Kathe (Kate) Gehrke was my husband’s great grandmother. In 1923 she left Northern Germany and came to America by boat with her husband Franz and 3 year old daughter (Magdalene). Kate was only 23 at the time. Like so many before her (and so many after) they arrived at Ellis Island in search of a better life. At the time, inflation was rocking Germany following WWI. After boarding the Mount Carroll she would wave goodbye to her parents and a sister… Never to see them again. By the time Kate was able to return to Germany 50 years later, all had died.
Kate Gehrke loved The United States, and following WWII she wrote this heartfelt Ode To America titled: MEMOIRE. We were told this tribute was framed and hung on a courthouse wall in Spokane Washington following her naturalization (to US citizenship) . We’re not sure if it still hangs there today… In case it doesn’t, we’ll hang it here for you.
By: Kate M. Gehrke
I stood on the shore of the Baltic Sea
Watching its mighty waves,
And visited St. Petersburg
In its Imperial Days.
From the Rhein River steamboat I had a look
At the Lorelei and the Tower at Bingen.
The Bohemian Forest, I remember so well
With its gypsies melodiously singing.
But most of all I think about the crossing of the ocean
To a new world – I had always known -
But only by its name.
A world so different from the old,
And still so much the same.
For here I met the people from Russia
And the Baltic Sea,
From Bohemia, the Rheinland
And from Saxony.
They talk about the good old days,
And sing their happy songs.
They disagree on many things,
And argue rights and wrongs.
But, let an enemy attack this country
Land or sea -
They proudly rise to its defense,
Regardless of nationality.
Shoulder to shoulder and man to man
Ready to give their all
To fight, to die, if it must be
As true Americans.
For those who died for you, for me,
To keep this country safe and free,
Wherever their eternal sleep,
We pray, the Lord
Their soul to keep.
Kate Gehrke (born Kathe Marta Helene Dittmann)
1899 – 1971