Gertrude Stella Reifert was born September 24, 1917 and died on December 16, 2013 at UW Hospitals at age 96. She was the middle child of seven surviving children of Sofia (Sally) Ogorzala and Louis (Ludwig) Maslanka, both of whom emigrated at young ages from Poland to Ohio. Gertrude was born in Lorain, Ohio but began school in a one room school house on Joppa Road in Vermilion Township later attending Vermilion and Lorain public schools. As a first generation American Gertrude avoided Polish and insisted on correct English.
Gertrude and her husband Franklin were married on August 15, 1938 and had two daughters, Nancy and Janet. They had great pride in building two houses. Their first one in Vermilion Township on the corner of Darrow and Risden Roads and the second one on Lake Erie near Volunteer Bay. Gertrude was a great horse lover with several horses over the years starting with Lady and ending with Lady's daughter Pepper who went along with them to the lake home. She taught her two daughters and was a second mother to five grandchildren. She taught them all to ride, clean the barn and take care of horses properly. When they were old enought she also taught all of them to drive using a stick shift. She was a great dog lover having red mutts, small terriers, Pomeranians, Labradors and small Dachshunds and Chihuahuas over the years.
While her children were growing up Gertrude was mostly a stay-at-home mom who also did substitute rural mail carrying, wall papering, packing peaches, and picking grapes. Gertrude was an excellent seamstress who could look at an outfit and copy it for her family and friends. She was a self-taught organist and did several family oil paintings. Gertrude tried real estate, was a member and president of the Vermilion Garden Club, and was a co-founder of the Friends of Harbour Town, a civic group dedicated to improving the City of Vermilion. She loved singing, dancing, fishing for perch (Lake Erie perch were the BEST of all) and also volunteered for many years at "Old Jibs." Gertrude was an extremely hard worker and expected others to work as hard.
After Franklin's retirement they traveled to many countries in Europe and to Australia. Twice she visited relatives in Poland and rekindled a bit of Polish rolling her r's with gusto. Gertrude was the family historian tracking the names and locations of her father's and mother's families and how they came to the U.S. Franklin died August 1, 1995.
Gertrude is survived by her daughter Janet Van Vleck (Michael) in Madison and her sister Joan Miller and her brother Ray (Connie) Maslanka in Vermilion, Ohio; grandchildren, Keith and Kevan Howells in Ohio, Janet Changthoralek (Tom) in North Carolina, and Neva Joan VanDerSchaegen (Todd) in Texas; great grandchildren Stephanie Howells, Jeremy Changthoralek (Jessica DeLancey), Jennifer (Peter) Changthoralek Ratkowski, and Brett Howells, and great-great children Kegan Albanese, Kenley Ratkowski and Noah William Changthoralek.
She was also preceded in death by daughter Nancy, parents, sisters Louise Evechik, Anna Balmert and Elizabeth Livchak, brother Peter Maslanka, grandson infant John Scott Wikel, grandson Richard Wikel and great granddaughter Jillian Lanier.
A special thanks from her family goes to Trinity Senior Communities. There will be a memorial in Vermilion, Ohio this coming spring.