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Eulogy for Mary Weber

22 September 2016

My dear sweet grandmother completed her time her on earth recently. She lived an amazing life of faith and endurance. I am honored to give the eulogy at her memorial service tomorrow, and I thought some of you might like to read it.

So here is the abridged version of the life of Mary Weber. Enjoy.

 

Marichen “Mary” Harder was born September 30, 1923 into a German Mennonite area of Ukraine called Tiegenhagen. Mary was the fourth child out of the five children of Margaretha Reimer and Peter Harder.

 

In 1925, the Reimer side of the family immigrated to Canada (these were Mary’s grandparents and at least 10 of their children!), but Mary’s parents chose to keep their family behind with the Harder side of the family.

 

In the early 1930’s Stalin introduced a system of forced famine and Mennonite genocide called collectivization and de-kulakization. To paraphrase Mary’s words, “they thought we were rich people because we had farming equipment.”

 

So as a result, Mary watched her father die of starvation under Stalin’s tyranny. He was one of around 7,000,000 deaths in Ukraine at this time.

 

After that, the Russians came and kicked them off their farm. They moved to the nearby city of Melitopol, where Mary’s older sister was already living with her husband.

 

Mary’s older sister and brother-in-law were then sent separately to Siberia by the Russians. Then her brothers were taken by the Russian army and then the German army. They were never seen again.

 

This left teenage Mary and her mother to fend for themselves without a home to call their own. They went to Berlin but were separated. We know her mother was eventually sent to Siberia as well, but Mary saw her mother one last time, in Germany near Hannover when the Russians came. News came to them that “they were raping all the girls.”

 

So her mother said to Mary, “You better leave. I’ll go with you to that little bridge,” she said. And when she got there, she turned to her daughter and said, “Where will we see each other again? Here or in heaven.” And that was the last time Mary saw her mother. Mary stayed two days in the woods, sharing bread with the other girls who had escaped. She was around 22 years old at this time.

 

Now Mary was left alone, so she took a train to eastern Germany. She was one of the lucky ones who made it all the way. There she worked on a farm with a girl named Katie and Katie’s mother. Even in their poverty, they had a regular habit of standing by the road with boiled potatoes in their aprons to serve to American POWs when they came by.

 

One day they tried to cross the border at night but were captured and held in the basement of a house. They convinced the guard that they had to get something and would be back if he let them leave. They did and, of course, had no plans of returning.

 

While they were walking they met a man. He looked straight ahead while speaking. He told them there was a train leaving right then where they could cross LEGALLY! They went immediately and sure enough, the train was there. They went up to the man and he put their names on the list, but said they needed their own rations. Katie’s mom opened her apron, showed him the bread and said, “we have this and, (patting her butt), schenken!”

 

Mary made it to West Germany where she worked very hard and was very poor. At that time, the Mennonite Central Committee was relocating Mennonite refugees. Most went to South America but Canada was accepting some refugees who were sponsored by a relative.

 

Meanwhile, Mary’s uncle, Henry Harder, in Canada got a new post office box. He received a piece of mail that wasn’t his, but he opened it anyway. Inside was a list of Mennonite refugees needing a home, compiled by the MCC, and had the name of his niece, Mary Harder, listed on it as a Mennonite refugee in Europe. He sponsored her and she made it to Canada.

 

She made it. She survived. She was the only one of her immediate family that survived. When Mary arrived in Canada in 1948 at age 25, she joined her grandmother and at least 10 pairs of aunts and uncles whom she had never met. Tante Tina and Tante Nut picked her up. At the sight of Tante Nut, Mary broke down sobbing. Pale skinned and very thin, Tante Nut bore a striking family resemblance to Mary’s mother, whom she would never see again.

 

She eventually settled in living near her grandmother on Uncle John’s farm in Port Rowan, Ontario.

 

Mary was baptized as an infant. Some of her relatives in Canada pressured her to be baptized again by immersion, but not Uncle John and not her grandmother, who always used to say that the name of the church doesn’t get you into heaven. Mary always remembered the kindness and acceptance Uncle John showed her and treasured it always.

 

In 1951, Mary served cake at a wedding when Waldemar Weber, another displaced refugee, noticed this pretty girl right away. They met again later at a German club where she was taking tickets. That night he asked to take her home, and in May 1953 they were married. They built their own home, and in 1955 their daughter Rita Angelica was born.

 

In 1963 they vacationed to California and fell in love with the place. They visited Santa Barbara and Walt was hired as a waiter at the Biltmore Hotel. They were impressed that he was a highly trained European waiter. They returned to Canada to get their immigration papers and in 1964 they moved to California for good.

 

Santa Barbara didn’t work out for them. Their friends the Hüberts convinced them to move to Gardena where Walt could work as a cabinetmaker. They lived in Gardena from 1964 to 1974 and attended the First Southern Baptist Church of Gardena. Their marriage became stronger in California. Walt said, “We were so dependent on each other to support and uplift each other when we were low.”

 

In 1965 when Walt went forward in church to accept Christ, Mary followed with Rita at her heels. Even though she already had faith in Christ, she followed her husband in his profession of faith and into the waters of baptism on July 4th, 1965.

 

In 1967 they bought their first California home, within walking distance of their church and Sierra Electric, where Mary got a job making light switches. She loved her job.

 

During this time and for years to come, Mary and Walt travelled often to Germany and to Canada to visit all their family and friends.

 

In 1974 they bought a new home in Cerritos. They managed to buy it outright, no mortgage. The only problem was that this house was too far from Mary’s work, and she could not drive. They were doing well financially, and so for the first time in her life since she was a very young girl, she stopped working and decided to focus instead on her family and home. Life was good.

 

Rita & Bill married 1976 and Mary and Walt’s granddaughters, Lana and Jennifer came along in 1979 and 1984. After I was born, my mom Rita went back to work and Grandma took care of me during the day. We immensely enjoyed spending our days together. The only problem was that I would learn to speak English the German way. Whenever my dad would try to correct me, I would say, no that’s not right, Grandma does not say it that way. And what Grandma says, is right.

 

During this time, Mary was an expert seamstress. She sewed all her own clothes, and all of her granddaughters’ school dresses. She taught us both how to sew and crochet.

 

Mary and Walt were also exceedingly generous with their money, especially when it came to their kids and grandkids. They anticipated all of our needs. You didn’t even have to ask. They gave to their church, and gave their time and talents to the church as well.

 

They lived in Cerritos until 1989 when Walt retired. In 1990 they bought a beautiful new home in Murrieta and attended Rancho Community Church in Temecula.

 

During this time they also often visited Redding, where Walt’s mother Natalie lived. Natalie was the only mother that Mary had in her adult life, and she was a faithful daughter to her. In 1999 Natalie was dying. Mary and Walt were there caring for her when Mary contracted shingles. She continued to care for her ailing mother-in-law even as she suffered under the pain of shingles. She was always one to put the needs of others above her own.

 

In 2003 they bought a home in La Habra to be near Rita & Bill. They lived there until June of 2016.

 

Mary was an ardent prayer warrior. She prayed faithfully for everyone in her life, and everyone in their lives! Mary was one who would go to bed early, but go to sleep late. For years by her bedside you could always find her Bible, a word search, and some squeaky clean German romance paperback novel.

 

Mary was the last of the Mennonite women in our family who could speak and cook in the old ways. She and Grandpa are the last native German speakers. Rita, Jennifer, and I learned from Grandma how to cook some of the favorites such as pfann kuchen, cabbage rolls, and borscht. Some dishes simply got adapted for west-coast living, such as Wareneki, which is close enough to raviolis, but Americans might have found it odd that Mary and Walt ate their raviolis with sour cream and sugar.

 

In 2003 when Mary was 80 years old, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. By the grace of God, she survived that too.

 

One thing about Mary that probably you all already know. She was a woman of incredible faith. Mary was willing and able to endure anything, as long as she knew she was in the center of the Lord’s will.

 

A couple of fun facts about Mary. She never learned to drive. And that didn’t seem to hold her back at all. She was a total worrywart. She worried about everything, everyone. Except herself of course! She was a person who spoke her mind. Sometimes her remarks were inappropriate, but old ladies can get away with that! If she ever offended anyone close to her, she was very remorseful. The amount of apologies always exceeded the offense by far!

 

In 2015 Walt’s Parkinson’s disease took a turn and he required more care. Mary cared for him at home far more than a woman of her age should have been able to. Even at age 92, Mary was physically assisting her husband of 64 years, even at night. This woman who seemed so frail, could get around her home remarkably well without a walker or wheelchair, and care for Grandpa as well.

 

On July 23rd of this year, Mary fell and broke her hip. She immediately had surgery and was in recovery at a rehabilitation facility when she contracted an infection. The infection worsened and Mary peacefully met her long-awaited Savior on September 10, 2016. She was almost 93 years old.

 

She was preceded in death by her mother, her father, one sister and three brothers, her dear mother-in-law Natalie and sister-in-law Alice, her sweet Uncle John, and all too many others.

 

She is survived by her loving husband Waldemar, daughter Rita and son-in-law Bill, granddaughters Lana and Jennifer, and six great-grandchildren, Peer, Rylee, Jacob, Leif, Brooklyn, and her namesake, Mary Joy.

 

To have the kind of faith Mary Weber had is a true gift. It is easy to wonder if one must suffer the way she had to achieve this. But lately as I watched her wait patiently for the Lord’s timing to take her home, I realized that some things simply take 93 years.

Civil War Spotlight: Mary Surratt

12 November 2012

One of my favorite characters in A Civil War Christmas is the small role of Mary Surratt. She only appears in one scene in our play, but she was a major player in the real-life theatre of the American Civil War. Mary Surratt owned the boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and his buddies (one of whom was Surratt’s son John) were known to have plotted to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. An ardent confederate sympathizer, her role in the conspiracy is still debated today. This  controversy is amplified with tragedy, as she was found guilty of conspiracy in a trial that many considered hasty and extremely biased, and then later became the first woman executed by the United States government. She was hanged alongside three others found guilty of conspiracy, including Lewis Payne, who also appears in our play. Her son, John Surratt Jr., was out of the country during this time, and upon his return was tried and acquitted of the same charge.

Played in our production by the lovely Lynn Hauer, Mary Surratt is depicted as a passionate and loving mother. We are not alone in this interpretation– in Robert Redford’s 2011 film The Conspirator, Surratt puts her life on the line when she conceals her son’s wrongdoings and whereabouts during her trial. Playwright Paula Vogel draws a clear comparison between our two southern belles– Mary Surratt and Mary Todd Lincoln, pointing out that both women grieve deeply the losses in their hometowns.

In our own moment in American history, many mothers are also grieving. We too have lost many to the horrors of war, and too many mothers and wives have been handed sorrow in the form of a folded up flag.

As we remember our veterans tomorrow for Veteran’s Day, remember also these women. Mothers and wives, and all the loved ones of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. They also serve and our freedom is carried in their grief.

 

A Civil War Christmas by Paula Vogel runs Dec 14, 15, & 16 at First Baptist Church of Downey at 7pm. 8348 E. Third St., Downey, Ca 90240. Tickets are free. Visit www.fbcdowney.org or call (562) 923-1261.

 

A Civil War Christmas Character Breakdown

8 August 2012

*Actors, feel free to email or facebook me with any questions

DECATUR BRONSON (Male, 20s-30s, African-American): A strong, intelligent, passionate Sergeant in the Union’s Colored Infantry. Carries a heavy grudge for the kidnappers of his late wife. His motto is “Take No Prisoners.”

ELIZABETH KECKLEY (Female, 30s-40s, African-American): Mary Todd Lincoln’s companion; an expert with the needle, she has bought her life as a freewoman one stitch at a time. A thoughtful, introspective, caring woman who spent her childhood as a slave and lost her only son in the war.

MARY TODD LINCOLN (Female, 40s-50s, Caucasian): a devoted wife and mother, she also suffers from headaches and bouts with depression. She confides in her dear friend Keckley, and worries about her husband’s leadership in the war effort.

JOHN WILKES BOOTH (Male, 20s-40s, Caucasian): Lincoln’s assassin; an ambitious and passionate confederate conspirator; also a well-known stage actor.

CHESTER MANTON SAUNDERS (Male, 20s-30s): A young Quaker pacifist abolitionist in the Union army. Does not believe in war, but believes in the “divine spark in every man.” Deeply religious, he cares passionately about the abolitionist cause.

HANNAH (Female, 20s-40s, African-American): An runaway slave escaping with her young daughter. Desperate for her daughter’s freedom and safety.

RAZ (Male, 12-17, Caucasian): A young ambitious confederate determined to fight with the Mosby Raiders, even if it costs him everything.

WIDOW MARY SURRATT (Female, 30s-40s): An ardent Confederate activist, she owns the boarding house where conspirators meet to plot the assassination of President Lincoln.

ANNA SURRATT (Female, 12-22): Daughter of Mary Surratt, part of a family of conspirators seeking the assassination of President Lincoln. A sweet girl devoted to her mother.

JAMES WORMLEY (male, 50s-60s, African American): a successful Washington DC merchant, born a freeman. Describes himself as “shopkeeper, hack carriage company owner and all-around entrepreneur”

FREDERICK WORMLEY (male, teens-20s) son of James Wormley

JIM WORMLEY (male, teens-20s) son of James Wormley

MOSES LEVY (Male, 20s-30s, Jewish) a wounded soldier who longs for his faith at Christmastime and who feverishly foretells Lincoln’s assassination

ROSE (Female, 20s-30s, African-American): A smart and beautiful young freewoman who taught her husband to read. Appears as a memory/spirit that haunts Bronson.

WALT WHITMAN (Male, 40s-50s, Caucasian): an important humanist poet who is known to visit wounded and dying soldiers in the hospital. He is a source of encouragement and friendship to many.

SECRETARY OF WAR, EDWIN STANTON (Male, 50s): a tough, efficient, and brilliant military mind whose strategies brought the Union Army to victory. He lost several members of his family to disease and suicide before throwing himself into his legal work and working determinedly in the Lincoln administration.

WARD HILL LAMON (Male, 20s-40s): Lincoln’s bodyguard and head of security; sees danger everywhere because “danger is everywhere to be seen.”

GEORGE (Male, 20s-30s): Keckley’s only son, “light-skinned enough to pass as a white man,” he secretly enlisted in the Union Army when his mother sent him away to college. Dying in the first battle he fought, he appears to Keckley as a ghost/memory throughout the play.

JESSA (Female, 5-14, African-American): following her mother as they escape slavery and head north into Washington DC. A brave and trusting young woman.

LITTLE JOE (Male, 5-12), a young slave boy who gets sold in the family’s attempt to recover from financial ruin.

ROBERT E. LEE (Male, 50s-60s): General of the Army of Northern Virginia, leader of the Confederate cause, his surrender effectively ended the Civil War. He is a passionate leader, who does not seek privileges over his soldiers.

ULYSSES S. GRANT (Male, 40s, Caucasian): the Union general who led the north to victory. He is weary of the war, but determined in his cause.

Memorial Day Musings

29 May 2012

This Memorial Day, I am thinking of the sacrifice of not only those soldiers who paid the ultimate price on the battlefield, but also remembering those forgotten souls, the innocents– the civilians, the refugees, the victims of genocide, wartime violence, and civil unrest, for whom the uninvited, unexpected hand of death came swiftly and coldly through the strong arm of war. For they also died bravely, heroicly, often sacrificing themselves for the sake of others. Or maybe some did not– some perhaps died cowardly, not mentally or spiritually prepared to meet an untimely end, but are nonetheless missed and mourned by their loved ones. Some perhaps may have died suddenly and senselessly, without warning or fanfare to their life’s end, cut short mid-sentence. Some died young. Very, very, young. These are all the human cost, the total casualties of war. They are widespread and often immeasurable. Until the day when war is conquered and hate, enmity, strife, violence, and the lust for power have come to their ultimate end, these souls will wait for justice.  Until then, we will mourn and we will remember.

Diplomas and New Opportunities

5 April 2012

Well at long last I’ve finally officially finished my Masters! You may have remembered that I participated in the graduation ceremony in May 2010, but I hadn’t yet written my thesis. Well, I took a semester off to have a baby, then took all of 2011 to write it, as expected. It was a joy to write and sometimes I even kind of miss it! But I defended it with high praises from my Professors and now I am officially a Master!

Then, two weeks ago I got an exciting opportunity to teach Fundamentals of Acting at a local community college! It’s only substitute, but I’m having a blast and hoping that it could lead to more work in the future, whenever that may be.

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City of Downey = Not as Lame as You Thought

1 February 2012

So someone told me recently that Downey has a reputation. Like among LA people. Like that they don’t like us. This came as a surprise to me for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t think LA people knew Downey existed. Second, why they would care is beyond me. But anyway, it got me thinking about all the cool things we have here in D-town that set us apart from the surrounding cities. We may not be Los Angeles, but we are significant. We’re not just a quaint little small town. Although we do have that small town feel.

Here’s a quick list of some cool things we got:

1. Two Hospitals (DRMC and a brand-new Kaiser)

2. Two Golf Courses (Rio Hondo and Los Amigos)

3. A nationally recognized rehabilitation center

4. A courthouse

5. Our own police dept

6. Our own fire dept

7. A movie studio (though not for long)

8. A mall

9. Our own Museum of Art with important works by internationally-recognized artists in its collection. (Although it currently has no home. Read more about that here.)

10. An annual float in the Rose Parade

11. A beautiful, professional Civic Theater that is now being booked as a concert venue with some pretty big names.

12. A brand-new Space Museum

13. As of last Saturday, protests. That’s right, people. We are a city that cares about stuff.

14. Not to mention all the cool stuff happening all the time with Downey Art Vibe and Downey Arts Coalition.

15. Two local newspapers (The Downey Beat and The Downey Patriot)

16. Our own Civic Light Opera

17. Our own professional Symphony

18. Weird Al Yankivic is from here. You read that right.

19. The world’s oldest operating McDonald’s

20. the very first Taco Bell

21. A superior Farmer’s Market (and I say this as a total junkie)

22. Our rich and lengthy history, including the hometown of The Carpenter’s, our connection to NASA and the aerospace industry, and much, much more.

23. Last but certainly not least, Downey Arts Ryan Gosling

Anything I’m forgetting?

Inspiring Words

27 September 2011

Ran across this today:

“When we adults think of children, there is a simple truth which we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life, childhood is life. A child isn’t getting ready to live – a child is living. The child is constantly confronted with the nagging question, “What are you going to be?” Courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face, would say, “I’m not going to be anything; I already am.” We adults would be shocked by such an insolent remark for we have forgotten, if indeed we ever knew, that a child is an active participating and contributing member of society from the time he is born. Childhood isn’t a time when he is molded into a human who will then live life; he is a human who is living life. No child will miss the zest and joy of living unless these are denied him by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation.

How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize the child as a partner with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing him as an apprentice. How much we would teach each other…adults with the experience and children with the freshness. How full both our lives could be. A little child may not lead us, but at least we ought to discuss the trip with him for, after all, life is his and her journey, too.”
– Professor T. Ripaldi

A Good Depiction of my Life

18 August 2011

Both literally and metaphorically

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Fancy Dancy, I Have a New Blog!!!

6 February 2011

Tonight Andy and I spent most of our Saturday night tweeking and polishing this new blog up here on wordpress. Did our viewing of Julie & Julia last night inspire this?  Who’s to say.  But I think it looks purty nice, what do you think?

Due Window Open

23 October 2010

I’m nearing the end of this pregnancy and I’m at that point where it could be tomorrow, it could be a month. Chances are, it will be somewhere between the two. I keep trying to gauge my body and remember the feelings and sensations I had at the end of my last pregnancy, but I find it hard to remember. This pregnancy is different and I should probably just rest in the uncertainty of it all. Overall feeling very good. The chiropractic treatment I’ve been getting has helped my back/rib pain and the suggestions my midwife gave me to deal with heartburn has also helped. The worst discomfort I feel is while breastfeeding my 3-year-old. We’ve put some limitations on it, but I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel yet. I’d like to try tandem nursing and see if it works for us.

Still trying to walk every day, although doing my normal route is getting harder. It’s really exhausting me. I find I’m taking the “short way” more often. Although I still tend to walk for at least half an hour or more. I bought another package at the yoga studio, which should take me through to the birth, and hopefully I’ll be motivated financially to get back there afterward as well.

Still don’t know the gender. I’m definitely taking guesses. =)

Peer is getting excited about meeting his little brother or sister. So are we. I’ve been trying to work through my fears about childbirth and being a mom of two. I’m feeling overall very confident and positive about it, though.

Andy started a new job that is back in the legitimate film industry and pays better too. Post production. A good job, but a small company, which always means some instability. We try to remember that God is our Provider. He likes it a lot so far, but hates the commute out to Santa Monica every day. So do I, since he leaves earlier and doesn’t seem to get home until about 8pm. I have to do dinner by myself with Peer. This is hard right now, but I’m hoping that once the new baby is here, I’ll at least have more energy, even though my hands will be more full.

We had a wonderful baby shower a couple weeks ago that my mom and sister hosted and we got a lot of cool stuff, including gift cards and cash which we have already completely blown on other stuff we didn’t receive as gifts. I think the only money I’ve spent has been on the Maya Wrap ring sling I desperately wanted and a few more cloth diapering supplies that I wanted new for the new baby. I had originally intended to sell our old diapers and use the money for new ones, but I haven’t gotten them all repaired yet. I may still try to sell some, but not right away. We have plenty in small and newborn sizes that I didn’t want to sell, so I feel fairly prepared for this new one. I also won a $50 gift certificate at my favorite natural parenting boutique, Belly Sprout, so I excited blew the whole thing and more on new cloth diapering supplies. By the way, my grandma is the one repairing all these old diapers for me. She won’t even let me help her. She is amazing.

I guess that is all to report for now!

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