American Optical History
Recollections of Former AO Employees
& their families

 

This moving recollection by Carloline Stenquist Swope was sent to me via e-mail; she who was 5 when her father was killed on Dec 25, 1944. The article below was from the January 26, 1945 AO news. Her May 2002 recollections of this follow the article.


 

Thank you for responding to my telephone message.  My brother Arthur Wellwood sent me the article which appeared in the Telegram and Gazette recently.  My
father was the late Pfc. Helmer Reinhold Stenquist.  His nickname was Ray.  He moved his family which consisted of himself, my Mom Bernice, my brother Joel E.
and myself to Southbridge after he'd accepted a position with the AO when I was about three years old.  Early recollections are vague now.  I do remember my Dad
and his friend Henry Jolda coming home from work.  He, like so many other men of that era, became quite involved in the Second World War.  He wanted to do
"something."  So he enlisted.  In the meantime life went on in Southbridge.  I remember going with my Mom and brother to the AO for a family night.  I remember
still the 3 (I believe it was 3) ladies playing their harps.  I believe it was a mother and her daughters.  Their music was lovely.  When my father was wounded on
Christmas Eve 1944 and died on  Christmas Day the AO was quick to help us.  I remember so well the man in uniform knocking on our door and my Mom asking
me to answer it.  I opened the door and their he stood holding an envelope.  I believe as young as I was that I realized what he was there for.  I was 5 1/2.  We
were invited to the AO shortly thereafter and a ceremony was held.  My mother received a 25 dollar savings bond for my brother and I and some literature.  We
were asked if we wanted to see where he worked.  I immediately said yes and we were ushered into his place of work.  I still remember the desk, chair, window
and the darkness of the office.  I remember the AO as a beautiful building with lots of grass, huge trees, and oh so many buildings!  Unbeknownst to my mother I
would often walk to the AO from our home on Beech Street, if it was a nice day, and just look at the buildings.  I attended West Street School
until midway through the sixth grade.  My mother had remarried and she and her husband wanted to move closer to where he worked in Worcester.  The AO
was a vital part of Southbridge and of the people who lived there.  I never, ever believed that the AO would cease to exist.  I am happy though that the  folks who
purchased it kept the flavor of the AO alive.  Because the AO played so great a role in our lives it's passing is soul wrenching.  I am 62 now and mourn the passing
of an era, the last place where my father worked.  I wish I could attend the reunion in a couple of weeks to represent my father, if for no other reason.  My nephew,
Erik Helmer Stenquist, works there now, so in a sense a family tradition still lives on.

Carloline Stenquist Swope - May 2002
 


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Dick Whitney May 31, 2002

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