I will never forget the first time I met Mark’s grandpa. He reached out his hand and said something along the lines of “Hi there, name’s Claude. And here’s where two good hands meet,” as he shook my hand. Little did I know that moment would be forever engrained upon my memory of a man who has become so special to me.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Grandpa Claude, you just know what a truly special man he is. Today, he celebrates his 90th birthday. And last week he celebrated 67 years of marriage. Grandpa’s story of life, farming, marriage, and faith isn’t an easy one. It wasn’t lived without truly hard work, hard times, and sometimes little money. But Grandpa’s life is a true testament to a life well lived. You can just tell by his demeanor and disposition on a daily basis that the life he has lived has been a good one and that he’s made the most of this life God has provided to him.
We celebrated his birthday on Saturday after Mass in the Catholic church he and his lovely bride of sixty-seven years got married in. It isn’t the same building, but it is the same institution. During the service, Father took some time to share with all of us a conversation he had with Grandma recently. He asked her why she doesn’t use a walker when out and about. Her reply was that Grandpa’s hand is all the safety and security she needs to get around. As Father said that, Grandma muttered “ya, that’s all I need, ya.” Father continued and used the metaphor of Grandma’s comment as a metaphor for our marriage to the Lord as well as inspiring people to look into their own marriages. It’s all the safety and security you need in this life. I honestly don’t think there was a dry eye amongst our family in that church.
Grandpa, whether he knows it or not, is an example of so many things in this life. An example of a life lived for God, an example of a Godly marriage, an example of hard work and perseverance, and example of not taking yourself too seriously in life as he regularly loves to laugh. I think often we so easily take for granted the elderly people in our lives and our families, we forget what true blessings they are for our families and our communities. We often don’t know of the sacrifices they made so that we can be where we are today or the examples they showed us through their life.
I wish I could share on here the many stories, lessons, and memories Grandpa has shared with me throughout my time of knowing him; they are endless and I relish in each and every one. Just recently, Mark and I have taken to capturing them on video so someday when Grandpa is no longer with us, we we can share them. We can remind those who come after us of what the people of Grandpa’s generation did to survive. So that we can farm and live on the land we do today.
In order to commemorate Grandpa’s 90th birthday, he asked me to write a little something up for the paper in the county he grew up in. I had the honor and the privilege of spending several afternoons and weekends with Grandpa and Grandma, just the three of us. We talked, I took notes, we scrolled through photos, and I soaked it all up. When it was done, I couldn’t just sum the life of a man who is celebrating his 90th year up in one or two paragraphs. This story needed to be told in several and even then I found it difficult. These stories could be told in a book or several and maybe someday they will be.But for now, here is the story of Grandpa Claude. A man who literally touches every life he meets. A man who we are proud to call our family and our legacy. A legacy we hope that is never forgotten in the Rohrich family. They often say, they don’t make them like that anymore, and truly they don’t. He’s one of a kind.
Claude Rohrich was born October 11, 1926 to Joe K. & Mary (Senger) Rohrich in Eureka, South Dakota. He was the oldest of nine children, six boys and three girls. The family lived in Strausburg for seven years before moving out to a farm thirteen miles east of Linton. Claude attended a farm school one and a half south east of their farm where he graduated the eighth grade. In good weather, Claude shares, he walked to school. And in the winter, one horse pulled a sled to school. Claude spoke only German when he started school and had to learn to speak only English while in school. He remembers that being extremely difficult.
Since Claude was the oldest, he remembers being like second manager on the farm. He did all the chores including milking ten to fifteen cows by hand. He regularly shares memories of plowing with a two-bottom plow pulled by five horses and harvesting flax, barley, oats, and wheat with a horse drawn binder and threshing machine. Claude can also remember the dust storms of the 1930’s and 1940’s when dust piled up the fence line. In winter, Claude shares, they burned manure and straw stomped down by horses and cut into square blocks to put into the fireplace.
When Claude wasn’t working on the farm, he liked to play baseball and ante-over. As a teenager he would hitchhike to town to play pool or go see a show. Claude remarks, “I never did get into trouble though as a young boy.” Claude also learned to trap at a young age and enjoyed trapping for extra money in the winter months throughout his life.
Claude met and married Katherine Schumacher (of Zeeland) and the two moved to a farm just east of Zeeland. The couple have three children: Carroll, Thomas, and Rodney. On the farm, the family milked cows, raised pigs and chickens, and farmed. Claude remembers for the thirty-two years they milked, the milk got picked up every day and taken to the Strausburg cheese plant. On the farm, they grew flax, wheat, and oats that they hauled to the Venturia Elevator. In his later life, Claude and Katie retired from the farm and moved into Zeeland.
In his retirement, Claude enjoys keeping up to date with the latest in farm news, attending auction sales, spending time with his family, as well as the occasional combine or tractor ride. He still enjoys spending time on the farm and regularly shares stories about how much farming has changed. It is clear through his stories and how much time he still spends on the farm, he is so proud of the legacy that has been continued from the hard work he started.
Happy 90th Birthday Grandpa! And from all of our family and friends, we love you!!