Skip to comments.In Memoriam of Bertha Schmidt Weingarten, my Mother
Posted on 05/26/2014 4:00:58 AM PDT by marktwain
Bertha (Schmidt) Weingarten at age 20
Bertha Schmidt Weingarten 1914 - 2013
My Mother was born Bertha Schmidt, in Brook Park, Minnesota, on December 21, 1914. She was an early Christmas present who arrived shortly after the start of World War I. She was the seventh child to be born in a log cabin with two little loft bedrooms. Her mother, Emma, left her abusive husband when Bertha was 12. At the time Bertha was one of ten children. Divorce was very rare. Her father had taken to drinking. The situation must have been very bad for her mother to leave her home, taking the four youngest children with her. She had married at 17, against the advise of Bertha's Grandmother. The experience had an enormous impact on Bertha's life.
Emma moved Bertha and the three other young children to Grandview, Wisconsin, which was near wilderness in 1926. The man who hired Emma for a cook made improper advances toward my mother. Emma confronted him, and they were out of a job in a strange place. Emma forced the farmer to leave until they could find a new place. A neighbor at the closest farm took them in to help transplant rutabagas. He was a middle aged bachelor, living alone on his own farm.
Custody proceedings initiated by Emma's Husband forced Emma and Bertha and the other three young children back to Minnesota for a time. Emma had a fourth grade education, at most, and Bertha served as her Mother's secretary, reading and writing love letters between the bachelor farmer and the soon to be divorced mother of ten. Eighty years later Bertha was still moved to tears as she recalled that Emma had insisted, that if she married the farmer, he would have to accept her four youngest children with her.
They waited for the return letter. Telephones were rare. Letters took days to deliver and return. They both cried when the return answer was "Yes, of course!"
Bertha idolized her Step-Father, William (Bill) Gillis. He became the father that she had wished that she had, even though life was not easy. Because of her early experiences, Bertha vowed that she would only marry a man who was a practicing Christian who was active in the Church.
Few people understand how hard everyone in that society worked. The rural areas did not have electricity. One of the chores Bertha shared with a sister as a little girl in Minnesota, was cranking water up from a well in a bucket, filling up a five gallon can, and hauling it on a little cart from the well to the house. It was only about a hundred yards from the well to the house, but I am sure it was quite a chore for a pair of little girls. She talked about how hard it was, and how much water had to be hauled on wash day, for a household of nine people. It must have seemed wonderful to have an artesian well on that farm in Grandview, Wisconsin.
Bertha came of age in Grandview, working at the local dairy. She received a pound of butter or cheese a week. She was not sure if, with the moves to Wisconsin back to Minnesota, then back to Wisconsin, if she had ever officially finished the eighth grade. At the start of the great depression, the crash of 1929, she was 14 years old.
She was a very attractive young woman who had many suitors. The picture does not show her vividly red hair. During the depression, my Father had joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The camp that he was in was about twenty miles from Grandview, and dances were held at Friebauer's, a dance hall that was half way between. That is where he met Bertha. The family story is that he told a friend that she was the woman that he would marry at that first dance. They courted for three years, with Bertha taking jobs at Sears, as a maid, and at a fried popcorn place in Minneapolis and Chicago. They kept up a correspondence, but I never found any of their love letters. In 1940, my father issued an ultimatum. Make up your mind and marry me, or I will find someone who will. She accepted. She writes that he asked her in December of 1939. They were married on May 25th, 1940, six months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. They moved in with my Father's parents, on their farm about seven miles north of Hayward, Wisconsin, in the Namekagon river valley.
During the war, they had four children, all girls. They moved to Milwaukee where my father worked as a machinist supervisor of a shift of women, producing munitions. Bertha had her fourth daughter in 1945. They did not enjoy living in the city. After the war, they moved back to the farm with the in-laws, for the next year. They lived in Hayward, and for a bit in Grandview for the next four years.
In 1950, they purchased my uncle's farm on the Namekagon river, a little more than a mile from LeRoy's Parents. Within a year, they had electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, and me. I was born in 1951, while my twin sister died during childbirth. The farm was a dairy farm, and very hard work. My sisters worked on the farm and walked a mile and a half to the local one room school. By the time I was of school age, two more boys had been added to the family, and LeRoy had started his career with the Wisconsin Highway Department as a surveyor. Bertha's last daughter was added to the family in 1958. Eight children are quite a few to take care of. A mother with that many children on a farm becomes a supervisor, manager, teacher, and taskmistress.
Bertha was always busy and hardworking. In between cooking, cleaning, laundry, farm chores, and literally keeping the home fires burning (we heated with wood, and kept fires going 7-8 months of the year), she kept numerous flower gardens around our home on the Namekagon river, as well as a large vegetable garden for the table and to provide vegetables to can for the winter. She worked hard at encouraging us to read, and expected us to do well in school. The house had many books and magazines while we were growing up. My parents gave each of us the first year in college, and we had to take it from there.
Bertha became very active in the 4-H program, and was a local leader for many years. Many of my formative experiences came from her 4-H activities.
Church was a very important part of our lives. We started with the family Church at Phipps, a tiny village, three miles away. The Church was moved to Hayward, Wisconsin about 1959. Bertha remained strong in her Christian faith until she died.
In the early 1970s my aunt, who lived three miles from us upriver, became very ill. Her husband had recently died, and they had a young daughter. My parents took her in, and Lynda became their ninth child to raise.
The Federal government bought much of the family farm about this time, as part of the Wild River project, turning most of it into a national park. My father retired in 1979 and with the children raised, my parents started a fresh phase in their life - tourist and world travelers. They visited me in California and Panama, traveled to Europe with my youngest sister, and traveled to Alaska seven times. They remained involved in local charities. In their 80's, they started to slow down. By the time Bertha reached 90, she had severe osteoporosis, she had broken her left leg in a fall, and had suffered a stroke. The femur was held together with a metal plate and bolts or screws inside her leg. In her later life, it was a source of pain whenever she moved the leg.
She had to undergo stints in the local rehabilitation center/nursing home twice. I talked to the staff when I visited. She was their star patient, working harder than people decades younger, never complaining, always with a cheerful word for the staff. It appeared to me that the new drugs for osteoporosis helped. If she had a fault, it was her unwillingness to be a bother to other people. Her hard work paid off, and both times she moved back to her home with my Father. My Father, LeRoy Weingarten died when she was 91, in 2006. They had been married for 66 years. I wrote about him and posted it on the Internet at Freerepublic.com. I intend to post this tribute to Bertha there as well.
After seeing my Aunt and Grandmothers in nursing homes, I had promised myself that I would not see my parents forced into one. The family was able to support my Mother in her own home for six more years. My parents had been very frugal, and great savers, but she came very close to outliving their resources.
Numerous friends stopped by to visit. Bertha was the last leaf on the tree. She outlived her friends and all the immediate family of her generation. Her last sister died a year before she did. She became physically very frail, and finally an invalid in her own home. I was very fortunate in that I was able to take care of her for four months of the last year of her life. Her mind was still mostly clear, though she was a little confused at times. I will always thank God for the opportunity to spend that time with her.
I had only left for a couple of weeks when she entered the last phase. When people made leading comments insinuating that her life was not worth living, she had said "God will take me when he wants". She was 19 days short of her 99th birthday, surrounded by family and church members when she was taken.
She is survived by three sons, five daughters, fourteen grandchildren, and 10 great grandchildren.
I had been a practicing agnostic/atheist for most of my adult life. Near my retirement, I accepted Jesus back into my life. He had never really left, I had just rejected God. I am glad to say that my mother was very happy that I had come back, just two years before she died. I look forward to seeing her on the other side.
This is a companion piece to the tribute that I wrote about my Father. For whatever reason, it took four months for me to gather the will to write it. My family will be having a memorial service, as Bertha requested, on May 25th.
My parents ashes will be placed in the woods that they loved and nurtured. They will be surrounded by mature trees that they planted more than 50 years ago.
Thoughts and Prayers to You and the Family for Your loss.
Quite a life She lived.
Thank You for sharing this with Us.
God bless you marktwain.
I lost my Mom in 2007. It’s a very hard thing to get through.
Our Parents Generation was amazing by today’s standards. I Pray that this Country can get back to that way of Life.
Hang in there Sir, You have many FRiends here.
“I am glad to say that my mother was very happy that I had come back, just two years before she died.”
How this must have lightened her heart!
It is not easy writing such a tribute to your mother as in the process, to some degree, you must quantify the unquantifiable.
May the Angels keep her.
Fitting, and well written tribute of your mother. It reminded me of my parents. We stand on the shoulders of giants. Thanks, and God bless
What a beautiful tribute to your mother. You are all very blessed to have had her.
What an amazing tribute! Thank you for posting this!
What a lovely story. Your mom was beautiful. My condolences - and God bless.
A beautiful tribute.
As I read, I realized I know so little about MY parents and there's no one left to ask questions.
I moving tribute to Americans of the America I knew.
(albeit a city guy of '48)
Glad to see that her red hair shows up vividly in their wedding picture. Thank you for sharing this tribute. God bless.
Beautiful pictures. May your mother rest in God’s arms.
My condolances for your personal loss
My accolades for the inheritance she has provided to you and your siblings.
Prayers up... RIP
Your mother and father lived a beautiful life, and worked hard to make it so. What a blessing to have witnessed their trajectories. Thank you for sharing their quintessentially American story from a time and way of life now all but outlawed. My deepest condolences in your loss.
May her memory be eternal.
It is not in the well educated, the rich, the politician, the performers in where greatness is found.
Rather, greatness is found in the people like your mother and father, who honored their vows and raised wonderful children like yourself.
Herein is true greatness, and had you not written the story of her life, we would be less inspired today, being unaware of how she and your dad lived their lives.
Long life was their earthly reward, and eternal life their heavenly reward.
They accomplished more in their lives than many famous people.
You honor them by remembering, and by doing likewise.
Thank for sharing her story with us.
Thank you for posting your memories. You had a wonderful mother who lived a long and good life. It was a blessing that you were able to care for her.
I have had that honor as well, with caring for my dad for the last two years of his life, and my mom continues living with me, now for 9 years. It’s not easy, to say the least, but it’s well worth it. I will never regret it.
May the Lord bless you and comfort you in your grief.
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