Village of My Berthold & Ullrich Ancestors
Katharina Berthold
Katharina Berthold Kaiser with children
Ursula and Wolfgang
Biography of Katharina Berthold

When my mother was born in 1907 in Oberkalbach, there were already three daughters and a son ahead of her. The oldest was 7 years old. Her father, Johannes, had to work hard to provide for his family. Because the inherited land had been divided many times in the past, what remained was not sufficient to provide for his large family and his animals. There were eventually 15 children.

Oberkalbach was a Lutheran town and the young people were only allowed to socialize with other Lutherans. The nearby village was a Catholic village. Apparently the Catholic boys were cuter and a Berthold girl risked punishment when she was discovered by her older brother talking with a Catholic boy and was immediately taken in tow to confess to her parents.For the most part, Katharina remembers life as hard and full of constant work. She, like most of the Berthold children when they turned 14, was placed at another farm to earn money, which her father collected each month to take home for the support of the family. This was her life until she was 21 years old. She worked as a nanny, as a farm hand and as a milk maid at different times during those years. Delivering milk with a horse and wagon from house to house was a demanding job and she remembers being so tired one afternoon that she fell asleep while driving the horse. The reigns dropped from her hands and the horse began to run wild. A kind man was able to stop him and return the reigns to her before any harm came to her.

She moved to a small town called Fechenheim, part of Frankfurt am Main, with a population of about 10,000 and found a job in a chemical factory, where she met her future husband, also working there. Richard was a young man who had been born and raised in this place, a city boy compared to her upbringing in a small village. While courting, they enjoyed bicycle outings with a club, as well as camping and costume parties. They married without fanfare, with none of her family present, when they were almost 24, then had two children and started a leatherwork business of their own, making wallets and purses, etc. They often rode their bicycles or the train to visit her family in Oberkalbach. Then WW II began. For two years Richard's business was assigned to make felt canteen covers for the army. Then his luck ran out and he was drafted. I was two years old and my brother was eight. Katharina struggled through the war with two young children, running from bombs and scraping for food. We had some close escapes during the air raids which targeted the big city near us. Two years later, the man delivered the black-edged envelope that announced the death of Richard, age 36, in Albania. He had contracted malaria and a kidney infection. His body was never brought home. Two more long years passed before this tragic war ended.

With the end of the war, the Americans started dating the German girls. In 1948, Katharina who was 41, having been widowed for 5 years, met a widowed U.S. soldier. They courted about a year and then married. My stepfather returned to the States and eight months later had the money to send for us to join him. After a 3-day train ride to Italy, we got on a ship at Genoa and after nine days on board the S.S. Atlantic arrived in New York. Then another 2 hour train ride and we arrived in Hartford, Connecticut, where I lived until I left for BYU. Initally, life in America was not all it had been promised it would be. We lived in a 2-room apartment with my stepgrandfather. We were poor; we were lonely; we were homesick. Katharina sat for hours by the window of our 2nd floor apartment, staring out into space, crying heartfelt tears. But after 4 months she took the bull by the horns, got a job, found a more appropriate place for us to live and started saving her money for our return to Germany.

By the time she had saved enough money for the trip, six years later, my brother and I were engrained in the lifestyle of America and didn't want to go back to live in Germany. In fact, my brother was married to an American girl and they were expecting their first child. She had a goal to save enough money to buy a big house to live in and to rent the spare rooms to gentlemen. In 1961, when she had been in the U.S. for twelve years, she bought a 3-story Victorian-style house built in 1900. She and my stepfather lived on the first floor and they rented out the other 6 rooms. She continued to work in a laundry, the type of work she had obtained after first arriving in the country, when she hadn't mastered the language yet. The plan was to pay off the mortgage as quickly as possible and owe nothing to anybody.

She sold her house when she was 76 years old and moved closer to me so that I could care for her in her old age. After her second husband died, she lived for another 11 years. She died at age 90, which was 6 years older than any of her siblings at their deaths. Only her two youngest sisters were still alive at the time of Katharina's death.

Over the years, Katharina made several trips to visit her family. She was there for the 800-Year celebration in Oberkalbach and also for her 60-Year celebration of her confirmation with the surviving classmates. She regretted that she was never with her family when a death took place, not of her parents nor of any of her siblings. Occasionally she was visiting in Germany when a birthday was celebrated and the family gathered for coffee and German pastries. However, she did enjoy living in the U.S.A. and had no regrets about staying here to be near her children and grandchildren.

Copyright 2000-2008.