Monica Dorthea Louise was born Monday, September 19, 1921 in Bentinck Township to parents Frederick Wilhelm (1880 – 1955) and Sophia (nee Lang, 1888 – 1961) Jank. Frederick and Sophia had been married Wednesday August 14, 1907 and their children were William Charlie August (1908-1966), Edward Albert (1910 – 2000) Frederick Arnold (1913 – 1992), Henry (1919 – 1976) and Monica.
Having been born in Bentinck Monica was actually raised in Sullivan Township and she attended SS #8 Sullivan with her future brother-in-law Mel Schwartz and future husband George Schwartz. The family had moved to Sullivan to be immersed in more of a German community as Monica had faced teasing and even bullying because of her German heritage. Her brothers were able to ward off the unwelcome attention but it was different for their baby sister. In all likelihood, the Jank family attended St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Marmion and Monica was likely confirmed the same year as Mel by The Rev. Walter Bauer.
We will let part of her story be told in her own voice. In her reflections Monica wrote,
In the spring of 1928 I started school. I was seven…. The school was three miles from my home. I remember that I could not walk to school every day when I started, because my legs would hurt too much. My mother kept me at home when she felt that I would be unable to walk that far in a day. My father’s opinion was that an education for a girl was unnecessary. He said girls just got married anyway. He felt that it was a waste of his time to hitch a horse to the buggy to take me to school or to come and get me after school. So, if I wanted to go to school to learn something I had to walk. I liked going to school, so rain or thunder storms in summer or cold, snow and stormy weather in winter didn’t stop me. I didn’t miss many days of school. I was sick very little.
In summer holidays it was my job to get the cows from the pasture for milking and to take them back after they were milked. My dad’s farm was 300 acres and the pasture was about a mile from the barn. So, rain or shine it was up to me to look after the cows. To sum up my time out in the rain and being wet would be quite a lot. But when a doctor asked me if I was out in the rain much as a child, I told him I really didn’t remember.
In June of 1935 I graduated out of grade school. But I did not go to high school that fall. I turned 14 that fall, and at that time, parents could keep their children out of school. My mother’s health was not good at that time. So, I stayed at home to help mom with the work. . . . .
I helped with the house work, taking over the washing, ironing, cleaning, scrubbing floors, and baking bread, cakes and pies. I also had to help outside with the chores. As time went on my brothers spent less time at home. Sometimes my dad had to hire a man to help with the farm work. My father usually had sixteen cows milking. I often had to milk six or more cows regularly.
In 1937 I noticed that sometimes my fingers looked red and swollen. In the morning when I woke up my fingers were numb, and I felt pins and needles in them. It got so bad that I could not bend my fingers when I woke up.… One morning mom came up to see if had gone to sleep again. I was sitting on the side of the bed. I told her I was waking my fingers up. I showed her my hands and that I couldn’t bend my fingers. She told me that it was poor circulation and that I would grow out of it.
In around 1939 World War II started. My brother Bill enlisted in the army. Bill was 13 years older than I. However, Bill was discharged about three months later. He was classified unfit for duty due to muscular un-coordination. He seemed to be alright. He worked for a farmer for awhile. Then he came home and he stayed at home. By this time, he walked like as if he was drunk and he would fall quite a bit. Brother Ed (11 years old than I am) was married and had a family of three children. My brother Fred (9 years older than I) was married and had three children. So, both Ed and Fred were exempt from the Army. My brother Henry (3 years older than I) was twenty. In October he turned twenty-one and was called for army training. The army was preparing him to go overseas for action. So, I was at home on the farm, with my parents and Bill.
Dad was in his sixties and he had rheumatism. My mother was in her fifties and was unable to do a lot of hard work. By the summer of 1942 Bill’s condition had deteriorated to the point where he had to use his hands to help his legs to move up the steps, and often even to walk. He was falling quite often every day. He kept trying to help even though he would stumble and tumble where ever he went. It was not safe for him to work around the horses or the tractor. The day I seen him fall off the tractor when it was moving, in front of the disc, made me realize that there had to be a change take place. I had a very serious talk with my mother. We both agreed that the best solution would be for me to get a job and leave home.
So, in September 1942 right after my twenty-first birthday I packed my clothes and started to work in a knitting factory in Hanover. Dad applied and got farm leave for Henry. He had not enlisted for active duty. So, the army sent him home. In the spring of 1943 Ed and his wife took over the farm. Henry started as hired help. Mom and Dad bought a house on a 1-acre lot near Elmwood. They moved there with Bill. After they had lived there a few years Bill was in a wheelchair and the doctors diagnosed that he had multiple sclerosis
In March of 1943 I had to have my appendix removed. I changed from the factory to doing housework. This gave me some time off between jobs to help mom with her work. In 1945 I went to Kitchener to look for work. I got a job at K.W. Hospital cleaning in the nurses’ residence. . . .
Monica’s Mom had wanted her to be a teacher but Monica wished to be a nurse. Cleaning the nurse’s residence was as close to that dream Monica would get for quite some time.
On Friday, December 1, 1950 Monica and George Edgar Schwartz were married. George, sometimes known as Edgar, was the son of John Benjamin and Lydia Sophia (nee Priebe) Schwartz and was one seven children; Lillian, Raymond, Gordon, George, Arnold and Islah. Monica and George lived in Kitchener for the first couple years of marriage and then bought a farm on the 12th of Sullivan. Together with their three children, Bonnie (1954), Darlene (1956) and Bruce (1960), they lived on the farm until Bruce was less than a year old. The family moved into Chesley and rented an apartment downtown for the next two years.
Having bought a house on 5th Avenue S.W. Monica lived there until a year or so after George died on January 2, 1989. Bruce bought a piece of property just outside of Elmwood and built a home. Monica lived there with Bruce until she entered Elgin Abbey. Except that, Monica being Monica entered Elgin Abbey three times and left on her own steam – twice! She was an independent, and stubborn, woman whose theme was “Use it or lose it!” There was not much that Monica allowed to keep her down and thus she was the “come back Queen!”
Despite her arthritis, Monica played the piano, crocheted, knitted, quilted, embroidered, did needle-point and worked on patch-work quilt tops. She is well known for her handiwork and many pieces have found appreciative homes as Monica was also generous with her work. Christmas trees were beautifully decorated with her crocheted ornaments. Elgin Abbey’s resident council also benefited from a lot of her work although the rumour is that staff bought many of Monica’s pieces before the doors to the bazaars would even open! An afghan of Monica’s was once raffled off and her Christmas Bells were especially popular.
Monica liked to keep her mind busy as well, working on sudokus, word finds, crosswords, memorizing hymns, reading her Bible and writing her memoirs both by hand and on the computer. Much of her time and effort was also spent at helping the women of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Chesley (the LCW) at funeral luncheons, meals, quilting and so forth. Monica’s faith was very important to her and was an integral part of who she was. Once Monica was house bound, home communion and scripture reading were exceedingly important to her!
In her forties, Monica managed to earn her Registered Nursing Assistant license at the Chesley Hospital. Monica was very proud of this achievement and rightfully so! In time, however, her back began to give out and she retired with this disability.
Working outside of her home did not leave Monica with much spare time though she did can and preserve peaches and pears, tended to her flower garden and indoor plants, especially her Christmas Cactuses, Amaryllis and African violets. Saturdays were saved for making pies for Sundays visits. Memories of making and eating sauerkraut are still pungent and not necessarily in a good way! Family reunions on both the Schwartz, Jank and Priebe sides were also of great importance to Monica. Christmas was an especially delightful time for the Schwartz family and it was then that they all got together, rotating the location each year.
Monica loved her animals! Well, not only her animals but those of her children as well! Three dogs; Angel, Pedie and B.J., were Darlene’s pets and took part in the Christmas celebrations opening presents of knitted toys Monica made for them, and a few that were not intended for them! Pictures abound of Bonnie's white cat Jingles, Ginger the white dog and Tia the black dog as well as Monica's orange cat Carmie.
Sadly, somewhere between the age of forty-five to fifty, Monica developed glaucoma. Her fading eyesight stole Monica’s independence and made the simplest things we all take for granted difficult. It was a battle she fought for years and definitely shaped the last few years of her life. It was part of Monica’s story for sure. It has been said that it was the loss of eyesight that Monica died from as she lost her driver license and in time lost the ability to exercise, manage the stairs at home, read and do her handiwork and puzzles. If not for this, Monica could well have lived to the monumental age of one hundred!
Monica was a woman who was ahead of her time. She lived her life outside of the box and encouraged her children, especially her girls, to make their own way in life, which they have. Teaching her children to go after what they wanted was a significant lesson taught!
Peacefully, Monica Dorthea Louise Schwartz of Chesley, passed away at Elgin Abbey, Chesley on Monday, October 1, 2018 in her 98th year.
Loving mother of Bonnie (Keith) Bowen of New Hamburg, Darlene Schwartz of Stratford and Bruce Schwartz of Elmwood. Monica will be sadly missed by her sisters-in-law Lotty Schwartz and Islah Reed, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews. She was predeceased by her husband George, brothers William, Edward, Frederick, Henry, George’s family Lillian (Bertram) Brown, Raymond Schwartz, Melvin (Mildred) Schwartz, Gordon Schwartz, Harold “Arnie” Schwartz, Arthur Reed and her parents Frederick and Sophia (Lang) Jank.
Visitation will be held at Rhody Family Funeral Home, Chesley on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 11 a.m. until the time of the funeral service honouring Monica’s life at 12 noon. Interment in Desboro Cemetery.
Memorial donation to Glaucoma Research Society of Canada or the charity of your choice would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.Send to friend