From Orphan to Chess Master

Rex Andrew Sinquefield  has been called an “index-fund pioneer” for creating the first passively managed index fund open to the general public Sinquefield was also a co-founder of Dimensional Fund Advisors. I may have seen his name mentioned before. In Missouri state politics he is considered somewhat of a king maker. Missouri is heavily Republican, and so most of the millions he has donated in political campaign contributions have gone to Republicans, though not exclusively. I suspect his story is more complicated than our divided partisan politics might indicate. The political cartoon alludes to the fact that because he is a chess enthusiast, he was instrumental in relocating the World Chess Hall of Fame to St Louis, making the city the nation’s chess capital.

I became interested in this man when I learned he was raised in a St Louis-area orphanage, the St Vincent Home for Children. He has also donated to them through his Sinquefield Charitable Foundation. When I was growing up, because I had learned that both of my parents were adoptees, I thought they were orphans. I had no idea of the truth that there were people out there I was genetically related to living out their lives more or less ignorant of our own existence. I guess this is why the idea of orphans always gets my attention.

LINK> St Vincent Home for Children was founded in 1850 following a cholera epidemic and a fire, both of which occurred the previous year and which left many St Louis children orphaned. The fire, begun aboard a steamboat at the levee, caused hundreds to be homeless and ravaged a 15-block area. Meanwhile, cholera transmitted by arriving immigrants had killed more than 4,000 of the city’s 64,000 residents. Diocesan orphanages at the time were already very crowded and many of the victims of the cholera outbreak were poor. An appeal to the German Catholic community brought the construction of the new orphanage in 1850 by the German Saint Vincent Orphan Association.

In 1914, a 20-acre plot in Normandy Park was purchased for $18,000. The Cornerstone for the new Home was set on June 15, 1916 and the children moved into their new home in Normandy on August 8, 1917. St Vincent Home sustained itself through the Civil War, the Great Depression, two World Wars and other conflicts, all of which brought their share of orphans to the Home’s doors. Over the years, the St Vincent Home has transitioned to meet the changing needs of children in the area. It is no longer an orphanage but a residential treatment center for at-risk youth very much like the Porter-Leath orphanage in Memphis TN where my mom spent time as my maternal grandmother struggled to find a way to support them both.

St Vincent is now know as The Core Collective. The image above is titled “Bed in the Attic” and was photographed by 16-year-old Shardae for the LINK>”Photography Project: St. Vincent Home for Children” exhibit. The featured pictures taken by teenagers, educators, support staff and volunteers of the north St. Louis County-based St Vincent Home for Children. Participants were taught photography through the University of Missouri at St Louis, known as UMSL.

One never knows what they might run into googling around. I’ve not seen this version of Dicken’s Christmas story but I am intrigued by some of what I read about it here LINK>An American Christmas Carol. The Bookshop Owner of Christmas Past whisks Slade back to his childhood at the orphanage, where local businessman Mr Brewster shows up looking for an apprentice to help him at his furniture factory. Instead of choosing one of the good kids, Brewster instead chooses Slade, a known troublemaker (“he likes to FIGHT!” warns the old maid running the orphanage), and teaches him how to whittle. No, really. He gave the kid a knife, and a stick of wood. And they whittle. And whittle. And whittle some more. So Slade becomes Brewster’s apprentice, and moves in with him. In other words, he’s basically been adopted.

And shades of Sinquefield, the real trouble starts when Brewster doesn’t change, and his business starts going down the tubes. This leads to Slade leaving Brewster and starting an investment firm with Latham. So the investment firm of Slade and Latham has a choice: they can either fund Brewster’s failing furniture business, or they can put their money into Slade’s new idea, which is basically to let people rent appliances and charge them a weekly fee. You know those rent-to-own places where you go and get an Xbox 360 for $30 a week, which you wind up paying $1,700 for before you actually own it? All Slade’s idea.

I don’t know – although it is probably awful, I might just have to watch that version of a Christmas Carol. Art has a funny way of imitating life.

Hanger Baby

My sister is a hanger baby. My mother was terrified of giving birth after then seven children. When she was pregnant for my sister, she tried to abort her using a hanger. It was one of those secrets of the family.

My sister was born normal but as she grew, she was more street smart than book smart. My mother favored her terribly because of the guilt in what she had attempted to do. She thought she made her stupid.

My mother had three nervous breakdowns, suffered with debilitating alcoholism, and we lived in incredible poverty our whole lives. The only pride we were afforded was knowing we our father was a good catholic who used that at every turn to borrow money using his ten children as collateral.

There were little joyful experiences in my childhood. One friend asked me once to think of my happiest moment when I was a child. I have a photographic memory but could not think of one happy experience. I am sure there were some, but they were usually times that were devoid of trauma, so they were happy in comparison.

I was cursed on my birth by my mother. She delivered me in a drunken stupor.. She hung on to the doorway frame of the wall when they tried to take her to deliver me. She just screamed how much she hated me. I lived my life in galvanized numbness. I don’t think I have been able to fully shake it. I was well in my twenties before I realized that some parents love their children.

People always say they are speaking for the unborn. But they are not. They are speaking for their religious bias. They are speaking for a conditioning to bring babies into the world for some kind of political numbers game. The unborn would be better off if they landed in a place of love for them. It worked out well for my sister being born because of my mother’s guilt, she had an advantage in life.. I was not so lucky.

Every child has the right to be loved. I did not have to endure such a loveless existence. As I grew, I have had many memories bleed through about my past lives. It was not a thing that was in my belief system and yet the memories bled through.

If I had past lives, then I know I have future lives. I have the knowing that all of who I am doesn’t depend on this one lifetime. Nor does it with any fetus. I have had sessions with clients who brushed people’s lives by being their miscarried baby. It was all the interaction they needed to complete the transaction between parent and child.

What I have endured, I would not inflict on an innocent baby. There is the starving, being poor, being unloved and trying to thrive through incredible dysfunction. It is not something I think of everyday but the trauma of being a “have not” in a world of “haves” is the most cruel fate you can thrust on a baby. It would be different if it was merely a material thing. A mother’s love can help a child through any disadvantage. But without the love between a mother and child, the fate of both seems an unnecessary fate.

I know everyone who says they are pro life think they have the most scrupulous vantage point. But if they lived the life of a loveless baby, they may be much more agreeable to allowing there to be a choice. Perhaps they can trust Love to make the best choice for each soul and take their discretion out of the equation.

~ this personal experience was shared my Facebook friend – Jen Ward. Her website is – Jenuinehealing.com