Lynne Breen of Lansing had little intention of writing a book when she first sat down in 2014 with 89-year-old Grand Ledge resident Ernst Floeter, who first came to the United States as a prisoner of war. Like most prisoners of war, Floeter was sent back to Germany, but his love of America brought him and his spouse back to the U.S.
Ernst became a fixture in Grand Ledge, portraying Uncle Sam in the Fourth of July parade and serving as the chairman of the town’s bicentennial celebration of the U.S. He also became well known for his photography business.
Lynne and Floeter ended up cowriting his memoir, “I’ll See You Again, Lady Liberty.”
“We met for about five months at the Logjam restaurant in Grand Ledge, where I took notes. The next week I would give him a chapter to work on,” Breen said.
When the book was released, Breen said, “There were people lined up out the back door of the Logjam.”
Floeter died in 2015, only a short while after the book was published. He had inspired Breen to keep writing about something that was near and dear to his heart — the goodness and ingenuity of Germans and the great influence they played in American culture.
During his later years, Floeter would lecture at schools and community groups about the “goodness” of German Americans. Breen has taken up that mantle with the new, 237-page book, “How German Ingenuity Inspired America: More Fun, More Beauty and More Freedom,” which was recently published by the German American Heritage Foundation of the USA.
The beautifully illustrated, flawlessly documented coffee table book details from A-Z (Astaire to Ziegfeld) the impact German creativity has had on the U.S., since German immigrants began making their way here seeking a better life. Breen’s book documents that influence with passages on beer, sausages, music, science, arts, religion and architecture among others.
The book is a pleasure to leaf through, and it’s an even bigger pleasure to learn just how deep the German influence is across the country. Also included is an obligatory piece on Frankenmuth.
Assisted by friends, who would send her articles about the German influence, Breen also did something surprisingly simple to uncover its breadth.
“My husband has a large collection of nonfiction books and I would look for the letter ‘G’ for Germans in the index,” she said.
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