I didn't know about dad's first wife until I went to a first cousin reunion around 1980. My cousin Edgar Miller's wife Mary was showing me some photos that people had brought and picked up one and said "This is the wedding photo of your dad and his first wife and you can have this if you want it". I could only thank her for the photo and that would set me on a search for something I had not known until that evening.
In the photo box mom kept I had seen photos of my dad and Edgar Miller standing together wearing dark suits and white shoes. I never questioned the photo though but that was taken just before the wedding and Edgar was the best man for the wedding. I don't know much about Helen Specht (1911-1989) and really didn't learn much about here until Mee-Mee and Mom started talking about her and the marriage later. Mee-Mee talked about it a couple years before she died and Mom talked to Adele and me about it around 2000. Both of them said about the same things when they told the story.
Dad and Helen got married 23 July 1940 at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Evansville. As the story goes shortly after the marriage Helen told dad that she had joined a secret organization at the church and that they could no longer live together as husband and wife. They could still sleep in the same bed but that was all. Since dad was raised a devout Catholic he had no reason to doubt this and agreed with it. At that time they were going to Sacred Heart Catholic Church which was a couple blocks from the house on Illinois St. There were others on the block that also went to that church and the Weinzapfels who lived behind them would at times walk to the church with them.
One day Mr. Weinzapfel told dad that every morning around 9:00 Father Vollmer from the church would come to the house and stay for a couple hours before leaving and this had been going on for some time. Dad made note of this and one morning came home from work between 9 and 10, walked in the house and caught Helen and the Priest in bed together. Dad had a hard time thinking about a divorce and didn't file for one until eight years later. At the divorce proceedings one of Helen's brothers came to dad and told him that Helen was willing to forgive him for this and would take him back if he wanted. After hearing the story the judge asked dad why he waited so long to file and proceed.
Soon dad was contacted by Father Vollmer and was told that since he was now divorced he could not come back into the church. Two years later when dad was dying from a botched appendix operation the same priest came to the hospital to see him. There he told dad that he would not give him last rights unless he denounced my mother as his wife and took Helen back. Dad told the priest to get out of the room. Mom told me about this and I also heard it from a cousin who was there with her mother Louisa Luigs, dad's oldest sister. Not long ago when I was looking though dad funeral register book I noticed that Father Vollmer had signed the book. Through the years a lot of the family did not believe that story and looked down on dad until after the stories about priest abusing children started coming out.
Helen is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery on Mesker Park Dr. in a family plot. In her obituary it stated that her husband Gilbert had died in 1951. I have no idea who put that part in the obit but it looks like she never married again.