|Birth: ||Apr. 29, 1905|
|Death: ||May 23, 1987|
I did not know "Aunt Justine" very well. She was not truly an aunt to me or my mom, but she was a cousin to my mom's dad, Henry Clauss Ettinger. It is highly likely her first name was given to her in honor of her maiden great aunt, Justina Bear.
A momentary detour is in order here because I did not make Great Aunt Justina's memorial, so this story cannot be told there. Great Aunt Justina's will was substantive enough that its contents were spilled on the pages of the Allentown newspapers, and they spelled out some family relationships that previously had been hard to decipher because no one living recalled them and they'd been hard for me to untangle. There was one Bear boy, James Monroe Bear, but the connection to our family is all about the Bear sisters. The gist is:
Great Aunt Justina Bear had a sister Amanda Bear who married Rudolph Clauss and had Emma Clauss, who married Charles Ettinger. Justina also had a sister Mary Bear who married N. Albert Kistler, who had a daughter Clara Kistler, who married Herb Bechtel and they had a daughter, this Justine Bechtel. It is a massive relief finally to be able to state clearly how these families all intersect. I am sure my own mother could not have done so, because I had asked her several times over the years; I think the issue was that she had no acquaintance with the Bear family because they were too far back, her great grandma's family.
But back to the subject of this memorial: Like her namesake, Justine never married, and I do not know much about her life. I can recall when I was a child that my grandpa would take walks to go visit her at her home, and he would often return with something to eat from her kitchen. It was not much of a walk if my following supposition is correct; I believe Justine stayed in the home she was raised in for most of her life. Her mother's last address (on her death certificate) was 117 N. 15th street. Not only was this address less than a two block walk from 1509 Hamilton where my grandparents last lived, but it was in the very same block, two houses away from where my grandpa had been raised at 113 N. 15th.
Not blessed with great physical beauty, Justine's real beauty was in her heart. She was exceptionally good natured, loved to laugh, and was as kind a person as you could hope to meet. She was just really, really easy to like.
At least in the later years of her life when I knew her, Justine had a prominent nose and chin which gave her a somewhat "witchy" appearance, and this was emphasized by her loss of teeth as well. The witchy effect struck me as a bit funny, because her mom (my mom's "Aunt Clara") did dabble in something like witchcraft - Pennsylvania Dutch "pow-wow" healing. My mom can recall that when the kids in the family got really sick, Aunt Clara would work her magic. She'd mumble and make strange gestures over the afflicted person. No record of her successes or failures exists that anyone knows of, but apparently no one discouraged her when she offered her services. I think it quite odd that this religious Evangelical family even allowed such heathen activity. In any case, I thought as a child that Justine's looks might have come from her super-powered mother.
One enduring memory of Justine is that she gave my mother fresh mint from her garden and got our family started on enjoying mint iced tea in the summer. We planted a patch of it from her stock, and it still manages to grow a tiny bit each year, all these years later.
In March of 2014, in a lucky fluke while doing research, I tripped over Justine's high school yearbook senior picture and bio. Having known her only in her senior years, it startled me to see her as a young girl. There was nothing witchy about her then, with her serene smile and high cheekbones.
The bio of her was kind of odd... what does it mean to say silence is more musical than someone's song? That struck me as potentially unkind. Domestic arts sounds like her, though the Athletic Association was news. But, what was "Naih Pleda" of which she was a member? I was used to thinking of her as a bit goofy, as a laugher, so it surprised me to do some searching and find it was the Naih Pleda Debating Society. Formal arguing? Perhaps this was why silence was more musical than her song - maybe she could debate you under the table. Debating? Formal arguing? Justine, really?
Yes. A 1928 version of this high school's yearbook described it thusly: "Although Naih Pleda does spell Adelphian backward, this organization has definitely proved that it is not in any way backward. High ideals, good fellowship, true A. H. S. spirit, and a desire for achievement are a few of the reasons why Naih Pleda has succeeded so well and has withstood the test of time. At the bi-monthly meetings, which are held at the homes of the various members, very interesting programs are presented. They consist mostly of work along the forensic line, as the primary purpose of the Society is debating. Many literary and musical features are also conducted... To be a member of Naih Pleda is in itself an honor and recommendation, for the members must do average work along scholastic lines, as well as show an interest and ability in speaking..."
Born in Allentown, Justine was a daughter of the late Herbert H. and Clara B. (Kistler) Bechtel. She was a member of Grace Evangelical Congregational Church, Allentown. Surviving was a sister, Mary E., wife of S. Peter Schneck of Allentown. Justine had once lived at 1337 Allen St., Allentown, a highrise for the elderly near 15th and Allen in Allentown. She passed away at the county home, on a Saturday at Cedarbrook, Allentown R.2.
Herbert H Bechtel (1882 - 1967)
Clara Kistler Bechtel (1882 - 1948)
Justine K Bechtel (1905 - 1987)
Mary Elizabeth Bechtel Schneck (1913 - 2002)*
Plot: Latitude: 40° 35' 34.8" N Longitude: 75° 28' 19.2" W
Created by: sr/ks
Record added: Oct 21, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 30738309