Ruth Lester, Story of My Grandmother

The tale begins at the city of Memel, Prussia (now Klaipeda lithuania) in 1936 with a small 10 year old girl named Ruth Lester. Her mother was all this girl had as her father (Fritz) abandoned the family to live in Coburg. It was in this year her mother died with symptoms believed today to be cancer. Ruth at age 10 began working at the chocolate factory to provide for herself, a job she really loved. (I imagine any child would love this job). for 3 years she would go to work, come home, feed the chickens, and play with friends from the factory. In 1939 Hitler came to town and her friends took her with them to go to the parade. Ruth remembered how the whole town shut down to welcome him into the city. Apparently he was there to sign an agreement with the local politics that Memel become part of the Reich. The politics did not want to agree to terms however had no alternative given lack of international support, as well as local public support. Shortly after this public appearance Ruth’s father came to Memel to bring her to Germany. He was just a violin player at Landstheater in coburg, but some how he knew Memel was going to be bombed by Russia that very night and he wanted to take her out of there.

Before packing her bags Ruth was told she is not allowed to take anything with her. she wanted her dolls to be safe. Her father told her to put the dolls in a box and bury them by the rail road tracks. Russian soldiers will not bomb the tracks because they are needed as trade routes. So she buried them. Ruth also had some friends she did not want to be bombed, they were older kids helping/living with her at the house- also working at the chocolate factory. Ruth begged her father to take Rose and Richard with them into Germany because they were her only family. Later that night while these 4 were on the train going to Germany, the Russians came and took Memel.

Fritz had to figure out how to get these kids citizenship, It was a long burocratic process. He legally adopted Ruth, though she was not allowed to live with him. Richard and Rose were too old to be adopted. It was decided all of them had to live in Stuttgart, Richard would have to wait for his work pass while Fritz sent money to pay their living expenses. It took 4-5 years before Richard could work and marry Rose. Ruth was very happy in this time living in Stuttgart, she loved being able to go to school with other kids. She would come home and do house choirs, play with her friends, finally living life like a normal child. She often took the city bus and loved that one moment the bus would be quiet and still as people went to work. Suddenly someone would start singing and the whole bus would break out in song. She also remembered Hitler coming to see her again and a huge parade broke out in the streets for him just like in Memel. This band of kids took family trips to places around the Rhine, Oktoberfest in Munich, every so often her father would come and take them to the theater in town, and to his theater in Coburg. For her Stuttgart was like a dream come true.

When Ruth came of age her father decided it was time for her to come live with him in Coburg, Fritz being able to provide for himself now. There wasn’t any need to keep Ruth there. She had a love hate relationship with Coburg. She loved the quiet town, how everything was beautiful and smaller then Stuttgart. She liked going to the opera to watch her father play the violin. However her father did not really know how to be a father. He always had theater parties with his friends she of course had to clean up after. He expected her to take on the role of more a house wife then a daughter…. a house wife that would put up with being an after hour bartender while he had a new girlfriend every week. (sometimes 3 at a time). He did not really raise her, they were never close- He saved her life though and tried as best as he understood, he just did not know how to go from party boy to daddy.

However one of fritz’s friends (Hanz, a cello player) told him that Stuttgart was going to be bombed by the allied forces, and that he needed to get Richard and Rose out of the city. Apparently an American soldier told him while he was drunk at the bar. (theater people tend to be the best kind of spies during the war it would seem) Once again Fritz hoped on the train to get them out. Equally that very night began a rape on Germany by every allied force, Stuttgart will be leveled within months from bombings. Once again the gang was back together in Fritz’s house, they decided from there they would stay and watch the political situation. Richard got a job at the Landsetheater with fritz in the meantime. It was around this time Fritz informed Ruth that he has come to a marriage arrangement for her. He told her then he relized he was not the best father, but never the less he wanted to do the best for her. The marriage was arranged through his friends at the landestheater from the other landestheater in Linz. The man was Lauritz Melchior. He was an Opera singer, much older then Ruth, he also had 2 children from another marriage in which he was a widower. This same man would later film 5 Hollywood movies and get a star on Hollywood Boulevard. Ruth did not know how to take this man when she met him. He was much like her father in that he only wanted her to raise his kids and take care of the house. He was like many of her fathers friends- Always boasting about how great he was- like many actors the conversation always seemed to turn to him. Ruth couldn’t stand the man one bit though knew her father worked hard for this arranged marriage, she bit her tounge for only a little while.

Rose found out the American soldiers were having a party in town, they rented out a ball room in town welcoming German girls. Some of the soldiers brought their girl friends, and most were just their with their army friends. Rose brought Richard, Ruth just wanted to have some fun with her friends. The music played and everyone was having a good time, Ruth realizing she was third wheel to Richard and Rose stepped aside and went to the bar. She sat quietly to herself for a time, but across the room she had an admirer. His name was Earl, and he walked over to the bar to ask Ruth for a dance. She was reluctant at first, being engaged, she told him sure but only as friends. They danced and danced all night. before they knew it the sun was up. Earl never let Ruth far from his sight as he gently courted her in the streets of Coburg, and she would gently push him away… At first.

Ruth went to her father and told him she can not marry the opera singer, and that there was another man who loved her. Her father did not take this news very well at all. Though he was fuming with anger he tried to remain calm and wanted to meet this man. So Ruth invited him to dinner and it was there the young soldier would find himself in a unexpected German interrogation.

Where are you from? why are you here? what are you doing with my daughter? what is Bluefield West Virginia? Do you have inheritance? who is you’re family?… all of the answers here simply could not compete with a wealthy and prestigious Opera singer, that he had worked so hard to arrange. Earl was a red blooded hillbilly in just about every way a person can be a hillbilly. However Fritz remained mindful not to bring that up since he could see very plainly Ruth loved this guy and her genuinely returned the affection. Rose and Richard made sure not to provide any input not wanting to get involved, the dinner was at best described, aquard.

Fritz told Ruth she was throwing away her life for this guy. Ruths friends told her Americans hated Germans now that the war was over. If Ruth married him of course she would have to come to the States and never see her family again. Once there the Americans might even kill her because she’s German. All these things that people told her did not matter to Ruth she loved the man and the man loved her and it was as simple as that. They were married and moved back to Stuttgart for a time. It was there in 1947 Elfie was born, the nurses at the hospital were so amazed at how small she was and nick named her Mushie (meaning little girl). Earl was given leave to see his family and came to West Virginia. Ruth was very nervous meeting Earls family- what if her friends were right and the Americans would hate her. For hours going into the country side, with each passing mountain the tension just grew, until they came to Earls mothers house, Sarah.

Ruth slowly walked up to the porch very nervous, Sarah rushed out first thing giving Ruth a hug. With such a Warm hearted and very accepting gesture, Ruth’s tension just melted away. Sarah of course was glad to finally see her son and her new grand daughter. The family all got together to meet her, Ruth was enjoying so much the company, she seemed to fit right into the family effortlessly. Though it was brief, Earl had another assignment in Germany, Ruth could not wait to tell her family in Germany how great everyone was.

Fritz would never really be apart of Ruths life from now on, it’s plain to see he knew that from this point. He only had his daughter a short time and now she was married with a kid. Even worse with a former enemy soldier whos family is so “Kind and Accepting”- it was clear he lost his daughter. He would write to Ruth all the time until he died, but he would barely ever see her again. To some degree he held that grudge against Earl, he would never really like him- but he was a good man to Ruth and for him that was what mattered.

Ruth and Earl would now travel the world from army base to army base with little Elfie. The little family loved it. Ruth would always have new friends amongst the army wifes. her best friend for a long time was a lady from Japan. Ruth joked, the 2 were the axis front within the American base. she was yet again surprised however how this Japanese girl and she never had a problem fitting in with the Americans during and after the war. Here were soldiers who’s job was to blow up both their countries, yet no one gave anyone the slightest hint of prejudice. Eventually Ruth would have to part with her Japanese friend, and many other army wife friends as they had to bounce from base to base. She made sure to keep in contact with her family in Germany no matter where they went.

In 1957 as the Russians announced they launched the first ever space satellite, Ruth and Earl were very busy in the ER. Gary was born. The nurses at the hospital nick named him after the Russian satellite ‘Sputnik’. As the little satellite sent little beeps back to earth Elfie was 10 years old now and happy to meet her little brother.

Years would pass, eventually Earl would join civilian life, Ruth was somewhat happy her endless traveling was over. They were stationed at Fort Mede Maryland, Elfie was already enrolled at Hammond High. They decided they would stay by the base as the kids already had their friends there. Earl had some difficulty adjusting to civilian life, and he drank beer considerably. though over time he would get adjusted to working a normal job, living in a normal house. Years later Elfie would Marry a man named Joe Winsted and very soon after Brett was born. Later of course Gary grew up and brought home Linda (his story on meeting Linda is almost just as romantic as his parents, However I will let him tell you for himself). Ruth and Earl would now be Grandparents- and they were both excellent. Bret loved going to West Virginia to see the family there, though he often said the boys out their play rough. Gary and linda would not be far behind Elfie Giving them Steven and Peter. Earl spent a great deal of time with the kids and they were very close. They watched them grow up, as they grew old. they always wanted to keep the family close together and did everything they could for the grand children that would later come.

Elfie took a great deal after her mother, she was independent minded, though a bit of a hippy rather conservative. Her husband Joe however was not very responsible. Though Ruth liked Joe very much she understood her daughters reasons for wanting a divorce. she insited joe would not be a stranger, In her eyes he will always be family. It would not take long before Elfie brought home a new guy his name was Richard. She met him at her job and they were married. They then gave birth to Jessie (me) in 1987. 2 months later Gary and Linda had there 3rd boy Mathew.
At this point I can speak from a personal perspective. Ruth was probably the best grandmother anyone could have. Every Sunday we went to see her after church, and she would tell stories about Germany and make sure everyone was fed well. Me and Matthew kept this little old lady pretty busy. Of course the best thing being where mom and dad said no Grandma always said yes (most of the time). One time we went to adventure land (now sixth flags) and me and Matt talked her into riding Superman at 70 years she didn’t even flinch to do it with us. She got older and older and well eventually she died. Not only was ruth so lively but she had the heart of a saint. Here was a woman who prayed Hitler and Joesph stalin wouldn’t go to hell just the same as Churchill or Roosevelt. There is actually only 1 person I remember her actually calling particularly evil- it was the queen of England when the news was buzzing that princess Diana died. She even went as far as writing letters from santa to us grandkids- I actually believed they were from santa for a long time, It was hard evidence among my friends. Her life was pretty incredible, though a certain artistic liberty was taken with this tale It is completely based on what she told us, Paperwork from her father Fritz in Germany, and historical documents from the time. I think when I put all these together the story of her life is one we should never forget. Though this is just a rough draft for now, Im curious if anyone would like to add before I put this up on Ancestry.com

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