LIMA — For a woman who spent much of her life chronicling Lima’s history, Anne Beehler’s obituary left few hints of her own.
“Anne Beehler, 91, died Aug. 12, 1997, at her residence. She was born Sept. 16, 1905, in Lima to John and Barbara Fink Beehler,” The Lima News wrote. And, other than listing survivors and noting that there would be private graveside services, that was it.
Except that was not close to all there was about Anne Beehler.
In a December 2005 article in the News, friends described Beehler as a pint-sized dynamo who never owned a car and often could be seen “walking about town, always wearing a hat and beautifully tailored clothes.” She was, one longtime friend remembered, “a world traveler, an expert on all things German, on the English royal family and on Lima.”
She also owned an insurance agency with an office in the National Bank Building.
In September 1992, about 100 years after her family arrived in the United States, Beehler traced her family’s journey to Lima. After initially settling in Chicago, the family moved to Cincinnati, a place, Beehler explained, seen as “more favorable” to Germans and then to Charleston, West Virginia, where her father contracted malaria. Around 1904, John Beehler, who worked as a meat cutter, moved the family, which by now included daughters Barbara, Margaretha and Mathilda (a daughter named Bertha died in infancy), to Lima.
“At that time,” Anne Beehler wrote, “it was thought that climate was the cause (of malaria), so they moved to Lima.” Anne Beehler was born in Lima in 1905. Her father worked as a butcher for Hoegner and Cantieny meat market and then the Lima Pork Packing Co. About 1910 he packed up his family and moved to Toledo, staying until 1914 when he returned to Lima and the Lima Pork Packing Co.
“During and just after World War I, some people were not friendly to them because of their German language,” her longtime friend Helen Mack wrote in a remembrance of Anne Beehler for the Allen County Historical Society in March 1998. “In his homeland her father had been trained as a meat-cutter and, in Lima, worked the rest of his life (he died in 1948) at the Lima Packing Co. He was a big husky, solid-built man and Mrs. Beehler (who died in 1945) was petite and quiet, spending most of the time in and about her home.”
In 1918, when Anne Beehler was 12 years old, her father ran afoul of his co-workers who questioned his loyalty. According to a story in the March 29, 1918, edition of News, when “the Lima boys” marched away to training camp past the packing company and a throng of workers went out to cheer them, John Beehler “stoically went on with his job of butchering hogs. This was more than the employees of the company could stand, and it was arranged between them that they would find out where John stood immediately.”
Thanks to a group of his co-workers, John soon stood in front of an American flag. “If you are an American, salute that flag,” the group’s leader demanded, according to the article. “Buehler pulled the cap from his head and bowed to the flag. ‘A citizen off der United States I am, und a goot von,’ he said, as he walked back thru the crowd,” the News noted, mimicking his accent. “It was a moment young Anne would always remember,” the News wrote in 2005.
In 1923, Anne Beehler was graduated from South High School. Although her older sisters Margaretha and Mathilda married and eventually left Lima (the oldest sister, Barbara died in 1922), Anne Beehler never married and never left, at least permanently, the town in which she was born.
Instead, Mack wrote, she “worked at Webb-Hamilton Insurance where she learned all aspects of the insurance business. Anne became an expert in her field and taught classes in general insurance for many years.”
She also traveled — a lot. “Traveling was one of her pleasures, making many trips to her ancestral Germany, to the Orient where she even met geisha girls and to Great Britain, leading her to acquire a scholar’s knowledge of the royal family,” Mack wrote, noting Beehler “became quite a collector.”
Beehler was always ready to share her collections and recollections from her trips as well as stories from Lima’s history. “If you had a program cancellation at the last moment,” Mack wrote, “you could count on Anne to come to the rescue.”
When St. Luke’s Lutheran Church held a Christian art and music festival in early December 1964, Beehler shared her collection with attendees. “Italy, Germany, Poland and the United States will be represented by unique carvings from the collection of Miss Anne Beehler, who will explain the carvings and tell of resemblance of figurines to persons of the era in which they were created,” the News reported. In December 1965, she spoke to the La Sertoma Club about the art of woodcarving, bringing along as an example a carved nativity scene she had purchased in Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany, where a passion play is presented every 10 years. “During the interim the inhabitants make their living by carving the figurines,” the News explained.
When not the guest speaker at someone else’s event, Beehler would organize her own. Mack recalled a monthly event Beehler started called Lunch at the Argonne. “She would arrange (or often do it herself) a program with topics of interest to both men and women. It was quite a success.”
Beehler’s personal passion was local history, which she spent decades researching. She authored an exhaustive series of stories on the people, places and things of Lima, which appeared over the years in the Allen County Reporter, a publication of the county historical society.
“Her keen sense of humor can be found in many of the histories she wrote the Allen County Historical Society,” the News wrote in 2005, reprinting Beehler’s account of Hope Burton Holmes, a cultural maven in Lima in the first part of the 20th century. “Hope ‘lived’ her art to the core of her being,” Beehler wrote. “She had ‘national periods’ — Russian, Hindu, French, and many others, when her lifestyle, her music, her poetic reading and her clothing reflected such influence. She was conscious of ‘color’ to an extraordinary degree. When she was in her ‘mauve’ era, all her furnishings, her clothing, even her car were mauve. In order to have complete harmony, she changed the hue of her Russian wolfhound. She dyed, and he died.”
In another story, she recounted the plight of saloonkeeper August Krafitz, who operated Germania Hall on North Street. “He was something of a wit, and when it became known that Prohibition would be a reality after June 20, 1920, he posted a large sign that read, ‘The First of July Will Be the Last of August,’” Beehler wrote.
Although, by her own request, Beehler left life quietly, the history she painstakingly collected spoke for her.
Reach Greg Hoersten at email@example.com.