Trip Report
Interim TR on the journey toward acceptance of a world without the Dolt
Monday December 10, 2012 11:16pm
This photo of Bill was taken by Tom Frost, and was given to us at the ...
This photo of Bill was taken by Tom Frost, and was given to us at the Oakdale Climbers Festival. It is impossible (at least at this point!) to put into words what it feels like to hold this picture in my hands.
Credit: LilaBiene


For forty years I never even dared to imagine that you existed. It was only a couple of years ago, when I realized that I needed to find Ann and thank her for what she did for me, that the smallest ray of hope began to take root in my heart. If I could find information about Ann, perhaps I could find you, too. As I hope you are aware by now, she has joined you in the spritual world...and is finally free of the medical challenges that burdened her beginning a few years before she met and fell in love with you. Her family was not a supportive place to be, and she did the bravest thing imaginable, leaving for Anchorage and ensuring that I was born healthy and adopted into a good family. I envision Ann strong, spreading her wings and soaring now, no longer encumbered.

Whether or not you knew about me is an unanswered question. I doubt I will ever know, since your personal effects have gone to the four winds. But perhaps with time, more of your life will reveal itself to me.

I've lived in this body of mine for 42 years, and I have a pretty good idea of the challenges you faced (defiantly, ashamedly alone), as well as the pure joy you experienced interacting with the world kinesthetically. You saw things invisible to most, and felt things far deeper in your soul than you could ever begin to explain. You were happiest when you were imagining and creating and working with your hands, especially if this also involved being at one with the great outdoors. I'll bet you never met a problem (not talking relationships here) that didn't inspire you with the challenge of sorting out its resolution...even if it meant staying up for days as you looked at the puzzle from every possible angle.

Relating to other's not easy, is it, when you're coming from a different place in how you experience the world? Intensity scares people. And it's not easy to temper emotions to the wavelengths at which most people operate...somewhat like a water faucet that is either gushing like a fire hydrant, or not at all. Being crippled emotionally by celiac disease makes for poor choices, and even greater self recrimination when you can't somehow fulfill the needs of someone who was a poor choice to begin with. But suffering with celiac disease, you can't see your way through the oppressive fog...ever...especially if you haven't any idea that something other than your own poor choices or character fault is framing everything you see, feel and experience... sadness... emptiness... hopelessness... loneliness...fear. All things that you don't want to burden the rest of the world with, because you believe that you will wear them out if you reveal your dark, unlovable, vulnerable truth.

Had you had the benefit of a simple change in diet, I am confident that your overabundance of energy and ideas would not have run out, nor your hope that you would find a partner with whom you could share your life and in whom you could place your trust that you would not be abandoned, yet again. I KNOW that the grey, heavy veil through which you viewed the world (and pretended most days didn't exist) would have been lifted, and that you would have felt whole, without a "pit" in the bottom of your stomach for the first time in your life. Imagine the possibilities of living your life set free from sadness that gnaws at you from the inside out. The doggedness, creativity and compulsion to solve problems that both you and Ann passed along to me enabled me to solve the puzzle of overwhelming physical and emotional pain...just not in time to make a difference for you.

I've tried for months to come up with a way to explain how it feels to have "found" my birth parents, two amazingly wonderful people, only to learn that Ann never knew I had tried to contact her (my letter was in her post office box when she passed away) and that you had taken your own beautiful life.

These last 10 months, since I roughly "found" both of you, have been wonderfully full of elation, at times drastically devoid of hope...and incredibly, beyond my ability to fathom, beautiful and replete with the stories of your lives, to the places you loved and to the most amazing group of people made up of your friends and fellow climbers.

I can't explain how it feels because it feels differently every time I try to put the words to paper. I wish. I ache. Great big tears roll down my face out of nowhere and catch me off guard. I beg...hope...flounder...get crushed with grief, and laugh. I retreat, reframe and reach out, trying, once again, to grasp...anything...that might lead me to knowing you, feeling your presence. What I would give to feel your arms around me, a chance to hear your voice, to look into your eyes, to hear you tell me a story, show me a favorite climb, to know your smell, your favorite shirt, to learn the things that meant most to you, what you admired in other people, what beliefs you held hear you laugh, to watch you work, inspired with that creative spark I know so well.

I'm paralyzed, in a sense, I think, because I'm afraid if I allow myself to grieve, I'll have to admit that I will never know you...and this breaks my heart. Your beautiful soul now inhabits two people...your baby girl, and her baby girl. I hope beyond all reason that you can see how much we love you...and how much all of your friends, after 40 years, still love you, even more.

We hope to honor your memory, and to make you proud.

With all the love in the world,


P.S. This is an interim TR; I will post a TR about our trip to Oakdale-Mariposa-L.A.-Healdsburg once I have found my way further through the morass of emotions that have taken over since that trip.

  Trip Report Views: 4,561
About the Author
LilaBiene is an (aspiring) trad climber stepping into some very big shoes from the Other Coast.

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Comment on this Trip Report

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Dec 10, 2012 - 11:23pm PT
I am at a loss of words...all I feel is emotions for which I can not find any words.
Stunning, absolutely stunning. So poignant, so incredible journey.

Jon Beck

Trad climber
  Dec 10, 2012 - 11:24pm PT
WOW, your writing is amazing, thanks for sharing with us. True emotions and feelings are hard for some of us to express. You have a handle on it for sure, any father would be proud.

Social climber
Butterfly Town
  Dec 10, 2012 - 11:37pm PT
Once again, LilaBiene, the eloquence of your words reflect the wondrous journey on which you have embarked. LIFE, itself, has placed you on your path, and you've chosen to bravely follow it to the deepest parts of your heart and back out again to the wider world to share your gifts of LIFE which include some of your sorrow.

Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us.

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Dec 11, 2012 - 12:38am PT
The Dolt will never be forgotten even if never fully known. He is part of this tribes history. A present that you are part of. This is your inheritance. It's a strange one. A good one I'd say.

As far as proud.. My god your story as it has unfolded here on this site makes me proud just to be a part of the same species. Human. Your father could not possibly be less than amazed and so incredibly proud and happy.

There can be no doubt.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Dec 11, 2012 - 01:02am PT
Dear LilaBiene,

Are your adoptive parents still alive?
I know of one person who was adopted, but her adoptive parents were elderly. When they passed away, she sought out her biological mother and that family has embraced her.

I can see that your biological parents had some troubles and are interesting people (and tragic in the case of Bill Dolt).
But I am surprised at the level of emotion directed toward them.
It is kind of like you are trying to solve their problems, ex post.
But it was Ann's choice not to involve you, so it's not your fault that you couldn't help in the past.
We all want to be "wanted" children, but desire for children is supposed to be transferred to the adoptive parents.

Sorry if I have asked this before and you already answered. It seems like you are looking at the nature and nurture components, and trying to find answers about your personality that were inherited from your biological parents?


mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Dec 11, 2012 - 01:06am PT
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 10, 2012 - 03:04pm PT

OMG, someone get me off of this overcrowded, stuffy, overheated, meandering-like-a-lost-cow commuter bus creeping along the Mass. Pike...please?????!--Lilabiene in the last sixty minutes

Calls for the NSD Squad are a dime a dozen, but this is "fue real" from the lady with Dolt's nose.

We need some help, here. Lady goin' to crack up here!

Snap out of it! Think odd thoughts of things like, oh, sealing wax. Boogers. Anything but commuting.

Alex commutes on the Nose. WTF. You commute where you are polluted.

Mick looks drunk, eh? I'm working on my escape from normal.

F*#k a nervous nellie, that woman's nothing like you, Lilabiene. You'll get your wings and fly once you've gone out on the Arete.

So there. You've been singed by de Flames. Feel intervened?

Are you on your diet? God forbid you have nothing to do...

edit" As you can see, this was posted in response to your post this afternoon, just hours before you posted this TR. No wonder you were worked up. Hang. Just hang. Beautify the world with your bare soul, sister.


Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Dec 11, 2012 - 01:16am PT
Wow, that was really beautiful. I know how much I miss my own father and he's been gone for 23 years. I still have the most real dreams with him in them.

I can't imagine how it all is in your mind, but you write beautifully.

Boulder climber
A very quiet place
  Dec 11, 2012 - 01:30am PT
Oh my goodness, Lilabiene. Once again, you have moved me deeply and the tears are flowing. If someone as random and removed from your Dad's world as I am (I was just a boy in his time) can be so affected and touched by his impact on the world (his stories and legacy, which as you note, include you and your little girl), how cannot he not be massively present for you?

You wrote: "All things that you don't want to burden the rest of the world with, because you believe that you will wear them out if you reveal your dark, unlovable, vulnerable truth."

Maybe one of his gifts to you is how you have learned from his fear and shame of being vulnerable. In some ways, likely more than anyone else here, you have been vulnerable in very presence and the telling of your epic tale. And from that vulnerability arises great courage.

And your story is epic. Fantastic, sorrowful, full of wrong turns and dead ends, joyful, wanting, triumphant, full of laughter and the gamut of many other things I can only imagine. You remind me of Odysseus, who took twenty years to get home from the Trojan War. Many adventures, detours, and trials along the way, sometimes in an opiated stupor, sometimes in despair, sometimes in bliss, but ultimately always continuing that rowing, rowing to get back home. But when he finally made it home, he was whole and was well equipped to defend and reclaim his family and home (contrast the hubris and tragedy of Agamemnon and his family: he only took three weeks to return home from the Trojan war). Odysseus, on the other hand, was all the richer for his struggling journey.

Hold off on grieving for a bit if that is what your gut tells you; there is so much for you to process now that you figured out how to open the floodgates that held back all the connections to him. And all this information is rushing out now. But don't be afraid to grieve, it will be painful, but walling off that grief in the long run likely could turn toxic.

I can related in a little way to you in that I too have a lost father. But that is for another time. This is your story.

Peace and blessings to you on your great Odyssey.


  Dec 11, 2012 - 01:33am PT

Things that seem far, far away are often connected to us by a cord.

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
  Dec 11, 2012 - 09:57pm PT
Eating gluten free chips and looking at that great shot of Bill.

Cheers Aud.

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, California....via the Damascus Road
  Dec 11, 2012 - 09:59pm PT
THE most beautiful thing I have ever had the pleasure of reading on this site.

  Dec 11, 2012 - 10:05pm PT
Damn allergies have me dripping. Thank you so much.


Trad climber
Technically...the spawning grounds of Yosemite
Author's Reply  Dec 14, 2012 - 09:12pm PT
Were would I be without all of the strong, supportive shoulders making this journey along with me?

[Self edit!]
I'll re-post when I can say what I intended to convey previously, but completely missed the mark. Please forgive the God-awful drivel.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Dec 16, 2012 - 12:09pm PT
A beautiful piece for sure!!,

My own father died of cancer at age 35' it took me 20 years to fully process it as I was only 7 years old, you did a beautiful job conveying your feelings!

Thanks for sharing!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Dec 16, 2012 - 12:34pm PT
Maybe as soon as the water in my eyes clears enough to see, I'll write something
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
  Dec 16, 2012 - 12:37pm PT
I don't know of the musical enhancements effects as i didn't click on them.I do know the feel, taste, texture of your story was extraordinary
. You have a powerful talent and a worthy story that your soul is begging to explore and answer as fully as possible. May your yearning to know ,to explain the roots of your own journey through this world, continue to find its way to paper. I think it would be a major piece of literature. Good luck.

Trad climber
Technically...the spawning grounds of Yosemite
Author's Reply  Dec 16, 2012 - 08:34pm PT
Thanks from my heart for all of your thoughtful and guiding comments, and pictures..

I shared this part of my journey because I think it provides insight into Bill's world, and not just in the last several years of his life. It is my hope that those folks that knew and loved Bill, and for whom his death is still a source of sadness (and for some, overwhelming guilt), will be able to read this and realize that there was nothing that they could have done to change what happened. Not only was he unable to see through the fog himself, but no one could have penetrated or alleviated the fog, either.

Here is one poem that was passed along to me, written by Bill on 10 Jan. 1970 (ca. 1.5 months before I was born):

The Climb: Part I
Mountain Storm

Listen to the rain
upon my cloth roof
Sounds like a thousand
horses on the hoof

Louder than thunder
and louder still
the lightening screams
a'noise that's shrill

My icy spine
and leaden feet
my stomach's gripped
knowing that fear can kill

and oh my God
this mountain shakes
Yes, fear have I
of Titanic quakes

The icy stream it
laps my stakes
Boulders move and
rocks come down

Wind's not a'wind at all
But a demon gone wild
My helmet, where is it
My axe in hand

and boots on foot
do battle will I
I face the enemy
What it's gone

The world's transformed
the icy walls and glistening spires
avalanches roar

Sky's blue
clouds gone
sun's out
Golden ball send down your warmth

time to fly
on wings of plume
The ridge it waits
come, let's climb........

 William A. Feuerer, Jr.

Trad climber
crack addict
  Dec 16, 2012 - 08:40pm PT

I haven't forgotten about you, Audrey. I'm still working on the piton/plaque for you.....

Trad climber
Technically...the spawning grounds of Yosemite
Author's Reply  Dec 16, 2012 - 08:45pm PT
Mastadon, I think physical therapy comes first! It was so great to meet you @ the Facelift, and even better to see you proving that nothing can keep the Mastadon down...for long, anyway. ")

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Dec 16, 2012 - 08:47pm PT
I was just thinking about this TR today and planning on rereading/bumping it this evening. There is was! It's a beautiful story, just captivates me!
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  Dec 17, 2012 - 12:55am PT
A relevant link:

Trad climber
Technically...the spawning grounds of Yosemite
Author's Reply  Dec 26, 2012 - 11:47pm PT

A special thank you, from my heart, to Boo, Lisa, Jay, Ron, Wayne, Anders, Frank, Ruth and Martin R. for "being there" without being called this first Christmas Eve after learning that Bill was my birth dad.

My stubborn heart refuses to let go or accept the reality of the situation, so I will simply consciously accept that this is where I'm meant to be right now...
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
  Dec 27, 2012 - 12:07am PT
Was good talking with you.

Don't let any of the negativity weight you down.
And I just read that poem. Fantastic (and no doubt speaks to all climbers that have weathered rough storms in the mountains.)
the Fet

  Dec 28, 2012 - 02:59am PT
You are amazing! Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I have never read more heartfelt words.

Trad climber
Technically...the spawning grounds of Yosemite
Author's Reply  Dec 28, 2012 - 09:56am PT
My birth parents were amazing...I'm just a regular-old goofball. ")

T*R, thank you for sharing the gift of your story, and especially your pictures. I love the message below the picture of you and your birth dad. It warms my heart to know that the two of you were able to look into one another's eyes. How fortunate are we to "know" where our stories began? ") Hugs right back atcha!

And how lucky are we all that our paths have crossed in this great, big world and at a time when "time" is at an absolute premium? Humbling.
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  Dec 28, 2012 - 06:21pm PT
We're thinking of you, Audrey. It's a challenging time of year for a lot of people. And thanks to you and t*r for the stories and photos. Maybe you two will meet at the FaceLift in 2013!

Social climber
  Jan 6, 2013 - 06:38pm PT
+1 with what Anders said....

Thank you for sharing your life's journey with us around the campfire Audrey!

Am looking forward to seeing the muppet & yourself (& husband, if that is possible) at FL2013...


Social climber
1187 Hunterwasser
  Jan 6, 2013 - 06:58pm PT

The Granite State.
  Jan 6, 2013 - 07:12pm PT

I'm at a loss for words.

Gym climber
Small Town with a Big Back Yard
  Jan 23, 2013 - 09:34pm PT
What a great story. Thanks for your words, and funny how things come around when you are shown the right places to look.

Trad climber
Technically...the spawning grounds of Yosemite
Author's Reply  Jan 24, 2013 - 09:42pm PT
I wish I had the words to express how deeply appreciative and deeply affected I am by the boundless kindness bestowed upon me by the ST community over the last 10 months...I guess I'm just going to have to hug all of you. :D

GLEE, you are so incredibly thoughtful! Thank you for the suggestions and links, the NH and Gunks climbing guides (YAY!), the info about the Shire and the Boston climbs info. Now I've got no excuse not to get about scrambling...

Mike Sherrick, I'm in suspended awe -- thank you from my heart for sharing your Dolt catalogs with me, and the pack has already been put to use by the muppet (she's stuffed it full of her most favorite things already -- one of which is a stopper we bought at REI!). The catalogs are wonderful in the way that they reflect Dolt's personality, and also provide historical context for his and others' gear. Truly to be treasured.

Frank Hoover, I think about our wonderful visit last fall every day. And for some strange reason, orange peels now make me laugh myself silly. I hope you'll share that story here on ST (and the many other wonderful stories you shared, too!). Thank you for the beautiful Christmas card, which I have in my office -- a happy reminder every day. The muppet and I have been searching for the perfect frame for the exquisite butterfly, and will post a picture once we've committed ourselves. ")

MAD BOLTER, you held out on me. You never told me you also appeared on film. Eh-hem. Imagine my surprise as I'm watching the story of the Huber brothers, fully and happily engrossed in the Bavarian dialect I learned so many moons ago, and all of a sudden, there you are!!! You should know that the Dolt piton you gave me at the Facelift goes wherever I go and means more to me than I could ever say.

The muppet's gone quiet...I'd better go investigate. More to come...

Trad climber
Technically...the spawning grounds of Yosemite
Author's Reply  Mar 6, 2013 - 11:35pm PT
So I'd been mulling over how to go about looking into how Bill became an orphan for, oh, say, about a year. I figured the best option would be to try to track down his parents' relatives in Germany, but thus far I've encountered two dead ends. (Nothing like a good challenge!)

I'd found the names of his guardians some time ago in a couple of US census records, and even spoken with one of their descendants, but this trail also went dark.

A couple of weeks ago, Bill's military service records arrived precisely on the one-year anniversary of my birth mom, Ann's death. A coincidence that brightened my day, and got me to thinking that I should start tackling Bill's roots from another direction.

So...Friday night I decided to do some research on orphanages in Chicago during the Great Depression (figuring there would be 100s). I happened upon a number of excerpts from a book on the history of the Chicago Orphans Asylum. I started to read and was completely drawn in by its fascinating history and cast of characters. Hmmmmm, I thought, and gave myself a swift kick in the tail.

I mustered the courage to write to the orphanage to inquire whether they still retained records from the 1930s, and if Bill (per chance) had been placed there. (I was fully prepared to be disappointed.) By Monday, I had a compassionate email response from a social worker at the now Chicago Child Care Society, confirming that Bill had been placed there, the dates he was there, where he had later been placed and some background about his circumstances. A copy of his record was attached to the email. I was blown out of the water, and I still feel as though I'm being catapulted through space and time.

Really...what are the chances of actually ever finding the orphanage where Bill was placed in the 1930s, at a time when the country was in absolute chaos and millions were destitute? And even less likely, finding records specifically about him?

I feel humbled, blessed to be encountering so many wonderful souls...and Fletcher, I'm going to keep on rowing...
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Mar 6, 2013 - 11:47pm PT
That's a pretty good find in the genealogy realm!
It may be the occasional find like this that makes it encouraging to keep up a challenging search.

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Mar 7, 2013 - 12:06am PT
funny how things come around when you are shown the right places to look.

Mister E nails it.

Magic is here on ST.


Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Mar 7, 2013 - 09:53am PT
Your journey never ceases to amaze your "spare" time...a book in the future? Your story is a beautiful read. If it were fiction some would claim "unbelievable"


Ice climber
  Mar 7, 2013 - 11:36am PT
Simply stunning. I am at a loss...I cannot comprehend the combination of grief and elation you must feel. Best,

Social climber
Butterfly Town
  Mar 7, 2013 - 01:56pm PT
What a great new development in your search saga! You told me that Bill's mother was listed by the orphanage as "deserted." Do you have her name and any clues to follow that might lead to "long-lost" cousins or the terms of the relationship between Bill's father and his mother?

If Bill's father "retained guardianship," how did Bill come to leave the orphanage, under whose care, and what happened to Bill's father? Yes, there is more to research there.

Of course, there are some very warm leads to still explore to find out more about your birth mother, Ann, but we can talk about that later, and that topic properly belongs on the Statistically Improbablities thread since this TR is about Bill.

Social climber
  Mar 7, 2013 - 06:28pm PT
What Susan and Pam wrote!!!!!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Mar 7, 2013 - 07:50pm PT
"A coincidence that brightened my day, and got me to thinking that I should start tackling Bill's roots from another direction."

You sound like what I imagine a creative individual like Bill would say in similar straits.

That's a lot of carbon copies to look through, so it's probably microfiched. Think of the number of requests they must take on a daily basis. Finding records gets to be an easier process the more one does it. And it must be a self-rewarding job. I'm so happy you have some progress to report here. I hope your climbing progresses, too, but again, don't expect too much too soon. You'll get there.

You're not rowing alone and we are glad to know you realize it, Odd.

Trad climber
Technically...the spawning grounds of Yosemite
Author's Reply  Mar 7, 2013 - 09:01pm PT
Okay, Boodawg, I'll put all my cards on the table. ;D

Before I knew for sure that Bill was my birth dad, I ordered a copy of his birth certificate to see if I could make any headway in tracing his genealogy. (Yes -- I debated back and forth whether this meant I was going over the edge. lol.) I posted about it in the summer of 2011, I think, when I was trying to figure out whether Bill had ever been in Alaska. The story the nuns told my parents was that Ann had followed Bill up to Alaska, but that Bill wanted nothing to do with her. (Ann's sister said there was no truth to this, that Bill would never have done such a thing.)

Bill's birth certificate revealed that his parents were William Feuerer and Clara Feuerer (nee Gohl). His father was a night watchman at a restaurant and his mother a homemaker. Via I was able to locate ship records for both of his parents, each of whom had come over from Germany in the 1920s to stay briefly with relatives and then find work. William Sr. came through NYC en route to an uncle in Washington, D.C. Clara came over twice, once by herself and a second time with a cousin, through NYC en route to two different uncles at the same address in Brooklyn. William Sr. listed his father (also Wilhelm) as his closest relative back in Germany. Clara listed another relative (possibly suggesting that she was the only surviving member of her family after WWI). At some point, the two both wound up in Chicago proper in the late 1920s, as I located a birth record for a baby girl (stillborn) to them before they were married in 1929. I was able to locate Clara on the 1930 Census, working as a "domestic" for a family in Chicago.

Working backwards, I haven't been able (despite dogged efforts) to locate any of the Feuerer or Gohl relatives in Germany (yet). I found some Census and other limited information for each of their relatives in the U.S., but those trails also went cold. I'll have to revive them at some point.

Until the 1940 Census came out recently, I had no further information on Bill or his family, with the exception of having the luck of finding newspaper articles about a "Billy" Feuerer in Monee, Illinois who was an active Boy Scout, had perfect attendance at school and was home from school one spring and staying with the Mueller family in town.

I found George and Clara Mueller on the 1930 Census in Green Garden/Monee, Illinois and wondered if I had possibly found his guardians. I contacted a couple of people via and wound up locating the granddaughters of one of Mr. Mueller's siblings. One of the daughters had inherited all of the family pictures and promised to look through them to see if she could find a picture of Bill. She told me that the Muellers didn't have any children of their own, and that they had taken in 3 orphan boys, one of whom was Bill. (Am I putting y'all to sleep yet?) I told her that Bill had gone on to become a climber, living in California, etc., but she countered that Bill had married a woman from Germany he had met while in the Service named something like "Gerda" and had lived locally for many years. This didn't make sense, but I suspect that she perhaps had the boys mixed up. (Haven't been able to locate any record of this marriage.)

So when the 1940 Census came out, it took some digging before it was properly indexed, but I was able to locate Bill, his mother and his father, each in a different place. What's neat about the 1940 Census for research purposes is that it not only lists where an individual was living in 1940, but also the county and state in 1935.

In 1935, when Bill would have been a little over 2 years old, all three were listed as living in Cook County, Illinois. But by 1940, the family had been separated. Bill was listed as an orphan living with the Mueller family on their farm in Monee. Bill's father was in Chicago, and described himself as an unemployed carpenter (over 27 weeks, I believe). Clara had sadly been institutionalized at one of the more notorious state insane asylums - Manteno - where she later died. She is buried in the veteran's cemetery on the grounds of the former institution. Bill's father became a naturalized U.S. citizen and served the U.S. during WWII. After that, the trail goes dark, except for a Social Security record that reports his date of death in 1981 in Germany.

When Bill's service records arrived a couple of weeks ago, I was pretty psyched (though I can't make heads or tails of much of the content). Oddly enough, he trashed is left knee (breaking his ankle, too) skiing when he was 21 (I had surgery on my left knee about 10 years ago), and he was also treated for a muscular issue under his right shoulder blade (that just happens to be the location of my most notorious muscle spasm). Wierd stuff! He was also treated for scratches on his hands and a rope burn on the back of his neck...from his forays into climbing. :D He listed the Muellers as his emergency and family contacts in the records, well into his 20s, which is what got me thinking about the circumstances which had brought him to the Muellers again.

In his service records ca. 1953, Bill lists the health history of his mother as "unknown" and that his father had died of "unknown causes". Another record I ran across a couple of months ago was an engagement announcement in the mid-1960s for Bill and a woman he worked with at Douglas. In the announcement, he lists Mrs. George C. Mueller as his mother and the previously deceased Wm. Feuerer as his father.

From the research I've done on Manteno and mental health institutions generally in the 1930s, women were committed for everything from being an "inconvenience" to their families because they had not yet married to full-blown psychosis, so it's hard to guess why Bill's mother was committed. An educated guess would be depression, but who knows? Illinois law prohibits the release of mental health records to anyone except as authorized by the patient or the executor of the patient's estate or an adult sibling or an adult child. It's possible that Bill's mother was listed as having "deserted" because this was the lesser of two evils, the mental health stigma being a heavy one.

At some point I will probably try to obtain access to the records because I believe it's important if it can provide insight into the health history potentially affecting the muppet and me. In order to do so, I would have to prove that I am Bill's daughter, provide a valid justification (i.e., medical necessity) and make a personal appearance to petition an Illinois court for access (which may or may not be granted for records that may or may not exist -- mental health practitioners weren't required to keep patient files until the 80s). In order to prove that I am Bill's daughter, I would probably have to obtain a court order in Anchorage, Alaska, to have Catholic Charities release Ann's file, which is still not a guarantee that a court would recognize this as sufficient proof of paternity. This is about all I have in terms of establishing my connection to him, besides the obvious personality similarities. Grin.

I wish there was some way of finding out what happened to his personal estate, as there might have been some information in his papers, etc. that would help my case, but from what I've gathered, his personal effects simply vanished. (How amazing would it be if there were any family pictures?) Another possibility would be to do a court records search in Anchorage to see if he relinquished his rights legally, but this would require a rather long adventure without much guarantee of success. From what I've learned about men's rights in these situations in the late 60s/early 70s, fathers weren't given a say, if they were even told (and there's no evidence Bill had any knowledge).

I located records for Bill in two orphanages in Chicago: The Chicago Orphan Asylum (now Chicago Child Care Services) and The Uhlich Orphan Home (now UCAN). There is a discrepancy as to the initial date he arrived, but it appears it was either April 14, 1938 or April 20, 1939 (so he would have been either about 5 1/2 or 6 1/2 years old). He was listed as being "placed" with Uhlich on May 26, 1939, and then "discharged" on May 27, 1939 to the care of Mrs. George C. Mueller. On July 1, 1951, he was "dismissed to self". Board was listed as $20/month, but it is unclear whether this was the fee paid by his father (who had retained "guardianship") or this was a fee paid to the Muellers. Bill's records at Uhlich were destroyed in a basement flooding a number of years ago, and I was told it was possible that there might be more information in their records that had been donated to the Chicago History Museum (but no guarantee).

At some point, though his father had retained "guardianship", Bill must have been told that his father had died. In reading about the history of orphanages during the Great Depression, and learning that Bill's father had been out of work for such an extended period of time by 1940, I can only imagine the heartbreaking decision his father had to make in order to ensure that his son had a place to live, enough to eat and clothes on his back. I look at the muppet and can't imagine wrestling with not being able to provide for her (which came drastically close to happening before I was diagnosed with celiac disease), and even less taking her to an orphanage, knowing it was the best decision for her, and having to say good-bye. Nor can I even begin to fathom what it must have been like for a little guy to first lose his mother, and then his father...and to have been old enough to remember.

I'm not religious, but I thank God for the Mueller family.

Mouse, the size of your heart knows no bounds, my friend.
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  Mar 7, 2013 - 10:04pm PT
Threads like this are almost enough to make one want to post to SuperTopo.

Trad climber
Technically...the spawning grounds of Yosemite
Author's Reply  Mar 7, 2013 - 11:29pm PT
I was so happy to see your avatar that I did a double-take and had to look at it again to believe my eyes.

The campfire wasn't the same without your kind spirit and incisive wit. Your presence was sorely missed.

I'll do a cartwheel in the snow tomorrow morning in your honor. :D

Did I happen to mention how happy I am that you're back?!!!!! Woohoo!!!!!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Mar 8, 2013 - 02:22am PT
Thanks for sharing the results of your research.
Sounds like it was pretty rough times for Bill Sr. and Bill in the 1930s with Clara institutionalized and trying to find work in the Depression.

I thought Bill's absence from California at the time of Ann's pregnancy was evidence that he knew about it, and was trying to be a provider?

Social climber
  Mar 8, 2013 - 12:12pm PT

Your writing is majestic. Don't ever stop.

The thing that amazes me in this story is that you, in all likelihood, might learn more about your father than I did my own; even though I shared 48 years with him.


Social climber
  Mar 8, 2013 - 06:34pm PT
Hi LilaBeine,

It was quite common both in the US and Canada and sure the rest of the industrial world during the Great Depression for children put in adoption since a lot did not have the means to take care of them.

Also having children out of wedlock was not politically and religiously correct and was looked down on. It wasnít till the early 60ís that people started to accept alcoholism and abortion [still an issue today but for many a sin]. During the Depression and years after people would not talk about their ills and thought it was shameful even in the 40ís and 50ís.

Mental health today still has a long way to go and they are finding better solutions through high-tech machinery and medications so 80 years ago it was in the dark ages since there was really nothing, incorrect diagnosisís and people were tortured or electric current to calm them down. Frontal Lobotomy during its heyday in the 1940s and í50s, was performed on some 40,000 patients in the United States. The procedure became popular because there was no alternative, and because it was seen to alleviate several social crises: overcrowding in psychiatric institutions, and the increasing cost of caring for mentally ill patients. Finally not used since the early Ď70ís.

The other problem during those years and earlier was the last names of people migrating from European nations. US Immigration policies were strict on letting a lot of people with the same last name so when they heard by fellow people not getting in and returning they would change their name or spelling with the letters without an I or E or add an r or something close but spelled differently.

Sent an e-mail with contact so the both of you have fun in search and find.

Trad climber
Technically...the spawning grounds of Yosemite
Author's Reply  Mar 12, 2013 - 09:41pm PT
Hey Clint, I haven't been able to establish that Bill went to Alaska, though it may be possible that he was considering going into DoltCo full-time, which would have freed him up to go there. But that's just one of many possible theories. Bottom line at this point is that I don't have anything linking Bill to Alaska. I wish I had access to his things or even Ann's, but I don't.

On a positive note, and in response to Tobia's comment about his own father, I've already exceeded any hopes I may have had when I was back hunting and pecking around wishing I had some clue as to who my birth dad was. To have actually figured out who he was, and recognized him by the way his close friends described him, even if that was the only discovery I ever made, that would have been more than enough.

To update where I am today (compared to feeling paralyzed when I first wrote the story above), I've had a chance to process a lot of different feelings, circumstances, etc., some from within myself and some from external tangents, and I think I've reached a place where I'm at peace with everything.

If you view objectively where Bill was in 1969 emotional health-wise, and where my birth mom was, just graduating from college with a family that told her in no uncertain terms "don't come home if you get pregnant" and already suffering terribly from Cushing's Disease, neither of them were in a position to raise me. So given the circumstances, what more could you want for your child than to have her NOT witness the sad parts of your lives, and later, of her own doggedness, stubborn will and brain specially adapted to not thinking inside any boxes, "find" you, and at the same time be welcomed in by the largest circle of friends and climbers imaginable?

Can you imagine what it would have been like to have 3 stubborn as all get-out, energizer bunnies with ideas pinging around like super balls constantly and all the piles and piles and piles of stuff in process at any given time, all under the same roof?!!! Egads. Shudder. I've always said that I'm strange enough on my own...I don't need any help with that! ;D

LostinShanghai: Tried the email addresses, but none worked -- not sure yours worked, either. Ping me and let me know? Thanks so much for all of your great insights, here on the forum and via PM.


  Mar 12, 2013 - 09:45pm PT

And we are blessed by having you here sharing your story.

Thank you.


Trad climber
Technically...the spawning grounds of Yosemite
Author's Reply  May 3, 2013 - 12:03am PT

Trad climber
Technically...the spawning grounds of Yosemite
Author's Reply  May 29, 2014 - 10:53pm PT
Dear Daddy,

It's been a while...I've been balancing project work with family time and still managing to do a bit of genealogical research here and there. At times it has felt as if just when I was ready to throw in the towel, you gave me a nudge.

Today I received my first offer after job hunting for seven years, which was cause for elation to be sure. But within an hour or so, something truly magical I was working and at the same time debating back and forth whether to move back to No. Virginia to take the job, a Facebook icon appeared on my phone.

I checked my updates...and time stood still. And I just stared at my phone in disbelief. And stared some more, as my brain caught up with processing the picture before me. Last September, in a moment of courage, I ran a search for folks with your last name in the town where your father was born -- Altschweier, Germany. For some reason, one of the names stood out to me, so I ran a quick search on FB. There he was. Did I have the courage to write to him?

I zipped off an invitation before I realized that I couldn't send along an explanation as to why this perfect stranger was contacting him from across the pond. Horrifically embarrassed, I posted to my timeline with an explanation and a couple of pictures, hoping he might see the post and not brush me off as some lunatic from left field. But as time wore on, I figured that that was what had probably happened. I was thereafter too shy to write to anyone else.

Then the icon appeared on my phone this very afternoon. He had accepted my friend request. I reposted my original post to my timeline, and miracle of all miracles, he saw it, and began posting comments and questions. He quickly established that his grandfather and my grandfather (your dad, from whom you were so sadly separated due to circumstances beyond each of your control during the Great Depression) were brothers. He met your father at a family funeral. Your dad had 5 siblings!!!

We switched over to messaging, and he welcomed me to the was everything I could do not to burst into tears sitting in a room full of 30 people. After so many hundreds of hours and so many days of searching...I found your...I mean OUR family. And we were warmly welcomed. I was able to find them for you, and to close the circle...they will know you now. And I hope that through me and the muppet, you will know them, too.

You are whole again...something I've wanted desperately to give to you since I learned about how I came to be, and how you came not to be.

With love, grace and unbounded appreciation for the soul you have shared with me,


Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  May 29, 2014 - 11:48pm PT
skys blue
clouds gone
suns out
golden ball send down your warmth

time to fly
on wings of plume

Sometimes life just blows me down. LilaBiene best to you moving forward....

Charlie D.
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