I experienced such an opportunity with seventy Germans from Russia yesterday. The Arizona Sun Chapter celebrated its 30 year anniversary at the Black Forest Mill Inn in Phoenix, Arizona. Sauerbraten, Jaeger schnitzel and black forest torte abundantly dressed our tables as did the new publication Thirty Years in the Desert, a compilation of our member's family stories.
The celebration was sparked with comraderie and joy in our common heritage. The Arizona Sun Chapter's second President, Lewis R. Marquardt, Ph.D., and his wife, Dona Reeves-Marquardt graced us with their wit and wisdom.
Lew was born and raised in North Dakota, the eldest son of a German-Russian father and an Irish mother; his paternal grandparents migrated to the Dakota Territories in 1888. Lew grew up among Black Sea Germans and spent his early years teaching instrumental music in South Dakota, and Interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities at Arizona State University at Tempe. After the death of his first wife in 1984, he married Dona. Lew and Dona have traveled extensively in Germany, France and Europe seeking ancestral villages, art museums and the phenomenon of foreign culture. Lewis a Charter member and a Life member of AHSGR, as well as a Life Member of GRHS.
Dona Reeves-Marquardt, Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, is Professor Emerita at Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas, where she taught German language and literature many years. Primarily of Volga-German ancestry, she has published articles on the language, history and culture of Germans from Russia. Dona has translated major works in that area, including Peter Sinner’s Germans in the Land of the Volga and Gottlieb Beratz’ The German Colonies on the Lower Volga with LaVern Ripley and Leona Pfeifer. Her grandparents immigrated in 1876 from Volga villages to Russell county, KS. She was a Fulbright scholar at Johannes Gutenberg Universität in Mainz, Germany and has studied and traveled extensively in Germany, to her ancestral villages.
Lew reminisced about the early beginnings of the Arizona Sun Chapter. While only a few founding members like Joe Schwan are with us, we honored their memory and their service to the chapter. Then, he and Dona compared the differences between Black Seas Germans and Volga Germans. To the uninitiated, it may seem odd to have subsets exist within the unique Germans from Russia, however Lew and Dona compared, contrasted and demonstrated clearly that despite the differences, there are many more similarities.
Bonding, learning and sharing. Lew and Dona inspired the next generation at our anniversary event. And, isn't that what tracking our family history is all about?