August 21, 2014

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This and That — Women in history Part II PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, April 12, 2014 8:00 PM

Verena Brinkman was the favorite teacher of many, many students, especially at Fort Jennings High School, where she taught for several years. Even the boys liked Verena as a science and math teacher. She could keep order without even trying.

Verena was born 5 June 1913 to Frank and Mary (Roof) Brinkman on a farm near Ottoville. That was the era of the one-room country schools. The first 6 years Verena had to walk a mile to school, bundled up in warm clothing, including long underwear, and woolen stockings, knitted by her mother. She followed her older siblings, stepping in their tracks because the snow was deep and the prevailing winds would be cut by the older siblings’ bodies.

When Verena reached the seventh grade, Ottoville moved into the new school building and consolidated all the one-room schools in the district. Ottoville School bought a bus and picked the children up and took them to school at that time. The rooms were equipped with double- wide desks.

In grade 9, she had English, Latin, algebra, science and religion. Religion was taught three times a week by the assistant priest. They also had art and music once a week. Because of the short skirts, the girls heard many sermons from the priest. After all, it was the Roaring 20s.

The Depression was in full swing when she graduated so in order to cut expenses, they did not hire a graduation speaker. On Sunday evening, they had a church service, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, followed by receiving their diplomas and good wishes for their future.

Her school career was very successful but at that time very few girls went on to college, and only a few boys did. It was in the month of August, 1931, when Mr. Ferdinand Uhrich, the superintendent of Ottoville, received a call from the Dean of Mary Manse College in Toledo. This all-girls college was run by the Ursuline nuns. The message was that there was one scholarship given by the Ursulines, which had not been claimed. The nun was calling in Putnam County to find interested Catholic girls.Verena was certainly interested and in two short weeks, she got herself ready and hopped a train at the Nickel Plate Railroad in Fort Jennings at 6 a.m. Her sister had boarded the train in Venedocia and the two girls continued on to Toledo. They located the college and the family that the college had arranged for Verena to live with. The family lived within walking distance of the college. For her room and board, Verena spent the next four years helping with their four children and any other kind of work that was asked of her. Things worked out well in the classroom and Verena graduated Summa cum Laude in 1935. She returned to Putnam County and taught the sixth grade in the Ottoville School. She followed that assignment with four years at McCartyville Schools in Shelby County. Verena then returned to Putnam County and taught at the Fort Jennings Schools from 1942 to her retirement in 1978. Verena’s quest for knowledge was never satisfied so she continued taking more college courses in the summer months. When some large companies offered to give a grant to teachers who would like to increase their knowledge in math and science, Verena accepted the opportunity. After some urging from her superiors, she applied for a grant from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. With that she was hooked on learning so she applied for a grant from Bowling Green State University in Chemistry. This lasted for a year in which she attended class one night a week plus two Saturdays. Next she applied to Purdue University in Indiana for a three-year summer grant. At the end of this round she had her Masters Degree.

Verena taught math, general science, Chemistry and Physics at the Fort Jennings High School from the 1942-43 school year to the 1977-78 school year. I was very fortunate to have her as my math, science and Chemistry teacher. I didn’t tackle Physics. Her classes were very interesting and she taught at everybody’s level. She was fair to everyone and the boys in school respected and liked her. When Verena retired she was replaced by Mary Lou Altenburger, who taught until 2011. During those years from 1942 to 2011 the Fort Jennings High School had only two science and math teachers. Many of their students went on to be teachers, doctors and engineers. Verena went to her eternal reward in November 2010, leaving a wonderful legacy in the hearts and minds of all who knew her and all whom she taught.

Another woman to make her mark in the history circles of Putnam County and especially Fort Jennings was Imogene Elwer. Imogene was born 28 February 1928 to Alfred and Florence (Carder) Reindel and passed away 11 November 1998. She graduated from Delphos St. John’s High School in 1947 and married Leonard Elwer in 1950. Len died 10 November 1989. Their children were Marilyn Karst, Theresa Looser, Aloysius “Ollie” Elwer and Sue Lichtenberger. Imogene loved her grandchildren.

Imogene was a 4-H Advisor for over 20 years and served on the judging team for 4-H demonstrations for 8 years. She assisted her husband on their farm near Rushmore and Fort Jennings. Her passion was genealogy and she was very good and precise at it. She compiled her own family history, which can be found in the Delphos Public Library and the Putnam County Library in Ottawa. Imogene was one of the authors for three Fort Jennings Histories, two for the parish and one for the village. She was an underwriter for the Putnam County Sentinel, writing a column “Chronicles of the Past”. Imogene and her friend (and librarian) Marguerite Calvin organized the Putnam County Genealogical Society. Her legacy lives on.

Although March was Women’s History Month and that month has passed, the next “This and That” will feature other women who made history in our area and some who are still making history.


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