Altheda Adelaide (Littge) Schmelig died this past Sunday. That may not sound like breaking news, but it is not every day that you commemorate the life of someone who spent 107 years of life on this earth. And because of her faith in Jesus, we can now celebrate her entry into heaven.
I feel very unqualified to write a post about Altheda on this blog, but I feel compelled to at least try. I never met her. When I moved to Altenburg, she was already about 100 years old and confined to her house. Later, she was moved to a nursing home, and I never had the occasion to visit her. However, everything I have heard about Altheda has been a glowing report about her character. She indeed must have been a wonderful woman.
Altheda’s long life began on April 1, 1910. She was not born in Perry County. She was born in the little town of Paonia, nestled amidst the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Here is a map to give you an idea of where that is.
Altheda was the firstborn child of Henry and Martha (Ahner) Littge. Henry and Martha were married on June 6, 1909 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. Here is their marriage license.
The story of how a Perry County farm girl met a Wisconsin boy, the son of a dairy farmer, living in Colorado must be an interesting one, but it is a story I do not know. Here is this couple’s wedding photo.
This couple did not waste any time having children. The 1910 census from Paonia, Colorado shows that Altheda had already been born by the time the census was conducted.
Another child, Eugene, was born in Paonia in 1911. He started a string of boys in this family. Before all was said and done, Altheda would have seven younger brothers and no sisters. Then sometime before October of 1913, the Littges moved to Altenburg. The rest of their children were baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church here. I found this wonderful picture of the first five children with their father. It includes Altheda, Eugene, Norman, and the twins, Orville and Oliver (and a dog).
Two additional sons were born after this photo, Ray and Vernon. We see a line-up of all eight children in this photo which is said to have been taken around 1930.
Photos like this make me smile. So much could be said about this terrific photograph. One of our beloved docents at the museum, Caroline Littge, married that little rascal on the right. I don’t have the time or space to go into details, but several of those boys served in our nation’s military. You should really stop in the museum someday to see the tribute we have here about Ray Littge’s heroic accomplishments as a pilot in World War II.
Altheda married Milton Schmelig on May 9, 1939. I believe the family had one child, Richard Schmelig.
About ten years later after the previous photo was taken. Gene is not in the photo. I found a 1940 census that indicates he was living in Los Angeles, California and working in the music business.
Altheda, her husband, Milton and their son, Richard are in the front row on the left. The twins, Oliver and Orville are also in the front row with their spouses. The back row, left to right are Norman, Henry Lichtenegger (Martha’s second husband), Martha, Ralph, Vernon, and Raymond. Martha had gone through a divorce from Henry Littge and remarried another Henry (Lichtenegger) in 1933.
The last of the Littge boys to die was Ralph in 2013. Now, with the passing of Altheda, the only person left from this generation is our dear Caroline Littge, the widow of the youngest.
I cannot tell the story of Altheda without talking about one of her hobbies. She was an incredible artist. She used eggs to create amazing masterpieces. We have had her work on display in our museum in the past. Several of them have been brought back out for the funeral. Here is a photo of them.
Altheda certainly had to experience some very great difficulties in her life. She lived through her parents’ very tough divorce. She lived through two of her brothers dying at very young ages, one in a plane crash. She also lived almost 24 years after her husband, Milton, died in 1993. However, despite all the difficulties she faced, she managed to leave the impression among her family and acquaintances that she was a wonderful woman. She will be missed.
Just one other note: The name of the town of Paonia, Colorado, comes from the name of the flower, the peony. There are quite a few peonies growing in Perry County. Maybe when they all bloom later this year, we can all be reminded of Altheda.
If you want to read Altheda’s obituary, you can find it here: