Happy Mother’s Day

As we commemorate motherhood this weekend, I celebrate my mother, Rosel Engel Gasser.

Mom as a young woman

She grew up in war-torn Germany, experiencing the hardship, lack of food, bombing, seeing family members wounded and taken prisoner. She worked hard, persevered, and had her eyes set on “something better.”

As a nurse, she took care of the wounded, including an American GI, a friend of my dad’s. Don Gasser was in the Army, part of the American occupation after WWII ended and stationed in Mom’s small town of Bad Orb.

He went to the hospital to visit his friend, met the nurse, and they hit it off. He befriended her family, took them food, and gave them encouragement as they dug themselves from the wasteland of war.

Wedding 1948

After a few weeks or months, the Army shipped Dad home with no notice. By the time he arrived, he decided he really liked this vivacious German girl. He wrote her a letter and asked if she would consider coming to America to marry him. She wrote back “Yes!” looking forward to the “land of milk and honey,” the opportunity for a fresh new start.

However, it took two years of endless paperwork before she was able to make the trip.

I have always thought how courageous she was to leave her family, her home, and her friends to move to a new country, with a new language, different culture (from urban to a ranch in the middle of nowhere), not knowing anyone except this man she hadn’t even seen for two years! And in 1948, people still looked at Germans as “the enemy.”

Life in eastern Montana was not “milk and honey.” It was eking out an existence in the heat and droughts of summer, brutally cold winters, and the uncertainty of making a living ranching and farming.

She threw herself into the partnership with my dad, working alongside him while keeping an immaculate house. During the first years, she had no hot and cold running water, so she washed clothes by hand. A gas-powered washing machine made life a little easier, but the water had to be carried by the bucketful to fill the washer and then to empty it. A coal-burning stove in the kitchen heated two rooms in the winter, and she prepared nutritious meals on it as well as heating the iron for pressing clothes.

Before my brother was born in 1955, my dad remodeled a storage room for a kitchen, complete with electric appliances and a washer and dryer. My mom was ecstatic.

Mom worked hard all her life, set a godly & moral example, and taught me to be a strong, independent woman who could accomplish whatever I set out to do.

I look back and thank her today for the woman she helped to shape in me.

To memorialize and understand her better, I’ve written two novels: Seeking the American Dream and Finding True Home, based on her life.

Published in: on May 7, 2022 at 6:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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