N.D. Mother of Year Fills Life With Family, Health Training

"N.D. Mother of Year Fills Life With Family, Health Training." Forum, 10 April 1983, sec. 14A.

Bertha Kambeitz thinks she might have been a nurse if her childhood ambition had come true.

But it didn't, at least not quite. Kambeitz had to quit school after the eighth grade, despite a strong yearning for more education.

She worked at home for a while, married John Kambeitz and raised a family. But Kambeitz also educated herself in many ways, and used her knowledge and leadership to work on community projects and help other people.

She's worked with first-aid, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation training and pap smear clinics, sponsored foster children and seminary students in foreign lands, and has cared for neighbors who needed help.

For these and other accomplishments, Kambeitz was named North Dakota's Mother of the Year for 1983. A noon luncheon honoring her and other prominent mothers from North Dakota will be held next Saturday at Bismarck's Municipal Country Club, followed by a reception at the Governor's Mansion.

Kambeitz will represent the state in national competition April 20-23 in New York.

Kambeitz was one of 10 children born to German-Russian homesteaders on the prairie 11 miles south of Napoleon.

"We were brought up religiously, and there was discipline and at the same time a lot of love," she says.

As a child, she helped milk cows, gather eggs, feed chickens and pigs, carry coal and water, and do the wash.

During the dust bowl of the 1930s, there were no crops some years, Kambeitz remembers. The family fed thistles to their cattle, which didn't produce much milk on that type of diet.

"In those days it was eggs and cream that bought the groceries," Kambeitz says. But she adds, "As far as food, we always had enough" because they had hogs and chickens to butcher.

Kambeitz accompanied her parents, Raphael and Mary Gross, to Napoleon in 1940 when they retired from the farm. She did some baby-sitting, and eventually married John in September 1941.

Within six months, he was drafted to serve in the war, but afterward they resumed their life together in Napoleon. Their daughter, Mary Jo, was born in 1946. Son John followed in 1948, and then Mark in 1953 and Joe in 1962.

The spacing between children almost made it like raising three families, Kambeitz says.

Besides raising the children, the Kambeitzes also cared for her parents. Her mother died in 1950, and her father died in 1964.

Kambeitz says the love and moral guidance her parents gave her helped shape her philosophy as a mother.

Kambeitz says it's important for a mother to stay home with her children at least until they reach school age.

"I, for one, could never have left my children with a baby-sitter" for fear they wouldn't have gotten the best care, she adds. "I wanted to hear the first time when they said 'mamma' or 'I love you' or 'daddy'. I wanted to see the first tooth, or the first step or crawling."

Although being a good mother is only part of what it takes to become mother of the year, Kambeitz says her family has always come first in her life.

"My family is my first priority, and through their willingness and cooperation, I have been able to return something to our city, or community," she says.

"And I don't think we should fail to mention God in all this, because if it wasn't for Him, there would be no way that we could have done what we did."

Kambeitz remains active in her community work, which includes having taught CPR to more than 100 people in Logan County during six months in 1982.

"Even now at my age I still think that I am too young to be put on a shelf," she says. "I will continue as long as my health permits, and then I'll just have to let somebody else take over."

Reprinted with permission of The Forum.

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