Eulogy for Vera Elizabeth Rowe Grathwohl

Eulogy for Vera Elizabeth Rowe Grathwohl
(July 12, 1909 — July 09, 2001)
John D. Hopkins
Evangelical & Reformed United Church of Christ, Boonville, Missouri
11:00 a.m., July 11, 2001

Vera Elizabeth Rowe Grathwohl led a long and productive life which touched everyone who knew her. This is evident by the presence this morning of so many of her friends and fellow church members. And there are many others who were unable to be here in person, but who will have joined us in spirit.

Vera was born in Boonville on July 12, 1909, the daughter of William Martin and Christine Toellner Rowe. She would have celebrated her 92nd birthday tomorrow.

She graduated from Laura Speed Elliott High School in 1927. After that she worked 14 years for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company as a cashier and stenographer.

On April 12, 1942 she married Henry Thomas Grathwohl. For the next fifty years they lived at their farm home south of Boonville, where they raised their two children. Henry Grathwohl preceded Vera in death on December 14, 1991, as did their son Charles William, on May 23, 1990. Also preceding her in death were two brothers, Edwin and W.T.; and two sisters, Alverta and Erna.

Vera was a lifelong member of the Evangelical United Church of Christ. She served for many years as a church school teacher and youth group leader. She was also a member of the Women's Fellowship and the Senior Adult Church School Class.

In the community, she was active in 4H Club work, where she was a county leader for more than ten years. She was also a member and past president of the Boonville Business and Professional Women's Club, and a member for over sixty years and past Noble Grand of the Boonville Rebekah Lodge.

She is survived by one daughter, Betty Ann Maddex of Kansas City, Missouri; and four grandchildren, Teri Lynn Maddex Koger of Kansas City, Missouri; Robert Steven Maddex of Olathe, Kansas; and Kristen Leigh Grathwohl and Kurt Thomas Grathwohl of Boonville. Vera also left four great-grandchildren, Courtney Elayne Koger, Alexandra Ann Koger, Danielle Louise Koger, and Gabriel Steven Maddex; as well as two [at present] foster great-grandchildren, Quashanae and Reggie [Koger].

Also surviving is one brother, Kenneth Rowe of Riverside, California, and a number of nieces and nephews, of whom I am one.

Two things came above all for Vera: her family and her church. Therefore, in addition to these 'official' details of her life, I would like to share with you some memories of her life. Vera had written these several years ago, with an eye toward this occasion. They reveal how her family and her church were so intrinsically a part of her life.

Before Vera was born, the Rowe family had lived in Lone Elm [several miles south of Boonville]. As she writes:

My family moved to Boonville from Lone Elm on July 4, 1909. Eight days later, I was born.... Before we moved, my father had been manager of the General Store at Lone Elm, and the family lived over the store. After moving to Boonville, my father become manager of the Boonville Mercantile Company, a hardware store.

The family became members of the Boonville Evangelical Church, now the United Church of Christ, in 1914. 1 was confirmed on March 25, 1923 by Rev. Frederick Stoerker and have continued my membership and activity in the church ever since.

I attended Central Elementary School and Boonville High School. I graduated from BHS in May 1927 with a class of 66 members. We were the last class not to wear caps and gowns. That custom started the following year.

On April 12, 1941, I was married to Henry Thomas Grathwohl at our home by Reverend Emil Abele. Dr. Paul Souder, brother-in-law, was my escort. Mrs. Paul Souder, my sister Alverta, was the pianist. She played "Finlandia." Woodard B. Hopkins, brother-in-law, was the soloist. Our attendants were Corine Grathwohl, Henry's sister, and Kenneth Rowe, my youngest brother. Dorothy Davis, a future sister-in-law [Kenneth's wife], was the candle lighter. After the ceremony my Mother had a wedding supper ready which she had prepared and served at home....

I might mention, though I suspect most of you here would know, that these pages of memories from which I am reading were neatly typed and laid out. The spelling and punctuation is as precise as Vera's eye for detail. She must have been an excellent stenographer. She would also have been a first-rate historian.

The dry wit for which she was well known is also present. Remembering that until her marriage at age 32 Vera was a 'city girl' of sorts, having been born in Boonville and having worked until just before her wedding in the business office of the telephone company, she noted of herself, "I had a lot to learn when I moved from town to the farm."

This was especially true for the first eight years, when there was no electricity on the farm "... until 1949, when REA was finally connected. We then got rid of the wood cook stove for an electric one and running water." I know her family and many neighbors here also still remember clearly, as did Vera, that day long ago when the lights first came on.

But electrified or not, "we enjoyed our home and had a lot of company ... and were blessed with two children. Charles William was born in October 1942, and Elizabeth Ann was born in July 1945." And later on, she and Henry "... enjoyed many trips, including ones to Hawaii, New York City, Puerto Rico, Florida, California, Colorado, and Michigan...."

In two other pages of memories, Vera describes further the historical linkages of her family and church.

My grandfather, David Rowe, was a charter member of the Boonville German Evangelical Church in 1853.... My father and mother, William and Christine Rowe, joined the Boonville Evangelical Church in April 1914, on the Easter Sunday that their oldest child, Alverta Rowe Souder, was confirmed in this church.

When my father died in 1936 he was Vice President of the Church Council. He had been a member for many years and had also been Treasurer. When he died the choir members had been working on their first choir robes. They managed to get them finished to be worn for the first time at his funeral.

So many flowers came from organizations for his funeral that a suggestion was made to give memorials instead. That was the beginning of our Church Memorial Fund, which still continues. It started in 1936.

Later on, she mentions:
I well remember giving a several thousand dollar memorial for my parents. A few days later I had a call from the church president to see if it could be used to build inside front steps. I agreed. It wasn't long until our church carpenters were at work. The job turned out to be beautiful and useful.
We in the funeral party walked up those steps from the lower level of the church to the sanctuary this morning to begin this service.

The values taught by family and church are also apparent:

The William Rowes had six [living] children, three daughters and three sons. All of the children were confirmed in the Boonville Evangelical Church. At home and at church, the Rowe children were taught to respect our pastors and our teachers. We obeyed. I have many fond memories of teachers that I enjoyed through the years.
Vera also reflects on changes in the church through her life, which spanned over a third of our nation's history. She refers to the German ethnic heritage of the church, a history of which we are reminded each time we enter this building by the inscriptions on the stained-glass windows.
My father was a member of the Church Choir and sang the German songs that were used in the services. He did not know German and he did not know the meaning of the words he was singing.
During World War I, the songs and services were changed from German into English, while family connections with music and the choir continued.
. . . my sister Erna's husband, Woodard Hopkins, was choir director for many years. At the time of Erna's death her children gave to the church, in memory of their parents, the piano that is used in the choir loft every Sunday.
And she also fondly remembered other past practices within the church:
For many years it was the church custom to have Mission Festival Sunday with morning and afternoon services and a noon dinner. We always enjoyed the full day. It became the habit for my Mother and another lady to always cut the cakes. They both had children and remembered them with a sack full of cake crumbs and icing. This was before we had the Educational Building, back when the meal was served in the church basement.

It was [also] the custom for many years to send young representatives to the summer sessions of the Elmhurst Training School, near Chicago. The three Rowe sisters enjoyed attendance and were all Sunday School teachers. I attended in 1927.

In Vera's memories are also hints of the determination and willpower (some may have called it "stubbornness") which characterized her personality right up to the very last hours.
We also had Junior and Senior Evangelical Leagues with many people attending. I was in charge of the Junior League, and with the help of friends we had many good meetings. I believed in giving stars for good interest in events. One mother resented my doing so, but I continued.
And there are two suggestions for the current Church Council:
The Golden Link Girls Class started the Mother and Daughters Banquet and it grew and grew. I wish it could be started again.

[And] ... one of our faithful families gave the Church a Memorial Tape Recorder. For many Sundays, after I was no longer able to come to services, I enjoyed the tapes. They have stopped and are missed. I wish the practice could be started again for our shut-ins.

Vera concluded her memories by saying how pleased she had been when her son Charles was elected to the church council, and when her daughter Betty Ann's husband became a pastor in the Christian Church. She expressed her hope that her two grandchildren who live in Boonville, Kristen and Kurt, will continue to work for the church and help it grow.

With Vera's passing, it is almost as if an era has ended. And yet we know that she will live on in our memories.

Vera Grathwohl's life did touch us all. Whether we knew her as daughter, sister, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, grandmother or great-grandmother; or as friend, neighbor or simply a compassionate member and supporter of the church and community in which she lived, Vera will be warmly remembered and sorely missed.

Betty Ann Maddex and Vera Grathwohl, April 22, 2001, Cooper County Medical Center
Right to the very last hour, Vera always had her big, warm smile!
(Photo and digital editing by John D. Hopkins)

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