My wife, Katherine Ann Hubbard Barnett was born to Edward F. Hubbard and Katherine Elizabeth Hubbard on May 14, 1946. Although she was born in Fort Worth, Texas and spent many of her formative years in foreign countries, she has always had strong ties to the community of Frederick, Oklahoma.
Her parents both lived in Frederick at the time they met and continued to claim Frederick as their home for their entire lives. At the time of Katherine Ann’s birth, her dad was on active duty with the United States Army Air Corps, having served as a B-24 Bomber pilot stationed in England throughout the latter part of WWII. Shortly after Katherine Ann’s birth, he was assigned to Germany as part of the Allied Occupation Forces. So, he bundled up his wife and new baby and moved to Lubeck, Germany, to assume his military duties.
Because Katherine Elizabeth had been ill since Katherine Ann’s birth, Colonel Hubbard hired a nanny for Katherine Ann. The nanny was German and spoke almost no English, and spent countless hours nurturing young Katherine Ann. Because Katherine Elizabeth’s health continued to decline, she was not able to attend to Katherine Ann’s needs, and assigned almost all of the baby’s care to the nanny. Consequently, Katherine Ann was exposed to the German language much more than to English. Before the baby’s third birthday, Katherine Elizabeth’s condition became critical and she was returned to the U.S.A. for hospitalization. Unfortunately, she lived only a short while after her return to the U.S.A., and passed away on May 14, 1949, Katherine Ann’s third birthday.
Since Colonel Hubbard had been on leave for a long time before his wife’s death, he was ordered to return to Germany only a few days after her funeral. He could not take a three year old child, so he arranged to have Katherine Ann stay with his parents, Charlie and Ethel Hubbard of Frederick. Ethel was, of course, delighted to help by caring for her only grandchild, and set about the task with fervor.
However, in spite of Ethel’s yeoman efforts, Katherine Ann was often sullen and difficult to communicate with. This problem was of great concern to Ethel, as she dearly loved Katherine Ann and wanted only the best for her. After a difficult period of adjustment, the source of part of Katherine Ann’s problem was discovered quite by accident.
The Hubbards often visited with George and Sadie Burkhart, pioneer citizens of Frederick. George had grown up in Germany, and was fluent in German. On one such visit shortly after Katherine Ann had come to live with the Hubbards, some one sneezed, and George very naturally said “gesundheit”, with a very German accent. As soon as he said it, Katherine Ann looked at him in amazement, ran over to him, climbed up into his lap, and began babbling to George, in German!
From then on, understanding that Katherine Ann’s primary language was German, Ethel was able to establish good communication with her and begin developing the relationship with her granddaughter that would be vitally important to both of them for the rest of Ethel’s long and useful life.
Reach David Barnett by contacting Kathleen Guill at firstname.lastname@example.org.