G. J. Mendel: generous, charitable, selfless

Mendel loved his family very much and was grateful to them. His warm emotional relationship with his family, and especially his mother, can be seen in the surviving letters he wrote home from Brno or Vienna. He addresses his parents as ‘Dearest Parents’ or ‘Beloved Parents’, and his mother and sister as ‘Dearest Mother, Dearest Sister’. In the letters, he is interested in how people in the family are doing and often mentions concern for the health of his loved ones.

20 Jul 2022 Jiřina Relichová Kateřina Radová Zuzana Jayasundera Leoš Verner

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When his mother became ill, he sent her 30 gulden to relieve her, and she writes, even if I did not know the 4th commandment, I would still feel obliged in my heart to ease the weight of old age, if I could, because she had always been a good mother to me”.

He signed off to his parents as ‘your sincere loving son’ or ‘your ever-grateful son Gregor’. He never forgot that his younger sister, Theresa, had helped him graduate and, later, when he was doing well, he supported her three sons in their studies until the end of his life.

Surviving documents also show that Mendel was a generous and charitable man, and at the same time selfless. This is stated by Mendel’s nephew, A. Schindler, in his memoirs. He recalled that, when he did not have enough money, he often came to the servant Joseph, who was more his friend than servant, and borrowed money from him to donate to the unfortunate.

A. Doupovec, as the son of a servant, lived in the monastery and remembered Mendel well, recalling that Mendel donated the prizes he received from exhibitions in Vienna for breeding varieties of fruit to his gardener Mareš – and the table was completely full of them”.

In 1868, a new abbot was to be elected and Mendel was one of the candidates. He realised that this would also mean an improvement in his material position; not that he was thinking of himself but rather of his loved ones. For example, when he left Hynčice before the election of the abbot, he said children, pray! If I become a prelate, I will be able to do more for you”.

When he learned that there was a fire in his native Hynčice, he expressed deep sympathy in a letter to his brother-in-law from 1868 and sent 100 gulden to be divided among those who were unhappily affected by the fire. He wrote I would like to do more if only it were possible, but my expenses this year are already very significant”.

Clearly, therefore, Mendel not only showed generosity to his relatives but also to other needy people around him. On the day of his funeral, thousands of people took part in a grand procession to the Central Cemetery in Brno. In addition to clerical and important public figures, there were also many poor people at the funeral, to whom Mendel was often the only helper and saviour through his great charitable work.

Mendel was very respected in the monastery, but remained friendly and cordial. In his memories of his uncle, A. Schindler recalled that, while walking to the apiary in the monastery garden, they often met clergymen who greeted Mendel respectfully.

J. Kříženecký considers it interesting that Mendel’s father, in a letter to his son Gregor in 1852, when he was not yet an abbot, addressed his letters as ‘Dignified Sir, son’ (Hochwi(ü)rdigster H: Sohn), and similarly, his nephews addressed him as ‘Grand dear uncle’.

Translation: Kevin F. Roche
Editor: Zuzana Jayasundera

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