now and again we find a saint walking the earth amongst us mere
Collette Koobs had a pure soul and was one of those saints.
As the wife of the eldest of eight children her position in
the family could be seen as a blessing or a burden.
From her point of view I’ll never know how she saw the role,
but from my perspective I would say she considered it to be nothing
but a blessing.
She was a woman of unknown strength.
I cannot imagine being a new bride, let alone a war bride who
left her family behind in France, to come to live in America in the
quiet little community of Grundy Center, rather than to a thriving
metropolitan area where there were sure to be others like her.
She left her homeland, her family; her heritage; to find
herself a part of a robust family of four brothers and four sisters,
who grew in numbers as each one married and had children.
When our Grandma Koobs passed in 1968 she
effortlessly stepped into the role of the family matriarch.
I was only 8 at the time, but I remember feeling the tension
as each of the eight siblings were dealing with the loss of a
beloved parent. While
the adults were dealing with their “issues” there were 20+
grandchildren to contend with.
As an adult you realize you wouldn’t wish her newly appointed
role on anyone, but she graciously accepted and never faltered.
My own father passed away two year later in
1970. Blanche and
Claire opened their hearts and their home to me, my brother and my
mother. Can you
imagine accepting with absolutely no hesitation two pre-teenage
children and their grieving mother?
Many wouldn’t, but my Aunt Blanche and Uncle Claire did.
Two years later we lost our Aunt Maxine, again they opened
their hearts and their home to the Sietsema children.
Over the years through the celebrations and the losses of
loved ones Blanche and Claire were our mainstay, the ballast among
the family who had drifted far and wide.
My cousin Debbie Chavez said it best.
“It was never just Claire or just Blanche, it was always both
names together. Our
heritage in the Koobs family is rich.
Each family has a special place in my heart even though
distance and time has separated us.”
I would add to that while distance and time may have
separated us nothing has been more comforting than knowing we have
always had a home to come to, our home was with Claire and Blanche
who welcomed us with open arms.
Blanche gave so much of herself and through her
love she gave me two very precious gifts; my cousins Colette and
Gail. During the time
we lived with Claire and Blanche and for many years after when we
still celebrated Christmas together as if we were a family of one,
my cousins always made me feel as welcomed and as loved as my Aunt
and Uncle did. I often
wish that I had taken the time to thank them for the love that was
As it often goes with families what needs to be said the most is
what is least said, so it must be said now, “Thank you and I love
I would be remiss if I left you with the
impression that Blanche was solid as a rock.
Yes, she was a strong woman, but that definition must be
broadened to include one classy, fun and inspiring lady.
Being French born, she had a flare for fashion and style that
I absolutely admired. I
still have in my dresser drawer a sweater she had knitted for me
when I was in my early 20’s and I’m now in my later 50’s.
It is sweater that is timeless, that only she could have
inspired. I have to
admit that not that long ago I finally unburdened myself of an
avocado green knitted cape made of acrylic yarn that also had green,
orange and cream pom pom’s.
It was a relic from the 70’s, but while it was long out of
style the time, effort, and love that she put into making that cape
for me was never forgotten, which is why it took me 40+ years let
go. Something else that
I can’t let go of is her zest for life.
She loved the outdoors and gardening and dancing.
I believe she was in her 70’s and on her way to her 50th
wedding anniversary celebration, and as they were leaving the house
she was walking/talking when she tripped and landed in the grass.
She stood up, brushed herself off and never missed a beat.
She had a party to attend and a little fall wasn’t about to
slow down her down or keep her from celebrating with family and
My heart is heavy at the moment and it aches
for my Uncle Claire and my cousins.
With my very next breath my heart is full from the many
blessing of having such a wonderful person be a part of my history,
who helped shape me and inspire me over the years.
Blanche may have passed on to her next life, but thanks be to
God for letting her be a part of mine.
Written by Karla Koobs Hauser