Hosted websites will become read-only beginning in early 2024. At that time, all logins will be disabled, but hosted sites will remain on RootsWeb as static content. Website owners wishing to maintain their sites must migrate to a different hosting provider before 2024 (More info)


                  1886 - 1974
                THE FAMILY IS LIKE A BOOK...
                                THE CHILDREN ARE THE LEAVES,
                     THE PARENTS ARE THE COVER,
                               WHICH PROTECTIVE BEAUTY GIVES.

                                   -- Bertha Louise Heinrich Ziemer Kelm
My Grandma Bertha presided as Matriarch of the Ziemer-Heinrich clan, as a parent, grandparent and great- grandmother -- and her love of the family surely was the clasp that bound us all together for so many years.

 She was the oldest, first daughter of the stone and brick mason Fritz HEINRICH and the neighborhood midwife and nurse Theresa ROLOFF.  Born Sept 7,1886 in the Chicago family home at South Wentworth and 45th Streets, she was  christened and confirmed at St.Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church, 39th and Dearborn, and went to school there up until about 6th grade. The family grew to include sisters Lydia and Ella, and brothers Harry and Richard. Bertha was born in the year of the Haymarket Square riots, a time when economic and labor conditions didn't favor the working class. She enjoyed a short happy childhood, and then it was off to work - as a shop girl, housemaid, seamstress and dressmaker. She would later reminisce about Chicago in those days: a world with horse-drawn street cars, brick-paved streets clattering with the racket of horses' hooves and steaming with fresh horse droppings - the excitement of the alley El and the Ferris Wheel at the Columbian Exposition; steamboats on the river, the Kaiser parading down State Street, and American Indians strolling in feathers down Michigan Avenue. For Bertha especially it was a close-knit world of family get-togethers, church  socials, cooling off by the lakeshore and picnics in the park.
    It was at a church picnic in 1902 that  Bertha met Frank ZIEMER.  They were married on April 10, 1907. 
            Oh, how I long to tell you
so that you can understand,
             what it means to me always
 if only you hold my hand...

The couple set up housekeeping at 6326 and then at  6349 S. Carpenter St., just down the street from Bertha's parents, in the Englewood district. Frank worked as a clerk for the Rock Island Railroad. The first of their children,  Harold Frank, was born February 27, 1908. Ten years later, Marjorie Theresa was born; but the infant died at four months, and Bertha mourned her loss deeply. On March 2, 1920 our dad, Raymond Heinrich, was born in the cottage on the back of the lot at 6355 S. Carpenter Street. Then came more heartache - the death of both parents within months in 1922-1923, which affected Bertha deeply. She grieved long for the "sainted mother" with whom she'd been so close, who...
           deep humility and faithfulness helped so many in their illness and wants.  Child  in heart, woman in years, she smiled away another's tears. Joined in fun, and soothed in pain, with never a thought of worldly gain. Sweet and loveable and gay, laughing at trials tossed her way...

Of course, as those who knew her would agree, Bertha could just as well have been describing herself.
Robert Frederick was born April 30, 1924, and the family was complete.  They had a brick bungalow on the front of the Carpenter Street lot, with Harold and his new family living in the cottage in the rear. Englewood was a decent middle-class coommunity, with a bustling shopping district at 63rd and Halsted. St. Stephen's Lutheran Church at 65th and Peoria became the hub of the family social life.  Frank continued in a succession of railroad jobs, but as a yard superintendent and inspector of rolling stock, he often had to travel.  It was during one of his extended stays in Kansas City, Mo. that he fell ill with the appendicitis which caused his death on June 25, 1933.

To support herself and her family, Bertha continued as a seamstress, scrubbed floors, and took in curtain cleaning. She baked coffee cakes at home and sold them at the Princeton St. Grocery of her brother-in-law. The help of family, friends and neighbors; her own hard work and frugality; and her faith in God got them through the difficult years of the Great Depression. In 1942, Bertha married Henry KELM, a widower with whom Bertha and Frank had been close friends. Before he died in 1948, "Pa" Kelm had a considerable influence on Ray and Bob, instilling a strong sense of morality and a work ethic, besides leading many a family excursion to the summer cottage in Pell Lake, Wisconsin.

After Henry's death, Bertha moved into his brick bungalow at 6621 S. Fairfield, where her son Raymond and his family had been living. My mother Alice enjoyed a close relationship with Bertha, as did I and  my sisters Barbara and Susan. From her dormer apartment, Grandma Bertha would hold court on holidays with a growing extended family of grandchildren.  In her kitchen we found lively conversation, games of Bunco, and tasty stollen coffee cakes as well as sauerkraut and delicious dumplings, soups, and potato pancakes. She remained active at St.Stephen's in the Ladies' Aid Society and served a six-year term as president of the Lutheran Women's Missionary League.  She was well-known among the church groups for her baking, for bright patch-work quilts, and for the countless rummage sales she helped organize.  Bertha was interested in current events and history, and avidly read the German-language church magazine Der Lutheraner for its articles and religious poetry. She also composed original poetry to express her faith and love of God and family.
    Family matters weighed heavily on her at times. She agonized over conflicts with her sisters, fretted over grandchildren who drifted from the family values. The grief never left from her many losses -- little Marjorie, her parents, her brother Harry, then her oldest son Harold.  She worried about her son Bob, overseas during the war. And she tried to care for her brother Dick, having promised her mother she would watch out for him -- but in the end  she would outlive all of her siblings, as well as two children, two husbands, and so many of her friends and cousins.
    In 1971 Bertha moved with Raymond and his family to a new house in Oak Brook, Illinois. It was far from the old neighborhood, but the South Side was changing, and the family was spreading out to the suburbs -- Alice and others would drive her places, and relatives would come by to visit. Often the conversation would turn to the old times, though Bertha never lost interest in the changing world around her.  She would sometimes marvel that she'd been born into a world of the horse and carriage and lived to see spaceships carry a man to the moon. Bertha died peacefully on March 8, 1974 and was buried in Bethania Cemetery beside Frank, and surrounded by the graves of generations of  her family.

                                Because I walked a path well filled
                                with much to cause me tears,
                                I learned to trust in God,
                                And that no prayer is ever in vain.
                                Thru every trial and every care,
                                I found His mercy great.
                                I knew that He could open doors,
                                Tho sometimes I would wait.
                                And so to thank Him for the past,
                                Where each day held a test,
                                Because I learned to know Him there,
                                And in His Love found rest.

Besides instilling in us all a sense of the importance of family, and every day passing along more of our family heritage, Grandma Bertha was the one who laid the cornerstone of my genealogical research with her brief notes on the earlier generations: Thanks, Grandma!