It is with the deepest sadness that I have to tell you about the death of my Father, Ronald Edward Freudenburg on Wednesday May, 20th 2015 at his home in Lillian Alabama where he retired. His funeral was Sunday, May 24th – Pentecost and his burial was Saturday, June 5th in Evart, Michigan (his family home) where he is buried.
He died peacefully after a sudden, short, complicated and extremely violent battle with Angiosarcoma (a cancer of the lining of his blood vessels).
My Father was born in Padukah, Kentucky, was raised in the Lutheran Church, worked on the family farm in St. Louis and attended Concordia College in River Forest, Illinois. He was a son, a music teacher, a counselor, a kindergarten teacher, an organist, a husband, a Dad, a caregiver, a servant of his Lord . . . and a builder.
My father held many jobs and was given many titles during his lifetime, but essentially, he was a builder. He built homes; family homes, playhouses for his children, working homes – like barns, craft homes for my Mother, well houses for water, and tool houses for everything he needed to build all the other homes with. The most important home he ever built was his spiritual home – the one that cared for his soul as he perceived and knew it, and strengthened his relationship with his Lord. It took him a lifetime to build. This was the one that he built to provide care and shelter for those he loved.
As I sit here in the last house my Father built, this physical space and his spiritual home, my heart is saturated with a cavernous, dank ache of despair at the loss of his presence here. While the loss was not entirely sudden, the emptiness created by it is an angry, fierce and searing new wound. This smallish place where my Dad lived should feel like a terrible, almost life threatening injury so vacant and vast that I should have no idea how to repair it. But the walls have been steeped in his presence for years. As I sit in the quiet and calm that is my Father’s house and attempt to write these words, I am literally still surrounded by the steady comfort, safety and peace that his house was meant to offer. This house he built is just as he intended it to be. This is the place that he provided for his family’s care. It is the only place I want to be.
In this house that he built I can still find him despite his absence. He is not here, but his care and love remain here as he meant them to. To protect us and to allow us a space to breathe in peace. I balance wanting to fly into action and begin scavenging to save and guard the pieces of him that cause me to panic when I think about not having access to them, but I am afraid any movement might cause some of those memories to vanish. Sometimes, when you see something you’re not sure of something you sense but cannot actually grasp, it’s hard to look away for fear that it won’t be there the next time you look – it will all have been something you imagined instead of something that was really there. I don’t want to disturb or disrupt my memories of him. I just want them to flood over me and keep me here.
These moments are all so dear to me; the sound of his piano as he practiced on Sunday afternoons, the silliest jokes from garage-sale books that made him laugh so hard! The screen door he always left to slam on its own – the creaky spring pulling it back into its wood frame too fast; The silverware crashing as he unloaded the dishwasher at 5am in a home barely lit by morning light; the smell of hot cast iron and pancake batter EVERY Saturday morning; His barn- my favorite place – that smells like plywood, turpentine, galvanized steel and saw dust and hums with the sound of flies crashing against sun-scorched window panes. I was always fascinated by the way he managed to carve out our beautiful lives from the lowliest materials and take so much joy in it. It’s all here. I am afraid of losing him even more. I am not ready. My own house isn’t finished yet. I need his help.
So I sit here in the protection of his house where he was so much for so many – and remains to be still.
My Dad . . . a husband . . . your brother . . . my teacher . . . your friend . . . your family . . . I am not without some great awe that one person could be all these with complete adequacy, generosity and joy and sustain these roles with grace and patience over a lifetime. But he did – in this house that he built. Somehow, I now have the task of being the custodian of this precious life which was purely good and divinely decent yet vacant of expectation and overflowing with love.
I need to get to work building my house. I want mine to be like his. Strong, peaceful, quiet, welcoming, generous, intentional, purposeful, and intractable.
It feels impossible and as though I need to hurry. But it will demand my time. This is important. I don’t want to get it wrong. My Dad knew this – that a building a life requires both patience and persistence, that you have to ‘live it’ – every day – just the way that you want until habit becomes pattern and pattern becomes legacy. His way of life was a long-crafted discipline. The care in took in studying and learning the manner in which he saw his place in this world and therefore ours, was entirely intentional, his highest priority and his sweetest and most earnest joy, his grandest love, his most steadfast comfort and his most sincere care – every day of his life.
Ronald was born in Padukah, Kentucky on October 26, 1928 to his parents Victor and Erna Freudenburg. He lived there most of his young life. He was part of a working family where everyone did as much as they could – and a little bit more; part of a school system – where you gave of yourself until you had nothing left – and then found a little more to provide; part of a farm – where you didn’t ask how much you had to give, you simply kept on until bedtime; and part of a community – where he was respected, trusted, cared for, and needed.
He had two older brothers, Vic and Allen. In the years following he would be entrusted with two more brothers Donald and Ernest. This family would grow to become his entire focus. Throughout his life there would be almost nothing more important or that he found any more joy in than these people that were his family and those that would become his family.
He was most often described as a strong, gentle man. I knew him as a man who spoke the languages of task and care. He desperately needed something to do. He waited for what he believed was the guidance of His Lord to show him the direction his task should lead and the person on whom he would bestow the gift of his labor all the while recognizing that he may not know the full extent of the lives he touched or the magnitude and or the effects of his efforts. He needed these jobs like he needed to breathe air. My Dad was lost without a purpose-driven task and someone to care for. If he was able to do both at the same time – he was happy.
One of his most pleasurable activities was hosting an annual family reunion on his farm in North Central Michigan. Everyone was always welcome, the more the better. Life was about family and lived every day – at home.
By way of introduction, I’m the son of the “Baby” of the 13 children of Ernest and Anna, Hilda Schmitt. By my calculation of the birth order of all of Ernest and Anna’s grandchildren, I was number 42 of the 64.
As Christmas season approaches, I often think of my first (and only) recollection of my Grandpa Ernest. He died in March of 1943, and I was born in February of 1936, so I’m guessing this event probably happened in December of 1942 when I would have been 6. Although I recall a few other visits at grandpa and grandma’s house in Madison, this is the only time I have a specific image of grandpa in my mind. I was always a bit intimidated whenever we did visit their home because of all the other cousins in attendance — most of whom I didn’t know.
The image I still have is of this long line of cousins, with grandpa at the end of the line, sitting in a chair. (I have no idea how long the line was, or how many cousins might have been in line — at age 5 or 6, any line looks pretty long). Grandpa would give something to the person at the head of the line, and then we would all move up a step. When I finally reached the front of the line with grandpa sitting directly across from me, he reached into his pocket and gave me a big, bright, silver dollar. I’m sure he said something as he gave us the dollar, but I don’t recall just what he said, but I suspect it was something like “Merry Christmas”.
I have no idea whether this happened at previous Christmas gatherings at their home. I can recall only one time when I was a participant. Perhaps cousin Glen, who is a few years older and a recent contributor to Beth’s blog, or any other cousin reading this can add their recollection of “Christmas with Grandpa Ernest”.
Here is another story sent to me from Glen, received with many thanks and shared here with you.
Henry Sunderman had a baseball diamond on his farm. This farm was 1 mile south of our place. My Dad played first base. While other team members argued with the umpire he played catch with E Dick Boe who was the pitcher. Many Freudenburgs and Sundermans played ball on this diamond.
I remember Wilbur and Arno Sunderman played. Wlbur was a pitcher and Arno a catcher. After Arno quit catching he gave me his catcher’s mitt which was called a pood. Other members who played there were Demmels, Meisingers. Schmitts, and Moenings. All these people were connected to our family tree. I even started my baseball career on this diamond.
After the farm was sold we had to move the ball diamond. We moved it to Henry Demmel farm where Allen Demmel lives now. We played ball about every Sunday afternoon. They had a league and different teams came to play. Green Garden was always a tough team to play. We won most of the games. Then that ball diamond was abandoned and we switched to soft ball. We played many games at the Madison County Fair Grounds. We had what we called a “church league.” Green Garden, Trinity Methodist, Catholic Christ Lutheran, Grace Lutheran, Battle Creek, Buffalo Creek. All these teams were in our league at some time or other.
After the fair grounds closed the ball field my Dad went around to buy the lights and we moved the diamond to the cow pasture south of the church. He collected $900 for the lights. We put up the lights and played softball Tuesday, Friday and Sunday nights. That was our entertainment for many years. Plus we played a lot of ball in school at recess and noon hour. I could give you many more names of who played.
Now they quit and the ball diamond was torn down. Green Garden always had a very competitive team in all the years we played ball. My 2 boys played too in the later years and Guy still plays fast pitch softball in a town called Leigh NE. He is a pitcher and they are hard to find today. That is my story today. Hope you enjoy.
Thank You Glen! I did enjoy your story and will look forward to hearing more of them.
I’m Glen Freudenburg, son of Erich Freudenburg who was a brother of Victor Freudenburg.
Vic & Erna lived on the next place south of us while on the farm. We did a lot of work together like haying and thrashing. That was the old home place where Harlan and Delene still live.
Uncle Vic would come to our place many mornings while we were still milking our cows. One morning he came over and showed my Dad his right hand and the thumb was missing. It was inside of his glove. The corn picker he was using pulled the thumb right off. The thumb and glove went around a moving v-belt and pulley.
There is another story of Vic ripping his pants and maybe Ron can tell you that story. Ron and I are about the same age.
Glen; Ron’s cousin.
I received these stories through email. To say that they were a total surprise is an understatement. However, I am so thankful to have them. I wish there were more.
My sister Rachel was kind enough to translate some of the documents that I was sent by Durwin Schmidt. I suppose she saw my attempts at translating them and cringed. Here they are along with the documents that are also posted on their corresponding ‘family pages.’
Excerpt from the Birth and Baptism Book
of the parish of Bramsche
for the year 1868, page 4
Consecutive number: 13
Place of Birth: Epe
Sex of the child: boy
Full name of the child: Freudenburg, Ernst Heinrich
Day and hour of birth in the year 1868: the second of February, five thirty a.m.
Name, status, and place of residence of parents: Hermann Heinrich Freudenburg, Heuermann (?) and his married wife Anna Maria Walfried, nee Henke, in Epe.
Day of Baptism: February 16th, 1868
Names, status and Place of Residence of Baptismal Witnesses: 1. Johann Heinrich Freudenburg, unmarried, Farmhand (menial laborer) in Epe 2. Ernst Heinrich Rudolf Elsern (?), unmarried, tailor in Bramsche
Bramsche, the 19th of September Notarization (Verification)
1881 of Excerpt,
I John 1:8. I John 1:9.
For Ernst Heinrich Freudenburg
Born on February 2, 1868 and confirmed in the church of
Bramsche on September 23, 1881.
– – –
Let faith be your shield; love, your strength; hope, your consolation.
Text of the Confirmation speech: I Kings 19:7:
Bramsche, Sept. 23, 1881, Emmethan (? Name of),