Thursday, December 25, 2014

Oma, Her Samplers, and How She Got Her Wings

Helen Ludeke Ost - my "Oma" was an amazing person
This is her confirmation photo from 1911. She was 14.
Oma, my maternal grandmother would be 117 years old if she was alive today. She was born in 1897 and was almost 104 when she passed away. When she was a girl, she went to school at Hoboken Academy and she made several samplers. One was a needlepoint alphabet and two were darning and buttonhole samplers. These samplers were done over a period of several years, the first being the needlepoint sampler of 1906, when Oma was just 9 years old.

Which letter is missing, and why?
In 1911, Oma was 14 years old. 

She graduated from Hoboken Academy in 1913, the year after her father passed away. Mom still has several of the documents from finishing school, including penmanship books, an autograph book and the program from her graduation and closing ceremonies.

one of several penmanship books
one of Oma's many penmanship samples
Hoboken Academy 1913 Closing Ceremonies program 
Considering Oma was a young teenager when this entry was written, the
autograph book has some very racy moments!
We also have Oma's confirmation certificate from 1911, when she was 14. The picture at top was taken that day, and what a lovely, refined 14-year-old she was. She would turn 15 the following month.

One of the most remarkable things about Oma was when she was an adult, married to Opa. She helped rescue a German immigrant from an insane asylum when the woman had been wrongly committed following the death of her husband. The woman, Anna, could not speak any English at the time, and her children were taken from her, but Oma and Opa fixed it. They employed Anna for the rest of her working days, helped her learn English, and helped her get her own home. Decades later, Anna was really part of the family. Whenever I went to visit, it was like having two grandmothers and a grandfather under the same roof. Oma lived her life with grace, and rescuing Anna was a sure sign of it. I think it's how Oma got her wings.

We love having all these family objects, and today was a good day to pull them out and look at them-- Christmas, a day Oma happened to love, and Throwback Thursday. Of course, 100-plus years ago is more than just a throwback, and Oma has been gone more than a dozen years, but I remember her like she was here just yesterday. So, Merry Christmas, Oma! And thank you for being such a wonderful guardian angel along with Opa, Dad and Anna. Mom, Libby and I wish you were all here in body, but we know you're here in spirit. 


  1. How wonderful to have her keepsakes and remember her fondly. She sounds like an incredible woman!

    1. She was incredible, and I was lucky to spend a lot of time with her as an adult when I lived just down the road about a mile or two away. We had a date almost every week for dinner out at a local Hunan restaurant, and she loved the egg drop soup, lemon chicken, scallion pancakes and shrimp toast. We always brought our own wine along, and usually drank most of it. :)

  2. Lovely memories of your Oma. My dear Grandmother (born 1904) came out to Australia from England when she was a small child and she devoted the latter years of her life keeping house & caring for her 2 mentally disabled Grandsons. Women of that era seem to be such strong women and saw that someone was in need and just got on with the job of helping others, even when it meant a long term commitment. It is lovely that you have such keepsakes of your Oma.