Thanksgiving Memories for the Life of Helmut Tanz - 1935-2008
I was very deeply saddened to learn today (05/01/09) of the death on Christmas Day 2008 of this verydear friend of more than 35 years. He would have turned 73 in only two weeksI first met him early in January in 1972 in Brantford, when I was seeking a low cost 2-bedroomedapartment for myself and my now late older brother Bob, as I had just started a job with Massey-Ferguson in Brantford, and brother Bob was not working at the time, and had joined me while hesought his next employment. We had been sharing a large attic room in a house on Dalhousie Streetthere, with shared use of kitchen and bathrooms with other residents.Helmut was a slim and handsome (as, in my experience, he pretty much remained for the rest of hislife), about 36-years old then, and was at work renovating one of the 6 apartments in the block heowned on Emilie Street. We hit it off, and I rented the quite small, but adequate, two-bedroomapartment. It was an old building - perhaps more than 100 years - and Helmut had put in theupdated bathrooms and renovated everything, including papering the ceilings(!), and adding an exoticopen Arabian Nights-style curved-top doorways to link the kitchens and living rooms. He said he hadpaid someone to help him (especially on the plumbing part) to renovate the first apartment there, sohe could learn how to do it, and then Helmut renovated the rest of the apartments himself.
I lived in two of Helmut’
s apartments there. One was downstairs on the right side from the street andthe other one above it. When I was contemplating moving into the upstairs one, Helmut was stillrenovating it. He told me it was important for him to go and see his mother in Germany, but he wasshort of funds. I offered to move into the unfinished flat and pay regular rent from the moving date tohelp, which is what happened ...and he had enough funds to go to Germany. At the time he worked at Cockshutts, a local farm machinery production company. I had recentlystarted a job at Massey-
Ferguson, which had four factories then in Brantford, and was then the town’s
major employer (about 5,000 staff then in Brantford). He told me he had previously worked at
Massey’s Verity Works, one of the company’s town’s
then four factories, which made farmimplements, mostly to be pulled behind tractors.He would come to me and collect the rent monthly, and I would usually offer him a drink of aninexpensive Napoleon Brandy, my preferred tipple at the time, which he would invariably accept. Thisusually turned into having several drinks of the same for both of us. Helmut would tell me stories of his childhood and later life. He had fond memories of his father (I think he said he was a teacher)who, despite just having one lung, was finally drafted into the German army later in the last desperateyears of World War II and sent to Russia. It seems he disappeared during the siege of Leningrad/Stalingrad and was presumed to have died there. Seehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Stalingrad. This loss and the aftermath of the war resulted in a childhood in Berlin of considerable hardship for Helmut and his mother and sister, who went hungry at times. Despite this, Helmut had many fondand happy memories of Berlin, and of his youth and friends there. He very much wanted to introduce