Setting the Record Straight on the Berger-Wurtz-Erhardt Connection

My research was not concerned with the Erhardt’s.  I was most interested in my lineage which would be that of Grandfather John Berger and Grandmother Elizabeth Wurtz Berger Erhardt.

The story I always knew was that Grandfather John died when dad was a young boy.  After that, Grandmother Elizabeth married Ralph Erhardt, a widower with three children of his own.  After they got married, Elizabeth and her 5 children moved to Spokane to be with her new husband Ralph and his children.  I never heard any of the five Berger kids ever talk about John.  They always talked about Ralph, and we older grandchildren got to know him as our grandfather.  Ralph accepted Elizabeth’s children as his own and was a terrific grandfather.

So terrific that he got his one and only speeding ticket to come visit me right after I was born.  It seems the local policeman in Odessa, WA did not like some old man barreling through downtown with barely a reduction in speed.  The story is he was lucky that he was not taken to jail the policeman was so mad.  Ralph was said to have been really angry the rest of the way until he got to see me.  I just love that story.

The story on Grandfather John, and this is what I gleaned from talking with Aunt Pauline, is that after the drowning accident in which two of his sons, Herman and Ralph, drowned, he never recovered.  He was in a deep depression until he died of an enlarged heart.  The truth is that he died of a broken heart.  These sons were children 2 and 4 between Adam and Matt, and Matt and Tony.  John was 46 when he died.

So let’s talk about how Ralph and Luisa/Elizabeth/Lizzie got together.  I’m going to use “Lizzie” for Elizabeth because I think it makes this story that much more fun.  I have several handwritten pieces of paper that discuss genealogy and she is referred to as “Lizzie”.

Here’s the story I knew up until August 2013 when I got hold of the Wurtz-Hoerner book from Christy.  I double checked my understanding with my sister Carisia who agreed it was what she knew, and while at Christy’s party, I asked a couple of the elder cousins who didn’t know much different either.

Ralph and Lizzie had been involved early in their lives and wanted to get married.  For some reason, they weren’t able to and went off and married other people.  What we knew was that Lizzie married John.  They went off and had 7 children, 2 of which died in a tragic drowning accident (1935).  John died in 1941.  Ralph had gone off and married someone else, had 3 children, and his wife died in 1939.  After both spouses had passed away, Lizzie and Ralph hook back up and get married.  By this time they are middle aged and who cares what anyone thought.

Ralph kids, Jacob, Anna, and Monica, were always referred to as step siblings.  This was the vernacular that we knew, and apparently my other cousins thought so too.  I always thought there was a weird dynamic between the Erhardt and Berger kids.  Something never seemed right.

Well, here is where the story gets interesting.  Ready?

Ralph did not marry just any old girt.  He married Lizzie’s older sister Rosa!  You see, when Lizzie and Ralph were having their fun early in life, older sister Rosa was not yet married and thus Lizzie was not allowed to marry until they got Rosa married off.  So, Ralph, Rosa, Lizzie, and John go off to their respective lives, have kids, and carry on.

That is until both Rosa and John die.  Rosa passed in 1939 and John in 1941.  Now free from the obligation to follow family order or anything else, they were able to finally marry and be together.  I think you could say they lived happily ever after.

This brings us back to Ralph’s kids.  They weren’t some step kids.  No, they were cousins.  I never knew that until I got that book and started going through it.  WOW. What a difference.  Cousins I tell you.  That trumps step siblings any day.  Shortly after learning this, I talked to Rose Jordan, daughter of Anna.  She seemed to know.  I told her of my understanding and she seemed to agree that explained some of the weirdness.  So crazy those people.

I feel bad that not more was ever said or known about John.  I grew up knowing Ralph as grandfather (he died when I was really young).  I also feel weird not knowing that Monica, Anna, and Jacob were really relatives.

What a great story of love.  Could you imagine what it must have been for them to have to let go of each other just because the older sister had not found someone and she got to pick off her younger sister’s boyfriend?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing Rosa, it’s just how things were.  What was it like when they were able to reunite and be together?  I have so many pictures of them and they always looked so genuinely happy.

As I wrap this up, I wish we had heard the love story in greater detail.  Maybe it was out of respect to Rosa and John that they – Ralph and Lizzie and their kids – did not talk a lot about it.  I appreciate that.  I wish that the older kids and Lizzie had talked more about John.  My dad Tony was 6 when he died.  (I don’t know what Ralph’s kids knew of Rosa.)  And I wish we had really known that Ralph’s kids and grandkids were cousins.

Next stop – where it all started.

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