THE WESTHUES FAMILY AND
No institution of higher learning has been so important to the Westhues family in America as Saint Mary College (now University) of Leavenworth, Kansas — though its connection to the family did not begin until 40 years after Wilhelm and Theresia's immigration in 1892. Their son Joseph studied theology at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis on his way to ordination as a priest. Their son Henry took a law degree at St. Louis University to begin his career as a lawyer and judge. None of their other eight children had any formal education beyond St. Mary's Parochial School in Glasgow.
A number of boys in the next generation took advanced schooling at varied, far-flung institutions: Lateran University in Rome (Henry and Helen's son Jack), Missouri School of Mines (John and Olive's son Gene), University of Missouri (Fritz and Eulalia's son Harold), Vanderbilt University (me), and several others.
Among the girls of the next generation who went on to college or university, Saint Mary College in Leavenworth, Kansas, attracted by far the majority, and its pride of place in the Westhues family has continued through succeeding generations even to the present day. The purpose of this webpage is to document the exceptional importance of this institution by recording the names of all the Westhues girls whose lives were shaped by their studies in Leavenworth.
Why Saint Mary, when there were dozens of other colleges closer to mid-Missouri? Among Catholic women's colleges, why not Avila in Kansas City or Webster in St. Louis? The answer, so far as I know, is that the Superior of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, the religious community that established Saint Mary in 1930, travelled to Jefferson City not long afterwards to recruit students. The housekeeper for the priests at Immaculate Conception Parish there referred her to Henry Westhues, father of six daughters. As a judge, Henry would have the means to send his daughters to college. As a devout parishioner, he would prefer that the college be Catholic. Henry visited Leavenworth. Whether Helen accompanied him I do not know. The upshot was that all six of Henry and Helen's girls earned degrees from Saint Mary.
The eldest girl, Rosemary (1917-2005), formed an especially close bond with the college. She was president of her class and graduated with a B.S. degree in 1939, then returned to Jefferson City to work as a medical technologist. She and her dentist-husband, Dr. Otto Rieke, had five daughters of their own, plus four sons. The eldest daughter, Susan, not only graduated from St. Mary but joined the governing community, the Sisters of Charity, and was for 37 years on the college faculty. As of 2019, she is Professor Emerita of English Language and Literature.
Two granddaughters of Wilhelm and Theresia joined the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth after completing college at St. Mary and embraced this community as a lifelong vocation: Ben and Viola's daughters Cecilia (Sister Anita Marie, 1928-2014) and Katherine Mary (retired as of 2019, and living at the motherhouse). Henry and Helen's daughter Elaine spent many years as a Sister of Charity, eventually leaving the community in favour of life as a single woman in Phoenix.
Following is as complete a list as I have so far been able to compile of all the descendants of Wilhelm and Theresia who have attended what is now the University of Saint Mary. I have grouped them by the founding couple's child to which their ancestry is traced:
Theodore and Lena Westhues
William G. and Emma Westhues
Henry and Helen Westhues
Ben and Viola Westhues
Mary and Joe Flaspohler
John and Olive Westhues
Anna and Jule Oidtman
Fritz and Eulalia Westhues