Every once in awhile your eyes scan the papers in boredom only to find a remarkable gem. One that should be shared far and wide, but might remain yesterday’s news. This could be said for one of the bravest, most adventurous women who passed away this summer at the age of 91.
She could have been your neighbor; she could have been the old lady who needed help carrying her groceries, but we were too busy on our way to nowhere important. It isn’t every day you see an obituary like this . . . .
In ancient Rome, it was a disgrace to simply say that someone died. They had all kinds of eloquent ways to say that someone departed from this world. The main Latin term was “vixit” and it meant “he (she, it) has lived” or “he lived.” People often knew it meant the person had died, but Latin terminology bestowed honor to the dead, by acknowledging all the living years right in the wording.
All American protesters today are indeed taking great risks with their lives. The majority acts like these protesters are crazy and should stay home because they know they might be beaten to bloody pulp, as if that’s ample reason for everyone to back down and let despicable behavior carry on.
The spirited woman below knew the RISK. She has lived.
Thoreau wrote that most people lead lives of quiet desperation. Louisa T. was definitely an exception.
Louisa Maria Regina Cras T. was born June 29, 1920 in Schoten, Belgium, a rural community east of Antwerp. She was raised on a farm with seven sisters, three brothers, and her mother and father.
Louisa’s closest friend throughout her life was her sister, Julia. Although separated by the Atlantic ocean since World War II, a childhood bond was established between them that never diminished.
On special occasions when Julia and her husband visited Louisa, our family spent many evenings watching two women transform themselves into two young girls as they sang songs learned as school girls or as they both rolled on the floor holding their sides and laughing hysterically at some silly story which was understood only by the two of them in a special way.
Louisa attended Catholic schools until the age of fourteen. At that age, it was customary for most students to go to work at factories in Antwerp. Louisa worked at a cookie factory until the age of twenty-one.
It was at this time that her life was drastically changed by World War II.
Friends of Louisa knew her to be jolly, extremely energetic, and overflowing with an almost childlike innocence. Knowing this, it is hard to imagine she experienced the stark realities of war that are unknown to most of us. To have experienced the cruelty of war and still remain such a joyful person was a testament to the strength of her character.
During the German occupation in 1941, Louisa, Julia, and several other girls were transported to work in a munitions factory in Germany. During the thirteen months spent there, Louisa came face to face with a reality a farm girl from Belgium could not have been prepared for.
When the girls arrived at the work camp, they were treated fairly and the food was adequate. Later, the food was stretched to a point where long hours demanded by the Germans could not be sustained.
Finally, near the point of total exhaustion, the young girls decided to strike. To the overworked and exhausted girls, a strike seemed to be a rational way to solve the problem. To the German officer who soon arrived with a truckload of armed soldiers, a strike was something altogether different from rational.
He explained to the camp of more than five-hundred workers that if they did not resume their duties within ten minutes, they would begin executions by firing squad. It took only a matter of minutes for most of the workers to file back to work. All that remained was a group of 10 young Belgian girls which included Louisa and Julia.
Being totally unprepared for the harsh new truth of the “Fatherland,” the girls decided it was only right and fair to continue the strike. When the German officer learned of this, he exploded and ordered all ten girls to be placed in front of a wall for execution.
The civilian factory manager pleaded with the girls to give up the strike. All ten remained firm and did not move from the wall. The manager then conferred with the German officer. After a few minutes, the officer ordered ten armed soldiers out of the truck and directed them to within a few paces of the girls.
In a very loud and resonant voice, he told the girls this was their last chance. If they did not return to work by the count of ten, they would be shot. The count began rapidly at first: Ein, Zwei, Drei. Then the pace began to slow to what seemed minutes between each count. The girls were now beginning to feel panic, realizing they were close to their last moment on earth.
Finally, the count reached nine and then a long pause that seemed like an eternity. The next sound Louisa heard was “the loudest screaming and hollering she had ever heard.” It was the German officer shouting words Louisa could not altogether understand, although she seemed to think he was commenting on the impossible situation of confronting ten obstinate Belgian farm girls who had yet to learn the ways of the “Fatherland.”
When Louisa told this story, she basically laughed it off, saying “when you’re young, things don’t seem so drastic.” As it turned out, the ten girls were taken away from the camp and moved to a prison in nearby Austria for thirty days. When they were returned to the work camp, the food allocation had been increased to former levels and they received a hero’s welcome from the other girls.
Within four years, the war ended, and Louisa had fallen in love and married a handsome American soldier named Melvin T. Since she was not able to accompany him to America, she made the trip by herself while speaking little English and fully expecting to be attacked by wild Indians as soon as she entered Oklahoma. Somehow escaping these pitfalls, she was reunited with Melvin, and they settled in Chandler, OK.
Louisa also became an instant mother to 4year-old Melvin Clark T., whose birth mother had passed away when Melvin was a baby. Seven years later she gave birth to her only daughter, Regina. Louisa lost Melvin Sr. to cancer in 1967. For the remaining forty-four years of her life, she remained as in love with him as the first day they met. She was preceded in death by all of her immediate Belgian family.
She is survived by her son, Melvin Clark T. and wife Jeannie; her daughter, Regina E. and husband Gary; and grandchildren, Frank T., Aaron T., Brian T., Belinda G., Stephen E.; and 13 great-grandchildren.
Louisa lived alone from 1971 until 2005. During that time, she approached each day with vigor and an unwavering desire to help her family in any way possible. She remained as steadfast in her love and devotion to family as the young girl at the wall.