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A Carol for Henry Bremser

By 1924, the old St. Paul's German Lutheran Church on the northside of Norwalk had experienced a significant decline in German-speaking members. It was finally shuttered and the remaining 12 members joined English-speaking St. Peter's Lutheran Church. Marilyn Field, daughter of the pastor at the time, Carl Wannemacher, remembers welcoming the new members with a rendition of the German hymn, "O Tannenbaum."

"We used to have a choir made up of seventh and eighth grade girls directed by Mrs. Augusta Kohlmeyer. The year that Mr. [Henry] Bremser and the other members of the German Lutheran Church joined our church Dad thought it would be nice if we girls would sing "O Tannenbaum" in German. (That is, "Oh Christmas Tree".)

Henry Bremser and his grand-daughter Annabeth Beasley in about 1918, when she was two.

"He thought it would make Mr. Bremser and the other German members who joined feel more at home. We learned all four verses and I still love to sing it today in German, although I only remember the first verse and need help on the others. Dad told Mr. Bremser to be sure and come to the Christmas program and Mr. Bremser was very pleased."

(My then 12-year-old mother, Annabeth Beasley, was one of the children who learned to sing O Tannenbaum that year. The carol remained a cherished favorite her entire life, and she always recalled the tears in her grandpa's eyes as she sang in her best German.)