Elke Klara Dinstel Ehlers

Honored by:Andrea Ehlers
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Elke Klara Dinstel Ehlers is my mother but more than that she is my greatest inspiration. As a child I saw her simply and sometimes irreverently as "Mom" with no regard for what she had achieved over a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice. Now that I am an adult I look back with amazement and realize that if I can achieve a fraction of what Mother has it will be a life well spent.

Elke Klara Dinstel Ehlers was born on the small island of Foehr in northern Germany. As a child she experienced the horrors of World War II first hand as her house was bombed by Allied warplanes. Like other children in Germany after the war, Mother was malnourished and still suffers from the lack of proper nutrition and health care.

Mother left home at the age of 14 to begin working. After five years of working on farms as an apprentice Mother left Germany to join her parents who had already immigrated to the United States. It was a ten day journey on the boat BERLIN to New York where Mother became one of the millions of immigrants who was greeted by the Statue of Liberty. She then traveled to Iowa to meet her family. This may not seem remarkable until you take into account the fact that Mother did not speak a single word of English and yet managed to travel over half a continent alone.

After a few years during which time she taught herself English Mother met and married my father Karl Otto Ehlers who is also a German immigrant. Over the course of thirty-eight years they have raised five children all of whom are college educated.

To some people my mother may seem incredibly traditional and to some extent that is probably true and I am thankful for it. Mom gave me traditional morals and values that were sometimes out of step with the way my friends were being raised. Sometimes it was hard to stick by these values but today I am grateful. Mom also taught me to have faith in God which is the most important thing in my life. Mom's traditional ideas have given me the resources and the strength to overcome whatever obstacles I may face. Beyond having strong morals I would not say that Mom is really that traditional. She has taught me the value of education and has always encouraged me to achieve my goals no matter how farfetched they must seem to her.

Mom has never let her lack of formal education stop her from being extensively involved in my school experience. She is always there to support me and sometimes seems to know what I'm feeling before even I am aware of it. In short Mother has encouraged me to be successful because I am a woman not in spite of it and not apologizing for it.