|Bob and Margaret Aman Freeman accepting
the Distinguished Service Award of AHSGR, July, 1997, San
Distinguished Service Award Presented to Margaret
Aman (Zimmerman) Freeman
Presented by Jon Schleicher, Membership/Public Affairs
"Distinguished Service Award Presented to Margaret
Aman (Zimmerman) Freeman." Journal of the American Historical Society of
Germans from Russia 20, no. 3, Fall 1997.
The International Distinguished Service Award honors those who have
made exceptional contributions of their time and service to our Society.
Nominees are selected by the Membership/Public Affairs Committee.
The names of winners are held secret until announced at the convention.
Margaret Zimmerman Freeman
Our honoree and recipient of the Distinguished Service Award this
evening is Margaret Zimmerman Freeman. I am very pleased that Margaret
was able to be here with us this evening.
Margaret Ann Zimmerman was born on 17 June 1929, on a farm near
Monticello, Iowa, the daughter of Arend George Zimmerman and Emma
Aman Zimmerman. The Zimmerman family was originally from northern
Germany, and the Aman family from the German Glückstal Colonies
in Russia. As with every good genealogist, Margaret has written
about her own life, to share this information and her memories with
her children. Much of what I share with you this evening about Margaret
is in her own words. Margaret writes, "I was born on an Iowa
farm, where I spent my early years in the corn fields, attended
rural school, and did all the things growing up that were typical
of the 1930s and 40s. The church, which my grandparents had founded
was over the hill on the same section of our farm, and we lived
on the part of the land that Grandfather Zimmerman had been able
to purchase with his hard work and frugal ways. Born to older parents,
who were each the youngest child born late in life to their parents,
the fifty-eight cousins on the Zimmerman side and fifty-eight cousins
on the Aman side, with the exception of tow, were all older than
my sister and I. We did not lack for playmates or activities, and
a goodly part of this activity was work."
Margaret remembers, "At threshing time, when the hired man
ate elsewhere with the threshing crew, Mother would cook Kase Knoepfle
for herself and her nieces. Of course, we always had Kuchen with
prunes and apples, absolutely delicious. Our food likely had the
Germans from Russia seasoning, which I never thought much about.
And, of course, we ate borscht, which we call vegetable soup."
Margaret continues, "At the age of twelve, my confirmation
year, we moved into the town of Monticello, where I participated
in many activities in high school. After that I attended a small
girls' school, Shimer College in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, and then
went on, with the help of scholarship, to Linfield College in Oregon.
From there I went to the University of Hawaii for graduate work
in sociology, aided by funds from a graduate assistantship. There
I met my husband, Bob, at Graduate Club.
Margaret Zimmerman and Robert Freeman were married 13 September
1952, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Margaret writes, "Bob and I were
married in graduate school, and then went to live in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, where Bob continued his studies at Harvard. We lived
in Lexington for several years, had a son, William Prescott, and
returned to California to live near Bob's parents. Bob took a job
with System Development Corporation, and we settled in Santa Monica,
where we lived for thirty-six years, thirty five in the same house.
Another son, George Aman, was born in Santa Monica. After our two
sons were in school, I took the necessary courses for a teaching
credential at the University of Southern California, and am now
retired after twenty-three years in the Santa Monica Elementary
Schools. In 1986, Bob retired from SDC."
"Growing up among my father's north German family," Margaret
continues, "there was little contact during the depression
and the war years with mother's Germans who lived in the Dakotas.
It was not until much later...when we attended an AHSGR meeting
in 1978, that I really began to learn about my rich heritage in
the Germans from Russia. One of the greatest things was to discover
all this before my mother died. We attended conventions for several
years together, and I was able to put the history book on the Aman
family in her hands before she died. Incidentally that was the first
family history computer printed book in the library of either AHSGR
Margaret's husband, Bob, wrote about her, "Like most Germans
from Russia, Margaret is a doer. From her very first discovery that
there was a local AHSGR chapter interested in the German-Russian
heritage, she undertook the challenge of finding people and bringing
them to meetings. She found Germans from Russia at work, at school,
and even in the grocery store and invited them into her home to
find out about their people, and to generate interest in AHSGR,
and get them to chapter meetings."
Bob continues, "Margaret was soon elected to the AHSGR International
Board of Directors, and just as quickly heading up a committee focused
on expanding members' knowledge about their ancestors, which in
her case came from the Black Sea. Seeing the promise of giving all
German Russians more contact with their ancestry through participation
in all the resources available, she was soon a regular member of
several local chapters, and other organizations, such as GRHS and
the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland in Germany."
Bob goes on to say, "Among the members of these organization,
her letter writing, personal visits made to connect relatives with
each other and with their ancestry, is legendary. And she began
to average more than a dozen letters per day and many phone calls,
even while carrying a full teaching load in the public schools.
Seeing to reach this large group of interested researchers, and
to also increase their participation in AHSGR, this remarkable daughter,
whose mother was German-Russian, and her husband not one at all,
jointly began taking her mother to the conventions and to visits
of her childhood home in the Dakotas, where she by that time had
located dozens of cousins, some of whom her mother had not seen
in fifty years."
Bob continues, "In another attempt to reach a larger group
of members that she could accommodate by letter and telephone, this
researcher and a few other enthusiasts began publishing a newsletter
about their own group of colonies the Glückstal Colonies, which
has become a model for village research. Margaret has been co-chairperson,
with Carol Harless, of the Village Coordinators, and one of AHSGR's
most steadfast supporters."
Friend and fellow AHSGR board member John Gress wrote of Margaret,
"There is one person, in the name of Margaret Freeman, who
can not go for more than a few minutes without speaking, thinking,
or doing something in behalf of her German-Russian Heritage. She
has served willingly on the national board, and is respected for
her opinions, and even though she has not been on the board for
a number of years, she is nationally recognized and known for her
continued good works in behalf of the Society. Besides everything
else, everyone loves her as a friend, a confidant, a leader, a teacher,
a mother, a doer, and a person that can look up to with a German-Russian
Along with Margaret's service on the AHSGR Board of Directors,
as a village coordinator, and CO-chairperson of the village coordinators,
she has served at the chapter level, on the California District
Council, and as Treasurer for the California District Council. Margaret
and Bob belong to the Southern California Chapter, as well as the
Golden Gate Chapter, and other chapters in California. John Gress
notes that, "Margaret and Bob are the focal point of most everything
that happens in southern California regarding AHSGR and German-Russian
genealogy, every problem is a challenge (for them). There is hardly
ever an AHSGR meeting of any importance anywhere in California that
they aren't a part of."
It gives me great pleasure to present the 1997 AHSGR Distinguished
Service Award to Margaret Zimmerman Freeman. The award reads, "American
Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Distinguished Service
Award, presented to Margaret Zimmerman Freeman, July 26, 1997, San
Jose, California. This award is given in recognition of the exceptional
and meritorious service which Margaret Zimmerman Freeman has given
to the society and for her positive influence on the Society in
the advancement of its goal and purpose of the preservation of the
heritage of the Germans from Russia."
Reprinted with permission of the American Historical Society
of Germans from Russia.