Herald JournalHerald Journal, Dec. 1, 2003

Winsted's last Gold Star Mother dies

By Ryan Gueningsman

"Just a simple life," is how Isabelle Brose's daughter Sylvia Horstmann described her mother's life.

Brose was Winsted's last Gold Star Mother. A Gold Star Mother is a mother who has had a child die in active service. Brose's son Steve was killed while serving in Vietnam.

"It was just terrible when the soldiers came to the house (to tell of Steve's death)," Horstmann said. "Dad was in the woods and he just fell to the ground."

"It's so overwhelming ­ it doesn't even register at first," she said about losing a loved one who is serving his or her country."

Horstmann's brother Steve Brose was killed when lightning struck his gun while he was on guard duty.

Isabelle Brose ­ the third youngest of 13 children ­ was the daughter of Michael and Elizabeth Fasching, and had grown up in Winsted Township.

She married Adalbert Brose, who immigrated to the United States from Berlin, Germany.

"That was before Hitler came into power," Horstmann said. "He (Adalbert) and his brother knew that bad things would be happening, and all the young people ­ whoever had any connection with the United States ­ tried to get out."

Adalbert's connection to the United States was the name of Bernard Quast, which he had found in an old family Bible.

"It must have been some relation somehow because it was in their Bible at home in Germany," Horstmann said.

Quast was living in Lester Prairie at the time, so Adalbert wrote a letter to Quast, and Quast took it to a priest for advice.

The priest said that Adalbert seemed like "a real reputable young man," and thought that Quast should go ahead with a plan to try to get Adalbert into the United States.

Adalbert was on the ocean for nine or 10 days, according to Horstmann. He then took a train to Lester Prairie, and Quast met him at the train depot.

Adalbert began working on several area farms, working on threshing crews. Eventually he went on to meet Isabelle.

"They dated for about three years, and then married Nov. 7, 1927," Horstmann said.

The couple moved north to Perham for a period of time, and had six children. Isabelle had an uncle who lived there, so that was the reason for the move.

They relocated to Maple Lake, then the Lake Mary area, and eventually made their way back to the Winsted area to 40 acres of land west of town.

Adalbert worked at a canning factory, and Isabelle was a stay-at-home mother who could often be found in the barn milking cows.

Horstmann also recalled her parents having about one acre of strawberries.

"There was Gerald Keefe, Ben Weinbeck, and other high school students who wanted to make some money that worked picking strawberries in the late 1930s at my parents farm," she said.

Their son Steve was born in 1946, and just over 20 years later he found himself in Vietnam. He was killed June 4, 1969.

"He was going to St. Cloud college, and was engaged to a girl from Waverly," she said, "but he wanted to get his service out of the way so he could continue on with his life after that."

After this happened, Isabelle was named a Gold Star Mother by the Winsted Legion, and given a medal of merit.

"She appreciated the American Legion making her a special guest at their dinners," she said. "They saw to it that she got there."

Eventually Isabelle began living at St. Mary's Care Center. She was there for about 11 years, Horstmann said.

"It was just a real simple life," she said. "There was no such thing as buying a dress. She always sewed our clothes. She also loved playing the piano and keeping busy ­ it doesn't sound exciting, but that's what life was in those days."

The origin of the 'Gold Star Mother'

The Gold Star Mother program dates back to May 28, 1918.

President Woodrow Wilson approved a suggestion made by the Women's Committee of the Council of National Defenses that, instead of wearing conventional mourning for relatives who have died in the service of their country, American women should wear a black band on the left arm with a gilt star on the band for each member of the family who has given his life for the United States, according to the web site, www.goldstarmoms.com.

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