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Dreifort History & Biographies

Not much is known of the ancient history of the Dreifort family. Until the end of the 19th Century Dreiforts were probably peasant farmers on the Eastern frontier of Germany. They have been traced to a small town in East Prussia called Prussian Holland. That town was in the Kingdom of Prussia, which became a part of the German Empire after the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. It is not clear when the first Dreiforts arrived in East Prussia or exactly what they did there. One theory is that they were among a group of Huguenots who left Holland and migrated east to escape religious persecution in the 15th Century. Most of East Prussia was made up of landed estates owned by the German landed aristocracy known as Junkers. It is probable that the Dreiforts worked on one of those estates probably as farm laborers of craftsmen.

The opportunities for a young man in East Prussia were not great unless he was one of those Junkers. The two branches of the family we are able to trace seem to have left East Prussia about the same time late in the 19th Century in answer to the call of the industrial revolution and urbanization. This movement from the country to the city was occurring in Europe and America at that time. One branch of the family moved to Berlin and became civil servants, while another moved to the industrial Ruhr area before immigrating to America.

Karl Wilhelm Dreifort (born September 7, 1864 in Prussian Holland) was in Essen; probably working in the steel industry by the time he was 20 years old. It was at that time that he married his first wife, Auguste Kolbe, and had his first child, Auguste Maria Wilhelmina Dreifort. The family lived in Essen for approximately 12 years before deciding to immigrate to America. Karl, Auguste and their 7 children arrived in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania on September 28. 1896. He had been recruited to work in the fledgling steel industry in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, having obtained the necessary skills and experience while working for the Krupp steel mills in Essen, Germany. Essen is located in the Ruhr area, then and now the industrial heartland of Germany. In that respect, Karl and his family probably felt at home after moving to the cradle of the iron and steel industry of America.

Following the biblical edict, Karl was fruitful and multiplied in Germany and again when he arrived in America. He was a 32-year-old family man when he emigrated. In addition to his wife, Auguste, he brought 7 children between the ages of 12 and 1 (Auguste Maria Wilhelmina, Karl August Bernhard, Herman Ferdinand Wilhelm, Maria Elise, Gustav Albert, Alfred Emil Wilhelm, and Else Emma. One child, Gustav Adolf died at one year of age in 1891. Between 1884 and 1916, a period of 32 years, Karl fathered 15 children with two wives. As far as we know, all Dreiforts in America are descended from Karl and his two wives. No surviving Dreiforts in Germany or the rest of the world other than those descended from Karl Wilhelm Dreifort have been discovered.

Karl's wife, Auguste, survived for only 5 years after arriving in America. She died December 28, 1901 at the age of 43. Karl was left with the problem of supporting seven children between the ages of 16 and 6. It is certain that his oldest daughter, Augusta, known as Gustie, assumed a great deal of this burden. Less than a year after his first wife's death Karl thought he had a solution to his problems. On September 19, 1902 he married his sister in law Karoline Landsbach nee Kolbe. At the time of their marriage, Karoline was a widow. The family records indicate that this plan did not work out. Karl and Karoline lived together in his home in Monesson, Pennsylvania for only two days before she returned to her own home in Beaver Falls. A divorce was granted on December 24, 1904. Some think this could be a reflection on the problems of living with a Dreifort man. There is a tradition concerning Dreifort men and the women they marry, which will be discussed later.

Karl was able to obtain some stability in his family life when he married his third wife, Emma Stein on June 3, 1905 three and one half years after the death of his first wife, Auguste. Karl was 41 and Emma was 25 at the time of their marriage. On August 5, 1906 the first of their 7 children, Harry Paul August, was born. The next 6 children (Jennie Gertrude, Gertrude Emma, Arthur Paul Kurt, Paul, Ernest and Bertha) were all born over the 10-year period culminating with Bertha's birth on May 17, 1916.

Sometime around the death of their mother and their father's marriage to Emma, the older children began to migrate from Pennsylvania to the Cleveland area. The primary motivation was probably the search for jobs. It is thought that Karl August Bernhard, also known as uncle Charlie was the first to make the journey. His brothers and sisters then followed him. Many of the family ended up working for General Electric and other large industries in Cleveland.

Karl stayed in Pennsylvania until his death on April 18, 1922 at the age of 58. Emma and her children gradually migrated to Cleveland as well. For most of the period of the 1920s through the 1950s Cleveland was the center of the Dreifort family. Starting with about the third generation Dreiforts began to move to other parts of the country for economic and other reasons. Today there are Dreiforts all over the country but only two listed in the Cleveland telephone directory. All of these Dreiforts are decedents of Karl Wilhelm who immigrated in 1896.

The Dreifort family represents an American success story, which was repeated over and over during the surge of immigration at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries. A man with little formal education, some work skills and a strong work ethic was able to raise a large family, who went on to become useful and productive citizens. None of the family spoke English when they arrived in America, but they quickly learned it as was typical of immigrants in those days. The children did not have much formal education, because they had to go to work to help support the family. Most of the boys were working in factories by the time they were teenagers. In spite of their lack of formal education, the children learned trades and were able to support their own families in a good middle class fashion through the 1920s and even during the great depression of the 1930s. There is something in the Dreifort character that made that possible.

Although the Dreifort character has been affected by the maternal influence of the many Dreifort wives, the major thread of that character, for good and bad, can be traced back to Karl Wilhelm. This is particularly true for male Dreiforts. It is common for a male Dreifort to be told he is exactly like his father. Over the years it has been a sort of parlor game for Dreifort women to discuss Dreifort men at family gatherings. Although these discussions included a lot of hyperbole and tended to be stereotypical, they probably reflected a lot of truth as well. For the most part Dreifort men have been honest, hard working family men. They were loyal husbands and good providers. Some of the major complaints about Dreifort men in the early generations were the flip side of the good stuff. Most of their time and attention was devoted to their work both on the job and around the home. They didn't have much time for entertainment or cultural pursuits. They were strict and demanding fathers. Even though they didn't have a lot of formal education, they expected the second generation to achieve the American dream. It was their hard work, in most cases, that made that possible.

Another point concerning the Dreifort family relates to religion. There isn't much evidence that the early generations were deeply involved with organized religion. As was true for most Germans from Prussia, the Dreiforts were Lutheran. All the children were baptized and all the marriages occurred in the Lutheran Church. However, some of the children married members of the Roman Catholic Church as well as members of other Protestant denominations. Although they were not always active church members, the family maintained a good grip on basic Judeo Christian Ethics. As a result of intermarriage and conversion you will find Dreiforts today who are Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. We don't believe there are any Islamic Dreiforts at this time.

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The Herman Dreifort Family

By Robert C. Dreifort

herman dreifort
Herman Dreifort with his motorcycle. c. 1910

Herman Wilhelm Dreifort, my grandfather, was the third child of Karl Wilhelm Dreifort. Herman was born in Essen, Germany in 1887 and immigrated with his family to America in 1896.   The family settled in the Pittsburgh Pennsylvania area where Karl worked in the steel industry.  Herman received little formal education.  He was nine years old when he arrived in America and he started work to help support the family when he was only 12.   Although his first work experience was as a low skilled factory worker, he was able to obtain the skills of a tool and die maker through his on the job experience.  He received that experience after moving to Cleveland and obtaining employment with the General Electric National Lamp Works on East 45th Street, which opened on May 3, 1901.  His older brother, Karl and his younger brother Alfred also took advantage of the employment opportunities with GE in Cleveland.  As GE grew and prospered Herman and his brothers grew and prospered as well.  He stayed with GE until he retired at the age of 65.  Most of that time he worked at the GE Lamp Equipment Operations plant on East 152nd Street in the Collinwood section of Cleveland.  Like most of the first generation of Dreiforts in America, his life was devoted to his work and the support of his family.  His extended family in the Cleveland area grew larger as most of the children of Karl Wilhelm migrated there to join their siblings in that city of opportunities.  Many of those Dreiforts settled in Collinwood.

Herman and Tillie 1912
dreifort easter

Herman married my grandmother Matilda (Tillie) Molter, an immigrant from Bavaria in 1912.  They had four children, Carl Herman, Donald Alois, Ralph William, and Lorna.  When Carl was born in 1914, the family lived at East 40th and Hough Avenue in Cleveland.  Donald was also born in that house.  The other two children were born after they moved to Alhambra Road in the Collinwood section of Cleveland in 1920.  This coincided with the opening of the new GE Lamp Equipment Operations plant on East 152nd Street.  At that time Carl was 6 years old and just starting school.  He and his siblings attended the neighborhood public schools, William H. Brett Elementary School through grade 8 and Collinwood High School. 

herman dreifort and family
Herman and Tillie Dreifort with their first three children, Carl, Donald, and Ralph. c. 1922

Grandpa was first and foremost a good provider and a dedicated family man.  Unfortunately his people skills were weak.  His life revolved around his work.  He didn’t have any hobbies other than home handyman projects.  His entertainment consisted of reading the Cleveland Press and listening to the radio and later the television.  He had a strong work ethic and a strong sense of right and wrong.  He attempted to convey these standards to his children and was a strict disciplinarian.  His sense of humor was based upon sarcasm and wasn’t always appreciated, especially by women. 

Grandma, on the other hand, was very easy going.  The children and grandchildren could usually get their way with her.  Grandpa never called her by her given name.  He always referred to her as the Mrs. Of course she was Ma to the children and Grandma to the grandchildren of which there were eventually seven.  With such a large family, Grandma usually served herself from the stove while the rest of the family ate at the table.  This didn’t seem to bother her; but it did upset the other women in the family.  Before getting married, she had been employed as an office worker at the National Carbon Company.  She had studied secretarial science at the Dyke Spenserian College in Cleveland.  As with most German wives of that period her main interest was in being a good wife and mother.  However her office training enabled her in later years to find work as a secretary at the White Motor Company to help fund Donald’s college education and to support the war effort during World War II.

Grandma related the story of their move to Collinwood as a great adventure.  They moved early in the year and the snow was so high they didn’t see the pavement on their street until the snow had melted that spring.  Their moving van was a horse drawn sled.  This part of Cleveland had previously been the Village of Collinwood and had been recently annexed by Cleveland.  Much of the area was still undeveloped.  The home they moved into was a small three bedroom, two story single-family house with an unfinished attic and a full basement.  It had a covered porch across the front, which Grandma eventually enclosed with honeysuckle vines, hydrangeas, and other plantings.  It also had a one-car garage, which was later expanded to two cars, for the family Model T Ford, Although it was a rather modest house and lot, it must have seemed like a mansion to them.  It was a wonderful place to raise a family and it stayed in the family for almost sixty years. 

As the neighborhood filled in with houses, the lot next to the Dreifort house remained vacant, because the neighbors living in the next house to the South owned it.  This always gave a spacious feel to what was actually a modest sized lot.  As the street developed, many of the homes added were typical Cleveland two family units with a family downstairs and another upstairs.  These two family units were known as  “Spitz Houses”, because a developer named Spitz had built them.  The neighborhood was basically a blue-collar ethnic community with many Italian, Slovenian and various Eastern European immigrants represented.  It was a residential enclave surrounded by industrial areas along East 152nd and Ivanhoe on the West, and land that would become industrial on the East side of London Road.  At the time the Dreiforts moved to Alhambra, the property east of London Road was a small airfield.  On the South side of the neighborhood was an industrial area between Euclid Avenue and Mandalay Road.  The Nickel Plate Railroad ran through that area and there was a major switching yards just South of Mandalay.  The Dreifort home was less than a block North of Mandalay and the Industry located there.  St. Clair Avenue, a major commercial thoroughfare, bounded the neighborhood on the North.  A little farther North was the New York Central Railroad with its own industrial area around it. 

All of this makes the area sound quite industrial and in some respects it was.  But within the residential blocks the atmosphere was quite pleasant and in some ways almost bucolic.  People could enjoy their yards and gardens, but still be only a few blocks from the factories at which they worked.   Grandpa actually walked to and from work every day, a distance of a little over one mile each way.  The major shopping area of the community was called Five Points because it was the intersection of St. Clair, East 152nd Street and Ivanhoe Road.  Collinwood High School is located at Five Points approximately three quarters of a mile from the Dreifort home.  In later years, when his sons would suggest that he take up golf for some exercise, Grandpa would gruffly say, “I don’t need to golf.  I can get just as much exercise walking up to Five Points and back.”  

All the streets in that community had names, which reflect a literary influence.  They included names such as Stevenson, Nathaniel, Ivanhoe, Holmes, and two streets that give me my favorite intersection of Rudyard and Kipling.  Brett School was located on Kipling as was Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, which was the center of life for many of the ethnic residents.  Many members of that parish were Italian, resulting in the area being known as a second Little Italy in the Cleveland Community.  In fact the Parish Feast of the Assumption celebration always rivaled the one held in the other Little Italy on Murray Hill. 

Although, Grandma was raised in the Catholic Church, as were most Southern German children, she did not attend Church as an adult.  Grandpa had been baptized as a Lutheran as were all of his brothers and sisters.  However, he never went to church except for the occasional wedding or funeral.  The children were not churchgoers either as they were growing up.  They obtained their moral and ethical upbringing primarily from the example set by their parents in the conduct of their daily lives.  Later in life some of the children and grandchildren have looked to organized religion for spiritual support.  That support has come from the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish religions.

The decade of the 1920s was an interesting time in the Collinwood neighborhood.  It was a time of economic boom for the most part and most of the community participated in that through their employment in the successful businesses of the area.  Grandpa was a dedicated employee of GE throughout his working life.  He was known as a hard worker and loyal employee.  In 2006 C.F Sindy published a history of Collinwood.  Mr. Sindy also was a long time employee at GE and resident of Collinwood.   Part of that employment coincided with Grandpa’s tenure at GE.  Sindy remembered Grandpa fondly as “Herman the German”.   Since Sindy was also from a German immigrant family, he used to practice his German with Grandpa.  They both worked in Lamp Equipment Operations or LEO.  Grandpa was a machinist and tool and die maker in the pilot lab in which new machines and improvements to existing machines were designed and produced.  He was involved in every innovation in electric bulb manufacture from GE’s start in the business until he retired in 1952.

Outside of work Grandpa’s main activity was working around the house.  He always had some project underway or was helping one of his relatives with their projects.  On a normal day he would come home from work and sit at his place at the kitchen table to read the Cleveland Press.  After family dinner he would disappear to his basement or garage to work on his projects.  Other than the newspaper and certain technical writings, Grandpa was not much of a reader.  Grandma, on the other hand, was a voracious reader.  In spite of having little formal education, she was quite knowledgeable and well informed.  She was also pretty good at playing the piano.  The children were encouraged to do well in school and they all graduated from Collinwood High School.  Due to the economic depression of the 1930s, only Donald was able to go to college.    Fortunately Grandpa was able to work at GE through the hard economic times of the 1930s.  So the family was better off than many who lived through that period.  This is an example of the well-known pattern of Dreifort men being good supporters for their families. 

Grandpa retired from GE at age 65 in 1952.  Unfortunately he died less than 2 years later.  He became very sick and the doctors couldn’t determine what was causing it.  The symptoms pointed to a heart problem; but it wasn’t until they performed an autopsy that they discovered he had emphysema.  It is still a mystery how someone, who never smoked could have contacted that disease.  It is unfortunate that he died so young; but it is also unclear how he would have enjoyed his retirement had he lived longer.  All he ever knew in life was his work.  Grandma lived about 18 years after Grandpa died.  She stayed in the Alhambra Road house tending her garden and feeding the birds.  She stayed active until the end while being supported by and giving support to her children and grandchildren.  We like to say,  “Grandma died with her boots on”.  She collapsed due to a cerebral hemorrhage on the sidewalk while pulling her grocery cart home from 5 Points one cold and snowy day in February 1971.  They say she was dead when she hit the ground. 

Herman and Tillie Dreifort led rather normal and yet remarkable lives.  Born in Germany and arriving in a new and unfamiliar country and needing to learn a new language, they achieved the American dream of a successful life for themselves and their children.  They were able to do this in spite of the hardships of a great economic depression and two World Wars.  Furthermore, they and others of their generation made it possible for the current generation of Dreiforts to achieve any success we currently enjoy.  We all owe them more than we can express, because we truly stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. 

Carl Herman Dreifort

By Robert C.Dreifort

Carl Herman Dreifort was born on the eve of World War I in Cleveland, Ohio on February 28, 1914, the first child of German immigrant parents, Herman and Tillie Dreifort in a house at East 40th Street and Hough Avenue.  This was excellent timing in two respects.  He missed being a leap year baby by one day, and he ended up being too young for World War I and too old for World War II.  The family moved to a newly developed section of Collinwood in 1920, which was a normal step in the upward and outward mobility of immigrant families in those days.  As a child Carl attended the Cleveland Public Schools and led a normally active life during the roaring 20s.  That was a time of relative prosperity and security and his hard working blue-color father provided well for his family, which eventually included Carl, his two brothers, Donald and Ralph and their sister, Lorna. 

The work ethic is very strong in the Dreifort family.  Carl started working as a young boy helping his father and doing odd jobs around his neighborhood.  For many summers he worked at Sorter’s Fruit Farm and Fruit Stand located at the corner of Chardon and Bishop Roads in Lake County. He had a long bike ride or he sometimes hitchhiked to get there.  That experience helped develop his lifelong interest in gardening and horticulture.  He graduated from Collinwood High School in 1932, the heart of the Great Depression.  These were hard times for most families. Fortunately his father who had great skill as a machinist was able to maintain his job with General Electric throughout the Depression. 

Since it was difficult to find work in 1932, Carl took some postgraduate courses in music at Collinwood High School.  This led to his lifelong interest in music as a hobby, which included playing the piano and organ.  This interest was surely supported by his mother, who was a piano player herself.  He also did his best to find work to help the family cope during those hard times.  He told me many times of all the jobs he took to bring home some money to supplement the family coffers and how hard it was to find those jobs.  One of those jobs was at a key shop in the Rose Building in downtown Cleveland.  It paid 15 cents per hour, hardly enough to pay for his streetcar fare, his lunch and have some left over.  But in those days every little bit helped and it was important just to have a job.  One side benefit of having a variety of jobs was the skills he developed.  For example, he could fix locks as a result of his key shop experience.

Carl, Greta and friends – 1937 Easter Parade
dreifort easter

Those Depression years were not all hard work and no play.  He had close friends with whom he spent time doing the fun things that young people enjoyed.  These things included trips in the Model T Ford, hitchhiking to Chicago to see the Century of Progress Worlds Fair, and dancing at the many ballrooms then existing in Cleveland.  One of his close friends, Kenny Miller, introduced him to a young girl from Canada named Greta.  Kenny was living with the Dreifort family at the time.  Carl and Kenny had converted the unfinished attic into a bedroom, which they shared.  They were working as painters and handymen in an apartment building at East 116th Street and Euclid Avenue, where Kenny’s father was the custodian.  Greta and her mother were tenants in the building.  After a whirlwind courtship, which included dancing at the Trianon Ballroom and trips to Euclid Beach, they were married on September 5, 1938.  Their first child, Robert Carl, was born on the eve of World War II in 1940. 

In recognition of his new responsibilities as a husband and parent Carl had moved his new family early in 1940 to a duplex on the corner of Shaw Avenue and Plymouth Place in East Cleveland.  Dad always told me that the only way we could afford to live there was the fact that he did most of the work of maintenance and remodeling himself with the help of many family members.  That tradition continued as he taught me how to do all the things required to maintain a home and be otherwise self-sufficient, skills I tried to pass on to my children as well.  The first thing he did to the home in East Cleveland was convert the 3rd floor into a 2-bedroom apartment.  Dad, Grandpa and several other relatives worked on that project, which included building a large dormer to enlarge the third floor and installing a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.  We stayed at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Collinwood until the 3rd floor was ready.  We then lived in that suite until my sister, Janet, was born in 1944.  Then we moved to the first floor and lived there until 1952.

Dad did not join the military service in World War II.  He often told me that he considered making my middle name “weather-strip”, because I kept him out of the draft.  In any case, at the age of 27 with a pre Pearl Harbor child, he was working in an essential war industry, first in the maintenance department of National Acme Company located in northwest Collinwood and later as a toolmaker at Parker Appliance located at London Road and Euclid Avenue.  Incidentally, the famous singer, Frankie Laine, was also employed at Parker Appliance at that time.  Grandma and Grandpa kept a flag with two stars in their window during the war representing two sons in the service.  Donald, a graduate of Case Institute of Technology with a degree in civil engineering, was a sergeant in the Army Corps of Engineers.  He worked on the Lido Road in the China-Burma-India Theater.  Ralph was in the Navy stationed on a destroyer in the Caribbean.  Unfortunately, Dad’s friend, Kenny Miller, was drafted and lost his life in a blackout accident while stationed in England.  Dad used to tease his brothers about how hard things were on the home front with all the rationing and other depravations endured by the civilians.  One of the depravations he claimed didn’t carry much weight, however.  His brothers knew he didn’t use cigarettes or chewing gum, commodities that were scarce on the home front but plentiful for servicemen.  A real example of those depravations is the fact that he sold his new 1941 Chevrolet, because he couldn’t get gasoline or tires.  He walked to work at National Acme and later took the streetcar to his job at Parker Appliance.  The Dreifort family did all it could to support the war effort and fortunately they came out of it with their lives and prepared to take advantage of the opportunities available in the post war world. 

The end of the War with the shift to a consumer economy provided new opportunities for those who had survived.  Although he continued to have great respect for physical labor, Dad knew that he could be more successful in white-collar work.  That also would require additional education.  One incident that helped move him away from blue-collar work reflected his dislike of labor unions.  He had been required to join the union in order to work at Parker Appliance.  Things came to a head at the end of the war, when the union called a strike at Parker Appliance.  This was a very contentious affair resulting in the police being called out.   Dad told of having to get a police escort into and out of the factory in order to retrieve his tools.  After that incident, he left Parker Appliance to change the direction of his career. 

Dad started a new career as an engineer at Hauserman Company, a manufacturer of architectural interiors based upon a system of movable steel walls.  He was one of a group of young employees, who joined a training program, which included some class work at Fenn College.  This white-collar position was a departure from the skilled factory work he had been doing during the War.  It was a part of the general post war growth and upward mobility experienced in this country.  This eventually resulted in a family move to a single-family home in Cleveland Heights. Although we moved to Cleveland Heights, we did not leave the East Cleveland School District.  At that time East Cleveland was a fine system and we were happy to remain a part of that community.  Carl kept the house in East Cleveland as a rental property for many years.  This meant that he now had to maintain two houses in addition to working at a demanding full time job.  This is another example of the Dreifort work ethic.

Dad’s job was important to him and he took pride in his work and the company.   I always thought of him as company man and he felt that way too.  His loyalty probably reflects the long and successful relationship his father and uncles had with General Electric.  That relationship had seen the family through the depression and helped win the war.  Dad was with Hauserman for over 25 years.  As it turned out, all of his loyalty didn’t help him much.  He was a victim of an early version of job restructuring in which many of the oldest employee’s jobs were eliminated.   It appeared to be age discrimination; but Dad ended up not pursuing a case.  This sudden loss of his livelihood temporarily hurt his self-esteem and also resulted in a loss of some pension benefits.  It was difficult for a man his age (58) to find appropriate employment.  He tried real estate sales; but he did not have the temperament of a salesman.  Fortunately he found a position as chief draftsman for American Standard Company, which later was bought out by Tappan.  He enjoyed that work in spite of the long commute from South Euclid to Elyria.  He finally retired from Tappan at age 68 in 1982.

carl greta dreifort
Carl and Greta Dreifort

Carl and Greta had moved to Monticello Boulevard in South Euclid in 1961.  He chose the house partly because of the large and deep double lot it sat upon.  The years in that home were the best of his life.  His children had grown and left home and his life now focused on his garden and the joys of home improvement.  The things he enjoyed the most would seem to others to be work.  Home handyman activities, which once were essential, became the things he enjoyed the most even though he could then afford to hire people to do some of the work.  Even after retiring he took an interest in work projects even though he couldn’t always participate fully.  One summer the City installed sewer lines along Monticello and the work crews said they couldn’t have done it without Dad’s supervision.  His huge garden every summer was a major joy as well as a lot of work.  He was a great sports fan, with a great love for the Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Browns.  Over his lifetime he attended games at all the local stadiums and arenas.  He remembered seeing Babe Ruth hit home runs over the right field fence at League Park and attended one of the 1948 World Series games at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.  One of his last memories was of a trip to see the Indians play one of their first games at Jacobs Field.  He was a player as well going back to his high school days and to the Hauserman Softball team on which I remember seeing him play.  He passed that love of sport on to his children.  I remember him teaching me to bat left handed because of the poor eyesight in my left eye.  I never went very far in sports myself, but my Sister, Janet, must have been inspired.  She was an all-star pitcher on a fast pitch softball team as well as an avid golfer.   

In the end Dad was a victim of Alzheimer’s disease, which finally took his life on May 13, 1997.  Even then his interest and devotion were to the well being of his family.  As the terrible disease took control of his mind and body, his main concern was for his wife, and his main regret was that he could not be home with her.  His greatest source of happiness always was the time he spent with his family members especially his wife, Greta.  That pretty much sums up the meaning of this very remarkable life.


Robert Dreifort - My Life Since Shaw High School

Since leaving Shaw High School 50 years ago, I have educated myself, married a wonderful wife, raised two great kids, and pursued happiness through a number of interesting hobbies, all of which was supported by a long and checkered career in government, health care and higher education mostly in the Cleveland area.

I met my wife, Jean, while we were undergraduates at Western Reserve University. I have my AB in History and Political Science and Jean earned a BS in Psychology. Jean went on to get an MSLS at Western Reserve and I have a Master of Public administration Degree from Cleveland State.

The first twenty years of my working life involved a number of positions in government at the federal, municipal and county levels. I was a field representative for the federal Urban Renewal Administration, then a research assistant for the Citizens League of Greater Cleveland, followed by service as an Urban Planner for the Cuyahoga County Regional Planning Commission, and a Budget and Management Analyst for the City of Cleveland. That experience included service to two Cleveland Mayors, Stokes and Perk. My last job in government was as the Operations Director for the Cuyahoga County Mental Health Board. The last twenty years of my working life were almost equally divided between service as a Health Care Administrator at the Cleveland Clinic and as a Department Administrator at Case Western Reserve University. I retired from CWRU in 2004 and have been pursuing my hobbies full time since then.

Jean, who is definitely my better half, has been a helpmate and mother while also pursuing a career as a Medical Librarian. Her work included service in a number of Cleveland Area Hospitals and non-profit organizations. She retired from her last job in 2006 and now devotes her time to hobbies and community volunteer work. Our two children, Deborah and Daniel, attended public schools in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights and went on to obtain degrees from Ohio University in Athens. Unlike most people who graduate from OU, they both stayed in Athens. Deborah is the financial officer for an insurance firm and Daniel is an entrepreneur in the computer field.

Jean and I now live in Beachwood, Ohio and are involved in community service work there. I am President of the Friends of the Beachwood Library and Jean volunteers at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage. My major hobbies are music, travel and antique cars. At the age of 28 I began to study the trumpet. Shortly after that I started a community band that has been functioning for over 35 years. We get together weekly to play big band music and occasionally play out at community functions. When not pursuing my hobbies I am helping my 93-year-old mother, who still lives in her own apartment in Mayfield Heights. I hope I inherited her longevity genes. As you can see, life has been good for me and I hope it has been good for all of you. I look forward to seeing you at the reunion in August. 6/16/2008

For more about Robert Dreifort visit:

Smart Set Band

East Cleveland History

Dan Dreifort

Is this thing on? Hello? Dan Dreifort is only 43, too young for a biography here. But that's just about the perfect age for a FAQ. So please entertain your eyes with the Dan Dreifort FAQ wherein you'll learn very little.



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