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Lawrence A. Weigel Obituary

"Lawrence A. Weigel Obituary." Hays Daily News, 20 June 2005.


Lawrence A. Weigel, 88, of Hays died Sunday, June 19, 2005 at the Hays Alterra Sterling House assisted living facility.

He was born Oct. 26, 1916 in Hays, Kansas, and was the son of Albert J. and Gertrude (Kuhn) Weigel. He spent his early childhood in Victoria, Kansas. At age 13, he attended St. Fidelis College and Preparatory Seminary in Herman, Pa., for three years and then graduated from Victoria’s St. Fidelis High School in 1935.

Following graduation, he was employed at the Hays branch of Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center. During World War II, he served his country as a civilian property and supply officer at nearby Walker Army Air Base. After the war, he studied gemology and worked for Tholen Jewelry Store in Hays for six years. He managed the ready mix division of Hunter Construction Co. and later, Allied Inc. for 30 years, and was widely respected as a expert on calculating concrete and material mix for builders and contractors in the Hays area.

He was known for his meticulous research of the history and folklore of his Volga-German ancestors. In the mid-1950s, he teamed with Nick Pfannenstiel, a local folklorist musician, and collected more than 200 Volga-German folk songs, which were eventually transcribed and preserved by musicologists in the Deutsches Volkslied Archives in Freiburg, Germany.

He was a prolific writer and wrote more than 300 articles in a weekly column for the Ellis County Star newspaper. He authored “From the Rhine to the Volga to Kansas – The Story of My Volga-German Ancestors and Their Descendants and German Folk Songs from the Volga,” which contains 100 favorites with music score, German words and English translations. He was a contributing author for numerous publications and books including “The Official Centennial History of the Volga-Germans from Ellis and Rush Counties” and the “Exodus and to Freedom” pageant play performed in 1976.

He served as a consultant in producing several television documentaries on Volga-German history, and prepared more than 200 genealogy charts for families throughout the country so they could trace their Volga German ancestors.

Music played a major role in his research because much of the Volga-German history was passed down from each generation through folk songs. He was a gifted musician, vocalist, speaker and performer. During a 32-year period, he played trumpet with various bands, including the Jake Weingardt and Charlie Staab Orchestras. He narrated and produced the “Heritage of the Volga-Germans” record album to commemorate the 1976 Centennial celebration of the first Volga-German settlers to arrive in Ellis and Rush counties. That same year, his daily radio program on KAYS Radio sparked an interest from Hays area residents as he explained the history and meaning of Volga-German customs.

He gave more than 175 speeches to civic groups, schools, and social clubs, and donated all of his major research work to the Fort Hays State University library’s Volga-German collection.

In 1983, Fort Hays State University recognized him as an international folklore scholar for his contributions to the university and the region he serves. In 1995, The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, headquartered in Lincoln, Neb., gave him a Distinguished Service Award at their international meeting in Calgary, Canada. These two lifetime achievement awards meant the most to him, because of financial circumstances during the Depression years prevented him from getting the college degree he wanted so badly.

His civic memberships included a lifetime member of the Knights of Columbus, Toastmaster’s International and historian for the Ellis County Volga-German Society, and the Sunflower Chapter of the AHSGR. He was a charter member of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, and served on its international board for a year. He was a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic church in Hays, and a founding member of the Volga-German Men’s Choir.

He married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth Rohleder, on June 3, 1940, and she preceded him in death in 1999.

Survivors include three daughters, Carole Mertz of Topeka, Mary Dinkel of Hays, Liz Chenoweth of Lafayette, Colo., and a son, Larry Weigel of Manhatten, along with seven grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a sister, Leona Wasinger.

Services will be held at 11a.m. Wednesday, June 22 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 18th and Milner. Burial will be in St. Joseph cemetery.

Visitation is from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 21st at the Hays Memorial Chapel, 20th and Pine.

A Knights of Columbus rosary will be at 6:30 p.m., with a parish vigil service at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the funeral home.

A memorial has been established with the Fort Hays State University Endowment Association. The contributions will be used to enrich the Volga-German studies collection at the university library.

Tributes may be sent to the family via e-mail to haysmemchapel@ruraltel.net.

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