DEVOTED FATHER, PATRIOT, EDUCATOR, INVENTOR AND
BORN APRIL 7TH, 1927 DURING A TIME WHEN BEING POOR WAS REALLY POOR. HE WOULD SAY HE NEVER REALIZED IT BECAUSE EVERYONE WAS IN THE SAME POSITION. A TIME WHEN A NEW PAIR SHOES WAS A TREAT AND NEW CLOTHES WERE ONLY PURCHASED WHEN THE OLD ONES JUST COULDN’T BE WORN ANYMORE OR THERE WAS NO CLOTH TO MAKE THEIR OWN.
The youngest child by 10 years, he grew up with is brother and sister in the south Texas town of Poteet, where his father share-cropped the family farmland and was the local Mayor. He played football when the game was real – with leather helmets and no facemask, and the football field might be the local rodeo arena depending on which south Texas town they played in. He grew up in the great depression, served in WWII, and returned to graduate college at Texas A&I University with a Masters Degree – a rarity in those times.
He “married up” as he would say, to his wife of 48 years Edith Voelger Ulbrich, who also graduated with a Masters Degree after attending the University of Cincinatti, Rice University, and Texas A&I.
If I was to put my finger on it, she fell in love with a real Texas Cowboy and he fell in love with the belle of the ball when her roommate at Rice University and his best childhood friend introduced them one day. He drove all the way to Cinncinati from Poteet, TX to get married, returning with his bride to live in the hot, sweltering heat area of south Texas. Needless to say the belle of the ball was not a HAPPY CAMPER ! She jokingly told me years later that “he tricked me”!
On the first family ranch located in Staples TX, he and his wife Edie raised their daughter, Nancy and son Phil just down the road from his mother’s roots in Martindale, TX where her family had arrived in 1851.
Moving from the ranch in Staples, TX in 1970, the family purchased land along the Guadalupe River in Seguin, Texas and named it “The Lazy U Ranch” after his father’s cattle brand that was registered in 1914. His passion was raising cattle, and he often said “I only became a school teacher because it allowed the summer’s off to tend to cattle”.
When I first met him he was retired from school teaching and was 64 years old. Our first handshake was memorable as his hand was like grabbing a piece of iron. I new I was shaking the hand of a Man’s Man, and without question a working man!
Immediately we hit it off as future father and son-in-law and became the best of friends. From the beginning of our relationship our conversations started with stories of his family history, cattle, and RAMMED EARTH houses. Our talks started at sun up and ended when he fell a sleep – he literally can talk the ears off a mule!
He worked at the Union Stock Yards Café with my wife and I in the 90’s, taking him back to a place – “the Union Stockyards of San Antonio”, that was founded by one of his family members in 1889, acting as a starting point for ALL the great cattle trail drives north.
Every year he and I and a dog named Hondo headed to the desert mountains of West Texas, hunting for Texas mule deer. Our finest memories together was the sun setting on the Guadalupe mountains, napping in the mountains of New Mexico hunting Elk, sipping good whiskey at the hunting camp with life long friends and Texas natives Wayne Pape, Benny Cass, Reagan Mills, and Rick Blank. He prided himself in that I killed my biggest deer with him and the old dog Hondo.
In the 80’s he undertook a project and began to dig and dig and dig. A dig that took 10 years, and bucket by bucket of his original mix to create the only known structure to be made from TEXAS ROAD BASE. With walls 2 feet thick including a basement that I likened to the to 8th wonder of the world – WONDERING who in the hell would work that hard to dig a HOLE – by hand!
For years the “HOLE” with two foot thick walls stood erect on the ranch, looking so much like an old abandoned fort, you would have thought the Texas Ranger’s might have holed up in there fighting off Comanche’s during the 1800’s. At the annual 4th of July events the kids played in it, calling it the “dungeon house” during their hide and seek games.
At the 2012 4th of July Memorial service inspiration surrounded us that day with the birth of the SS American Memorial building. The “HOLE” and walls began to breath with life. Over the course of next two years Americans from around the country volunteered labor and money to complete an unplanned project that would become the nations only private “living” WAR MEMORIAL.
James Jennings Ulbrich stepped into my life 27 years ago this month. As a father-in-law, I could not have ordered a better one and as a friend, I could not find a more devoted one.
Needless to say the “HOLE” has changed my life!
Join us April 14, 2017 to help celebrate 90 years of a true TEXAS TREASURER!
Thanks for the memories my old friend!
Craig G Russell
The SS American Memorial Foundation is engaged in a $150,000 capital campaign for the enhancement of the memorial grounds and lodge to benefit the ACTIVE DUTY military, veterans, and wounded warriors/Fisher House families from the surrounding military installations and VA hospital. As an educational location, the memorial museum supports American history for military and civilian audiences, focusing on GOD, Family, and Country.
We plan to remodel the lodge facilities to include meeting space for educational seminars that will address needs regarding PTSD, addiction and spiritual counseling. Other improvements will include an expanded roof of the existing memorial to protect the exterior walls and provide a shaded retreat area for wounded warriors. Additional improvements will include outside restroom/showers to accommodate the large PARTICIPANT retreats for active-duty military from Ft. Sam Houston, Camp Bullis, and local Air Force bases. We plan to use $55,000 of the capital campaign to pay off the existing MEMORIAL building debt service. Additionally, improvements along the river frontage will include primitive camping and kayak/canoe river entry boating ramp.
STAY TUNED FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AS THE DATE GETS CLOSER!
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