John Lee Strobel-2002
Johannes Leopold Strobel, 103 years old, who lived during three different centuries and was a deeply loved man, passed away at his daughter’s home on Saturday, March 23, 2002, in San Lorenzo, Calif. He was born in Bethune to Jacob and Katherina (Dobler) Strobel on Jan. 6, 1899. He was baptized and confirmed in Immanuel Lutheran Church in the settlement.
He purchased a Harley motorcycle in 1924 and came to Lodi, Calif., to visit cousins and while there, pick almonds to make $.35 per hour. He loved the weather and the abundance of grapes and cherries from the Strobel farms. He returned several times but still came back to his farm. In 1927 he married Margaret Christina Weisshaar, daughter of Joseph and Margaret (Schaal) Weisshaar, in the old settlement Congregational Church. They stayed on the farm until 1936 after their daughter and only child, Esther, was born, and then came to visit California again. They both decided they liked it there and stayed and lived in El Cerrito, Calif., for 65 years. They joined the Calvary German Methodist Church in 1941. It was there he met Bill Blumert and worked for him at Pacific Painting Decorating until his retirement in 1966. He went to Hawaii many times with the family while repairing postoffices. He was able to return to his farm many times and helped with the summer harvest. In the early 50s, he was instrumental in helping to build the Montclair Methodist Church in Oakland, Calif. He was the last living pioneer of the church and stayed a member until his passing. John returned every summer to his farm since 1980 and always with grandchildren and later great- grandchildren. His delight was to show them the old wood-burning stove at 6 a.m. which was a wedding gift, and stoked it up with cow chips like the old days and then he would make bacon and kuchel, (German doughnuts) for the family. He loved to fish with old friends in the Delta for catfish and deep-sea fish in the Pacific Ocean for salmon and bass. After the death of his wife in 1990, he took up gardening and raised raspberries on his large lot. He made raspberry jam and sweet tomato jam, all from his garden. He continued this until his 101st birthday.
On his 100th birthday, he planted 100 plants of corn (1 for each year) and had such a good crop that he shared with the neighbors and family. He had a wonderful memory for the past and present, even including his first ice cream at the Cox ranch by the river, 98 years back. It only cost 1 penny for a bowl he and his brother and sister shared. He loved to tell his grandkids and great-grandkids about his old sod home that was 14 x 24 with mud floors where 5 people lived. And of course the first car ride at 5 miles an hour that made the tears come to his eyes while standing on the running board. He especially was impressed with Halley’s Comet when he was 9. It left a great tail and bright light across the heavens for many days and people were a bit frightened as they weren’t into scientific studies at that time. Of course he saw many inventions such as electricity, telephones, airplanes, space travel, T.V., microwaves, and computers with their endless chips (not like the cow chips he used to survive by cooking, etc.) he had a real zest for life and a great sense of humor. He only regretted not having a more formal education, but he read daily without glasses, even until shortly before his last illness in February. He would read volumes of encyclopedias because it was so intriguing to him. He only had a 5th grade education in a one-room school house in the settlement, but even until 103, he could still tell the square roots, pitches of roofs and how to build them. He built several barns for the settlement farmers, which some still stand today.
His humor, many talents, deep wisdom, love for God and his family and friends will be profoundly missed. His blue twinkling eyes and mischievous smile, ready to capture anyone who would listen to his many memories and fun stories, are a part of the legacy of strength and independence to all who knew him. He was known to add spice and laughter to those who visited him, especially each year he returned to the farm. His enthusiasm for life and learning new things were an inspiration to his family and others who knew him. Even at 95, he snorkeled in Hawaii much to the amazement of those who watched him. His age always surprised him as he was the oldest living carpenter union member in California and had to go each year in person to prove he was still alive. He would just tell them, “Keep those pension checks coming. I’m not through with all of you yet.” Early this year he was honored by the PTA for being the oldest member in the state of California. He even had a standing ovation. His political views were as follows; “I lived under 19 presidents, starting with McKinley and ending with Bush and all of them were good to me. I survived under all of them.” He would be remembered by those who ask him, “How are you doing John?” He would reply, “If I was any better, I couldn’t stand myself.” After his 100th birthday, when people would tell him he looked good for his age, he would reply, “When a plum becomes a dried up prune, it doesn’t change from then on.” An avid traveler, John went on several cruises, toured Europe and visited many of the relatives still living there. He spent 6 weeks traveling the U.S. with his immediate family and visited 38 states.
A full 103 years of life. He will be truly missed. John was preceded in death by his beloved wife Margaret of 63 years; his parents, Jacob and Katherine Strobel; sister Emma Schaal; brothers Rev. Theodore Strobel, Albert and Emil Strobel; sisters-in-law Lena and Anna (Ziegler) Strobel, Lydia (Weisshaar) Wardona; brothers-in-law Jake Schaal, Elton Carpenter, George Wardona, Joseph and Paul Weisshaar; father and mother-in-law Joseph and Margaret Weisshaar. John is survived by his only daughter, Esther Wethern of San Lorenzo, Calif.; grandchildren Steve Wethern and his wife Jeannie of Oregon, James Wethern, Karen (Wethern) Welch and husband Michael Welch, Kathy (Wethern) Silva, all from California; great-grandchildren Becky, Angela, Danny Wethern, Stormy Wethern Mckenzie and Jasmyn Welch and Chelsea and Haley Silva; and several step-great-grandchildren; also 17 nieces and nephews, numerous cousins and friends. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests the memorials be sent to Hope Congregational Church Memorial Fund, Bethune, CO 80805.
Friends and family are invited to a viewing at Hendricks Love Mortuary on Friday, March 29, 2002, from 5 to 8 p.m. and to the funeral and burial at Hope Congregational Church settlement, Bethune, on Saturday, March 30, 2002, at 10:30 a.m. After burial, lunch will be served to all immediately following.