A Tribute to Vo and Katy

Statue of Luther in the Wittenberg Market plaza in front of the town hall just off Collegienstrasse about halfway from the Castle/All Saints Church of 95 Theses fame to the Lutherhaus where they lived; ID’d by my nephew Vince Taylor.

I’m taking a little break from critiquing the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs this time though I do have a brief comment about a recent post Teacher Hiring Devastated by Emergency “Common Sense Shortage” on their site by documented (see In A Flash , Crybabies and Where to Begin? ) Limited Thinker Greg Forster.  He questions whether teacher certification requirements are really beneficial and believes that eliminating them would end Oklahoma’s teacher shortage.  I commented on my experience as a beginning classroom teacher without the benefit of any focused preparation in my post (Charlie’s Wake ) Charlie’s Wake so have some first-hand experience with what he proposes.  I’ll only say I appreciate that Mr. Forster has stopped referring to Oklahoma’s teachers and administrators as “the Blob” by toning it down to “education establishment” and “old guard”.

Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday and she would be 92 if still with us.  Her given name was Veaujilla and her siblings were Xerlan, Gretzlyn, Arlon, Durian and Thamon; my grandfather Leslie Hazen was an interesting man.  My mother went by Vo.  Where we lived in the early 60’s the wives in each house next door and across the street were named Flo, Jo and Zo.  The neighborhood joke was that the husbands just had to yell “O” and some wife would answer.

I’ve written previously about my mother and father in They Made It Look Easy .  She was an amazing woman of intelligence, compassion and strength.  Anyone she interacted with was immediately drawn to her warm, caring personality.  After my brother and I left home she entered nursing school and had a successful career as an RN in Tulsa till her retirement to care for her father and step-mother.  Had she been born in 1955 instead of 1925 she would have been an amazing physician.

Any Watts family members still reading at this point are wondering if the second half of my tribute is to either of two women named Katy who are married to my nephews, one in Texas and the other in Florida.  Both, like my mother, are women of intelligence, compassion and strength and certainly worthy of tribute (Watts men always marry our betters), but I’m writing about neither.  The Katy who has been on my mind in recent weeks is Katharina Von Bora who was the wife of Martin Luther.

My mother’s mother died when my mother was five years old.  I had always understood that this grandmother I never knew was the daughter of two German immigrants and thought it would be interesting to learn where they immigrated from and visit those parts of Germany.  We had made a similar trip to England concerning Linda’s English grandmother and it was an interesting and fun experience.

My efforts in genealogy ran into a dead end when I learned that, while my grandmother’s mother was born in Germany and immigrated as a child, her father was the son of an English father and Irish mother; also I couldn’t find any specific immigration records.   Undaunted we decided we would still go to Germany but instead of chasing my roots, this October 31 being the 500th anniversary of the publication of his 95 Theses, we’d go see Martin Luther sites instead.

Here is Katharina Von Bora’s statue in Wittenberg where she and Martin Luther lived.

She was born in 1499 to noble but impoverished parents who sent her away to a nunnery at age 5.  At age 9 she moved to the Cistercian monastery in Nimbschen, near Grimma, south of Leipzig where she eventually became a nun.  Here are the ruins of her monastery that we visited.  They are near a lovely hotel and restaurant, old and new buildings, in a fairly rural and quiet area.

In 1523, having learned about the reformation activities sparked by Martin Luther in Wittenberg in 1517, she and eight other nuns escaped their Catholic dominated region in the wagon of a fish monger and settled in Wittenberg.  Her companions ranged in age from their teens to fifty something and one by one Martin Luther and other Wittenberg leaders found suitable arrangements/marriages for their well-being.  Eventually Katharine was the last without a permanent situation, having rejected more than one proposal.

She told a friend of Luther’s that she would marry Luther.  Having struggled with what impact his marriage might have on the reformation movement, Luther decided that marrying Katharine Von Bora would “…please his father, rile the pope, cause the angels to laugh, and the devils to weep.”  So they married in 1525.  Over the next ten years she bore six children, four who survived childhood.  She and Martin lived in their Wittenberg house that was previously an Augustinian dormitory which she ran and managed as a rooming house for both paying and non-paying students, friends and family.  She brewed and sold beer (the water was not safe to drink), maintained vegetable gardens and livestock outside the town and eventually managed a farm in another area.

Of course Martin Luther was teaching, writing, traveling and generally being famous all the years of their marriage until his death in 1546.  She lived seven more years to age 53, seeing their four children into adulthood.  She was literate but left few writings; what is known about her life in Wittenberg is largely through the extensive writings left by Luther and others, especially the men who attended his nightly “table talks” over dinner at the Luther house.  They were devoted to each other and Luther defied both law and tradition when he named her guardian of their children and beneficiary of his estate in his last will and testament, though after his death the court still required a man be appointed to help her.

As always lunch is on me for the first to ID the photo location.

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