The tragedy that brought death to Mrs. Rosa Heim,
90, on February 8, 1954, took from Dawson, Nebraska a member of
the "Pennsylvania Colony" of Germans who settled in Richardson
County in the early 1870's and early 1880's. Mrs. Heim was also
a charter member of the United Brethren Church, only one other surviving
Relatives and friends of "Aunt Rosa" will always remember
her for her gentleness, her complete dedication to family and home
and her keen love of nature. After she and her husband, the late
Joseph G. Heim, retired from the farm they occupied an attractive
cottage on Main Street. From the earliest spring to the latest blooming
season Aunt Rosa's place was a bower of beauty. After her husband's
death she seemed to find her greatest solace in the care of her
garden and lawn. A purple hedge of iris outlined the south boundary.
In the west rear there were sturdy and delicate flowers, rotated
with the seasons. In deep summer California poppies lent their flaunting
color to the landscape. The summer sunset furnished a background
to the varied beauty - seeming to vie with this nature lover in
making the day's end a benediction.
Aunt Rosa nurtured another love - love of books. Shortly after
the local library was opened she came in one day to select reading
matter. The co-founder of the library noted her silence as she stood
before the array of offerings. Finally she turned and said, "You
women who opened this library are doing a wonderful work for the
young people." Then she revealed that in the strict Pennsylvania
community in which she was reared she had not been permitted to
read anything, until eighteen years of age, except a book of sermons
that was a sort of supplementary to the school curriculum. Now,
in her eighties, she would satisfy her hunger! She loved soothing
stories like Mrs. Aldrich's, "A. Lantern In Her Hand";
and the librarian, who makes almost a fetish of satisfying the tastes
of her patrons, saw to it that Aunt Rosa never lacked a book - even
seeing to it that material was sent to her on the days when bad
weather kept her indoors.
Even to the end Aunt Rosa insisted on doing her gardening, mowing
and raking the lawn, coaxing young shoot to rear their heads, uprooted
offending weeds. It was the last such favorite task that brought
death as she burned dead leaves and the winter's debris from the
lawn. The assumption is that excitement over a flaring blaze resulted
in a heart attack. Her body lay on the Good Earth she had loved,
as neighbors fearfully converged towards the blazing lawn.
Aunt Rosa is survived by three generations of children, nieces
and nephews who have excelled in agriculture and the learned professions.
They are forever blessed by the deep religious and ethical principles
that Aunt Rosa and her kind have transmitted to them. But they will
miss the wise and tender counsel of the dear old gentlewoman who
made beauty an idol.
The composer of this tribute, Anne Rush Riley, is the wife of our
banker, Dan J. Riley, and a neighbor for many years of "Aunt
Rosa". "Dan J." as he is known to all, is the son
of the late Michael Riley, founder of the "Irish Colony from
Connecticut," which settled in the Dawson community much earlier
than the Pennsylvania Colony. Michael Riley and his son Dan J. have
been financial and business advisers as well as esteemed friends
of many generations of the Pennsylvania Colony members.
To Anne Rush Riley, we say "Thank You" for this loving
This story is taken from the "Folklore" of Pennsylvania
Colony in Nebraska Book complied and edited by Elma Heim Larimore
It can be purchased from the "for sale" page in this