By Celine Klosterman
Genevieve Wombacher received a special present on her 94th birthday Aug. 19 — the birth of her fourth great-great grandchild, Allison Eister.
A lifelong member of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City, Genevieve now has 89 descendants spanning four generations.
“I came from a family of six, and I always thought it’d be awful nice to have a big family,” she said. “We’ve always gotten along great.”
With seven children, 24 grandchildren and 54 great-grandchildren, “Grandma Gen” welcomed her first great-great grandchild, a boy, about five years ago. In the past year she welcomed three more, all girls. All four live in the Iowa City area, not far from Genevieve’s home.
“It’s really neat that Allison’s able to have her great-great grandma,” said Sheena Eister, the baby’s mother and a member of St. Mary Parish in Oxford. “She’s an incredible lady with so much history.”
Married in 1935 to Ernest Wombacher, Genevieve spent the next three decades raising four daughters and three sons. When her youngest child, Marlene, entered third grade in 1958, Genevieve began a 20-year stint as a cook at Regina High School in Iowa City.
After Ernest died in 1992, his family established an Ernie Tourney golf outing in remembrance. The seven Wombacher children and their families, who live throughout the United States, have turned the annual event into a family reunion.
“I have to hit the first ball. I hit it even farther than some of the kids do,” Genevieve said with a chuckle.
Family is the most important thing in Genevieve’s life, said her daughter Marlene Frantz, an office manager at Regina. “She asked very little for herself, but would do or give whatever she could to her family. She would always look forward to having our family gatherings — she would cook and prepare delicious meals for all of us, always with a huge smile on her face.”
“She’s got a calendar with everyone’s birthday on it; she always makes sure to send a card,” said Genevieve’s son Ray Wombacher. A member of St. Wenceslaus Parish, he said he worked to raise his five children with the same dedication to Catholicism that his mother showed. “She made sure we got to church every Sunday, received the sacraments.”
“She prays for every single one of us each day,” Marlene said. “I know she was praying extra hard on Aug. 19 that her fourth great-great grandchild would be born healthy.”
As people marry later in life, fewer of them will live to see four generations of their descendants, said Genevieve’s friend Sue Durian, a member of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City. “She is a wonderful lady and so, so proud of all of her grandchildren, but especially of having four great-great grandchildren.”