When you hear the name Nero, I am guessing you usually think of a Roman emperor who persecuted Christians. Today’s story is about another Nero. This Nero journeyed to China to promote Christianity. His name was Norville William Nero, and he died on this date, August 5th, in 1934. He also had a connection to Perry County, Missouri.
Norville Nero was born on May 21, 1909 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His parents and grandparents had lived a portion of their lives in Mequon, Wisconsin. Norville became a Lutheran teacher, and in the 1930 census, he was shown to be a Lutheran teacher in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Norville had graduated from Concordia Teachers College in 1931. It is a little puzzling that he would be teaching in Iowa a year before it is said that he graduated from River Forest. It was also in 1931, that Norville married Ruth Anna Kuehnert, and this is where we establish a connection with Perry County, Missouri.
Ruth Anna Kuehnert was a direct descendant of Johann Christlieb Kuehnert, one of the original immigrants to Perry County in 1839. She was born on July 30, 1911 in St. Louis, Missouri where her father was a teacher at Holy Cross Lutheran School. Her father, Theodore Kuehnert, became the first Superintendant of Schools for the Western District of the Missouri Synod in 1920 and served in that capacity until 1927. By 1930, Ruth was living with her parents in River Forest, Illinois, where Theodore was a professor at Concordia Teachers College. I am guessing this is where Norville and Ruth became acquainted.
Here is where the story gets interesting. This couple left shortly after their wedding to go to China. Norville had been sent to China with the purpose of first teaching the children of Lutheran missionaries who were already there, but later he was supposed to be involved in helping the other missionaries with their efforts to develop Christian education in China. The first son of this couple was born in February of 1933 in Hankow, China. Unfortunately, Norville died of coronary thrombosis in 1934 before he was able to reach his missionary goals. Here is a State Department telegram which referred to his death.
You can find information about Norville on Findagrave.com under the heading,
Global, Find A Grave Index for Burials at Sea and other Select Burial Locations.
Ruth had their second son about four months after her husband died. That son was born in River Forest. Ruth must have made that sorrowful trip back to America while being quite pregnant. Here is photo of Norville and Ruth with their first son. I figure this photo must have been taken in China.
Ruth would later remarry a man named Lense. She is listed as Ruth Anna Kuehnert Nero Lense where she is buried in Chapel Hills Gardens South Cemetery in Oak Lawn, Illinois.
There are so many connections in this story to locations which are now important in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Mequon, St. Louis, and River Forest are all locations where pastors and teachers still receive their training. This story also indicates that our church’s efforts to reach the world with the Gospel have been going on for a long time. It reminds us how important it is for our church go and make disciples of all nations.