Last post, we finished the story as the young Bertha Bergmann arrived in the colony, surprising her beloved, and shortly after she and GJ were married. As well as their love, they shared similar values of faith, family, service to others, and hard work. This helped them form a strong partnership, and enabled them to face the many challenges, changes and tasks that came their way.
One imagines Bertha had an independent and adventurous streak. The first big change for her was leaving a prosperous European village and settling in a small pioneer settlement. What did she make of the village of Light Pass, one wonders? Did she make friends there easily? Did she miss the culture and landscape of her homeland? Was life with her new husband anything like what she expected? GJ’s whole life was thrown into his work, so Bertha must have been able to forge her own role independently.
Of course she would have been busy supporting her husband, raising the children and managing the home, but what else did she love to do?
One imagines she was deeply involved in the church and the community, but in what ways? Was she outgoing? Quiet? So much is written about GJ, but not a lot about Bertha.
Another big change for Bertha came 10 years later, when GJ became the Pastor of the new Strait Gate church. Life at the manse was very busy. With seven children, the house, garden and church duties, Bertha had a lot to manage. The manse was a hospitable place -sometimes there were up to 40 guests in the evening, as well as those who came to stay. Whilst GJ is described as “busy chatting and making music with the crowd”, we don’t hear about Bertha. One hopes she was able to enjoy the merry-making as well. Peter Rechner commented that “Inevitably, the management of the household would have fallen on to the shoulders of Bertha, who must have been just as good an organiser and energetic worker as he (GJ)to cope with the seven children who grew to maturity and the duties of a pastor’s wife. There was also the unimaginable physical and emotional toll of thirteen pregnancies, six of which ended in stillbirth or early mortality. Her photographs show a resolute but care-worn face.”*
Bertha and GJ were married for fifty years, until GJ’s death in 1900. Bertha continued to live in the manse at LightPass with her grandson and his family until her death in 1908 at age 81.
*In GJ Rechner and his descendants, by Judy Rechner 2008