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Life Story Of Elise Durtschi Gertsch

Elise Durtschi Gertsch
(This history was written by herself and found in an old album after her death.)

Copyright 2006 by the Durtschi Family

I was born on the 3rd of March, 1880, the fourth child and oldest daughter of a large family, having nine brothers and two sisters. I spent my happy childhood days in Faulensee, Switzerland, where I was born. This little village, situated by the Thunersee was one of the most beautiful parts of Switzerland. Three times during my childhood I was nearly drowned, but it is hard to destroy weeds.

Switzerland has many tourists, in fact, this is the main source of livelihood. As soon as I graduated from the district school I decided to learn the French language so as to be able to help my parents. This took me to Vevey, where I stayed for a year and a half. The first part of the time I was very homesick, as I didn’t have any friends and couldn’t understand the language. Returning home again I found work in a health resort, where I remained three years. Then I went to work in hotels, and in the summer in Murren, Switzerland. In the winter I worked in France and Monaco.

In the year 1902, Elder Alma Burgener came from Utah on a mission and visited our family. He was a second cousin on my mother’s side. My mother was raised with his father. She, being an orphan at five years of age, was overjoyed to see him. After the first greeting was over, he started to preach the gospel to us and also brought other Elders along. Anyway, the most outstanding Elder was Conrad Gertsch, whom I later married. I well remember the first visit of Alma Burgener, when he told me the story of Joseph Smith’s first vision. It sounded like a fairytale to me. We were much interested. I had read a great deal of the Bible, but there seemed to be so many things which did not seem to harmonize. I was confused and began to doubt, but the Elders came and answered every question. The result of their labors was that our whole family embraced the Gospel. But before I was quite ready to be baptized, I had to leave again for Monaco for the winter season. About one month after, I experienced the saddest thing that came into my life--my mother died. I had almost worshipped her. I was too far away from home to even go to the funeral. That following spring, it was indeed a sad homecoming to go to a motherless home, although my loved ones, especially my sister Lena, did all they could to make things easier for me.

That spring, in the year 1903, on the 27th of May, my father, my sister Lena, and I were baptized into the Church.

After this, we all had the emigration spirit and wanted to gather with the Saints in Utah. In the summer of 1903, my brother, Ernst, came to Midway, Utah, and the rest of the family came in May, 1904. At that time I was in Monaco and had to finish the season, so I came a month later, all alone.

I stayed with father and did the housework. In 1907 on the 7th day of June, I was married to Conrad Gertsch in the LDS Temple in Salt Lake.

Our first son was born in 1908, but died eleven days after birth. We had eleven children in all, six boys and five girls. Two of the daughters died young. Nellie Marceline was six days old, and Mary was nearly two. One time, Lucy, our oldest daughter, was very ill when she was about two years old. At the time, I could never quite express the feeling that came over me, but later when I read the life story of Wilford Woodruff, when he said that the power of faith came over him, I knew that described the exact feeling I had had, and I asked the Lord to heal her if it was his will. In the morning she was better. Our second daughter, Lena, had some illness of the spine, which left her feet paralyzed, and she could not walk. But after we sent her name to the Temple, and also had the Elders administer to her, she regained the use of her feet. The Doctor told us afterwards that he thought she would never be able to walk again.

When we were first married we lived in Stringtown, in Midway. We bought a little house with ten acres of land and we had a struggle as we had it only partly paid for. Then we sold it and moved up town and bought a place from John Morton. That is where we still live.

In 1913, my husband was called on a six month mission to the Northern States. In 1929 we had the privilege of sending our daughter, Lucy, to the same mission field. Lucy stayed twenty-eight months.

When I look back over my life I must say that the Lord has been good and merciful to me. I only hope that we and mine will serve the Lord all the days of our lives unto the end.

History of Elise Durtschi Gertsch, continued, (from excerpts of Lucy G. Thomson (her daughter) from funeral excerpts, friends and neighbors, those who knew her best).

Elise Durtschi Gertsch died of pneumonia, October 15, l942. She was ill only one day. In her youth she had known of a person that had been buried alive, and it haunted her all her life. Her wish was that she should not be buried until five days after her death. Strangely enough, Lucy and Helen were in Virginia at the time of her death, and because of floods could not arrive home until five days after her death, consequently her burial was postponed this long.

Elise was characterized by a quiet, gentle nature, but the influence she radiated was more powerful than a sword. Even in death, sickness, and financial reverses, she never murmured. She thanked God for what she had and always believed and said, “Thy will be done.”

She was ambitious, perseverant, sympathetic and understanding. Her faith was so perfect that Lucy often asked her to pray for her, believing if she asked, that the prayer would be granted.

Her life was spent in service to her fellow beings. Always active in the church, she could be counted on for help at any hour of the day or night. When the Relief Society quilted, Elise would be the first one there, and the last to leave. She would then ask to take them home and finish them.

She loved her church work, and was first counselor in the Relief Society when she died. She lived the Golden rule to the letter, always wanting to give and never receive. Once when some of the sisters gave her a surprise party she was so happy to have them come, but said, “I feel like I ought to apologize for having been born, and having this attention shown to me.” She had a beautiful garden. You could find her working there almost anytime in her leisure time. Besides her vegetable garden, she had a beautiful flower garden, a garden of roses. She was always giving them to other people. Many times she brought them to decorate the church.

Both Conrad and Elise Gertsch were devoted members of the church. Their faith has been strong and they have always believed there is a purpose in all things. With a deep love for each other, faith in the Gospel, and unity in the home they can look back upon a life many of us would long to be associated with.

Both experienced sorrow early in life as their firstborn, Robert died nine days after his birth. They lost their fourth child, Nellie five days after birth. Their eighth child, Mary died at two years, and their son, Joe died at the age of twenty seven.

They had eleven children whom are now listed in chronological order:

  Robert Gertsch, born 2, March, 1908 and died Mar. 11, 1908
  Jerry Gertsch (Jeremiah) born June 13, 1939
  Lucy Gertsch (Thomson) born July 27, 1910
  Lena Gertsch born Aug. 16, 1911
  Nellie Marceline Gertsch born Apr. 1, 1913, died 1913
  Ray Oscar Gertsch born June 21; 1914
  Joseph Daniel Gertsch born Aug. 28, 1916, died June 21, 1945
  Mary Kate Gertsch, born Jan. 24, 1918, died 1920
  Reed Gertsch, born Jan. 10, 1920
  Helen Gertsch, born Aug. 20, l921
  Leo Gertsch, born June 25, 1925
I recall my mother’s great faith in God. She always quoted the scripture in Prov. 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all they heart and lean not unto thy own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy paths.” She always ended her prayers with “Thy will, not mine be done.”

I recall when my sister Mary was so ill at two years of age. Mother couldn’t stand to see her suffer. She and Dad conversed together. I remember as if it were yesterday Mother saying, “Maybe we are wrong in clinging to Mary. What if God wants her.” Mary was a Celestial child. I don’t think she needed this earthly experience. At two years of age, she simply couldn’t endure quarreling. She would put her hands over her little face and cry if the boys scuffled or had any words.

Mother and Dad decided when the ward teachers came that night they would have them pray. If it was God’s will that she live, they prayed she would be blessed with health. If it was God’s will that she return home, they were willing to let her go, but said, “Please God relieve her suffering.” Fred Hasler prayed that night that God’s will be done. When he said, “God let thy will be done,” little Mary died in his arms.

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Page Updated: 11 Sep 06