As any family would do, we love to celebrate the achievements, growths and lives of our German Family Society members. Whether it's giving a shout out to a member who deserves it, special recognition, or interviewing one of our jugend, we want to share some of the special members of our organization with the world and give them a chance to shine.
Learn more about why we started spotlights at the bottom of the page.
Has one of our members earned a spotlight? We would love to hear about it.
One of our club’s long-time supporters and volunteers, Katie Hoffman, celebrated her 100th birthday with Ohio-based family on July 11.
Katie was born in Akron on July 11, 1920. At the age of 3, her parents returned to Gasinci, Yugoslavia, where she grew up, married and had 2 children, John (Hoffman) and Rose (Spreitzer). Her husband was killed during WWII in 1943 and she fled with her mother and children to Austria. Katie and her children lived in a refugee camp in Linz, Austria, for 8 years. She returned to the U.S. and Akron at the age of 31 and eventually built a house on Triplett Blvd. in Firestone Park. She worked hard to raise and support her children, alternating shifts of work with her mother and sister, Paulina Flamm, who lived next door, so that someone would always be at home with her children and niece Emma (Lach). She eventually moved to Cuyahoga Falls, where she has resided ever since and now lives with Rose and son-in-law Chris Spreitzer.
Not long after retiring from her full-time job at the age of 62, her friend of many years, Anna Langenfeld, invited her to join the Frauenschaft. She made many friends working in the kitchen, including Mary Rickert, Maria Klein, Anna Koenig, Katie Bohnert, Leni Felder, Eva Lehner, Theresa Guld, Katie Leisner, Margot Nischt, Maria Ganz and Liz Miller. For several years, she was in charge of Arbeit Einteilung and then moved on to the Vorbereitung committee and worked in the kitchen till she was 91, loving every minute.
Mrs. Koenig, who ran the kitchen for 15 years, said “Katie was the biggest help I ever had. She was there from beginning to end, never showing tiredness, doing anything we needed in the kitchen and with making the cookies.” That included standing at an old, labor-intensive meat tenderizer machine for 8 hours at a time, working with the schnitzel, to make sure every piece was the perfect shape, size and thickness.
“At one of our Frauenshaft meetings, I called her my angel and she said ‘Don’t say that anymore!’ She never wanted to take credit for all the work she did and all the help she provided,” Mrs. Koenig said.
She joined the Golden Ring and went on all the outings with the Frauengruppe, including the Youth Group’s competition trips. She loved watching her granddaughters Angie Charles, Laurie Savage and Julie Unger dance in the various groups, and helped shuttle them to dance practices.
Even after she could no longer drive at the age of 88, she continued volunteering and coming to club events. She was at the club for our last Oktoberfest and the first fish fry before the pandemic.
Her daughter, Rose, said Katie’s heart has always been a part of our club, providing connections to the homeland and friendships that have lasted a lifetime.
Mary Rickert, 100, passed away peacefully on February 13, 2020. Born in Bajmok, Yugoslavia, she immigrated to the U.S. in 1951.A seamstress by profession, she worked in the ladies ‘ alteration department at the M. O’neil Co. in Akron. She was an active member of the St. Bernard’s Altar Society in the 50’s & 60’s, and later became a member of Our Lady of Victory Church in Tallmadge.
Her faith and her family were the top priorities in her long life. She loved to cook and host dinners for her family, and especially enjoyed baking for them. Everyone knew Oma would bring her delicious kipfel or Apfel Bitte to family events. An avid gardener, she enjoyed growing her own vegetables into her 90’s, and keeping her flower garden blooming. Her secret to reaching 100 was drinking a glass of wine every day! Mary was a founding member of the German Family Society, which originated at St. Bernard’s and eventually moved to Brimfield. In the late 60’s, she used her culinary skills to head up the Ladies’ Auxiliary until the late 80’s, while her late husband, Joseph served as President of the German club. She spent countless hours volunteering in the kitchen, cooking food for events such as the Oktoberfest. She also enjoyed singing with the club’s Harmony Singers.
Tell us your current roles at Akron GFS.
Currently, I have a role on the Board of Trustees as Co-Leader of the Adult Tanzgruppe. I also sit on the National Landesverband Board representing adult dances groups for our sister clubs across the country.
Tell us about how you started becoming involved at the German Family Society.
When I was a young child my best friend Chris Biasella and his family (the Gloecklers) were always out at the club (and still are). I would come out with them and have a fantastic time. As I got older though, I really started to get into heritage, culture, and history and thought about how cool it was that Chris and his family knew exactly where their family came from and the traditions that they had. At the 2009 TraubenFest I decided I should join the club and embrace my German heritage. I joined as a member in 2010 and danced with them until 2015 when I transitioned over to the Adult Tanzgruppe.
Do you have connections to the Donauschwaben? Or German heritage?
Yes, after being a part of the club years later I found out that my family (who is German Hungarian) came from the exact region of the Donauschwaben. I always say its like fate that I would join a club with a heritage I knew nothing about just to find out that my ancestors came from that exact area and region. Anyways, being a member of the club means I have hundreds of Donauschwaben brother and sisters, moms and dads, Omas and Opas!
Why do you think someone should become involved in the GFS if you do not have direct German heritage? What keeps you coming back?
The family and friends that I have made in the club! When I first joined, I was super intimidated because everyone knew everyone else and I only knew my friend and his family. Everyone accepted me with open arms though! I couldn't imagine NOT belonging to this club now. Our club is so friendly, safe, and welcoming. Its a great place to meet new friends, go to festivals, and just hang out. My friends I've meet at the club are my family and I couldn't be happier that I joined back in 2010.
During the Meindl Leisner Soccer Tournament, in the company of friends, family, GFS members and soccer players, we unveiled a sign at one of our GFS fields dedicated to these two extraordinary gentlemen. During one of the speeches given just before the unveiling of the new sign, it was said best, “our parents and our family would be proud of what we have today.”
Our organizations would not be possible without men and women, like Marty Misbrener and Albert Petzker, who selflessly put in many weekends, months and years of their lifetime to make sure our heritage and traditions live on. Thank you to all of our volunteers, donors, members, family, teams and more that made it out to honor these two!
What is your name?
My name is Brie Bierlair, B-I-E-R-L-A-I-R, I am 8 years old... I started dancing when I was four, I think.
Tell me about German Dancing.
Dancing. It's fun. My teachers are nice.
What is your favorite dance?
The Christmas Polka and the Fireman dance... And Du hast.
Do you have friends in your group?
Can you tell me something in German?
Can you tell me something else?
What do you think about your costume? Your Dirndl?
Great! It's awesome! I like the flowers on it.
Are you going to stay in the German club forever?
Special thank you to our club photographer and member since 2005, David Hall. Without him, our website and social media would be severely lacking. We are so fortunate to have a member of our club donate time and effort into capturing all of our club memories.
See www.hallbuzz.com for more amazing photos!
"What started in 2019 as a way to showcase certain members in our club within our bi-annual newsletter, then evolved into a place of recognition on our website. I wanted to create a place where friends and families could visit where a printed newsletter would not get lost at the bottom of a desk or a digital version would not get lost in the depths of an email inbox. A place where families could look back at fond memories and quotes from their loved ones posted by the organization that supports and loves them too at the touch of finger.
While we are a family society, we also form our small immediate families within our club's numerous groups and might not be able to see when someone deserves recognition or would be an entertaining candidate for an interview, hence the Nominate A Member options available.
I hope that our members continue to share their stories with us, and in doing so, keep our heritage alive."
Social Media Coordinator & Webmaster 2020
Has one of our members earned a spotlight? We would love to hear about it.