|1999 Journey to the Homeland Tour Group near
Odessa Airport, Odessa, Ukraine in May, 1999.
Journey to the Homeland: Germany and Ukraine
May 18 - May 31, 1999
Biographies of Tour Group Members
* Identifies Deceased
Dr. Donald A. Becker, Naperville, Illinois
Ancestral villages: Kassel and Neudorf (Glückstal District)
I was born January 21, 1943 in Eureka, South Dakota. My grandparents
are German-Russians. Grandfather Bollinger was born in Neudorf,
grandmother Huber was born in Anenthal, and grandfather Becker was
born in Kassel.
My older sister and I were raised in Eureka. Following high school,
I graduated from the South Dakota School of Mines with a B.S. in
chemistry. Then I graduated from Iowa State University with a PH.D.
in analytical chemistry. I've completed 28 years of service with
Amoco in Naperville, Illinois.
I was married to Barbara Wolff in 1965. We have three children.
Scott (Phoenix) is an accountant, Christopher (Palatine, Illinois)
is an electrical engineer, and Nancy (Indianapolis) is a speech
Barbara and I have enjoyed two bus tours through Europe. In 1995,
we traveled from the Thames to the Tiber. This past September, we
toured southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Eugene Brilz, Chandler, Arizona
Ancestral villages: Glückstal and Neudorf (Glückstal District);
Landau and Speyer (Beresan District)
I was born in Dunn County, North Dakota to Rochus Brilz and Margaret
(Renner) Brilz. My mother was born in Speyer and came to the United
States in 1911. My father was born in Landau and came to the United
States in 1914. Even though my parents grew up within miles of each
other in Russia, they did not meet until they came to North Dakota.
My parents lived on a farm north of Richardton, North Dakota. I
am the second youngest of eight children.
My education includes rural school in Dunn County. I could not
speak English when I started school. I attended Assumption Abbey
High School at Richardton, North Dakota, Carroll College, Helena,
Montana and State School of Science at Wahpeton, North Dakota. I
served in the US Army, stationed in Austria during the Korean War.
I married Georgia Kessler in 1955 at Bismarck, North Dakota. In
1962 we moved to Mesa, Arizona. I am retired from the GM Desert
Proving Ground at Mesa. We have three children and four grandchildren,
all living in the Phoenix area.
I am looking forward to the Journey to the Homeland Tour.
*Georgia Kessler Brilz, Chandler, Arizona
Ancestral villages: Glückstal and Neudorf (Glückstal District);
Landau and Speyer (Beresan District)
I was born to Fred Kessler and Frances (Hipfner) Kessler and grew
up on a farm near Beulah, North Dakota. My paternal grandparents
George Kessler (Glückstal) and Karolina (Lippert) Kessler (Neudorf)
came to the United States in 1905 and spent about a year with relatives
in South Dakota before homesteading in Mercer County, North Dakota.
Five of their children were born in Russia and three in the United
States. My father was their first child born in the United States.
My maternal grandparents were Jacob Hipfner and Julia (Usselman)
Hipfner. Information on them is rather sketchy, however, it appears
my grandfather came to the United States in 1888 at the age of 14
and settled in South Dakota. After my grandparents married, they
moved to Mercer County, North Dakota. They had a family of twelve.
It appears they are from the Kutschurgan District. We are doing
further research on this. I will be visiting the villages of Landau
and Speyer with my husband.
I attended a rural one-room grade school for the first eight grades
and could not speak English when I started school. I worked as a
legal secretary in North Dakota for about 10 years. We moved to
Mesa, Arizona from Bismarck in 1962. After our children were in
high school and college, I went back to work. I worked for many
years as a bookkeeper for an art gallery and retired about three
years ago. Our three children and families all live in the Phoenix
I am looking forward to the Journey to the Homeland tour.
Jeanette J. Schroeder Grenz, Spring Hills, Kansas
Ancestral villages: Fellbach, Wurttemburg, Germany
I was born in 1949 in Fremont, Nebraska, the middle of three children.
As far as I can determine, all my ancestors came to the United States
from Germany. My grandmother on my father's side was born in Fellbach,
Wurtemburg, Germany in 1878 and immigrated to the United States
with her parents, two sisters, and a brother when she was four years
old. My other grandparents were all born in the United States. My
father was an Evangelical United Brethren pastor and my mother was
a secretary and piano teacher.
I lived for 2 years in Fremont, Nebraska, then moved to Kearney,
Nebraska and lived there for 8 years, then moved to Omaha where
I lived until I left for college. I attended Westmar College, in
LeMars, Iowa, where I met my husband Ken. We were married in 1970.
I was hired by AT&T as a computer programmer and worked two years
in Kansas city while Ken finished his schooling. When he graduated,
I quit my job and we moved to South Dakota where we lived for eight
years and had two children, Catherine and Christopher. We moved
back to Kansas City in 1980, and I returned to work for AT&T. We
have lived in several towns in Kansas where my husband has been
assigned as a United Methodist minister. Our children are grown
now; Cathy is an RN and has a 7-year-old daughter, and Chris is
a reporter for the Topeka newspaper. I was recently offered an early
retirement from AT&T and have enjoyed more free time to do volunteer
work in the last few months.
I enjoy reading, doing jigsaw puzzles, playing games on the computer,
and of course, traveling. I have been to England, South America
(Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay), Israel, Egypt, Thailand and Vietnam,
Canada, Mexico, and most of the states in the United States.
Kenneth K. Grenz
Ancestral villages: Alt Postal, Friedenstal, Gnadenfeld and Hoffnungstal,
Bessarabia; Kassel and Neudorf (Glückstal District); Freudental,
Güdendorf and Peterstal(Liebental District); and Hoffnungstal, Black
I was born and raised in the German-Russian town of Eureka, South
Dakota. Language, food (halvah, halupsie and plachinta), and customs
of the German-Russians were all about. My first words simultaneously
were "heiss" and "hot". All of my great-grandparents emigrated from
Russia. Of about half a dozen congregations in the community, my
family was a part of the Evangelical United Brethren (now United
I attended college at Westmar College in LeMars, Iowa, and seminary
at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri. I served
United Methodist congregations in Wakonda, Irene, and Gayville-Volin
as well as in Wagner, South Dakota. Since 1980, I have been affiliated
with the Kansas East Conference of the United Methodist Church pastoring
as associate pastor and pastor of Kansas City congregations, Holton,
Topeka, and now in Spring Hill.
My wife, Jeanette, recently retired from AT&T, and I have a daughter
Catherine, an RN with a 7-year-old daughter Nicole, and a son Christopher,
Travel is one of my favorite extra-curricular activities. I've
traveled to Haiti, Nicaragua, England, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay,
Israel, Egypt, Thailand, Vietnam and most of the United States.
I enjoy reading, music (especially classical and jazz), movies,
With all my family roots going to Russia and Germany, I have a
host of Bessarabian and Black Sea roots connections. Most connections
which I can trace to Germany go to SW (Schwabia) and Alsace (France).
I can still do fairly well with Schwabish orally, but I never learned
Jan Gruhn, Anchorage, Alaska
Ancestral villages: Glückstal and Kassel (Glückstal District); Neu
Freudental and Peterstal (Liebental District); Eigenfeld and Kulm,
I come from a long line of Germans who lived in Russia for a century
before coming to the United States. On my father's side, my great-great
grandfather Johann Valentine Neuharth left Climbach, France, in
1809 and settled in Kassel, where he and his descendants lived until
the family left for the United States in the late nineteenth century.
On my mother's side, my ancestors lived in Alsace before journeying
to South Russia by way of Hungary. The settled first in Glückstal,
then in Peterstal and surrounding villages, coming to this country
in 1907. My mother, in fact, was born near Odessa in a village called
Eigenfeld, and was a toddler when the family arrived at Ellis Island.
I was born in North Dakota in 1940 to Alfred Neuharth and Louise
(Klein) Neuharth. We moved to Missoula, Montana, when I was five
years old. My parents were bilingual, and the German culture was
very much a part of my family life, including the familiar German
dishes and holiday traditions. Although I could speak German fluently
as a child, I have lost much of that fluency. I was educated in
Missoula public schools and graduated from the University of Montana
in 1962 with a B.A. in English, later doing graduate work at the
University of Alaska. I have for many years taught English in an
Anchorage high school. Just this past June I retired from teaching
and am now exploring new directions and adventures for my life.
For many years I have been an organist at First Presbyterian Church,
one of Anchorage's largest congregations, and I am continuing this
commitment to music.
My husband Merlyn and I were married in 1961 and have two grown
sons. Merlyn is also a retired teacher, having taught physics, chemistry,
and math in Anchorage high schools for many years. Steve, our older
son, is married and works as an environmental engineer here in Anchorage.
Scott, our younger son, is single and is a structural engineer for
an Anchorage firm.
I look forward to retracing the steps of my ancestors in Ukraine
and Moldova. I honor them for their pioneering spirit, their down-to-earth
goodness, and their great wisdom in choosing the United States as
the place to end their wanderings.
Corrine Haussler, Gwinner, North Dakota
Ancestral villages: Glückstal and Neudorf (Glückstal District);
Hoffnungstal, Black Sea; Dennewitz, Alt Postal and Neu Beresina,
I was born on a farm 4 miles north of Monango, North Dakota on
November 26, 1934. My paternal grandparents, Christ Bollinger and
Eva Oster Bollinger, immigrated to the United States in 1895 and
lived on the farm that I grew up on. My maternal grandparents immigrated
to the United States in 1889.
My parents were Christ Bollinger and Anna Marie Fiechtner. I attended
country school for 7 years - 8th grade and high school in Monango,
North Dakota. We spoke a German dialect known to us as Schwabish.
My parents spoke English and German so I picked up the Schwabish
dialect from them.
I married Louis Haussler in 1954. Our family consisted of three
children, Rick born 1955, Terry born 1957 and Cindy born 1960. I
enrolled in college in 1966 and graduated with a degree in business
education in 1969. I then taught high school business in Manango
High School for 8 years. We moved to Gwinner, North Dakota in 1979
and I taught at Sargent Central High School at Forman, North Dakota
for 16 years. I retired from teaching in 1994.
My memories of my grandparents include the God-fearing life they
lead in the United States, their love for hard work and good food.
Many of my families's favorite foods include kuchen, strudla, knepfla,
kase knepfla and many others.
I am looking forward to going back in time and retracing my grandparent's
footsteps. I am proud of my German-Russian heritage, but I too,
am looking forward to returning to North Dakota because this is
Louis Haussler, Gwinner, North Dakota
Ancestral villages: Glückstal and Neudorf (Glückstal District);
Hoffnungstal, Black Sea; Dennewitz, Alt Postal and Neu Beresina,
I was born on a farm near Monango, North Dakota, on September
11, 1925. My parents were Herman Haussler and Alma Hermann. I attended
a country school for 8 years, followed by 4 years of high school
I worked on the family farm during this time. On April 18, 1954,
I was married to Corrine Bollinger. Three children were born to
In 1958, I worked at a petroleum bulk station and continued this
until 1979. On August 1, 1979, we moved to Gwinner, North Dakota
and I was employed at Melroe Manufacturing, a skid steer loader
factory. In 1991, I retired and at the present time, living in Gwinner.
I am looking forward to visiting my cousin and her two daughters
living in Stuttgart.
Dr. Leander (Lee) E. Keck, Bethany, Connecticut
Ancestral villages: Glückstal (Glückstal District); Peterstal, Grossliebental
and Neu Freudental (Liebental District); Eigenfeld, Bessarabia
I was born near Washburn, North Dakota, the first child of Jacob
and Elizabeth (Klein) Keck. I have one brother, Donald, who lives
next door to my mother in the unincorporated village of Startup,
My father was born in a sod house northeast of Washburn, the son
of Johannes Keck and Paulina (Schlichenmeyer) Keck, who came to
North Dakota from Lichtenfeld, spending a year with relatives in
Venturia before homesteading northeast of Washburn in the fall of
1902. My grandmother Keck was the daughter of David Schlichenmeyer
and Paulina (Schlafmann) Schlichenmeyer, who also immigrated to
the Washburn area. My mother was born in Eigenfeld, the daughter
of Ludwig Klein and Elizabeth (Lang) Klein; he came from Schampoli,
she from Neu Freudental. In 1907, when my mother was seven years
old, they too settled northeast of Washburn.
In 1934, squeezed by the depression and drought, my parents loaded
their belongings into a 1928 Chevrolet and headed for western Washington,
settling in Sultan in the Skykomish Valley (leading to Stevens Pass).
Here my father bought 22 acres of partly cleared land, a "stump
ranch", that he gradually turned into a productive farm (dairy,
chickens and raspberries) while working in logging as well as in
shingle and saw mills.
Having graduated from high school in 1945, I earned my B.A. at
Linfield College, McMinnville, Oregon, my divinity degree at Andover
Newton Theological School near Boston, and the Ph.D. in New Testament
at Yale in 1957, after a year of study in Germany, Kiel and Goettingen.
After teaching two years at Wellesley College near Boston, I joined
the faculty of Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, where I
remained until 1972. Then I moved to Emory University in Atlanta.
In 1979, I was appointed Dean of Yale Divinity School; a decade
later I returned full-time to the classroom until retirement in
December, 1997. My professional life has been devoted to teaching,
lecturing here and abroad, editing, and writing. Since retirement,
I continue with various editing and writing projects.
In 1956, I married Janice Osburn. We have two sons, both historians.
Stephen teaches at the National University of Singapore, and David
is in Manila, engaged in research and writing. This fall he will
be at Duke University School as both a degree student and visiting
faculty. Janice, unfortunately, knows none of this, for she is in
the advanced stage of Alzheimer's disease.
Thomas H. Larscheid, Eckelshiem, Germany
Ancestral villages: Karlsruhe, Landau and Speyer (Beresan District)
I was born in Dell Rapids, South Dakota, on May 18, 1948, 100
years to the day that the first democratic German parliament met
in St. Paul's Church, in Frankfurt, Germany. Some say it explains
my political views and absolute commitment to Freiheit (freedom).
Although I have lived in Europe (Germany and Belgium) for 20-plus
years, I still struggle with German. I have been told I speak without
much of an accent but my memory does not retain much. The verbs
My father's ancestors came to America in 1842, settling in Green
Bay, Wisconsin. They were Rheinlanders from a village called Neideradenau.
I was the first Larscheid from America to visit this village in
1990. My paternal grandfather, Tony, moved to Mott, North Dakota,
around 1911 with his brother to farm. The brother, unable to adapt
to the plains, returned to Wisconsin a few years later. My grandmother,
Pauline, was half-Flemish and half-German. Tony and Pauline spoke
German but did not pass it on to their children.
My maternal grandfather, Bartel Braun, and grandmother, Monica
Dauenhauer, are from the Beresan District, immigrating to Richardton,
North Dakota, in the 1890s. They later moved to Mott. Both spoke
Russian and German; my grandfather spoke Low German, my grandmother
High German. It is said my great-grandfather, Markus Dauenhauer
(born in Landau, Russia, August 12, 1850), did not favor the marriage.
Markus Dauenhauer was a very successful farmer in Russia and America.
He gave or sold, there is a dispute, the land for Assumption Abbey
The Great Depression forced my parents to move from North Dakota
to South Dakota. I lost my entire German-Russian heritage, save
for a few stories from my mother, because of this. My mother grew
up speaking German, but World War I put a stop to that. They were
forbidden to speak German in public, especially in school. My grandfather
was very pro Kaiser and grandmother worried constantly about him
getting into trouble.
I spent 12 years in a Catholic school in Dell Rapids, South Dakota,
St. Mary's, graduating in 1966. I attended South Dakota State University
in Brookings, receiving a BA in Speech (broadcast journalism) in
1971. After working 6 months in Pierre South Dakota, with the Department
of Public Instruction as an information specialist, I entered the
Army to fulfill my duty commitment.
I spent 5.5 years on active duty in Pirmasens, Germany, not knowing
until after I was discharged that this was the area from where my
maternal ancestors went to Russia in 1809.
Currently I am an editor-writer at the U.S. Army European headquarters
in Heidelberg, Germany.
My wife, Carol-Ann (Whipple) Larscheid, also has ancestral roots
in Russia. Her grandmother (Schumacher) also came from the Odessa
area, but we have little information.
I'm looking forward to an exciting trip.
Michael M. Miller, Fargo, North Dakota
Germans from Russia Bibliographer, NDSU Libraries, Fargo
Ancestral villages: Strassburg (Kutschurgan District); Krasna, Bessarabia
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. I shall never forget the frigid
temperatures and the hospitality at the home of Antonina Welk Iwanowa
in the village of Selz in December, 1995. Antonina died in October,
Traveling now to Odessa, especially to the Kutschurgan villages
and to Krasna is like coming home to the land where my grandparents
walked the same streets."
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
NDSU Libraries staff since 1967, where he compiled the annotated
bibliography, Researching the Germans from Russia, published
by the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU, 1987.
He produced the visual program in 1980, At Home on the Prairies:
the Germans from Russia for the Germans from Russia Heritage
Society. Working with the family of Lawrence Welk, he was instrumental
in the family's decision in 1993 to donate the archives of the late
bandleader to the NDSU Libraries.
Besides his university work, he photography concentrating on nature,
historic buildings, human interest, and wildlife.
He has visited Odessa in June, 1994; December, 1995; June, 1996;
May, 1997; and May, 1998. Michael was co-producer of the documentary,
"The Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children of the
Prairie," produced by Prairie Public Broadcasting and the NDSU Libraries
premiering in February, 1999.
Phyllis M. Pearce, Alta Loma, California
Ancestral villages: Bergdorf and Kassel (Glückstal District)
I was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in Salem. I was the
second child of J.H. and Esther (Rosin) Ryan. I attended Salem schools,
including Willamette University, until my marriage in 1947. My husband
worked for Sears and was transferred frequently for the next 20
years. We had two daughters, Kelly and Ryan. We finally settled
in Fullerton, California when our oldest daughter started high school.
The marriage ended in 1979.
I started teaching U.S. History at Rio Hondo Community College
in Whittier, Californian, in the fall of 1966. In 1979, I became
Chair of the Business Ed. Department at Rio Hondo, remaining in
this position until retirement in 1988. Since that time, I have
lived first in Upland and now in Alta Loma near my daughter, Kelly.
Kelly is married to Manuel Bocanegra and they have one son, Carlos,
who is attending UCLA on a soccer scholarship. They live in Alta
Loma. Both Kelly and Manuel are teachers. Ryan is married to Roger
Wiley, an attorney, and lives in McAlester, Oklahoma. They have
two children, Adam age 9 and Carmen age 4. Roger and Ryan are both
former teachers who met while teaching at the Santa Fe Indian School.
I am looking forward to learning more about my Germans from Russia
roots. This heritage was never mentioned while I was growing up.
I have a true "melting pot" inheritance of Irish, Scottish, English,
French, and German ancestors.
Elsie O. Schauer Prouse, Spokane, Washington
Ancestral villages: Bergdorf, Kassel, Glückstal and Neudorf Glückstal
(Glückstal District); Kronental, Crimea
I was born July 12, 1928 to Theobald Schauer and Emma (Morast)
Schauer. Both were born in North Dakota to parents who had come
to this country from South Russia.
My father's parents came from Neudorf, South Russia and my mother's
father, George Morast, came from the Crimea, we think from Kronental.
We do not know where my mother's mother was born because she died
when my mother was five and the death certificate gives South Russia
as place of birth. Her name was Barbara Kirchmeier.
I am the eldest of eight children. My sister, Violet Tanner, was
the sixth child.
We were born in Montana. My step-grandmother, Christine Wohlgemuth
Moss Morast, attended my mother at my birth. I was born in my grandparents'
home on their farm near Terry, Montana.
My parents and seven children moved to North Idaho in early 1941
from Fort Peck, Montana. My youngest sister was born in Coeur d'
Alene in 1945.
All eight of us graduated from high school and only one brother
graduated from college. Several of us had further schooling but
did not receive degrees.
My first marriage was to Olin Glenn Thompson. We did a great deal
of traveling during our twenty year marriage.
I married Joseph M. Prouse, Jr., in 1969 and lived in Wichita,
Kansas, for 28 years. He retired from Boeing-Wichita in 1981 and
I quit my job at the same time.
We were "snowbirds" for many winters. We spent one winter in Tucson,
Arizona, two in Chula Vista, California, three in Harlington, Texas
and six in San antonio, Texas.
As a child, I was taken to the Lutheran Church and was baptized
in it. I also spoke German only. However, when we lived in the Fort
Peck area we attended non-denominational Sunday School and had to
learn English. This was also the case in north Idaho, so I really
don't know much about the Lutheran Church, nor can I speak German
or understand very much of it.
Since moving to Spokane after my divorce in 1997, I have become
active in the Presbyterian Church. It has been a source of comfort
to me and has helped sustain my faith in God.
My hobbies are reading, quilt making, gardening, dancing and traveling.
I am very much looking forward to this trip to the homeland.
Dean and Olivia (Balon) Sane, Mississauga, Ontario
Ancestral villages: Krasna, Bessarabia and daughter colony Karamurat,
Dobrudscha; Landau (Beresan District); Mannheim (Kutschurgan District);
Josephstal (Liebental District)
I was born on a farm in southern Saskatchewan, about six miles
from the North Dakota border. I am one of six siblings born to Lambert
Sane (Sohn, Soehn) and Eleanora Schnell.
My father, Lambert Sane, and his parents, Aegidius and Veronica
(Friedrich) Saen, and their six children left the port of Hamburg
and arrived in Quebec City, Quebec Canada on June 21, 1929. They
proceeded on to their Saskatchewan homestead at Frobisher, Saskatchewan.
Lambert Sane, born (1910), and his father, Aegidius Saen, born
(1883) were born in Karamurat, Dobruduscha. Aegidius's father, Mathias
Soehn, born (1860) and his father, August Soehn, born (1833) were
born in Krasna, Bessarabia. August Soehn's father, Peter Sohn, born
(1802) in Bavaria, Germany.
My paternal grandmothers were, Veronica Friedrich, born (1893)
in Mannheim, Helena Bogolowski, born (1862) in Krasna, Margaretha
Mueller, born (1839) in Krasna, Bessarabia and Eleanora Schnell,
My mother was born in Mariental, Saskatchewan to Emanuel Schnell,
born (1872) Landau, Russia and Margareta Bachmeier, born (1877)
Krasna, Bessarabia. Emanuel Schnell's father, Daniel Schnell, born
(1842) Landau, Russia and his wife, Katherine Kautzman, born (1847)
Landau, Russia, came to Canada in 1903 and homesteaded in Mariental,
Saskatchewan, about 12 miles west of Estevan, Saskatchewan.
Emanuel Schnell, his wife Margareta and three daughters left Landau
and arrived in Quebec City, Quebec on October 18, 1902 and journeyed
to their homestead in Mariental, Saskatchewan. Daniel Schnell's
parents originated from Alsace. Joseph Schnell, born (1811) in Lietenheim,
Alsace and Barbara Bosherz, born (1815) in Schleithal, Alsace.
The formal schooling for me began in a one-room rural schoolhouse,
followed by a school in Steelman and high school in Bienfait, Saskatchewan.
Further education took place at the University of Saskatchewan with
a Bachelor of Arts Degree and the University of Ottawa, a Masters
in Health Care Administration. My professional administration career,
some 30 years, commenced in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan followed
by an Administrators job at North York General Hospital in Toronto,
and finally for the last sixteen years as President of the Credit
Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ontario. I retired in September
1997 and do some part-time consulting and am full-time at enjoying
antiquing, my garden, trees and collection of plants.
Olivia Sane (nee Balon) was born in Assiniboia, Saskatchewan,
to John Balon, born (1894) in Radouti, Romania and Eugenie Colibaba,
born (1905) in Rodowitz, Bucovina, Austria. Olivia's maternal grandparents,
Gavril Colibaba came to Canada in 1914, followed by his wife, Aspasia
Sindilar, and daughters, Eugenie and Gladys in 1924.
Olivia's early schooling was also in a rural one-room school,
followed by public and high school in Regina, Saskatchewan. After
high school, Olivia entered the Regina Grey Nun's School of Nursing.
Following graduation, she attended the University of Saskatchewan
and obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree. Olivia has
spent all her nursing career as an Instructor and Community College
Professor. She is now retired, June (1996), and enjoys knitting,
reading, and spending time with the granddaughters.
We have three daughters; Joette married to Jim Fielding, they
have three daughters, Sarah, Sydney, and Samantha, Margot, who lives
at home, and Jodie married to Andrew Pappas.
We spend the Ontario winters at our condominium in Delray Beach,
We have previously travelled to the Caribbean, England, Holland,
Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Portugal,
Israel, Kuwait, Brazil, Chile, Thailand, Singapore, and China and
to most states in the United States. We are looking forward to adding
the experiences of Eastern Europe to our travel adventures, and
anticipate a rich and rewarding experience with fellow tourists
to the villages of our forefathers.
Violet Schauer Tanner, Olympia, Washington
Ancestral villages: Bergdorf, Glüclkstal, Kassel and Neudorf (Glückstal
District); Kronental, Crimea
I was born in Midway, Montana May 26, 1938, grew up in north Idaho.
The sixth of eight children of Theobald Schauer, born 1903, Streeter,
North Dakota. Parents were, Peter Schauer and Katharina (Job) Schauer,
both born in Neudorf, Russia and married there. They immigrated
to the United States in 1900. They had 15 children and 58 grandchildren.
My mother, Emma (Morast) Schauer, was born in Beulah, North Dakota,
in 1907. Parents were, George Morast, born 1880, Korntental, Crimea,
Russia, immigrated to the United States in 1891 with parents and
family. Married Barbara Kirchmeier from South Russia, her father
was Carl Kirchmeier and her mother was Shramn of South Russia. Haven't
been able to find out where in South Russia.
My husband, John Tanner, from California, since we married in
1957 is an Electronic Technician for the U.S. Post Office. We lived
in Spokane for 26 years, now on the west coast for the past 11 years.
I'm employed at the LDS Seattle Temple for the past 11 years.
We have four children. Rose Brooks who lives in Everett, Washington
with her husband and four children. John died at the age of six
with Leukemia. Mark Tanner lives in Sandy, Utah with his wife and
two sons. Sally Rhoads lives in Panaca, Nevada with her husband
and six children. We have 12 grandchildren, oldest being 18 and
All of my grandparents and great-great-great-grandparents were
born in Russia. I finally have some information on a few of the
lines tracked back into Germany. I've been working on it since the
I have written to two of my father's cousins, once removed, that
have moved back to Germany after spending years in Russian labor
camps. I found out about them in the book, "Our People" by Marcus
Job. He has been corresponding with them, but I'm more closely related
to them than he is. I am looking forward to visiting them on this
I desire to walk or see the places where my grandparents lived
and died and imagine what their lives were like. I have always wanted
to go and gain more knowledge of the areas where they lived. My
grandmothers both died before I was born, only seen my grandfathers
a few times. They spoke German so I could not visit with them.
I like to read, do genealogy research and putting all my ancestors
in computer, enjoy gardening, hiking and my grandchildren. My sister,
Elsie Prouse, and I are looking forward to our Journey to the Homeland
in 1999. We both like to travel.
*Dr. Ralph Tarnasky, Bismarck, North Dakota
Ancestral villages: Tarutino, Bessarabia
I was born in Lehr, North Dakota, February 3, 1924 to Ida (Fercho)
and Sam Tarnasky who were also born in Lehr. My German-Russian grandfather
Fercho was born in Paris and my Tarnasky grandfather was born in
I graduated from Lehr High School in 1941, attended college until
enlisting in the Army Air Force in late 1942, serving in England
and as an interpreter in France and Germany. At the end of the war,
I had to stay in Germany until 1946 because the non-fraternization
policy would not allow Germans to communicate officially in English
After the war, I continued my education, earning a Bachelor of
Science and PHD from UND. Following UND, we spent 10 years associated
with Wake Forest Medical School where I received my MD degree, post
graduate training and was on the faculty of the Pathology Department
for 4 years. In 1963, we moved to Bismarck where I took on the developing
of the St. Alexius Hospital Pathology Department and School of Medical
Technology. In 1986, I retired from full time practice but still
attend medical school conferences as associate clinical professor
of pathology. In addition, I'm in my 7th year as Medical Director
of the North Dakota Department of Health Laboratories.
My wife, Phyllis, who has been with me since my first year of
medical school is an active artist and we have 3 married children
and 5 grandchildren. Two of our children are living in northern
Colorado which was largely settled by Germans from Russia.
We have traveled much of the world, but I am especially looking
forward to this visit to the ancestral home.
John W. Teske, Falls Church, Virginia
Ancestral villages: Bergdorf and Neudorf (Glückstal District), Alexanderfeld,
Alt Elft, Leipzig, Paris and Sarata, Bessarabia
On September 17, 1907, my grandparents Jonathan Teske and Johanna
Friske were married. He was from Bergdorf and she was from Alexanderfeld.
Jonathan met Johanna on trips to market from Bergdorf when he visited
the Friske home in Alexanderfeld. Shortly after their marriage,
they set out for America to join relatives and homestead in South
Dakota, arriving in Boston on November 7, 1907 on the SS Ivernia
which left Liverpool nine days earlier. Jonathan probably asked
Johanna to immigrate with him, and she readily agreed. Free land
in America had a strong attraction as it did 100 years earlier in
Their first stop upon arrival was at Johanna's brother, Johan
Friske in Bowdle, South Dakota. The following spring, they began
homesteading 160 acres near Faith, living on the land for two years
before establishing residence in Mobridge. They successfully homesteaded
the land and built a house in Mobridge at the same time. Jonathan
worked most of his life for the various railroads serving South
Dakota, and moved between Mobridge and Aberdeen.
They first lived in Aberdeen in about 1909 where the first of
my four uncles were born. They then moved back to Mobridge where
my other three uncles and father were born. They finally returned
to Aberdeen and put down roots in 1919. Jonathan built a second
house for the family in Aberdeen which still stands. Both became
naturalized in Aberdeen in the 1920s.
Jonathan and Johanna left five sons, ten grand children, and many
great grand children. Other Teske and Friske family members came
to South Dakota, resided in Aberdeen, Eureka, or Long Lake and became
part of the extended family.
On a personal note, I have only recently begun assembling the
genealogy of the Teske and Friske family, and have much to learn.
Fortunately, there are many resources available for the task including
this Journey to the Homeland Tour to ancestral villages in the Ukraine
and Moldova. My goal is to eventually trace our family lines back
to Germany. I will be the first in my family to return to the German
colonies since my grandparents left there in 1907.
Also, I just recently retired from thirty years with the Federal
Government and have our family genealogy as one of my projects.
I spent my working career in the field of occupational safety and
health, and have several college degrees and professional certifications.
I am presently Secretary-Treasurer of the American Conference of
Governmental Industrial Hygienists to which I was elected in 1997.
Betty (Baron) Thatcher, Tigard, Oregon
Ancestral Villages: Karlsruhe, Landau and Speyer (Beresan District)
Betty writes, I was born in Mandan, North Dakota in 1926. My parents
were Christian Baron and Margaret Schmidt and I am the third of
seven children. My parents were born in Karlsruhe in the Beresan
District. My father came to North Dakota with a cousin in 1913 and
my mother came with her parents, grandmother and two sisters, settling
in Fallon, North Dakota. The Schmidt family moved to Lodi, California
in 1921. Only one of my father's eight siblings, his brother, Lorenz,
came to the U.S; he farmed in the Fallon area. I recently learned
that another brother had been mayor of Karlsruhe in the early 1940s.
My family moved to Portland in 1943. After graduating from nursing
school, I was in the Navy Nurse Corps for two years during the Korean
War. After my tour of duty, I returned to Portland and began my
career as an operating room nurse, working in hospitals in most
of the western states. I retired after the death of my husband in
Travel has been my favorite hobby. My most memorable trip was
to Russia with a group of Oregon nurses. We toured their hospitals
and met with other health professionals. Three sisters and a cousin,
born in Karlsruhe, were with me. We met two of the sisters she had
not seen in forty years; they now live in Germany. One other sister
is still in Kazakhstan. On a visit to Germany in 1991 with my youngest
sister, I met my father's one surviving sister. Communication was
a challenge, as no one spoke English and my German was very basic,
but we did manage.
I volunteer at a senior center and have recently taken up golf
again, weather permitting (that means no rain or temperature above
80). I am looking forward to my second visit to Odessa and especially
to visiting the village of Karlsruhe.
Dennis Walther, Fairfield, California
Ancestral villages: Peterstal (Liebental District); Worms (Beresan
District); Neu Freudental and Güldendorf (Liebental District); Hoffnungstal,
I want to go on this trip because my grandmother and I were very
close and she shared many stories with me. She told me of coming
over on the Kaiser Wilhelm and landing at Ellis Island and then
coming to Leola, South Dakota. Then on to marriage and living under
the wagon during her first days as a bride. I feel she did this
so I could have a better life. I know that my grandfather and grandmother
on my mother's side made similar sacrifices, and now that I have
the opportunity, I want to walk where they walked. I want their
spirit to surround me and engulf me. This is my hope. I will be
the first in the family to do this. Several others have expressed
Alexander Walther and his brother, Emanuel, came to America together
from Worms, South Russia in 1885. Emanuel settled in Chicago and
no one in the family knows much about him or his family. Alexander
came to Mound City and married Katherine Wagner in 1886. Katherine
came from Guldendorf, South Russia. They had 14 children. The youngest,
Jacob, was my grandfather.
Jacob Breckel with his wife, Elizabeth (Pheifer) Breckel, came
from Peterstal. They had four children when they came to America
in 1897 on the ship, Kaiser Wilhelm. Their third child, Hannah,
was my grandmother and she married Jacob Walther. The Breckel's
fifth child was born in America.
Hannah and Jacob settled in the Winona vicinity southwest of Strasburg,
North Dakota. Later, they bought some property on Beaver Creek on
the east side of the Missouri River. Here they had sixteen children,
of which fourteen survived to adulthood. Of the fourteen, twelve
were boys. The oldest boy was Theodore, my father Ted, and he married
My great grandfather, Johann (may have been called George) Renschler
was born in New Freudental, South Russia. He came to America with
his wife, Katherine Volk. They had ten children. Karl, (always called
Charles), Renschler was married to Christine Dufloth and homesteaded
sixteen miles west of Linton, North Dakota. Christine came to America
from Hoffnungstal, South Russia. They were my grandparents. They
had six children. The oldest, Bertha, married my father Theodore
Walther. They had three children.
Dr. Kurt-Alexander Zeller, Portland, Oregon
Ancestral villages: Alt Postal, Borodino, Eigenfeld, Katzbach, Klöstitz
and Sofiental, Bessarabia
I expect that my father will include all the ancestral stuff (in
which he is the expert anyway; my function is translation) in his
biographical information, so you can read it there and just add
a generation, which would be me. (Along with my brothers, Dirk and
Clark, but "they do not come into this story much," as the children's
book writers like to say of siblings.)
I grew up in Portland, Oregon, where my father was a dentist and
my mother was a stay-at-home mom, and I was a chubby kid with thick
glasses who was truly brilliant in the classroom and truly pathetic
on the playing field. I loved school--all except recess, which was
an ordeal straight out of Dante, as far as I was concerned. The
most unusual thing about our family life was that my mother was
diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was six, which meant that
I learned to cook and clean and do laundry and sew and shop and
handle family budgeting about a decade before most men do (or rather,
before they think about doing it and then watch a football game
until the mood passes). The power rush was intoxicating--there's
nothing like going straight from finally being allowed to cross
the street on your own to being turned loose on butcher knives,
seam rippers, and chlorine bleach.
My parents were very typical, good parents: they made us brush
our teeth and do our homework (actually, nobody had to make me do
that) and go to Sunday School and turn down the stereo and turn
off the television and go outside on such a beautiful day and stop
hitting your brother this instant. They taught us to say "please"
and "thank you" and "I'm sorry" even if we usually did have our
fingers crossed behind our backs) and not to talk while you're chewing
or to contradict adults, even when they say the capital of Nevada
is Reno and you know it's Carson City. Everything I needed to know
I learned in kindergarten-stuff.
Unfortunately, they made one fatal error. They signed me up for
the children's choir at church. Man, what a mistake.One little step
on the slippery slope... Well, before they knew it, they were paying
for piano lessons, and then they were paying for a piano, paying
for organ lessons, paying for voice lessons, driving me hither and
yon for rehearsals of kid roles in operas and musicals, and then
they were hearing those words that are very parent's deepest fear:
"Mom, Dad--I've got something to tell you. I've decided to major
Actually, that's not quite what happened. I went to Southern Methodist
University in Dallas, Texas as a voice major, but I wanted to take
some acting classes--and discovered that the Theater program at
SMU was so snooty it wouldn't let anyone take even Acting 101 unless
you were a Theater major. So I said I'd be a double major in Music
and Theater, which my advisor said was impossible and never had
been done in the university's 70 years--a conversation he was very
happy to repeat verbatim to my parents when they visited four years
later for commencement as I received degrees in Music and in Theater.
Having had more than enough of Dallas, but not having had enough
of school, I went immediately to the College-Conservatory of Music
in Cincinnati and eventually took every single course that looked
interesting (not all of them turned out to be), had a lot of fun,
dragged at least six classmates now on the Met roster through their
comprehensive exams, and made a lot more money each year as a graduate
assistant than I've made in many of the years since. By the time
I got tired of that, all I had to do to be awarded a doctoral degree
was write a dissertation--and since I can do that just drawing up
a grocery list, within six months I was able to confuse people who
telephoned my parents' house asking for "Dr. Zeller" by asking brightly,
Well, that was the last time there was any order or logical progression
to my life. Since that time I've sung in the Midwest, in the Deep
South, and all up and down I-5 on the West Coast. I've toured Austria
in a Kurt Weill revue and been on German TV and placed 4th (out
of 148) in the International Vinas Competition for concert singers
in Barcelona. I've performed with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival,
the largest repertory theater company in North America. However,
I've also been unemployed for periods of as much as 12 months at
a time. (Of course, that makes it easier to find time to visit Bessarabia.)
Feckless artist, however, is a role that ultimately doesn't really
fit my personality very well--too much German DNA. (This also explains
why I have absolutely no sense of humor.) So for the past dew years,
while I still try to do as much performing as I can make happen,
I've also been working as Assistant Professor of Voice at Willamette
University in Salem, Oregon (which trivia buffs will know is the
oldest university west of the Missouri River), where my students
are ice kids, but the ever-increasing number of times per minute
I think, "What are they teaching these kids in these schools these
days?" continually reminds me that as far as they're concerned,
I am already just slightly older and more out of touch than Methuselah.
Nevertheless, they do provide me with occasional moments of satisfaction
and amusement, such as when one young tenor wrote on his course
evaluation sheet, "It is my impression that Dr. Zeller seems to
demand more of his students than do the other voice teachers. I
can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing."
If I have any spare time, I learn a new opera role. If I have
any spare money, I do some auditions. So I really don't have any
"leisure activities" or interests to write about (like Jerome Kern
and Oscar Hammerstein's Bill, I don't play golf or tennis or polo)--except
that I do collect maps of all types, perhaps because it's cheaper
than travel, which I do also like. I particularly like Europe, where
I sometimes feel more at home than in parts of the USA (Dallas,
for instance!), but I have never been anywhere in Europe east of
Budapest. This "journey to the homeland" is the first extended trip
my father and I ever have taken together, so it may be a very interesting
experience in several dimensions of the time-space continuum. (General
hint to tour bus and dinner companions: Politics probably is not
the safest conversation topic. Just a friendly warning.)
Dr. Norman K. Zeller, Portland, Oregon
Ancestral villages: Alt Postal, Borodino, Eigenfeld, Katzbach, Klöstitz
and Sofiental, Bessarabia
I was born in Beulah, North Dakota on July 3, 1931. Lived in North
Dakota until I was eleven years old, then moved to Oregon during
World War II. Completed my education in Oregon at Willamette University
and the University of Oregon Dental School. Graduated from Dental
School in 1959. I was married in 1955 to Johanna Beckham and we
have three sons and now two grandsons.
I practiced dentistry in Portland for 30 years and retired in
1989. Since retirement, I keep busy playing golf and tennis several
times each week. I enjoy spending time in Hawaii twice a year to
get away from the Oregon rain.
My interest in traveling to Germany and Russia is to get a feel
for the part of the world where my father was born. My grandfather
and family immigrated from Klöstitz to the United States in 1903.
He came via Canada and then to North Dakota and settled at Heil
in Grand County, North Dakota.
As a child I would hear the older generation talk about the "old
country" and I am excited to be on this tour to actually see the
old country of which they spoke. My mother's family are also from
this area of South Russia or Bessarabia My mother's maiden name
was Sandau and the Sandau's lived in the villages of Katzbach, Alt-Postal
and Eigenfeld. I hope I will be able to visit all of these villages.