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Edelweiss Club turns 40

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Local German Americans find comfort in shared culture, language

By Amber Coulter

Lunchtime conversation at Prichard Chapel at Fort Knox drifted fluidly between English and German Tuesday.

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Dishes included spatzle, apple strudel and other potluck delicacies cooked with recipes that crossed the Atlantic with members of the German American Edelweiss Club when they came to the United States as military wives.

The group celebrated its 40th anniversary Tuesday with a couple of original members and later additions who sought out the club as a way to connect with the country they left behind.

The group kicked off the meeting with a singing of “Happy Birthday” to members who celebrated a birthday since the last meeting and the recitation of a prayer in German.

Members then piled their plates with German foods, one of Brigitte Farnham’s favorite parts of the club’s monthly gathering.

The Radcliff resident and original club member misses the kinds of food her mother used to make.

“It kind of reminds you of home,” she said.

Spending time with other German Americans also gives Farnham a chance to speak her native language, one of few opportunities to do so.

“Sometimes you get lonely, and you want to be with people you know or (who) speak your language,” she said.

Maria Chandler, another original member of the group, said her sister tells her after they speak in English she has to repeat what she said in German.

Language is very important, she said.

“It’s really comfortable, and it’s nice,” she said. “You can’t go home anymore.”

Chandler, of Elizabethtown, spoke very little English when she met her husband, and he did not speak much German.

She said he was handsome and the couple bridged the language gap.

Chandler and Farnham said it made sense 40 years ago to join the club when it formed.

It can be hard after arriving in the United States to find and connect with those who share a common heritage, Farnham said.

Club President Heidi Baker of Radcliff said it’s fun to share food and interact with others who share a German heritage, which has contributed to the group’s growth.

The club began with 12 members and hosted about 40 at its Tuesday meeting.

Members share food, play bingo, have white elephant gift exchanges and host other social activities aimed at promoting friendship and preserving German culture among the women.

Renate Herron of Radcliff said she enjoys participating in her native customs with new companions.

“It keeps you connected to your home country,” she said.

Trudy Cruz of Radcliff said she loves the country where she lives, but remembering her roots also is important.

“I’m American, but my heart will always be German,” she said.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.