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
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
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
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
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 email@example.com.