This is a short, but interesting story that is mostly unknown to many Abilene residents.
It all started at the end of WW II when Dwight David Eisenhower, nicknamed “Ike” (probably from the Old West, meaning “roughneck”) commanded the Occupation Forces in Germany. On May 8th 1945, hostilities ended.
Special Services Officers of the 10th Armored Div. and 101st Airborne Div. didn’t waste any time getting pre-war facilities of Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Southern Germany) back into operation. They needed someone to set up the so called AFRC (American Armed Forces Recreation Center) and hired a German citizen, Wilhelm Gruendl “William” as a hotel manager. William and his wife Elisabeth had two sons. Claus was as the youngest.
William had met many VIP guests. But one visit stands out. It was mid-August of 1951, and General Eisenhower (then SACEUR - Supreme Allied Commander in Europe), his wife Mamie and her mother, Mrs. S. Doud, stopped by for a 11-day vacation. So it happened that the Gruendl Family became very close life-long friends of Ike and Mamie.
The Gruends wanted to pay tribute to Ike for liberating Germany from the Nazi regime, by starting a modest Eisenhower Museum in Oberammergau (Southern Germany).
They acquired everything they could related to Eisenhower history for their museum. In 1996 Claus and his mother Elisabeth came to Abilene to visit the present Eisenhower Library and Museum to learn more the Eisenhower family history and to get ideas for their museum.
On this trip, they learned that Ike’s parents were buried in the Abilene cemetery and made a walking tour to look for their gravesite. They couldn’t find it at first, but saw an elderly gentleman walking a dog and approached him to ask if he knew anything about the location.
This elderly gentleman turned out to be my cousin, Bill Jeffcoat, and they became instant friends when they learned that Bill was also an avid admirer of Ike and serious collector of Ike memorabilia.
After that, Claus and Elisabeth, made many annual summer trips to visit Bill and that’s when I first met Claus and Elisabeth and we became close friends. Claus and I tried to coordinate our frequent trips to Abilene to be there at the same time.
In Claus’s research, he learned that when the Eisenhower family first came to Abilene, they lived at a home at 112 S.E. Second, but as their family grew that home soon became too small and they moved to the present celebrated home at 201 S.E. Fourth.
By coincidence, also during the 1996 trip to Abilene, Claus even found the original home for sale but because someone else had been interested already before him, he couldn’t get it. Finally, in 2001, after 5 long years of waiting, Claus purchased the first Eisenhower boyhood home and still owns it today.
After my Cousin Bill’s passing in 2007, as executor and president of the Jeffcoat Memorial Foundation, I had the job to dispose of Bill’s possessions. When I came to the voluminous Ike material in Bill’s possession, there was only one thing to do with it and that, of coursec was to give it to Claus for his Ike Museum!
For more info on the Oberammergau Eisenhower Museum just go to: facebook.com/EisenhowerMuseum/
Trivia: Bill’s dog was named “Coke” because he made a lot of dollars on Coca Cola stock that financed the start of the well-known and generous Jeffcoat Memorial Foundation.