Windemuth Family Organization History
The idea of holding a family reunion originated with Walter Johns Wintermute b. (1907-2003) in the 1930's. As was typical of the time, Walter and his parents moved frequently to find work. As the family traveled from place to place, Walter began keeping a list of names and addresses of people named "Wintermute" he found along the way. Over the years, the list grew in size and so did Walter's dream of inviting everyone on his list to a family reunion.
During the Spring of 1981, Walter, Stella Garbus, Fred Wintermute and his wife, and three brothers, Frank, Bob, and Ernie decided to clean up the older part of the Stillwater, New Jersey Cemetery. That neglected section of the cemetery contained the graves of the original Windemuth emigrators and was badly overgrown with brush and tall grass. During the cleanup, Walter shared his dream of holding a family reunion with the others.
After finishing the cleanup, the group agreed to help Walter fulfill his dream of holding a large Wintermute family reunion. Other family members were enlisted in the project. William Wintermute was headed west for a new job that involved frequent travel. While waiting for connecting flights in airports, William would search phone books for "Wintermute" names and addresses. Harold Wintermute supplied more names from Pennsylvania. As these newly identified family members were contacted, many sent in additional names. Stella Garbus single-handedly managed the correspondence, sent out the invitations, and acted as treasurer for the reunion. According to Walter, without Stella’s faithful dedication, the reunion would not have been successful.
The first reunion was held on Labor Day in September 1981. The location was the beautiful rolling hills of Sussex County, Stillwater, New Jersey. Walter secured permission from the current owners of the original John Georg Wintermute’s homestead to hold the reunion on their property. A large tent was rented and a catered meal provided to accommodate the more than 200 people from across the United States and Canada that attended. Many people met cousins and other family members for the first time. It was a big day in the historic village of Stillwater and the local papers in Sussex and Warren Counties gave the reunion a nice write-up.
Those in attendance enjoyed the event so much that it was decided to hold another reunion in two years, again in Stillwater. Walter was elected President and Stella Garbus Treasurer. After discussing the possibility of updating the “Wintermute Family History” book published in 1900, Fred Hazen Wintermute volunteered to chair the Genealogy Committee with the assistance of Harold Wintermute. Their assignment was to gather information about Wintermute descendants for inclusion in an updated publication.
Before the second Wintermute Family Reunion, Walter asked Neal Duane Wintermute to take over as president. Walter was reaching the age where he felt that a younger person could better handle the details of planning the reunion.
The second reunion took place on Labor Day 1983 in Stillwater again at the John Georg Wintermute estate. At this reunion, Milton Wintermute was elected as Vice President and Walter Wintermute as Treasurer.
The 1985, 1987 and 1989 reunions were held in Stillwater but moved to the Methodist Church. In 1991, the reunion committee decided to hold the reunion in Cleveland, Ohio where it was hosted by Milton Wintermute. 1993’s reunion returned to Stillwater and the 1995 reunion was held in Chicago. By now the reunion committee felt there was benefit in moving the reunion around North America. It allowed more Wintermute descendants the opportunity of attending a reunion without having to travel to the east coast.
It was during these developmental years that the vision of an international family organization began to take shape. About 1991, James Woodrow Wintermute succeeded Fred Wintermute as chairman of the Genealogy Committee. It was tasked with the responsibility of publishing an updated Wintermute Family History book. From the committee’s research, it became apparent that there were several variations in the spelling of the surnames of Johan Christoph Windemuth descendants.
At the 1995 Chicago reunion, family members discussed whether to change the name of the reunion from Wintermute to Windemuth. Windemuth won by a small margin. Then bylaws were adopted forming the non-profit corporation known as the Windemuth Family Organization.
In 1996, the “Windemuth Family Heritage 1996”, a two volume set of books, was published. It contained the full original “Wintermute Family History” published in 1900, plus several thousand newly identified descendants born after 1900. The research for the book also provided the newly formed organization with a mailing list of nearly 1,200 Windemuth descendants located in the United States and Canada.
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