The Heroines

Hilda Tanke-Siefker

is honored with a Medium Paver from Mary Jane Barton and Donna M. Stucky.

 Hilda  Tanke-Siefker 1901-1996

Our grandmother, Hilda Siefker, was a very special and influential person in the lives of her many family members. Her advice and consistent example helped shape the lives of her children and grandchildren during her lifetime and continue to influence them even today.

Hilda was born and raised in Deep River, Iowa. She and her husband, A.W. were farmers and made their home in Iowa before moving to Kansas in 1947. They raised ten children, instilling in them the values of hard work, honesty, perseverance, and above all faith in God. Near the beginning of her retirement at age 67, she lost a daughter, Lorna and willingly took her daughter's five children and raised them to adulthood. We were two of those five children.

Our grandmother seemingly was an ordinary, common person. Her name seldom appeared in the newspaper. She never had time to join clubs or organizations. She never sought to bring attention to herself. Yet, her life demonstrated love, sacrifice, and Christian faith to those around her. Our grandmother gave up retirement and a life of leisure to provide her grandchildren a childhood full of opportunity and invaluable experiences. She taught us about farming, gardening, canning, tending to animals, and sewing. At the same time she taught us about hard work, dedication, humbleness, and how to be a survivor. She taught us these skills and attributes not by word but by action. Our grandmother never just assigned a chore. Rather she had us work right beside her day by day as she shelled walnuts, canned applesauce, milked cows, butchered chickens, froze strawberries, tied a quilt, or spent hours lovingly caring for the garden. It's strange how chores often did not seem like work at all but were enjoyable and fun.

Though our grandmother only completed the eighth grade herself, she was an advocate of education. She possessed remarkable knowledge of geography and history and had strong English and mathematical skills. It is impossible to count the number of hours and evenings she spent helping us prepare for tests by quizzing us on spelling words, historical dates and facts, and geography. We still remember how she would laugh with us when we forgot a state capital or the spelling of a word and our incorrect answer turned into humor. Grandma's support and assistance did not end with grade school or even high school but stayed with us all the way through college. It was remarkable how her presence and simple acts of love could help us get through late night college cram sessions.

Our grandmother's inspiration did not stop with our education. After our graduation from college, Grandma encouraged us in our careers. We knew she wanted us to excel and she rejoiced with us in our accomplishments. She grew up in a time when few women had careers but she had foresight ahead of her time. Upon Donna's graduation from college, Grandma reinforced Donna's decision to go to work despite having a small child at home. "Donna, don't let them (those who thought she shouldn't work with a small child) bother you. When my children were small, I put them in a basket under a tree and would make several rounds in the field. Then I would stop to nurse them. As they grew older, their older siblings watched them at home. The only difference between you and me, is you will draw a paycheck and that is what people don't like!"

One of our most cherished memories and treasured times spent with Grandma was playing the game of Scrabble. This was by far Grandma's favorite game. She played it nearly daily with one of us. This game provided not only endless hours of fun and language enrichment, but also opportunity for joyous competition. This special time together not only enriched our lives through learning made fun but also afforded us the opportunity to hear from Grandma about her life.

During her 94 years of life, Grandma touched the lives of her 10 children, 27 grandchildren, and 39 great-grandchildren. Her memory serves as a guiding force in the decisions, work ethic, and moral principles we exercise today. She instilled in us the necessary basics to succeed in today's business environment.

We will never forget her strength, courage, hard work, perseverance, love, understanding, faith, and forgiveness. She served as a model of someone we hope to become. We owe Grandma thanks not only for our biological lives, but also for making us who we are today. She is endeared in our hearts forever!

Submitted with love and admiration by Donna (Dolen) Stucky and Mary Jane (Dolen) Barton

April 22, 1999