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Published: Thursday, 4/12/2007

Faith motivated local homemaker

Erma L. Eschenburg, 94, a homemaker whose weeks centered around her church, died Monday in Sunset House from complications of a stroke.

She moved to the Sunset House after a stroke in 2005. She learned to speak, walk, read, and write again, her daughter Karen Keefer said.

"She made a remarkable comeback," her daughter said.

Mrs. Eschenburg was a member for more than 60 years of Augsburg Lutheran Church. She was a Eucharistic minister from the 1970s until 2004 for people who were housebound, first with her husband Robert and, after his death, with longtime friend Elizabeth Herren.

Mrs. Eschenburg was a former president of Women of Augsburg. She taught Sunday school and adult Bible classes for years. And, later, she was active in a group for widows in the church.

"Church was her life. It was always her social life," her daughter said. "Wherever she could be a help to anybody, that's where she was. She was a marvelous Christian woman."

Mrs. Eschenburg kept a schedule that allowed her to finish the Bible in a year.

"She's being buried with her Bible that she read every night before she went to bed," her daughter said. "Her Bible and her faith. That's what brought her through all the hard times."

Mrs. Eschenburg grew up in Seneca County, first on a farm and then in Tiffin, the youngest daughter of Charles and Alta Wolfe. She was a 1929 graduate of Tiffin Columbian High School and attended business college in Tiffin.

She moved to Toledo in search of work and was a secretary at Owens-Illinois Inc. for much of the 1930s. She remained a member for more than 70 years of the Geisler Guild, a women's group from her first church in Toledo, Asbury Methodist.

Her brother, Marion "Bud" Wolfe, the youngest child, was killed in action July 7, 1944, when his bomber and another plane collided over Hoorn, the Netherlands. He was buried in a Dutch cemetery where local volunteers regularly visit and tend to graves. She was heartened to see a story in The Blade in January that a second generation of a family was caring for her brother's grave.

"She read [the article] a gazillion times and was absolutely thrilled," her daughter said. "She marveled that all this time, this was still being done by these people."

Mrs. Eschenburg made her own clothes and clothing for her children as they grew up. She was an expert pie baker and made a chocolate cake every Saturday afternoon. She got piano lessons as a Christmas gift in her late 70s and learned to play her favorite hymns.

"She gave everybody the benefit of the doubt," her daughter said. "She didn't make assumptions. She tried not to judge. She tried to follow the Bible as closely as she could follow it.

"She remained extremely interested in politics and the news, even down to Anna Nicole. She was very with it and intelligent."

She and her husband, Robert, met at the former Trianon Ballroom and married Oct. 2, 1935. He died Aug. 1, 1987.

Surviving are her son, R. Douglas Eschenburg; daughters, Karen Keefer and Joanne McArthur; seven grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren, and a great-great-granddaughter.

The body will be in the Foth-Dorfmeyer Mortuary after 3 p.m. today. Services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in Augsburg Lutheran Church.

The family suggests tributes to the church, Sunset House, or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.



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