Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rest In Peace Aunt Virginia

There are certain people in our families who are special in many ways. They may not have achieved fame or fortune or even performed tasks of great renown but their presence in the family circle was welcomed and cherished. This was the case with my special Aunt Virginia. I cannot remember a time in my life when she was not there for me, always ready to talk or listen and to offer advice or just friendship. Her long life ebbed slowly away this week and in her memory, I feel that she deserves her own special tribute.

Virginia Edna Reske was born August 22, 1918 in Detroit, Michigan to John and Anna, nee Becker, Reske. She was their first surviving child though an older daughter, Julia, had passed away at a young age. At the time of the 1920 census in Detroit, the Reske family was living on E. Canfield Avenue and the family consisted of John and Anna with their baby daughter Virginia. Living with the family as well were Anna's father and brother as well as a boarder.

By the time of the 1930 Detroit census, the Reske family had grown to include Virginia, John, Delphine and Eugene and they still lived on E. Canfield Avenue.

They were a Polish American family with both John and Anna having been born in the US but with a definite Polish heritage. The family were devout Catholics who practiced their faith making sure that their children did as well.

By 1939, Virginia was now a 21 year old young lady who enjoyed going to the movies with her girlfriends. It was at the Rialto Theatre on Gratiot and Mt. Elliott Avenues in Detroit that she met Melbourne Schulte. Mel was working as an usher at the Rialto Theatre and shone his flashlight down the row of seats where Virginia was sitting, admired her legs and a romance began that would continue for over 70 years.

Virginia and Mel enjoyed outdoor activities as well as family holidays with his Schulte family as these photos show.

Virginia Reske
ca 1939

Virginia Reske
ca 1939

Virginia Reske & Gertrude Kolberg
Christmas, 1939

Virginia Reske & Melbourne Schulte
ca 1940

On November 15, 1941 Virginia Reske and Melbourne Schulte were married at Mt. Zion Lutheran Church in Detroit. They participated in a double wedding that day along with their good friends, Dorothy Voelker and Russ Stickney as this photo will show. Unfortunately it is the only photo I have of their wedding.

Ariel view of wedding of Virginia Reske & Melbourne Schulte
November 15, 1941
Mt. Zion Lutheran Church
Detroit, MI

Marrying into a German Lutheran family did not particularly please Virginia's staunch Polish Catholic parents but in time the Reske family came to embrace the Schulte family. At the time of their wedding, however, Virginia's parents were unable to attend because Virginia's mother was giving birth to a son, Fred at the precise time of the wedding of her eldest daughter.

The Second World War was in progress and Melbourne joined the US Navy and went to the Pacific to serve leaving Virginia at home in Detroit where she lived with Mel's parents. In December, 1943 Virginia gave birth to their son, Melbourne, Jr. while her husband was overseas. By 1944 the family was complete with baby Mel.

Virginia & Melbourne Schulte
with infant son, Melbourne, Jr.
ca 1944

My earliest memories of my aunt are from my childhood and though I don't remember these particular events she was an integral part of my life from the day I was born.

Virginia & Cheryl Schulte
ca 1949

Melbourne Jr., Virginia & Cheryl Schulte
ca 1949

Virginia & Melbourne Sr Schulte
with Cheryl & Melbourne Jr Schulte
ca 1952

Virginia did work for a time as a sales clerk at the former Winkleman's Department Store in Detroit but the primary focus of her life was as a wife and mother. She was social and sociable and entertained guests in her home frequently.

Melbourne & Virginia Schulte
ca 1970

Melbourne & Virginia Schulte
April, 1981

She was widely known for her family favorite baked beans though she never could master cookie baking. I particularly remember when I was 11 years old and a pretty good baker of cut-out cookies. I went over to my aunt and uncle's home, along with my baking supplies and cookie cutters and proceeded to make a batch of these cookies for them. I can remember my cousin, Mel, Jr. who was then 16 years old sitting at the table with his chin in his hands watching me cut out these cookies. For her entire life my aunt proclaimed my cut out cookies her ultimate favorite and looked forward to my packages of cookies that I would frequently mail to her once she and my uncle were living in Arizona. It didn't matter if they arrived broken or not because she enjoyed them in any condition and liked to state that she would not share them with anyone else.

Throughout her long life, my Aunt Virginia suffered from numerous physical health issues with accompanying severe head and neck pains. Despite continual physician visits and consultations she continued to suffer and was wheelchair bound the last 15 years of her life. However her mental health remained intact and she could carry on a conversation with the best of people regarding politics, health care issues, financial issues and other such topics. She also was one of my best resources for memories of my grandfather and grandmother Schulte's families more so than my uncle was considering these were HIS family lines. Her mind remained sharp and her memories clear her entire life.

Melbourne & Virginia Schulte
Sierra Vista, AZ

Yesterday, September 5 (Labor Day), 2011, my beloved and special Aunt went to her heavenly home. I had spoken with her only a few days earlier but it was obvious that her body was finally giving out on her. I know she is at peace and suffering no longer but her presence in my life will be greatly missed.

She leaves behind to mourn her passing her husband of near 70 years, Melbourne Schulte of Sierra Vista, AZ, son Melbourne Jr and wife, Mary Schulte of Mt. Clemens, MI, three grandsons, Scott, Robert and Christopher Schulte, one great-grandson Kyle Schulte, three great-granddaughters, Savannah, Shelby and Jessa Schulte. She also leaves three step-grandchildren, John, Thomas and Joan Burgess along with their combined 6 children. She was preceded in death by her parents, John and Anna Reske, her sisters Julia Reske and Delphine Sexton, her brothers John and Eugene Reske, her baby grandson Jason Schulte and her goddaughter, Kathy Schulte.

I will never forget her!

Above photos from personal collection of Cheryl Schulte