Family reunions bring folks closer as they join in activities inherent in their heritage. The Lenhardts of St. Croix embarked on an ambitious celebration that prompted generations of their local family and their distant family, who journeyed from far and wide, to come together in the legacy of their shared family tree.
St. Croix was the stomping grounds Jan. 1 through Jan. 8 for the James, Messer, Prince, and Christian families – all branches of the Lenhardt clan. It was a time for meeting new ties and renewing old ones, the feeling of pride…of being a part of the whole…a family unit that speaks to generations, longevity and the power of tradition.
The Sunday-to-Sunday family reunion began with the family gathering together for Sunday morning service at the Lenhardt worship home, the Friedensberg Moravian Church in Frederiksted. Afterward, there was a family meet-and-greet at the Crusaders Club. On Wednesday, the clan was back at the Crusaders Club for a semi-formal dinner, entertained by Stanley and the TSK. The grand finale beach party and picnic on Sunday culminated the non-stop activities that spanned the island that were in addition to the planned venues. The local Lenhardt clan and those branches of the family tree who were visiting – worked it all into their regular routine, or they reacquainted themselves with the culture of our beautiful island of St. Croix, Denise Lenhardt Benoit recounted.
“As part of the celebration, we felt it important to honor our ancestors because it is on their shoulders we stand,” Benoit said in her address at the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital. Benoit and members of her family were joined by CEO Doug Koch and hospital employees as the Lenhardts paid homage to their ancestor Charles Daniel Lenhardt.
Charles Daniel Lenhardt, native son of St. Croix, was born to Daniel and Antonetta Paulus Lenhardt. The elder Lenhardt was a horse trainer and farmer. His wife Antonetta was a baker and is remembered as the creator of wonderful pastries.
Charles Daniel Lenhardt has a long history of hospital services on St. Croix. It all began in 1932 with his career as a registered nurse, where he served at the Christiansted Municipal Hospital and later, in the same capacity, at Charles Harwood Memorial Hospital.
A rare breed in his day and an unintentional pioneer in his field, Lenhardt was prominent in the real estate field. He was active, intelligent, and a family man of distinction, Benoit said of her grandfather.
Lenhardt moved to New York City in 1946, where he continued his career and medical services at Harlem Hospital. “Stern but fair, he is remembered as the consummate professional who demanded excellence, not only of himself but of his medical colleagues – both doctors and nurses alike,” Benoit recalled.
Upon his return to St. Croix in 1968, Lenhardt served as supervisor of the Emergency Room at his Alma Mater, Charles Harwood Memorial Hospital, until his retirement in 1977.
After retiring, Lenhardt worked part-time at the Golden Grove Correctional Facility, serving medication to inmates.
The Juan F. Luis Hospital Emergency Room was named in honor of Lenhardt and a plaque was erected bearing his name thirty years ago. On Jan. 10, Benoit and family members celebrated their ancestor with the unveiling of a painted portrait of Lenhardt that would hang in the emergency room with the plaque.
The family members in attendance were granddaughter Denise Lenhardt Benoit; great-grandson Cameron Lenhardt; niece Gloria Lenhardt Brathwaite; great-niece Afrilasia Joseph-Phipps; and great-niece Michelle Lenhardt James.
Eldest of the Lenhardt clan, Matriarch Gloria Lenhardt Brathwaite was happy with the success of the reunion and how well each activity evolved. She especially enjoyed seeing the local madras incorporated into attire, accessories, and all manner of culture at the different events. Her greatest joy of all was the surprise appearance of Stanley and the TSK, who entertained with local quelbe music.
The youngest of the Lenhardt clan was Cameron Lenhardt. The reunion was his first visit to St.Croix. He is 24 years old and a senior at Georgia State University.
“I’ve always known about my familial connection to St. Croix, but I wanted to know more about my roots – my heritage, and more about my grandfather and my great-grandfather. Being on St.Croix and getting to see my grandparents’ home made such a difference. It was great meeting so many family members and joining them in lots of activities. I got to see my culture firsthand and I liked trying new foods, tasting the drinks, and hearing the music. It was a great experience for me,” Cameron said.
Cameron even noticed a difference in the handshakes from those of folks in the states. He saw more people wearing locs on the island than he usually sees back home. “I’ve eaten saltfish and ackee and kallaloo before because of the large Jamaican community in Georgia. I ate similar food on St.Croix and I really enjoyed the johnny cakes.”
Cameron sailed to Buck Island, viewed the scenery from Point Udall, and took in so many amazing sights around St. Croix, he said.
The local Armstrong’s Ice Cream truck was engaged to serve at the reunion beach party. Cameron said, “It’s the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life. I especially liked the coconut and the cookies and cream flavors.” The whole experience was different and it took Cameron “out of his comfort zone, yet he had a great time and he looks forward to visiting again.”
“Cameron was eager to take part in all the activities and meet all of his family. I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually makes St. Croix his home,” his aunt Denise said.
There is an African belief, “No one is truly dead until there is no one left to call their name.” Thirty years after his passing, the Lenhardt family continues to call the name of their beloved ancestor, Charles Daniel Lenhardt.