By Patti Pomerenke
Dave and Marie Kuemmel have built solid foundations throughout their 63-year life together- their faith, their family, and their relationship with their community. As long- time members of St. Matthias Parish, they have contributed to our Parish Family in so many different ways. Dave and Marie have such an interesting story!
How they Met
Dave and Marie are both originally from the Milwaukee area, and were brought together in High School at Pius when one of the nuns sat the class in alphabetical order. Marie Lewis (her maiden name) was seated by Dave, who was an underachiever and a trouble-maker along with his rough group of friends. Marie was quite the opposite–a stellar student who participated in school activities and followed the rules. Dave and Marie started talking, and even though Dave liked another girl at the time, he soon realized how special Marie was, and they began dating. Marie’s academic success presented a challenge for Dave, since he didn’t want to be outsmarted by a girl, so he buckled down and earned straight A’s during his Senior year of High School. Marie says that she converted Dave, and noted that she was helped along by the nuns at Pius who did not stand in the way of Dave and Marie’s interest in each other.
Early Life Together
Dave and Marie both went on to college–Dave at Marquette University for Civil Engineering and Marie at Alverno College for teaching. In 1954, they both graduated from college, got married, honeymooned in St. Germain, and Marie became pregnant with their first child. Dave was drafted in November of 1954. Marie was able to teach for a short time before having to quit due to her pregnancy, as was the custom at the time while Dave worked as a Civil Engineer with Milwaukee. Dave and Marie’s first child, Peter, arrived on Marie’s birthday in 1955.
Shortly after Peter’s arrival, Dave was able to have the family moved to Virginia, where they lived off-base and Dave commuted to the Army base daily. They had a close group of military families who kept them sane while all living in military housing. Marie became pregnant again and was due shortly after Labor Day in 1956, the same date that Dave was to be discharged from the Army. This was concerning, since as a young family they had no extra money, and they needed the military benefits to pay for the labor, delivery, and hospital stay. So, on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, they walked the Battle of Bull Run in Manassas, VA to try and induce labor. It worked, and Jeanne was born the day after Labor Day in 1956! Marie was released from the hospital on 9/9/1956, and Dave was discharged from the military on 9/12/1956, so fortunately their bills were covered!
Marie and Dave subsequently packed up their household for a move back to Milwaukee. They shipped some of their belongings, and then carried 7 suitcases/boxes and their two small children with them to the airport! A military friend, who was driving them to the airport, took a shortcut and got lost and they missed their flight. Marie and Dave had to wait until midnight with their children and bags in order to catch another flight! Upon arriving in Wisconsin, they were greeted by Marie’s family (and several cars) to haul their belongings to Marie’s parent’s house, where they stayed for 8 weeks until Dave saved enough money to move out.
Dave had returned to his job with the City of Milwaukee as a Civil Engineer (and stayed there for 35 years), and they moved to a rented flat as soon as they could afford it. They stayed there for three years, until they saved their money, and were able to buy an empty lot in the newly annexed area in Milwaukee. They eventually built a house on that lot in 1959. Paul was born on New Year’s Eve, 1959. Over the next 9 years, Marie and Dave had five more children: Catherine in 1961, Gina ’62, Rachel ’63, Andy ’66, and Phil ’68–eight children total within 13 years!
St. Matthias Family
In 1959, Dave and Marie joined St. Matthias Parish, which of course, did not have the Church building we have today. Dave became a lector right away, and he can remember doing the readings in English while Father Kreig said the Mass in Latin.
Dave and Marie became heavily involved with the Christian Family Movement (CFM) which met regularly to discuss issues such as social justice, politics, and civil rights, and had St. Matthias Parish Priest Father Paul Daniels as their guide. The families who belonged to this group became very close. They worshipped together at St. Matthias and participated in Civil Rights marches and social initiatives. Eventually, the CFM initiative ended, but Marie and Dave still keep in touch with the families from CFM.
Dave was on the building committee when the current Church building was built and he believes, at age 84, that he is the last living Parish member of that committee.
After CFM discontinued, Marie and Dave became involved with Milwaukee Marriage Encounter (MME), which was an Archdiocese program that sponsored marriage enrichment weekends throughout the year. Dave and Marie were a part of the leadership team of MME for five years, and presented 25 weekend sessions over several years to share their experiences in order to help other couples strengthen their marriages.
After MME, Dave and Marie were both elected (at different times) to the St. Matthias Parish Council, and served terms as leaders of our Parish. In the late 1960’s, for five years or so, Dave and Marie taught Christian Formation for St. Matthias. They taught Seniors in High School (Christian Marriage), and welcomed the young adults into their home for the sessions.
In 1982, Dave, Marie and Fr. John Endejan and a few others from St. Matthias developed the Stewardship program, to encourage Stewardship as a way of life and bring it to the forefront of Parish activities. Dave and Marie co-chaired the committee, and St. Matthias was one of the first Parishes in the Archdiocese to have a Stewardship program. The Archdiocese used it as a model for other Parishes. Marie was part of the Stewardship committee until about 2005, and Dave stayed with the Stewardship program for over 15 years.
In 2012, Dave started working with the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, and is now Secretary of the group. He is one of those who ensure that the “shopping” for the pantry gets done before each pantry weekend. Rain or shine, Dave and others will travel to Feeding America or Hunger Task Force (or other places as needed) to load up the food which is distributed to the needy at the Saint Vincent de Paul food pantry.
Dave also organizes the monthly Hospitality event for the attendees of the 4 pm Mass. He has recruited wonderful volunteers to help, and unlike the Sunday morning events, where donuts and coffee are served, this team serves wine, punch, cheese and crackers and other snacks after the Mass. (Dave encourages everyone who attends 4 pm Mass to stop in Steiger Hall after Mass on Hospitality Sunday weekend).
Dave and Marie have built quite a life together. From humble beginnings, they created a family, built a home and raised their eight children with love and faith. They sent all of their children through St. Matthias grade school and to Pius HS, and kept their family’s faith alive throughout their involvement with St. Matthias and other organizations. During their life, they have also enjoyed a vacation condominium which they purchased. It is located in St. Germain, in the exact place where they Honeymooned in 1954! Marie and Dave now have 20 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and they down-sized to a smaller senior apartment 10 years ago.
When asked about the secret to their long marriage, Marie says they did and do get angry with each other, but they fight fair–they bring the issues out in the open and then move forward. Dave mentioned that they both always viewed their marriage as a commitment and that in a natural course of life, the passion of a young marriage gets replaced by companionship. Marie emphasized that respect is critical to a successful marriage, also.
Future of St. Matthias Parish
Marie and Dave mention that St. Matthias has been important to them because of the sense of community they have found here over the years. Currently, they are part of a group that attends 4 pm Mass and the group offers help and support to each other. Marie is in the midst of a long recovery from surgery and a fall, and the 4pm Mass group has shared in their grief and supported them with cards, letters, and prayers. Marie and Dave know that St. Matthias has kind and generous people who have a lot to offer.
Dave and Marie both hope that the members of St. Matthias continue to be involved with Stewardship– getting involved with the Parish and developing bonds and a sense of community. They do acknowledge that there are challenges to getting involved, such as time and transportation, but in their lives, the blessings of being involved have played out time after time. During Marie’s current recovery from surgery and a fall, she has kept a mini prayer shawl in her pocket. When she gets discouraged, she looks at it and thinks of all the people praying for her, and it reminds her that we can’t go through tough times or through this life alone. That is the spirit of Community that has made Dave and Marie so happy to be a part of St. Matthias Parish, and the spirit that will continue to move St. Matthias forward.