The beautiful woman in this photo is Katherine Antoinette Singler, Peggy’s paternal grandmother, born October 11, 1894, to Jacob and Sophia Foerstel Singler. She was the youngest in a family of six girls and one boy.
Katherine married Clarence Reinhardt on May 4, 1927. They were married for nearly 22 years and had four children (Charles, Hubert, Joseph and Mary) before Clarence died suddenly of pulmonary thrombosis in January 1949.
Katherine led a full and active life thereafter, outliving her husband by more than 47 years. For the major part of the rest of her life, she lived with daughter Mary, son-in-law John Colombo and grandson Eddie Colombo in St. Louis and, in later years, Raleigh, North Carolina.
In May of 1991, the parish priest at the Catholic Church the family attended in Raleigh told Mary he’d like to give Katherine a special blessing as the oldest member of the parish. Mary offered him this brief account of her mother’s vocation in life.
All through her youth Grandma had always wanted to become a nun—specifically a Daughter of Charity. This is an order of nuns that work with the poor. She had worked for many years as a volunteer at the Guardian Angel Settlement. This was, in the 1920s, a day care center for the working poor. When she approached her mother about her vocation, her mother objected for reasons unknown to Grandma. In those days you did not question your parents.
Grandma continued throughout her life to do good works. Before she was married, she was a dressmaker. During the day she made ball gowns for the very rich, while in the evenings she made first communion veils for the very poor. She taught the women at the day care center how to sew clothes for their children. She always used the talents given her to help the poor and the church. She made all the vestments and altar clothes for our parish, Sts. Peter and Paul. She also made cassocks for poor seminarians.
She always treated everyone with dignity, no matter how down and out they might look. When we were young, hobos (men out of work who would do odd jobs for a meal) would always come to our home. I think the word was passed that Grandma was very kind and a great cook.
When I was about eight or nine, Grandma heard about Helen, a former classmate who had been institutionalized by her husband in the state mental hospital. When she went to visit her, she found out that Helen had no visitors for five years. Grandma proceeded to visit Helen at least once a month and took me with her. There was nothing wrong with Helen except that she knew that her husband did not want her and felt she had no place to go. Grandma tried to get her released to her care but her request was turned down. Through Grandma’s efforts and prayers, Helen was ultimately released to her children and went on to lead a productive life.
Grandma had great devotion to the saints, especially the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and St. Francis. To this day, special requests are placed under St. Joseph’s statue. I have kept many of them. Most are requests for a good husband for a friend, improved health or a job for someone out of work.
The parish priest incorporated some of Mary’s remembrances into his homily.
During a hospital stay near the end of Grandma’s life, she was visited by a hospital chaplain. The chaplain was a fairly new priest and had just recently been assigned the position. Grandma had celebrated her 101st birthday and was well past the age of watching what she said. As a St. Louis native, she took great joy in drinking a cold Budweiser beer. She also was fond of Kentucky Fried Chicken. When the chaplain asked Grandma if he could do anything for her, she responded, “If you haven’t got a Budweiser or some Kentucky Fried Chicken, then you can’t do a damn thing for me.”
The beer pictured here is a special “Katie’s Brew” that the Reinhardt family in St. Louis had created in celebration of Katherine’s 101st birthday.
Katherine Antoinette Singler Reinhardt died on October 5, 1996, just a few days short of her 102nd birthday.