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The Journal Gazette

  • File The caption of this photo identified the man at left as Gus German, but further research shows his name might be Gus Herman instead.

  • File The original 1954 caption and photo, as it appeared in The Journal Gazette.

Thursday, January 03, 2019 2:50 pm

Who was Gus? Solving a mystery from 1954

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

Gus German or Gus Herman? It's a mystery that appears to be 65 years old.

In an archive photo published with History Journal on Dec. 27, a Fort Wayne Police Department patrolman was listed at Gus German. That is how he was identified in a caption in the June 15, 1954, edition of The Journal Gazette.

The full caption from 1954 reads, "MARK DEATH AREA – The boundaries of the total damage area during yesterday's civil defense test alert were placarded by regular and auxiliary police officers. Patrolman Gus German of the Fort Wayne Police Department, left, and Auxiliary Officer Leonard Newport are shown placarding a tree at DeWald St. and Fairfield Ave."

(Read that installment of History Journal here: http://www.journalgazette.net/features/history-journal/20181227/a-busy-week-in-june-1954)

But two readers soon let me know that they knew Gus in their youth, and his last name was Herman.

These women seem to be in a position to know. Mary Wyss says Gus went to school with her brother and she has the yearbooks to prove it. Another caller, who only wished to be identified as Rose Mary, says she dated Gus in high school. His given name was Gervase, but he didn't like that much and went by Gus.

Heidi Bixby of the Fort Wayne Police Department found a record of a Gervase P. Herman Jr. joining the force in 1953, but no further information that could confirm that the man in our photo was incorrectly identified or if he used Gus as a nickname.

A 2013 obituary in The Journal Gazette's digital archive for a Mary Ann Herman lists her as the widow of a Gervase "Gus" Herman, who died on June 16, 1992. That led us to an obit in our microfilm archive for a man identified as Gus Herman.

Herman, who died at age 62, was a Korean War veteran and retired from the FWPD in 1973. He was a co-owner of Carl's Tavern in New Haven for 23 years, according to the obituary. Surviving him at his death were his wife, a son, four daughters and 12 grandchildren.

Without having confirmation from Gus himself, the original (and unidentified) photographer or any official record of the time, I can't say with 100 percent certainty that the 1954 caption was incorrect. But it appears likely that Gus Herman was misidentified then and again a few weeks ago. We never like to have incorrect information in the newspaper, but this little mystery led to some interesting research – and conversations with some very nice readers. Thanks for your help, ladies!

Corey McMaken can be reached at 461-8475 or cmcmaken@jg.net with comments, suggestions or questions regarding History Journal.