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Theodor Wilhelm Ehrenberg, 92
Theodor (Theo) Wilhelm Ehrenberg peacefully passed away on Sunday morning, Dec. 30, 2018 at the Beehive Homes in Columbia Falls.
Theo was the fifth of thirteen children, born on February 9, 1926 to Franz and Anna Ehrenberg in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Theo said of his childhood he was always hungry, his mother could make soup out of anything, and someone was always crying.
They were poor, and when the war broke out, he and his brothers joined up for the pay.
Theo learned Morse code and worked on a submarine. When the submarine was de-commissioned, he fought on the front lines against the Russians and was captured towards the end of the war and was in prison camp.After the war, Theo worked at the railroad station as a clerk. Gerda worked at the railroad station and did the payroll. In 1945, they met, she was coming down the steps and Theo opened the door for her when he first saw her. He found out she had been a classmate of one of his sister’s in school. Theo went to a local dance with his sister on October 30th. Theo and Gerda met at the dance and danced the night away, they dated and later married, November 27, 1947. Their son, Ted was born in 1948 on Friday the 13th of August at their apartment in Gelsenkirchen.
After World War II in Germany, times where very tough. Everything was scarce, no one wanted to trade, there was little food or clothing. The United States printed German money and shipped it to Germany and then everyone turned in 400 Reichsmarks
for 40 Deutschmark which was called the “new money”, and overnight goods where available.
Before the new money, after the war, a pack of cigarettes would cost 120 Reichsmarks, yet Theo would make 200 Reichsmarks a month. They survived by trading with the farmers; his brother traded nails for potatoes. Their Aunt Mimi in America was a big help sending care packages. After the new money, the black market died, and the shelves where full and things were better.
Theo had the urge to travel and knew things were good in America. He asked Aunt Mimi, if she would sponsor them to move to America. Her brother had to pledge his house to sponsor their family.
On August 11, 1953, Theo, Gerda and Ted landed in New York. They traveled across the Atlantic on the Greek line, the Neptunia. Young Ted always said he was the only one who didn’t get sick on the boat, and their boat was the only one where the plank went down, while all the other planks went up.
Aunt Mimi and Uncle Freddy lived in Pittsburgh, and the Ehrenberg’s arrived there ready for their new life in the United States. Theo started out working for the railroad and worked for them for 4 months in the shop as a track laborer and was paid $1.75 an hour. After that on January 4th he got a job with Gimbels making $1.15 and hour as a stock boy. He worked as a stock boy for 1 year. His boss liked his hard work ethic and he then became the assistant buyer and later in 1959 became the buyer, traveling to NYC every month, inspecting the latest purchases.
Young Ted went to Kindergarten in Pittsburgh, Pa. He wore Lederhosen with suspenders to hold them up and he did not speak any English. They where taking a group photo and they wanted him to take off his suspenders and he refused, so he was sent home from school.
Theo worked diligently for Gimbels and was very frugal. The had a simple home in Penn Hills with many roses. He saved well and they were able to buy a small piece of land with a trailer on it on the Allegheny River in Emlenton, Pa. Weekends, Theo took his son fishing every chance he could, and they spent much time on the river fishing in their metal boat together.
After his son Ted moved to Montana, Theo and Gerda came out every summer for two weeks over his birthday in August. At one point he thought at his son’s urging, he would move to Montana and he purchased land in Hidden Valley in Whitefish, but the long winter’s worried them. Gerda’s cousin was in Green Valley Az, and after a few visits, and many lovely long walks in the sun, they settled on building a house there. Theo was a perfectionist and he and Gerda kept their home spotless. Theo was an avid gardener, walked twice a day and swam laps in the pool three times a week. He was an avid financial supporter of the Democratic Party. Theo spent his 50th wedding anniversary in Hawaii with his devoted wife Gerda and they both traveled back to Gelsenkirchen to visit their many relatives often.
Gerda passed from complications of Alzheimer’s disease in 2013 and Theo took excellent care of her for years prior to her moving to assisted living. In 2016 Theo moved to Montana and saw his granddaughter graduate with honors from Whitefish High School and continue on at Reed College. He enjoyed his time at The Beehive, on the outings on Whitefish Lake and his time with his dear friend Larry Mabel Calvert.
He was very devoted to his family and loved ones and will be sorely missed.
Theo is survived by his daughter-in-law Joan, his granddaughter Katelyn in Whitefish and his two sisters Maria and Christa and many cousins, nieces and nephews in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
Theo was preceded in death by his wife Gerda, his son Ted, his parents Franz and Anna, his brothers, Frans, Alfons, Heinz, August, Hans and Siegfried and his sisters, Erni, Thresi, Else, Regina and Siegfried.
A memorial service will be held at 1pm on Wednesday, January 2nd at All Saints’ Episcopal Church at 2048 Conn Rd, Columbia Falls. Friends are encouraged to visit our website at www.buffalohillfh.com to leave notes of condolences for the family. Buffalo Hill Funeral Home and Crematory caring for the family.