A Gem of a Story: “The Grossman’s in Eliot”

I had the pleasure of attending the Maritime Baha’i Summer School this past June. One of the speakers at this years’ school was Mr. Nasser Rohani – a dear friend from Maine. During one of his talks he told a story about former House of Justice member, Hartmut Grossmann, that brought me to tears. I was determined to get my hands on this gem of a story, so over the past few months I’ve been nagging Mr. Rohani via his most wonderful daughter, Ideh, to send it to me. I am so grateful to Mr. Rohani for taking the time to type this up. I did not edit the original, but have fixed a few formatting errors that were required to transfer from Word to WordPress.

On an evening in 2010, my wife, Parivash, received a call from the Green Acre Bahá’í school that Mr. & Mrs. Grossman are going to be at the school, but they arrive little early—late the night before.  Since in the morning, the kitchen will be closed to serve them breakfast, they asked if we can take them out for breakfast and entertain them for a couple of hours till the school officially opens. We were overjoyed by this opportunity. We have an older German Bahá’í lady in our community, Helen Endres Skowronska, whom we asked to accompany us. Knowing of German punctuality, we were in front of the Grossman’s residence at 8.28 a.m. So, we were not amazed when at sharp 8:30, the door opened and both Grossmans came out, ready to go. We had a lovely conversation and a hearty breakfast at their presence. Since we had still a couple of hours left till the school opening, I asked the valued guests if they would like to go somewhere in the area. Mr. Grossman asked if we can visit the Eliot Cemetery. “Oh yes, you certainly want to visit the grave site of the Hand of the Cause Luis Gregory,” I responded. In a loving voice Mr. Grossman replied “that too, but I have another reason.”

We drove to the gravesite. Anticipating that we might want to visit the gravesite of the Gregory’s, earlier my wife packed a few lawn chairs for the elderly visitors to sit while there. We opened the chairs. Grossman’s politely refused to use the chairs and decided to stand. Quietly Mr. Grossman pointed to a small grave stone by the left side of Luis Gregory with the engraving of “Grace Ober” on it and said “primarily I am here to visit Grace and give my gratitude to her.”

He continued that ‘Abdu’l-Baha sent Grace Ober to Germany to sow the seed of the new Faith in that land. Grace travelled extensively but did not find any receptive soul. After a few months of travelling, she was disappointed of her lack of success. In a train ride she ran into his father, Hermann Grossman, and he became Bahá’í. So, he was here to thank Grace for her dedication and her effort in guiding his father to the Cause.

While telling this story, my wife was busy tidying up the grave and picking dead flowers and leaves on the stone. She had a handful of dead flowers and she headed to a trash receptacle when she was stopped by Mr. Grossman. He took a napkin from his pocket and asked her to put them in it. Then he carefully placed them in his pocket.

We were puzzled what Mr. Grossman was going to do with those dead flowers. A year passed and we were at Lou Helen Bahá’í school in Flint. There was a good number of participants and, at lunch time- as usual, my wife was busy going from one table to the other and chatting with participants and making friends. At one point, I noticed her very emotional, listening to a young Iranian man. Her eyes were filled with tears and she was intensely listening to him. Soon she came to me and said you do not know whom I talked with. She pointed to the young man and his European looking wife and children. He is Mr. Grossman’s son-in-law and that is his family. I was talking where we live in Maine and somehow told him the story of Mr. Grossman and told him I wish I would know what happened to those dead flowers, she continued. At that point he told her that you may not know that I am Mr. Grossman’s son-in-law and this is his daughter. We were at Germany last year to visit the family, he said. One day, we went to the grave of Hand of the Cause, Hermann Grossman- the father. There, Mr. Grossman told us the story of his visit to Maine and the dead flowers. Then he carefully pulled out a napkin from his pocket and spread the flowers in it over the grave of his father.


2 thoughts on “A Gem of a Story: “The Grossman’s in Eliot”

  1. thank you for the beuatiful and so touching story!

    Susanne Pfaff-Grossmann, the sister of Mr. Hartmut Grossmann and daughter of the Hand of Cause of God Hermann Grossmann wrote in detail the story of her father’s declaration.
    She wrote that while on Pilgrimage ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told them to go Leipzig approx. in 1920, which they gladly did.
    They stayed a few weeks and gave many talks in Leipzig. During on the talks in the Theosophic Society, Herrmann Grossmann, a youth of 20+ at that time, absolutely disappointed and heart-broken from his experince/observations during the First World war, entered the hall. Grace was speaking and he stood and listened dumbfonded. After the talk she came up to him and told him: “I think I was talking directly to you”. “Yes, you were, – followed the reply. – Now tell me what it is.”
    Hermann Grossmann became a Bahá’í that night. A few months later he left Leipzig.
    Another couple, the Benkes, embraced the Faith on night as well.
    A very interesting fact is, that our Bahá’í Centre of Leipzig is situated on the same street the Benkes lived, just a few blocks from their house!

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