A Letter to my Son

August Gust and Family

Carter, your last name is, “Gust.” It’s not a very common name, although it is a derivative of Caesar Agustus, who was obviously a prominent figure in history. But while that is interesting, the real prize is knowing a little bit about your family – where they came from and what kind of men characterized the ranks of the Gust Family.

Are you ready?

Buckle up!

Petawawa, Canada

First, let start with the basics. This is your “family tree” stripped down to the names of the men that characterize your father and your Grandfathers:

August Gust -> Albert Gust -> Henry Gust -> David Gust -> Bruce Gust

August Gust

August Gust is your great, great, grandfather. He was a married to a woman named Louise and together they would go on to become one of the founding families that established the area of Petawawa, Canada, which is close to Ontario (we went up to Ontario quite a bit as a family).

Your Grandfather, David Gust,
at the grave of August Gust

They had four sons and they were all born in Prussia, which was a major military and economic power in Central Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. 

They moved to Petawawa in 1884 and you can learn more about them on the, “Petawawa Heritage” website that references the Gust Family by name (your name is famous in Petawawa!)

Just to give you some context, Chester Arthur is president at this time. The Civil War had ended only 19 years ago. This is the year  that Mark Twain would write Huckleberry Finn and the Washington Monument would be completed.

This was a different day and age. It wasn’t about riding a school bus or learning how to drive. These guys were farmers – hard workers, who lived off of what they grew and raised. For August and his family to prosper to the point that they did required a lot of work and a lot of industry. You’ve got some hearty hardchargers in your family tree!

By 1904, the Gust’s were fairly prominent fixture in Petwawa, According to the website

On December 23, 1908 August transferred his land to Albert consisting of 90 acres cleared, 110 acres uncleared, a house and kitchen, cow barn, five outbuildings, one well, and fences.

That’s 200 total acres! That’s a lot of land and it belonged to your Great Great Great Grandfather!

Albert Gust

“Albert” is the name of both your Dad’s uncle as well as your Great Great Grandfather. Albert – the son of August – would stay in Petwawa. He married a woman named Bertha and they had 8 children. Henry, their son, is your Great Grandfather.

Your Grandfather (David Gust) standing to the right beside the grave of his Grandfather, Albert Gust. To the left is his Uncle Adolph.

Henry had several siblings, one of them was Adolf. My Dad called him “Uncle Adolf,” as you might imagine.  I never met him save one trip we made to Canada where I was able to take several pictures. One of them is to the right. That’s my Dad to the right and Uncle Adolf on the left. They’re standing alongside the grave of Albert, which would’ve been Adolf’s father and my Dad’s grandfather.

One thing that’s significant about Uncle Adolf is that, in addition to him being my Dad’s uncle, he was also a very diligent student of the Gust family tree. He was actually interviewed by a local newspaper in 1982 and he talks about the Gust family in the early years. You can hear his voice by clicking here! Another thing that’s significant about Adolf is revealed in another interview he gave in 1984 where he tells of the lumbering industry that was typical of that area back then and how he was made a foreman at the age of 15! You can view that pdf by clicking here.

Rochester, NY

Henry Gust

Henry is my grandfather and your great grandfather. He was the one that immigrated from Canada and settled in Rochester. His wife, Helen, was the daughter of Emil and Wilhemina Michel. The Michels were also from Pembroke, but had moved to Rochester in 1927. So, while Helen and Henry were technically from the same county in Canada, but they never met until Henry had relocated to Rochester.

They got married and eventually made their home at 14 Stout Street. I remember going by their only a handful of times as a kid. I have a vague memory of my Dad having written his initials in some cement behind the apartment. Today, it looks as though the buildings have been renovated, so it would be difficult to know for sure. But that was the home your grandfather grew up in.

Aunt Beverly, your grandfather’s sister, describes Henry as jolly individual who actually enjoyed tap dancing – something that must’ve been fun to watch back then. He also seriously considered becoming a pastor at one point. Instead, he worked for IBM. She described being a child in Henry’s home by saying, “Every night we did Bible study and got down on our knees and prayed as a family. He would kiss us good night as he tucked us in and prayed with us individually.” 

Henry and Helen Gust on their wedding day. Standing behind them is Henry’s brother, Adolph. The woman to the right is Helen’s sister, Frieda.

But then, when Henry only 39 years old, he passed away as a result of a blood clot in the aftermath of a routine hernia operation. David, your grandfather, was only five years old. 

What makes this so signficant is that your great grandmother would’ve been entirely justified in farming her children out to relatives. Back then, job opportunities for women were scarce, thus making money very, very tight. Nevertheless, your grandmother chose to raise her children herself which is one of the reasons your grandfather was very frugal and taught both his son and his daughter the value of a dollar.

Henry and Helen had three children: Albert, Beverly and David. With Henry now having gone to be with his King, Helen was now raising her children on her own and the one thing that was emphasized at her funeral when she passed away in 1973 was the fact that she made certain all three of her children knew the Lord.

While her kids had been baptized in the local Lutheran church, Helen had been attending Bible study at Brighton Community Church and it’s there that David would worship and where he would later bring his family when he got married.

Hilton, NY

David Gust

David met Esther Speck on a blind date that was orchestrated by his sister Beverly and a friend of hers named Johanna. Johanna is my Aunt Jo, who you’ve met. She was a nurse working with Beverly at the time and the two of them arranged for a couple of dates for David and a friend of his named Roger Beaman.

Esther was taken with David right from the start and they began a long distance relationship that would culminate in them getting married in August of 1962. I would be born a year later and then Aunt Brenda would complete the Gust family in 1965.

David was a great Dad and a good man. He was very intelligent and had a commanding physical presence fostered by several summers working on the farm in Pembroke as a younger man. 

After graduating High School, he enlisted in the Army Reserve and then worked his way through college with no scholarships or assistance from his family, given the fact that Helen wasn’t in financial position to help.

He majored in Chemistry and minored in Mathematics. He made his living by working for the Eastman Kodak company as a Chemist. 

He was very active in church by serving as a Trustee and also teaching Sunday School and leading the local chapter of Christian Service Brigade which was a like a Christian version of the Boy Scouts.

He was extremely handy! He built the house where we lived, he cut down trees on the side using a rig that included a truck, a tractor and a trailer that he enhanced signficantly. He would often lend his talent and work ethic to church projects which including converting a school to the new location for Brighton Community Church. That fellowship would change its name to “Browncroft Community Church” and our family helped clean and paint and do a variety of things that would help prepare for its grand opening. 

That church is still very much alive today and the Gust family had a hand in helping that vision come alive.

To learn more about Dave and Esther and the family they raised at 399 Parma Center Road, click here

But apart from the footprint left by your grandma and grandman in Hilton, NY, you can know that your heritage includes some very hearty and hardworking German people that carved out a life for themselves in Canada before there was electricity and where your character, your faith and your work ethic made all the difference.

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