This article by Rev G. Birkmann, written in German for the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt on 5 January 1933 was translated by Ray Martens.
To be sure, one remembers many things as a new year begins. But, because one then thinks primarily about the fleeting nature of our earthly lives, I would like to make note here of some thoughts which just came to me as I reflected on my long ministry in Fedor, Texas. I always think with partiality about the dear elderly people I always had there in the congregation.
Of the approximately 250 adults, something like twenty-five, therefore ten percent, were near or above eighty years old, and some even ninety. Obviously, these people brought with them from their old homeland a good constitution so that the toil and privations which they had endured in their first years here were not able significantly to shorten their lifespan. Indeed, maybe precisely the move from Germany to Texas exerted a favorable influence on their health. One of these elderly persons told me, at least, that in Germany he experienced such frequent congestion and coughing that he did not expect the prospect of a long life. But, behold, here in Texas he became well and strong and survived to ninety. He has been in the cemetery in Fedor for about seven years. His name was John Zschech. Overseas he was a shoemaker, and also occasionally he practiced the craft in which he was skilled in his first years here, but he gave it up after a while because, as he said, here it did not pay. There were others in the congregation who had learned the same craft, John Kaiser and John Faltus. These two turned entirely to farm work here in Texas. John Kaiser died in 1917 at the age of eighty-three. As my son Karl reported, he had a very easy death. He had still wanted something for supper, but then soon was found lifeless, apparently totally without agony. He was a faithful soul and a sincere Christian and lover of the Word of God, one who often came to church on foot.
The shoemaker John Faltus was from Moravia and Catholic by birth. He was instructed in Lutheran belief and brought into our congregation by the pastor in Fedor, the faith to which he was faithful to the end. He was very strong by nature and probably did practice his craft somewhat as he cleared the woods to make a field. As he entered his seventies, he was in poor health and, after a long chronic illness, was set free in 1914 at the age of about seventy-four. His surviving widow, mother Faltus, as she was called, became more than ninety years old. She was a faithful nurse for her husband, and until her end showed herself to be a sincere disciple of Jesus.
A friend or also a relative of Faltus was Franz Nitsche, who likewise had previously been Catholic, but in Fedor became a zealous Lutheran, who too almost always made his way to church, a distance of four miles, on foot, and at home he often read in Walther’s Sermons on the Gospels. He had a fine education, as did the already mentioned Mr. John Zschech. Nitsche, like his countryman, Faltus, died in 1914, Nitsche somewhat later than Faltus. Nitsche was eighty-three years old. His widow is still alive in Fedor, in her ninety-sixth year, maybe the oldest person in Lee County.
Mother Geyer, the mother of Gustav Mann and the widow of Ernst Schneider, likewise lived to be more than ninety. She stayed with her daughter during her last years, and I often came to visit her there as her pastor and gave her the Sacrament. She had an entire supply of hymn verses which she could still repeat at a great age.
Mr. Carl Jenke in Fedor also reached the age of ninety, as did his wife, who died one year before him. Both of these elderly people had a notable vitality. Mother Jenke cared for him almost to the last year of her life so that he would lack nothing. And father Jenke, even if he became ill at one time or another and it was thought that they would have to get the doctor, would recover again and again, and one would encounter the supposed patient, not in bed, but with his pants on so that off and on he could happily smoke his pipe.
I would now like to follow with a list of elderly people in Fedor as they come to mind. Beyond those already mentioned they are:
Andreas Falke, Sr., who died in 1903 at the age of eighty-four (almost eighty-five), and his wife, who was taken after she had lived eighty-seven years on earth;
Mother Zieschang (the mother-in-law of John Schubert) died at the end of 1905 and was eighty-some years old;
The mother of John Wuensche, who died in Thorndale but much earlier had been a member in Fedor, lived to be eighty;
Father Matthes Domann lived to be eighty-four;
So also the mother of Ed Pillack;
Father John Schimank became even a year older when he was allowed to depart in 1931 after a long and difficult illness;
Penkert and his wife both became eighty, as well as I can recall;
Father Aug. Dube, who died in 1911, became exactly eighty;
Karl Krueger, who died in 1913, was eighty-one, and his wife, who died a number of years ago, was ninety;
Andreas Melde, who died in 1903, was precisely seventy-eight years old, and
The wife of Ernst Dube, who departed in March of 1928, tallied the same number of years; he followed her in death after only a few days at the age of seventy-nine;
Father Peter Urban (father of Hermann Urban) died in December of 1912 in his eightieth
And the list of elderly people at rest in the cemetery in Fedor would grow longer if one wished to research further, especially if one were to count all the dozen or so who did reach as close to eighty when they died as did those named.
I believe that, among the over four hundred at rest in this cemetery, over a fourth had reached the high and even higher limits named in the ninetieth Psalm [v. 10], “The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength.”
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” [Psalm 90:12]
G. Birkmann, em.