Our German Bohemian Legacy
Robert J. Paulson
Paul Kretsch Passes Away
It was a sad day for all when past President Paul Kretsch died on August 23 2006. The news spread quickly as Jerry Gulden posted Paul’s obituary on the Roots Web mailing list. Also, Karen Hobbs pitched in and asked any list members interested in more info to write her off line. As folks came from miles around New Ulm, the long funeral home waiting line seemed to never end. At the funeral Mass, a “color guard” of society members dressed in tracht provided the escort, just as Paul would have wanted.
After Mass, many gathered at the cemetery, where “Das Böhmerwald Lied” was sung. White doves were released, as a symbol of his love for the Bohemian pigeons. Gift memorials for Paul flooded into our office. Following is a list of those we heard from who wanted to pay a personal tribute to him.
From Janice Kretsch
I would like to thank the society for the beautiful plant and for those that participated in the honor guard at the church and sang at the cemetery. It meant a lot to Paul’s family. The society and singing group were such a big part of his life and he didn’t like stepping down from either of them, but wanted time to finish his dialect translation. That, however, was not to be but hope somehow we can finish it for him. Paul had a special place in his heart for all of you and we will miss him.
A Tribute to Paul
We remember all the time he spent to organize the German-Bohemian Heritage Society, and to keep it growing. Also, for designing our German- Bohemian Monument in German Park. Every Saturday at 9 am all the board members would meet at Country Kitchen, to work out plans and report on the progress that had been done the previous week. He was also a very dedicated leader for our singing group for all the 13 years that we performed together. It was a pleasure working with Paul through the years, and is missed by all.
A True German-Bohemian
Paul Kretsch was the personification of a true German-Bohemian. He loved to laugh and sing. He loved good food and beer. He loved his church and his family. And he loved his German- Bohemian cultural heritage. Paul guided the German-Bohemian Heritage Society for many years. It was his direction that made the German- Bohemian Immigrant Monument a reality. It was his inspiration, talent and dedication that made it possible for the German-Bohemian Heritage Singers to share their music with so many. It was his passion for the beauties of the spoken language that the German-Bohemian immigrants brought to New Ulm that will preserve it for generations to come in his audio dictionary. It’s been a privilege for me to have known such a true “German-Bohemian”.
Bob Paulson, GBHS Founder
Paul, I have only known Paul a very few short years. To me he was a very kind, compassionate, gentle human being. He was dedicated first and foremost to his wife Janice, his children and grandchildren. His second passion was pursuing and learning about his German Bohemian Heritage of which he was very proud of. I enjoyed a number of precious hours with him down at the G.B.H.S. Library listening to him tell the stories of his ancestors and of his time visiting in Bohemia. A finer man one will never meet.
From Jerry Gulden
Paul Kretsch, what a spark plug for our Society. His smile was attached to most everything I can think of. I remember when the second edition cookbook staff was going to review the material prior to its printing. We asked for help and Paul stepped forward for that review. It wasn’t his project but he was right there helping. The one comment that has followed me around the country was one he made during one of our picnics. We had a couple from Grays Lake Illinois staying with us that weekend. We took them along with us to Hermann Heights; Paul made his customary greeting to me, Hello! Gerhard. From that point on I was called Gerhard by that friend in whatever city we happened to be in and just last month we were at that couples home, and again he called me Gerhard. What a pleasant way for me to remember Paul.
(Gerhard) Jerry Gulden
All of us have had good friends through life and all of us have had really close friends also. One of my closest friends and one of my best friends was Paul Kretsch.Our friendship started in 1985 shortly after the GBHS was organized. We both were members and regularly attended meetings and social events.
We worked on the GBHS Immigrant Monument project, served on the GBHS board of directors, went on tours of the homeland, were members of the GBHS Heritage Singers, and sometimes just hung out with our wives and friends with good music and few good beers.
As most of you know Paul passed away on August 23, 2006. It was a difficult time for all of us who knew him and even now there is emptiness without his presence. Most of you from the New Ulm area know what Paul meant to the GBHS. I would like to tell those of you whose only contact with the Society is this newsletter what Paul meant to our Society.
Paul was a charter member of the GBHS, served as its president for 16 years, lead the GBHS Heritage Singers for its entire existence, was the leading figure in the fund raising and erection of the GBHS Immigrant Monument, served as a liaison between the Society and the City of New Ulm serving on several city committee’s always with the Societies interests in mind.
After Paul’s retirement from the working world he spent a good share of his spare time working on projects and the everyday business of the GBHS.
At the time of his death he was working on completing a dictionary/translation of the German-Bohemian dialect. One of his fears as he approached his final months on earth was not being able to complete this project. He had come very close. Close enough that it will be able to be finished and published. I will miss Paul but I have enough good memories of him to last to the end of my life. Until he and I meet again.
Paul in a Word — Generous
Paul Kretsch epitomized generosity. I met
Paul Kretsch in 1993 at the Minneapolis airport where I joined fellow members of the GBHS to fly to Germany to tour the homeland and attend the Heimatreffen. He was welcoming and warmly genuine. Since I was the sole Canadian on the tour, he went out of his way to make me feel a part of the group. He assisted me and others who needed a translator because he was one of a few who spoke the dialect fluently.
His accomplishments on behalf of the GBHS are too numerous to name. Under his leadership the society has grown in size and prominence. It has become a reliable source of information for those seeking their German-Bohemian roots and a place to celebrate our cultural heritage. His musical talents are legendary and his love of the language was evident in his mission to compile a dialect dictionary. He gave unselfishly of his time and considerable talents—and we, who remain, are the better for it. Like many others, I will miss his ready smile, hearty laugh and quick wit.
It has been reported to the New Ulm Journal that there were some strange goat sounds coming from the direction of the cemetery yesterday.
The fact is that I was doing some research at the Brown County Historical Society yesterday and I told Darla G. how nice the funeral and graveside ceremonies were. I also told her that I wanted to play “Amazing Grace” on “Wolfie” (my Dudel- sack), but just was not able to do so. She said, “Why don’t you go out and do it now?”
So I did. I went to the cemetery, no one was around, and I played for Paul.
I feel much better now.
Anonymous (Bob Paulson)
A Tribute for Paul
We come together this evening to pay tribute to our friend, Paul Kretsch, we come together to give thanks for all that he has done for our society and the community, and we come together to express our deep appreciation to his family for sharing Paul with all of us.
Paul was a German-Bohemian, of this he was very proud, this he always kept foremost in his mind and this he felt deeply in his heart.
He carried with him a deep sense of his German-Bohemian cultural heritage, the legacy that he received from his immigrant forefathers. Paul’s ancestors, the Kretschs and the Hallas, came to rural Brown County 150 years ago. For the most part they came to this country as poor immigrants. They did not bring with them great wealth, they brought with them something far more valuable, they brought their values, their way of life, and their beautiful and unique culture. This is the legacy that Paul so generously shared with all of us.
Paul was hardworking, determined, thrifty, and liked order. He was a great thinker, planner, and organizer. He had a strong faith, and a real zest for life. He was a devoted husband, a wonderful father and fun loving grandfather. These were the qualities that Paul brought to his family, to the workplace and to every committee on which he served: the German Park concerts and picnics, the 150th Anniversary committee, the German Park restoration project, and of course his sixteen years as president of the German-Bohemian Heritage Society.
Paul was a tireless worker for the German-Bohemian Immigrant Monument: its planning, fund raising, construction, and final dedication. He even designed the decorative fence that surrounds the monument.Paul loved to celebrate life, he loved to dance and sing , he loved to tell funny stories about his family in the “good old days” in Sigel. And of course he loved music and the German-Bohemian language. He organized the German-Bohemians Heritage Singers to keep alive the old German-Bohemian folk songs language dictionary.
Paul shared his cultural legacy with all of us: the New Ulm community, the GBHS, and, of course, his family. His gift to us is in good hands now, we will take good care of it. He can rest in peace. But, if I know Paul, he is busy organizing a singing group among the German-Bohemian alumni, singing all the old songs and laughing at all the old stories.
Thank you, Paul! Thank you for everything!
Paul Kretsch Day
by Louie Lindmeyer
August 18, 2007, was a rainy and glooming day but somehow the all-day rain let up long enough for the unveiling and dedication of the Paul Kretsch plaque in German Park at the site of the German-Bohemian Immigrant Monument. Family and friends gathered to listen to speeches and New Ulm Mayor Joel Albrecht’s proclamation naming August 18, 2007 as Paul Kretsch Day in New Ulm. His tireless work with the German- Bohemian Heritage Society, serving as its president for sixteen years and City of New Ulm made him very deserving of the honor
The plaque was unveiled and the inscription was read as follows:
I grew up in an environment which included the German-Bohemian culture. Already as a young man I recognized the uniqueness about this culture. Belonging to this organization has taught me just how unique and special it is. This makes my job not one of labor, but rather one of love.
Paul Kretsch, President of the German- Bohemian Heritage Society from 1989 to 2004, played a significant role in the planning, fund raising, and construction of the German- Bohemian Immigrant Monument. He worked tirelessly to communicate and foster an understanding and deep appreciation for the German-Bohemian people, their rich cultural heritage, unique language and beautiful music. We are grateful for his many years of leadership and service to the GBHS and the City of New Ulm. Paul will not be forgotten
After the ceremonies in German Park concluded a reception and dinner was held at Turner Hall. Paul’s twin brother and current GBHS president Patrick Kretsch showed a DVD presentation. The DVD detailed in pictures Paul’s early life on the farm and how he learned to love the German-Bohemian dialect that he heard his parents and aunts and uncles speak. Paul also learned to speak this dialect and in the last ten years of his life wrote a German-Bohemian dialect dictionary and translation book that the GBHS hopes to publish in 2008.
The presentation also included his service in the U.S. Army, his athletic years playing baseball and then softball, his marriage to Janice Ries, and his children and grandchildren which were the most important things in his life. Robert Paulson eulogized Paul with a wonderful talk and Paul’s daughter Darcy Schmidt gave us a heartwarming look at her memories and thoughts of her dad. Angie Portner and Joleen Keckstein told of Paul’s involvement and dedication to the German-Bohemian Heritage Singers, which Paul organized. Paul’s widow Janice topped the night off by eloquently thanking everyone involved in the day’s activities.
I have to say that Paul Kretsch Day was one of the most beautiful days dedicated to someone special that I have ever witnessed. The warm feelings of the day were everywhere and in everyone I talked to that day. It was all because of one special person that I was lucky to call my friend — Paul Kretsch.
As I reflect on the day I think about what the GBHS has accomplished in its 23 years as a society. The monument project, the publications such as the cookbooks and the Quiet Immigrants book, the German-Bohemian Heritage Singers and their recordings to mentioned just a few. These are great assets that other organizations would envy, but our greatest assets are our people, our members. Without them we would be nothing and would not need to exist. And that was never more evident than on Paul Kretsch Day. Thank you Paul!
Thanks go out to Denny Warta for being MC at the German Park dedication and Brian Filzen for being MC at the Turner Hall dinner. Thanks also to the GBHS board of directors for their hard work in making Paul Kretsch Day a reality. Part of the large crowd gathered for Paul’s Day