by Karen ANDRUSCHAT
I glanced around the room at the early photographs of a young girl and the pictures of a very pretty young woman. The sun was going down, giving each photograph a glow. They were taken a time long ago, yet the smile of the beautiful lady in front of me was the same. The eyes had become wiser and the smile softer, and one hundred and one years had beautifully defined the person represented in this frame. Her name is Marie Rabe and her timeless story is as follows.
Her story began 101 years ago in Leipzig, Germany. She was born to Therese and Otto Vogel. Otto came from wealthy parents that were greatly opposed to his journey to America. Therese was the daughter of a button maker and was in great anguish, leaving her close knit family behind. On a bitter cold day in December, 1904 in Bremen, Germany, they stood on the ship named The Gera waving a tearful goodbye. Little did they know this was the last time they would ever see their loved ones.
Upon arriving in the United States, they lived a short time in Hoboken, New Jersey where her brother, Chris was born. The flat was cold, they had nothing and Marie remembers quite vividly a dead horse lying next to the Hudson River. The next two years were spent in New York City where her father drove a horse drawn produce wagon around the streets of the Big Apple. With the promise of work, the family, now at four members, took a train to Cattaraugus, New York. Marie remembers a bitter cold ride to a farmhouse in a horse drawn sleigh covered with blankets.
Her father, never a farmer, began a life that was exceedingly difficult. He worked as hired help and with World War I upon them, their German accents and backgrounds made living even more difficult. Marie remembers a beautiful doll she could only look at, her long walk to a one room schoolhouse and Christmas with real candles on the tree. Before long there were two brothers and a sister, and they were able to move to a house outside of Gowanda, New York. Marie has many happy memories of her family during this time. She loved to read, write stories and did very well in school. At one time she needed to cross Cattaraugus Creek on her way to and from school. Her father rigged a pulley system with seats attached over the wide, and very high, expanse. Off to school Marie and her brother Chris would go, sitting high above the creek and her father working the pulley mechanism to the other side.
After Marie graduated from high school, she began her first job of teaching school at the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation. She then met and married Fred Rabe. She remembers her fall wedding as small, but beautiful. Marie was a shy young woman - Fred was the opposite - and together they made a perfect couple. Before long, her son, Charles, was born, then Fred, next Robert and finally Karen. They moved quite a bit, to Olean, N.Y., Youngstown, Ohio, and finally bought their one and only home in South Buffalo where they settled for over thirty years.
She remembers the heartache of having two sons in World War II. How difficult it was then to know what was going on. She only had the radio, the Buffalo Evening News, letters home and the Presidents weekly speech to stay informed. Marie remembers those times as ones closest to family, neighbors and church.
Before long there were weddings, grandchildren, work was plentiful and life was good. In the1950s the small Lutheran Church on Culver Road became Maries second family, even though the church and most of her friends are gone. The fond memories of church suppers, Ladies Aid Society and friendships she made remains woven in her heart.
With sadness, Marie relates her husbands death in 1965. Being alone propelled Marie into her first career as a housemother at Trocaire College. She loved it and remained there for twelve years. In 1976, Marie moved to East Aurora to be near her daughter Karen. She loved it there, made friends, became active in the Senior Center and the Lutheran church and enjoyed her small home immensely. One of her great loves was gardening and people would stop and look in amazement at her five-foot tall rose bushes blooming abundantly.
By 1989, Marie had lost two of her sons, first Charles and two years later, Robert. She remarked, losing a child is like losing a part of oneself, everyone was so concerned over me, I felt I brought them into this world, I will hold them when they leave. This remarkable determination and strength has seen her through many a difficult time.
Marie kept up her East Aurora home until she was ninety-eight years old. Her home has always been a reflection of who she is, her values, hopes and dreams. It was a very difficult and painful decision to make the move. In her room now at Rosewood Village in Hamburg you see this replayed. Her room is lovely, warm and definitely reflects the person sitting across from me.
What is greatness, really? Is it only applicable to those who have been noted for some award for some noteworthy deed? We journey throughout our entire life seeking wisdom and the ability to understand life as we know it. True greatness comes from within. It is with us from birth and spends a lifetime trying to reach the surface, where it is nurtured and refined as we mature. This greatness is the ability to take all things that we have learned and experienced and apply them to ourselves and those we love and come up with what is best for everyone.
Marie Rabe is true greatness personified and I have been blessed as her daughter to travel this journey with her. My mother represents love, kindness and the ability to always do what is right. When it comes time to pass the torch, I hope and pray I will be able to emulate all I have learned.
Karen Andruschat is the Director of Clinical Marketing for The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care.
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