MaryBelle (Steele) Habeger
April 23, 1921 – January 20,2011
Today, my heart is back in the states, with my extended family. Last Thursday, at nearly 90 years old, my Great Aunt, Marybelle (Steele) Habeger left this life and went to meet her maker. Today is her funeral, and in many ways, I wish I could be there. She is the last of my grandfather’s generation (on my mom’s side) and was our family historian.
There are many funny things that I could tell about my Great Aunt. She was a born-again Christian, and forever making sure that everyone around her knew her views on both God and Religion (agree with them or not). To her, there was no grey area – just the black and white as outlined by the Bible and the Bible scholars that she was reading about. This alienated many in my family, but I found it a charming one of her quirks, even though I didn’t always agree with her. In general, she was just as stubborn as the rest of us, but she always welcomed me with open arms and an open heart to sit around her dining table and learn about whatever she decided to chat about. My view of her was that she had a big cackling laugh, was very outgoing, and very classic in her ways – constantly to be seen with an updo, snappy yet practical clothes, and almost always ready with a story or a smile.
Having been born in the 1920’s (my grandfather was nearly a teenager by the time she arrived) and come of age in the great depression, she was creative and crafty. She constantly saved clip art – and was known well for using it to illustrate one point or another in her yearly Christmas letters. (She didn’t send cards – she literally would write exerpts from her year and her journal on anywhere between 2-4 pieces of paper illustrated in the margins with the clip art.) As a kid, these letters were eagerly looked forward to – because they were different, they were funny, and they were a way of relating to a great Aunt that I barely knew.
One of the amazing things about Aunt Marybelle is that she was always interested in family history. She inherited alot of family hierlooms that had been in storage for many many years – and took all of these hundred-year-old (and older) letters, photos, portraits, and documents that she inherited – and used them to research, document, and go back in our family history. She also painstakingly transcribed from handwritten to typed versions many of the letters and documents that she received and used all of this to help her trace my family roots back to the 1600’s (pre-immigrating to the “Americas”) and then wrote two books about my family history and geneology. To a kid who lived 1200 miles from where her parents, grandparents, and great grandparents grew up, these books were like a treasure trove. I got to learn about people that I never knew, their life story, and not just from her nor a historian perspective – but from the letters and journals they themselves wrote. It was not an easy task (nor one that she did quickly) and for that, she gave myself – and my entire family an invaluable resource – strong roots – so that we could grow up and continue the family line.
The bright side is that despite my Great Aunt having gone through 12 years of 3 times a week dialysis – and she remained fairly healthy and pain-free until nearly the end. She lived in her home (With the help of my Aunt/Uncle, her son, and for the last week or so – a hospice nurse.) She was able to really enjoy her life – and those of us involved in it – and she did her best to make sure it was filled with things she liked to do (gardening, reading, studying the bible) and people and pets she liked to be around. She enjoyed her large extended family – and in the end, went just as she wanted to – without alot of fuss. She went into the hospital not feeling well in the morning, and was gone by the evening. Very quick and just like her, decisive.
I know that she will be missed – and I am sure that later in my life, I will wonder what would have happened if she hadn’t taken the initiative in preserving what she inerited for not just her own son, but for my extended family too. I think that thanks can never express the gratitude that our family will always have for the time she spent researching and preserving our family history. With strong roots, we each can reach upwards toward heaven, a place I know she now resides.
You can see her self-written obituary here: