Historian Weigel Dies
Galante, Joseph. "Historian Weigel Dies." Hays Daily News,
21 June 2005, 1, 6.
Lawrence Weigel, a prominent researcher and historian of local
Volga-German heritage, died Sunday.
Weigel, 88, who was nationally recognized for his collection of
Volga-German folklore, was considered by many to be the region’s
most significant recorder of local German history.
Friends and acquaintances remembered Weigel, who battled Parkinson’s
disease for years, as an honest, caring and widely-respected person.
“I remember going to some of the national conventions and
everyone new Lawrence Weigel no matter where they were from,”
said Francis Schippers, a childhood friend and founding member of
the Volga German Society.
Weigel was best known for his extensive work tracing genealogies.
He also transcribed hundreds of folk songs, was a widely published
author and donated all of his big research to the Center for Ethnic
Studies at Fort Hays State University.
Weigel’s work alone makes up 70 percent of the university’s
“I don’t know if the collection would have become what
it is today without the donations he made to it,” said Patty
Nicholas, special collections-university archivist at FHSU.
Weigel’s skill in remembering details of the Volga-German
dialect and folklore placed him heads above other German story tellers
in the area.
Josephine Riedel knew Weigel for nearly 60 years. Years ago, she
invited him to speak at the Ellis County Historical Society. He
captivated the audience, she said.
“He told the story in German and then he told it in English
and he brought the house down,” Riedel said.
Reidel and her husband, Al, were good friends with Weigel. She
remembers him coming over for dinner and playing the organ and singing
“I just hated to hear the news that he passed away,”
Riedel said. “Because to have someone pass away with that
much intelligence is hard to lose.”
Weigel was too poor to finish college. But that didn’t stop
the self-made historian from achieving international recognition
for his research.
In 1995, the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia
gave him the Distinguished Service Award at their international
meeting. In 1983, FHSU recognized him as an international folklore
“He may not have gotten a degree or finished school,”
said Nicholas. “But he sure taught a lot of people about the
people who came before them.”
Leonard Herrman met Weigel 60 years ago and became “friends
Herrman said Weigel poured himself into his work and was the most
noted historian Ellis County has seen.
“I don’t think it could have been any better. He put
everything he had into it,” Herrman said. “All I can
tell you is I thought he was a great man.”
Weigel was considered the resident expert when it came to consulting
“He’d have a real knack of putting things down in German,”
said Schippers, who consulted with Weigel extensively while writing
“Unsere Leute,” (“Our People”), which he
finished last year.
Weigel’s ability to translate English into the authentic
dialect made him invaluable, Schippers said.
“He was always wanting to know if he could do anything to
help you,” Schippers said. “He shared so much of his
information with everybody.”
Reidel also sent her writings to Weigel who could read them and
give her advice.
Selfless, was the way she described him.
On Saturday, Reigel gave a copy of her finished book, “Life’s
Golden Dream’s Come True” to Weigel’s daughter
who read him part of it as he laid on his bed.
Riedel said that after his daughter read to him, Weigel said, “I’m
glad Jo got her book finished.”
Friends say that was just like something Weigel would say. He was
always happy for someone else’s success.