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Published: Thursday, 3/31/2005

Pemberville: 10 years marked in friendship with German village

Jim Barnes, left, a councilman filling in as mayor of Pemberville, and Wilhelm and Karin Neidermeier, of Germany, gather for the 10th anniversary of the friendship agreement.
Jim Barnes, left, a councilman filling in as mayor of Pemberville, and Wilhelm and Karin Neidermeier, of Germany, gather for the 10th anniversary of the friendship agreement.

More than a decade ago, Wilhelm and Karin Neidermeier of Roedinghausen, Germany, went looking for relatives in the United States and found them in Pemberville.

Many other Pemberville residents can trace their heritage to Germany, specifically in and around the village of Roedinghausen - a village in northwest Germany - prompting the two villages to sign a Friendship Communities Agreement on March 23, 1995, said Gustava Oberhouse, mayor of Pemberville from 1992 to 2004.

"We have a lot of citizens here whose ancestors lived in Roedinghausen and the area surrounding it," she said. "It was kind of a natural thing to form the community with these people and we're grateful that it was successful."

The two villages celebrated the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Gemeindenpartnerschaft last week with a ceremony at the American Legion Hall in Pemberville where the Neidermeiers were among about 120 people who attended.

"We thought it was very well attended and the people seemed to be very enthusiastic in gathering more information about the people who were there," Ms. Oberhouse said.

Pemberville resident Dale Bruning, a retired history teacher who went to Roedinghausen in 2000, said he enjoyed talking with the German visitors at the ceremony.

"I think it's important because we got to know about them and they got to know about us," Mr. Bruning said. "You come to find that we have a common humanity. When you meet with people this way, you find that their hopes and their fears and their dreams are very similar to ours. All of this promotes understanding, and this is what this world needs. If we understand each other, there would be a lot less conflict."

To celebrate the agreement in Roedinghausen, village officials named a square in front of their municipal hall "Pemberville Square," Pemberville Mayor James Opelt said.

Throughout the years, Mayor Opelt said the two villages have been exchanging correspondence and small gifts, which include books detailing the history of each village, maps of the areas, pictures taken by those who have visited the villages, postcards, and coffee mugs with village seals on them.

"[The Germans] are actually what helped build Pemberville in a sense that when people were starting to leave there for a better life, they came over here," Mayor Opelt said.

This year, Pemberville officials gave the Neidermeiers quilts with the date the agreement was signed.

"I think it's just our way of starting something that I would hope could be done with every community," Mayor Opelt said. "Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if everyone could reach across and make a friendship with a village from another country to mend fences."

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