OBITUARY

Berta Belle Baschnagel

January 26, 1926July 11, 2021
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Berta Belle Schorlemer, born January 26, 1926, in Runge, Texas, spent most of her childhood in and around the Yorktown/Meyersville area. Berta was the first girl in a family of six boys and two girls. Prior to birth, her name was supposed to be Virginia Marie, but at the last moment her Mama changed her mind and named her Berta Belle after a close friend. Unfortunately, the doctor did not get the message. At age 20, she needed legal documents to work for Cameron Iron Works and discovered, per her birth certificate, that she was Virginia Marie. She changed her name to the one she had used all her life, Berta Belle. Five siblings and her beloved parents predecease her. Marie Amalie “Mamie” and Wilhelm Ludwig Schorlemer (Mama and Daddy), Walter, Woodrow D., Daniel Frank, and Wendel Carroll, (brothers), and Demeris Lois Smith (sister). Her youngest brothers, affectionately known as The Twins, Roger O. and Robert E., survive.

From stories she shared, her childhood was full of hard work and family. And given the jokester, irreverent nature of her and her siblings, plenty of fun and laughter. Her daddy was an entrepreneur and moved the family several times to take advantage of new opportunities. From the farm where she was born, they moved to Yoakum to open a successful family dairy: Schorlemer Dairy. From age 6, she awoke at 5:00 every morning to milk, strain, and bottle the milk for delivery. Berta and her brothers hung on the side of the family Model-T pickup delivery truck, jumping off at each customer’s house to run the glass bottles of milk up to the door.

Speaking exclusively German at home, she learned English at age 6 when she and Daniel enrolled in the county school. Depending on the luck of the draw, one of them rode the horse while the other one walked. During her primary school years, the family moved from Yorktown to Meyersville, to Heinevillle, to Yorktown. She joined the 4th grade class of Yorktown Elementary six weeks before the end of the term and became best friends with Mary Evelyn (Seim) Hillmer (Epie). They maintained contact and friendship for her entire life. A life-long Lutheran, Berta received a General Degree from Texas Lutheran University and later took classes at the University of Houston.

She laughed when she talked about helping her mama clean the house on Saturdays. The family radio sat in the front room, so she would sweep that floor repeatedly while listening to her favorite programs and singing along to her favorite songs. Berta had the soul of an artist. An accomplished vocalist who performed as a soloist in recitals, she always enjoyed singing. For her entire life, her artistic flair was obvious. Her beautiful watercolors, touching and heartfelt poetry, lavishly decorated homes, stylishly bold way of dressing, and unwavering love of adventure revealed the muse within her.

Herbert (Herb) Baschnagel was the love of Berta’s life. Their first date was on “Senior Day.” He was a senior; she was a sophomore. Herb enlisted in the Army during WWII and served as Master Sergeant in the Motor Pool. Exchanging letters while he served in the Pacific Theatre, their romance blossomed. They married in 1946 despite opposition from their families. Lutherans and Catholics were not supposed to fall in love, but none of that mattered to them. They had an incredible love bond, and their 46 years of marriage was a testament to what a genuinely good marriage looks like. Berta tried to get Herb to go by Bert so they could be Bert and Berta, but he declined. Originally living in Yorktown, they owned a butcher shop and ice cream parlor. After Berta suffered a burn in conjunction with working at the shop, they sold the businesses and moved to Houston, where she could receive the necessary burn care. Herb initially worked as a welder at the Houston Ship Channel and then became the best mechanic in the area. Together they had four amazing sons, David (who passed away in 1966 at age 12), Billy, Wendell, and Robin, and a lovely, adopted daughter, Nancy, who passed away in 2019.

Herb and Berta had an inspiring life together. They built a strong and loving family which endures to this day. Showing their children every day what a marriage partnership should be, Berta and Herb opened multiple businesses, supported and encouraged one another, traveled (sometimes purchasing cars along

the way!), joined the Starlight Ballroom Dance Club (which included hosting champagne breakfasts), entertained lavishly, loved their kids, served in their church, and reached for the stars while keeping their feet firmly on the ground.

Berta’s professional life was as successful and varied as her personal life. In Houston she worked for local developer and businessman Gil Gertner, rising from Assistant Building Manager to Head of the Accounting Department, then Executive Assistant overseeing the operation of over 2,000 apartments, hospitals, and nursing homes. Berta was the “right hand man” in that office for 20 years. Her entrepreneurial spirit, financial genius, and extraordinary vision were invaluable. It was during these years that she treated her boys, their friends, and their cousins to limousine rides to rock concerts!

After leaving Gertner, Berta joined her sister, Demeris, in the nursing home industry. She established a design department at ARA Services and with her natural design talent, renovated over 150 nursing homes. Berta continued with her design passion by opening her own design studio. Her crowning achievement was the design and furnishing of the Southwest Texas-Southern Louisiana Synod Bishop’s Office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Houston, Texas.

In 1978, Berta was the first woman elected as President of the Congregation of Holy Cross Lutheran Church. An amazing opportunity arose when she was nominated by the bishop to join a delegation from the Lutheran World Federation to travel to East Germany. The delegation of five traveled behind the Iron Curtain to bring support and hope to Christians. Deeply touched, she recorded her experience in a short book titled Doors to the DDR. And this was not her last mission trip. In her mid-eighties, she traveled several times to Honduras with St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Austin, taking grandsons Brandon and Cody with her. There she worked her usual magic, becoming a favorite with the ladies and children, who would run to her calling her name when she arrived.

After Herb’s passing in 1992, Berta moved to Austin and built a showplace home in Lewis Mountain Ranch. Her homes were always decorated to the nines! Her collections of porcelain ladies, stemware, dishes, oriental décor, unique items, (to name just a few) and love of all things sparkly and beautiful is legendary. Berta operated several antique booths, offered design services, served as one of the founders and president of the Austin Businesswomen’s Association (ABWA), and became a successful realtor with Keller Williams. Not to mention the events she attended as Elan the Clown, in full makeup and character! She was an enchanting hit as the beast from Beauty and the Beast and then Elan the Clown at her granddaughter Brittany’s 4th birthday. Berta always had a few irons in the fire! She also became an integral member of her son Billy’s insurance agency, The InsNet Group. She served as bookkeeper and sounding board for over five years, retiring when she married Hubert Menn in 1997 after reconnecting at the 100-Year Anniversary of the Lutheran Church in Yorktown, Texas. Always a businesswoman, she purchased several Austin properties to rent on Airbnb and VRBO. True to her nature, she made friends with every tenant.

Berta loved to travel and enjoyed nothing more than planning a trip. She traveled all over the world, with a special affinity for Italy. A few of her travel destinations included Alaska, Russia, Nova Scotia, Jerusalem, Holland, The Netherlands, Switzerland (where we watched the sun rise over the Matterhorn), and the fulfillment of a life’s dream to attend the Passion of the Christ in Oberammergau, Germany.

It is hard to believe Berta ever had a shy moment in her life. She was a natural entertainer, leader, and hostess, and she never, ever met a stranger. People were naturally drawn to her. Berta loved life and believed in living it to the fullest. Even in her last days, she charmed the nurses on the 4th Floor of Seton Main. Generous to a fault, she was always looking for the good in others and willing to help however she could. Berta found everyone she met interesting and would give each one her complete attention. She

could see each person’s potential, and when you talked to her, you felt like the most important and interesting person in her day. She remembered everyone and enjoyed introducing them to each other. She was a networking guru before networking was even a thing.

Although she lost a little vigor later in life, she never lost her zest for life. She loved her family, her friends, and her God. She was always up for an adventure or a business opportunity, even when her strength was lacking. Berta spent her last few years on Legacy Ranch in Mason, Texas. She enjoyed sitting in her rocking chair on the porch with her sweet Shih Tzu, Shadow, by her side, feeling the sun on her face, listening to the birds, feeling the breeze, and drinking her hot, black coffee. In the evening, smoked salmon and white wine always brought a smile. Every Friday, she went to eat catfish and okra at the London Grocery and Grill, where the ladies always commented on her outfits and her hats. Berta Belle Schorlemer Baschnagel was An Original. The type of person many of us would like to be when we grow up. As her family and friends, we were blessed to be a part of her life. Go in peace, dear Berta. We will miss you.

Services

  • Visitation

    Saturday, July 24, 2021

  • Funeral Service

    Sunday, July 25, 2021

  • Committal Service

    Monday, July 26, 2021

Memories

Berta Belle Baschnagel

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Janis Schorlemer Ploetz

July 22, 2021

What a wonderful memorial you shared about awesome Aunt Berta. You captured her essence beautifully! I know you will miss her dearly. She leaves a lasting legacy through the lives of her loving children Billy, Wendell and Robin and their families. Your Mom will live forever in your hearts!

Rest in Peace, Berta Belle. I know heaven is a brighter place now that you are there.

Heidi Gibbons

July 18, 2021

I'm so very sad to hear of Bert's passing. She was one of my favorite people at St. Martin's who always had a kind word, big smile and will be so missed. May peace be with all of your family.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

You only thought you knew Berta Belle...

FROM THE FAMILY

...until age 20, even she didn't know...

FROM THE FAMILY

...that her birth name was Virginia Marie

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

You only thought you knew Berta Belle...

FROM THE FAMILY

...until age 20, even she didn't know...

FROM THE FAMILY

...that her birth name was Virginia Marie

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY