Ulrich Hartmann: Our Gentle Giant

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Ulrich T. Hartmann
March 18, 1959 – September 11, 2006
Our Gentle Giant

Anyone who knew Ulrich liked him and quickly grew to love him. Many of you know what a truly devoted and loving family man he was. He was a possibilities person who helped everyone, however he could. Did you know that he had a First Degree Black Belt in Karate? A surprise, because he was the gentlest man. Never could hurt anyone or anything, although he planned on wearing his Ghi though for Samantha’s first date, for intimidation.

​Ulrich loved photography and had his own darkroom when he was in High School. He saved up for and was helped by his parents to buy new lenses and equipment for his camera. Before we were married, Ulrich had taken many photos on his trips to China, Eastern Europe and Russia and to Columbia. He joked that in Tianeman Square his tour group would use him for a landmark of where to meet because he was the tallest person there (6’4”).

He loved to travel. For our Honeymoon, we traveled through France including a week on a bicycle tour through the Loire Valley. We left Toronto with me thinking of Paris, shopping, designer stores. He researched the weather and packed one of his sweaters for me, in his carryon because he didn’t want me to be cold when we arrived. He always thought of others. Our first night in Paris,  he brought me to the Trocadero to have my first view of the Eiffel Tower. He made my every dream come true.

Ulrich was born in Wuppertal, Germany. He was the happy only child of Ingrid and Adolf Hartmann. He had his introduction to traveling when at the age of 3 he came to Canada by ship. He remembered that his relatives sent him off with many wonderful treats and he remembered being seasick.

Ulrich started working part-time for Bell Canada, while in University. He initially wanted a Chemical Engineering Degree but his love of gadgets kept him interested in computers. He went full time at Bell instead of completing his degree but while working, did complete a B.Sc. in 1986, through correspondence, from Waterloo. His 27 years at Bell gave him many satisfying challenges, from working with mainframes, giving visitors tours, management, teaching and he became a Specialist in Managed IP Networks. To me he was just my computer geek. He helped me complete a Master’s Degree with the use of his Macintosh computer which looked like something that they thought would look futuristic in the 60’s! I am able to write his story now because of all he taught me about computers.

While traveling with his High School friend Paul, to Columbia-they met and made friends that would ultimately lead to our meeting each other through our mutual friend Michael. My first impression of Ulrich was ‘wow, he’s tall…and nice’. It was one of only two times I thought he was tall. The second time was on our wedding day, he stood so tall and I spent the entire day looking up to him.

In our early days, he would spend every Tuesday having dinner at his parents. He always looked for things he could do for them, especially if it meant introducing new technology. He bought them stereos and helped them choose their projection TV and a CD player. He totally loved his parents.

The summer before I started my Master’s studies Ulrich took me to Quebec City. It was a fabulous trip and we stayed across the square from Chateau Frontenac. I thought he was going to propose but all his prerequisites were not in place. We had talked and I knew he wanted to be on a trip when he proposed. He did buy me a lovely handcrafted pearl ring while there which was later to play an interesting role in our lives.

While at McMaster, he traveled from where he worked in Don Mills to Hamilton every Thursday night to bring me home for the weekend. We were just so excited to be together and his condo became our home. I remember taking my mom out to tell her that I was going to move in with him. It was a time when the term ‘living in sin’ existed. I said mom, I have some news, she thought I was pregnant…and was happy that I wanted to move in with Ulrich. My parents even helped with the move. They loved him.

When I was almost finished at Mac Ulrich planned a trip for us, for my Christmas Break. The destination was a surprise but he inadvertently told me where we were going (New York City) during one of our conversations. Just before finishing up my studies I went out with some school friends. I noticed that the pearl had fallen out of the ring he bought me. When I called to tell him what happened he asked what time it happened. Then he said, “Interesting” which I thought was a strange reaction. I was to learn later that the pearl fell out of my ring at the exact time he was buying an engagement ring. Yes, he also replaced the pearl.

In New York, I was awestruck, wanted to shop and get my hair done in a famous salon. Ulrich wanted to take a horse and carriage ride through Central Park or go to the Empire State Building. My possibilities man made sure both of our wishes came true. He checked the hours of the Empire State Building and we had time to shop and to go touring. I was surprised that it was so important to him but here’s why. You see, the next day was my birthday and he never wanted to combine an engagement ring with a birthday present (he had ideas about these things). At Macy’s that afternoon, I wanted to put my hopes at rest so I blurted out, “are you going to propose this weekend”? He never ever lied to me. He just said very apologetically, “You know how much this trip cost me, Karen”. I drew my own conclusions, and he was able to keep his surprise without lying.

When we got to the observation deck at the Empire State Building, he was acting nervous. It was pouring rain but it didn’t matter. The view of New York City was breathtaking. Then he said, “Karen would you do me the honors of being my wife?” I was surprised that the view could do that to him and laughed. Then he fished out a ring from his pocket and I realized that he had planned to propose the whole time and that it was his idea and not mine. I was shocked and surprised and started crying. Of course I said yes. Then we were like giddy school-kids wanting to tell everyone and buy each other souvenirs from the Empire State Building to remember the moment, as if we could ever forget. There’s a photo of us up there in this bio.

From the fairy-tale proposal, there was a fairy-tale wedding. Complete with castle. He researched the day they would be opening the books for reservations for June 1995 at Casa Loma and was on the phone to make it happen. This lovely romantic man was involved in every detail of our wedding.  We both sat down and wrote our vows to each other. It took very little time because the words just flowed. It was just so right. There were many special details of our wedding including special chocolates made for us. For our 10th Wedding Anniversary, he went and had those chocolates made for me again. We were able to take Samantha to Casa Loma for our 5th Anniversary and then Samantha and Adam toured the castle on our 10th.

Samantha (9) and Adam (4 ½) were his reason. He was there cutting the cord when Samantha was born, changing her first diaper and never went a day without kissing her, telling her he loved her, doing what he could for her. When Adam was born, Feb 2002 was this first time I saw him ask anyone for anything. We were driving to the hospital and he was timing contractions and worried about not making it. When stopped at a red light, he rolled down his window and asked the driver on his left if he could please pass, as his wife was in labor.

Ulrich loved his children, balancing work with caring for the kids. He was able to work from home when I was working up until last fall. This afforded Ulrich the possibility of being a part of his children’s every day lives. He knew their friends and organized play dates. He participated in their lives and was happy to live in a time in history when he was supported to do so.

Daddyhood to Ulrich meant never missing a pediatrician appointment, even if it was a checkup. It meant being at every soccer game for Samantha. It meant, coming straight home from work, most often making dinner. Giving baths and reading bedtime stories. He made it possible for me to study French at nights so Samantha would do well in French Immersion. He took the kids to church when I worked Sundays. This was a big deal because he had doubts about God but he even learned some prayers so that he could say them with the kids at bedtime. He did it because he loved us, and kept an open mind.

Daddyhood also meant taking Samantha to gymboree, ballet, drama, gymnastics, reading programs and swimming. Just last Saturday, he woke up at 6:30 so he could use our 2 phone lines and the computer to register the kids for swimming lessons. I was allowed to sleep in. For Adam, it was gymboree, music classes, countless trips to the park and sportsball and soccer was in the future. He was volunteered (by me, in a Lucille Ball moment) to be Adam’s Nursery School Treasurer. He never complained, said it would look good on his resume. He took his turn doing snack duty or bathroom duty at the Nursery School.

The most common phrase that I can remember him saying was, “can I get you anything?” Offered usually, after he had put the kids to bed. He would join me for some down time in front of the TV and if he wasn’t interested in the show, he would read or search the internet while keeping me company. He liked documentaries. I liked mindless shows. Since the day we met, he gave me custody of the remote control.

Lately, traveling meant less exotic trips. Our last vacation was to Sable Falls Provincial Park, in July. It was our first attempt at camping. One of the few times that I could teach something to Ulrich. I taught him how to rig our tent using a square knot, which didn’t loosen. Then Ulrich realized that he had been tying his shoelaces wrong for 47 years! He also loved to read National Geographic and travel in his imagination. Our next trip was to be to Disney World in February, for Adam’s 5th birthday.

Our dedication to each other and the children left us little time for ourselves; even so, he encouraged me to have girls’ night outings. I was just getting him to reconnect with his friends. Our last date night was to see Spamalot. Even though we were married for 11 years and together for 14, he got nervous for our dates every time. When we lived in the condo, he used to leave the unit and knock on our door to call for me. Samantha told me a secret that he was planning a big party in a few years, for my 53rd birthday. I too was planning a special party for his 50th.

I grew used to him taking care of us all. He made sure that the children had their futures prepared for. He was so caring. He knew to cherish ever moment.  After his friends Jim’s, Hutch’s and Dan’s deaths, he had his priorities straight and would never, ever complain about getting older.
At home, his to do list was long. He had just finished painting our spare bedroom and was enjoying our trips to IKEA for the furnishings. He actually liked to shop-said that the gene was recessive but he had it. He bought Samantha her first pair of jeans, when she was a baby and Adam a most amazing tool belt.

This story wouldn’t be complete without talking about Ulrich’s love of music. He had more CD’s than I could count. He introduced me to new bands and technology as I was still listening to cassettes when we met. He loved his IPOD which I gave him for our 10th Anniversary. He loved that he could put all his CDs on it. He bought me one too and delighted when he could find a new song to put on it, for me. He even had playlists- of songs that hadn’t yet been played on his IPOD, and of children’s’ music for Samantha and Adam to listen to. Some of Ulrich’s favorites were David Bowie, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Moby and he liked jazz.

I haven’t really captured Ulrich’s spirit here. He was bigger than life, more kind, loving, gentle, and content than anyone I knew. We had so many rich, connected, happy moments. His children were blessed to have the best dad in the universe and lucky enough to have said it to him on a daily basis. Ulrich knew he was loved. We said it at the end of every conversation. Although he died on his bicycle, Ulrich was happy to be riding- he loved riding and he loved keeping fit for us.

Our lives are changed, better for having been so blessed by having you in them, Ulrich. We Love You, to Infinity and Beyond!

One Response to Ulrich Hartmann: Our Gentle Giant

  1. Brian Goldsworthy says:

    I knew Ulrich from 1971 until 1980. He and I were part of a group interested in photography and tech. I am sorry to hear of his passing we were quite good friends in highschool. My condolences to his wife and children. Please feel free to contact me for any details during those days in the ’70s

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