Born in Missouri on 22 August 1897, Harry Joseph Breen was raised by his maternal grandparents, William Heitz and Margaret Koestler, after the divorce of his parents. He never saw his father again. His mother reappeared after he turned twenty-one and expected him to treat her like a loving son. Thereafter, she showed up about once a year around the holidays.

Harry Breen married Mae Hrebec on 16 September 1918 in St. Charles, Missouri. Only five days after their marriage, Harry was in the Army and wrote this to his bride:

A Message to the War Bride!

In this critical time when the world is aflame with the horrors of war and with the existing conditions of living, still the cupid does not stop its work. It welds the hearts together so much the more, tis true, but why should I worry and grieve? I know we are on the right side doing our bit for our country by sacrificing the best to fight in the war for world freedom and civilization. Then why should cupid stop its work after sacrificing my love that is so precious to me and makes life worthwhile living!

Remember that when your loved one gets called to colors, be a hero as he is. Be proud and happy over him that he could answer his country’s call, as you know everyone cannot for one reason or the other. Think that when he goes away with the best, that he will come back to you again with some good news. Think how proud you can feel of him in the future years in peace time when you are sitting by the fireside and he alongside of you with a child on his lap, and the child old enough to go to school would probably ask Daddy to tell him or her something about the big war he fought in for the world’s freedom. Probably their parents would be proud to tell of what they have done for their country. Remember, should you get the blues, that there are millions more that have their loved ones at the front and we are proud of them. Think of the best, be in good spirits, and do not grieve should you get the blues. Read this message and see if you can act as brave as your love at the front.

After the war, Harry and Mae rented a home at 4161A Humphrey Street while Harry worked as an order clerk at a chemical company. They later moved to 4136 Connecticut when Harry worked as an agent for Prudential Insurance Company. Still living at the same location, Harry then worked as a foreman at a wire manufacturer. Their two daughters, Mona Mae and June, were teenagers by this time.

In the 1960s, Harry lived at 5242 South Grand Avenue, living independently in his own apartment until his ninety-sixth year when he broke his hip and had to go to a nursing home. This home was selected because they would allow Harry to smoke his cigars, about a dozen a day. However, the policy soon changed and all residents had to go outdoors into the courtyard to smoke. Harry died only a few months before his one hundredth birthday.

Harry and Mae rest side by side at Sunset Burial Park in St. Louis.

Written by Judy Broleman
June 2020

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Last Modified: 04-Sep-2020 10:38