Ruth Margaret Engler Longenecker (1903–2001)

My great grandfather, J. Hershey Longenecker (1889–1978), retired Morristown, TN with his wife Minnie (1887–1966). Minnie died in 1966 after 51 years of marriage. About a year later, Hershey proposed to Ruth Margaret Engler (1903–2001), Minnie’s niece. My great-grandfather died before I was born, but I remember many visits to my step-great grandmother in Maryville, TN where she lived until she died on August 7, 2001. What follows is a brief memoir “Grandma Ruth” wrote in 1995.

God gave us memories so that we may have roses in December.

author unknown

Early Childhood

On August 4, 1903 a baby girl was born to Annie Hauhart Engler and Martin Engler of Manchester, Missouri. Dr. Meisch was the attending doctor at our home. He continued to be our family physician. I was the first grandchild on the Hauhart side of the family. Aunt Mary, Aunt Julia, and Uncle Peter Hauhart lived on the neighboring farm. At times Aunt Minne and Uncle Edward were also at home with the Hauhart sisters and brothers. I must have been very spoiled by all this attention and gifts.

When I was almost four years old my one and only sister was added to the family. She was named Esther Evelyn. She was more daring than I, so I took care that she would not climb on dangerous places. We had many places to play on the farm. Our pets were dogs and cats. We also had indoor games.

I remember some special gifts given by the Hauhart relatives. There was a white parasol with embroidery used as insertions. The pretty doll dishes made possible tea parties with our dolls or grownups. One tea set was hand painted. We were careful so that when we grew up, there were some left to divide. Esther had some to give to her children.

We also learned to work, helping with the gardening, marketing, and housework. We had relatives in St. Louis who came to visit us. Cousins Elmer, Norval and Flora Catherine were children of Uncle Frank and Aunt Helen (Reitz). In Uncle Herman’s and Aunt Cecilia’s (Shields, nicknamed “Aunt Pink”) home were two more cousins, Helen and Shields. Their visits were always lively times for us. As the years passed we often had family gatherings at the Hauhart home. The cousins bought fireworks for the July 4 celebrations. Helen’s Aunt, Lillie Shields, gave her fancy pieces of silk, satin, and fur. We learned to sew for our dolls making a wardrobe, including hats. Croquet became our favorite outdoor game.

Gifts from our parents were usually practical things, as clothing. But on Christmas we were surprised, as we each received a lavalier necklace. That was a very special gift! Each season we were given a special dress for Sunday. I remember one especially when I was about 12. It was a soft serge, light brown but trimmed with red velvet. Our best dresses were made by Mrs. Umbach of Manchester.

There was never a question about going to church in Ballwin each Sunday. Our transportation was by a horse-drawn buggy while we were small enough to sit on our parents laps. Later a surrey, with front and back seats and drawn by two horses, gave us a more comfortable ride to Ballwin. I listened to many German sermons and hymns which gave me an understanding of the German language. Mother also had a beginner’s book of German from which she taught us. During World War I, the church services were conducted in English, and that practice continued after that. A revival meeting was held every year. When I was nine, my father suggested that it was time for me to make a public decision for Christ. So that is what I did at the meeting.

During the next three winters I was a member of a class taught by the pastor on Saturday. During that time, we studied Old Testament history, followed by the New Testament, and the final year, catechism. In 1915, at the age of 12, I joined the church with other class members.

Education: Grade and High School

My elementary education was in Manchester at a two room school. The daughter of our family doctor was my first teacher. I liked Delia Meisch very much. Since I owned a red coat, I was chosen to be Little Red Riding hood in the play. Later I had Miss Ratherd, whose home was in Kirkwood. “The Big Room,” as it was called, had grades five, six, seven, and eight, and was taught by Lee Schumacher who lived near the school. I had several childhood diseases during my first years which caused me to miss a lot of school days. Measles, followed by pneumonia one winter, and whooping cough another year. But I passed each year.

Since there was no high school in our district, tuition was paid for us in the Kirkwood District. I went there from 1918 to 1922. I still have my class ring. I was shy and it was hard to make friends, for the majority of the class had been together in the Kirkwood grade schools. For a year my transportation was by public bus which I met a half mile from home. After school each day, I had a long wait until the evening bus went back to the country. In winter my walk was in the dark both morning and evening. Along this part of the road, there was a church, a cemetery, and a parsonage, with woods on the other side of the road. For the last three years a neighbor boy drove to high school and took several of us as passengers. That ended the waiting after school, but we did not participate in any evening activities. This was a disadvantage to us, both educationally and socially.

College Days at Central Wesleyan

From 1923 to 1927, I attended Central Wesleyan College in Warrenton, Missouri, where Aunt Catherine, Uncle Will, and Uncle Herman Hauhart had gone years before. These years were happier than high school. I was on the campus where I could attend everything and be a part of the school activities. I made close friends in the dorm and in classes. There were football games, parties, recitals, and church services. Several of us taught Sunday School classes at a small church; I joined a literary society and YWCA. The small college gave me opportunities to gain confidence and develop leadership abilities. The Christian professors were dedicated to teaching and took a personal interest in us. I have forgotten the exact tuition costs, but they were low. Weekly room and board was only six dollars.

Visitors at College

Visitors from my home community were highlights, because this was my first break from home. Mother was sent as a delegate Warrenton my first fall. I spent as much time with her during those days as her meetings and my classes permitted. Several times groups of home church friends brought a picnic lunch. How we talked as I introduced them to our campus and my new friends. My parents and sister made at least one trip a year, once to show me their new Buick.

Musical Education

Before 1915 my music lessons started with Aunt Minnie Hauhart. I took lessons on her organ. That was my practice instrument also. My parents bought a piano soon after. She was married in 1915.1 The next teacher was Eloise Koeneke who came to Ballwin from St. Louis once a week. The third instructor was Miss Mcllvaney who came to our home where she had her noon meal, gave me a lesson, and then I took her to the Kuehne home. She returned to St. Louis by bus after lessons were completed.

I did not take practice time very seriously. However, by the age of 13, I was playing for grade school singing and for some evening services at church. I am grateful to my parents for providing me with lessons. During my four years in college piano lessons continued under Oliver Kleinschmidt. Then I really practiced faithfully for at least ten hours a week. I also had a year of music theory. Esther was taking voice lessons, and I accompanied her. We had recitals several times a year. I was slow at memory work; recital pieces had to be memorized.

From college days until now, there has always been a reason for me to use my knowledge of piano. In high school work, I helped contestants prepare by doing the accompanying. In grade school teaching, we had daily singing classes. I learned much from my supervisor, Agnes Gundlach. We took fifth and sixth graders to the children’s symphony concert by train from Kirkwood to St. Louis. Agnes and her husband also went to the night symphonies and invited me to go with them. Symphonies added much to my musical education.

In 1938 I began teaching in Kirkwood and lived with my parents. Agnes directed and sang in the choir. I became organist, first on a pump organ, and then on the Hammond Electric Organ. I kept the organ playing job at church until 1967 when I married and moved to Tennessee. By then organ playing was my preference. I sold my piano in Missouri and bought a Wurlitzer organ for our home in Morristown. Hershey and I sang hymns every evening with our devotional time so I kept up my music.

As I write this, I have been at Asbury for 14 years. Soon after I came, I started to practice on a lovely Allen organ in the chapel. After some months, I was ready to take my turn at playing for vesper services. For many years there have been two or more women able and willing to work at vesper music. Usually the piano and organ are used together. In summary, music has been a big interest in my life. I cannot do as well now as I did some years ago, but I am willing to continue as long as I am needed, and can read the music. In recent years Cornelia Clay and Johanna Howard have been my music pals.

Teaching Positions

First Position

Pacific, Missouri in Franklin County was where I started to teach. The subjects were ancient and modem history, economics, and Spanish. I had only two years of Spanish in college, and had not learned to speak the language. Since the superintendent wanted to add a new subject to the curriculum, and requirements for teaching were low, Mr. Leezy wanted me to do it. I agreed and hope the pupils learned something. Daily preparation required much time, and I coached girls basketball on an outdoor court! This superintendent was eager for all teachers to be in athletics and earn an athletic letter. Since I was not skilled in sports, another way was to hike 100 miles. This is what I accomplished in ten mile hikes over several months time.

In these days (1927-1931) there were strict rules for teachers—what we did in our free time and where we boarded. Each weekend I went home by bus and returned by train. Weekends at home helped me to pass the requirements of my private life. Milton Bollman was teaching eighth grade and preaching in the Pacific Methodist Church. We did not spend any free time talking to each other—at least, not in Pacific. Milton was dating my sister and was often at my parents’ home. In Pacific, our job was teaching, not giving opportunities for gossip.

At the end of the four years I resigned. I felt that there was little chance of advancing in my profession in Pacific. I did not get a job for the following year, so I went to Washington University in St. Louis for a master’s degree in history. I lived with Mrs. Stauffer and her daughter, Katherine, good customers of my father, going home each weekend. Uncle Peter often brought me back to the city on Sunday evening.

Second Position

At Washington University I got to know an undergraduate, Annie Willard, from O’Fallon, Illinois. When I completed my work for the advanced degree, she knew of a vacancy in the O’Fallon High School. She put in a good word for me and I started my second job in the fall of 1932. I boarded with Mrs. Freivogel, her daughter and a grade school granddaughter. They were good to me. I could even come home for lunch. Since O’Fallon was about 20 miles from St. Louis into Illinois, I went home only every two weeks. I had pleasant experiences in O’Fallon and stayed for six years.

In the spring of 1938 my parents sold five acres with the old home and farm buildings to Mr. & Mrs. Carl Knickhahn and built a modern home for themselves. I decided to try for a teaching position in Kirkwood and live at home with my parents. That pleased them as much as much as it did me.

Agnes Gundlach helped me to get this position. Then I changed from high school to grade six at Key son School, one of the several Kirkwood grade schools. I liked the principal, Mrs. Denny, and soon decided that I liked grade school work. I taught in the Kirkwood District from 1938 to 1963.

In 1938 the kindergarten, fifth and sixth grades were added to the school. The teachers were Agnes Bear, Maria Hall, Emily Worth, and Ora D. Hayes, and Mrs. Denny taught second.

The hot lunch program started in 1938. We had playground duty twice a day with our classes. After some years we were relieved of that duty when a physical education teacher was added. That was a great help to us since we could be working on our preparations or grading papers. When Mrs. Denny retired in 1957 and Mr. Smith became principal, I transferred to grade 6 at the Des Peres School, also in the Kirkwood district. It cut down on the distance I had to drive and the school was smaller. I retired in 1963 at the age of 60.

I rode to Kirkwood with Agnes Gundlach until 1945, when my father died (January 30).

From then on, I owned a car until April of 1990. Mother and I had a chance to sell about 50 acres of the farm. We kept several acres surrounding our home. Over a period of several years, homes were built all over what had been the Engler farm for more than 50 years. Most farm land in that part of the country became built up into a suburban area.

Mother lived for ten more years until January 6, 1955. I continued to teach. After her death,

I had a companion to help in my home. Ann Noltkamper kept the house going. Both Aunt Julia and Aunt Mary had died, so Uncle Peter ate three meals a day at my home. Ann’s presence was very important to me for this was before my retirement.

Retirement

When my paper-grading days were over, I found much pleasure in doing more church and community work. I gave music lessons to five beginners. Ann Noltkamper was no longer living with me. A teacher friend, Frances Sanders, needed a boarding place. She accepted my offer of room and board, and it meant much to me. She was a member of Salem Methodist Church, and we belonged to several of the same organizations. We had many mutual interests, even though she was much younger than I was. We attended many evening meetings together which made it very nice for both of us.

In 1966 and 1967 she was courted by James Sanderson, a young minister. In preparation for their wedding, Frances asked me to accompany her on her business and shopping trips. Her mother did not live near enough to help her. It was very interesting and proved to be of great value to me. She and James were married in her home town—Cape Girardeau, Missouri, April 1, 1967, exactly one year after their first date.

It made me wonder about the next boarder I would find to take Frances’ place in my life. But the Lord opened up an entirely new way of life for me. Hershey Longenecker, a widower of one year, sent me a proposal of marriage by mail. My first reaction was great shock. I remember that I said aloud, “Preposterous!” For a month I told no one, not even my sister.

Of course, a correspondence began between Hershey and me, and we spoke on the telephone also. By praying about this tremendous decision and through prayers on the Morristown end, my mind was gradually changed. I decided to ask my pastor for advice. He and his wife both encouraged me. I thought I was used to being independent and could not adjust to a partner.

I invited Hershey to come to Missouri for a visit to discuss the question. As an outcome, we were engaged during that visit. The wedding date was set on October 21, 1967. I owned the home which my parents had built in 1938. I spent some busy days clearing out the accumulation of 30 years. The house was not sold until some time after I was living in Morristown. The buyer had a 15-year mortgage which he paid off in ten years, much to my satisfaction.

In personal preparations for wedding details, the lessons which I had learned while helping Frances Sanders came in very handy. Little did I know when helping her that I would be married the same year. From this point of my life, most of you became acquainted and visited us frequently in Morristown. I was well received by all of the Longeneckers and their friends. Hershey and I had ten years and ten months of happiness. He went to be with the Lord on August 19, 1978. One of his favorite Scripture verses was Proverbs 3:5-7:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths.

As I recall the decisions I made many times in my life, the guidance of the Lord is very evident. Each change brought many blessings and benefits. Those decisions came when I changed schools, accepted Hershey’s proposal and when I came to Asbury Acres.

In accepting Hershey’s proposal, new avenues of happiness were opened for me. Besides our very good years together, I “inherited” the whole Longenecker family of loving relatives. They have stood by me and given love freely. The decision to come to Asbury I have never regretted. I have enjoyed fine friends, and the things I could do with others.

When Milton’s illness came, they could no longer travel. Since Milton’s death in January of 1991, Esther has come to be with me in Maryville twice a year. With weekly telephone calls added to her visits, we have maintained a loving, close relationship. Esther came to my 90th birthday celebration in August of 1993 with many Longenecker relatives.

Vacation Times

I was privileged to see part of southern Missouri because I was invited to take trips with the Herman Hauharts. One trip included Onandaga Cave. I remember its dampness and vast caverns, and we wore galoshes to keep our shoes dry. In the spring of 1928 I went with a group of teachers from Pacific to my one and only trip to Washington, DC. The locomotive burned coal, which left us dirty, and the windows were open (no air conditioning). Knowing something about Washington helped me in my teaching.

In 1954, my cousin Helen Hauhart and I visited at the Teacher’s Ranch in Southern Missouri. This continues to be a fine vacation and conference center for Missouri teachers. As we started back over the hills, the brakes gave out. It was a relief to find a garage to have a repair job when we got back to the main road.

Helen and I had many trips together. Both of us were teachers so we were glad to earn a few hours of credit in summer, as well as visit a new area of the United States. That desire took us to Burlington University of Vermont one year. There were three weekend trips during summer school-east into the white mountains in New Hampshire, north to Montreal, and west to the Lake Champlain area.

Aunt Hertha Hauhart was in Europe during the summer of 1939. Uncle Will taught summer school in Dallas and was to meet her in New York. He came by way of St. Louis County and took Aunt Julia, my mother, and me with him to New York, and to the World’s Fair. He appreciated having me to help him drive. It was our pleasure to take the trip. Aunt Mary had gone earlier with the Herman Hauharts.

In 1940 Helen and I wanted to take a trip to Colorado and to attend summer school at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her parents took us, and we enjoyed seeing many interesting things en route. The highlight was the drive up to Pike’s Peak. Uncle Herman hired a driver who was skilled, and my uncle could take in the view. It was a real experience. Being somewhat affected by the altitude, we did not tarry long on the peak. After our four weeks at Boulder, Helen and I returned to Missouri by train. In 1947 Mother and I and the Bollman family went west again. We enjoyed a stay of a week in a cabin in Colorado and then moved on to Yellowstone National Park, the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Badlands, and Mt. Rushmore. I think we were gone for three weeks. That was Mother’s only trip west.

In 1953 I had my first plane flight, to Mexico City. A niece of Ora D Hayes conducted the trip. Again I was improving my knowledge for teaching by traveling. In 1957 Esther Milton, Alberta Schnackenburg, and I went to Europe for three weeks, on the Grand Tour, sponsored by the National Teacher’s Association. The tour group included 26 teachers from various parts of the United States. We flew to Scotland where we stayed at Glasgow for several days. Then by bus we viewed the countryside to London. London was our headquarters until we had visited all the sites of historic interest.

After crossing the English Channel, we were in Holland, Belgium, and Germany, by boat on the Rhine. Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France were included before we headed back to London. Crossing the channel at night was an experience which we remember because many were seasick. I found the trip very worthwhile. It was a great help in my educational experience for now I had slides to illustrate the wonders of Europe from which most Americans originated.

Trips to Colorado came up often. Carol was working during her break from college at the YMCA camp, so Esther and Milton invited me to visit the camp with them. Carol rode a horse as her means of getting around in a large area to spread news of camp life among the vacationers. We saw Carol frequently, and took a 2 12 mile hike, and a side trip to Colorado Springs. In 1980 the Bollman clan gathered in Colorado again for Esther & Milton’s 50th wedding anniversary. I traveled from Maryville to Chicago and with the Bollmans by car to Colorado. We were all housed in one building, and we had a great celebration.

The best of the various trips which I took with Agnes Gundlach was from Toronto, Ontario to Vancouver by train. Then we took the inland waterways to lower Alaska. The ship stopped at many seacoast towns where we went ashore to learn about that area.

After Hershey and I were married we went to Montreat frequently, usually at mission meeting time. I learned to know many of the missionaries with whom the Longeneckers were associated in their work in the Belgian Congo. It was Hershey’s special pleasure to introduce me. We made a visit to the St. Louis area in 1968 and 1969. It was a great pleasure for all concerned to renew friendships, and have Hershey become better acquainted with those friends who corresponded with me.

Agnes Gundlach made two trips to Morristown to keep close contact for we had traveled together during our teaching days. We were also closely connected to the work of Salem Church, Ballwin, Missouri, for years before my marriage.

After Hershey’s death in 1978, my plans to move to Asbury Acres developed. In 1979 my second retirement began. For six consecutive years Esther and Milton Bollman treated me to a month’s vacation in Florida with them. The gulf side, Clearwater Beach, was the favorite location. We did a lot of beach walking, resting, eating out, shopping, and entertaining. They had school and church friends from Chicago there, and we visited with them often.

This abbreviated description of my vacations has been added to my brief life story because “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” cannot be said of my life. Travel added much, or more, than a formal education. It renewed my energy each summer for another year of teaching. Milton once made this statement: “Vacation from regular work is as important as an insurance policy.”

May God bless you richly. Keep on learning all your life. There are many challenging problems to be solved. May you help in their solution.


  1. Minnie Hauhart married Hershey Longenecker. Ruth would married Hershey after Minnie died. [return]

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