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Memories of Mom

Anna Luetta Jungas Hiebert


From the time of my birth until the age of four, I do not recall much about Mother. I was in the hands of ayahs or older siblings. My first really clear memories come from the years in Reedley.

Mom was my salvation. Dad was a very strict disciplinarian, and I often strayed from the path he intended for us to walk. Thus I have good and bad memories from those years. I liked to chat in church as I did not understand the German sermon and was more interested in exchanging information with friends. I also chewed gum in church on a day Dad preached. Such behaviors brought a spanking with Dad's leather shaving strap. Mom would stand near and say," That's enough, John." Mom never physically disciplined me and she would see to it that Dad would keep the spanking merciful. Nonetheless, I would try to avoid contact by seeking out friends and playing a lot of softball after school. Mom would come to my bed and tell me that Dad was using the methods of discipline he had had as a child and that it was not what she had grown up with.

Mom never enjoyed cooking or cleaning. She would have preferred my life - a world of books and a Ph.D. I still marvel at her drive to learn. After Dad died, she spent some years in Minnesota, she took care of Grandma Jungas for a while. She enrolled in a course at Mankato State since several from her church were going there and invited her to go along. She enrolled in Chemistry. At mid-term, she received an F based on absences. She had attended all classes, so she knew something was wrong. Come to find out, she was attending the Physics class and doing very well in it while the Chem teacher had not seen her and marked her as Absence-Failure. They allowed her to change her registration to Physics. She ended up acing Physics. I was proud of her. Her success in this course led her to take several other courses. She enjoyed taking classes. I often found her reading my textbooks and found that her preferred subject matter was math and, later on, computers (even though we gave her her first computer in her late eighties.

She always took time to congratulate us on educational successes and championed women's equal rights. She kept saying that girls can do everything boys can do and do it better. She would have been a good leader of a women's rights organization.


*She was standing on the train station platform wearing a print dress, blue sweater and topee, as the train pulled away bearing me and Grace to Kodai, grades 4 and 3, traveling with strangers. A dear familiar figure I can see to this day.

*We were out on the back veranda with wash basins, Mom teaching us to wash clothes.

*Mom sewing us dresses to get ready for Kodai, making them nice. I remember a flowered dress with alternating pink and blue buttons. She cared how we looked.

*A couple of us had worked hard to clear out a back room at Tanglewood for a place to play. Mother said in surprise, "But it's Sunday." Work on Sunday?

*Mom reading Shakespeare during rest hours on the station.

*We had planted a patch of radishes at Tanglewood, but moved back into the dorm when they were still small. I came to my dorm room after school the day they left and found, on the windowsill, a shoebox of dirt with our radishes planted in it. she had remembered them, and us.

*Mother bargaining with shop keepers. They were always her friends.

*Mother learning how to play Indian drums.

*The green and black kimono bought in Japan on a hasty shopping trip off the ship. She had hesitated between two, bought the other one, then sent poor Dad back to exchange it...I think he nearly missed the boat.

*Mt. Lake. Mom made us wear grandma's knitted shawls walking to school in below-zero weather. I went, but Grace refused--she stayed home.

*Reedley. Canning 400 jars of fruit each summer. Feeding the stray cats. Endless laundry. Once after a bout of flu she remarked that it was almost worth being sick because it felt so good when you got well. Cutting apricots to earn a little money.

*Mother nervous about entertaining company and about making speeches. Critical of preachers who used bad grammar.

*So much cleaning at that farm house. At the end of one Saturday she came into our bedroom and gave Grace and me each a quarter to show her appreciation. The gesture meant everything.

*Mother at the piano, Gwen and Jo on each side of her, singing.

*Hillsboro. Hard days with Dad ill. A small gift to Dad at Christmas--a pen, given at the Kingsburg park. She carried out a small potted cactus one day thinking it might be the thing making him ill. Driving her to Kings View to hear that Dad had died.

*Mt. Lake with grandma. Greyhound, her second home. Picking her up at the Fresno bus station. Vern said, "She always comes in smiling." Once she was knitting on the bus with her eyes shut. I asked why--she said she had been told she was getting cataracts so she was practicing knitting blind.

*Rebuking grandchildren if she felt they were imposing on their mothers, her children.

*Her beautiful white hair.

*At 90, asking me to play "Somewhere, My Love" as she stood there, thinking of Dad. This I will never, never forget.


I so often wish Mom were alive so I could tell her the many, many things I've thought of these last years. I keep wondering why I got so caught up in arguing about nothing things like why I thought Reagan wasn't the god she thought he was, why I didn't believe the way she did, why the movie I was showing her was good even though it wasn't Sound of Music. Why didn't I ask her about events in her life and about her thoughts? I'd like her back one day. No, make that one week. No, actually make that at least one year.


-always busy with our big family, small house with only one bathroom--no, make that one bathroom and one outhouse near the garden. -I can't imagine how she kept up with feeding all of us kids, but I don't remember ever being hungry or told I had to eat something I didn't like. On Saturdays she baked all the bread/zwiebach; we could have one zwiebach that day but the others were for Sunday. Gwen & I would sit out on our double swing, take the soft centers out, squeeze them into a ball, shut our eyes and make wish while eating this morsel. -She canned fruits and vegetables throughout the summer, which helped feed our big family throughout the year. I later told her I loved this one casserole she used to make--she told me she made it when money was so tight she had to use anything left in the cupboard and put it together in a meal.

-Sewing: in Reedley, mom would use the fabric from flour sacks to make clothes for us. Gwen and I were often dressed alike except for different colored fabrics. Later when we were in Kodai, she and the dergi would sew dresses for us while we were home on vacation. She would sometimes use fabric from dresses sent in missionary barrels; she would take more time laying out a pattern to use every square inch of the material than she would in actually sewing the outfit. If the pattern said to use 2 yards, she managed with 1 1/4 yards. When we came to Hillsboro, I remember she made broomstick skirts for us--not sure if we wanted these or if they were in style. One time when I was in Wheaton I wrote asking her to make me a special black "velvet" jumper with straps at the shoulder to wear with a white blouse; I wanted this for my first big date with Frank--going to the ROTC banquet. She made it, sent it, and it fit perfectly! Wow.

-never quiet; always working on something; loved to play family games, especially Flinch and Phyl's wooden set of MahJong

-listening to Henry Aldridge and Dig-Me-Odell, the Friendly Undertaker radio programs while ironing

-always had a baby to take care of; Phyl and Grace would take care of Gwen & me

-loved Dad completely and was always supportive of Dad even though her belief that she was "an obedient" wife was funny. Dad used to say that Mom would disagree with the Apostle Paul about the place of women in the home/church when she got to heaven


-mom and dad singing together when we were out on tour; they harmonized so beautifully.

-loved kids; took in a little baby--his mother had died and the father had brought him to our house so we kept him until a home could be found; an Indian family on the compound offered to take him but he was very weak and died soon afterwards

-mom out on the veranda giving out medicines in Mahbubnagar since we didn't have a nurse available at this station

-really good at math; learned to read/write Telegu faster than Dad but said he was always the one that could speak and understand it better than she could

-loved Dad completely and was always supportive of him even though her belief that she was "an obedient" wife was funny. Dad used to say that Mom would disagree with the Apostle Paul about the place of women in the home/church when she got to heaven

-the accident when our car went into the Krishna River. Mom managed to grab Loey (baby at the time) and get out of the car. Luckily--since she didn't know how to swim--she came up near the barge, holding Loey up so people could see her & dive to rescue both of them. She planned to go back down for me but people held her back. I came up downstream a bit and was rescued by some fishermen. Mrs. Kasper and Julius drowned--and mom & I both felt for years that we had somehow caused this disaster.


-she would think we should always be learning something so she'd bring a Reader's Digest to the table and try to encourage us to learn new words

-she tried to bring some humor into Dad's life when he was beginning to become depressed: get us all to climb under the table and hide when he came for lunch, throw hangers down the stairs to make a clatter when he came. To get us up in the mornings she would come close and say, "I'm going to spit in your ear." I don't remember that working with me since I figured she never would.

-the silver dollars she found (twice) in hidden pipes down in the basement

-dark days when Dad was ill; too dark to even write about


-always supportive of my working with kids with special needs; tell me she was proud of me; proud of her children. We would tell her that she and Dad gave us a wealth in siblings

-strength after Dad died; I would go home to Mt. Lake when she, Marg, Loey were there; we'd stay up late & I'd put make-up on Margy & Loey, and we'd giggle & talk; mom'd keep telling us to get to bed

-lived in Batavia after she and Loey came back from Kodai; worked in a home for unwed mothers. She was willing to forgive the ones who were having first babies but not as willing to forgive the repeat offenders

-never had a home of her own; Chris once painted a picture of her "home" and mom standing in front of it; she kept it up on the wall

-stories she would tell: about holding a baby (Bets, I think) when a water buffalo charged at her; tucked baby protectively in her arms and charged back at the buffalo screaming; it turned away

-she would say she understood God's love being like a father's love because of the love her own father showed for her; she remembered a time when she had misbehaved and Grandma told her Grandpa would punish her when he got done with work; he felt bad spanking mom so made sure she was near the fireplace and warm/cozy when he carried out the punishment.

-Mom used to tell us that Grandma Jungas didn't want her to leave for India as a missionary; decided it was God's testing her like Abraham/Isaac so she outwardly accepted it while waiting for God to tell her she wouldn't actually have to give up her daughter. Devastated/ when the train came, mom and dad left, and God hadn't intervened.


Early days in India - these memories are sort of fuzzy but she was more of a constant presence - just a soft person, not loud but just there. I do, though, remember when Joanne and I were looking through a Sears & Roebuck Catalog and were viewing with interest the women's underwear section. Mother rushed over to close the book, telling us that that was not good to look at with Indian men around. There were visits to Helen's grave and her tears when the older children had to leave for school in Kodai. Mother always wore those house dresses that fell almost to her socks. I can almost bring back the smell of her in those dresses.

Reedley, California

My general impression was that she was depressed and, in retrospect, I am sure I would have been in her circumstances--poor, a small house, many children, and a husband driven to upgrade a Mennonite high school while traveling regularly to Los Angeles to get his masters degree in History. I enjoyed washing clothes with her in the wash house. Once I was home sick and she took time out from washing to sit down and read with me; I must have been in second grade. I felt so special and loved! She seemed to always be cleaning, washing clothes, or sewing our clothes. I had the impression that she felt out of place in California. We were truly different from those in the church who had more than we did and whose lives were so different. She was not as happy there as she was later in her life in India.


I was so preoccupied with being a teenager that I didn't pay much attention to Mom. She was patient with my fussing about my clothes. She once redid a hem because I wanted it a half inch higher. When she took on the job of housemother in a house at Lockend which held the overflow from Boyer of us 7th graders, she once let me stay home for the day because I was upset with my hair not looking right that day. Of course, there is the story I've told before of my surprise at her pregnancy (with Loey), feeling I had somehow been betrayed. I thought the tears and sadness she displayed at our going off to boarding school would remain the entire time I was gone. Evidently, she managed to dry those tears. Then Loey's birth was a grand time. Betty, Joanne, and even Paul, and I rushed home daily to Bruton to play with her. What fun! I remember that Mom kept Loey in bed with her at night so she didn't have to get up to feed her. I was really angry when we were given the task of picking a middle name for Loey and Paul's choice ruled. When Paul suggested we go to bed at dusk and rise with the sun to save money, Mom didn't argue and I feared we would have to bow to Paul's demands.


These memories are painful so I'll leave this as a chapter unto itself. The first difficulty for Mom was fitting into the college's demands. She seemed to feel inferior to the professors and their wives. She was in agony over having to host a tea for them in that first house we lived in. Then she seemed happy to purchase a house of our own but she still did not feel comfortable with the college crowd. The day we moved, she worried aloud over and over again that Betty or I might sleepwalk out on the balcony off of our bedroom--no railing. I had never walked in my sleep and never since, but that first night in that house I woke up standing on that balcony peering over the edge. Then there was that money she found in a pipe in the vent (she cleaned incessantly during those days of Dad's illness). After our arguments that we should keep the money, about $125 which we desperately needed, she gave in and sent only half back to the son of the former owner of the house, a distant relative. With Dad's illness, I moved more and more into Ed's family circle to relieve the pain. When I had to give a speech at the Junior/Senior Banquet, she sewed a dress and brought it from Minnesota where she and Dad were living at the time. The zipper wasn't in yet so I put the dress on and she sewed the seam shut. Later she made my wedding dress which I still have.

Over the years since then she visited me and I did not visit her as often as I wish I had. She would call from the bus station saying that she was in town or show up at the door without warning. When I asked what she would do if we were not home she said, "Well, I'd just get on the bus and go to Margie's." My regrets are that I did not attend more to her needs, visit her more, call her more often, write, and keep up with her concerns. But I remember that she said in those last years, "Don't ever feel regrets about me. When you start to think that way, just stop." So I will and will pass that blessing on to my children.

Excerpts from letters:

Excerpts from Mom's letters to Rose Schroth, Dick's mother. Rose immigrated to the US from Germany in the late l920s. She spoke English with a heavy German accent. The two women corresponded regularly but never met in person. I believe they are together now, talking German and knitting up a storm. - Gwen

Celeste, Texas
January 6, 1992

Dear Rose,

Gwen and I just got back late last night from Albuquerque where we had gone last Wednesday to visit her daughter Debbie and her family for a few days! We had Christmas together here at Dick and Gwen's home.... It was a nice and pleasant family time.... The next day, my daughter Phyllis and her husband joined us for a late dinner. ...I was delightfully surprised to receive a parcel from you. Thank you for the scarf and the gloves! With our cold weather in Minnesota both should be very useful. I especially appreciate the gloves, since I lost one of mine.

I didn't send many cards this year, and wasn't well enough to even send gifts to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I have been having severe back pain for months and have been to Omaha where they have given me pain blockers (injections into my lower spine) to help relieve the pain. They think I may have to have back surgery....

Anna L. Hiebert

March, 1994
Dear Rose,

I talked with Gwen a few minutes ago--on the phone. I thought I would write you and let you know that I am getting along well after my back surgery two weeks ago.

The surgeon found two places in my lower back where there was pressure on my spinal column򳍄on the nerve. He was able to remove what was pressing the nerve and he feels I will feel much better after the incision heals up. I was in the hospital a week and in a "care home" 5 days. Then Bette brought me to her home. I can take care of myself now򳍄just need to be careful about bending to pick things up. I'll be here one more week; then my daughter Joanne is coming by care to get me to her home in Illinois for a week or two. By then I ought to feel back to normal again. many people are having the flu. Gwen had flu when I got there. I had a good time with Gwen and Dick. We played the game Rummicube a number of times.

...This picture was done by my oldest daughter Phyllis. She sketches scenes from other countries when they travel.

With love, Anna L.Hiebert

March 15, 1994
Mt. Lake, Minn.

Dear Rose:

Sorry to have delayed answering your letter for so long. I am finally feeling better after so many weeks of lack of energy--I am so sorry you fell and hurt your shoulder. Is it getting better by now? As you know I had broken my shoulder in Guatamala but it is healed up but I have some loss of shoulder movement....

I am getting very forgetful. Did I thank you for the night slippers you sent me? I did and do appreciate your kindness.

God willing I will go to Omaha and fly to California for a prolonged visit--maybe a month. My daughter JoAnne and her husband frank will come to drive me to Omaha on the 27th of this month. Then after Easter I'll fly to Cal. To my daughter Grace's in Santa Ana.

I have been able till now to take care of myself but as I get older, my heart causes more trouble and I may have to go into a care home. I may decide to go to live with my daughter Grace in California but I would have to come home first to clear out my apartment, if I could get some of my children to help me. That would be a difficult move for me. One does not want to give up one's home--God has been good to me. At 87 I can still work about the house, do a little cooking and baking and take care of myself. I do need help to take me to the grocery store and to get to church. But my nephew's wife Helen has been very good to help me. My brother John also, but he is in Florida for the time being.

The little "Jerusalem" card (enclosed) I brought from the Holy Land when I was there some years ago.... It is so good to be able to trust the Lord for all our needs and especially for salvation and the hope of eternal life.... Thanks again for being my friend--I would have loved to visit you personally. I call Gwen and Dick occasionally. I think they are doing well....

Anna L. Hiebert

Mt. Lake, Minn.
Wed., July 27, 1994

Dear Rose:

What a thoughtful and kind thing to do, to send me the Daily Word. Thank you!

...Two of my daughters visited me last week. Bette brought me a computer and a printer, and taught me to use it--in the very simplest things. I want to write out a history of my family as far back as I can go, mostly for the sake of my younger children.

How is your health? Can you manage all your cooking and cleaning? I feel fairly good at present. I have a young woman come in once in a while to vacuum and dust, etc. My brother John takes me grocery shopping, since I can't walk so well....

Anna Hiebert

P.S. Gwen is planning to come visit me briefly in September!

January, 1995
Dear Rose,

Gwen sent me the lovely white shawl you had made for me. Thank you, dear sister.... My daughter, Bette, is coming to get me to be with her two weeks - to Omaha - leaving here Sunday. Take good care of yourself and God bless you!

P.S. I believe Dick once said your family is of German background. My father was born in Germany; his family name was Yungoard Jungas. Do any of your family speak German? I do, but rather poorly because I don't speak it often enough.

Love, Anna Hiebert

January 11, 1995 (this letter was printed rather than in script)

Dear Rose,

The holidays are over and life is getting back to the usual normal pace. I didn't feel too good for a long time but feel better again. Although the stress of the holidays is now gone, the Lord, whose birthday we celebrated, is still with us and will be all year round.

I want to thank you, dear Rose, for the very thoughtful gift of the Readers Digest. I appreciate your kind thought and love. Wish I could do something for you but my activities are very limited these days. But I do love you; I would like to see you someday but may have to wait for HEAVEN. God bless you for all your kindness!

With love, Anna Hiebert

P.S. The picture on the card was made by my daughter Phyllis when she was in Korea.

Boulder, Colorado
Sept. 4, 1996

Dear Rose, (this was printed, not written in long hand)

Thank you so much for the book "Where Angels Walk" which you sent me through Gwen. I have read almost all of it already. I know God's Word tells us there are angels, and I'm sure they help us more than we know! In India we tell God's protection for ourselves and our children--in many dangerous situations. I'm glad children have their angels that hover over them.... I am doing very well most of the time. I have made some new friends here in the home. I thank God for His daily help.... My children, all eight of them, were here to help celebrate my birthday.

With love, Anna Hiebert
(note on the back that this card was made by her grandson, Steve Sorensen)