Adrian J. Danker

Pages 252-253 - Adrian J. Danker. In the city of Grand Rapids are to be found many successful business men of foreign birth who represent the best in American ideals of citizenship and who are in the fullest sense appreciative of the manifold advantages and attraction of the land of their adoption. The careers of many of these sterling citizens are replete in lesson and incentive, for their records tell stories of adversity, struggle and invincible ambition, and mark worthy advancement to the goal of independence and success. Such has been significantly the case in the life history of Adrian J. Danker, who is now the executive head of one of the prosperous and important industrial enterprises of Grand Rapids. Jacob and Susan Danker, with their children – one son and three daughters – lived contentedly in their old home in the Netherlands until the death of the husband and father. The widowed mother, faced with the responsibility of making the best possible provision for her children, finally made the momentous decision to establish the family home in the United States. In 1888 this noble and courageous woman, accompanied by her one son and three daughters, arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and while the children readily learned the language of their adopted land, the devoted mother did not find equal facility in acquiring the new language, but gradually all adapted themselves to the changed conditions and influences. Adrian J. Danker was a lad of fifteen years at the time when the family home was thus established in Grand Rapids, and as the "only man of the family" he forthwith found it imperative to find employment. In the Widdicomb furniture factory he became a machine tender, his duties being to carry materials to the man operating the machine and to make proper disposition of the finished products. Mr. Danker thus assisted a man engaged in the making of scrollwork, and his artistic talent made the work very alluring to the boy, who received at the beginning only forty cents a day for his services. By the time he was sixteen years of age Mr. Danker had become a skilled workman in the art of marquetry, or inlaying of wood. To achieve this end he worked assiduously at the factory, and many a day of hard work was followed by long night hours devoted to study, in order that he might advance himself in his chosen line of occupation. He eventually so proved his technical skill and ability as to command good salary, and he continued to apply himself closely to his art-trade until he was thirty years of age. This close application brought such impairment to his eyes that he was then compelled to seek other occupation. He, accordingly, in 1905 rented a farm near Georgetown, Ottawa county, and there he continued his activities as an agriculturist during the ensuing ten years. In 1898 he enlisted in the United States Army, for service in the Spanish-American war, and his loyalty to his adopted country was shown in the efficient record that he made in this connection, he having continued in service during the period of the conflict with Spain. In 1915 Mr. Danker left the farm and returned to Grand Rapids, where he opened a little shop over a garage on Godfrey avenue and engaged independently in the work of his trade, as a producer of fine marquetry. In the beginning he did all of the work in an individual way, and as he was known as a skilled artisan and lived up fully to the reputation he had thus gained, his business was successful and constantly expanded, with the result that in 1917 he build his present factory building, 30 by 80 feet in dimensions and constructed of cement block. Here he has installed the most modern machinery and accessories for the producing of the highest grade of marquetry, here he gives employment to an average of more than twenty skilled workmen, and in its specific class the establishment is now one of the largest in the United States. Here is produced furniture inlay work, and a large part of the output is inlay work on radio cabinets. The trade of the concern now extends into most diverse sections of the United States, and Mr. Danker has gained place as one of the prosperous business men and loyal and highly esteemed citizens of the city that has represented his home since his boyhood. He married Miss Lena Ludtke, who was born and reared at Frankfort, Benzie county, and who is a daughter of William Ludtke. Mr. and Mrs. Danker have six children: Florence, Helen, Jacob, Andrew P., Adrian J., Jr., and Leone. Jacob is associated with his father’s business and is a skilled workman as a wood cutter. Andrew J., a student in high school at the time of this writing, in 1925, has inherited much of his father’s artistic talent and will be given good opportunity for its development.

Transcriber: Nancy Myer
Created: 21 April  2003