Genevieve Finn German 1915-2005
Born in Huntington Indiana and raised there and in Edgewater, Genevieve graduated from St. Ita’s Elementary School and Senn High School. She was the youngest of eight children. Her first job was as a secretary for the Maybelline cosmetics company and, later, for the U.S. Department of State.
Genevieve met her husband quite by chance. In the summer of 1945, while at a dance for the Tall Girls Club at the Aragon Ballroom, she met a young Frenchman, Manuel German, who was visiting Chicago for the weekend on his way to New York. They spent the evening dancing and talking and agreed to correspond once he became situated in New York
Manuel had degrees in electrical, agricultural and chemical engineering and was the only son of a family that owned a large farm in Ecuador. He came to the U.S. from France after the war to do research work and further his education. Manuel and Genevieve corresponded for a few years; after she took a job with the U.S. government in Washington D.C., they were able to get together on weekends and holidays and became better acquainted.
In the late 1940s, Manuel went to Ecuador to help his widowed mother manage the farm. Genevieve and Manuel continued to correspond and, whenever possible, he came to the U.S. to visit her. He proposed after a few years and they were married in 1959 at St. Ita’s Church. After the wedding, they moved to Ecuador.
While Manuel devoted his time and energy to modernizing the hacienda (farm), managing the many employees and working the farm, Genevieve assumed the role of “Patronita” of the farm which was 40 miles from the capital, Quito. She began devoting her time to several charitable organizations. Their life was very full and rewarding until Manuel’s untimely death in 1978.
As sole heir of the large farm, Genevieve faced the tremendous responsibilities of managing the large business. She made a momentous decision to do something with this valuable property that would have a lasting impact on the country of Ecuador and its people. The assessed value of the farm was more than 6 million dollars.
To repay the country of Ecuador and its people for all the good fortune she had received, she established a foundation and donated all the land, buildings, equipment and vehicles to the foundation for the express purpose of building and establishing a college of engineering and agriculture for the people of Ecuador. She was honored by the government of Ecuador for her most generous donation. She received a special Papal medal from Pope John Paul II to honor her generous donation. Located on the land Genevieve donated, Colegio Agropecuario Genoveva German has educated thousands of young men (mostly impoverished indigenous Indians) and continues to this day to produce graduates who are helping to modernize the country.
After bestowing her gifts, Genevieve returned to Washington D.C. to work for the DEA as a translator. She retired in 1985 and lived in Maryland until 1997, when she moved back to Chicago to be close to her family and her childhood home. Genevieve was called GeGe by the many people who knew and loved her. GeGe sent a photo of her home in Edgewater when we first announced our Millennium Project in 1999. Last Fall, she visited the museum for the first time and enjoyed the Radio Days players performance as well as the photography exhibit.
When asked about her generosity, she said “My needs are very simple these days, I have all that I want and it has always been my desire to help other people, including the people of Ecuador. They, their hard work and their beautiful country were in many ways responsible for Manuel’s and my good fortune. It was my way of saying thank you.”