The man I never knew
September 7, 2000
To say up front, I don’t know who FRED H. SCHUMANN was, only that at 94, he died, and that he was originally of Jersey City and that he lived out the last years of his life in Hasbrouck Heights – a little town where my grandfather lived and went to school.
The fact is Schumann’s obituary attracted my attention only because of where he worked. He was a purchasing agent for Ford Motor Co. in Mahwah, from which he retired 29 years ago after having worked here for 45 years.
The plant closed sometime in the mid-1980s, part of that insane effort to economize by such corporations during the Reagan era.
But that is not why I felt a connection to Schumann who I never met. Instead, he and I seemed to cross paths without knowing it, strangers passing in the night – so to speak. In 1969, I passed the Ford plant numerous times while I hitch rides on the back of freight trains while I played hooky from school. Each time I passed that plant, I would stare out at the miles of new cars that filled the space around the plant, struck by some kind of awe. In 1977, I attended the marriage of a fellow worker who married at the First United Methodist Church in Hasbrouck Heights, a church to which Schumann belonged. Late, from 1992 until last November, I became the unofficial guest at Masonic Lodge 35 in Secaucus where the independents held their after-election reception.
Others might find these small matters too insignificant to make note of, especially considering I do not know the man, yet to me, our passing seems symbolic of the times, how we two passed again and again the way many people do, perhaps even seeing each other at moments, but not recognizing each other or how close we have come to each other over the years.