Journey to the Homeland: Odessa, Ukraine
and Stuttgart, Germany
May 20 - June 2, 2003
Biographies of Tour Group Members
* Identifies Deceased
Marilynn A. (Senger) Hannesson, West Fargo, North Dakota
Ancestral Villages: Baden, Selz, Mannheim, Selz and Straßburg
I was born in 1950, the fifth child of Frank Senger and Amelia
(Schwan) Senger. I grew up and lived in Devils Lake until 1967 when
I relocated with my parents to Grafton, North Dakota. In 1968 I
married Ronald Hannesson and we spent some time in the military
in Germany. My husband was employed with United Parcel Service and
we moved to Devils Lake, North Dakota; Fargo, North Dakota; Sioux
Falls, South Dakota; and back to Fargo, North Dakota. We retired
in 2000 and now live in West Fargo, North Dakota. We had five children
and are now enjoying five grandchildren.
As I am getting older, I am getting more interested in my "roots"
and am especially interested in the tour to the homeland. I like
history and enjoy traveling around in my retirement and experiencing
some of this history firsthand. I can imagine the hardships that
our ancestors faced and am anxiously awaiting the tour to "feel"
things for myself.
Kenneth L. Messmer, Orem, Utah
Ancestral Villages: Argentschik, Borongar, Friedenthal, Heilbrunn,
Neu-Hoffnungstal, Neusatz, Sudak, Taimus and Zurichthal (Crimea)
I was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho on October 19, 1948 to John Messmer
and Elva Anderson. John Messmer died when I was five. Other than
contact with a number of aunts and uncles, I did not know much about
the Messmer family other than that they settled in North Dakota.
I attended Brigham Young University where I graduated with a degree
in history. While attending there I became interested in the Messmer
family history, but found very little available other than some
information about grandparents and the names of great-grandparents.
I also found a relative who had a marriage certificate showing my
grandparents were married at Ellis Island on November 17, 1903.
I attended additional schools at the University of Utah and at
Arizona State University. In 1975 my wife, Linda Stradling, and
I moved to Mesa, Arizona where I obtained my CPA license and was
a partner in a public accounting firm. We have four children. The
two oldest are married.
I became involved in a manufacturing business with my brother;
and in 1976 our family moved to Orem, Utah.
During these years I have done research on the Messmer and related
lines, but was frustrated with the lack of information.
During the summer of 2000, I was in Bismarck, North Dakota on business
and visited the offices of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society.
While there I became aware of the St. Petersburg records, and in
a matter of minutes I was able to find several new ancestors.
Since that time I have been researching these records through the
LDS Salt Lake Family History Library and have found several hundred
family members. I have been able to follow several lines back to
I never expected to find so much information; I am anxious to find
even more. When I first began researching, I never dreamed of being
able to get records from Russia. Even with the collapse of the Soviet
Union, I didn't entertain hopes of visiting the Crimea.
I look forward to this trip and see it as a possible once in a
lifetime opportunity. Family names I am researching include Messmer,
Sailer, Bohrer, Kind and Vollemweider.
Diane B. (Green) Mienk, Tucson, Arizona
Ancestral Villages: Borodino and Teplitz (Bessarabia)
I worked twenty years for law attorneys, with the last five years
as Assistant Friend of the Court. I retired in 1993. We have four
children and eight grandchildren.
Roy L. Mienk, Tucson, Arizona
Ancestral Villages: Borodino and Teplitz (Bessarabia)
Licensed home builder - retired. We have four children and eight
Michael M. Miller, Fargo, North Dakota
Ancestral Villages: Straßburg (Kutschurgan District); Krasna
Michael writes, "My first visit to the villages of Straßburg
and Krasna in June of 1994 is an experience I shall never forget.
I was especially touched by the warmth and friendship of the local
villagers. I returned to Odessa and to the home of the late Antonina
(Welk) Ivanova in the village of Selz in December 1995, where I
completed an cassette tape interview in German." Antonina died
in October, 1998.
Michael was raised in Strasburg, North Dakota, learning to speak
English and German. His college degrees are from Valley City State
University and the University of North Dakota. He has been on the
North Dakota State University Libraries staff since 1967, where
he compiled the annotated bibliography, Researching the Germans
from Russia, published by the Institute of Regional Studies, NDSU,
He serves as Bibliographer of the Germans from Russia Heritage
Collection, NDSU Libraries. Since 1999, he has been an executive
producer of Prairie Public Television documentaries including the
award-winning The Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children
of the Prairie (1999), Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans
from Russia (2000); also Recipes from Grandma's Kitchen: Germans
from Russia Food Preparations and Traditions, Volume 1 (2002) and
Germans from Russia Wrought Iron Crosses (2002). He has visited
Odessa and the former German villages each year since 1994 to 2003.
Katherine A. (Kary) Murphy, Sutherlin, Oregon
Ancestral Villages: Landau and Speyer (Beresan District)
As you can see my name is Katherine, nickname is Kitty (always
go by Kitty). I am the youngest of eleven living children - the
ninth girl. Two brothers younger than myself - one was stillborn;
the second lived two weeks.
We were born and raised in the Fayette (Dunn County) area. My parents
were wheat farmers; we also raised cattle and sheep. The farm was
operated with horses by my two brothers and us nine girls. Each
of us girls were able to harness and hitch up a team of horses.
We took our place along with our dad and two brothers.
There did not seem to be too much time for conversation: only on
Sundays when the talking went on with relatives and friends who
came when the priest had his dinner after Mass at our house. Most
of the time we had to eaves drop when we wanted to know what was
I do know that my dad and an older brother came to America; then
sent for their parents and siblings. They came into America and
North Dakota through Canada and Rugby, North Dakota. My mother,
I don't know when or where she came into the "New World."
My dad must have immigrated around 1900-1902. My parents were married
in Richardton, North Dakota in November 1905.
My dad passed away November 23, 1941. My mother passed away March
I was married to my best friend, John J. Murphy, August 25, 1947
in St. Patricks Church, Dickinson, North Dakota.
We lived in Dickinson, North Dakota for two years. Then we moved
to Dodge, North Dakota for two years, as John taught school there.
We moved to Olympia, Washington May 1951, then to McMinnville, Oregon
in July of 1951 and to our present home in Sutherlin, Oregon August
John and I had six children. We raised three sons and two daughters.
One baby girl died at five days of age. We have eight biological
grandchildren and two step-grandchildren. My beloved, John, passed
away May 2000 from complications of a neurological problem. John
was in a wheel chair for 15 years, during which time I took care
As I mentioned, John was a middle school teacher, and after much
juggling, etc., he became a "social studies" teacher.
I had to study at the local junior college to earn my diploma and
licensure in practical nursing, as my husband was misdiagnosed with
multiple sclerosis. He would be confined in a wheel chair and unable
to work within five years.
Hopefully this gives you some idea who I am. I have desired for
many years to travel to the country my parents left behind in their
youth. I hope not to be disappointed.
Ronnie L. Scherbenski, St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Ancestral Villages: Alt-Posttal and Hoffnungstal (Bessarabia); Karlstal
I was born in Eureka, South Dakota, on May 25, 1945 to Edwin Scherbenski
and Malinda (Knoepfle) Scherbenski. I was raised on a farm and lived
in a ("butsa"/batshan) sod house until 1961. My grandparents
spoke mostly German and I had good command of the language when
growing up. I left the farm and went to college one year at Westmar
in LeMars, IA, before moving to Minneapolis where I attended Dunwoody
Institute and was trained as an Auto Mechanic.
In 1966 I was drafted into the Army and spent a year and a half
in Germany. This is where my interest in my heritage was tweaked.
A German advised me that my speech sounded like I came from Swabialand.
I informed him I came from South Dakota and was embarrassed not
to know more about my ancestors.
After the Army, I returned to Minneapolis and worked in a Chevrolet
Dealership for ten years before teaching Auto Mechanics at St. Paul
Technical College. My wife and I have two married children.
Eureka had a Y2K celebration in July of 2000, where I made contact
with a high school friend and second cousin, Ken Grenz. Ken was
very excited to tell me about his trip to the Heimatland and further
tweaked my interest.
After reading some of the books available from NDSU which tell
about the fate of the people that did not come to the United States
and stayed in Russia, I am very thankful that my great-grandparents
had the courage to leave home and start a new life in America.
My hobbies are biking, skiing, and I have an interest in automobiles.
*Frank M. Senger, Devils Lake, North Dakota
Ancestral Villages: Baden, Mannheim, Selz and Staßburg (Kutschurgan
I was born on the family farmstead in the Devils Lake region, the
seventh child of thirteen children born to Anton W. Senger. He and
Helen Ziegler bore five children before she died during the birth
of her fifth child. Anton then married Mary Axtman in 1926. I was
the second child born to Anton and Mary. I had nine sisters, so
most of field farming was done by me and my brothers. We worked
hard to maintain the farm fields throughout the Depression years.
While growing up I was exposed to many old German traditions: some
good and some "not so good." Unfortunately, my parents
only spoke the German language when they didn't want us children
to understand something, so I only knew a few phrases. I would imagine
most of these phrases should not be listed in a general publication
I spent my working years as a car/truck mechanic; thus, my children
and grandchildren would often say, "Have Papa fix it -- he
can fix anything!"
There were a few stories from Russia about their crossing and settling
in Dakotas. I understand much of the language, but do not speak
In 1967 I moved to Grafton, ND where I worked at the Ford Garage,
having been a mechanic all my life. I lived there until 1976 when
I relocated to Fargo, ND and worked for Wallworks, Inc., as a diesel
mechanic, until a work-related injury put me into early retirement
I now spent half of the year in a Recreational Vehicle park in
Arizona, which my son Dennis owns and operates. The other half of
the year, I reside in a lakeside cabin at Devils Lake, ND. I read
a lot and watch educational television. Therefore, I was very interested
when the homeland tour was mentioned to me. I can visualize much,
but my travel will be an emotional experience when visiting there.
I love history and will enjoy exploring that part which belongs
Evelyn (Fleck) Simpson, Seattle, Washington
Ancestral villages: Landau, (Beresan District) and Alexeyevka near
I was born at home in Mandan, North Dakota on October 23, 1930,
the sixth and last child of Rosa (Glaser) Fleck and George Adam
Fleck. There were four boys and two girls. My parents were born
in Alexeyevka, Russia, now Ukraine. In 1936 I entered St. Joseph's
School, attending through grade eight. I attended Mandan High School
for two years. In the fall of 1946 my parents moved the family to
Tacoma, Washington, where I graduated from Lincoln High School in
1948. After graduation I worked in a bank for a year and then entered
the College (now University) of Puget Sound. I transferred to the
University of Washington, graduating in 1953.
The next three years were spent as a caseworker for The American
Red Cross after which I returned to the University of Washington
for a year. While a Graduate Assistant in the College of Education,
I met my future husband, Donald Simpson.
I had a career as an elementary school teacher, the last ten years
working with blind and partially-sighted students. My husband, Don,
was with Seattle Schools also. In 1968-69 we took sabbatical leave
to sail around the world on three Norwegian freighters, one of which
was involved in a collision with a German freighter in heavy fog
off the coast of Portugal. Don threw a bottle overboard with a note
in it (protocol when one is in a shipwreck). Three weeks later a
young German picked it up on a beach in the North Sea. We have been
friends ever since. I visited him and his family twice in Senegal,
once in Egypt and three times in Germany. The African trips included
a photographic safari in Kenya and a camping trip in Senegal and
The Gambia. We traveled through the native villages we all have
seen in National Geographic.
While Don was in graduate school in the mid-sixties we became friends
with a fellow graduate student and his wife from Thailand. As a
result of this friendship, we have had many Thailand students living
with us over the years, plus several from Japan. Because of this
connection I have traveled in Southeast Asia.
After Don's death in April, 1982 in a sailing accident, I retired
(We had planned this before his death) and became involved in volunteer
work. I began at Pacific Science Center and added two legitimate
theaters. At present I am Artist Aide Coordinator for Seattle Opera
and Seattle Symphony, with responsibility for scheduling the drivers
to take care of the transportation needs of visiting artists, meet
them at the airport, take them to rehearsals and performances, etc.).
Alfred Emil Troppmann, Greenwood Village, Colorado
Ancestral Villages: Blumental, Heidelberg, Tiefenbraun and Waldorf
I was born August 1949 in Bremen, Germany. I traveled to Canada
with my parents, arriving in Quebec City October 3, 1949 on the
ship "Scythia." We settled in Camrose, Alberta, Canada.
My father Adolf (Adam) Troppmann was born 1885 and died 1960. My
mother Ida (Bernhardt) Troppmann (2nd wife) was born 1903 and died
I am married to Frances (Redinger). We have two children: Joseph
Anthony, who lives in Toronto, Ontario and Leticia Ann, who lives
in Ottawa, Ontario. They are both single.
I have one brother, two sisters, eight half brothers and sisters,
with me being the youngest.
As a teenager I worked in construction, trained as an architectural
draftsman. In 1994, my wife and I were transferred to Denver, Colorado
where I managed a large national construction firm. I have been
with my current company for 30 years.
Like others, growing old and seeing family pass on makes me interested
in understanding better my roots. My goal for this trip is to see
and touch the land where my parents were born, and to gather as
much information as possible to validate my family tree.
My son, Joseph, and I look forward to meeting the tour members
Joseph Troppmann, Toronto, Ontario
Ancestral Villages: Blumental, Heidelberg, Tiefenbraun and Waldorf
I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in October 1972 to Alfred
and Frances (nee Redinger) Troppmann. I am single and live in Toronto,
Ontario, and am of German heritage since my father immigrated from
Germany in 1949.
My sister and I grew up while traveling across Canada with our
parents. My father's work acquainted us to many cities including
Calgary, Vancouver, Lethbridge, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto.
I graduated from high school in Mississauga, Toronto, before returning
to Winnipeg University of Manitoba in 1990 to attain a masters degree
in Architecture. I'm a practicing architect, currently in the field
of student housing. My leisure activities include reading, music,
movies, skiing, snowboarding, cooking, spectator sports and recently,
I am accompanying my father on this trip to the Ukraine to see
where my grandparents were born, and because I enjoy traveling.