Mary Alice Rausch Schaper Biography Update

My “Comment” on Mary Alice Rausch/Schaper Biography –August 25, 2016

-Peter W. Schaper


On August 1, 2016 I finally posted this biography of my loving wife, 4 ½ years after her death. Now, a few weeks after the post, I have decided that, several intra-family conversations later, there is a lot of history in this post relating to Mary’s and my life together, but very little information about Mary’s life as a “Rausch”, in other words her childhood. Some of our “children” reminded me that they are just as much part of the Rausch family – 50% – as they are of the Schaper family, so frequently mentioned in the Wolfy’s Tales. Alas, little is known by anyone still alive about that part of our ancestry. However, I spent two years with her parents Mary Alice – from here on I shall refer to my wife’s mother  as “Mary Alice” to avoid confusion –  and Joseph Rausch and later, as a married couple, we spent quite a bit of time talking about Mary’s time growing up. So, having become the designated historian, I thought I would write this “Comment” as a sort of addendum to the biography, recognizing that it may be needed to understand what made Mary the type of mother she was: the “Foundation of the Family Schaper”.

Joseph (Joe) and Mary Alice Rausch are a typical Midwestern American couple, having lived in the State of Indiana all their life during the Depression and World War II years, raising three children: Ernie, Betty and Mary under hard financial circumstances. Joe had served in the US Army during World War I and returned from overseas service to his family home, a large farm owned by his brother, Mike. He was not interested in farming and moved into town with his wife Mary Alice, nee Kite. Being mechanically inclined, Joe started to work at a coal yard in Lafayette, delivering coal to residents of the town and maintaining the company’s rolling stock. Meanwhile Mary Alice worked mostly as a housekeeper to supplement their income. Ernie was born in 1924, Betty in 1926 and Mary in 1932. In the 1930s they managed to refurbish a house on Greenbush Street in Lafayette with Joe doing much of the work with his own skills as a carpenter and painter. Then, n the late 1930s, Joe suffered a very serious accident on his job, an explosion in a basement where he was working on the furnace. His legs were severely burned and it was considered a miracle that he escaped with his life.

Being a veteran of the US Army he did receive a lot of medical care, not of the highest caliber but softening the financial blow to the family. Joe had always been fond of alcohol, spending evenings in local bars with his family. He was not being made aware of the serious interactions between alcohol and the strong pain killing medicine he was receiving to permit him to barely get around without a wheel chair. Joe turned into an alcoholic and his personality changed drastically: when sober he was still a very friendly, considerate and hard working man; when “under the influence” he turned into a tyrant at home. Ernie and Betty were in their teens and suffered from this deterioration of family life than Mary, who drew into herself and the privacy her room offered at home. Ernie enlisted in the US Army at 17 and was sent to fight World War II in Europe. Betty moved in with Joe’s sister, Katharine Rausch – known in the family as “Auntie”, and there finished school and found employment with a local dentist. As many American women, Mary Alice joined the War Effort, working long hours at the Duncan Electric Company in Lafayette, building parts of the Norton Bomb Sight for the US Air Corps.

Life in the Rausch home on Greenbush Street had changed drastically by the beginning of World War II. Both parents started to work very early in the morning and returned home late at night. Mary remembered making her own breakfast and lunch, walking to school and to her girl friends’ houses to play and return to her “home” to do her homework and to read for entertainment. She became very independent at an early age and learned to live in her own environment, out of the way when Joe was “under the influence” and not loving father. When she graduated from high school and found  JOB AT Purdue University, she also left home to spend weekdays with Auntie. That is where she lived when I met her.

It might also be of value for me to state that all the time that I knew and lived with the Family Rausch, they were always kind and loving relatives toward me. Just as I experienced in all the USA during my early years as an immigrant, I always felt welcomed to families and the citizenry of this country and treated with respect. Even when my father in law, Joe, was “three sheets into the wind”, I was never verbally abused by him, on the contrary, while we lived together for a short while after our marriage, I  felt that I had a calming influence on the life in Joe’s house on Route 26 in Lafayette.


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