Sr. Rosa (Martin) Welk Called Home at 104 Years of age

Reinhardt, Father Eugen. "Sr. Rosa (Martin) Welk Called Home at 104 Years of age." Volk auf dem Weg, January 1996.

Translated by Ingeborg W. Smith, Western Springs, Illinois

Rosa (Martin) Welk Einbeck, Germany Circa December 1994
Michael M. Miller, NDSU, Fargo, ND, competes an oral history interview with Rosa (Martin) Welk in Einbeck, Germany. Circa December, 1994

Sister Rosa Welk can truthfully be said to have been called home to God's peace after an active and fulfilled life at the age of 104. Joy and sorrow met each other; the first half of her life was more filled with sorrow, with hunger, sickness and death. She was only four years old when her father died. On November 2, 1994, she recalled the death of her brother Andreas: (we recorded this on tape), "The communists then also shot him; took him away in the night. Seventy men! All were shot! I also lost my husband in the same way; he was a teacher. Oh, those were terrible days! And so much hunger too. They actually took away everything, everything! Where did they not search! Many people, of course, had hidden everything so well that it could not be found, deep in the ground or in the walls of the house. But some people had absolutely nothing. I cannot understand how we could survive something like that. We went into the fields and searched where the mice had stored their supplies for the winter. They were very small piles of earth. We opened them up, took everything with us and blew away the chaff. If we found a few grains we roasted them. Of course, there was no fat or oil. Packages came from America, which were shared. People were chosen to distribute them. I was also among them. That saved many people. But many just died in the street. "

Rosa was born on October 30, 1891, in Karlsruhe [Beresan Enclave] in Ukraine. Her father was Josef Martin. Her mother Barbara Jochim bore eight children; two died soon after birth. Rosa was next to the youngest. Her husband, Rochus Welk, came from Selz. The Welks are a large clan. One finds them everywhere in America. Lawrence Welk was a famous bandleader and television star. His father, Ludwig Welk, was married to Christina Schwalm from Straßburg. They immigrated to America in 1893, where they achieved fame and riches.

At the Teacher Training Institute in the Hegelgasse, Vienna, Rosa was able to earn a diploma as a kindergarten teacher and until 1921 was in charge of the kindergarten in Selz near Odessa. Through the Red Cross in Odessa she was trained as a nurse and midwife. Thus her career field was broad, and she always had enough duties and work to do: in the large kindergarten in Selz with four helpers, in children's homes on the collective farms, as community nurse in Straßburg, and as a supervisor in the hospital in Selz. Later in Germany, she worked in the Neuss municipal hospital and in a retirement center in Bonn Duisdorf. She was active in Bergisch Gladbach as a nurse for Caritas in both a children's home and a retirement center.

At the age of 80 she decided to leave the retirement center in Willebadessen, in which she had been living as a pensioner, and became independent. Until her death, she took care of her own household in Einbeck, where she still personally hosted guests until her death.

Rosa Welk was deeply religious, convinced of her belief and always open to ideas. Interested in everything, she was always particular in her values, but still tolerant: "resolute, but a good soul," as her niece Emmi Miller expressed it. Even at an advanced age, Rosa could not forget the terrible events of the Stalin era. When she began to tell about her experiences, one could only listen spellbound:

"...Once when the Bolsheviks were there, they took away everything. The farmers tried to protect themselves. Then the Bolsheviks shot a large group of German men: simply drove everyone into a field and there shot all of them. Afterwards when the cattle came to this spot, they did not want to eat. The cows bellowed loudly and went elsewhere. They smelled the blood on the earth ...Oh, one cannot think of that at all, as it was very bad ...One official soon sent away the priest..." [depriving her of spiritual support.]

Hard strokes of fate molded and shaped her life. And still she remained courageous and steadfast in her belief in God and in the good that she tried to put into practice in her life. At one time she said, "That during hardship and misery, good and caring people always appeared to help her, because she herself was always ready to help with an open heart and open hands for people in need. " She was aware that she could take nothing into eternity except the good that she had done during her lifetime.

In 1942, when she was a nurse in my hometown Straßburg, I was just seven years old. Later when I was active in the Philippines from 1965 till 1990, she supported me magnanimously and generously. Peoples' lives and fate often go in inexplicable directions, what we as believers call Providence or gifts of grace. Others, in contrast, call it fate or chance. For a whole week she wanted to die and could not, because she was waiting for the priest, so he could give her the final sacraments while she was fully conscious. On November 27, 1995, a few minutes after the priest had left, she fell asleep peacefully to join her Judge and Savior.

On December 1, as was her wish, we laid her to eternal rest in the cemetery on the Stieberweg. In a requiem mass in the Church of St. John the Baptist, I tried to acknowledge the life and work of this woman, attempting as one can sufficiently and properly portray in acknowledging such a long, active and fulfilled life. As a believer, she counted on the fulfillment that points beyond man and beyond all earthly matters, in the end to God, as only He can promise and also give us eternal life. "No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him". (1 Cor 2:9)

Our appreciation is extended to Ingeborg W. Smith for translation of this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller