Most of us think of angels being in heaven, but our family was blessed with an angel in our midst.
Our dear mother whose name was Angela, was born in Hampton, Minn., in 1894. She was the 1st of 11 children born to John and Marie Mertes. When she was 3 years old the family moved to a farm just outside of Andale.
After completing the 8th grade, she attended a school of seamstry in Wichita. When she became certified she took her horse and buggy from farm to farm sewing and making clothes for families along the way. Sometimes she would stay for several days until her work was complete.
Angela met her future husband at a wedding in Andale. Barthel Shoenecker had come down from Minnesota to attend the wedding of his cousin. Bart was just out of engineering college at Aims, Iowa. They were married soon after and steeled on a farm at Nashua, Minn. Bart set aside engineering to be with his family and work on the farm.
The family grew and prospered until the Great Depression of 1929. They weathered the depression and by 1932, the number of family siblings grew to 11.
During the summer of 1932, Irene, one of the middle daughters developed, tuberculosis. She had to enter a sanitarium in far north Minnesota. Her chance of recovery seemed very poor. That fall Bart and Angela brought the new baby sister, Leona, to see Irene. Irene remembered this as a turning point in her recovery.
Papa, though, returned home feeling very sad, saying “We will probably never see her again.” He must have had a premonition of the future.
Our dear father passed of pneumonia on Feb. 3, 1933. Mother at the age of 38, was left with the responsibility of raising 11 children age 16 years to 6 months. What a tremendous undertaking that would be for her.
All of mother’s relatives lived in Kansas, so she sold the farm and settled in the town of Colwich. She opened a dry goods and notions store there taking in sewing in for the ladies and children of the community. She never had dress patterns in those days, just measurements of the people she made clothing for.
We older children were able to earn our room and board and school clothes by working on farms during the summer. Our dear mother worked at her Singer sewing machine many nights until midnight to ensure that there would be food for her children.
A very devout Catholic, she never complained or doubted that she could accomplish the monumental task of raising her family. I used to visit with her late at night by her sewing machine. She always assured me “The Lord will provide for us. “
One by one the children were reaching adulthood. Mother remarried in 1940 to Plas Keyser, who himself was a widower but had no children.
My mother and stepfather opened a restaurant in Wichita but they still loved the farm life. They and five of the youngest children moved to a farm near Derby. After several years on the farm, our stepfathers health failed.
Mother then moved to Sedgwick, raising the youngest children and caring for her husband until his death in 1951.
Our mother then moved back to Colwich where she had a little house built. She too in sewing again and helped at home where new babies where born. She was also a 4-h leader.
Mother always enjoyed having all of the children and grandchildren home for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each of the grandchildren – and their where 40 of them – knew that grandma Angela would have a present for them at Christmastime. She wouldn’t forget any of them.
After some comfortable years in her little home, mother had to have major surgery. The shock of the surgery caused a stroke, and she had to enter the care home in Colwich. She remained there for eight years until God called upon her to be with him in heaven. What a blessing God bestowed on our family, by sending an angel to guide us in our lives.
Submitted to Rural Messenger by Leona Shoenecker in 2014; written by Bart Schoenecker.
Cover photo – Dennis Jarvis