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Gerken · Larson

Herman Gerken (1819-1875)
Henry Gerken (1855-1914)
Ewald Gerken (1895-1956)
Joan (Gerken) Larson (1926-1994)
Thomas Larson (1962-)

Kieler · Uthe · Schumacher

Johannes "John" Kieler (1800-1882)
Barbara (Kieler) Uthe (1836-1917)
Mathilda (Uthe) Schumacher (1865-1897)
Anna (Schumacher) Gerken (1895-1967)
Joan (Gerken) Larson (1926-1994)
Thomas Larson (1962-)
· Researched and written by Tom Larson ·
This is the story of my grandparents Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken. Ewald was born in 1895 to Henry and Anna (Winter) Gerken at New Vienna, Iowa. In 1919, in Dubuque, Iowa, after his return from Europe and his service in the U.S. Army during World War I, Ewald married Anna Schumacher, who was born in 1895 to George and Mathilda (Uthe) Schumacher at East Dubuque, Illinois. They made their life together in Dubuque, where Ewald worked for Morrision Brothers and later at John Deere, and where they were members of Holy Ghost Parish. They raised eleven children, and their daughter Joan was my mother. Ewald died in 1956 and Anna in 1967, and they were buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Dubuque.   T.L.

Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken

Ewald Francis Xavier Gerken was born on September 7, 1895, at New Vienna, Iowa, son of Henry and Anna Winter Gerken. Ewald was the eighth of nine children; his brothers and sister were Louis, Mary Anna, George, Hubert (Hub), Wilhelmina (Minnie), Irma, Alphonse, and Zita.

Education of Ewald and some childhood writings.
Ewald received his early education at New Vienna. Surviving composition notebooks indicate he received instruction in both English and German. In a notebook dated as received "March 4, '08" when he was twelve years old, he wrote the following stories:

"Thanksgiving Day."
Thanksgiving Day was stormy and very cold.
The first part of the day I was at home with my parents and my sister but after dinner I went away.
I went to my sister on the farm.
I had a good, fat rooster, which weighed 6 pounds for dinner but I didn't eat so much.
Then I went around the farm buildings.
After this we got our shotgun. Then we went hunting.
We went around a few miles in the woods but we did not shoot anything.
Our dog was not very good either. We returned home and then I got the dogs and went to get the horses.
When I had these I went to get the cows and calves.
But the calves went away.
When I came back I went to the house and got my walking stick and went home.
But don't you think a minute that I was not tired.
I went to bed soon and slept very sound.

I obtained my skates as an Xmas present.
We always go to Vorwald's dam to skate, which is at the mill.
The river or better the dam is very winding and long.
It is about 7-8 feet deep.
The ice is very firm and on some places it is smooth.
The first party we had consisted of boys.
The names of the boys are the following: Lawrence Ferring, Alphons Gerken, Henry Grommerch, Eugene Kerper, Alver Kerper, Eugene Hoefer, I, and some other boys yet.
There were eleven boys in all.
All were happy and gay.
Then a chinee game was played.
Two sides were formed.
On one side my brother was captain on the other side Alver Kerper was captain.
Then at last a race began.
The leader was Hubert Greueb.
Lawrence Ferring fired first.
The winner was George Greueb, the second was my brother and the last was Jerome Lies.
All at once we heard Lawrence Ferring cry out: Help! help!
When we came to the place we saw that the ice had broken and Lawrence sank.
Alver Kerper got his dog and a rope and rescued him.
Then all departed for home.

Last Friday on Lincoln's Birthday we went to Kerper's pasture to coast.
The sleds were bright and new.
The name of my sled is "Bob the Coaster."
It is very strong. It runs very swift.
There were nine boys in all.
The ages ranging from ten to sixteen years.
The names of the boys are: Alphons Gerken, Alver Kerper, Eugene Kerper, Lawrence Ferring, Alphons Ferring, Henry Grommerch, Eugene Hoefer, Gustav Wilhelm and I.
We soon had a nice coasting place.
The hill is near the creek.
There are two places one place is more steep than the other.
The snow is frozen and very smooth but we soon have it broken. Underneath it is loose so that you will get much snow in the face.
Then we got ready for a race.
We slide down the hill swift than ever.
The first ones are: Alver Kerper and my brother and the last is Eugene Kerper.
They shout very hard and are very joyous.
There were two collisions first Alver Kerper and my brother second Lawrence Ferring and Gustav Wilhelm.
It happened thus: Alver Kemper's sled was pushed in back and he lost his hold and came in my brother's sled. Many boys with their sleds upset.
After this he went home.

"My Birthday Party."
My birthday is in the month of September.
Last year I had invited a party to my birthday.
I ordered them to be there for dinner.
The day was very pleasant.
The guests all came at the appointed time.
There were twelve boys in all ranging in age from twelve to fourteen.
We had one fat rooster and one turkey for dinner. After the dinner we went out to the Base Ball Diamond.
We had ordered the Dyersville boys for a game. The game began at one P.M.
We played ten innings and the game turned out in our favor.
The score was two to one.
Then we went home again.
Here we played Solo, Five Hundred, Euchre and Black Peter.
When it was a little cooler about seven o'clock we went to the woods and gathered some flowers.
They presented me with all kinds of presents namely: Post Cards, fruit, pencil, Memorandum book etc.
I thanked them for their presents and for their visit.
After this they departed for home.

"Caught in the Rain."
The walk in the woods was a pleasant one.
The following boys went with me: Lawrence Ferring, Peter Roth, Eugene Kerper, Eugene Hoefer, Wm. Tschohl and Hugo Kern.
We went to the woods about a ½ mile away.
At first we ran around and looked for flowers and gossiped together.
At once we saw that it grew dark more and more.
The clouds were threatening and dark.
It thundered and sometimes lightning flashed through the woods.
As we were on the other end of the woods we could not come home in time.
We therefore stayed in the woods and looked for shelter.
The rain came pouring down and soaked through our clothes.
At last we found shelter under the bushes.
But we thought that lightning would easily strike us.
So we went to a neighboring house where nobody was living.
After a half hour the rain stopped and we went home running and had much fun.

As one of the above writings tells us, Ewald received "Post Cards" for a birthday present, and collecting postcards became a favorite hobby of his. The following poems were written by Ewald in 1912 in a school composition book when he was seventeen years old:

"The Flower."
Of all the plants,
God does install,
The flower ranks
Above them all.
All flowers are
Of different hue,
Are beautiful
When full of dew.
But fade they do
Like everything,
But by God's will
Return in spring.
Four seasons, we have
Throughout the year,
And one of them
Is Winter, so dear.
Now soon it will freeze,
Hurrah! for the ice,
Then skating we'll go,
And quit playing dice.
Then comes the snow,
And we'll have fun,
Go coasting and hunting
With sleigh and gun.
But soon 'twill be over,
Have beautiful spring
Then winter will leave,
And adieu we'll sing.

Parents' deaths and college work.
Ewald, his brother Alphonse, and his sister Zita were the only children still living at home when their father's life was tragically cut short in an auto accident on August 13, 1914. Ewald, however, had spent some summers during the years from 1911 to 1914 at Adrian, Minnesota, where others in his family had previously migrated. In 1911 Ewald received mail care of his brother-in-law Joe Fritz at R.R. No. 1, Box 12, at Adrian; in 1912 he received mail care of his brother Hub Gerken there.

Between the death of his father and the death of his mother two years later on September 21, 1916, Ewald was attending Dubuque College (later to be named Loras College) at Dubuque, Iowa. He roomed at St. Joseph Hall at the college. One of Ewald's composition books from this time contains many blank pages, but it does have three short narratives in the opening pages, along with some rules for the use of the comma and examples of forms of address that were handwritten by Ewald. One narrative dated May 25, 1915, and titled "An Excursion on the Mississippi" appears below.

"An Excursion on the Mississippi."
The nineteenth of May was a day of universal rejoicing at Dubuque College. Because it was the date for the College boys' excursion on the river.

After dinner the students, with band in the lead, marched in a long file down to the landing where the steamer G. W. Still was waiting for us. While the rest of the boys boarded the boat, the band played a couple of good marches.

All then having embarked, the big engines were set in motion and we smoothly glided into the main channel.

When we approached the bridge, a span of it slowly revolved on its pier to open a passageway for us. After we passed it slowly swung into place again.

With a party of boys, I now went down to the engine room to watch the engines. It was delightful to see the large wheels spinning around and to watch the big piston rod, to which the paddle wheel was attached, shoot back and forth.

Next we went to the stem of the boat and looked at the beautiful scenery unfolding before our eyes. At each bend of the river some beautiful green hillsides studded with evergreens or covered with a forest, greeted our sight. Away far in the distance a bluish mist lay over the hilltops and the river.

About two miles below Cassville our engines stopped and our boat also soon stood still. The engines were reversed and the boat swung around, heading towards Dubuque.

Now my friend and I walked to the top-deck and stood in the stern of the boat. A most interesting sight, it was to see the big water-wheel splashing into the water. Behind it was a long row of high gently rolling waves. The one immediately behind the wheel was a most agitated body of water. Little waves jumped up but were soon swallowed by larger one. It was one twisting, whirling mass, like a body of fighting dogs all rolling over each other. The others farther on looked like a row of green hillocks.

Supper now being ready we went down to eat. A short while after we could see the upper end of the city. The boys now crowded on deck to watch the beautiful play and sparkling of the lights in the city.

Fred Kriebs then gave the signal to the band boys for assembling as we were approaching the landing. We landed shortly and began our march to the College. Marching up Main Street we played a few selections for the people. We arrived at the College at 7:30 o'clock, after having enjoyed a very agreeable excursion.
May, 25th, 1915

Ewald continued to spend summers at Adrian, Minnesota, but he always returned to eastern Iowa, and Dubuque was to become the place he called home for the rest of his life.

Ewald and Anna brought together.
Ewald's sister Irma had married Joe Schumacher early in 1914, and they had settled at Adrian, Minnesota. Through them Ewald had met and begun dating Joe's sister, Anna Mary Schumacher. Anna, too, had spent some time at Adrian during 1914. The Schumacher family hailed from East Dubuque, Illinois, but had moved across the Mississippi River into Dubuque.

Ewald works for Morrison Bros., but W. W. I intervenes.
Ewald worked for Morrison Brothers in Dubuque, where he was employed as a pattern maker. His earnings there ranged from $9 to $20.42 a week, earning a total of $375.98 in the six months prior to his enlistment in the United States Army on June 12, 1917. For his room during this time he was paying $3 a week. But he was off to the army now; World War I had interrupted his life in Dubuque and his courtship of Anna Schumacher.

Army life.
On June 12, 1917, Ewald left Dubuque for the army. Travelling south from Dubuque to Jefferson Barracks in Missouri, he had a stopover at Davenport, Iowa, where he spent the night. On June 13, 1917, he made this entry in his diary: "Wrote to Anna. Raining here. Loafing about town. Went to a movie then to the river. Standing here all alone and far away from you, I now first realize how immense my love is for you, Anna. Oh, how I yearn for you dearest."

Ewald travelled on to St. Louis and Jefferson Barracks in Missouri, where he was inducted into the Army on June 15 and where he received his uniform, and on June 22, 1917, he boarded a troop train destined for Fort Douglas, Utah. Ewald commented on the scenery along the way: In Missouri he wrote about the "Fine country here" and how he saw the "Missouri River for first time." He commented on the "Beautiful plateaus" in Wyoming on June 23, and, upon waking up on June 24 to find himself in the Rockies, wrote "Gorgeous here." Ewald wrote about "Entering Utah at 10:20 A.M., amid snow-clad Mountain Summits," and finally he wrote about his arrival at the fort on June 24, "At the Fort Douglas about 3:00 o'clock. Right in the mountains with snow on the summit. Can see Salt Lake and City," where he arrived on June 24.

Ewald's attitude about his experiences varied as to his current circumstances: On June 25 he wrote, "Splendid here in the morning. Great activity here," but the next day, he wrote, "Was sick nearly all day. Hate it here," and of his mindset the next day, he wrote, "Despise it still more here. Can't get into band." Ewald Gerken did make it into the band; on July 3, 1917, he was transferred to the 42nd Band, and on July 4, he wrote, "Like it there." The same day he "Went to a movie of Mary Pickford in the `Little American.' " Eleven days later Ewald "Went to see Vivian Martin in `Forbidden Paths.' "

Ewald's diary entry of August 13, 1917, noted "Anniversary of Pa's death."

Ewald's letter published in Dubuque newspaper.
The following day Ewald wrote a letter to Morrison Brothers while still stationed at Fort Douglas. This letter came to be published in the Dubuque newspaper, the Times-Journal, and is transcribed below.

Ewald Gerken Writes From Fort Douglas Regarding Army Life.
Writes to Former Employes of Experiences Since Leaving Dubuque.

An interesting letter on the life at a United States army camp was received in Dubuque by Morrison Brothers from Ewald F. Gerken, a former employe of that company, now located at Fort Douglas, Utah. The former Dubuque boy is a member of the regimental band at Fort Douglas and gives a clear description of the life at this army post. In the letter he tells of his life from the time of his arrival at the recruiting headquarters, Jefferson Barracks, to the sending of his letter from Fort Douglas. The letter is as follows:

Fort Douglas, Utah, Aug. 14, 1917.
Morrison Bros., Dubuque, Ia.:

Dear Sirs: Your most interesting letter was received some time ago and I was indeed very glad to have an answer so promptly.

In reply to your kind request I wish to say that you can publish these letters if you wish. I will try my best to make them interesting, but I don't know whether my writing ability is able to accomplish that.

To tell you about my experiences as a soldier, which indeed do not amount to much as yet, I must begin at Jefferson Barracks.

I arrived there with about 300 recruits from Chicago and different points in Iowa. After a strenuous examination the day after our arrival we were sworn into service. Our bunch proved to be exceptional good as only about ten were rejected.

Jefferson Barracks is a beautiful place and I think one of the best recruiting stations in the country. All the boys down there were treated fine and furnished with uniforms. Since I arrived here I have seen hundreds of "rookies" from different stations who did not have uniforms.

After a week's stay at the Barracks three hundred boys were sent to this fort. For a couple of days this [group] was put in the quarantine camp to see whether any sickness would turn up. Soon we were put in a company and now our work started.

At five in the morning reveille was sounded and everybody got busy to report for roll-call. After a good "chow," as the soldiers call it, we got ready for drill. From 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. the drill lasts, and it certainly is drill. A person feels more justified in calling it a "grind." After drill in the forenoon we had a short rest and then dinner.

At 1:30 p.m. the grind began again and lasted till 3:00 o'clock. From then on till supper time we have time to clean up. During this time clothes are washed and mended, and the soldiers clean themselves, too.

Retreat is sounded at 5:30 and again we got out to answer roll. From then on till 11:00 p.m. the soldiers can go out and enjoy themselves, which they certainly do.

And so it goes on day after day and at last the man who came in a rookie turns out a perfect soldier. He can't help it if there is life in him. And the American boy shows life and the right spirit to become a soldier. Even during their spare time they take out their signal flags and practice.

However, in my branch I do not have such strenuous work. The musicians do not get up until 6 o'clock. We have three hours rehearsal during the day and give concerts three or four times a week. We also have litter and first aid drill for a short while every day. As you probably know, the band joins the ambulance corps in active service.

We have miserable weather here today. Dust is blowing through all the cracks in these wooden buildings and makes breathing difficult.

The government has just ordered these barracks made habitable for winter. So I guess here we stay for the winter. I have an idea it would be better in France than here. However, we do expect and hope to be over there for the spring drive. And believe me, if the "Sammies" don't put some pep in it, it will not be our fault. Everyone of them wants to get a crack at the kaiser and I am not adverse at taking a shot myself if I get anywhere near him.

Saturday our band was given a special trip. We got a pass to be present at a farewell celebration to the Logan, Utah, boys, and you may be sure we took advantage of this special privilege.

That will be about all the news for this time and I hope that all the good people of Dubuque will find a little news in this letter and not criticize it too much. Before I close I wish to urge all the people of Dubuque that whenever Uncle Sam urges them to do something for him that they respond with willingness and let their patriotism and self-sacrifice shine above everything else, as that is the only way this country can win this war.

Yours truly,

On September 21, 1917, Ewald noted in his diary, "Anniversary of Mother's death."

A letter from Ewald to Anna Schumacher dated October 17, 1917, tells more about life at Fort Douglas, as follows:

Dearest Girlie,
Whew! it's cold here. Brrr! It started to turn cold last night and it snowed some this morning. An awful raw wind is blowing tonight. I went into the supply room and got another blanket. That makes four woolen blankets I got besides my shelter half (half of a little tent). So I keep comfortably warm in bed but, oh, my, getting up. The boys are all sitting around the little stove keeping it warm.

This morning we had another inoculation called the paratyphoid. That was awful. The doctor had a needle about the thickness of one of those little box matches. More than twice as thick as a darning needle. When he shot that dope into our arm it blew up about the size of a thimble. My arm is terribly sore. Can't hardly use it. This afternoon I was putting hinges on those boxes and while I was driving a screw in one end, the other tipped up right on my thumb and my hammer come down on it. So that makes a sore thumb on a sore arm.

We got overcoats today but the new ones are awfully poor coats. The lining only goes halfway down and the bottom end is just cut off and not sewed in. And besides the goods are not woven as closely as the old ones.

Our top-sergeant was down town today and he come back tonight feeling rather good. And Utah is dry.

Oh dear, I can't hardly write with a pencil.

Gosh, I am getting anxious about my transfer. It takes an awfully long while.

I have a little fever from that medicine we got in the arm today.

Well dearie how's everything at home? Lovely?

With lots of love and kisses and regards to all,
I am
Your loving boy,

Ewald on leave, sees Anna.
Ewald was transferred to Camp Grant at Rockford, Illinois, that fall, where he joined the Army "C" Company of the 21st Engineers, so he was now, for a time anyway, closer to home. He stopped in Dubuque on October 23 to see Anna. He continued on to Rockford the next day. While there Anna travelled from Dubuque to see him, and they spent November 16-20, 1917, together, at which time his pass ended.

Ewald's diary entries for those days state the following:

Fri., Nov. 16 "Anna arrived in Rockford. Met her at train."
Sat., Nov. 17 "Was downtown to see Anna."
Sun., Nov. 18 "Was with Anna all day. Had a pleasant time."
Mon., Nov. 19 "Same"
Tue., Nov. 20 "Same. Pass ended today. Back to duty."

Ewald was back in Dubuque on leave December 1, and he and Anna took a trip to Sabula, Iowa, together. He returned to Rockford on December 4.

Ewald had begun using a military issue diary in November 1917 and the first page provided space for recording personal data. Ewald gave his his weight as 195 pounds for his 6 foot 1 inch frame. His shoe size was 10½, hat size 7-3/8, collar size 16½, undershirt size 40, and for his trousers: waist size 40 and length size 28. He wrote down his girlfriend Anna Schumacher's name and address for a contact in case of accident or serious illness.

Ewald raised to rank of corporal.
On the day he returned to Rockford, Ewald was appointed to the rank of Corporal in Company "C" of the 21st Engineers of the National Army of the United States retroactive to the first of December, 1917.

Unexplainedly though, while stationed in France the following August, Corporal Gerken asked his rank to be reduced. In a letter to Anna dated September 1, 1918, he wrote, "Dearie I am now a private again. I asked them to reduce me for reasons that I can't explain till I get home. Suffice it to say they were good reasons. So address my letters to Pvt. E. F. Gerken and don't forget Hq. Det." Ewald's diary entry for August 30, 1918, also simply states, "Was reduced by request."

His work at Camp Grant included working on double decks, boxes, and tables and making a phonograph case.

To France.
On December 15, 1917, he started preparing for his eventual destination of France as part of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. The following day, he and the troops left for the East, travelling through Chicago, Kalamazoo, Detroit, Niagara Falls, and the Erie Canal onward to their destination of Camp Merritt, New Jersey.

Ewald spent Christmas Day, 1917, packing for France, and on the next day left camp for the ship and embarked on the President Grant. He suffered from sea sickness continually on the trip across the Atlantic Ocean: "Don't think we'll ever get there," but they did, landing at Brest, France, on January 10, 1918.

In France.
On Monday, January 15, 1918, Ewald arrived at Camp Duquesne near Gievres in France. On that day he wrote in his diary, "Hard work here for the boys," and the next day wrote "Lots of doings here in railroad activities." As a member of the band Ewald often went on the road to different camps to play concerts for the troops, but he also had other work to do, being placed on carpenter detail on January 28. On February 21, 1918, his company left Camp Duquesne for the front, and arrived in the Toul sector, on February 23, where they were placed in French barracks. On Friday, March 1, Ewald wrote, "Snowing and cold. Lord but I hate this country." On Sunday, March 3, 1918, Ewald noted, "[General] Pershing was here."

Ewald's camp was near Sorcy, France, in the Toul sector, and some of his duties included working on a dip tank, on the railroad track, in a stone quarry and in the warehouse; making a box; and having guard duty, and he continued as a member of the band, playing concerts for the troops. He wrote of the action surrounding him on the front lines:

Tue., Feb. 26, 1918: "Lots of air battles."
Wed., Mar. 6, 1918: "German airplanes around again."
Thu., Mar. 7, 1918: "Airplane attack. Dropped seven bombs."
Mon., Mar. 11, 1918: "Heavy artillery fire early this morning."

On Tuesday, July 16, 1918, Ewald wrote, "Went swimming and nearly drowned. LaCrone and March pulled me out." This experience, however, did not keep Ewald out of the water long, for the next day Ewald wrote, "Swimming again."

Ewald Gerken's discharge papers note his service during the St. Mihiel and Meuse Argonne offensives in northeast France, which took place in September of 1918.

On November 11, 1918, Ewald wrote in his diary, "Armstice signed. 11th [of November]. and 21st band celebrated. Marched up and down the street." On Tuesday, November 26, the company moved to Conflans. Of this area, Ewald wrote, "Germans left destruction and waste everywhere."

Letters home.
While over in France, Ewald wrote many letters to his dearest Anna Schumacher, his brothers and sisters, as well as friends, and received many in return. He was always anxious for news from home.

In a letter to Anna dated June 24, 1918, Ewald wrote, "Did I tell you that I had a French soldier friend here? But he will only stay for a short while. I was the first American he spoke to. He speaks fairly good English. He likes the Americans. Says they are not as proud as the British.The Americans are good comrades he says. The French are good people too."

In a letter to Anna dated August 19, 1918, Ewald gave his perceptions of the American army. He wrote, "Some people might say that the American army is the best in the world. I am no judge. But we have a lot to learn yet. We have the spirit and that is what is winning for us at present. In some time however the American army will no doubt be the best. Barring none. The Americans learn fast."

Ewald also able to meet local villagers; in a letter to Anna dated September 8, 1918, he wrote, "I was out for a walk this morning and also visited my friends in the neighboring village. Ate dinner with them. You know there are two families that I know very well. Well when I eat dinner with one the other does not like it, because I did not eat with them. What should I do in that case?" His diary names the village as Troussey, which he often records visiting, beginning in April and continuing into the fall of 1918.

Below is the full text of a letter Ewald wrote to Anna not quite a month after the armstice was signed ending World War I. The letter was dated December 3, 1918, and reached Anna at the YWCA in Chicago. She had gone to Chicago for a visit to her sister Louise, but she ended up taking a position there and stayed several months.

Dec. 3 1918

Dear Anna,
I received two of your dear letters last evening also one from Alphons and Morrison Bros.

Morrison Bros. wrote me quite a lengthy and newsy letter but they had not written for a long time.

From all accounts you did not see your brother Jack when he was home. Why did you not go home with Louise [her sister] is what strikes me queer. You must not have been very anxious to see your brother whom you have not seen for a few years. What's wrong Anna?

Brother Alphons was very very ill. First he had influenza and pneumonia and when he was nearly well he was taken with pleurisy and tonsilitis. He had been in the hospital nearly six weeks when he wrote me. From Hubert [his brother] I have not heard for over a month.

Yes Anna, you done rightly by paying my dues. Thank you ever so much.

Our regiment is now operating standard gauge railroad. Real trains.

How you must have celebrated when the official news of the armstice came out? Glory I wish I could have been there.

Morrison Bros. stated that Jack went to San Francisco to sail for France, is that right?

Oh, I hope we can come home soon. Won't that be great? I hope I get a heartier welcome from you than you gave Jack. Will I? I received the gum. Thank you dearie. Someday I will kiss you for that. There is no news in this neck of the woods dear, so I might as well close. Now don't feel offended because I told you that about Jack but you should have visited him dear. We might be home soon. Goodbye until some other time.

Yours with love and with kisses,
P.S. The picture is of General Pershing's reception in a nearby town. [Ewald had sent back a picture postcard with the letter.]

Ewald's collection of postcards grows.
Ewald, as the heading of the above letter indicates, was now in Conflans-Jarny, and he brought back two picture postcards of Conflans and two of Jarny.

He brought back many other postcards of places in France, including a packet of 24 Cartes Postales from Toul itself, a packet of 24 postcards from Verdun, and an assortment of cards from St. Mihiel; Vaucouleurs, Lorraine; Sorcy; Xivray; and five postcards from Clermont-en-Argonne.

Ewald brought back twenty-four picture postcards of Paris, but these apparently came from an army buddy named Ed. Ewald passed a few miles to the south of Paris while en route to another destination, but he never made it to Paris himself. On November 5, 1918, Ewald wrote in his diary that Ed had gone to Paris. A week later, on November 12, Ewald wrote in his diary that he met Ed at Ippecourt and that Ed had brought presents for him, which undoubtedly included the picture postcards.

On some of the postcards of France that Ewald brought back to the States appear scenes of destruction of World War I, which is called La Grande Guerre, "The Great War," on the cards, with such subheadings as Incendié par les Barbares sans aucune provocation civile, "Conflagration by the barbarians without any civil provocation."

Ewald (center) with his brothers Alphonse (at left) and Hubert, the three decked out in their World War I army uniforms.
Perhaps most impressive are the nineteen postcards Ewald brought back from Domrémy, the village in the Meuse River valley in which Joan of Arc was born and raised. She was not yet a saint at that time; she would not be canonized until 1920. In 1926 Ewald's third daughter would be named Joan. In his diary Ewald recorded having visited Domrémy on Sunday, December 22, 1918, and called it a "wonderful place." And what must have been a very happy event for Ewald had occurred just two days earlier; he had "at last found Hub. Was glad to see him." Hub was Hubert, his brother, who was also seeing action in France during the First World War.

"The end of an awful year."
Although relatively speaking these were happy times for Ewald, what with the fighting finished, having the occasion of seeing his brother, and having some opportunity to visit the surrounding countryside of France, the weather became a complaint for him. He wrote of the snow and rain, of the landscape being very muddy: "Went into mud to my knees" and "walking is hell," and of having arrived at a particular locale "nearly drenched."

On Christmas Day, 1918, Ewald wrote, "Lots of fun playing Santa in France. Celebration at Conflans for kids." The last entry of his diary for 1918, for Tuesday, December 31, reads, "Played concert and played on midnight. The end of an awful year."

An identity card issued March 30th, 1919, gave him permission to pass from Le Mans, France, to Biarritz, Department of Basses, Pyrénées, in the southwest corner of France. He brought back a packet of 24 postcards from Tours, which was en route to Biarritz. As it was now after the armstice, Ewald could write openly of his location at Biarritz. A letter to Anna written from Biarritz in April of 1919 follows:

April, 3rd 1919

Dearest Anna,
I received your letter of March 9th just before we left Le Mans for here which is Biarritz one of the leave areas for American soldiers. We are here to play for them. So far we are billed to stay until April 25th but most likely we will stay longer. This is a beautiful place. It is situated on the Atlantic close to the Spanish border and was and will again be "The playground of kings" and American millionaires. The stores and other buildings are beautiful and everything is clean. Our hotel is one of the best. Imagine the American "buck" private in the swell hotels where millionaires used to come. This is great. Nice beds with white bed spreads, electric lights, elevator, best of "eats" served in courses 'n everything. Every modern accommodation is here. But in spite of all "I want to go home". Lots of beautiful girls too but they don't interest me. The K.C.'s have arranged trips to Lourdes and if possible I will go there one of these days. This is also the city where Jack Johnson went broke. I don't expect to be home now before the end of May. Now I must close because the paper is running out. If I get some other some time I will write more. With lots of love and kisses,

Ewald brought home a packet of twelve postcards as well as twelve individual cards from Biarritz. He also brought a packet of 12 postcards and an individual card from nearby Bayonne, and one from Toulouse, although he never saw Toulouse himself.

In Spain.
Five postcards came from Hendaye and one from Behobia, towns on the border of Spain and France. In a letter to Anna Schumacher dated April 15, 1919, Ewald wrote, "Today we were down on the Spanish border. We played the piece 'Stars and Stripes Forever' on Spanish soil. We seen Spanish soldiers and oh I wish you could have seen them, they were decorated something great. Later we went up and played in the little town Hendaye which lies right on the border."

Anna's whereabouts 1917-1919.
Of the surviving letters from Ewald to Anna, two are from October 1917 and were addressed to her at 3029 Jackson St., Dubuque; the same address is used on an empty envelope stamped by an army censor on December 4, 1917. One letter is from June 1918 and addressed to 2776 Jackson St.; another is from August 1918 and addressed to her at the Hotel Darlington at 4700 N. Racine Ave. in Chicago, Illinois, where she was on a visit to her sister Louise; two letters from later that month of August 1918 were again addressed to 2776 Jackson St. in Dubuque, although she had stayed in Chicago, having found work there. Two letters from Ewald to Anna in September 1918 were again addressed to 4700 N. Racine Ave. in Chicago, but they were forwarded to the YWCA at 830 Michigan Av in Chicago.

A letter from late in September 1918 was again addressed to 2776 Jackson St. The letter from December 3, 1918, the text of which was given above, was addressed to 3165 Elm St., Dubuque, Frank Schumacher's address, but it was forwarded to Anna in Chicago, again to the YWCA at 830 Michigan Ave.

The last two surviving letters, from April 1919, were mailed to Anna at her brother Frank's address at 3165 Elm Street, Dubuque.

Sylvie Etchegorry.
While Ewald was stationed over in France, he corresponded with a woman named Sylvie Etchegorry, a school teacher at Surbe in the Pyrénées (a later address was Ogeu les Bains, Basses Pyrénées, France), and she contributed to his collection of postcards by mailing several to him over a period of two years, beginning in August 1918 and continuing through August 1920, which was over a year after Ewald had returned to the States.

Most of the postcards reflect the traditional life of the Ossalois people in the Pyrénées region in southern France. In addition to the postcards, she made a gift of a traditional head-dress of an Ossaloise woman, which Ewald sent home to Anna, along with a postcard illustrating how the head-dress was worn.

When Ewald was in the south of France during the last months of his tour of duty, he wrote, "This place is close to where Andy Morrison's niece lives but I cannot get over there to see her." Ewald undoubtedly was referring to Sylvie Etchegorry, and Andy Morrison presumably was connected with Morrison Brothers, Ewald's place of employment back in Dubuque, Iowa.

In a message begun on one postcard and finished on a second, Sylvie Etchegorry wrote the following to Ewald on the day of the armstice, November 11, 1918:

The bells are ringing joyfully the armstice is the victory; never a greatest pleasure cannot be feel!

How everyone is happy but still happier you can be brave soldiers who had been fighting during so long time!

In this memorable day I adress you with my thanksgiving and my gratitude--my best wishes.

Yours respectfully
S. Etchegorry

A postcard sent to Ewald at 3165 Elm Street, the home of Anna's brother Frank Schumacher, where apparently both Anna and Ewald were rooming after his return to Dubuque, reads, "From a friend qui ne vous oublie pas. S. Etchegorry." This was the only time Sylvie Etchegorry used French on her cards, and it literally translates to "who does not forget you."

Ewald's discharge and return to Dubuque.
Ewald's service in France ending, he returned to Brest, France, on May 21, 1919, and seven days later he was "Home ward bound" on the U.S.S. President Grant, returning home on the same ship that had brought him to France a year and a half earlier. On June 9, 1919, Ewald Gerken once again stepped on U.S. soil, and he received his honorable discharge on June 20, 1919, at Camp Dix, New Jersey. His discharge papers noted brown eyes, brown hair, and ruddy complexion, that he had been part of the American Expeditionary Force, Toul sector, during the St. Mihiel and Meuse Argonne offensives, that he had not received any decorations, medals, badges, or citations, that he had received no wounds, was in good physical condition, and was of excellent character, that he was never AWOL, and that he was entitled to travel pay. Upon discharge Ewald was paid in full, including his bonus pay, a total of $124.80.

Ewald arrived back in Dubuque on June 22, 1919, and he resumed his employment as a pattern maker at Morrison Brothers. Three months later, Ewald Francis Xavier Gerken and Anna Mary Schumacher were married.

Wedding at Holy Ghost.
A pretty morning wedding of Wednesday, September 10, 1919, was that of Miss Anna Schumacher, daughter of George Schumacher, of 3165 Elm Street, and Ewald F. Gerken, also of Elm Street, which was celebrated at 7 o'clock at the Holy Ghost Church, Rev. Father W. J. Weirich officiating at the nuptial mass. Miss Martha Winter, a friend of the bride, and Alphonse Gerken, a brother of the bridegroom, were the attendants.

Mrs. Gerken wore a beautiful gown of white georgette crepe over white pussy willow satin and a full-length veil of tulle arranged in cap fashion held in place with a wreathe of orange blosssoms. Miss Winters wore a gown of pink georgette crepe and a large picture hat. Her shower bouquet was of white carnations and ferns.

At 8:30 o'clock a breakfast was served to relatives and some forty friends at the home of the bride's brother Frank Schumacher on Elm Street. The bride's table was prettily decorated in white with a large basket of pink and white carnations as a center piece. Streamers of pink and white crepe fell from a large wedding bell to each corner of the table.

Among the out-of-town guests present at the wedding were Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Schumacher, Mrs. Peter Winter, Alphonse Gerken, all of Adrian, Minn.; Captain John Schumacher of Mare Island, Cal.; John Burns of Windsor, Cananda; and Miss Louise Schumacher of Chicago.

For a wedding present, the Rev. Father Weirich gave the couple the book Marriage and Parenthood: The Catholic Ideal, written by the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard.

The bride and groom first made their home with the bride's brother, Frank Schumacher, at 3165 Elm Street in Dubuque.

Anna Schumacher's heritage.
Anna Mary Schumacher was born on April 20, 1895, at East Dubuque, Illinois, daughter of George M. and Mathilda (Uthe) Schumacher. Anna never really knew her mother as Mathilda died just two years after Anna's birth, at the young age of thirty-two years. Anna made her First Holy Communion at St. Raphael's Cathedral on May 31, 1908, and was confirmed in the Catholic faith on April 25, 1909.

Heritage of Anna's father, George Schumacher.
George Schumacher was born in October 1859 in New York State to Martin and Theresa (Schumacher) Schumacher. Martin, age 34, and Theresa, age 31, had come to America in 1853, at the ages of 34 and 31, respectively, along with their first three children, Franz, age 10; Heinrich, age 8; and Rosa, age months, from Baden Baden, Germany. Theresa and the three children arrived in New York aboard the Statesman on November 15, 1853, which had set sail from Antwerp, Belgium. The ship's manifest listed the Schumachers as farmers. The father, having been detained by the illness of a brother, arrived three weeks later, sailing from Antwerp on the Oregon and arriving in New York on December 5, 1853. The family settled in Cattaragus County in New York, where they had two more children, John and George.

Martin and Theresa were married June 13, 1843, in Wisental, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Theresa was a first cousin to Martin's father. After their arrival in America, the Schumachers settled in western New York State, in Cattaraugus County, and George Schumacher was born six years after his parents arrived in America.

George Schumacher migrates to East Dubuque, marries Matilda Uthe; they have five children.
George M. Schumacher followed his older brother Henry Schumacher west from New York to East Dubuque, Illinois. Henry Schumacher was a Civil War veteran who had migrated to Dunleith (later named East Dubuque) and operated a lumberyard and later a livery there. In 1880 the U.S, Census has George, age 20, living in his brother's household in East Dubuque, which included Henry, age 35; his wife Louise, age 32; their children Maggie M., Henry M., Kate T., and Annie L.; Dora Richter, a servant; and, interestingly, Franzeska Machauer, age 56, who was an aunt of Henry and George's, a sister of their father Martin Schumacher.

Henry Schumacher's wife was Louise Kieler, whom he married on April 26, 1869, at the Kieler church. Fifteen years later, Henry's younger brother George married Mathilda Uthe, who was Louise's niece, on April 29, 1884.

Mathilda Uthe was born on February 3, 1865, to Frank and Barbara (Kieler) Uthe at Dickeyville, in Grant County, Wisconsin. George and Matilda (Uthe) Schumacher had five children, Louise, Anna, Frank, John (Jack), and Joseph.

Death of Anna's mother, Mathilda (Uthe) Schumacher.
Mathilda (Uthe) Schumacher died after a three-weeks illness on April 29, 1897, the day of her thirteenth wedding anniversary. Her funeral took place Saturday, May 1, from the family residence to St. Mary's Catholic Church in East Dubuque, thence to the Immaculate Conception Church cemetery at Kieler, Wisconsin. The services at the church were conducted by Rev. J. F. Berube, and the pall-bearers were John Kass, Val Hellstern, Phil Lavery, Nick Roth, Wm. Hesseling, and F. Grassel of Dubuque. One short obituary notice read, "Mrs. George Schumacher of East Dubuque died Thursday, leaving her husband and five children. Mrs. Schumacher was a woman of noble traits of character and was highly regarded by a large number of friends both in East Dubuque and this city [Dubuque]." Another obituary states "She was an estimable woman, and an affectionate wife and mother, and her untimely death is a sad affliction to her family." She was survived by her mother, five brothers, and three sisters, also by her husband and five children: Frankie, aged 11 years; Johnny, 9 years; Joe, 7 years; Louisa, 5 years; and Annie, 2 years.

Anna's father remarries.
George Schumacher then married Catherine Fuerstenberg of East Dubuque, Illinois, on August 7, 1897. Catherine, who was born in Germany in November 1866, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Fuerstenberg, brought a daughter Josephine into her marriage with George Schumacher. Born to George and Catherine Schumacher were George, Margaret, Louis, Henrietta, Albert. They had another daughter, Mary, who died circa 1907 (and born after 1900, as she is not part of the Schumacher household at the time of that census).

The 1900 U.S. Census has the Schumacher household in Dunleith Township, Jo Daviess County, Illinois, consisting of George, age 40, employed as a clerk in a lumberyard; his wife of three years, Katharine, age 33; their son George (N.?), age 1, born July 1898; Annie M. [Margaret], born April 1900; a daughter of Katharine's from her first marriage, Francis J. Furstenberg [Josephine], age 4, born March 1896 in Iowa, whose parents were both born in Germany; and George's children from his first marriage, Frank, age 13, born August 1886; John G., age 12, born April 1888; Joseph H., age 10, born March 1890; Louisa (L.?), age 8, born April 1892; and Annie, age 5, born April 1895.

Death of Anna's father, George M. Schumacher.
George Schumacher, well known resident of Dubuque, died at the residence, 328 North Booth Street, 12:45 P.M. on July 15, 1925, at age 66. He had been ailing for some time, but his condition did not become critical until a short time previous.

He had worked at the Farley-Loetscher plant in Dubuque for the last twelve years of his life. He was a Catholic, a member of the Nativity Church, the Catholic Order of Foresters of East Dubuque, and the Holy Name Society. The family had previously lived at 556 Southern Ave. in Dubuque.

He was survived by his widow, Catherine, eleven sons and daughters, Frank, George, Mrs. E. Gerken, Mrs. J. Sullivan, Misses Margaret and Henrietta, all of Dubuque, Louis of Routool, Ill., Albert of Des Moines, John of the U.S. Navy, Joseph of Adrian, Minnesota, and Louise Schumacher of California, also nineteen grandchildren. Louis and Albert are in the army. A daughter, Mary, died eighteen years ago.

More of Anna's Kieler and Uthe heritage.
Barbara (Kieler) Uthe, Mathilda (Uthe) Schumacher's mother, was the daughter of John and Catharine (Hupe) Kieler. The town of Kieler, Wisconsin, just a few miles northeast of Dubuque across the Mississippi River on U.S. Highways 61 and 151, took the family name when John's son George became its first postmaster.

Anna's grandparents, Frank and Barbara (Kieler) Uthe.
Barbara Kieler and Frank Uthe were married on June 3, 1855, in the village of Struth, which is located in the present-day state of Thuringia [Thüringen], in Germany, and they came to this country circa 1857. They made their home in Paris Township, Grant County, Wisconsin, where they farmed. Barbara was born on September 12, 1836. Frank was born on October 25, 1818, in Hauerothe [?, possibly Heyerode], Amts Bezirt [?, Bezirk] Mühlhausen, in Germany, to Jacob and Margaretha (Boehm [Böhm]) Uthe. Frank and Bara Uthe raised nine children: Anna, Henry, Frank, John, Mathilda, Joseph, Charles, Elizabeth "Lizzie" and Katherine "Kate." For a time Frank Uthe went to California in search of gold. Frank Uthe died December 14, 1885, at Dickeyville, Wisconsin, and was buried there. About seven years later Barbara (Kieler) Uthe moved to Kieler, Wisconsin, where she died at 8:30 P.M. on Friday, May 18, 1917, at the age of eighty years. She was buried in the church cemetery there.

Barbara (Kieler) Uthe's granddaughter Anna Schumacher married Ewald Gerken on September 10, 1919.

back: Ewald and Anna Gerken, with Anna holding Joan; front: Louise, Don, Teresa, and Butz
1926 photograph of the growing Gerken family
back row: Ewald and Anna Gerken, with Anna holding Joan
front: Louise, Don, Teresa, and Butz (Adrian)

Ewald and Anna in Dubuque.
Ewald and Anna Gerken moved often during the early years of their marriage. After leaving Anna's brother's place at 3165 Elm Street in Dubuque, where they had lived after their wedding, they resided at 2418 Broadway, 2822½; Central, 2331 Jackson, and 1304 Rhomberg during the 1920s and early 1930s. The Jackson Street residence had previously been inhabited by Ewald's brother and sister-in-law, George and Anna Gerken.

2820 Burlington Street.
By 1934 the Gerken family had moved into the house which would become their home for the rest of their lives, the residence at 2820 Burlington Street. The land purchased in the Park Hill area of Dubuque included Lots 75, 76, and 77, and the S.E. 5 feet of 74. The house sits on Lot 76.

Ewald made a little haven of the large yard area, planting lilacs on the perimeters of the property, tending large vegetable and flower gardens, making a little pond, and planting grape vines and trees. Plum, apple, crab apple, cherry, elm, and walnut trees on the land provided fruit and shade.

Ewald Jr. recalled one time how his mother Anna had a big pot of tomatoes on the stove that she was stewing, and he had entered the home swinging a pair of shoes by the laces, and as fate would have it, the shoes got away and landed in the pot of tomatoes. Anna's reaction was, of course, to grab the shoes out the stewing tomatoes, but then she told her son, "Don't tell ANYONE what happened!!!"

Lot 77 would later be sold to Ewald and Anna's daughter Louise and her husband Wilfred Coakley, on which they built their own home. The homestead with lots 75 and 76 and 5 feet of 74 would later became the home of Ewald and Anna's daughter Joan and her husband Vernon Larson.

Ewald and Anna Gerken were longtime members of Holy Ghost Parish on Central Avenue in Dubuque, located down the hillside from the Gerken home. Monsignor Leo Jaeger, a native of Dyersville, Iowa, and friend of the Gerken family, later became pastor of the parish.

Children of Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken

  • Louise Mary Gerken was born June 9, 1920, in Dubuque, Iowa, to Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken. She married Wilfred F. Coakley on April 17, 1944, at Dubuque, where they lived. He was born on November 13, 1919, near Otter Creek, Iowa, and he worked for the U.S. Postal Service in Dubuque. They had six children: Janet, Patricia, Robert "Bob," Mary Catherine "Mary Kay," Margaret, and Ann. Louise (Gerken) Coakley died on March 29, 1959, and was buried at Key West, Iowa, south of Dubuque. Wilfred later married Evelyn Hanlon. Wilfred Coakley died on February 26, 1993, and was buried at Key West.

  • Donald Henry Gerken was born May 6, 1921, in Dubuque, Iowa, to Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken. He married Ann Elizabeth O'Barto on April 22, 1946, at Santa Ana, California, and they lived at Dubuque, Iowa. They had two children: Donald "Sonny" and Debra. Donald Gerken died on April 27, 1983, and was buried at Dubuque.

  • Teresa Ann Gerken was born August 20, 1922, in Dubuque, Iowa, to Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken. She married Donald F. McCoy on June 4, 1946, at Dubuque, where they lived for many years before moving to Champaign, Illinois; they later retired back to Dubuque. Don was born January 11, 1922, and he worked for Caradco. They had five children: Michael, Dorothy, Richard, Susan, and Barbara. Donald McCoy died on January 16, 1993, and Teresa (Gerken) McCoy died on September 3, 1993, and they were buried at Dubuque.

  • Adrian Joseph Gerken was born July 24, 1924, in Dubuque, Iowa, to Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken. He married Joan Rose Nemmers on January 6, 1949, and they resided at Naperville, Illinois. A.J. worked for the 3M Company. They had three children: Kurt, Nicholas, and John. Adrian J. "A.J." Gerken died May 15, 2003, and he was buried at Naperville.

  • Joan Edith Gerken was born January 21, 1926, in Dubuque, Iowa, to Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken. She married Vernon Eugene Larson on September 10, 1949, at Dubuque, Iowa, where they lived. He was born on August 29, 1925, near Argyle, Wisconsin. Vernon worked for John Deere at Dubuque. They had seven children: Stephen, Vernon, Karen, Norman, Phillip, Thomas, and Christine. Joan (Gerken) Larson died on September 28, 1994, and she was buried at Dubuque. Vernon Larson died on August 30, 2001, and was buried beside his wife.

  • Dolores Irma Gerken was born in Dubuque, Iowa, to Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken. She joined the convent as Sister Dolores Ann, left the order and married Kenneth G. Colby, and they resided at Barboursville, Virginia; they later divorced. Dolores Gerken retired to Farley, Iowa.

  • Ewald George Gerken was born in Dubuque, Iowa, to Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken. He was a Salesian Brother, but later left the order, and he married Elizabeth Ellen Hughes on October 28, 1967, at Cascade, Iowa, where they lived. Ewald was a carpenter, and Beth was a nurse. She was born on September 6, 1932, at Cascade. They had six children: Marcella, Ewald "Gus," Mary Bridget, Gabriella, Henri, and Michaeleen. Elizabeth (Hughes) Gerken died on June 11, 1994, and she was buried at Cascade.

  • Mary Leona Gerken was born in Dubuque, Iowa, to Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken. She married John Temple on June 10, 1955, and they resided at Westminster, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. They had three children: James, Connie, and Kevin.

  • William "Bill" Frank Gerken was born in Dubuque, Iowa, to Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken. He married Donna Marilyn Beresford on October 22, 1955, and they lived at Costa Mesa, California, before retiring to Farley, Iowa. Bill was a finish carpenter, and Donna was a meat wrapper. They had five children: Catherine "Cathy," Cynthia "Cindy," Theresa "Teri," William "Bill," and Gerard "Gerry."

  • Daniel John Gerken was born in Dubuque, Iowa, to Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken. He married Joyce Suzanne Murphy on August 18, 1956, and they lived at Waterloo, Iowa. Dan worked for the telephone company, and Joyce worked for Columbus High School. They had four children: Paul, David, Danette, and Marianne.

  • Loras Thomas Gerken was born December 29, 1937, in Dubuque, Iowa, to Ewald and Anna (Schumacher) Gerken. He married Virginia Ann Loucks on September 5, 1959, and they had three children: Joseph, Carol, and Kenneth. They divorced, and Loras later married Marlene Marian (Beck) Banck on May 25, 1974. They lived at Dubuque, Iowa. They had one child: Loras II. Marlene and Loras also raised Joseph and Michael Banck, two of Marlene's children from her first marriage. Loras was an upholsterer for Flexsteel in Dubuque. Loras Gerken died on May 5, 1992, and he is buried at Dubuque.

A postcard from Anna to Ewald.
In 1939 Anna displayed her sense of humor by sending Ewald a postcard (postmarked August 22) from The Circle, a lounge and bar, in East Dubuque, Illinois, which was just across the Mississippi River from their home in Dubuque. The postcard, which pictures the unique circular bar, has "EAST DUBUQUE'S SWANKY COCKTAIL LOUNGE AND BAR" as its caption. On the card addressed to Ewald Gerken at 2820 Burlington St., Dubuque, Ia., Anna scribbled the message, "Am having a fine time. Wish you were here. [signed] Mom."

Visits to relatives.
The Gerkens kept in contact with relatives, both on the Gerken and Schumacher sides. Joe and Irma (Gerken) Schumacher had moved back to Dubuque from Adrian, Minnesota, and Irma was the only one of Ewald's siblings to remain in the Dubuque area. They did, however, make trips to see the three brothers and sisters and their families at Adrian, Minnesota. Ewald and Anna's daughter Joan also remembered a trip to Patch Grove, Wisconsin, to see Ewald's cousin Maggie Noethe and family (Ewald did some remodeling on the Noethe farmhouse there, switching what had been the pantry into their first indoor bathroom), and to the St. Francis Home in Dubuque to visit Louis Gerken, Ewald's uncle. The Gerkens also visited Ewald's sister, Zita Gerken, who had become Sister M. Ewalda, a member of the St. Rose Convent at La Crosse, Wisconsin, and, in her vocation, a teacher at many schools in eastern Iowa and western Wisconsin.

From Morrison Bros. to John Deere.
Ewald had worked as a pattern maker at Morrison Brothers in Dubuque before and after World War I, but it became necessary to find other work at times, especially during the Great Depression. His work at Morrison Bros. during the 1920s and 1930s was interrupted for a time when he worked for the Farley & Loetscher Mfg., Co., in Dubuque. Morrison Bros. kept him on as long as possible, and he had attended a pattern makers convention at the Stevens Hotel in Chicago for the firm in 1936.

Eventually however, after nearly twenty years with Morrison Brothers, Ewald was laid off. He struggled to find work. He is listed in the 1942 Dubuque City Directory as being employed as a supervisor for National Youth Administration (NYA), one of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs. For a time he worked by cutting wood for the WPA (or some other government program), one of President Roosevelt's Depression era public works projects, and for one summer he worked as a farmhand.

During the spring of 1942 Ewald went to Rockford, Illinois, to find work as a carpenter. He kept a room at the Lawrence Hotel on Broadway in Rockford, and he travelled home to Dubuque and his family on weekends. He wrote many post cards to his wife and family at home during this time; some of these follow:

Postmarked March 4, 1942
Addressed to Loras and Danny Gerken
Hello Boys,
How are you behaving? Now don't pester mama too much. Daddy worked 10 hrs. today. Oh, boy what a long day. I miss you all very much. It's no fun away from home and amongst all these Swedes here. But the money I get is great and that helps. According to union scale I should get $18.20 for a 10 hr. day. That would mean $101.50 for a full week of 55 hours. If I can only work a full month at that rate. But it will be tough to stay here that long. Hope A.Y. [McDonald]'s [a plant in Dubuque] will call me soon.
Postmarked March 5, 1942
Addressed to Mary and William Gerken
Hello Mama & Kiddies,
Am well and working hard. Today did not seem as long as yesterday. Hope tomorrow is still shorter. Going down town to find out best train or bus to take home. Maybe I won't be home till Sat about 8 P.M.
Postmarked October 22, 1942
Addressed to Mrs. Ewald F. Gerken
Dearest Anna & All,
I just received your letter and thanks for stamps and everything. Say Anna I may go to Davenport tomorrow evening and look for work. Not sure yet. So if I'm not home the usual time expect me some time Sat. Work is not good here yet. 8 hours today. Always saying that he expects so much work but Lord knows when it's coming. Some other fellows are looking for other jobs too.
Love & kisses,
P.S. Don't worry tho'. I don't care either way. I'll find something.
Postmarked June 22, 1943
Addressed to Mrs. Ewald F. Gerken
Dearest Anna & All,
Warm again today. Awfully lonesome and tired of this working away from home. All I have here in evening is this darn room. I forgot to take Don's address. Please send and cards too.
Love & kisses,
Postmarked January 25, 1944
Addressed to Mrs. Ewald F. Gerken
Dearest Anna & All,
No letter from Butz yet. Did you ever get the two dollars he sent to Loras? Better get me some Penny Post Cards and some 3¢ stamps, the lady here won't sell any more to her roomers. Get she is too stingy. Says she lost money on them. We also have to buy our own soap.
Love & kisses,

back: Mary, Teresa,  Don, Louise, Dolores; middle: E.J. (Ewald Jr.), Anna Gerken, Ewald Gerken, Butz (A.J. or Adrian), Joan; front: Dan, Loras, Bill
This photograph of the Gerkens was taken in the front room of the family home.
back (l to r): Mary, Teresa, Don, Louise, Dolores
middle (l to r): "E.J." (Ewald Jr.), Anna Gerken, Ewald Gerken, "Butz" ("A.J."), Joan
front (l to r): Dan, Loras, Bill
Ewald eventually returned to Dubuque; a city directory records that he was working for the Master Carrier Company in Dubuque as a superintendent circa 1945.

After the Second World War, the John Deere Tractor Works opened in Dubuque, and Ewald became a foreman in the pattern making department, a position he held until his retirement. A story told by one of his underlings at Deere was that one time Ewald told him to bring a rope to work the next day. The employee wondered about this and asked how long the rope should be. Ewald replied that about ten feet of rope would do. So the next day he shows up with a piece of rope and gives it to Ewald who proceeds to tie one end to the man's bench and the other to the man's leg! The man was roaming from his work too much and this was Ewald's creative way of making the point. This same underling stated that one of Ewald's pet expressions was, "You can say that again!"

Ewald and Anna celebrate 25th wedding anniversary.
Mr. and Mrs. Ewald Gerken, 2820 Burlington Street, celebrated their silver wedding anniversary Sunday, September 10, 1944. A reception for 100 guests was held during the afternoon at their home, and a party in the evening climaxed the day.

They are the parents of 11 children, all of Dubuque; Mrs. Wilfred [Louise] Coakley, S-Sgt. Donald Gerken, Teresa, Pfc. Adrian Gerken, Joan, Dolores, Ewald Gerken, Jr., Mary, Billy, Daniel, and Loras. All were present at the celebration except the two boys in the service.

Reunion with army buddy in 1945.
In July of 1945, two veterans of World War I met for the first time since their discharge when Mr. and Mrs. Ewald Gerken, of Dubuque, Iowa, visited at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Homer C. Bradley, 235 Briggs Street, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

After serving two years together overseas, the two buddies of the first World War, Gerken and Bradley, parted 26 years previous when they were honorably discharged from Camp Dix, N.J., and did not meet again until the 1945 visit.

Of particular interest to the visiting veteran was the American Legion concert given in Reservoir Park and the scenic beauty of the river front and the Harrisburg parks.

Mr. Gerken was represented in World War II by two sons and one son-in-law. The one son who served on Guadacanal had recently received special commendation in a popular weekly magazine.

This trip in 1945 also took the Gerkens to Washington, D.C., where they visited their son-in-law Wilfred Coakley.

Ewald and Anna active in church and community affairs.
Ewald Gerken was a member of the Dubuque Council of the Knights of Columbus, the Holy Name Society of Holy Ghost Church, and the Holy Ghost Court of the Catholic Order of Foresters, in which he was active in many activities. He directed the St. Patrick's choir for many years. For the last several years of his life he directed the Holy Ghost Parish choir and the Choral Club of the Knights of Columbus. Until World War II, Ewald was in charge of the Holy Trinity Symphony.

Ewald directed many amateur plays and programs in Dubuque. One of these was "The Family Upstairs," a comedy in three acts written by Harry Delf. The play, performed by The Uptown Players, was staged at Holy Ghost Hall. Among the players was his daughter Dolores, who played the role of Mrs. Grant. Another play performed by The Uptown Players of Holy Ghost Parish was "Weeds Grow in My Garden," which included Ewald's son Adrian and daughter Joan among the cast members.

Anna Gerken was a member of the Rosary Society of Holy Ghost, the Third Order of St. Francis, and the St. Agatha Court of the Catholic Order of Foresters.

The Gerken family picture.
Ewald and Anna Gerken and their eleven children had a family picture taken on August 18, 1956, on the day that Ewald and Anna's son Daniel married Joyce Murphy. The picture was taken behind the Murphy home at 1220 W. Locust Street in Dubuque.

The Ewald and Anna Gerken family picture
back l to r: Loras, William, Donald, Joan, Mary, Louise; front l to r: Adrian, Teresa, Ewald Jr., Anna Gerken, Ewald Gerken, Dolores, Daniel
back (l to r): Loras, William, Donald, Joan, Mary, Louise
front (l to r): Adrian, Teresa, Ewald Jr., Anna Gerken, Ewald Gerken, Dolores, Daniel

Ewald Gerken memorial card
Death of Ewald Gerken.
Ewald Francis Xavier Gerken, just six days shy of his 61st birthday, died at 3:35 a.m., Saturday, September 1, 1956, at Xavier Hospital, in Dubuque, Iowa, after a six-month illness during which he suffered a series of strokes. Ewald's son, Ewald Jr., recalled how he had recently returned East from his trip to Iowa for his brother Dan's wedding, and he was awakened in the middle of the night by his father's voice calling Ewald, and this turned out to be the time his father had passed away.

Visitation was held at the Hoffman Mortuary, where members of the Dubuque Council Knights of Columbus recited the Rosary on Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m.

Services were held at 10:30 a.m. Monday, September 3, to Holy Ghost Church, Dubuque, where the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Leo A. Jaeger offered the Requiem High Mass. The Rev. Joseph A. Sullivan was deacon, and the Rev. William P. Greener was subdeacon. The Rev. John Kissling was master of ceremonies. Attending clergymen were the Rev. Roger O'Brien, the Rev. Charles Whelan, the Rev. John C. Sims, the Rev. Norman White, the Rev. W.W. Ziegler, the Rev. Charles Norton, O.P., and the Rev. Albert Manternach.

Msgr. Jaeger officiated at burial in Mt. Calvary Cemetery, Dubuque. He was assisted by Father Sullivan, Father Greener, Father Ziegler, and Father Manternach.

Fraternal excorts at the services were members of the Knights of Columbus, the Holy Ghost Catholic Order of Foresters, and the Third Order of St. Francis.

Ewald's survivors.
Surviving Ewald was his wife Anna; five daughters, Mrs. Wilfred (Louise) Coakley, Mrs. Donald (Teresa) McCoy, Mrs. John (Mary) Temple, and Mrs. Vernon (Joan) Larson, all of Dubuque, and Sister Dolores Ann, OLVM, of Denver, Colo.; six sons, Donald H., Adrian J., William F., Daniel, and Loras, all of Dubuque, and Brother Ewald of the Salesian Order, Goshen, N.Y.; one sister, Mrs. Peter (Minnie) Winter, Worthington, Minn.; two brothers, George Gerken, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Alphonse Gerken, Adrian, Minn.; and 19 grandchildren.

House sold to Joan and Vern Larson.
Anna Gerken sold the family home at 2820 Burlington Street in Dubuque to her daughter and son-in-law, Joan and Vernon Larson, and Anna eventually moved to St. Anthony's Home in Dubuque.

Anna Gerken memorial card
Death of Anna (Schumacher) Gerken.
Anna Mary (Schumacher) Gerken, 71, died on Monday, March 20, 1967, at 11:30 A.M. at St. Anthony's Home in Dubuque.

Visitation was at the Hoffman Mortuary in Dubuque where members of Holy Ghost Parish and the Rosary Society met at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, to recite the Rosary. Requiem High Funeral Mass was offered by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Leo A. Jaeger at 10 A.M. Wednesday, March 22, at Holy Ghost Church.

She was laid to rest beside her husband at Mount Calvary Cemetery.

Anna's survivors.
Anna was survived by four daughters, Mrs. Donald (Teresa) McCoy and Mrs. Vernon (Joan) Larson, both of Dubuque, Sister Dolores Ann, OLVM, of Cheyenne, Wyo., and Mrs. John (Mary) Temple of Westminster, Calif.; six sons, Donald H., Ewald, and Loras, all of Dubuque, A.J. of Naperville, Ill., William of Costa Mesa, Calif., and Daniel of Waterloo, Ia.; 39 grandchildren; two sisters, Mrs. Howard (Henrietta) Baumgartner of El Monte, Calif., and Mrs. Harold (Margaret) Casey of Dubuque; and one brother, Joseph Schumacher of Dubuque.

Last Will and Testament of Anna Gerken.
Anna Gerken's Last Will and Testament bequeathed, after debts and funeral expenses were paid, one hundred dollars to the Pastor of Holy Ghost Church in Dubuque (at the time, Msgr. Leo A. Jaeger) for masses to be read for the repose of her soul, and the remainder to be divided equally among her children or their issue, excepting Dolores and Ewald, who belonged to religious orders when the will was made on October 2, 1963. Anna named her son Donald executor of the estate. Her estate totalled $12,288.60. After disbursements, for debts and funeral expenses, each of the children (including Ewald as he no longer was a member of a religious order by the time of Anna's death) received $1043.84. The share accorded the issue of Louise (Gerken) Coakley, who preceded her mother in death, was divided equally among her six children.

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© 1997-2016
Tom Larson
Last revised August 20, 2016.

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