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There is a Time for Everything -A Time to Mourn and Dance

By Marian Mullerleile Gerst Hillsboro, Oregon

My father Wilhelm Mullerleile died in 1994 and my mother Rosa Grossen Mullerleile died two years later. Although they were both in their eighties and had lived a good long life, losing both so close together was very painful for me. I had become very close to them, especially during their last years.
During those last five years I would often ask my parents questions about their past; however, they remained very closed-mouthed about some topics. I knew they had immigrated to the United States in August of 193 9. I also knew my mother was Swiss and that my father was German although his ancestry was rarely discussed. As we grew up we were encouraged to look at ourselves as being Swiss rather than being German.
This secrecy about our German background always fascinated and at the same time puzzled me. Therefore, when the first letter arrived from Marianne regarding the family reunion, I was surprised and amazed al the idea that there were other Müllerleiles in the United States. Skeptically I wondered could we possibly be related to them? After visiting with my sister Ursula, we both decided we needed to go to Iowa to find out what this was all about.
While at the Iowa reunion I met many wonderful people. I was especially drawn to the people that had come all the way from Germany. Their accents reminded me of my mother and father. Some even looked like my father, my brothers, and my children. When I asked them to show me on the German map where certain cities were that my father had mentioned, they were so willing to share information. At that point, I knew I must one day go to Germany. While in Iowa we discovered we were a "floater" branch that could not be attached to the main family tree. This information left me curious and only added to the mystery of our family that I had felt for so long.
Becoming increasingly interested in the Müllerleile history, and especially being drawn to discover answers to my questions, I decided I really must go to the reunion in Schuttertal. Once I got permission from my school district for an unpaid leave of absence, I was on my way. I packed some photos and letters that my father had left behind in my keeping. I
Thought that these precious items might help make the connections to those much hoped for relatives.
Upon arriving in Schuttertal Friday evening, I went to the dinner where I met Gerhard Finkbeiner, the local historian. I shared what little I knew about my German ancestry and gave him the letters and photos I had brought.
The next day at the reunion dinner my hopes were finally realized when Herr Finkbeiner rushed over to my table and informed me that he had found my cousin Karlfried Müllerleile from Gengenbach. We were both very excited to meet one another. It was explained to me that Karlfried's great-grandfather and my great-grandfather were brothers. Because of this meeting, not only were our two families brought together, but also, we were now directly linked to the family tree and the Kasperbauerhof. I shall always remember later that evening when Anton Müllerleile smiling and sitting next to me said "You are related to me!" Later in the week I spent an entire day with Karlfried and his wife Elisabeth touring their quaint and lovely town of Gengenbach. I also enjoyed an evening with their son Klaus and his wife. As we ate our trout 'dinner we had a great time talking about life in the US and life in Germany.
Before my father died he did share a newspaper article that had been sent to him from his first cousin Wilhelm Müllerleile. The article was written in German and was celebrating Wilhelm's 80th birthday. My letters told me Wilhelm was from the Ettenheim area. At the reunion Gerhard reassured me that my relatives were living in Ettenheimweiler, that Wilhelm was alive, and that he had come to Schuttertal looking for me while I was off on a field trip. The next day I met Wilhelm’s son, Erhard and his family at the Sunday brunch. Their daughter Heike looked so much like my niece that I was truly stunned. Heike and Mr Finkbeiner helped in setting up a most memorable evening of my trip. I was finally going to meet the man in the photo that looked so much like my father.
The following Tuesday I met the entire Wilhelm Müllerleile family at his home in Ettenheimweiler. I spent several hours visiting, eating and listening to stories about my father’s early years growing up in the Ettenheim area and in other parts of Germany. Some of my questions were finally being answered!
Wilhelm and my father were very close as young boys living near each other. Although they separated when older they never lost touch with one another. I especially thank Heike for being there, interpreting for her grandfather and me, as we were putting the pieces of the puzzle together. It was difficult for me to leave their home that evening as I truly felt that I again had been in the presence of my father. Wilhelm looked like my father in stature and manner- a quiet man with a very warm personality.
I met so many wonderful people in Germany. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of them for making my trip truly on of the most memorable experiences of my life. I'm looking forward to seeing them all again at the next reunion, if I can wait that long.

(From: Müllerleile Reunion Newsletter. Müllerleile Reunion Committee, Los Angeles (ed.), Vol 3, Issue 1, January 1998.)