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No, not Hummel figurines

Since folks sometimes confuse me with the German nun, Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, whose artwork launched the famous Hummel Figurines, I figure it's about time to clarify who I am and who I'm not.

Sister Hummel was a talented artist who drew and painted delightful sketches of children and saints. Franz Goebel, a German publisher, discovered her artwork and printed it as post cards. Then in 1935, Goebel began the production of figurines under the authentication of Sister Hummel's convent, the Convent of Siessen. The little figurines, three to four inches tall, are made of porcelain. The body is bisque fired, dipped in glaze and painted using oil and turpentine based colors that contain metallic oxides as pigments. They are very delicate, very beautiful and very expensive. Sister Hummel died in 1946 of tuberculosis. The Goebel Company announced last year that the Hummels would be discontinued and production ceased in October of 2008. But another company has announced they will resume Hummel production this year.

Am I related to the late Sister Hummel? Probably not. But my dad had artistic talent. He did some paintings on wood and sculpted and finished driftwood most artistically. My brother Bruce is a very talented painter, sculptor and ceramic artist and we have many of his artistic works on display in our home. But he did none of this as a boy. Neither did I. As a boy, I was known mostly for my dirty fingernails.

Also I am not related to Abraham Hummel who was a criminal lawyer in New York City in the late 1800's. He was quite talented to be sure, but he became famous at that time because he was corrupt. John D. Townsend, also a criminal lawyer of that era, wrote a book in 1901 titled "New York in Bondage". It is about the widespread corruption in New York City from about 1870 to 1898, especially political corruption including Tammany Hall and Boss William Tweed. Abraham Hummel of the firm of Howe and Hummel is mentioned prominently in that book as a "fixer." If he couldn't acquit his clients in trial, after they were convicted he got them released by a motion for writ of habeas corpus that the judges (Judge Albert Cardozo and Judge George Barnard) granted after being bribed. The judges were convicted and removed from the office they had disgraced and Abraham Hummel was disbarred. If Attorney Hummel were still practicing law today, he would undoubtedly be representing Bernie Madoff the Ponzi crook. No, I'm not related to Abraham Hummel. My Hummel ancestors landed in New York in 1903 after the disgrace of Abraham Hummel and never slowed down until they reached North Dakota.

So who am I? If you pay attention to college basketball, you have probably heard the name of Robbie Hummel, a 20-year-old kid from Indiana who stands 6'8", weighs 212 lbs. and plays forward for Purdue University. He is all muscle, talent and competetiveness. Two years ago, when he was a senior in high school playing for Valpariso High in Indiana, he was named an Indiana State All Star. The next year as a freshman at Purdue he was named to the all Big 10 first team and lead the Big 10 with 44.7 percent in three point shooting accuracy, setting a Purdue school record at the same time. He also had the highest free throw average, 86.5 percent in school history. This year, as a sophomore, he was named Preseason Big 10 player of the year at the beginning of the season and Big 10 tournament most valuable player at the end of the year as he lead the Purdue Boilermakers to their first Big 10 tournament championship in school history.

I'm sure Robbie Hummel is my cousin. I have the feeling we have some of the same talents, that his Hummel ancestors and mine, all related, came into this country on the same boat (steerage class), that his family stopped in Indiana while mine continued to North Dakota and that Robbie as a boy was known mostly for his dirty fingernails.

The moral of the story is this: the search for our identities is a lifelong quest.