February 13, 2016

HOMETOWN HEROES: Dorothy Brecheisen, Born in a house fire


Judi Roche (left) sits beside her mother Dorothy Brecheisen. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz, kcvideo.com

VIDEO: Rick Poppitz, kcvideo.com
Special to The Gardner News
March 14, 2014 – Dorothy Brecheisen was born in 1922, in a rural Edgerton house on fire. That’s right. 1922.
I visited with Dorothy and her daughter Judi Rochte on April 4, 2014 in their Gardner home. Both have spent the majority of their lives in the Gardner-Edgerton area.
In the video interview, Dorothy tells the “fire-baby” story with a smile – how the house caught on fire the night she was born.
She also describes childhood memories of dust storms and drought when she was a kid in the 1930s. She remembers her mother placing wet sheets over windows to keep the dust out of the house.
Another story she shared, but was cut out of the video for time, was the day in the late 1930s when a tornado swooped down on the family farm.  She remembers standing on the porch with her siblings as the storm approached, watching her mother trying to shoo baby chickens to cover, and later watching the storm from inside the house. All of the buildings on the farm were destroyed that day except for the house.
Dorothy grew up in the Edgerton area, attended Edgerton schools and graduated in 1940. After completing school, she left the area for the first time in her life and took a job in the city. She was away for about four years. Near the end of that time, she got married, and shortly after that, the newlywed Brechheisens moved to Gardner.  That was in 1945, and Dorothy has been here ever since.

Gardner Variety Store as it looked back in 1961.

Gardner Variety Store, 1961. Photo courtesy of Gardner Historical Museum 

Dorothy worked at the Gardner Variety Store through most of the 1950s. The store was a Main Street local business for decades. In 1961, when the Brecheisens bought the store, Dorothy became the owner. She operated the business until 1988.
The Brecheisens had three children and raised their family here in Gardner.  Daughter Judi has plenty of memories of Gardner’s past. She, too, has seen Gardner’s growth first-hand. When Judy went to school, all grades from first- 12th were in the same building. She remembers the train depot in Gardner and a childhood trip to California by train.
Judi also remembers Gardner before the existence of Interstate 35. That goes back a ways and may be difficult for some residents to imagine, but Dorothy can rewind further than pre-interstate. She recalls her father working jobs on the construction of U.S. Highway 56 several decades before that.
These two longtime Gardner residents are eyewitnesses to the change, growth and history of Gardner. It was a pleasure to visit with them and document some of their memories.