Helmuth August Thews (1879-1960), Ancestor No. 7

Helmuth A. Thews (1879-1960) was my great-grandfather’s younger brother. My grandmother’s uncle.  He arrived in Baltimore in 1884 on a ship from Bremen, Germany with his parents, Christian and Augusta, and siblings Louisa and Rudolph. I believe they were the last of my immigrant ancestors to make the crossing.

Elder brother Rudolph Thews is a big mystery to me. He was not a nice person, that’s about the extent of my knowledge. My great-grandparents’ marriage ended around 1922, when Rudolph’s mother-in-law Lula swooped in and removed her daughter and granddaughters from the house, taking them back to her home in White Sulphur Springs, Montana. As far as I know, Rudolph tried to see the family only once or twice over the next twenty years or so, managing only to stir up a lot of angst and anger.

Uncle Helmuth, on the other hand was, by all accounts, a total sweetheart. He married Lena Walde about 1915, and they had two sons – Edward and Rudolph.

In 1947, he wrote a letter to Ethel, my grandmother’s sister, informing her of her father’s death. It’s a lovely letter; full of kindness and affection for nieces he had never actually met. He asked about my grandmother, whether she was married or not, etc., and asked for her address so he might write her himself. He also suggested Ethel write to his elder son, since she had already once written the younger son.

My favorite part of the Uncle Helmuth story is that he was a piano tuner by trade, and that his hobby was writing popular songs.  He had at least three songs published, writing the words and music for “Where Is My Dear, My Only” (1913) and “Let Me Kiss Those Ruby Lips” (1914).  And one of my all-time favorite research gold-strikes was finding the sheet music to “Oh, That Auto Glide!” (1912).

Oh That Auto Glide

Helmuth and Lena enclosed this photograph with their 1951 Christmas card.

Helmuth-Lena Thews

Helmuth and Lena, with their two grandchildren, Edward’s children Marilyn and Daniel.

Helmuth died in Eau Claire, Wisconsin on October 25, 1960. Lena lived to 94 years old, passing in 1982.


  1. Helmuth was my maternal great uncle by marriage. Lena was my maternal great aunt. She was my grandfather’s ( Emil Walde) sister. I remember Helmuth, but didn’t know that he was a piano tuner and wrote music. My family visited Helmuth, Lena, and sons often and remember seeing their children as they grew up. Thanks for the wonderful article.

  2. Awww… Helmuth is one of those characters I wish I could have known. His letters to my grandma and her sister were so sweet. They never met, but you couldn’t tell that by the way he wrote. Thank you so much for saying hello. I so appreciate it!

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