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Kate Wassmer and Henry Baehl

Kate and Henry's family

Kate Wassmer and Henry Baehl

Kate (Catharina) was actually the second child born to Marcus and Magdalena, but their first-born died when she was only ten years old, so for all practical purposes, Kate was the oldest child. My dad said she was like a little mother to the younger children. That makes sense, when you have 17 children.

Aunt Kate had 6 children, but only 3 of them lived to adulthood. Lena, the first-born, died at 3 months. Mary was next, born in 1899, and lived til December,1984. Catharine also died at 3 months, and the fourth one, Henry, died at 1 and a half years. Marcus was next, born in 1905, and died in 1960. Cele was the youngest, born in 1908. Cele died January 5, 1998, which made her 90 years old.

Aunt Kate and Uncle Henry just lived three blocks from my Dad and me, there in Evansville. As a result, we visited them every week, and I probably knew them better than most. Even our little dog knew the way to Aunt Kate's house. On the Fourth of July, when people started shooting fireworks in our neighborhood, she would run over to their house for protection from all the noise, and Mauckse would carry her back to our house after a little while.

As you can see from this picture, Aunt Kate wasn't always heavy. She weighed 118 pounds when she married, and 300 when she died 47 years later. Aunt Kate, Uncle Henry, and all three children, Mary, Mauckse, and Cele all spoke German most of the time, switching to English when I was around. The three children never married, although Mauckse (Marcus) did date, but after five years of dating, his girlfriend said he had to either marry her or quit dating her. He quit dating her. It seems to be a family custom, because all three of them continued to live at home, even after their parents died. Finally, Cele was the last one, and she had to go to a nursing home. And now, the house has been torn down, so nothing remains of the Baehl family at 930 W. Columbia Street, not even the house.

Uncle Henry could speak English, but he had his own dialect. For instance, he would say: "My girls, he is lazy". They lived right across the street from the hose house, which was on the corner of Columbia and Third Avenue, so he used to go across the street and talk with the firemen when they were sitting out front, in their chairs, leaning against the outside wall of the hose house. Everyone liked Uncle Henry.

There wasn't any air conditioning then, so the Baehls would bring their chairs out front, place them on the concrete in front of their front door, and greet anyone and everyone passing by. Their house sat a little back from the front sidewalk, giving them plenty of space for their chairs. The front room, which was the usual parlor, had two windows facing the street. At Christmastime, Mary and Cele would place a tall Christmas tree in one window, and a nice-sized crib in the other, with lights around the crib. There was an upright piano in the parlor also, so it was obligatory for me to play a piece for them every once in awhile, even when it was freezing in there -- they kept the door closed in the winter, to save on heat.

On Columbia Street

Kate and Henry Baehl

Kate Wassmer and Henry Baehl

This picture was evidently taken later in life, as I remember Aunt Kate. They are standing in front of their back door, the window is in their kitchen. Aunt Kate couldn't get down the front steps any more, so she would always go out the back door, and walk around to the front, where they had the chairs. She hadn't been to church for years, either, because she couldn't climb the steps. I was 13 when she died. When I was little, and we'd be over there visiting, she would say, "Come, Baby, sit on my lap", and pat what was visible of her knee. I would reply, "But, Aunt Kate, you don't have a lap." The others would laugh, thinking it was funny, but I never did, because I could see the hurt in her eyes. She really wanted to hold me on her lap, but she definitely didn't have one.

I always enjoyed going over there, and as I got older, I would play cards with Mary and Cele. During the war, when toys were scarce, Maucksy dug out a fire truck that he had from his childhood, and I thought that was the most wonderful toy I ever had. In the summertime, if they were sitting on the sidewalk by their front porch when we left, they would tell me to throw them a kiss, and I'd walk backwards, throwing kisses as I went.

I remember Mauckse as a soft-spoken person, always smiling, and he had the nicest little chuckle. It was hard to believe that when he started drinking hard liquor after work with some of the men from work, that he changed so much. My dad told me Mauckse would shout at Mary and Cele, and blame them for everything that went wrong, and for losing his job because of his drinking problem. He died of sclerosis of the liver. In his last days, my dad said he imagined that he visited me at the monastery any time he wanted to. Which, of course, he never did. And his last words were, "Do you think Sister Mary Stepehn is praying for me now?"

Aunt Kate died in 1943, and Uncle Henry died within the year. He would say, "My Kate, she is gone", and he seemed to have died of a broken heart.