Herta Johanna Viktoria Herrera, age 88, passed away on March 10, 2011 at St. Peter’s Hospital. She was born on August 23, 1922, to Johanna Droese in Jagolitz Abbau of what was then Germany. She became a German war bride on February 7, 1950 when she married Fred Herrera. Together they raised four children.
During WWII she and her father Walter Droese were sent to work in Prague Czechoslovakia. When the war was declared over she and her father walked from Czechoslovakia back to Berlin to find her mother and younger siblings.
She witnessed the rise and fall of Germany and the new beginnings of this country. Upon her return to Berlin she played a part as a Trummelfrau (Rubble Woman) by helping clear the city of bricks and debris. As a U.S. Army wife she traveled to several countries making a home for all that knew her. She worked and retired as a cook for St. Martin’s college upon her return to the states in 1966.
She loved to knit, cook and garden, and her special ‘shicken and kasekucken’ will be forever missed. She is survived by her daughters Rosa Kimmerly (Jim), Monica Jezek (Rob), Irene Goldenberger, and son Anthony Herrera; five grandchildren Matthew Kimmerly (Kim), Robert Jezek, Shawn Goldenberger, Caitlin Jezek, Sasha Goldenberger; sister Ingrid Hermann, brother Wolfgang Droese (Heidi) both of Germany and several nephews and nieces.
A celebration of this remarkable woman’s life will be held on Friday, March 18 at 3 p.m. at Mills & Mills Funeral Home, 5725 Littlerock Road, Tumwater, WA.
Herta was born to humble beginnings and would tell you that she wouldn’t want people to make a fuss over her. But she was one of the strongest people you would ever meet. What she experienced and endured during her life seems unimaginable today. Because of the uncertainties she experienced during her childhood and during the War, she learned early on to do things for herself and became a strong, resolute person.
One of events that defined her life was when she forced to leave CZ after the war and walk back to Berlin. There was no food or shelter available and she had to eat whatever was left in the fields mainly gourds and potatoes. When she came to the states and saw that people here had so many choices, she made the choice to never eat squash or pumpkin pie. I believe this is the main reason she chose to come to the states so that she and her children could have a better life by being free to make their own choices in life.
Herta was ahead of her time in that she thought like a ‘women’s libber’ and believed that there is no one better than another and that if you take away the outer skin we are all the same underneath. I can imagine her walking with a poster calling for equal treatment of all. Her and her young daughter Rosa arrived in the States in New York by ship. She traveled by bus to Los Angeles to where her husband was. While on the bus she was befriended by a group of black people who took her under their wing and helped her along her travels. Realize her bus trip took her through the south and it was 1952. At one point a bus driver told her she couldn’t sit in the back with her new friends, that she had to sit up front. Mom couldn’t understand because the big back seat was much more convenient with a baby. It came to the point of her getting kicked off the bus because she wouldn’t move as she was ordered. Her friends got off too and they waited for the next bus. Sort of a Rosa Parks in reverse. While waiting for a different bus she accompanied her women friends in the bathroom and caused another ruckus for not using the facilities for white people. Lastly, was the water faucet mix-up. She drank from the same fountain as her friends. Yep. The bus station was in an uproar over this petite, very white, young woman who was confused and couldn’t understand what the heck these American’s were all shook up about.
She was also a person that had a very kind, caring spirit. She always made sure that if you came to her house there was always something for you to eat no matter what was in her cupboard. Because of what she endured, this was her way of offering your life and survival. You never left Oma’s house hungry or in want of a hug. She was the kind of cook that didn’t follow recipes; a little of this and a little of that and presto magic a meal would be created. She was a baker of cookies and treats for her grandchildren. A specialty being firecrackers – an egg-white and sugar meringue cookie that would sort of explode in your mouth.
She traveled the world as an Army wife including Fort Ord and Fort McArthur in CA, Fort Lewis, WA, Heidelberg and Frankfurt, Germany and Vicenza, Italy. In each of these locations she had no one to rely on except herself and miraculously built a comforting home for her family.
Because of her environmental upbringing she never had the need to drive, but when her kids were leaving the nest she realized she had to do something about her mobilization predicament. So with the resolution and stubbornness we all know she possessed, she learned to and acquired her first time driver’s license at the age of 57.
Rosa remembers that because she was the bossy oldest child trying to have her way, Mom would say to her ‘Get off your high horse, the world does not revolve around you’. This was again her way of telling me I’m no better than anyone else, the world doesn’t owe me anything and if you want something done, figure it out and do it yourself, because it’s your life that you need to take responsibility for.
Shawn and Sasha were her ‘local’ grandchildren whose mom Irene worked outside the home. They always spent a day or two a week at Oma’s house so they wouldn’t have to go to daycare full time. They would nap on the living room floor with blankets and pillows while Oma knitted and watched soap operas. They remember Oma taste testing batter for cookies and cakes by using her pinkie finger and pushing her tongue in the corner of her cheek when concentrating. Shawn was known to lick his plate when finished eating, especially her gravy. When anyone would try to reprimand Shawn, Oma would butt in and say to leave him alone. “It just means he likes it.”
Sasha remembers her Oma patiently teaching her 8-year-old fingers to crochet and telling her at 24, while trying to teach her to knit, that she should stick to crocheting.
Her eyes lighting up when she said, “Sashi, I made you firecrackers!”
Her way of teaching life lessons. Sasha had begun the bad habit of biting. One time at Oma’s she bit her brother Shawn. Oma grabbed Sasha’s arm and bit her right back saying, “Doesn’t feel very good, does it?” Lesson learned.
Having a shot of whiskey…. “just to settle my stomach.”
Her beautiful accent.
She left me voice mail messages like she was writing a letter and would always end it with Love, Oma.
She told my mom she thought I got her height from her Mutti and that the world needs small potatoes too.
You have skin. You don’t need a bathing suit.
She had a green thumb and loved flowers. Her daughter’s gardens all have hydrangeas, flocks and impatients that she had made “babies” from her established plants. She knitted, crocheted, embroidered and made a multitude of beautiful blankets for her family. She loved a good piece of “kuchen” and a strong cup of good coffee. Again, no pumpkin pie thank-you. And so today we will not have a Costco cake but enjoy a “good” cake from Wagner’s.
We have been blessed to have Herta as our mother, our Oma, and our friend. She lived a life of courage and giving. She loved life and she loved her family. It is truly all of ours fortune to have been touched by such an incredible woman. Thank you for loving us. Rest in peace Mutti. We love you.