BERTHA LOUISE HEINRICH
1886 - 1974
LOVE IS THE ANSWER TO FAMILY RELATIONS.
THE FAMILY IS LIKE A BOOK...
THE CHILDREN ARE THE LEAVES,
THE PARENTS ARE THE COVER,
WHICH PROTECTIVE BEAUTY GIVES.
LOVE IS THE LITTLE GOLDEN CLASP
THAT BINDETH UP THE TRUST.
OH, BREAK IT NOT,
LEST ALL THE LEAVES BE SCATTERED AND ARE LOST
-- Bertha Louise Heinrich Ziemer Kelm
My Grandma Bertha presided as Matriarch of the Ziemer-Heinrich clan, as a parent, grandparent and great- grandmother -- and her love of the family surely was the clasp that bound us all together for so many years.
The couple set up housekeeping at 6326 and then at 6349
S. Carpenter St., just down the street from Bertha's parents, in the
Englewood district. Frank worked as a clerk for the Rock Island Railroad.
The first of their children, Harold Frank, was born February 27,
1908. Ten years later, Marjorie Theresa was born; but the infant died at
four months, and Bertha mourned her loss deeply. On March 2, 1920 our dad,
Raymond Heinrich, was born in the cottage on the back of the lot at 6355
S. Carpenter Street. Then came more heartache - the death of both parents
within months in 1922-1923, which affected Bertha deeply. She grieved long
for the "sainted mother" with whom she'd been so close, who...
...in deep humility and faithfulness helped so many in their illness and wants. Child in heart, woman in years, she smiled away another's tears. Joined in fun, and soothed in pain, with never a thought of worldly gain. Sweet and loveable and gay, laughing at trials tossed her way...
Of course, as those who knew her would agree, Bertha could just as well
have been describing herself.
Robert Frederick was born April 30, 1924, and the family was complete. They had a brick bungalow on the front of the Carpenter Street lot, with Harold and his new family living in the cottage in the rear. Englewood was a decent middle-class coommunity, with a bustling shopping district at 63rd and Halsted. St. Stephen's Lutheran Church at 65th and Peoria became the hub of the family social life. Frank continued in a succession of railroad jobs, but as a yard superintendent and inspector of rolling stock, he often had to travel. It was during one of his extended stays in Kansas City, Mo. that he fell ill with the appendicitis which caused his death on June 25, 1933.
To support herself and her family, Bertha continued as a seamstress, scrubbed floors, and took in curtain cleaning. She baked coffee cakes at home and sold them at the Princeton St. Grocery of her brother-in-law. The help of family, friends and neighbors; her own hard work and frugality; and her faith in God got them through the difficult years of the Great Depression. In 1942, Bertha married Henry KELM, a widower with whom Bertha and Frank had been close friends. Before he died in 1948, "Pa" Kelm had a considerable influence on Ray and Bob, instilling a strong sense of morality and a work ethic, besides leading many a family excursion to the summer cottage in Pell Lake, Wisconsin.
After Henry's death, Bertha moved into his brick bungalow at 6621 S.
Fairfield, where her son Raymond and his family had been living. My mother
Alice enjoyed a close relationship with Bertha, as did I and my sisters
Barbara and Susan. From her dormer apartment, Grandma Bertha would hold
court on holidays with a growing extended family of grandchildren.
In her kitchen we found lively conversation, games of Bunco, and tasty
stollen coffee cakes as well as sauerkraut and delicious dumplings,
soups, and potato pancakes. She remained active at St.Stephen's in the
Ladies' Aid Society and served a six-year term as president of the Lutheran
Women's Missionary League. She was well-known among the church groups
for her baking, for bright patch-work quilts, and for the countless rummage
sales she helped organize. Bertha was interested in current events
and history, and avidly read the German-language church magazine Der
Lutheraner for its articles and religious poetry. She also composed
original poetry to express her faith and love of God and family.
Family matters weighed heavily on her at times. She agonized over conflicts with her sisters, fretted over grandchildren who drifted from the family values. The grief never left from her many losses -- little Marjorie, her parents, her brother Harry, then her oldest son Harold. She worried about her son Bob, overseas during the war. And she tried to care for her brother Dick, having promised her mother she would watch out for him -- but in the end she would outlive all of her siblings, as well as two children, two husbands, and so many of her friends and cousins.
In 1971 Bertha moved with Raymond and his family to a new house in Oak Brook, Illinois. It was far from the old neighborhood, but the South Side was changing, and the family was spreading out to the suburbs -- Alice and others would drive her places, and relatives would come by to visit. Often the conversation would turn to the old times, though Bertha never lost interest in the changing world around her. She would sometimes marvel that she'd been born into a world of the horse and carriage and lived to see spaceships carry a man to the moon. Bertha died peacefully on March 8, 1974 and was buried in Bethania Cemetery beside Frank, and surrounded by the graves of generations of her family.
Because I walked a path well filled
with much to cause me tears,
I learned to trust in God,
And that no prayer is ever in vain.
Thru every trial and every care,
I found His mercy great.
I knew that He could open doors,
Tho sometimes I would wait.
And so to thank Him for the past,
Where each day held a test,
Because I learned to know Him there,
And in His Love found rest.