OBITUARY

Erna Katherina Caldwell

December 1, 1920June 4, 2018
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Erna Katherina Caldwell

Erna Katherina Caldwell, nee Ochs, was born in Plankstadt, Germany, to Fritz and Emma Ochs on December 1, 1920. She was the oldest of five children and was raised in the small farming town, particularly well known throughout Germany for the asparagus grown in the surrounding fields. Erna’s grandparents were innkeepers. Their inn, “Der Rosengarten,” was one of the main social centers of life in the town - a place where local farmers, the town doctor, and others regularly came together to catch up on local news, play a game of cards, or enjoy a warm schnitzel and a cold beer. Although she lived in a small farming town tucked between the famous university at Heidelberg and the Rhine River, where nothing much seemed to change, Erna and the other townspeople were affected by world events. They experienced the hyperinflation of the 1920s, which wiped out her family’s savings. They also experienced the horrors of “Der Krieg” (the war). While Plankstadt was largely spared the great terrors of the war due to geography, the war impacted nearly every family. Food was scarce, even in a farming town. Erna and her young relatives traveled far afield on their bicycles to barter for goods scarce or not available in their area. They called it “Hamster-ing.” Erna’s great loss, however, was the death of her fiancé, a German soldier, who died fighting on the Russian Front. With the end of the war came an uncertain future for the country and Plankstadt. Erna worked at various jobs, including as a governess for the family of an American Army colonel in Heidelberg. She also spent time helping at her family’s inn. It was at the inn she came in contact with American soldiers stationed nearby, including Paul, a young GI from the banks of the Mississippi River in the American Midwest, whom she would marry. They had two children. As the wife of a GI Erna’s life changed dramatically. Instead of the familiar faces and routines of her home town, with the social support of friends and family, she plunged into the itinerant life of an Army wife in a strange new language and culture. Regular moves to new duty stations, losing contact with friends and making new ones (most of whom had very different backgrounds), and the great challenge she never really mastered: communicating in English. But it was enough to enable her to pass muster for US citizenship in 1955. She came to like the Army life, and would often fondly reminisce about the many friends she and Paul made during their travels. Two sisters and one brother would eventually follow her lead and emigrate from Germany to America. After retiring from the Army, Paul and Erna settled in southern California, where they spent the remainder of their lives. After Paul suffered a stroke in 2002 Erna cared for him with the help of her daughter Sharon and family. Shortly after Paul died in 2007 Erna was unable to live independently due to increasing dementia and she moved in with Sharon and her family. In December 2009 Erna moved into a care center, where she lived until she required hospice care in December 2016, when Sharon took her back into her home to care for her with her roommate, Patty, a maternal cousin.

Services

  • Visitation Thursday, June 14, 2018
  • Rosary Thursday, June 14, 2018
  • Funeral Mass Friday, June 15, 2018
  • Burial Friday, June 15, 2018
REMEMBERING

Erna Katherina Caldwell

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