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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Interview with Judith Schiebout

Helen Mae Castenholz Schiebout

An interview was conducted on December 29, 2007, with Judith A. Schiebout, only child of Joe and Helen Mae (Castenholz) Schiebout. Judith received her Ph.D. in Geology from UT-Austin. She currently teaches at Louisiana State University in the Geology Department. She also co-teaches a Women and Gender Studies course on Women in Science.  Judith still resides in Louisiana.

Mom and dad met when Uncle Ferdinand was hired to clean mom’s car. He brought along his younger brother, Joe to help. My mom married Johann (Joe) Schiebout in 1944 after a long courtship of 10 years. She told him she would not marry him until he became an Airforce officer. He did and she married him.

I assumed they were married in Grand Rapids [no record] and then were stationed in Tampa, Florida where I was born in 1946 after a complicated delivery. Mom and I then followed dad to Germany where we remained until well after the war had ended. I remember dad and mom both working with the German youth after the war. Mom taught them how to spin and card wool and then taught them to use the loams to weave the wool. The Castenholz family being Alcasia, spoke three languages, French one night, German the next, and English in between. So being fluent with all three, mom traveled well. As a little girl, I vaguely remember Mom and I traveling by boat to return to the states after Grandma had died in 1950.

I do remember the stories of mom and dad taking children from mom’s classroom in Grand Rapids to her 40 acres in Walkerville. Michigan, on the Pere Marquette River. She would load up the loams and fishing poles and treat the children to this outdoor camp. They would not only experience nature but an environment allowing them to feel creative and learn to use their hands. I still own the land in Walkerville and my family members still hunt the land and use the cabin.

After I was born, Mom did not return to teaching in the classroom. Her love of art continued through her drawings and paper cutting. She would fascinate children with her free-hand paper cutting.

Helen continued to volunteer her time for her special causes such as girl scouts. She was involved in Delta Kappa Gamma and was a lifetime member and past president of AAUW (American Association of University Women). After the World’s Fair in San Antonio, TX, she joined a group of concerned women to champion the creation of the Del Rio River Walk thus using the newly built facilities to continue to promote the area long after the World’s Fair.

Mom and dad lived with me in their later years. Mom was alert until the very end and would have loved to reminisce about those early days in Grand Rapids.

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