Hedwig Holstein, age 85, of Geneva, passed away Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at Inspirations Assisted Living Facility in St. Charles surrounded by her family.
She was born December 19, 1932 in Germany the daughter of Rentner Johann and Albertine (Wieczorek) Sacher.
Hedy never had it easy. At a very young age, she had to take care of her parents. First her father, who died of cancer when she was 16 and then her mother. As war clouds looked over eastern Germany, money, food and medicine were very scarce. As the Russian front moved westward, she and family had to run. They left with nothing and they were in constant peril. She saw horrors, some of which she never spoke until days before her passing.
After the war, she reconnected with the man who would become our father. As young newlyweds, they dreamed of a better life. They wanted to raise a family in a place that offered opportunity and north eastern Germany was ravaged and would take a long time to recover. They considered New Zealand and even Greenland. But, ultimately, the opportunity of the United States drew them to leave everything once again.
Thanks to the benevolence of her sister in law, Hedy and Erwin made their way to Chicago. They had no money, no belongings and spoke no English. They found a small flat in a Chicago bungalow owned by an elderly German couple who took them under their wings. Slowly, they found odd jobs and scraped together money, literally pennies at a time. Eventually dad found work as a typesetter at Curt Teich and Co., a German owned company that printed beautiful color postcards. Mom found work as a seamstress making high-end draperies for Marshall Field and Company. They skimped and saved. They were on their way to living the American Dream, but it was never easy.
They also tried to start a family. Like everything else, it wasn’t easy. They prayed and ultimately, Mark was born in 1961, almost ten years after they married. Sonja came soon after in 1963. Chris was born in 1970. Mom immediately stopped working and became a devoted and dedicated parent.
Shortly after Mark was born, they bought their first house in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, an enclave of German immigrants. Mom’s brother- in-law described the house as a “cow stall” because it was in pretty rough shape. But it was what they could afford and they were thrilled to have it. They loved that house. It was a safe neighborhood, the schools were good, and they had neighbors that welcomed them.
They put their blood, sweat and tears into that old house and made it a beautiful home. Money was very tight, but we never felt deprived. Mom was great cook and could stretch groceries in very creative ways. Dad spent every spare minute working on that house, pausing only if money for supplies ran out. We lived the pretty idyllic childhood that seems so elusive these days. They taught us the value of hard work, education and family. They inspired us to be the people we are today.
Later, in 1976, when Sonja and Mark were in high school, when mom could take her eye off them a bit, Erwin and Hedy purchased a retail business and building on the northwest side of Chicago, the Zenith Hobby Shop. The idea was that mom could run the retail business while still being involved with the family. She was a natural. She had a knack with people, and in an era where the “hobby” business was dying, she made it successful. She had many customers who came in regularly to pay her a visit and buy things.
When it was finally time to give up the retail business, and perhaps in a nod to those first landlords, they purchased a Chicago bungalow on the northwest side of Chicago, just west of the Hobby shop. Mark and his new wife Sue rented the flat upstairs. Sonja lived nearby. And in 1988, when Sonja’s daughter Lauren was born, mom took over childcare so that Sonja could return to work.
It was quite amusing to watch these stern German parents become grandparents! All of the strict discipline gave way to pure unadulterated love as they raised Lauren. They were silly, playful, loving and wonderful. They pretty much raised Lauren in her early years.
In 1990, Mark and Susan bought a house in Geneva. After one visit, Erwin and Hedy decided to move there too. The beautiful Fox River valley reminded them of Germany and, of course, they wanted to be close to family. Almost immediately, Sonja, John, and Lauren followed and the Holsteins and Drobenas were together.
Unfortunately, Mom lost dad in 1998 just days before her 64th birthday and right in the midst of the holidays. It was unexpected and very hard.
But, as ever, she regrouped and refocused her life on her family. She traveled with the kids, gardened, tended to dad’s fish pond, went to school events, theater, dinners out and trying to enjoy her golden years.
Of course, in the end, her health started to become the focus of her life. By then, Mark and Sue had relocated to Houston. Sonja (and John)and Chris stepped in and became her caregivers, short order cooks, housekeepers and most importantly, cheerleaders. She always felt loved and cared for, right up to the end.
And in the end, it was never easy for Hedy. But she never lost her positive attitude and optimism for her family and her life. She loved to tell us about a successful therapy session, or a bingo win, or how she told off a nurse that needed it. She remained feisty and full of life throughout.
She inspired us to be hardworking, honest and good.
She is survived by her children Mark (Susan) of Houston, Sonja (John) Drobena of Geneva, and Christian of St. Charles; grandchildren, Lauren and Eric Drobena and Louis Ray; great grandchildren Zack and Brianna Ray; and many other dear relatives and friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents and her loving husband of 46 years Erwin who passed away in 1998.
Visitation for Hedwig will be held Tuesday, January 30th 2018 from 9:00 am until the time of her funeral service at 11 am at Malone Funeral Home, 324 E. State Street, Geneva with Deacon Bill Johnson officiating.
Burial will follow at Oak Hill Cemetery in Geneva.
In lieu of flowers, memorials to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater Illinois Chapter, 525 W. Monroe Street, Chicago, Illinois 60661 would be appreciated.
For information call 630-232-8233 or visit malonefh.com.