Celebrating 100 years: Daughters remember growing up on Belfield farmsteadBelfield pioneer Bertha Obrigewitch is within days of achieving her lifetime goal. She will celebrate her 100th birthday Friday during a family get-together at St. Benedict’s Health Center in Dickinson.
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
Belfield pioneer Bertha Obrigewitch is within days of achieving her lifetime goal. She will celebrate her 100th birthday Friday during a family get-together at St. Benedict’s Health Center in Dickinson.
Many of her 13 children, 42 grandchildren, 83 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren will join in the celebration.
“That’s quite a family stemming from one 100-year-old lady,” said daughter Juanita Talkington of Belfield. “That’s quite a lineage.”
Obrigewitch traces her family heritage back to Macachin, Argentina, where she was born June 1, 1912, the oldest daughter of Liberatus and Celestina Schaeffer. One of her siblings, Ida Schaeffer is still living.
The family immigrated to Nebraska in 1914, and moved to North Dakota in 1916. She grew up in Slope County north of Amidon.
She married Tony Obrigewitch Nov. 24, 1931, at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Amidon. They settled on a farm and ranch in Billings County, northeast of Belfield.
“She went from horse and buggy days to cars,” daughter, Rosemary Obrigewitch of Seattle said. “She was one of a few young women who learned to drive a car in those days.”
The eldest daughter, Charlotte Hlebechuk, Belfield, remembers her mother working in the fields.
“She had poultry and milked cows,” she said. “I was a second mother — I took care of the kids.”
“She was like Dad’s hired man, and she raised every kind of flower,” Rosemary Obrigewitch added.
Talkington remembers her mother had two large gardens.
“She did a lot of canning, and even canned the meat,” she said.
The sisters remember their mother carrying water in the house to wash the clothes. In the early days, she heated the house with a coal stove, getting up in the middle of the night to add coal.
“The water would freeze in the water pail,” Hlebechuk remembers.
“I remember Mom baked bread twice a week,” Talkington said. “All the kids in school wanted to trade sandwiches because she had the best bread.”
Obrigewitch was 19 when she was married, just with the start of the Depression years.
“We had lots of jelly bread,” Hlebechuk said. “The neighbor kids ate plain syrup sandwiches in school, but Mom made chokecherry syrup.”
Hlebechuk also remembers dipping fresh bread into cream.
“Now if we try it, we get a heartburn,” she said. “When we were kids, that was a treat.”
The children attended country school, sometimes walking, and sometimes getting a ride with horse and wagon or sleigh.
The family attended Mass in Belfield, with everyone piling on top of each other in the car.
“Then Dad would stop and pick up a hitchhiker,” joked Rosemary Obrigewitch.
Tony died in 1980, and she continued to live on the home place until 2010.
She left her daughters with a lifetime of values.
“Definitely faith,” Talkington said. “I think we all have a certain down-to-earth quality.”
“I think family is important,” Rosemary Obrigewitch said.
“And an appreciation of hard work,” added Hlebechuk.
The family includes nine sons, Clifford, Sentinel Butte; Gerald (deceased); Claude, Maurice and Bertram (Bud), Belfield; Val, Sentinel Butte; Tony, Belfield; Tim and Terry, Meadows, S.D.
Gloria Weber, Joliet, Mont., rounds out the four daughters.
Because of medical difficulties, Obrigewitch was unable to comment about her upcoming milestone.