Hildegarde M. Scheibe

Hildegarde M. Scheibe

Madison- Hildegarde M. Scheibe, age 97, passed away peacefully August 8, 2012.

Hildegarde was born in 1915 to Harry H. and Gertrude M. Marsales in Saskatchewan, Canada. She grew up in Buffalo, New York, graduating from Bennett High at age 16. Because her parents felt she was too young to begin college, she attended the Buffalo Seminary for one year as a post grad. She then attended Vassar College, receiving her bachelor’s degree in German as a member of the Class of 1936.

A gifted student of languages including German, French, English, Spanish, and Latin, she traveled for 16 months in Germany and France after college and experienced Europe at an important time in the world and in her life. She lived with families in Germany and France, immersed herself in the life and languages there, and enjoyed sightseeing and skiing before the days of ski lifts. Among her rich cultural experiences were unique historical events. She later recounted to her children that while at a Wagner opera in Bayreuth, Germany, she was stunned to see Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels arrive to attend as well.

After returning to the states, she taught French and German at the Knox School in Cooperstown, New York for two years (for the generous salary of $500 per year!). In 1939, she attended graduate school at UW-Madison, earning her masters degree in German. She especially enjoyed living at the German House, a grad-student residence where she met many life-long friends. Through these friends, she met Elmer Scheibe, then a grad student in electrical engineering, whom she would later marry. She abandoned her nearly completed doctorate in German to follow him to Washington D.C. during WWII and they married in 1945. In D.C., she worked for the Office of Strategic Services until VE Day, assisting with German language translation for American soldiers (though she claimed she was never a spy!). She later taught German and English to returning GIs at George Washington University, during which time she and Elmer lived in an apartment on Pennsylvania Avenue, five blocks from the White House. In 1947 they returned to Madison where Elmer was offered a professorship in the UW-Madison Department of Electrical Engineering. Hildegarde taught in the UW German Department.

After starting her family of three children, she returned to the UW to earn her teaching certificate in the 1960s. She then taught German in the Madison Public Schools, conversational German to adults through the Madison Area Technical College, and English to international students. She enjoyed her many social circles including university organizations and groups for book reading, bird watching, gardening, German conversation, and international women. She was also a long-time member of Advent Lutheran Church.

Hildegarde had many talents in the arts including writing, poetry, and doodling (likely the influence of her artistic father). A Buffalo newspaper published her first illustrated poem when she was just 11 years old. Even at age 95, she could still recite poetry she had written in 1932. Her children were amused by doodles they found on notes, napkins, and lists that she touched. She delighted in the intricacies and nuances of the English language, lightheartedly correcting the grammar of her adult children and circling errors she’d find in the newspaper. Years later, her children discovered funny notes she had kept documenting improper English usage by public figures and radio-TV personalities.

Hildegarde is survived by her children Robert (Jolie) Scheibe, of Redmond, WA, Peggy (Don) Kramer of Monument, CO, Anne DeMarsay (Dexter Guptill), of Centreville, VA, and grandchildren Christopher Kramer and Alana Scheibe. She was preceded in death by her husband Elmer in 1972.

With charm all her own, Hildegarde had a brilliant mind, gentle manner, engaging personality, and a warm smile that she bestowed upon all who met her. She laughed easily; her sense of humor and ever-cheerful outlook made her a joy to be around. She loved the world of nature, particularly the flowers, birds, and animals that graced her back yard through the seasons. Hildegarde was the quintessential mother and a gracious hostess, always catering to everyone else’s needs before her own. For many years, it was she who looked after her aging friends. Although Hildegarde was determined to be independent, in recent years, it was her large circle of dear friends and neighbors in Madison who enabled her to live happily in her home, as was her wish. The ladies of the Judith Circle at Advent Lutheran Church, who were Hildegarde’s long-time friends, created a loving sisterhood during her last few years. The Scheibe family is greatly appreciative of their faithful and constant support.

Of special note, the family expresses its deepest gratitude to Michele Heyman, Hildegarde’s caregiver for more than eight years, for her unending compassion and patience. Largely due to Michele’s care, Hildegarde was able to happily remain in her home with dignity. The family is also grateful for the wonderful caregiving of Susan Rutter, who for four years offered faithful, loving help and rekindled Hildegarde’s love of poetry. Among her special neighbors in Indian Hills, Gretchen and John Petersen showed exceptional kindness and concern for her well being over many years, for which her family and caregivers are deeply grateful. So many wonderful people contributed invaluably to Hildegarde’s happiness and quality of life, and by extension, peace of mind for her family.

A Celebration of Life will be held September 4 at 11:00 am at Advent Lutheran Church, 7118 Old Sauk Road, Madison 53717. A reception will follow. A graveside ceremony will be held Monday August 13 at Forest Hill Cemetery, 1 Speedway Road, Madison at 1:30 pm. Attendees may meet at the front entrance.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Advent Lutheran Church.