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German native now calls Lincolnton home

Some say home is where the heart is, while others believe it’s where you were born and raised.
For Siegfried “Siggy” Hegewald, a native of Germany, home is Lincolnton.
“I have been living here the longest of anywhere else,” he said.
Hegewald first came to the United States 30 years ago with his wife, Bridgett.
“I lived in the city of Lьbeck, it’s in the northern part of Germany on the Baltic Sea,” he said.
While in Germany, Hegewald worked for the West German border police.
He volunteered for the job after graduating from college with a degree in mechanical engineering. The job enabled him to escape the draft.
His job included guarding the chancellor of Germany and the border along East Germany. Hegewald remembers many experiences of residents from his eight years working in East Germany.
“I’ll always remember we had incidents at the border with people escaping from East Germany,” Hegewald said. “It was fortified with mine fields on the eastern side and sometimes people didn’t succeed.”
Hegewald remembered one particular incident where a father and his two teenage children were attempting to cross the border. The father stepped on a land mine and was severely injured.
“He was on the eastern border and we couldn’t do anything to help,” Hegewald said. “We tried to alert the East German border police, but they hesitated to help. Of course, in this instance, the man died.”
While in Germany, Hegewald experienced the separation of East and West Germany on a personal level.
“I visited Berlin in ’91, for the first time, which was in the east part of Germany,” he said. “It’s where my parents and ancestors are from.”
Hegewald never visited family in communist East Germany due to his ranking as a federal officer.
“My superior didn’t recommend it at the time,” he said.
Hedgewald’s strict father pressured him to stay with his job.
“My father served on the Russian front from the start to the end of the war,” he said. “He wanted me to remain in the border police for tenure.”
Despite his father’s wishes, Hegewald and his wife immigrated to the United States in 1975 to join other family members.
“I had an older brother living in the U.S., and we liked the standard of living here,” he said. “I left Germany and I felt there would never be a reunification.”
Hegewald and his wife, who now have been wed 35 years, lived in New Jersey, where they had their only daughter, Sabrina. Hegewald worked for a textile mill while living in New Jersey.
“The business in New Jersey went out of business in 1986,” Hegewald said. “I previously went on a business trip in ‘85 to Frankfurt, Germany, where I saw the machines manufactured that are used here.”
While on his business trip to Germany, Hegewald met a man from Lincolnton who worked for Mohican Mills.
“Later he contacted me and we moved to Lincolnton,” he said.
Hegewald enjoys Lincolnton’s atmosphere and community.
“I like the small town friendliness,” he said.
He continues to live in Lincolnton, where he works for the Lincoln Family YMCA as property manager.
“I am not just fixing stuff or cleaning, I am interacting with membership and communicating with the people,” Hegewald said. “Of all my favorite occupations, there are only two: The border police and the YMCA.”
Hegewald spends his spare time gardening, combat shooting and playing with his dogs.
“They’re bilingual — that’s what my wife says” Hegewald said of his dogs. “They understand both German and English commands.
“My wife and I always had our priorities: House, dishwasher, dog, then child. We wanted to make sure we were financially established before we had a child.”
by Maribeth Kiser

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