Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series.
Shortly after arriving in Aledo in 2022, Katie Schultz reluctantly decided to return to her home country after more than seven decades in the United States.
The German expat built a life and legacy and raised a family in her adopted country for more than half a century and at 88 years of age, was quite content with her life here in America.
Fortunately for Schultz, it was a trip that would help her to regain some perspective on her early life and serve as a reminder of what is really important.
“My sons, for decades, tried to get me to go to Germany,” Schultz said. “I didn't want to. The idea of flying for that many hours over the ocean didn't sit well, and I wanted to remember Germany as it was in my childhood — I made a mistake.”
Schultz initially broached the subject during a car ride to Weatherford one day with her son Darrell.
“If I wanted to visit Germany again, would you accompany me?" Schultz asked. “He almost drove off the road in shock. Immediately, my kids and their spouses began planning. They bought me a first-class ticket, and I made my only visit to Germany since 1950. It had been more than 72 years since I left from a seaport in Hamburg at age 14.”
Thus began her homecoming journey, replete with the people, places, structures, and landscapes of her childhood and so awash in the memories of the Germany of her youth that at times, it felt overwhelming.
“My family gave me the best vacation of my life,” Schultz said. “No matter how old I become, I don't think I'll ever forget it. I was in Germany, with my two sons and their wives, from July 7-15, 2022. I was able to see five of my classmates, all with sharp minds and some of them living in their childhood homes. I also had a chance to talk with a sixth friend on the phone as well as spend a couple of days with two of my cousins.”
Her old friends had a nice surprise for her as well.
“Probably the most amazing thing was how a couple of my classmates had worked to get me the opportunity to not only see my old home, but to go inside of it,” Schultz said. “Though many of the features had been modernized.”
Schultz said there was now running water and electricity and there were no longer two indoor outhouses, among other upgrades.
“My oldest son, one of my cousins and I, enjoyed meeting the owner who showed us inside,” Schultz said. “He even opened up the attic so we could see the old smoke chamber and bedroom upstairs still were the same.”
Always a nature lover, Schultz said she was amazed at how much the local landscape brought her back.
“There were still so many birch trees and flowers,” Schultz said. “The fields I laid in and ran through were still there, as green as ever. My house, though, was almost consumed by growth of items that had a 70-year head start on me.”
One of the other highlights was visiting the Glück Auf, a sports club that had its construction financed by Schultz's father and his friends.
“For years, my dad's photo hung in the hallway,” Schultz said. “All of us, visiting in 2022, didn't think the building would be there. But not only did it still exist, it had changed little from my childhood. Some of the equipment I used to practice on was still stored there.
“The club was very excited to meet me, the daughter of one of the founders, and presented me with a book of the club's history and that photo (of her father) that I used to pass all the time in my youth, Texas frame and all. I was happy to see little children exercising there, just like when I taught the 5-year-olds before I moved from Germany.”
Schultz said perhaps the most memorable aspect of the trip came on the final day, just before she and her family traveled to the airport, when she and four of her classmates got together for one last visit.
“We talked about how we needed to share our stories because future generations needed to know that war is such a blight and that it was real, indeed,” Schultz said. “We felt, while we still have the minds to remember living through the war, we needed to point out that it is an evil, but one can emerge from it with some good memories if they're willing to make sacrifices.”
And good memories are basically what Schultz focuses on these days, as she reflects on her rich and fulfilling life.
“I enjoy thinking about being a child in Germany and again when I got to revisit it,” Schultz said. “I love children. I was allowed to have four of them and still have them around to this day, two in Texas and two in Iowa. I also got to teach children and live long enough to hear them thank me for the efforts. I worked with children with special needs for about a third of my life, and that was very enjoyable.
“I look forward, every day, to seeing my youngest grandson get married this June. He tried to arrange it so he and his fiancé could be married on the same date my husband and I were, but they will be one day off. I still thrill in looking at and smelling flowers. I like to sit outside, here in Aledo with my oldest son, listening to the sounds of birds and watching them fly. Most of all, my fondest memories are of my family, going back to the grandparents, all the way to my great grandchildren of today.”
As someone who has lived through so much change in her 88 years, Schultz has learned a thing or two about what makes life worth living.
Fortunately, she was willing to share a few of those.
“Stay healthy,” Schultz said. “Get educated. Maximize your potential and be good citizens. Be kind to others even if they aren't kind to you. Smile and find joy in the little things. Make good memories. Take photographs and enjoy them as you age. Savor every day. Save a life, starting with your own. Have a good family and those will always be your happiest memories. And find and serve God.”
Part one of this series is Horrors of War, Glories of Life,
Part two of this series is Coming to America,
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