Uncle Herman

I drove to Marshfield on Tuesday to attend the funeral of my Uncle Herman. Herman and his wife, Arlene, my mother's elder sister, celebrated their 70th Wedding Anniversary on June 23rd! That's also the wedding date of their eldest son, Chuck, my cousin Rae, my sister Karen, and my brother Mike! I remember Arlene & Herman thanking Mike & Judy for throwing them their 50th Anniversary party!


My grandparents, Andrew & Marcella, are on the left; Herman's mom on the right; his father had already passed by this time.


Aunt Carol, less than two weeks from her 12th birthday, on the left, and my mom, 13-1/2, on the right, admiring the wedding rings! I've never seen such a photo before. I am in love with the styles here, especially my mom's gloves & purse (the shoes are pretty great, too)!

I always loved "going to Marshfield!" My mom's sisters both lived there and, eventually, they both had four children -- so lots of cousins, varying in age from 6 years older than me to 10 years younger (we had only two cousins on my dad's side until I was 16!). My maternal grandparents also lived in Marshfield; Grandpa died when I was 6, and Grandma when I was 8 -- they were both only 58 -- so I don't have a lot of memories. But I have a new "memory" that I just learned on Tuesday, thanks to my cousin Kris. She said that her mom, Carol (my godmother), loved to tell a story about me at Grandpa's funeral... having just learned to write and apparently left to occupy myself for a while, I wrote my name on ALL of the offering envelopes! From Vicki, From Vicki, From Vicki... a big contributor that day!

Grandma got sick with cancer not long after Grandpa died, and eventually moved in with Arlene & Herman, occupying the master bedroom -- I can still picture her there propped up in bed. My cousin Cindy was 11 or 12 and the best nursemaid... Grandma would ring a little bell and Cindy would go running to see what Grandma needed (often, another Coke).

One of the most tragic & memorable departures of my entire life was from Aunt Arlene's & Uncle Herman's house, though the tragedy had nothing to do with them, on a Sunday night just as The Beatles were to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show! I was very young, but caught up in Beatlemania! I never quite forgave my dad for that, and sulked for a good long while.

For as long as I can remember, Arlene & Herman also had a cottage on the Eau Pleine Flowage and that meant nothing but fun -- more of Herman's relatives, more kids, a playground with a merry-go-round (that's still there) -- swimming & waterskiing & fishing in the summer (so many yucky bullheads), snowmobiling in the winter! We'd also drive through Rozellville on the way from Marshfield to the cottage, where my great grandparents lived, and my mom would always tell about sleeping upstairs at Grandma's, listening to the cars whoosh by after the nearby ballroom closed on a Saturday night, and about getting in trouble when she & Aunt Carol were swinging on the cemetery gate at St. Andrew's, across the street, and Carol gashed her lip or head or something.

I spent the summer between 3rd & 4th grades at that cottage, "helping" my Aunt Arlene with their youngest son, Chad. I don't know how much help I was, in reality... I remember getting tsk'd for picking up Chad every time he cried, and I got super chubby that summer, my aunt being a very good cook and introducing me to my new-favorite, poppyseed cake, along with a German bread dumpling or three, and I also surreptitiously devoured as many True Crime & True Romance and any other "True" rag that Herman's mother had passed along to them. We spent many a New Year's Eve there, too -- the adults bar-hopping by snowmobile, my cousin Cindy & I left to watch our younger siblings... and Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve (very strong memory of Three Dog Night appearing one year). There were also very memorable wedding receptions at the cottage for three of their four kids... so much fun (and a little trouble, too)!!

Eventually, both Carol & Arlene (and their spouses) gave up their "city" houses and moved full-time to the flowage, not far from each other. Arlene's cottage more than doubled in size over the years, with this addition and that.

Chad lives right next door to Arlene and it was there that the funeral lunch was held... and where I chatted with my aunt & cousins, and perused Arlene & Herman's wedding album for the first time, discovering my mother in a few photos that I'd never seen before!


This is by far the best of them... I'm not sure who the bridesmaid is -- either Herman's sister, Betty, or Arlene's best friend, "Seedy." Mom is in the middle. At 12 & 13, Aunt Carol and my mom had to have been thrilled to death with the whole thing, and I think that shows on my mom's face. I also spy my Great Aunt Loretta (Grandma's youngest sister... who was only 6 and the flower girl at Grandma & Grandpa's wedding) just to the left of Arlene's hand, holding her bonneted eldest child, my mom's first cousin, Shirley. But, by far, it's the expressions of the girls on the far right -- especially the furthest right -- that are everything!! 


I love this adorable photo of Arlene & Carol with their little cousin. I think Carol was living with Aunt Loretta & Uncle Al at this time, giving a needed hand in the same way that I stayed with Arlene for a summer.


But my mom! Lordy, I'm so happy & amazed to have found new images of her. I love her smile and the buck teeth -- she had those fixed in the late '70s/early '80s -- when she was around 40. There are a few years of photos with her mouth ridiculously clamped shut to hide her braces! 

Anyway, this post turned out to be about so much more than Uncle Herman, but it's also just exactly reflects him... he was a large man with a personality & sense of humor to match, he was also very unassuming... gentle, generous, much loved, and never in the spotlight.

Oh, two things about the service. All was well until we were graveside and the priest suggested we sing the first verse of Amazing Grace... then the chins began quivering! My goodness. All the more poignant because Herman had glaucoma and was blind for the past 15 years... but now I see.

Also, just as the graveside service concluded, Cindy said, "All I have to say is one thing: 'Alexa, when are the Brewers playing today?'" To which everyone chuckled because... it was so him.

Rest well, Uncle Herman.




I'm so sorry for your loss - he sounds like a wonderful man! That wedding dress is stunning!


I'm very sorry for your loss, but what wonderful memories you have of Uncle Herman and the rest of your family! To have celebrated a 70th wedding anniversary is quite a feat. I love the new pictures of your Mom! I don't know if it's because she's dressed up with gloves and everything, but she looks older and more poised than 13. (Bar-hopping by snowmobile sounds like fun!)

Robby H.

What a lovely tribute to your uncle and the people he touched. Such a treasure to discover new pictures of your mother at that young, but grown-up age/occasion. May memories of your uncle help to fill the space left behind.


I am so sorry for the loss of your uncle, but what a poignant tribute you share here! And all those photos! Such fun... those dresses are just divine!


As hard as it is to say good-bye to beloved family members, I think this how we all would prefer to do it -- by recalling good memories of a long life well lived! I'm sorry for your loss but glad you have so many good memories.


Oh Vicki - what a tribute to family ... I'm so sorry for your loss, but glad you found so much to love and be grateful for in the stories and photos! Family memories are such a blessing!

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