Helen’s Father: Robert Minze


Helen's Father, Robert Minze

Helen’s Father, Robert Minze

I’ve been scanning a lot of old family photos lately to post historical Haddad and Tahan background to my Dad’s website HenryHaddad.com.  Along the way, I became obsessed with knowing more about the ancestry of both sides of my family.  I think my Mom’s website is a good place to share her family’s history and photos.  Let’s start with her father, Robert Minze, a fascinating fellow indeed!

My mom always talked lovingly about her father.  She said they didn’t have much money when she was a child (she grew up in Brooklyn, New York during the depression), but her father always found ways to entertain Helen, Bob and Bill with wonderful (free) adventures.  I think she said they took tours of ships and firehouses, but I may be embellishing with my own imagination here.  My mom said she never felt poor when she was out with her Dad.

Some of the background I’ll add here are stories my Mom has told me, others are bits of information I’ve discovered on Ancestry.com.  I’ll probably keep adding to this post over time.

Herman was the first president of...

Herman was the first president of…

My grandfather was born with the name Mortimer Minzesheimer in July, 29,1902 in Manhattan, NY to Hermann and Dora Minzesheimer.  His father, Herman (a dentist and business owner) was born in Baden Germany and came to the US in 1891.   I’ll add more about Mortimer’s family in the future, but I want to share this a few tid-bits for now:  The Minzesheimers were a German Jewish family of very accomplished men: lawyers, business owners, community leaders, hospital administrators and firemen. Their family was called Münzesheimer in Stebbach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

I always imagined that Mortimer changed his name when he came to America, in order to assimilate with American society. But that is not the case!  The truth is: he fell in love with a Catholic beauty named Mable Callahan and in order to marry her, he changed his name to Robert Minze and converted to Catholicism!  Also, there was a dramatic divide in the family around 1915 that may have made it easier for Mortimer make a break with his family name.  Not sure if I will go into that story… I need to check with the wishes of the Minze family.  Nothing too shocking, but a bit scandalous for the time!

Robert’s (Mortimer’s) profession at age 17, was listed in the census as “office boy” at his father’s company, Royal Rubber Works.  Eventually he began working in the electronics industry and in later censuses his occupation was listed as Radio Service Man and Radio Engineer.  Not sure if this is my own childhood imagination (or my Mom’s), but I think she said that her Dad helped invent the television!  Now there’s bragging rights, hey? Whether or not it was true, my mom said her family was the first family on her block to have a television in their home.  That part, I believe!


1910 Census, 111th St #452

Mortimer had three sisters:  Marjorie (Saltzer, NJ), 4yrs older, Dorothy (Urbach, Alaska) was 2 years older  and Clarice who was four years younger than he.  Clarice died at just six years old; I haven’t yet discovered the cause of her death.  I imagine that my grandfather (only 10 years old at the time) must have been close to her, because twenty years later, he named his first child: Helen Clarice Minze.  I never knew the origin of my Mom’s middle name until I began researching my genealogy a few months ago.  I wish I had asked my Mom where her unusual middle name came from.  I have no idea if Helen herself ever knew the sad story of her aunt, little Clarice Minzesheimer.  I wish I could ask her now.

I’ve also found one reference to my Mom’s full name as Helen Clarice Cecile Minze.  I’m not sure who Cecile was, but my mom has an unfinished novel titled “Cecile.”  It’s a historical fiction, based on my paternal grandmother’s (Henry’s mother, Angele)  life in Cairo, Egypt.  So, now I am determined to get to the bottom of this mystery: who was the real Cecile?  Maybe my mom was playfully leaving us with another mystery to unravel?

I never was aware of my Jewish ancestry, but it was not a secret either.  My mom used to mention that some of her father’s family was Jewish.  This was actually a relief to me, when she did mention it, because I had secretly wondered if Mortimer Minzesheimer had changed his name when the rise of German facism became recognized in America?  I wondered if anti-German sentiment made whoever Mortimer was (I thought it was my great grandfather), no longer wanted to be associated with the country of Germany?  I only recently learned that Mortimer was my grandfather, and he changed his name for love!  The entire story makes me wonder what happened to the Minzesheimers back in Baden, Germany? Did they all escape Nazi Germany eventually? I haven’t not yet gotten that far in my research, but my brother Matt recently had an DNA Ancestry workup that confirmed that my mother was 50% German Jewish and 50% Irish, with a little bit of British mixed in there!


The Calm Before the Storm.

I was looking for photos of my mom today, the 8th anniversary of her passing, and came across these great pictures of her in Coronado with my boys. The location is a corner condo that had a view of both the beach and the bay (in case you are trying to place the spot). I think these were taken in the late 90’s, just one year before it was discovered that she had breast cancer. Definitely photos of the calm before the storm.

God, I miss her so much.  It seems like much longer than 8 years since she’s been gone.  I’ve needed her so much but I’m relieved that she didn’t have to bear watching Casey unravel these past 5 yrs or so.  Wish she was here to magically make it better; as we all think our mothers can do!  My Mom could always make me feel like everything was going to be OK.


At Nana & PopPop House

Here is a short (3 minute) clip of celebrating Luke’s 1st birthday at NaNa and PopPop’s house.  Mom makes an appearance around the 1:30 mark but her voice and laughter can be heard throughout the entire video.  It reminds me what a perfect hostess she was:  making sure everyone had what they need and always brightening up the conversation with her happy spirit.  How I love her!

More of these to come, as I transfer my home movies from analog tape to digital.
Hope you enjoy them!

Before the Storm Hit

Mom, one month before her open heart surgery in 1995.

Mom, one month before her open heart surgery in 1995.

Here is a photo that my Dad asked me to post to the website. He says it’s a photo of Helen about 1 month before she had open heart surgery. He had Lenore do some editing to it, and they asked me to post it here.

Another Poem by Helen as a Young Girl

Here is another of one of “Young Helen”s poems.  My Dad showed it to me earlier this week and I was surprised that it was the first time I had ever seen it.  It had me laughing out loud.  I thought it was so cute.  She had such great self-deprecating sense of humor! (Which you also get a glimpse of in her Ezra poem).

Click on the image below to open up a full size image.  We are not sure what age she was when she wrote this, but obviously she had not yet met my Dad!  Maybe Uncle Bill could shed some light on whether or not the fiery redhead ever really existed?

By Helen Minze

Click to view

Mom’s Rice Pilaf

I can’t decide if it’s appropriate to post the video here, but I made this video for Henry, who likes to call for the recipe when he’s cooking it.  Come to think of it, cooking Mom’s recipes probably just makes him want to talk to the family.  Which means this video was unnecessary, but it’s done so I’ll post it here for now.

Recipes: Shish Kebab (Mishwee)

Well, I can’t say I’ve tried making this one.  It looked like a lot of work and, as I recall, it disappeared in the blink of an eye  in our family!  But if you are feeling nostalgic and ambitious:  here is the recipe … have at it!   And let me know what time dinner will be served.  I’ll be there on time!

Shis Kebab

Click for Full View

Recipes: Cabbage Crunch Salad

cabbage crunch salad

Click for full sized image.


Here is the Chinese Crunch Salad mom used to make.  You may remember that, originally, she used to fry up those Mai Fun noodles a small batch at a time.  They would make a big mess and cool noise when they puffed up.  Eventually she discovered she could save herself a lot of greasy clean up,  by using this version of the recipe which swapped in Ramen noodles in place of the fried noodles.

This ground breaking discovery was a turning point in her career, finally freeing her to devote more time to writing her first novel.  Murder mystery readers worldwide thank you, Top Ramen! Domo Arigatou Gozaimas !  (That’s for Monica’s amusement. )   🙂


Another note:  You can buy one of those broiler chickens for less than $5 , shred the chicken off it, and turn this into a Chinese Chicken Salad in a jiffy!

MoonRiver (Full Version)

Here is the full version of  Mom singing Moonriver  for Patty, who video-taped it during our trip to Kauaii.  You can hear PopPop in the background teaching one or both of Patty’s boys, how to play poker!  At first, it bothered him to hear that he was talking through Mom’s performance … but I thought it was a very sweet scene to imagine:  Mom singing a sentimental song from Patty’s childhood, so that she could tape it.  And Dad, hanging out in the hotel room with his grandsons teaching them to play cards.

50th Anniversary


Today, on my own 25th wedding anniversary, I came across this wonderful photo of Mom and Dad celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with all of us in Kauaii!   Now, that was a trip to remember.  I’m so glad we all took it together.  Not sure if this photo made it onto Mom’s memorial video, but I like it so much I want to add it to the site.  I hope Scott and I look that good and that happy in another 25 years!

Over the Rainbow

I’m not sure if this is music Mom loved, or just music that makes Dad think of Mom. But I thought he would like having it here on her blog.

Let’s see if I’m right?

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On the Balconey in Coronado


Here’s a beautiful photo that Uncle Bill (Helen’s brother) sent of Helen and Henry at the condo in Coronado.

(I’m reorganizing Mom’s blog and moving these photos, posted long ago,to the main page)

Click for Larger Image

A Lulllaby and Kiss Goodnight

When my mom would put the kids to bed each night, she would let us each pick a song that we wanted her to sing to us before we fell asleep.  I think all of the kids in the family cherish this as a very special part of our childhood.  With six kids, it must have been a very long process, now that I think about it.  But as a child, it was a few minutes of the day when we had our Mom all to ourselves as she sat on the edge of our bed and sang our request.    This song, MoonRiver, (we all later learned) turned out to be the song that everyone thought was “their special song.”   Knowing kids, I wonder if it was the song that took the longest to sing?

When we were in Hawaii for Helen & Henry’s 50th wedding anniversary, Patty coaxed my Mom into singing it to her yet again!  And, thank goodness, she even videotaped  it!  I posted just about 20 seconds of the song here, because I’m not really sure how my Mom would feel about a video of her singing being posted to the intenet?  Would she mind?   When I was a little girl, I thought my Mom had the most beautiful singing voice I’d ever heard,  even prettier than Snow White.  I still think she has the voice of an Angel.  The very best part is the end, where she gives Patty a kiss and tells her she loves her.   It makes me feel like she’s right here, giving me a kiss goodnight.


Four Years Without Mom


Well, if you haven’t noticed, as I tried to retrieve some missing posts and comments today … I managed to wipe out the entire blog on the most crucial day of it’s duty. Here is the image that Dad asked me to scan and post to the site:

Click for Full Size Image

Click to Enlarge Image

This is something that Dad came across in Mom’s desk drawer, I think, and has had hanging on the wall with a photo of Mom for the past year or so.

Now, I’m going to try to retrieve and restore the past year of posts. Also post that video I promised you!    (Scroll down the page here, to read Henry’s comments about this image)

Click for Full Size Image

Click to Enlarge Image

Helen and Aunt Dottie


We all love this photo because Mom is just glowing with beauty, as always. I think Dottie and Helen considered each other the sisters they never had.


Dottie wrote me that looking at photos of my Mom makes her smile along with the tears, because of Helen’s beautiful smile.

Sorrow and the Scarlet Leaf

A few years ago I gave Mom a little box that held index cards I had personalized with her name. Apparently she continued to use the box to keep quotes she liked, story ideas,  notes about books she loved or that friends had recommended. Dad asked me if I wanted to bring it home with me. What a little treasure box it turned out to be. I gave it to her filled with blank note cards, and she gave it back to me filled with thoughtful little treasures from her heart. Sometimes, when I want some words of wisdom from my Mom, I’ll open the box and pull out a random card to see “what my Mom wants to say” to me today.

Today, I plucked out this one and found it particularly poignant. I thought I’d share it with all of you on her website. I’m sure she saved it in reference to the book she had written called “Dread Autumn.” (or was it called Firethorn?).

Sorrow and the scarlet leaf,
Sad thoughts and sunny weather;
Ah me! this glory and this grief
Agree not well together.

(T. W. Parsons – A Song for September)

The full text of the poem can be found here. But Mom wrote down just that one short verse.


There is another quote that I found repeated on many cards in this box, and also tucked into several books. This one I find particularly powerful, because she had written it so many times and it was obviously (and very literally) ‘words she lived by.”

I am afflicted, but not crushed;
Perplexed but not despairing;
Struck down but not destroyed.

(2 Corinthians 4)

First Communion Photo / Confirmation


I think Eileen was asking about this photo, so I thought I would post it here. If you click on the photo is will open up the full size file, which would be more suitable if you wanted to make a print.

We have been calling this “First Holy Communion” but I think Mom looks more grown-up than 7 years old here. Doesn’t she? Could it be her Confirmation? Either way, I think it’s a beautiful photo and Mom looks so lovely.

Click to Enlarge


This photo reminds me of what Matt said in his eulogy, about Mom’s First Communion:

When I was getting ready for my first communion my mom told me how close to God she felt at the time she first took communion. She said she felt God’s love so much, that He was so real, that if she died then (as a 7 year old), that it would be okay because she knew she would be with God. So in a sense I think my mom has been ready for heaven for the last 68 years.

A Family Vacation


familyVacation500I like this photo of our family, particularly of Mom because she looks like such a natural beauty … even camping with five kids. (Click to see larger photo, and you’ll see what I mean).

I don’t know where this taken. The scanned file is tagged 63 camping. We seem to be in a cabin … which isn’t technically camping! And 1963 would make me about 2 years old at the time.


Those must be Mom’s sunglasses that Henry is wearing. Cute!

Ann Marie Walks for the Cure


This was from a sponsor thank you letter we received from our cousin, (Helen’s niece) Ann Marie, who raised thousands of dollars for breast cancer research during the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer 3-day walk. I asked her if it would be okay if I posted it to my mom’s website and Ann Marie said she would honored to have it posted here:


Ann Maire Minze

On October 12-14, 2007, I took an amazing journey and walked 60 miles over the course of three days for breast cancer research and patient support programs in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Breast Cancer 3-day. I signed up for the walk in honor of my Aunt Helen, who had battled breast cancer for 10 years. I walked for her and for all women who have fought this battle with the same strength of mind, body, and soul it takes to go through breast cancer. I signed up not realizing what a great effect this walk would have on my life.

Twenty miles a day… and I was ready! We walked through neighborhoods with pink ribbons on their fences. There were people and their children out on their lawns every day and through every neighborhood, cheering us on. Women, men, and children on the side of the road showing their support with home made signs that said “Let’s go walkers” and “Thank you for walking.” Some had signs that told their stories of survival. Others had signs in memoriam of those they have lost to breast cancer. Some were women and men who were going through chemotherapy, thanking every single one of the 2,500 walkers for walking for them. In addition to all the people who were along the route daily, there were also “cheering stations,” which were almost a quarter of a mile long of people surrounding us like we were celebrities, cheering us on and slapping our hands, telling us to keep going with their home made signs, candy, tissues, support, encouragement, and stories.

Over the three-day walk, we had an incredible safety crew inspiring us to keep walking by dancing and singing with us while crossing us at intersections, and cheering us up and down those many, many hills we had to endure. They stayed with us through the last day. With my body telling me I could take no more, I kept walking, knowing that I was walking for those who couldn’t… like my Aunt Helen. At the closing ceremonies, I learned that the 3-day I was involved in, in Atlanta, Georgia, raised $6.6 million dollars for breast cancer research and patient support programs!

My Aunt Helen passed away on October 17, 2007, just days after I completed the Walk for the Cure. The experience had such a powerful impact on me, I have vowed to be involved in the Breast Cancer 3-day every year, in her name, hoping to one day live in a world without breast cancer because “Everyone deserves a lifetime.”


More pictures of Ann’s journey
at the 3-day event can be seen on This Photo Page.

The Writing and Dining Out Group


Click to see photo full-size

The Writing and Eating GroupThis is a group of my mom’s friends who got together every month for lunch and writing critique-ing. These dear friends are Cheryl Stark, Phyllis Malcolm and Trish Astbury. Speaking to them over the years (at her home, sometimes during hospital visits and eventually at my Mom’s funeral), it was very clear how much they loved my Mom.

I think they said that they met in a writing class at Cal State Fullerton and began as a study group. They just kept on meeting long after the class was over.

This collection of photos was from a trip they took to Coronado together. This framed collage is from a wall in my mom’s kitchen. I think it was a gift from her friends.

With Friends in Coronado


momandfriends.jpgOne of Helen’s favorite places was the condo on Coronado Island. Here’s a photo we came across of Mom with her friends/fellow writers. Left to right: Helen, Pat Wright, Anne Farrell, Linda Prine.  Linda McLaughlin is taking the photo. These 5 talented authors met every Friday for years.