John Carl Eichenauer III
Born: October 20, 1921
Place of Birth: Yuma, Arizona
John Eichenauer a tall gentle man. When he walked into the grand ballroom at the Phoenix Marriott Hotel something told me that I had to meet him. We were attending the annual Bahá’í Grand Canyon Conference and I saw a young man, Carl Shoudel in the dark make his way and seat John into a seat about the 7th row from the front of the stage. He was easy to find again because he was wearing a green knit hat.
That same afternoon while in the bookstore there was my moment, to go and introduce myself and learn about this man. He agreed to an interview and the following is Mr. John Eichenauer’s story.
It was around 1935 when Orcella Rexford, national Bahá’í teacher who was an expert on nutrition and color photography introduced the faith to John and his father. John’s father was interested in nutrition and decided to take the class which cost $25.00. In 1935, $25.00 was a lot of money, John said that it was the cost for their rent where they lived. It was a sacrifice.
That sacrifice allowed John’s father to get him into the health food business and as a result he opened up 7 stores. And John’s sister Joan did approximately $1,000 a day in sales and in their best year of sales the amount skyrocketed to $900,000.
Back to Orcella. When she was in town she said the following:
“I’m going to tell you something that is free on Saturday that will revolutionize your lives” and since children got in free he was excited to attend. When he got there she spoke about the Bahá’í Faith.
There was a Bahá’í family who met John after he became a Bahá’í and invited John to go with them to Geyersville a city north of San Francisco. The family, Mr. and Mrs. Cheney had five children (during this time, Shoghi Effendi had written the Advent of Divine Justice) along with John they read this book together.
As John put it, this was Shoghi Effendi’s invitation to the Bahá’í Faith. Upon reading this John volunteered to go pioneering as an answer to the Advent of Divine Justice. But the Local Spiritual Assembly of Phoenix told John that he had to go to College. But John appealed to the National Spiritual Assembly and then directly to Shoghi Effendi imploring that he wanted to go pioneering instead of going to College and Shoghi Effendi approved.
Amelia Collins was very influential in John’s life and came to Phoenix during the warmest time in Haifa. She knew John’s family. When John was 17 years old he went to El Salvador to pioneer.
A friend of Amelia’s, Marjorie McCormick supported John financially by sending him $50 a month until John got a job. Humorously John tells me, he even had money left over.
It was in 1939 and John got a job in Guatemala City and was earning $25.00 a week. He worked for Pan-American airways airport as their Development Programmer which was an arm of the United States government.
During this same time Germany was promoting peace throughout Latin America as a defense against the United States. And John’s boss told him that if he transferred into a coastal city he would receive $50.00 a week. This was very good news for John, so he immediately sent a telegram to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Guatemala. As a result of this telegram, John’s passport was canceled because the Intelligence Service picked up the telegram and thought he was a draft dodger.
It is important to note that the ‘draft log’ didn’t become a law until 1940. As an unfortunate result, John was drafted and sent to Germany. The infamous Gestapo secret police officer Heinrich Himmler personally prohibited Bahá’í activities. From John’s own words he expressed how this was a difficult time for Bahá’ís who were jailed and sent to concentration camps. (A few more details can be found in the story of Hartmutt Grossman the son of Dr. Hermann Grossman)
Soon after John had to deploy to France where he received the book, “God Passes By” but any mail that came into the quarters had to be reviewed. His division officer took the book and reviewed it and after one month he finally gave the book to John.
On May 6, 1945 “Victory in Europe” Day also referred to as VE Day marked the end of World War II. John borrowed a jeep from the motor pool and drove into Stuttgart, Germany. Parked the jeep and walked on the street for approximately 30 minutes. While walking he met a man and John spoke about the Bahá’í Faith and this man said that he knew of someone who is a Bahá’í. The time was about 4 pm and the curfew in Stuttgart was 6:00 p.m. The meeting ended quickly.
It was now 2 weeks later on May 22, when John finally met with the Bahá’ís on the Bab’s birthday. This was also the time that ‘Abdu’l-Baha visited Paris. Since public meetings were difficult and groups had to be organized, John went to his Civil Officer and got a letter allowing Bahá’ís to have meetings.[This letter can be found in the ‘Bahá’í World Book’]
In 1946, John had his first romance and married a German Bahá’í, named Gisela who was a Hitlerjugend (Hitler youth).
In order for John to marry a German, he had to have a job and he did. He got a job with the U.S. Government and was earning $4,000 a year. Shortly after their marriage they left Germany and returned to Phoenix, Arizona. He had his first son, Eric Quddus.
In 1955, John went on Pilgrimage and there were only 12 pilgrims. He met Shoghi Effendi who wanted them to go to a town named Diego Garcia, an atoll located South of the equator in the central Indian Ocean. It is the largest of the 60 small islands that make up the Chagos Archipelago. John said that Shoghi Effendi turned to John and said, “Mexico isn’t very far from Phoenix, is it?” So a few years later, John set off to Mexico.
In 1964, John’s second romance was with an American named Teddy and they divorced after ten years of marriage. They had three children, one son and two daughters.
In 1992, at the age of 71 years old, John went on a teaching trip to Central America and his third romance was with Teresa McGregor. Teresa was active in the Bahá’í community and was an Auxiliary Board Member. She and John married on September 26, 1992 and sadly Teresa died of Cancer on July 24, 1993 in Monterey.
John currently lives in a Resident home in Phoenix, Arizona and welcomes visitors. If you would like to visit John please contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will make sure to arrange this.
According to his son Thane, John (in his youth was) an industrious man. Thane’s fondest memory of his father is the time he spent with Thane and his two sisters taking all three of them on a bicycle ride – so all three of them were on one bicycle. John rode his children for several miles and his energy and zest for life is a memory that will always be treasured.
Interview with John Carl Eichenauer III
(c) Baha’i Chronicles
Fascinating…enthralling. The simple language penetrates to the heart. One feels these fellow believers are speaking, casually, heart to heart. Thank you for this enterprise.
I am just reading “Afire With the Vision”, the recently published collection of Shoghi Effendi’s letters to Latin America. Joh Eichenauer is mentioned on several of them and the volume includes two letter from Shoghi Effendi to John. Googled his name and arrived at this article. Thanks.
I was delighted to find this story about dear John´s fascinating life, I didn´t remember the earlier part of his life. The last time I saw John was when living in Mesa, Arizona for four years the end of 1970`s with my husband, Seymour Malkin and our three children. We had moved there to help form the first Local Bahá´í Assembly of Mesa. The family still had a few Health Food Stores at that time and through John, Seymour was hired to manage their Tempe, Arizona Health Food Store for some time, as he had no job when arriving in Arizona. In 1970 our family moved back to Brazil where my family had gone as pioneers in 1947. Later, when I was a pioneer in Tegucigalpa in late 1950´s, I located the “Bahá´í Representative from Honduras to the 1944 Centenary of the founding the the Bahá´í Faith and Dedication of the exterior of the Bahá´í House of Worship in Wilmette, Ill”. This dear soul, sitting in her hammock in the tiny city of Siguatepeque, Honduras remembered very clearly this episode of going to the Bahá´í Temple, and I feel certain she, and a still faithful family in the tiny hamlet of Taulabé where probably the result of the dedication of John´s teaching in Central America in early 1940´s.