Monday, May 10, 2010

Kofering, Germany . . . Marie Gangl Kyle (1905-1992) . . . beloved grandmother + German Catholic turned American Protestant . . . pray for Bavaria

German Passport.
Marie Gangl (Kyle). Age 17.
Stamped November 15, 1922.

For immigration sea voyage from
Hamburg, Germany, to New York City, USA.
Dr. Irvin Francis Kyle, Jr.
Marie Gangl Kyle

Born: Kofering, Germany (Bavaria)
Died: West Hartford, Connecticut, USA
Marie Gangl Kyle

Irvin Francis Kyle, Jr.

U.S. Army Private, W.W. II.
Enlisted August 10, 1945, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Serving in Germany, 1946. Age 19.
Irvin Francis Kyle, Jr.

Granby, Connecticut.
2005. Age 78.

Irvin Francis Kyle III (far right) with German relatives
who had met and remembered Marie Gangl Kyle
(their aunt) and I. F. Kyle Jr. (their cousin).

Kofering, Germany (Bavaria).
February 20, 2010.
Irvin Francis Kyle III.

Train station. Kofering, Germany (Bavaria).
The same station U.S. Army private I. F. Kyle, Jr., used in W.W. II
on his weekend visit to/from Munich and Kofering, 1946.

February 20, 2010.
Irvin Francis Kyle III.

In front of the birthplace and home (1905-22)
of grandmother Marie Gangl Kyle.
Homestead still owned and lived in by the Gangl family.

Kofering, Germany (Bavaria).
February 20, 2010.
Castle in Kofering, Germany (Bavaria).
1/4-mile from the Gangl homestead.

February 20, 2010.
St. Michael's Parish (Roman Catholic).

Home church of the Gangl family.
1/4-mile from the Gangl homestead.

Kofering, Germany (Bavaria).
February 20, 2010.
Map of Germany.

For 6 hours on February 20, 2010, I visited the rural and adjacent villages of Kofering and Scheuer in Bavaria in southeast Germany. It was a very precious and memorable visit.

With a population of about 2,400 and located 8.5 miles south of the historic city of Regensburg (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), it was in Kofering that my beloved paternal grandmother was born on January 25, 1905.


At the age of 17 in November 1922, Marie Gangl left Kofering and sailed, via Hamburg, Germany, to the United States of America. She landed on New York City's Ellis Island near Liberty Island's Statue of Liberty.

Evidently, there was a wealthy family that was friends with the Gangl family who helped secure the hard-to-obtain immigration papers for Marie. Marie was the only family member among her seven siblings (3 brothers, 4 sisters) to leave Germany after World War I (1914-18).

As a teenager, it appears that adventure and seeking a better life were the main motives behind Marie's decision.
--> NOTE: In the mid-1990s, I purchased an engraving with my grandmother's name on it during a centennial anniversary fundraising project to restore Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The engraved name (Marie Gangl Kyle) is located on Ellis Island's American Immigrant Wall of Honor, panel 240.

After marrying Irvin Frielinghausen Kyle (died 1967) in Wichita, Kansas, on September 8, 1926, Marie gave birth to my father, Irvin Francis Kyle Jr. (1927-2006), and my aunt, Lenore Anita Kyle (later Lenore Anita Thomas, 1928-2009).

After living in Germany (Kofering), Kansas (Wichita), Nebraska (Omaha), Oregon (Hood River), Illinois (Alton) and Ohio (Toledo), Marie Gangl Kyle died of Alzheimer's Disease (a form of dementia) on March 21, 1992 in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Sadly, her dementia began soon after she was violently assaulted/mugged in 1984 in Toledo, Ohio. At the time, she was on her way to get breakfast for me and a sibling while my family was visiting her on a summer vacation. Horrific, traumatic situation. (Just two years prior a teenage female cousin of mine was killed by a drunk driver on September 16, 1982. This also took place in Toledo.)

Marie Gangl Kyle is buried next to her husband at Hillcrest-West Lawn Memorial Cemetery in Omaha, Nebraska. A "Together Forever" emblem, Bible emblem below Marie's name and a Masonic Lodge emblem below her husband's name are engraved on their gravestone. I visited the gravesite during a visit to Omaha in August 2008. The visit was in conjunction with the 80th birthday party of Marie's daughter, my aunt.

Except for Kansas and Illinois, I have now visited and seen most or all of the homes where Grandma Kyle lived. This includes a visit to Hood River, Oregon, in April 2009, and the still-existent apartment she and her fishing-loving husband lived in. Her husband's ill health prematurely ended their 5-7 years of peaceful retirement along the Columbia River in scenic Hood River. They had to head back to Nebraska where Grandpa Kyle's railroad retirement health insurance provided better financial coverage, so I was told.

My time with Grandma Kyle in Ohio during my foundational infant years of 2-to-5-years-old (1973-76) are my most precious memories of her, followed by the family vacations we took to see her in Toledo and her trips to see our family in Connecticut at Christmas (1976-85). In September 2014, I met for the first time Donald W. Fothergill, her pastor in Toledo, Ohio (see below).

It was when I left Grandma Kyle and moved to Connecticut with my family in 1976 that my life took a downward turn--click here to read the story on the Uncommon Christian Ministries' website.


My visit in February 2010 was only the fourth visit to Kofering by a Kyle family member in 64 years.

In 1946, shortly after the end of W.W. II, my father visited Kofering while on a weekend leave from the U.S. Army (see above Army photo). He was stationed near Reims, France. (Private Irvin F. Kyle, Jr., enlisted in the U.S. Army on August 10, 1945, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.) In the early 1950's, Marie returned by boat to her native village for the first and only time since immigrating to the U.S. And in October 1997, my father, mother and a sister visited.

The trip to Kofering was extra special and timely in that

+ my father and his sister (my aunt) died recently (August 2006 and November 2009, respectively);

+ two of my grandmother's nephews are still alive--Walter Brombierstaudl and Paul Gangl, both in their 70s--and remembered many things about my grandmother and my father's two visits which were separated by 51 years; (there is a third nephew, Alfonse Brombierstaudl, but was unable to meet him.)

+ many buildings that existed during my grandmother's brief 17 years in Kofering (1905-22) still exist, including the town's Roman Catholic Church (St. Michael's Parish, see above photo), inn (now a restaurant/bar owned by Regensburg's Brauerei Kneitinger), railroad station building, castle (schloss) where Marie and some family members worked (see above photo), and the Gangl family home which is still owned and occupied by the family (see above photo);

+ the Roman Catholic Church in the nearby village of Scheuer (one mile from Kofering) also stands today (the name of Faver Gangl is engraved on a memorial outside the church that is dedicated to those from the area that died during W.W. II); and

+ I had a German-to-English translator in my native German friend Friederike who I met here in Israel--I will forever be grateful to her.


Uncommon Christian Grandmother? . . . German Catholic turned American "Born Again" Protestant . . . pray for Bavaria

I am so grateful to the Lord that He took my beloved grandmother out of Kofering, Germany, and sent her to America at age 17 (1922). For it was in America that she heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and apparently and hopefully "fled the wrath to come" and was "born again." I explain . . . .
Though impossible to know for sure, it appears Grandma Kyle was a Christian--that is, was born again, was a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ--and thereby had her sins forgiven and has been granted eternal life by God the Father. I hope I will see her in heaven but it is only a hope, I realize.

Grandma Kyle did not speak to me about the Gospel during my 21 years with her (1971-92). However, with only a third-to-fourth grade education, and with a son (my father) and daughter-in-law (my mother) who were raising their six children in the Roman Catholic Church, her silence on spiritual and eternal matters to me and her seven other grandchildren is somewhat understandable. Plus, during the last of these 21 years with her she was unable to remember things and speak clearly due to her dementia.

What is known and what I do remember from my childhood is that Grandma Kyle read her Bible regularly, was a woman of prayer (including before meals), attended church every Sunday (including the evangelical Washington Congregational United Church of Christ in Toledo, Ohio, under one of her beloved pastors, Donald W. Fothergill, a Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary graduate and native of West Hartford, Connecticut), attended periodic "revival" meetings, never partook of the Eucharist when attending a Catholic Mass with my family, and had evidence in her speech and actions of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, namely, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22).

From what I have pieced together over the years is that my grandmother may have become a Christian in the 1940s (about age 45?) during a series of revival meetings by the evangelist-pastor and pioneer radio preacher, Dr. R. R. Brown (1885-1964), at the Omaha Gospel Tabernacle (Christian & Missionary Alliance [C&MA] denomination). Founded in 1921, "The Tab" is now called Christ Community Church.

It appears that her daughter Lenore got saved first and then brought her mother (my grandmother) to the revival meetings. Lenore would later go on to study at Minnesota's St. Paul Bible College (est. 1916, C&MA affiliate, now called Crown College) and marry Meredith Thomas. "Uncle Tommy" later become a Baptist minister and Air Force chaplain.
--> See here for the November 13, 2011, Parade Magazine article, "Could It Be Alzheimer's?" Meredith Thomas is mentioned in the article.

My father told me he attended the meetings only once for about 10 minutes and hated it because all he heard was "fire and brimstone" (preaching about hell). He never again entered the Omaha Gospel Tabernacle and would later convert to Roman Catholicism in Lourdes, France (of apparitions of the Virgin Mary fame) while a 19-year-old soldier in Germany at the end of W.W. II.

It is possible his conversion to Catholicism was a reaction to the constant preaching of his fiery redhead, German immigrant mother that he "must be born again" (John 3:3, 7). In his later years, when I politely asked if Grandma Kyle ever talked to him about being born-again when a youngster, my father told me in immediate reactionary anger, "Did she? Every day!"

As I learned first-hand in February, the villages of Kofering and Scheuer, nearby Regensburg and all of Bavaria are steeped in Vatican-style Roman Catholicism. Sadly, the Martin Luther-led Protestant Reformation did not penetrate as much into Bavaria as it did in other parts of Europe. Even today, only Saarland has a higher percentage of Catholics among the German states. While 56.4% of the population adhere to the Catholic Church, 21% are affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria. The former pope (2005-13), Benedict XVI (Joseph Alois Ratzinger), was born in Upper Bavaria.

Religion remains important to many in the region, as expressed by the typical Bavarian, Austrian and Swabian greeting: "Grüss Gott!" ("God greet [you]," originally es grüsse Dich Gott--"God may bless you").
--> NOTE: In the U.S., particularly among German Americans, Bavarian culture is viewed somewhat nostalgically, and many "Bavarian villages," most notably Frankenmuth, Michigan and Leavenworth, Washington (in the North Cascade Mountains east of Seattle), have been founded.

An interesting observation and question was made my grandmother's nephew Walter while we were having dinner in Kofering. A Catholic himself along with his wife Trudy, he asked why my grandmother converted to Protestantism after she left Germany. To add to his observation, I commented that her son (my father) converted at age 19 from nominal Protestantism to Catholicism, attended a Catholic university for his B.A. and M.A. (Creighton University [Jesuit] in Omaha) and that he even studied for the Catholic (Benedictine) priesthood. And that I converted (was born again) at age 21 from nominal Catholicism to Evangelical Protestantism and graduated from three Baptist schools.

Please join me in praying for more Gospel-centered Evangelical Protestant workers to go to Kofering (and Scheuer), Regensburg and other parts of Bavaria where spiritually lost people are blinded by the deceitfulness and darkness that is the false religion of Roman Catholicism.
"The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few" (Matthew 9:37; Luke 10:2).

1 comment:

Elizabeth Axton said...

A fascinating read. So glad your grandmother responded to the gospel preaching which changed and enhanced her life and eventually filtered down to her grandson. This despite her son serving in Germany in WWII and converting back to Catholicism! It was like going back to Egypt. Thankfully the Holy Spirit opened your eyes and it was always a pleasure to work with you, Francis, at Christ Church, Jerusalem. It is amazing how the Lord works and has prepared beforehand good works for us to walk into. The journey continues……….