How to organize a family reunion

While there is no English counterpart for the German concept of “gemutlichkeit,” the word roughly translates to a feeling of warm friendliness, like wearing a favorite sweater or, as Paul Liepe said in his opening address at his family’s 150th reunion, like being surrounded by family.

“People are feeling sort of disconnected right now, and I think that the family really wanted to get together,” said Liepe, who grew up in Hamilton Township but now lives in Virginia. “A lot of the more senior folks in the family were very emphatic, saying we simply have to get together.”

The reunion came about because of Liepe, the family’s self-appointed historian, who wrote a history of his family in North America. In researching the book, many of the older family members expressed interest in getting the family back together for a reunion.

Liepe began the festivities with a brief presentation of their history, giving awards to the oldest and youngest family members and those who traveled the farthest and least in getting to the celebration.

At 98 years old, Helene Young is the oldest. She still goes out for daily bike rides and picks up trash near her home. Young married into the family in 1938.

Among the happiest to be reunited were Carol Schaab-Gressman and Kathy Schaab-Parnell, who were moved to California as toddlers when their mother abruptly left their father. The sisters said they knew nothing of their paternal family until about six months ago, when Schaab-Parnell made an account on, finding she was part of a family tree made by Paul Liepe. She contacted him and was invited to the reunion.

While it was an afternoon of fun and fellowship for all, few at the reunion got to understand that feeling of gemutlichkeit quite so well as the sisters.

“It’s just fabulous,” Schaab-Parnell said. “These people are everything I expected them to be – warm and loving, and like there was no passage of time.”

From a story by Braden Campbell in the Taunton Daily Gazette, Taunton, Massachusetts.