Johanna Georgianna Ehlers
Johanna Georgianna Ehlers (nee Hutsteiner), caregiver, fisher woman and cook extraordinaire.
Ninety-one year old Johanna died Sunday, Nov. 11, 2007, after a most enjoyable 20 years at Cedar Ridge. She was one of the original residents, and spent her final days at Cedar Crossings where she was lovingly attended by staff and family.
Johanna thrived on the many warm and close friendships she formed at the Ridge. Favorite activities included balancing to the penny when volunteering in the basement store, making the winning home run in competitive games of dart ball, playing Rummikub at least three times a week with close lady friends, delivering the newspaper everyday at 6 a.m. to her hallway neighbors, being an active and outspoken participant at Current Events, bicycling 15 minutes a day as part of her personal exercise program, participating in tasty, summer wiener roasts, serving as a fluent translator of German and singing her heart out at chapel every Tuesday afternoon.
Johanna was born March 14, 1916 in Munich, Germany. At age 11, she immigrated to the United States with her father, Johann Hutsteiner; her mother, Anna (nee Fenzil) Hutsteiner; her sister, Marie Hutsteiner, age 5; and her brother, Johann Hutsteiner, age 3.
Many years later she would return to her beloved small town of Wegschied, Germany several times so she could hike and visit "her mountains."
Her apartment was decorated with a dozen mountain scenes, places that always sparked great sentiment. Her most cherished memory from her childhood was at Christmas at age 10. The family hiked through deep snow, packing a Christmas tree back on a sled. Decorations were made of cookies, oranges and marzipan and the night ended with a lantern-lit, midnight walk to mass and the song "Stille Nacht."
On June 16, 1937, Johanna married baker, Wilhelm Heinrich Ehlers in Omaha, Neb. She would fondly tell of his courting her while she stood atop a step ladder working and paying minimal attention to him.
Once married, the two of them worked as waitress and bartender at the Atlantic Hotel on Cly-bourn Street in downtown Mil-waukee.
This was depression time and she remembers how grateful they were to have employment even though their shifts were opposite of each other.
In 1941, Johanna and husband, Wilhelm, found their true occupational passion at the luxurious Lakeshore Apartment Building, where they served as caretakers.
Also known as "1224" the building had noteworthy history as the first structure built in 1922 back on "Milwaukee’s Gold Coast." The Ehlers were dearly loved by their tenants, many of whom were wealthy socialites and community leaders.
Always described as going "way" beyond the call of duty, tenants remember the strong sense of security and protection they provided.
With their first floor apartment door always open, they could recognize residents’ footsteps and offer them a warm welcome home every evening.
Johanna was known for her caring nature, her omnipresent smile, bringing hot meals to those who were ill, doing weekly grocery shopping for some of the elderly and catering elegant, lavish, gourmet dinner parties.
Her frequently requested specialties were beef tenderloin with mushrooms and black forest torte. She was a cook extraordinaire and at the time of her death had an active collection of over 75 personalized recipe books with prolific anecdotal notes written in the margins.
When the Ehlers retired after 27 years, they were honored with gifts, parties, outbursts of affection and two articles in the Milwaukee Sentinel "Jaunts with Jamie."
Daughter, Eileen Kelley proudly comments "mother was way before the times in originating what we term today as individualized quality customer service."
After retirement Johanna and Wilhelm purchased a small home in Wauwatosa. This was a time for fishing, fun, long walks and growing an enormous vegetable garden featuring giant red tomatoes.
On the intellectual side though, Johanna was not ready to slow down. Having been denied the opportunity to attend high school after eighth grade, she decided to take the GED (General Educational Developmental test) at age 66.
After a year of study she passed with flying colors according to her instructors. A passing score was 225 and Johanna excelled with a 269.
Her neighbors were so proud of her they hosted a surprise graduation party complete with cap, gown and diploma that read "for outstanding educational merit, we the residents of Elm Spring Avenue are proud to present Johanna Ehlers with this diploma given in Wauwatosa on the 12th day of June 1982."
In honor of her accomplishment her daughter sent traditional gold cross pens as a gift and the local paper ran an article and picture on the "Catch-Up Coed."
Johanna was a member of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Milwaukee and St. John’s United Church of Christ in Kohlsville. She was active as the Emmanuel choir mom for 10 years and enjoyed teaching underprivileged young women sewing and knitting skills.
For fun, she competed annually with her husband for the largest Northern Pike and, to no one’s surprise, she held the family record and was featured in the local northwoods newspapers more often than he.
Johanna was predeceased by husband, Wilhelm; her sister, Marie Bosanac; and a special family friend, William Eklund.
Survivors include her daughter, Eileen Kelley of Lakewood, Wash.; her son-in-law, Dr. James Kelley of Lakewood; a brother, John Hutsteiner of Brookfield; a sister-in-law, Alice Hutsteiner of Brookfield; a nephew, Paul Bosanac of West Allis; a dear friend of 70 years, Katie Lang of West Bend; and her godson, Richard Lang and wife, Linda Lang, of Oconomowoc.
Daughter, Eileen and husband, Dr. Kelley wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to all who enriched mother’s life with their friendship.
Special mention is given to Betty Cristan, manager of Cedar Ridge, who praised and honored Johanna’s work ethic; all the staff at Cedar Ridge who treated Johanna as if she was a family member; the compassionate nurses at Cedar Crossings who hovered over Johanna with great affection in her final days; Dr Charles Kaufman for his wise, skilled, conservative and ever-present medical services; Lynn Gieldon, who provided care services to Johanna as if she was Eileen's sister; and to Gemini Helping Hand who was available and on call 24 hours a day for long distance phone calls and management of crises.
A celebration of life service will be held Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 10 a.m. at Cedar Ridge, with Brett Lieungh as celebrant.
Cremation will take place at Paradise Cremation Services, followed by inurnment next to her husband, Wilhelm, in Washington County Memorial Park in West Bend.
Memorials, in lieu of flowers, may be sent to Cedar Ridge Special Needs Fund, attention Betty Cristan, 119 Cedar Ridge, West Bend, WI, 53095.
The Phillip Funeral Home of West Bend is assisting the family