The Tiles of War, part 2

Posted: April 16, 2021 in 1944, Holland (Netherlands), Men of the 111th Ordnance Company

The strange coincidences we’ve encountered while doing this blog continue.

Earlier this month, a man by the name of Henny in Maastricht, Netherlands, found us and sent an email. He was trying to find the family of an American WWII soldier who was the father of his older half-sister. Uh-oh, I thought—this hasn’t come up so far!

Henny explained that the soldier and his mother had a relationship in Heerlen, Netherlands, in the winter of 1944-45 (the same period when the 111th was there), and that although his sister knew her father was a GI, her mother would never reveal his name—until she was on her deathbed: it was Charles Fargo, from Texas.

I had to tell Henny that we didn’t have a soldier by that name in the 111th, and although Ed and I tried various ways to find more about the man, we were unsuccessful. But that wasn’t the end of this story.

Henny mentioned in passing that he had retired after 44 years as a manager in a tile factory in Maastricht. Aha, I thought. I wonder if he would know anything about the beautiful ceramic tiles of Dutch girls in local costumes that my father and at least three other men of the 111th sent home while billeted in the Societe Ceramique tile factory in Maastricht in the fall of 1944. (See the blog post from March 2014, https://wwiitracings.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/a-french-orphan-and-the-tiles-of-war/)

The inscription on the back of each tile is “Societe Ceramique, Maestricht”

Henny replied that he would send my photos of the tiles to a colleague who knows a lot about the history of tile industry in Maastricht. It turns out they are rather rare. They were designed by well-known artist Henri Verstijnen in the 1930s but never put into full production.

I told Henny that I would like to donate my tiles to a museum or archives in Maastricht. He contacted the senior curator of the museum at the Centre Ceramique, a modern cultural complex built on the grounds of the factory where the tiles were made, to see if he would like them for his collection. He said yes, and I carefully packed them up and sent them off today.

Thank you, Henny!

Update May 21, 2021: You may recall that a few other men of the 111th had sent home these tiles. One of them was Ray Goodhart (see the previous post). We just learned that Kimberley, Ray’s loving granddaughter, has mailed off to the museum the two remaining tiles in the set created by artist Henri Verstijnen in Maastricht in the 1930s (see below). Mr. Wim Dijkman, Senior Curator, wrote in his thanks to Kimberley, “I can promise as the senior curator responsible for the ceramic collections made in Maastricht that these objects will be kept permanently in Centre Céramique and that I will write an article about all six tiles for the Bulletin of the Vereniging Maastrichts Aardewerk recognizing the background information you and Andrea Sutcliffe gave me about the fascinating story behind these tiles!”

Ray and my father, Edward Johnson, were good friends during the war; below is a photo of the two of them taken in Maastricht in 1944. We don’t know the circumstances of how the men obtained these tiles, but I’m guessing that when the 111th arrived in Maastricht shortly after the liberation of the city by the American troops, they may have been presented as gifts of appreciation by the managers of the tile factory.

Edward Johnson and Ray Goodhart, Maastricht, fall 1944
Comments
  1. Steph says:

    Wow that’s neat! Pretty cool to think they’ll be in a museum. 7 degrees of separation though, eh? I’m betting at some point, this will be revisited regarding Charles Fargo! Watch this space…

  2. Rafael Fano Suarez says:

    Hi

    I know this can be a stupid question … but Henny’s half sister … would it be possible she has any Latin trait?

    As you, I don’t find anything for “Charles Fargo” in Texas but … maybe there would be …

  3. Nicolas says:

    Hi Andrea . A friend of mine here in Cherbourg, was in the same situation . He knew his Grand Dad was a GI, but her grandmother refused to release his identity ( long story behind this )
    I suggested he try the DNA road . Which he did via one of this US based business .
    After less than 2 weeks, he was in touch whith relatives in US and he was able to get a name and some pictures of the man

  4. Rafael Fano Suarez says:

    The reason for my question is because in some regions of Spain Fargo is a variation of other surname: “Vargas”.

    I did a try changing Charles Fargo for Carlos Vargas and there was an enlisted man with that name, and precisally from Texas. Probably only a coincidence but …

  5. Franklin Wise says:

    Ande: you have done so much GOOD with your work on the 111th. A blessing to many and very interesting and informative to those of us who follow WWII Tracings. I look forward to your posts. All the best to you and Ed. Frank

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

  6. Kay says:

    Hi Cuz,

    This is a great story. Your and Ed’s mission has been led by angels, without a doubt.

    As you know, I’ve been trying to find out who my biological great grandfather was for a long time. The other day I ran across this website and when I read your story I thought you might wish to pass it on to Henry. There are people in the group called “DNA Detectives” who are expert at finding mystery parents. I wonder if Henry’s sister has taken a DNA test?

    Although the group generally tries to help people to help themselves, when someone requests an “angel”, especially if the request is to find a missing parent, a member of the group often volunteers to research the mystery mom or dad without charge. Henry’s sister’s case sounds like one which would be right up their alley. As in my case, Henry’s sister may find half siblings to communicate with and exchange more information about her father.

    If you would like to pass it on, here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DNADetectives/

    xxx Kay

  7. Louise Brooks says:

    The tiles you are donating are so beautiful and really artwork. I am sure the town of Maastrich and their residents will be thrilled to be able to see them in person.

  8. Patricia Macchiarolo says:

    Wonderful, heart-warming story, Andrea. The stories keep coming, don’t they! Hugs to you and Ed!
    Pat

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