She was born 100 years ago in Germany. She’s passed on, but the artifacts of her life still remain – a testament to someone who lived and loved and lost.
She lived just eight miles from me as I was growing up, but I never met her. It took me until now, as I’m looking for items to sell in our new antique store, to come across her things and wonder… is everyone as interesting as she must have been?
There weren’t many people in Odebolt, Iowa, her hometown for the last few decades of life, who knew who she was or what she had accomplished.
As a young woman, she performed in a concert hall for an audience that included Hitler. She was musically talented and artistic as well; this is evident as I sort through the dozens of oil paintings (see below for a sampling) left in an upstairs bedroom, all signed by her. She sewed all of her own clothing, as witnessed by observing the worn sewing machine in the living room and the countless garments which remain hanging in closets throughout the house.
Her first husband was from Poland. He had been held in a Nazi prison camp, detained for speaking out against communism. He was brilliant -- he spoke 12 languages and was inducted into the US Army so that he could be involved in the Nuremburg trials.
He subsequently moved to New York with his bride Lotte. When he realized that he was dying, he picked out her next husband for her – a Lutheran minister who had moved to Iowa to serve the German Lutheran churches in this area.
Lotte never had children of her own. There were step-children living on the East Coast who remained a part of her life, and there was a next-door neighbor in Odebolt named Bob who became as much like family as anyone could. When her second husband died, Bob helped out by checking up on her and writing out her checks – ways that good neighbors still try to help out all across Iowa.
And Bob also had the privilege of befriending a truly remarkable woman. One who loved dogs. One who forcefully answered “Nein, Nein, Nein” to any suggestion she didn’t like (paying homeowner’s insurance, for example). One who didn’t particularly care for housekeeping, but had quite an eye for the beautiful. One who faithfully kept up with childhood friends from Germany.
As my friend Brenda (the current owner of Lotte’s house) and I go through Lotte’s things and put prices on them, I wonder about this woman that I didn’t get the chance to meet. And I wonder about the people living in my community right now.
When I don’t take the time to get to know them, what am I missing out on? Each person is unique. Each person has stories to tell and talents to admire.
How can I live so that I don’t pass them by unnoticed?
Lotte's paintings are for sale at the Singletree Emporium in Arthur, Iowa.