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Our Family’s 20th Century History in Biographies .. 13

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Alice Diana Spengler Unger (Grandma Unger) Sept 22, 1878 - Oct 31, 1956, age 78
Buried at Zion Blue Mountain, Strausstown

Grandma Unger was the only child of Pappy and Mammy Spengler. Baptized Reformed at Zion on October 20, 1878 by Rev. Eli Hiester, with her parents as sponsors, she was also confirmed as Reformed on Oct 22, 1892 by Rev. Leinbach. She was a professional dressmaker (who made all her own patterns) until her marriage to Calvin Unger, although she continued to make clothes for the family. She had all kinds of scissors and measuring equipment. Aunt Carrie said she would take a Sears catalog, point to a picture of a dress, and her mother would make it for her; cutting a pattern out of newspapers.

Her in-laws did not approve of her, but when her father-in-law (Alfred Unger) was dying, he asked that Alice take care of him; we can assume he grew to appreciate her. She gave birth to four children: Helen M. in Oct 1897, Carrie A. in 1900, Earl A. in 1904 and Grace S. on Dec 29, 1907. (Grace died on Sept. 1, 1908.)

They lived in four different rented houses in Strausstown. At Christmas they put up a tree in the unheated parlor; on July 4th they celebrated with firecrackers that the children weren’t allowed to light. The family moved to West Lawn in 1919, where they lived on Penn Avenue until Grandpa Unger’s death in 1950. Aunt Carrie remembered her as a great jacks player. One of her favorite pastimes was putting jigsaw puzzles together.

Mom says that Grandma never spoke of Grace, but there was huge photo of her that hung over her bed. Grandma’s mourning veil (probably used at Grace’s funeral) was later given to Advent Lutheran Church to hang over the alter cross on Good Friday.

She was an outstanding cook, and when she and Grandpa lived on Penn Avenue every Saturday night featured either chicken soup or oyster soup, made in the “bathtub,” the big white bowl. She always had a big jar of cookies under the sink. Mom: “A BIG jar. It was a slate sink and there was no other place to put the jar. I think they were tollhouse cookies.” She also made good hard “dunker” cookies. One year for Christmas, Grandpa bought her a set of white china with a gold rim. Mammy arranged the china on the dining room table while they were at Christmas Eve service and it was a surprise to her when they came home. When Betty got married in 1950 (the year of Grandpa’s death), Grandma gave her the china as her wedding gift.

While in Strausstown, she was a member of the church choir, but after a thyroid operation, sadly, she was unable to sing. She was ordered bedrest for a week before the operation to gain strength.

While living in West Lawn she was very active in Advent Lutheran Church, especially in the ladies’ activities, such as making doughnuts, and shelling green peanuts to sell. She was a religious woman and Mom remembers that she did nothing on Good Friday or Ascension Day except cook. One of Mom’s favorite memories is of Grandma Unger walking up the street from Penn Avenue to 103 in her sunbonnet, long dress and shoes with wide, low heels. She would frequently help out her daughter Helen with household tasks, taking the mending basket home with her to work on.

She made a quilt for each grandchild, holding a dinner to give them out. Each quilt was of a different pattern, and each was numbered. The grandchildren (Kathryn, Russell, Betty, Bob and Dick) picked a number out of a jar. My mother’s quilt was Fanny’s Favorite.

At the time of Grandpa’s death, most of the items from the house were sold, and she moved in with Helen and Sam, spending part of the year with Carrie. When Grandpa died, he had a 1938 Packard Sedan worth $250; Poppop took the car in exchange for 50 weeks of room and board for Grandma at $5 per week. The house sold for $7,500 on March 21, 1950. Perhaps she need not have moved out of her house, but Poppop was going down every day to tend the fire, so I suppose they decided it was best that she just move in with them. One sad fact is that all the money she inherited from her parents was put into Grandpa Unger’s name, so that when he died she had to pay inheritance tax on her own money—for the second time.

In October 1956 she went to the hospital for a gall bladder operation, and it was discovered she had cancer in a very advanced stage; she died in the hospital. At her funeral there were many flowers from C. Schmidt and Sons, where Uncle Earl worked, and a hand bouquet from Kathy Jo, Mary Alice and Peg. Her estate was divided between Nana and Aunt Carrie, since Uncle Earl had taken his inheritance early. She was much loved by her children and grandchildren. In a note to the family, Rev. Ernest Weber said, “in my entire ministry, I have never met a finer woman.”

Linked to  Alison D. (Berger) Boor
Alice Diana Spengler 
Albums  Spenglers 

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