By Adair Law
The U.S. District Court of Oregon Historical Society is pleased to honor Judge Anna J. Brown with its 2019 Lifetime Service Award. This article is based on research, interviews, and conversations with Judge Brown, her colleagues, and friends. All photos are courtesy of Judge Brown unless noted.
Like millions of people displaced by World War II, Judge Anna J. Brown’s parents, Adalbert and Margarete Jaeger, sought a new life in America. On February 7, 1952, Adalbert’s 43rd birthday, he and Margarete, with their daughters Irmgard (7) and Rita (3) and Adalbert’s older brother, Franz Jaeger, boarded the SS Homeland in Hamburg, Germany en route to Portland, Oregon, via Ellis Island and a cross-country train trip.
From a Family of Immigrants
Born in 1909 and 1914 respectively, Adalbert and Margarete (Kriegs) Jaeger, came from generations of farming families in East Prussia. They first lost the family farm when Russian soldiers occupied it and then lost it for good when boundaries were redrawn at the end of the war effectively “giving” their land to Poland. While Adalbert worked as a farm hand in northwestern Germany, the family applied for admission to the United States sponsored by Adalbert’s brother and sister-in-law, Hugo and Lydia Jaeger, of Portland, Oregon. Hugo emigrated to the U.S. and became a citizen before the war. He and Lydia owned and operated the Broadway Dyers and Cleaners on Portland’s NE Broadway and Union Avenue. They had made a home for themselves and Lydia’s two adult siblings in a two-bedroom house in the Sellwood neighborhood. They marshaled their resources and assured the U.S. government that the adults and children they were sponsoring for immigration would not become “charges on society.” After a seven-year wait, permission for the Jaegers to enter the U.S. finally came, and somehow enough room was found for three more adults and two children to live in the small house in Sellwood.
Anna Jaeger arrived on July 26, 1952, the first American-born member of her family. By then, Adalbert and Franz were working full time at the dry cleaners while Margarete cared for the children and managed the cramped household the families shared. With Hugo and Lydia providing their room and board, the Jaeger family saved all of Adalbert’s earnings and, in 1956, they bought a house just a block away. In a place of prominence in the living room, they later hung their recently acquired citizenship papers and a painting of a red barn. “The barn was built just before the war began,” Anna recalls, “and it was our Dad’s last contribution to the family farm. The painting was all they had of what was and what could have been.”