After my father passed away on April 9, 2019, we donated his body to science through the Humanity Gifts Registry of Pennsylvania, in keeping with his life and values. It also eliminated the need for funeral home services (we won’t be offered his ashes for up to two years) and we had time to plan a fitting memorial service through my parents’ church.
In preparation, my mother Erika, a writer, wrote and submitted an obituary to several small papers. Although e-editions of these publications are available, none include postings to typical legacy/memorial sites. She also crafted a beautiful and comprehensive eulogy that was read in full at his memorial service. It would be a shame to not have all of this memorializing available for distant friends and relatives to read. Here they are.
Obituary of Henry Trapp, Jr., 1924 – 2019
Henry Trapp, Jr., 1924 – 2019
Henry Trapp Jr. of Solebury Township, passed away April 9, at Neshaminy Manor, Warrington. Born in Lakewood and raised in Westlake, Ohio, he was the beloved son of Eva Wiener Trapp and Henry Trapp Sr. and brother of Barbara Trapp Walker, who preceded him in death. Also preceding him were many extended family members, colleagues, and neighbors in various parts of the United States,
He is survived by his beloved wife, Erika Lydia Trapp of Solebury Township; daughter Barbara Lydia Trapp, granddaughter April Ross, a sister Evelyn Trapp Goodrick and brother-in-law Richard Goodrick, all of Florida; a son, Henry Joseph Trapp of California; a sister-in-law Dorit Herman, her husband Thomas Herman, and their extended families of Utah and Arizona.
When Henry was in his early teens, he told his mother that he wanted to go to college. She shook her head and sighed. She said that she did not know how they could afford it. And yet all three of the Trapp children were to go, and all of the grandchildren earned degrees.
By the time Henry graduated from high school in 1942, he had a scholarship from Wooster College, Ohio. His immigrant parents sold a cow to add funds to their son’s summer earnings and scholarship, and Henry was on his way.
His formal education was interrupted when he left for World War II service with the U.S. Navy. A shoulder injury cut short his service, and he returned to Wooster, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry. Until the week of his death, if you asked Henry how long he served in the Navy, he would recite, “one year, three months and fourteen days,” with just a bit of sarcasm. Because of his injury, he was never invited to serve on a ship. He loved ships ever since he was a boy.
In his last year at Wooster, Henry also took a course in geology. He liked the idea of spending part of his career outdoors, rather than in a lab all day.
With a Masters degree in geology from Washington University in St. Louis, he briefly worked as an oil scout in Louisiana, then as a geologist for the Atlantic Refining Company in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. There he enjoyed elk, deer, antelope and duck hunting in his spare time, and sometimes hunted mice in a trailer he called home, while “sitting on an oil well” in the middle of nowhere.
The Search for a Wife
Upon his arrival in Billings, Montana, he embarked on an active social life, with the goal of finding a wife. There were many available young women in town as compared to Casper, Wyoming, where young bachelors working in the oil industry outnumbered young women. In Billings, he met girls through the Twenty-Thirty Club, sponsored by the First Congregational Church, through introductions, and through names and phone numbers shared with his friends.
He first became aware of Erika in the spring of 1956, when both were in the Billings Symphony Chorus. He discovered her name through the listing of chorus members on a concert program, and by the process of elimination. Then he read a newspaper article about her addressing the Girl Scouts on her growing up in Germany during the war. This, combined with her attractive and striking appearance aroused his interest, and he called and invited her to go with him to a movie.
Erika says that striking appearance was all makeup. They both had been selected to be in a small choir for a musical. He was a bass, she an alto. She had wondered who that handsome tall fellow was, who always managed to stand behind her during rehearsals. She told him she would love to go to a movie, but had promised to take her mother to the circus.
It was the truth, not an excuse. But it gave her time to do some checking. The secretary of the oil company, where Erika worked, told her that she had met Henry at a party, and remembered him taking the offering at the Congregational Church. Erika, who was a conscientious Baptist at the time, took this as a favorable recommendation, and accepted his second invitation a week or two later, in May 1956.
During a dinner with friends at Henry’s apartment, she discovered that he had a big German Bible on his bookshelf, complete with woodcut illustrations. This also impressed her favorably.
But Henry was still playing the field.
And then his parents arrived from Ohio, on the Northern Pacific Railway. He took them to Glacier Park and parts of Canada, and upon their return his mother suggested, they go out to dinner, along with a young lady of his choice. He chose Erika, guessing that his parents would find her German background compatible. They were charmed by her, but his mother wondered about her age. Erika was 23 and Henry eight and a half years older. “Perhaps my mother thinks I am robbing the cradle,” Henry thought. But the dinner was a turning point. He went only with Erika after that.
They saw each other several times a week and went to movies, concerts, festivals, swimming holes, Yellowstone Park, restaurants, and events with other young people. They talked and talked, about philosophy, religion, their past lives, and their emotional problems. Henry had lost a younger sister in the prime of her life, and Erika was missing art school and her friends in Germany. Henry called her every morning, before both left for work.”
Erika’s parents liked him very much, but her mother worried they might get tired of each other, spending so much time together. “Now is the time to find out,” Henry said. He had taken a college course in logic. Erika had started to worry she might not be smart enough for him. A psychologist told her, “When you can’t understand Henry sometimes, just be a good listener. There aren’t enough good listeners in the world.”
Engagement and Marriage
Finally, they were parked on Lover’s Lane, at Rocky Mountain College, where Erika had gone for two years, and her father taught languages. Henry came up with an idea. “We have been seeing each other so much,” he said, “we might as well get married.” It made sense. Is that a proposal?” Erika asked. She was still learning about American customs.
They announced their engagement on December 1, her mother’s birthday, and married June 22, 1957. Colleagues, family, and friends came to their church wedding. The choir sang, and someone recorded the ceremony on Erika’s tape recorder. They went to Glacier Park and the Canadian parks for their honeymoon. They spent the next three years getting used to being a married couple. Their Labrador retriever puppy destroyed the flowers around their rented apartment, so they bought a house. Erika got her degree at Rocky, painted signs in town, and in 1959 they spent six weeks in Europe, sight-seeing and visiting friends and relatives. When they came home, Erika was pregnant, easing the worries of her mother’s friends, who did not know that all had been planned that way. Well, almost all.
Babies, Jobs, and Moves
When they returned from Europe, oil companies were reducing staff. Henry lost his job. He found a temporary one near St. Louis, Missouri. With a heavy heart, he left just a few weeks after Barbara Lydia was born. Erika was glad she had parents in town and a sister who knew all about baby care.
Her life with Henry would always be interesting and challenging. He sometimes felt guilty about some of the situations she found herself in but was delighted at her becoming more and more self-reliant. She took photos of Barbara, developed the negatives in the basement and kept him supplied with pictures. He was hopeful in Missouri. He dealt with groundwater geology now and saw a better future in it for supporting a family. When Erika found a buyer for their house, he came to reclaim her and their baby.
They lived in Missouri for about a year. They rented a house. Henry found no Congregational Church, but a Unitarian church, like the one near Washington University. Erika joined the choir at 2nd Baptist Church. They would never again find so many educational opportunities and cultural events so close to their home. He took college calculus, she voice lessons, taking Barbara along. She practiced during the day, Barbara squealing under the piano keyboard. Henry studied at night.
A Career with the U.S. Geological Survey
And then the U.S. Geological Survey offered him a job as geologist/hydrologist in North Carolina, where Henry Joseph was born in 1962. The proud father found another Unitarian church; Erika sang at First Baptist in Asheville.
After that, the Survey offered positions in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where they found a joint Congregational & Baptist Church, and in Bismarck, North Dakota, where Erika got recruited into the First Presbyterian Church choir and Henry found no Congregational church, but Unitarians again. As always, they visited each other’s churches and made friends in both.
From the cold country, they moved to Tallahassee, Florida. Henry was becoming a full-fledged hydrologist, and for the first time, they joined the same church: First Presbyterian. They were not an ecumenical family anymore.
The move to New Jersey and Pennsylvania 10 years later began to tear their nuclear family apart. Barbara was at Florida State and had become thoroughly Floridian. Henry Joseph had a chance to stay with a friend and finish high school there but decided to accompany his parents, – temporarily. They settled near New Hope, drawn by the picturesque landscape and artistic community. Joe, as he was known by then, graduated from New Hope/Solebury High and moved on to Penn State. Erika fought empty-nest syndrome by gardening, designing signs for businesses, and writing features for newspapers.
Henry’s last job with the Survey was as a hydrogeologist, with the Regional Aquifer System Analysis of the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain, from North Carolina to New York. It included four years of his dedication to the Ground Water Atlas of the United States.[See U.S. Geological Survey Professional Papers 1404-A and G, containing reports and illustrations. Large maps followed later.]
Henry and Erika joined Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church, New Hope in 1980. At Thompson church, he became an elder. He and Erika served on committees. They sang in the choir on Sundays and in seasonal concerts, madrigals, productions of Amahl and the Night Visitors, and the musical, Lazarus, in which Henry played the part of Abraham. They enjoyed dine-arounds and other social occasions. Wherever they lived, their children were involved in church life too. Barbara was dedicated at the 2nd Baptist Church near St. Louis. Henry Joseph was baptized at First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee. And in 1993, Henry and Erika became happy grandparents when April Elizabeth Ross was born to Barbara and Gary Ross. Now they were traveling to Florida three or four times a year.
Henry had always been an avid reader, following in his mother’s footsteps. His sense of humor, probably from his father, enabled him to appreciate cartoons in the New Yorker and the Philadelphia Inquirer, including Baby Blues, Pickles, Tundra and others. He enjoyed travel, gardening, and photography and liked especially classical and semi-classical music. He sang in choirs almost everywhere he lived.
In retirement, he studied science, religion, the arts, and memoir writing at Delaware Valley University. He poured over microfilms in Doylestown and at the Latter Day Saints Library in Salt Lake City, once with Erika in tow. He wrote a detailed story of his ancestors, his immigrant parents’ beginnings in the United States, and his colorful growing-up years in Westlake, Ohio, including his family’s adventures in running two small farms. Each had a roadside stand, and on weekends and holidays, friends and extended family visited. When Henry was done with his memoir, he sent copies to the ones that were still living. They responded with additions.
During the early part of the 21st century, he joined an experimental government-sponsored weight management program he liked to call his fat class. He made new friends and lost 30 pounds. He was also a volunteer helping seniors with income tax preparation and briefly served on a groundwater committee in Solebury Township. Early in his career, he was a member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and later the Geological Society of America. He also contributed to many civic causes and was a consistent voter in local and national elections.
Travel included almost all the states of the union while he, Erika and the children visited both sets of grandparents, as well as extended family and friends during Christmas or summer. They fostered their children’s education by stopping in caves, on mountain tops, at historical sites, and in museums on the way.
Travel to Europe included England, Paris, Holland, Austria, Italy, East and West Germany including Berlin where, during their first trip in 1959, Erika got to introduce her husband to relatives and friends. Later Henry found traces of his ancestors and living descendants of some of them in West Germany.
When he was no longer able to drive, or work in the garden behind his home, and had to let someone else trim the fruit trees he had planted, he was still able to enjoy the view from a dining room window —-until care, even with help, became too difficult at home, and he agreed to move to Neshaminy Manor in Warrington, with its caring, often smiling staff, and a nurse who always remembered he liked ginger ale. There were interesting programs, even prayer, and Bible study once a week, and worship, with singing on Sundays, sometimes communion if he woke early enough, and wheelchair group exercise with Doug, who knew how to cheer up everyone.
And Henry looked forward to almost daily visits from Erika, and calls or visits from distant loved ones.
Henry loved and was proud of his children, both of whom graduated from college, Barbara at Florida State University and Henry Joseph at Penn State. “We have good kids,” Henry often said to Erika, and she agreed. Or he asked her, “What did I ever do to deserve you?” “You must have done something pretty bad,” Erika always answered, giving him a hug or a kiss, or both. He always smiled, as she expected he would.
A month before he died, Erika was not feeling well during a worship service at Neshaminy Manor. She leaned over to Henry, trying not to breathe on him, and said. “Henry, I can’t sing today. You have to sing for both of us.” She was not sure he would be able to. He had been getting weaker lately. But the pianist played the introduction to “Amazing Grace” and Henry joined the wheelchair congregation, aware that Erika was watching him expectantly. Softly and haltingly he sang the first verse by heart, smiling all the way through. She thanked him and he closed his eyes and just listened to the rest. That was the last time she heard him sing.
Contributions in Henry’s memory may be made to Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1680 Aquetong Road, New Hope, PA, 18938, the Udall Parkinson’s Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, or the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.