Friday, February 20, 2009

My friend Jean Reble

I just learnt of Jean's passing away last year; she was in her 80's. Our friendship goes back 35 years but her family moved away in 1977. I am not very good at keeping in touch but we did connect occasionally, mostly through her efforts. I never forgot her kindness. Jean was the wife of the Reverend Eric Reble, always incredibly dedicated to their cause. Here is part of my tribute to her.

Dear Eric, I was sad to hear of Jean's death but I think you two made the best of all the days that were given to you. I am comforted to know that she is not suffering anymore from the dreadful Amzheimer disease.

My memories of Jean and all of you goes way back. I have somewhere a lovely photo of your daughter Carole (and her friend Beth) at about 8 years old (March 1975) when we celebrated our firstborn's first birthday. Already your family was giving generously to ours through friendship of all kinds.

I don't actually remember how we first connected but I suspect it was Jean who took the first step.

I have remembered, guiltily, I must say, the innumerable afternoon hours when, out of loneliness, I suppose, I sat at your table and had a cup of tea and some of Jean's wonderful baking; she must have been bored to tears, at times, from my presence, but certainly never showed it. She was always there for me. My conversation, at the time, must have surely only centered on baby stuff...

Jean taught me to cook some Indian foods; I even have a recipe book (put together in Kodaikanal, I suppose) from her that was printed as a fundraiser, I believe. I use some of the recipes and think of her each time; the one of the string beans with mustard seeds and cumin always draws positive comments and a request to pass on the recipe.

I will never forget a funny little incident which I must relate here: It was during the Christmas season; it was either Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve or some other important evening. Jean, thoughtful as always, was worried that some of the parishioners might not have anyone to spend the evening with, so she had invited one and all who would otherwise be alone, to come to St. Mark's Lutheran Church Hall. She had baked a large tinful of cookies, as she always did on those occasions.

She was a bit rushed that evening, and at the appointed time, she grabbed her coat and put on her boots in a hurry, somehow dropping the tin of cookies. The cover flew off and all the cookies were all over the floor which had either a small mat or was covered with a rug. I don't remember exactly which.

What could she do? It was too late to bake another batch. She picked up the cookies in a hurry and stuffed them back in the tin. She made it to the church in plenty of time, as no one actually showed up, which made her very happy as it must have meant that everyone had a place to go on the special evening.

A couple of days later, I dropped by at your house and all of a sudden, Jean remembered the "unopened" tin of cookies; she produced it for Katie and me to help ourselves. Lo and behold, I pulled out one cookie and it was covered with carpet fluff; I pulled another and it was the same. All the cookies in the tin were just covered with fluff and hair and dirt... We had a great laugh and Jean commented on how the Good Lord had saved her from this ignominy in front of the parishioners.

I remember a lovely week spent at your place in Kitchener with Robin and Anthony when they were 4 or 5 years old. How they loved the dancing Indian lady whose head moved from left to right! It might be where my desire to visit india started. Despite the terrible accident when an unfortunate young woman on her way to start her holidays, went through a red light and slammed into the side of your car, destroying it, we all survived without a scratch; I don't know if this had anything to do with you being so close to God.

You and Jean never reproached me my agnostic or even atheistic views. You never tried to push religion onto me; you preached by your example. I still think it makes no difference what or who you believe in; it is how you behave that counts. If I have gained any wisdom at all through the years, you must take some of the credit. Your family is so exemplary in so many ways.

I have been terrible at staying in touch but I have never forgotten all your kindnesses. I wish you some great moments at your new residence, Eric. No doubt, many will be thrilled to have this handsome, smart and chatty newcomer among them.

with lots of love.


  1. I wish I had met this very special woman; In a way, I feel I have met her through you now, Danielle; thank you for that!

  2. My name is Rhea Reble, I am the grandaughter of Jean and Eric. I was randomly googling and came across this. Thank you for sharing your memories. They are much appreciated.

  3. Rhea, I am just discovering your comment about my note about Jean. Thank you. You are a fortunate woman to have had Jean as a grandmother. I am sorry I did not see your comment before. I still do not understand this site too much and hardly have time to look at it. Best wishes.

  4. My name is Marion West (nee Schaefer). Jean Reble was my Dad's (Clifford Schaefer) first cousin. Jean's mother, Luella Niergarth (nee Schaefer) was a sister to my grandfather, Edgar (Ed).

    My connection with Jean and Eric was regrettably very minimal. Eric married my parents in 1954 and later that year he baptized me. The Schaefers, while all confirmed Lutherans, were not church goers and I have always been very curious at how different Ed's family was as compared to that of his sister's.

    Ed had 8 children (1 girl and 7 boys). All 7 boys were hellions. They worked very hard but also played hard too. None of Ed's sons (and Ed included) would step foot in church unless it was for a wedding or a funeral.

    Many years ago, I got to know Jean and Eric much better as they faithfully attended most Schaefer funerals and as well our family's reunion. Jean would spend time with each of us trying to piece together our family tree. I marveled at the information she had gathered over the years. I recall vividly at a family funeral when, after chatting with her for awhile, she looked straight into my eyes and told me that she and I were related. It startled me somewhat when I saw a resemblance to my family in her eyes. There was no denying that she was proud of her roots and perhaps she saw in me someone who too was proud to be a member of her family.

    I was going to make it my mission to visit with her one day to review all the material she had gathered on the Schaefer family but this visit was not to be. It was not long after my Dad died (September 2005) that Jean passed away too.

    Perhaps one day I will meet with her children as they most likely will have their mother's records. Thank you for sharing your story of Jean.

    Rhea, she was a wonderful woman and a strong example to those of us who survive her.

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