and brother’s children.
Interviewer: That’s a treasure.
Saeman: Oh sure it is.
Interviewer: It sounds like when you told me the Jewish population of Piqua, it sounds
like your family was a good part of that.
Saeman: It was.
Interviewer: A large number of that population.
Saeman: That’s true because I told you about my father’s brother, Sam, my mother also had a sister that lived in Piqua with
Interviewer: Tell us…let’s see, we have all your siblings, okay now tell us about your
Saeman: My mother’s sister’s name was Rebecca Polasky,
P-O-L-A-S-K-Y. Her husband was Harry and he was in the clothing business. They
had two daughters, Beatrice who lived in Dayton who has since passed away and my
cousin Maxine who married Frank Ruben and lives in Dayton. Bea had no children.
Maxine had a daughter and a son and I can’t tell you much about them.
Interviewer: That is quite a family. Did you hear about the names of your grandparents or great grandparents? Can
you tell us anything about them?
Saeman: I knew my mother’s parents. Their names
were Isaac and Adele Colp C-O-L-P. They lived in Xenia which is also a small
town not too far from Dayton and Piqua. I remember visiting there as a child. In
fact my cousin Maxine and I, the two sisters and the families used to go
together and Maxine is only a year old than I am. We used to play together while
our families visited.
Interviewer: What did your family in Dayton, in Xenia do for a living?
Saeman: He had a junk shop also, a scrap metal business. He and my Dad are both written up in
“Prominent Jews in America,” which was published in 1918. I happened to
have that book in my car. It is taped together because it is falling apart. But
I was going to take it to show Jackie to see if he had any ideas where I could
get it rebound.
Interviewer: There are places that do that. I’m sure there are.
Saeman: It would be nice if there could be a copy or copy some of it for the Jewish
Historical Society Archives. I can’t make a copy because I will break the
binding more. If I’m ever able though I will send copies.
Interviewer: When you take it to be bound you might ask them at that time.
Interviewer: That sounds very interesting. I know those books are so precious.
Saeman: It’s not easy to have records from that era.
Interviewer: We were talking about your grandparents. Your mother’s parents.
Interviewer: Your father’s parents…
Saeman: Were not in America?
Interviewer: Do you know what their names were?
Saeman: Usually they talked about their Jewish names. Right, and I’m sure I have all that but didn’t think to bring that with me.
Interviewer: Okay. If I remember, your mother was in England and your father was in Russia. How did they meet?
Saeman: They met in America.
Interviewer: Oh, after they both came here?
Interviewer: Of course your mother was very young when she came here.
Saeman: My mother was brought and my dad was eighteen when he came here.
Interviewer: And where did they meet? Do you know how that story developed.
Saeman: They met in Xenia where her parents lived but I don’t know how my father was.
Interviewer: He was already living in Piqua?
Interviewer: Well alright so they, some communities their communities kind of melded.
Saeman: And I guess my father and her father both being in the scrap metal business probably was a draw.
Interviewer: Sounds like a possibility. Did they talk about what year they got married?
Interviewer: Did they talk about their wedding at all?
Interviewer: Was there anything memorable about that?
Saeman: I don’t remember anything about their wedding. I have their marriage certificate at my house. I do have that.
Interviewer: That would be nice to have a copy of too. That’s all history.
Saeman: Yes, see I never thought…
Interviewer: Yea, yea, well I’m glad we’re talking about this.
Interviewer: See, people often don’t…
Saeman: No, that’s… See, I never thought…
Interviewer: No, that’s what this is about. There’s value to this.
So that’s part of it. Did your mother engage in any of the business at all or was she a home mom?
Saeman: She was a home mom. She was very active in PTA at school. She was secretary
of the Temple sisterhood for many, many years and active in the Temple. And I
need to tell you about the Temple in Piqua.
Interviewer: I want to know about that.
Interviewer: Tell us the name of the Temple.
Saeman: The Temple is Anshe Emeth, A-N-S-H-E, E-M-E-T-H and it was started in the 1850’s. My parents were very
active in keeping it alive with only 35-40 Jewish families in Piqua it also
served surrounding towns of Troy and Covington and small towns in the 25 mile
radius. It still serves in Piqua.
Interviewer: What kind of a building did they meet in? Was it somebody’s house?
Interviewer: Was there a building?
Saeman: This was a building that is still in existence which has had a lot of remodeling.
Interviewer: From 1850?
Interviewer: That’s interesting.
Saeman: To my knowledge it’s the very same building. It’s
just a beautiful little Temple. I was the third bride to be married in that
Saeman: My cousin, my sister, my oldest sister was the first one, and a
cousin, and then myself.
Interviewer: And no weddings before that?
Interviewer: I wonder why? That’s an interesting point.
Saeman: I was only five when Florence was married. I didn’t tell you about that sister.
Saeman: Somehow I missed…
Interviewer: Let’s talk about her right now. We don’t want to loose track of that. Ok.
Saeman: Her name is Florence Amber, A-M-B-E-R. She lives in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. She
just celebrated her 91st birthday.
Saeman: And she is just, she is just remarkable. She is still very alert.
Interviewer: Longevity is your family treasure.
Saeman: Yes it is.
Interviewer: For sure.
Saeman: Yes it is, yes it is. My mother lived to 92, my father died
young, he was only 69.
Interviewer: For that kind of family it is young.
Saeman: Yeah. In fact that’s a story. When
he was s 69 he told my sister, “If I live to be 70 in a couple of months, I
will be an old, old man.”
Interviewer: Well at that time it was.
Saeman: That’s right. Now you think 70 and that’s pretty young.
Interviewer: But your family went beyond, way beyond that. Well, it was your mother’s
side of the family that had the longevity.
Saeman: Uh, huh. Yes.
Interviewer: Now we have your sister, the last sister, do we have her covered, Florence?
Saeman: Covered now? She has four children. Do you want to hear about them?
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.
Saeman: She moved to Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Her husband name was
Eddy Amber. He ran a jewelry store. That was Amber’s Jewelry Store and they
have three sons: Gordon, Phillip, Arnie, and a daughter Michelle. The three boys
still live in the Uniontown area, Michelle lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
They’re all married with families of their own. I feel, I can’t tell you too
much about them and I feel very bad because they live so far away I didn’t…I’ve
never gotten to…I know my nephews and my niece but I don’t know their
Interviewer: You have another generation.
Saeman: Right. And I’ve always felt very bad about
that because. We’re all very close but living that far away. As I said that
sister Florence married when I was five years old so I didn’t really get to
know her until I was an adult.
Interviewer: I can appreciate that. I have somewhat the same experience.
Saeman: Do ya?
Interviewer: Do you , let’s see. What was life like for you as a teenager growing up in
Saeman: It was great. There were five. I was one of five Jewish kinds around
my age. Until I got to high school I was the only Jewish kid in the school
system, in the school I attended. Once I got to high school, all five of us went
to the same high school. We were always excused for Jewish holidays.
Interviewer: Was it comfortable being Jewish?
Saeman: It was comfortable being Jewish. There were no signs of anti-Semitism. To this day I have never run into any for which
I’m very grateful. The five of us on Rosh Hashanah, it became a tradition, we went to services
in the morning with our families, we were out of school for the rest of the day
so the five of us went to a movie in the afternoon together.
Interviewer: That’s a nice way to spend together.
Saeman: Yes, That continued for quite a few years.
Interviewer: It was a special time to be together.
Saeman: Right. It was.
Interviewer: But your family, were they observant?
Saeman: Yes, they were.
Interviewer: In terms of kosrath?
Saeman: No, not kosher. They would have had to go to Dayton
for meats, so they were not kosher, but we certainly observed all the holidays.
On the high holy days we walked to Temple, we did not drive. That was a fair
hike but that was every year.
Interviewer: Did you learn to read Hebrew?
Saeman: I did not.
Interviewer: How about bar and bat mitzvahs?
Saeman: Bat mitzvahs were never too popular at that time.
Saeman: We have student Rabbis that came to Pique from Hebrew Union College
in Cincinnati. They came. When we could afford it, they came every two weeks.
When the congregation couldn’t afford it, it was one a month. So my Sunday
school days were not they’re not wonderful. You know, they were okay. I was
confirmed and I was the only one in my confirmation class.
Interviewer: So you got the award for being the best student?
Saeman: Right. The full treatment. In fact I have a copy of that confirmation with me.
Interviewer: Oh, great. All those copies will be appreciated.
Saeman: I never thought to make a copy, this is my copy.
Interviewer: That’s okay, Well that’s what we’re going to deal with.
Interviewer: So your school career was comfortable, good memories?
Saeman: Always good memories, good memories of growing up in Piqua.
Interviewer: And it sounded like the non-Jewish population appreciated and respected…
Interviewer: …the Jewish people?
Saeman: Yes, I can remember my older sisters telling me that
someone called them “dirty Jews” but that was during school days and
that was so long before I was around that I was fortunate I never came across
Interviewer: Talking about how long you were around, let’s start with you as far…can
you…you want to tell us when you were born?
Saeman: Sure. I was born January 25, 1932. I’m 74 years old and very proud of it. Lots of wrinkles to show for it
and very little gray hair which I am amazed because my mother was gray from the
time I remember her.
Interviewer: You have lovely salt and pepper gray, I would say. But very little
compared, it being 74.
Saeman: It’s not white. No, my mother had beautiful white hair.
Interviewer: So how did you meet your husband?
Saeman: I met Henry at a wedding in Piqua. One
of the five kids that I talked about earlier married a man from Springfield who
my future husband at that time lived at their home. He had come to the United
States on his own from Germany right before the war, right before America got
into the war, I believe in ’41. He was on the last “Kinder” trip
made. So he was by himself in this world. He lived in Springfield, worked for a
newspaper there and lived at this family’s home. I’m digressing from what
you asked. I’m sorry.
Interviewer: That’s okay, I probably helped you digress, too.
Saeman: So the two of them were getting married and that’s where Henry and I met.
Interviewer: Before we go any further, do you know very much about Henry’s family in
Saeman: His father passed away when he was two years old,
Interviewer: What part of Europe did he come from?
Saeman: …which is Germany…which is near the Danube area. His
mother was killed in the Holocaust. He has a sister that left for Israel,
at that time Palestine…I believe two years before he was able to get out. His
mother was able to get the two of them out but was not able to save herself. He
always said she was the bravest woman he ever knew.
Interviewer: There were a lot of brave people and…absolutely, that had to let their
Saeman: And a lot of sad stories.
Interviewer: Absolutely. Can you tell us about his sister who went to Palestine?
Saeman: She’s married and…
Interviewer: Did she continue living in Israel?
Saeman: Yes, right, I don’t know what year
she married. She is…Henry would be 76, I believe she’s like 78 now…is
married to a wonderful man and has three children.
Interviewer: Her husband’s name?
Saeman: Her husband’s name is…all of a sudden I got a blank.
Interviewer: What part of Israel does she live in?
Saeman: Regbah, and I can’t tell you that’s between the two big cities, between Tel Aviv…
Interviewer: Would it be Jerusalem or Haifa?
Interviewer: Haifa, so it’s along the west coast?
Saeman: Yes. I can’t…her husband’s name is Yosif and their last name is N-I-S-O-F-F, or something very similar.
Interviewer: They have children?
Saeman: They have children, they have three children and I
can’t tell you much about them. I’ve met all of them. Henry and I were in
Israel three times. He was there the first time along because our little boys
were young and we couldn’t afford for all of us to go. He had not seen his
sister for 25 years on his first trip.
Interviewer: Isn’t that amazing?
Saeman: It is amazing.
Interviewer: What a reunion?
Interviewer: Let’s get back to Henry now. He’s in the United States and what did he…he was a young man when he came here?
Interviewer: What did he start…?
Saeman: He was lucky enough to get into Wittenberg University
in Springfield. That was through hook or crook because there were so many
soldiers, so many people trying to get in to college at that time.
Interviewer: Let me interrupt you for a minute. When he came here who did he stay with?
Saeman: He was a ward of the Jewish Family Services. He came to Cincinnati, Ohio. And then
they farmed him out to different homes.
Interviewer: Amazing organization that dispensed these youngsters who had no families at
Interviewer: …and found places for a them to start their lives anew./p>
Saeman: Right. He had some rough experiences but he also ended up with a woman who also lived to a ripe old
age who was like his foster mother. After we married we used to go to Cincinnati
for him to just take her to the grocery store. She was a wonderful, wonderful
woman and cared for him.
Interviewer: Well, it meant a lot for him to have somebody get him started.
Saeman: Oh, it certainly did.
Interviewer: And showed him love, and gave him courage to go ahead.
Interviewer: Okay, so his college experience…
Saeman: Was at Wittenberg in Springfield and
once he graduated there he started working on The Springfield Sun which was the
Interviewer: What was his degree in? Sounds like journalism.
Saeman: It wasn’t journalism.
Interviewer: Was his interest in writing? Or was it…
Saeman: It was…his interest was in writing and I don’t remember what his degree was in.
Interviewer: That’s fine. Whatever it was, it gave him the experience to go ahead with
Saeman: Right. He was a reporter and an editor in Springfield for, I think, years
before I met him and then once we married we were there for twelve years and he…then he moved to Dayton and was a reporter for “The Dayton Daily News”
for a while before coming to Worthington where he started his own public
Interviewer:In Worthington, Ohio?
Saeman: In Worthington, Ohio.
Interviewer: Outside of Columbus…
Saeman: Outside of Columbus. We lived there for five years
before we moved to Columbus and have been a member of Temple Israel since 1981.
Interviewer: Let’s go back a little. He gets out of college and where do you come along in the picture? What year
did you meet?
Saeman: We probably met in ’51, ’52 and were married in ’54.
Interviewer: What was your wedding date?
Saeman: August 22, 1954.
Interviewer: Where were you married?
Saeman: In Piqua in our little Temple there. We had
people standing outside that couldn’t get in. It’s a small Temple but it was
a beautiful wedding.
Interviewer: And from there you went immediately to Springfield?
Saeman: To Springfield.
Interviewer: I’m diversing my story a little bit too. I want to go back to where your
Dad was working. He started his business in Piqua and as you said, it sounds like
he became very well respected and very well known. What was some of his activity
in the community? How did he develop his place there?
Saeman: He was a city commissioner. He visited the Piqua Memorial Hospital. He would walk into rooms
where he didn’t know people and he would say “Can I do anything for you?” “What can I do to help?”
He was a wonderful, wonderful warm man. He
was a…he belonged to the Elks Lodge. That’s why I’m saying he was well-known
among non-Jews as well as Jews. He was very active in the United Jewish Appeal.
I can remember Seders at our Temple. You asked about my recollections of Sunday
Interviewer: It sounds like you celebrated some holidays as community.
Saeman: Right. As the Jewish community. We did.
Interviewer: So, Seders you and all other families joined.
Saeman: Right, and we had a big Seder at
home because my sister from Pennsylvania and her kids would come home every
year, I think that normally fell about Easter break and so they were able to
come home and join us. And my brother and his family who lived in Piqua and my
sister and her family lived in Piqua so we had a huge, big Seder.
Interviewer: In addition to going to the Temple?
Saeman: Right. Sure. I think probably first night at home and second night at Temple.
Interviewer: Do you remember the meals that were prepared in the Temple? Did the women do
Saeman: Yes. They did.
Interviewer: Not like today where everything is catered.
Saeman: Right. Sure. There weren’t caterers.
Interviewer: And that developed a sense of camaraderie didn’t it?
Interviewer: Do you remember participating in those activates?
Saeman: No, I was a kid.
Interviewer: Too young?
Saeman: Uh huh.
Interviewer: So you and Henry actually never lived together in Piqua?
Saeman: Not in Piqua, no.
Interviewer: Okay, we’ve gotcha in…we’re going ahead now, moving right ahead to
Worthington. He establishes his…
Saeman: We probably need to back up because our boys
were both born in Springfield.
Interviewer: Okay, let’s start there then.
Saeman: I have a son Marty who is soon to be 50 and we lost our son Joe in 1992. He was 31 years old and had asthma.
Interviewer: He passed away from…
Saeman: He passed away from an asthma attack.
Interviewer: Tell me where…first of all tell me about Joe. Where did he live? Where did
he go to school, college?
Saeman: He did not go to college. He graduated high school
in gee…I guess by that time we were in Worthington but backing up, he was Bar
Mitzvahed…oh, he was Bar Mitzvahed in Worthington, graduated in Worthington and
got into the antique business. Loved watches, antique watches and antique
clothing. And that’s what he was doing until his death.
Interviewer: He was never married?
Saeman: No, he was not married.
Interviewer: There’s a niche in the business for people who find it, isn’t there?
Saeman: Yes, there is. He loved it. In fact I retired from working for the State one month
before Joe passed away and we had made plans that I would go out with him and
learn his business and help him buy and sell.
Interviewer: Was he sickly young person?
Saeman: He started out with allergies which turned
into asthma, which normally that doesn’t happen. We had him to fine doctors,
he had allergy shots, I remember in both arms once a week and why it ever turned
into asthma who knows. He also developed diabetes as an adult and we thought
sure that that would cause his death, you know. We never dreamed that an asthma
attack would take him.
Interviewer: So it was sudden?
Saeman: It was sudden, dreadful. Worst thing a parent can live
Interviewer: Yeah, I’m sure it is and tell us about Marty.
Saeman: Marty is almost 50 years
old. He lives in Reynoldsburg. He just got married for the first time a year ago
in September. And jumping ahead also, again he’s in business with me, we…my
husband Henry started a newspaper for psychologists in 1991. Marty graduated
with a social work degree and was working at various hospital settings and once
Henry started this newspaper he came to work with him. He had really gotten
burned out in the social field. You know, they could meet with people but they
spent most of their lives writing reports. You’ve heard that I’m sure,
before. So he started working with my husband. He did the advertising on the
Interviewer: Excuse me, what was his educational background?
Saeman: He went to Urbana College
and that’s where he got his undergraduate degree and then he went to
Washington University in St. Louis and I can’t tell you what that degree is
Interviewer: So he had a great education.
Interviewer: A great background.
Interviewer: Did you, I don’t know if I asked you but after high school did you continue
on with your education.
Saeman: I went to Ohio State University for one year. Coming
from a small town I was 17 when I graduated and when I entered Ohio State and I
hated it. I was like a lost puppy.
Interviewer: Too overwhelming?
Saeman: It was overwhelming so I only went there for one year.
I could hardly wait to get out of there.
Interviewer: Let’s finish with…okay, so you and Marty are in business together.
Interviewer: What kind of work did you do after you left Ohio State?
Saeman: Until we married I had various office jobs. Once we married I was a stay at home mom until Joe,
the younger son was fourteen. And then I went to work for the State of Ohio.
And I worked for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in their finance
department and later transferred to the Environmental Protection Agency and
worked in their grants area until I retired in June of 1992.
Interviewer: Those sound like wonderful opportunities to develop you skills.
Saeman: They were.
Interviewer: Which probably helped with the business you’re in now.
Saeman: Correct. I’m sorry that I didn’t go on to be an accountant because that’s really what I
love and that’s what I do a lot of now.
Interviewer: On the computer?
Saeman: Much of it on the computer, much of it by hand.
Interviewer: That’s interesting. And your son you seem to be working together okay?
Saeman: Uh huh, very well.
Interviewer: Good, good.
Saeman: I keep thinking of things from the back, I’m sorry, I don’t want to get
you off track but I don’t want to miss these details either.
Interviewer: Can you tell us anything about remembering what you might have remembered
from World War II.
Saeman: Not much.
Interviewer: Did anybody in your family in Piqua, Ohio go to the service?
Saeman: Oh, absolutely. And the thing that I do remember is…I don’t know if you remember
the name Don Gentile and it might have been called Gentili outside of Piqua, he
was a World War II ace. He was killed and he put Piqua on the map. My brother
was in the service, my cousin, Irv was in the service. I remember my parents
driving to see my brother in Texas. But I really don’t remember a whole lot
about the war years…
Interviewer: Well, you were younger and you had no involvement.
Interviewer: In that particular thing.
Interviewer: Okay, I got a lot of this out of the way.
How long did you and Henry go together before you were married?
Saeman: We probably went together a year and then were engaged a half year so probably a
year and a half.
Interviewer: And your parents were pleased with shidduch?
Saeman: At first not so very pleased
because they felt that he would never have enough money to support a family. He
came to the United States with $3.95 in his pocket and managed to get a college
degree through the GI bill because he went into the service.
Interviewer: He did go into the service?
Saeman: He did go into the service, yes.
Interviewer: Tell us a little bit about his involvement in the service, then.
Saeman: He was, I forget where he was in basic training but once he was in line to be shipped
out, the man in front of him got sent to Hawaii and he got sent to Goose Bay, Labrador.
Interviewer: Whoa, that’s an experience.
Saeman: That’s where he spent a good long period of his time.
Interviewer: Was that a good experience for him?
Saeman: He learned to be a teletype operator,
there, which probably helped him in his newspaper career, learning all the
typing. I guess it wasn’t dreadful. He was glad to get out of there.
Interviewer: Can I ask you another possible…
Saeman: Sure you can ask me something else.
Interviewer: When the children were young or just you and Henry, do you remember…can you
tell us anything about a vacation or a trip that you took together that were of
Saeman: I think the first, probably the first trip we took was to Atlantic
City. And that was a year after we were married and we came back through Piqua
and stopped at my parents’ home and they took one look at me and said
“What has happened to your eyes?” My eyes were protruding. I had had a
complete physical like six weeks previous and was fine. It turned out I had
thyroid problems. My father paid for me to go to the Cleveland Clinic where they
gave me radio active iodine, which reduced the…you know made it under active,
so that…and they gave me too much so I take synthroid for the rest of my life.
Later on, down the pike, I had my eyes stitched so that they wouldn’t protrude
as much. They’re still not very pretty but I went through that.
Interviewer: It was probably unusual, probably especially for your parents that they had
not seen any cases like that.
Saeman: Correct. So that’s the vacation that I remember most.
Interviewer: You’re able to deal with this through your life. You live with it.
Saeman: Sure. It wasn’t life threatening or anything. After the boys were born, we went to
Kentucky state parks. As I told you, Henry was a newspaper reporter and didn’t
make a lot of money and I was a stay at home mom, so we didn’t take fancy
vacations. But the kids…I know Marty still talks about the wonderful times that
we had in the Kentucky State Parks. At one point…I know one year we picked up
this elderly woman that I told you had become Henry’s foster mother in
Cincinnati and she went with us. We had good vacations that were not far out
Interviewer: But they were memorable?
Saeman: They were very memorable.
Interviewer: And pleasant?
Saeman: And pleasant.
Interviewer: And so you’ve been to Israel with Henry?
Saeman: Yes, I can’t tell you if it was two or three times. We also
met his sister and brother-in-law in Germany.
Interviewer: I was going to ask you if Henry had been back to Germany.
Saeman: The first time that I went back…that I went
with him to Germany. The first time he went back
to Germany and I was with him, we rented a car. We flew into Frankfurt and
rented a car and he drove to the exact place where he had lived. It was no
longer there but he knew exactly where he had lived. We went to the temple that
he…where he had gone to school and temple. He was a little kid
when he had to leave.
Saeman: He was only 14 but he remembered all this as an adult.
Interviewer: Was he able to get in touch with people there that might have remembered his
Saeman: There weren’t Jewish people in Germany at that point. I can
remember going to Englestaat, which is another German town where his
grandparents lived. In one of these places he came across what would have been a
temple…oh, I can’t get this story straight, I’m sorry. We went to find a
priest and Henry told him “I am a Jew,” “I am a Yud,” and
they talked…this German priest went with us to what was now a warehouse of some
sort but Henry could see where the ever lasting light had been or a Torah would have
been and where the Ark would have been.
Interviewer: So he pieced all that in his mind?
Saeman: Right, right.
Interviewer: Did he have a Jewish education? If they had a Temple there?
Saeman: He did have a Jewish education. A year before he came to America he was sent to Berlin to get
ready to come to America. I don’t know what that’s got to do with the Jewish
education. I know that he…
Interviewer: Did he have a Bar Mitzvah?
Saeman: He did, before he left Germany.
Interviewer: Before the war?
Saeman: The war was probably already on. The war was already on,
but he had a Bar Mitzvah.
Interviewer: So he remembered that.
Saeman: Right, and when we went back to this Temple…this
school and Temple that I was telling you about, in the sanctuary in the social
hall somewhere there was a plaque with pictures and it told exactly where every
person from Ragensburg, what camp they had been sent to.
Interviewer: So his family members were listed there?
Interviewer: I’m sure he took pictures did he?
Saeman: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
Interviewer: Well that had to be very interesting.
Interviewer: Heartbreaking. But there’s some degree of satisfaction in being able
to put that piece of puzzle…
Interviewer: …back into your life in whatever way it is. Otherwise there’s that empty
Interviewer: So it had to be something that he needed.
Interviewer: He could put closure.
Saeman: Of some sort. Also on the second trip to Israel…to Germany he had a memorial
for his mother put on his father’s gravesite. He was…that was the main reason
we went back a second time, because he felt in his heart his mother had no
burial and he wanted a memorial in her memory at his father’s gravesite.
Interviewer: So that was unfinished business that he finished.
Saeman: Right. Well, that the beautiful part of what he did. He was a wonderful,
Interviewer: Tell us about your interest, you and Henry, both of your interest in
Saeman: Henry was much more active in community work than I have
ever been. As I told you before we went on tape, I’m shy. I’m not very outgoing. I’m
good on a one-to-one. I can’t speak in crowds. I belong to Temple Israel’s
sisterhood. I was on their Temple board for a lot of years. Henry was on their
Temple board. I was on the sisterhood board. He was on the Temple board for many
years. I don’t’ know what else to tell you about community, Jewish community or
any other. Henry participated…belonged to the JCC. I used to have to
remind him that we had running water at home because he came to the Jewish
center everyday that he possibly could. He played racket ball and showered over
here. As I say, we always joked that he didn’t know we had hot and cold running
water at home.
Interviewer: But he enjoyed it.
Saeman: Oh, he loved that Jewish Center.
Interviewer: Well, it’s…it was a good way for him, that’s part…that’s like a
community or family kind of interest. Sure.
Saeman: Certainly. And he knew a lot of
the people there.
Interviewer: Were you both involved in any kind of sisterhood programs you know like
Saeman: Henry went to a lot of the programs at the Temple. I
don’t know why I didn’t accept it. I’m so sure I’m an introvert that I just didn’t
feel comfortable in those kind of settings. Had I been called on with a question
I would have just crawled under the table. I’m 74 years old and still I have
been asked to light candles at our Temple many times and it’s…and I have done
it but it makes me crazy.
Interviewer: Well you need more public exposure. That would cure that.
Saeman: Yeah. I took speech lessons, I’ve done all kinds of things.
Interviewer: You know, it’s not for everybody.
Saeman: No, it isn’t. That’s true.
Interviewer: And that’s okay. It sounds like Henry was the one. Henry was the
outgoing one that took over in that family.
Saeman: Absolutely, he was the outgoing one.
Interviewer: What about Marty? Does he have any interest in the community?
Saeman: Not really,
not really. He married a woman who has two married daughters and they each have
two children, so he’s got four grandchildren.
Interviewer: Ready made family.
Saeman: A ready made family and he is so involved with all of
that and working that he doesn’t have time, he also is a member of the Jewish
community center but now that he’s married doesn’t’ get over there very
Interviewer: Tell us about your work, your business. Who does it reach?
Saeman: That’s a newspaper for psychologists and it goes out to over 30,000 psychologists
throughout the United States, every two months, every two months.
Interviewer: That’s impressive.
Saeman: We have all those names in a data base. That’s
what I spend a lot of my time doing is updating, address changes, and deletes
that we can’t reach people any longer. We have Marty, since Henry passed away
Marty had taken over being the editor and the advertising person. He is just
doing a fantastic job. The advertising is what pays the bills and the printing
and postage costs are horrendous and keep going up.
Interviewer: Do you have other employees?
Saeman: I have a helper and Marty we have three
editors and Marty assigns them stories or they come up with story ideas. They go
to conventions. They help put the paper together.
Interviewer: There probably aren’t that many newspapers like yours, are there?
Saeman: No, this is the only one. There is an
American Psychological Association and I guess
they…I know they have their own paper, but this is national and Henry was told
at the time that he was ready to start this that he was the only person in the
United States that could start a newspaper like this and be successful.
Interviewer: That’s amazing.
Saeman: He did that in 1991 and I haven’t told you that he
passed away in 2003.
Interviewer: Okay. Tell us what happened there, what did he pass away from?
Saeman: Henry was diagnosed I think in ’87 with mylofibrosis which is a blood disorder of
red blood cells and he was told here in town that it was not a life
threatening disease but it was a life shortening disease. We were told that over
the phone. This doctor didn’t even have the courtesy to call us into his
office. So Henry, being a newspaper man and inquisitive took himself to the Ohio
State University library and researched this. Ended up calling the Mayo Clinic in
Rochester, Minnesota and happened to get the guru of this illness on the phone.
Which is a rare thing. Which is a very rare disease. This man’s name
was Dr. Silverstein and we went to see him and he put him on medication and we
had to go back there a few times and then Rabbi…Dr. Silverstein passed away and
we saw another doctor there, he was getting weaker. We spent the winter of 2003,
2002 in Florida and we found that we had to go to the Cleveland Clinic which was
probably 40 minutes away from where we were for him to get blood transfusions
Interviewer: Was he ever able to transfer any of his care to Ohio State? Or Columbus in
Saeman: We went to a doctor at Ohio State, most of it was done through our
primary care doctor here at Mt. Carmel.
Interviewer: So he really just kept getting weaker?
Saeman: Correct, and then the last three
weeks of his life he had severe pain from the top of his leg to the bottom of
his feet, excruciating pain, so that he had to be hospitalized and eventually
put into a coma because they could not make the pain go away with anything. He
was on oxicoten and every other heavy dosage medicine and that’s what caused
him to pass away. But it was all from this blood disorder.
Interviewer: Well, you did have a full life together.
Saeman: Oh, we had a wonderful life
together. He was the love of my life and…
Interviewer: I don’t know if I asked you, were you working with him in the business?
Saeman: After my retirement in 1992, he had started the business in ’91 and we lost our son
a month after I quit working and so I started going to his office just as a
place to hang my hat and get out of my sadness and ended up being there and
working with him for many years.
Interviewer: Well, that was wonderful opportunity ’cause it got you into place for what
you are doing now.
Interviewer: And probably was a great deal of satisfaction to know that you were.
Saeman: And we spent every day and every night together.
Saeman: We worked together and lived together.
Interviewer: And here you are working with your son.
Interviewer: And it’s a healthy…
Saeman: And in between, before he got sick we had many nice
trips. You know I told you in the early years we couldn’t afford vacations but
as things got better we spent many vacations…we were in Las Vegas a few times
and San Diego and Switzerland all you know, in Rome. We really traveled
together. We had a wonderful, wonderful life together. Losing our son was
devastating but other than that we had a wonderful like together.
Interviewer: We don’t ask for those tragedies.
Saeman: No, of course not.
Interviewer: And somehow you have covered your life in another way. I know you became
interested in some activity, Jackie Jacobs filled me in a little bit about what
Saeman: We started the B’nai Tzedik Fund through the Columbus
Jewish Foundation. Henry and I knew that we wanted to donate money but we didn’t know what we
wanted to do and at that time, boy I can’t get his name out. Someone was
working with Jackie, anyhow Jackie called us and said, “We have this
project or this fund,” that is…oh how am I going to explain this, when kids are
of Bat and Bar Mitzvah age they can donate part of their moneys their gifts to a
fund at the Columbus Jewish Foundation in their name. They put in a $125.00,
the foundation matches that $125.00 and our fund puts in $250.00. It’s all
in these kids’ individual names, $500.00 fund for each and they can donate any
portion of that to any charity of their choice.
Interviewer: So it’s really directed for charities.
Saeman: It is, it’s for charities…
Interviewer: Not a trip for them…
Interviewer: Or anything like that?
Saeman: No, no. It’s teaching them tzedakah. It’s
teaching them charity.
Interviewer: That’s beautiful. And there was nothing set up like that before?
Saeman: No. There was only one I believe before that in Springfield, Illinois. And I don’t
know, somehow they got word of it here. Now I understand there are several but
ours is the largest one in the United States. I believe we have over 200 kids
that have joined, have gotten involved in this fund.
Interviewer: And are willingly separating some Bar Mitzvah moneys.
Saeman: Right, and Jackie
has hired Larry Schuman who is working part time on this fund to, to get it
better known. We had three kids that went to a national convention last May or
sometime so it’s a wonderful thing.
Interviewer: So the convention has to do with this specific fund.
Interviewer: And it’s a national?
Saeman: I believe so, maybe just America, North America.
Interviewer: But there are quite a few funds like this that have developed over the years.
Saeman: I think ours was the only the second one and is considered one of the biggest
ones. Since Henry’s death also we’ve established funds at the Jewish
Community Center and at Temple Israel in his memory.
Interviewer: Which are things that he enjoyed…
Interviewer: …during his life.
Interviewer: There is a great deal of satisfaction in all this. The fund at the Jewish
Center, what is that?
Saeman: That’s for scholarships for people that can’t afford going to camp.
Interviewer: Oh, for the children for summer camp? It that what that is?
Saeman: I believe so.
Interviewer: And the Temple?
Saeman: The Temple is the same kind of thing but it is for kids
who have parents who can’t afford them to be involved in like NFTY- National
Federation of Temple Youth, conferences, GUCI camp. That type of thing.
Interviewer: It encourages their training for leadership.
Interviewer: For future possibilities. You have to have a great deal of satisfaction. It’s
exciting for me to just to hear about it.
Saeman: Oh, this B’nai Tzedik fund is the
best thing that ever happen to us. That they happen to call and ask if we were
interested in that and we jumped on it not knowing how wonderful it would be.
Interviewer: So it was suggested to you?
Saeman: It was suggested to us. And satisfaction is a thousand percent.
Interviewer: Talk about lighting candles, I think you lit some wonderful candles there.
Saeman: We tried.
Interviewer: That sounds really wonderful. Mitzi, I don’t know how many other situations
you want to talk about and I want you to feel free to, you know, if you have any
other topics. I know that you have typed up some information to share with us. I
think I covered everything.
Saeman: I didn’t tell you that when we lived in Dayton we
belonged to Temple Israel there and our son Marty was Bar Mitzvah there. When we
moved to Worthington we belonged to Beth Tikvah and our son Joe was Bar Mitzvah
there. So we’ve been active in all the temples in the places where we’ve lived.
Interviewer: Do you go back to Piqua? Do you have reason now to still visit?
Saeman: Since my sister left there last year and is now in Boston, I don’t have anyone else there. My parents are buried there.
Interviewer: I was just going to ask you that, where your parents are buried.
Saeman: They’re buried there and so once in a while, not often, I get there.
Interviewer: Is there a Jewish cemetery?
Saeman: There is a Jewish cemetery. It’s small but it’s…
Interviewer: Somebody maintains it?
Interviewer: And there’s still enough families to keep the Temple going?
Interviewer: I found that with a lot of small communities that had synagogues they folded
and the families have had to come to Columbus or other communities.
Saeman: Sure. This temple just underwent…and again I don’t know why I didn’t bring you
copies of these things.
Interviewer: It’s not too late. We’ve got time. This will give you time to think about
things that you might have on hand.
Saeman: Sure. See I didn’t have any idea about the questions we’re going to be asking.
Interviewer: That’s fine. All we need to do is write today’s talk and this will give
you some ideas of what to copy and you understand now that they will go into our
archives and will be treasured and people are interested in how small
communities developed and stay in business this long.
Saeman: Right and the reason
that this Temple in Piqua is still in existence is because a man I believe a
Catholic man, read, maybe he married a Jewish woman, see there again I don’t
have the story straight but he put an article in the Piqua Daily Call about the
needs of Anshe Emeth Temple and people started making donations. It needed a new
Interviewer: So that wasn’t just the Jewish community, that was the whole community?
Interviewer: Oh, that’s interesting too. I think we’re going to just start
Interviewer: And I want to thank you for taking the time and patience to sit through this
Saeman: I thank you also.
Interviewer: I thoroughly enjoyed it and I always find it interesting where people from
real tiny communities because I came from Canton, Ohio.
Saeman: Oh did you?
Interviewer: So I know about little communities and how you absorb all the other smaller villages
Interviewer: And it becomes an enriched situation for everybody.
Saeman: Yes it does.
Interviewer: I hope and pray that you can continue your devotion to the community events
that you and your son and your beloved husband were in.
Saeman: Thank you.
Interviewer: And continue to do good for these youngsters. It all has to do with the kids.
Saeman: Yes, it sure does. They’re our future.
Interviewer: There are future. And our history is helping their future.
Interviewer: It really is. Sure. And thank you again.
Saeman: Sure, I thank you also.
Interviewer: And good wishes for your future, just keep working.
Saeman: That’s my plan.
Interviewer: That’s your plan.
Saeman: That’s keeps my head, my brain working.
Interviewer: Good, good. Well we’re going to come to a conclusion and on behalf of the
Columbus Jewish Historical Society we all thank you for contributing to the
Oral History project and this will conclude our interview. Thank you.
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