Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, August 17, 1998

Flower girl at this wedding was 80 years old


Saturday, August 8, arrives hot. At Helen Gerber's farm between Winsted and Howard Lake, wedding guests mingle amongst each other and the heat.

Chairs are in neat rows under the shade of the trees, while the spot where vows will be exchanged bakes in the sun.

Plants, many plants, stand out in green contrast to the white building that will serve as the backdrop to this event.

Dogs are welcome guests. Each is dressed appropriately with a bandana around its neck.

At this wedding, the arrival of the flower "girl" is anticipated as much as the entrance of the bride and groom.

At this wedding, 80 year-old Helen Gerber is the flower girl.

Chuck Rathmanner and Jane Laxen, both formerly of Winsted and now living in Florida, asked Helen to take this special part in their wedding.

"Helen was the perfect one to do it," Chuck said. "Helen has been a part of my life for a long time. I went hunting (at the Gerber farm) for many years. Helen is like a second mom to me."

The Gerber boys and friends hung out in the clubhouse, a building on the farm outfitted with running water, cook stove, wood stove for heat, furniture, and manly knickknacks, including a stuffed duck that looks like it has just been shot, and a dried bat.

Honoring this "second mother" seemed like the right thing to do since Chuck's parents, Alex and Verla Rathmanner, have both passed away.

At Helen's work place, EDCO Products of Winsted, coworkers were excited for Helen.

"I said, if she was going to do it, I would make her dress," LeAnn Winkelman said.

The Monday prior to the wedding, the 9:30 break at EDCO was also a fashion show, as Helen modeled her dress.

Outside, coworkers snapped pictures of the flower girl and her seamstress.

The dress was made of an off-white satin in floral print with a pink sash tied around her waist.

The dress looked finished, but at the last minute LeAnn decided to add to the dress and it was a surprise to those at the wedding.

Saturday, prior to the wedding, things are falling into place. Although the portable toilet arrives late, it still gets there before the ceremony begins.

The theme of the wedding is tropical.

Best man Dudley Gerber (Helen's son) sports a Hawaiian shirt. The father of the bride, Clarence Laxen, wears a shirt of the same print, brown tropical.

Jane's mother, Lyd Laxen, is the maid of honor.

Helen emerges from the house first, scattering flower petals from a basket she carried the first time she was a flower girl, when she was six years old.

LeAnn has added a touch of humor to Helen's outfit. Hot pink bloomers peek out from under her dress. Matching bows garnish the hem and her shoes.

She is followed by the wedding party, and in keeping with the tropical theme, Jane's dress is a tiger print.

As with all weddings, not everything goes as planned, even if the unplanned event is small.

The many dogs behave, but the woman officiating the ceremony can't spit the words out, and Jane is asked to repeat "With this wing, I thee wed."

Dudley has organized this day for Chuck and Jane, taking care of the details because of the distance from Chuck and Jane's home.

It started as just a visit home, Chuck recalled, "and we had talked about getting married, so we said 'Why not when we come home?'"

The Gerber farm, near the clubhouse was the ideal place to be married, and the "second mother" in off-white and hot pink satin was the ideal flower girl.

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