Late Ferdinand man’s life one of sweat, sawdustSeptember 7, 2018
By LEANN BURKE
Author Stuart Englert was watching the news one night in June at his Nashville, Tennessee, home when a report about a trade war between the U.S. and China came on. The report brought to mind the story of his grandfather, Ferdinand man Victor Hedinger.
Hedinger, Englert recalled from stories growing up, had served in China during World War II when the U.S. and Chinese were allies against Japan. The two countries going from allies to enemies in the course of his grandfather’s life intrigued Englert, so he began to research. The more he researched, the more intrigued he became, so he decided to write “Sweat & Sawdust: The Life and Legacy of Victor J. Hedinger.”
The 40-page book, released on Amazon last weekend, details Hedinger’s life growing up in Ferdinand, his time in the Army during World War II and his career in the Dubois County wood industry after the war. Hedinger worked 20 years at the United Wood Products factory in Ferdinand. He also worked at Jasper Desk during the 1930s and at Jasper Chair before he enlisted in the Army.
“I wanted to give something to my family so that they could keep it for posterity,” Englert said.
Englert grew up in Ferdinand himself, and his research for the book took him into his hometown’s history. Using U.S. Census information, military records, newspaper articles, and conversations with his aunt and uncles, Englert pieced together his grandfather’s story. It’s the story of a “frugal, hardworking carpenter,” Englert said. That description sparked the book’s title — sweat for the hard work and sawdust for the carpentry.
When Englert set out to find his grandfather’s story, his nagging question was why a 34-year-old man with two young daughters and a pregnant wife at home would enlist in the Army. The answer, Englert found, was the draft.
“Men at the time were just waiting to be called,” Englert said.
Rather than waiting, Hedinger decided to go to the enlistment office. A flat-footed man, Hedinger didn’t expect to be allowed to join. To be in the infantry, Englert found, men had to have arched feet. But that rule didn’t apply to support roles, so, despite his flat feet, Hedinger found himself serving as a mechanic supporting the Army Air Force, the precursor to the United States Air Force of today.
In 1944, the year before the war ended in the Pacific, Hedinger deployed to China. Before he left, his wife, Elenora Boeglin, and their two daughters, one of whom was Englert’s mother, Patricia, sat for a family portrait. Part of the portrait, with Hedinger and Patricia, serves as the cover for “Sweat & Sawdust.”
Writing the book was a labor of love for Englert. As a former journalist and genealogy aficionado, researching and writing his grandfather’s story was more like a hobby than work. The book is short, he acknowledges, but that shouldn’t deter people from reading it.
“It’s really packed full of details and facts about him,” Englert said.
“Sweat & Sawdust: The Life and Legacy of Victor J. Hedinger” and Englert’s four other books are available in paperback and e-book format on Amazon.
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