Bob and Margaret Aman Freeman accepting the Distinguished Service Award of AHSGR, July, 1997, San Jose, California.

Distinguished Service Award Presented to Margaret Aman (Zimmerman) Freeman

Presented by Jon Schleicher, Membership/Public Affairs Committee

"Distinguished Service Award Presented to Margaret Aman (Zimmerman) Freeman." Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia 20, no. 3, Fall 1997.

The International Distinguished Service Award honors those who have made exceptional contributions of their time and service to our Society. Nominees are selected by the Membership/Public Affairs Committee. The names of winners are held secret until announced at the convention.

Margaret Zimmerman Freeman

Our honoree and recipient of the Distinguished Service Award this evening is Margaret Zimmerman Freeman. I am very pleased that Margaret was able to be here with us this evening.

Margaret Ann Zimmerman was born on 17 June 1929, on a farm near Monticello, Iowa, the daughter of Arend George Zimmerman and Emma Aman Zimmerman. The Zimmerman family was originally from northern Germany, and the Aman family from the German Glückstal Colonies in Russia. As with every good genealogist, Margaret has written about her own life, to share this information and her memories with her children. Much of what I share with you this evening about Margaret is in her own words. Margaret writes, "I was born on an Iowa farm, where I spent my early years in the corn fields, attended rural school, and did all the things growing up that were typical of the 1930s and 40s. The church, which my grandparents had founded was over the hill on the same section of our farm, and we lived on the part of the land that Grandfather Zimmerman had been able to purchase with his hard work and frugal ways. Born to older parents, who were each the youngest child born late in life to their parents, the fifty-eight cousins on the Zimmerman side and fifty-eight cousins on the Aman side, with the exception of tow, were all older than my sister and I. We did not lack for playmates or activities, and a goodly part of this activity was work."

Margaret remembers, "At threshing time, when the hired man ate elsewhere with the threshing crew, Mother would cook Kase Knoepfle for herself and her nieces. Of course, we always had Kuchen with prunes and apples, absolutely delicious. Our food likely had the Germans from Russia seasoning, which I never thought much about. And, of course, we ate borscht, which we call vegetable soup."

Margaret continues, "At the age of twelve, my confirmation year, we moved into the town of Monticello, where I participated in many activities in high school. After that I attended a small girls' school, Shimer College in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, and then went on, with the help of scholarship, to Linfield College in Oregon. From there I went to the University of Hawaii for graduate work in sociology, aided by funds from a graduate assistantship. There I met my husband, Bob, at Graduate Club.

Margaret Zimmerman and Robert Freeman were married 13 September 1952, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Margaret writes, "Bob and I were married in graduate school, and then went to live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Bob continued his studies at Harvard. We lived in Lexington for several years, had a son, William Prescott, and returned to California to live near Bob's parents. Bob took a job with System Development Corporation, and we settled in Santa Monica, where we lived for thirty-six years, thirty five in the same house. Another son, George Aman, was born in Santa Monica. After our two sons were in school, I took the necessary courses for a teaching credential at the University of Southern California, and am now retired after twenty-three years in the Santa Monica Elementary Schools. In 1986, Bob retired from SDC."

"Growing up among my father's north German family," Margaret continues, "there was little contact during the depression and the war years with mother's Germans who lived in the Dakotas. It was not until much later...when we attended an AHSGR meeting in 1978, that I really began to learn about my rich heritage in the Germans from Russia. One of the greatest things was to discover all this before my mother died. We attended conventions for several years together, and I was able to put the history book on the Aman family in her hands before she died. Incidentally that was the first family history computer printed book in the library of either AHSGR or GRHS."

Margaret's husband, Bob, wrote about her, "Like most Germans from Russia, Margaret is a doer. From her very first discovery that there was a local AHSGR chapter interested in the German-Russian heritage, she undertook the challenge of finding people and bringing them to meetings. She found Germans from Russia at work, at school, and even in the grocery store and invited them into her home to find out about their people, and to generate interest in AHSGR, and get them to chapter meetings."

Bob continues, "Margaret was soon elected to the AHSGR International Board of Directors, and just as quickly heading up a committee focused on expanding members' knowledge about their ancestors, which in her case came from the Black Sea. Seeing the promise of giving all German Russians more contact with their ancestry through participation in all the resources available, she was soon a regular member of several local chapters, and other organizations, such as GRHS and the Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland in Germany."

Bob goes on to say, "Among the members of these organization, her letter writing, personal visits made to connect relatives with each other and with their ancestry, is legendary. And she began to average more than a dozen letters per day and many phone calls, even while carrying a full teaching load in the public schools. Seeing to reach this large group of interested researchers, and to also increase their participation in AHSGR, this remarkable daughter, whose mother was German-Russian, and her husband not one at all, jointly began taking her mother to the conventions and to visits of her childhood home in the Dakotas, where she by that time had located dozens of cousins, some of whom her mother had not seen in fifty years."

Bob continues, "In another attempt to reach a larger group of members that she could accommodate by letter and telephone, this researcher and a few other enthusiasts began publishing a newsletter about their own group of colonies the Glückstal Colonies, which has become a model for village research. Margaret has been co-chairperson, with Carol Harless, of the Village Coordinators, and one of AHSGR's most steadfast supporters."

Friend and fellow AHSGR board member John Gress wrote of Margaret, "There is one person, in the name of Margaret Freeman, who can not go for more than a few minutes without speaking, thinking, or doing something in behalf of her German-Russian Heritage. She has served willingly on the national board, and is respected for her opinions, and even though she has not been on the board for a number of years, she is nationally recognized and known for her continued good works in behalf of the Society. Besides everything else, everyone loves her as a friend, a confidant, a leader, a teacher, a mother, a doer, and a person that can look up to with a German-Russian heritage!"

Along with Margaret's service on the AHSGR Board of Directors, as a village coordinator, and CO-chairperson of the village coordinators, she has served at the chapter level, on the California District Council, and as Treasurer for the California District Council. Margaret and Bob belong to the Southern California Chapter, as well as the Golden Gate Chapter, and other chapters in California. John Gress notes that, "Margaret and Bob are the focal point of most everything that happens in southern California regarding AHSGR and German-Russian genealogy, every problem is a challenge (for them). There is hardly ever an AHSGR meeting of any importance anywhere in California that they aren't a part of."

It gives me great pleasure to present the 1997 AHSGR Distinguished Service Award to Margaret Zimmerman Freeman. The award reads, "American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Distinguished Service Award, presented to Margaret Zimmerman Freeman, July 26, 1997, San Jose, California. This award is given in recognition of the exceptional and meritorious service which Margaret Zimmerman Freeman has given to the society and for her positive influence on the Society in the advancement of its goal and purpose of the preservation of the heritage of the Germans from Russia."

Reprinted with permission of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia.

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