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Herbert Joseph Vollmer

May 14, 1934 December 2, 2017
Herbert Joseph Vollmer
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Obituary for Herbert Joseph Vollmer

HERB VOLLMER’S STORY

IMMIGRATION TO AMERICA

Mom and Dad made several trips between Chicago and Germany. Dad first came to America February 26, 1923. In 1927 he returned to Germany. He soon came back to America where he married Mom, Barbara Roth, in 1929. Shortly thereafter my brother Bill was born in Chicago on September 21, 1931. A severe economic depression drove my family back to Germany in 1933. I entered the scene on May 14th 1934. At the time things were also difficult in Germany. Dad and mom decided to return to America in part because of the political situation in Germany. Mom often spoke of family members wanting to take me in, mainly because I was German born, but also because I was quiet and amiable. My family soon moved back to Chicago and then to Denver, Colorado where my brother Don was born May 16, 1937.


ELM STREET

The other day I took some time to drive by my boyhood home at 2036 Elm St. A new retaining wall shoring up a grass hill offering a wider driveway was about the only noticeable change in over forty years. It had been well maintained. Elm Street was our second Denver home and was located in the center of a working class neighborhood in Park Hill. We were located about a block from Blessed Sacrament school and church. Our next door neighbors were “old timers”. On one side there was a church minister and his wife, Doctor and Mrs. Barrett, and on the other side were Mr. and Mrs. Ryan. Mr. Ryan, a semi- retired civil engineer, was a kindly gentleman, who sometimes took us boys downtown during the Christmas season to see the lights. He also made a suggestion about our lawn mowing, as we had a rather steep hill in front. He tied a rope to one end of the mower and one of us would pull on the rope while the other would push from behind. It worked! Mr. Ryan also helped me with my junior year of high school Geometry and Algebra, two of the few “B’s” I managed in high school. Our other neighbors included the Murray girls across the street that we sometimes challenged to a game of street kickball. Later in high school, Ginny Murray was my first serious girlfriend. Next door to the Murrays was Dr. Bramily who we occasionally consulted for minor health “emergencies”.

As young children we often spent the summer barefoot playing “cowboys and Indians” on our front lawn or running through the hose-sprinkler. As we grew older we were busy with lawn mowing and other chores. I often was able to ride my bike to an outdoor pool, Sport land, for swimming. My parents always supported healthy exercise.

Our house was strategically located one block from both school and church. Shopping at 23rd and Dexter brought us to the local Piggly Wiggly and Mr. Timmons Meat Market. The corner drugstore provided me with an ample supply of Batman and Robyn comic books. Twenty- Third Street also gave us access to the # 40 streetcar going to downtown Denver. South of our house by six blocks was another shopping center on Colfax Ave. I took many a bike ride to Dolly Madison for ice-cream or milk. I recall one day the milk bottle cap came loose in my basket. I went up to one of the neighboring houses and filled up from a bit of spilled milk at their hose faucet. Mom didn’t seem to notice or care about the milk being a bit weaker that day. Our home assignments varied. We always had to sweep the kitchen breakfast-nook floor and wash and dry dishes. At an early age I became mom’s favorite kitchen helper, mainly because had learned to stay out of her way while she worked. Also, I enjoyed cooking. One afternoon after I had apologized for one of my transgressions she sensed my sensitive nature and said I was the only one who really understood her. However, as I became a more independent teen this disposition and these thoughts seemed to be forgotten. Elm Street still provides memories of one of us boys crawling through the milk shoot because of a forgotten house key, mowing and trimming the yard, polishing Dad’s shoes and filling the furnace humidifier. Blessed Sacrament Grade School provided my early education. I seemed to struggle academically. I just couldn’t get the knack of studying. I would often bring home my weekly spelling words and Mom with her limited English would review them with me. It was a bit like the blind leading the blind.
Athletically I had little experience and was the second smallest in my class. In the eighth grade I didn’t let this stop me and entered each sport. The coaches were kind enough to give me a few minutes play time, but I barely made the team. On my eighth grade birthday I received my first camera, an Ansco point – and- shoot. Thus began my love for photography that I still enjoy.

STREET CAR DAYS

After finishing the eighth grade I decided to attend Cathedral High School and took the Park Hill street car each day. Cathedral drew students from throughout the city. It was not nearly as sheltered as grade school. I managed to make a number of new friends. These were average students who also enjoyed having fun. We played ball together and sometimes went to a movie on weekends. We were not great athletes but enjoyed going to the ball games played by the school athletes, or jocks. When I was a senior we occasionally ventured to one of our local 3.2 beer halls. My parents and I began to clash as I was always late on weekend curfew. They didn’t share my enthusiasm for being a casual student. I was very different than my brothers who took school more seriously and were both very good students. I barely managed with “Cs”. At the time I was thoroughly convinced that I was so different from my brothers I must have been adopted. I thought that someday I would find the papers in my Dad’s work desk I did not mention this to anyone. It wasn’t until graduate school that I began to enjoy academics.

Because of my inexperience and small size I did not try-out for athletics. However, one year I did go out for the boxing team. We experienced almost no training and when it came time for the interschool match I found myself trying to keep off the ropes. I did have a great experience from one of my Art classes. I had entered some of my photos in a state wide competition. Our next door neighbor, a professional photographer, helped me develop them. I received three awards. Two were Honorable Mentions. One was a park scene that I had taken in Chicago and another for an experimental light photo. I also received a first place Gold Key award for another of my experimental light photos. I thoroughly enjoyed the success.


FAMILY HELPERS

My mom often had to work at one of the bakeries. At those times other folks were asked to help take care of us. I, supposedly because I was the quiet one, often stayed with a family friend. In general these were good placements, and I enjoyed the opportunity. There are two families that stand out in my mind. One was the Rebers. Mrs. Reber was a strong capable lady that managed a rental house on York Street. I spent most of my time with Mr. Reber who would entertain me with small tricks like watching a dime flip off of an open bottle of beer because of the escaping gas or watching him load coal into their coal furnace. I spent many a day at the Rebers. The other one I remember most was my staying at a family farm for the summer. This was owned by a Swiss family named Marty. The boys were several years older than I and were big strapping young men, raised on difficult farm chores and working from dawn till dusk. During the days I tagged along and was often asked to lend a hand. They were a great family and I appreciated the experience. That summer we cleaned out irrigation ditches, cut hay, milked cows (I watched), gathered eggs, and thrashed the wheat. The boys became expert mechanics as they had to repair all their machinery. There was no such thing as a farm machine repair shop. Mr. Marty would often take me along on the tractor and would let me drive. Since I was not yet 16, this was a treat. After I returned home and turned 16 they sold their used family Studebaker to me. My parents’ placement of me with the Marty’s may be somewhat as a result of my interest in the outdoors. I had frequently talked about wanting to work for the Forest Service or on a ranch. Meanwhile my other brothers were either sent to summer camp or had an adult supervisor at home.


WORKING AT THE BAKERY

My Dad wanted each of us boys to work a bit at the bakery. Usually we did this on Saturdays My first job was that of clean-up-boy. I had to scrub down all the machines, the oven, table and floor. I also had to fill the bins with flour. This entailed carrying 100 lb. bags of flour up a stairwell and dumping them in bins. Dad showed me how to lift the bags and put them on my shoulder. Since I weighed no more than 100 lbs., this was no easy chore. One of the bakers would then help me to put the contents in bins so I wouldn’t spill all over. Although I tried to please my Dad, I think I barely managed to keep him from getting too upset by my ineptness. As time went on I was given more challenging jobs such as cooking the pie fruit, or a bit of decorating. I remember thinking I might like to learn to decorate cakes. My Dad brought home a decorating bag with select points. He then suggested that I practice on the outside of our dishpan. Somehow I quickly lost interest. When I was old enough and could drive, I began to deliver bakery goods in our small panel truck. There were times that I drove a bit fast to make up for lollygagging. Then with a sudden stop, one of the wedding cakes tiers would slide and I had to return for a repair. Our decorator, Hazel, was not too happy with me. Eventually I learned to take a small tube of icing with me and make small repairs at the site. After my senior year I asked if I could work somewhere else. My Dad said O.K. I worked the summer filling orders at Montgomery Ward. This ended my high School work days.


MOVING ON TO COLLEGE

When I graduated from Cathedral in 1952 I was unsure about what to so. Dad suggested the possibility of being an apprentice for some trade such as plumber or electrician. He also said he would pay for me attending Baking School if I was interested. Knowing the struggles of the business, mom did not think this was a good idea. I decided to go to Regis College. My first major was Business and Accounting. I soon changed to Education and Sociology. My favorite Sociology professor, Fr. Cervantes, without any known hint from me, suggested it would be good for me to get away from home. He recommended Rockhurst College in Kansas City. So in September of 1954 I set out with my used Mercury coup with directions and a map of Kansas City. Being away from home was interesting but did not make school any easier. I continued to struggle academically but decided to work a bit part time to earn gas-money. First I worked weekend evenings at Loews Theater as an usher. It was fun getting to see many movies. I next answered an ad to wash windows at St. Mary’s High School. Here one of the talented nuns taught me the art of window cleaning high windows, painting with this new type of latex paint, stripping and staining furniture and working in the kitchen. One summer my parents drove to Kansas City and met the nuns. After their visit, the nuns gave me super size sandwiches for lunch. This was more than I could eat, but unable to say no thanks, I always put part of the sandwich in my pocket. My last job was working at Prier Brass. I got the job after befriending the owner who had two sons at Rockhurst. The factory was very hard work and I wound up eating super size dinners for the energy.

St. Mary’s High School, an all girl’s school, occasionally invited some Rockhurst boys to their dances. This is how I met Judy Dreiling. Judy was attending St. Mary’s and living with her sister Imy in Kansas City. Judy and I dated frequently and began to get serious. However, I faced the military draft. In 1956 I graduated. Judy and I decided to continue a long distance relationship as I faced my military obligation. After graduation I returned home to Mom and Dad and told them about Judy. The relationship was put on hold as I volunteered for the draft. Mom was upset with my engagement to Judy and with the exception of one or two letters refused to write me when I was in the service. Judy, however, wrote me every day. I sometimes wondered how she managed to get so much news from her small town of Hays, but I loved hearing from her.

After six months of basic training at Ft. Hood, Texas, my unit the 4th Armored Division, was sent to Germany. We were stationed in a small town called Kirchgoens (by Butzbach). Some of my buddies were lucky enough to be transferred to a service company. My small frame (110 lbs.) was no reason not to assign me to one of the heaver weapons of the day, a “lightweight” machine gun. With this I was asked to walk or more generally run throughout the hills of Germany. On the plus side, this assignment allowed me the opportunity to make frequent train trips throughout Germany. I would take one of the local trains and traveled extensively, east to Berlin and south to Freiberg. I was also able to visit most of our relatives. I visited with all the Vollmers, the Roths, and the Noltes. This only amounted to a couple of days with each but it was enjoyable and gave me a definite sense of their lives. I was released from service the summer of 1958. At that time, after my release I drove and delivered a small used VW, a popular car at the time, to a German port and then from NYC and then to my brother Don who was attending Creighton University, in Omaha, Nebraska.


GRADUATE SCHOOL

After the military I realized I needed further training for most teaching positions. I decided to get my Masters Degree at the University of Kansas City. School was difficult but I finally learned to study. This usually meant working long hard hours. I managed to graduate with a “B+”average. My favorite courses were in Sociology and Psychology and my most difficult was Statistics. I had many long take home exams and Judy’s sister Imy, helped me type my papers. One day while I was busy with my course work, Judy and her mom drove from Hays to Denver to visit with my parents. After this visit both mom and dad were more comfortable with our engagement. I completed my work and received my Masters in the spring of 1960. It was then, after a four year engagement, Judy and I got married in Hays Kansas. The Dreilings were known and well liked in the area. We therefore had a huge church wedding.

HAYS DAYS

Judy and I rented the upstairs apartment of one of the small houses. The Dreiling family took me in as one of the family and gave me ever- loving support and encouragement. This was more than I seemed to receive from my well meaning parents. They were quite a find. The extended family was never ending There was Mom and Dad Dreiling, T.J., Jim, Rita and their kids, Wilma and Don and on and on. T.J. would often take me to the local VFW for a Saturday night beer, and I also occasionally helped out at the Budweiser ware-house or on deliveries. Mom Dreiling would always prepare the holiday meals and we would eat in shifts to accommodate everyone. Judy and I also often had one of her hot lunches during my school lunch break. There was often a bit of gossip that I couldn’t seem to keep up with. My first year teaching assignment was World History, American History, Civics and Psychology. This presumed much more background than I had, and I barely kept a few pages ahead of the students. Fortunately Judy had an excellent background and would tutor me late into the night. My early mistakes as a teacher could fill a book. During my first summer with Mr. Dreiling’s help, I got job helping the custodians paint some of the schools. Learning to paint earned Judy and I some extra dollars. At this time Judy was anxious to spread her wings and wanted to move to Denver. Hays had its limitations so I readily agreed. Although I missed my Hays family this was a chance to be more independent. Judy, our dog Tiki, and I headed west. We soon learned Judy was pregnant, so Mom Dreiling came out to give Judy a hand. Judy had one of the earliest heart-valve replacements, so bearing a child were not meant to be. In the seventh month Judy succumbed to heart failure. This was a major loss. Mom Dreiling stayed with me a few months as I extended my work schedule and went back to DU grad school getting further training to be a counselor.


EUCLID JUNIOR HIGH

Counseling at Euclid had its positives and negatives. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the students. What I hadn’t realized as they would complain about a teacher, some teachers mistakenly thought I missed the teacher’s perspective. This was understandable, and it opened the door to a more administrative role that I did not prefer. Meanwhile, for about three years I continued my course work at D.U.

Through this I got to meet Bobbi (Barbara) Muller. Bobbi is a bright and independent spirit. We first began to ski together and go out socially. She was such a positive anchor and soon became the love of my life. Bobbi and I continued with our relationship and married in December 1967. About one year after our marriage we decided to invest in a house. 2282 S. Madison became our home for the next 35 years. It was not long before Bobbi decided to pursue her doctorate. Bobbi continued to work full time, go to school and cook dinners for us for many years.
Meanwhile I took care of the yard work painted the exterior and interior and with a friend installed a sprinkling system. Occasionally Larry Shakespeare helped with a bit of painting so I never had to hire a professional. Larry was a meticulous painter. He taught me many tricks of careful wall repair and painting.


TRAVEL

Bobbi loves to travel. On the other hand, I enjoyed getting out on my bike and the comforts of my own bed. We did venture out to see many places in Colorado and neighboring states. We went on our first extended trip in 1972 to Europe. In Germany we rented a car and first visited our family in Bodersweier and Bobbi’s cousin in Heidelberg. We then proceeded down the “Romantic Road” and then on to Salzburg and Vienna and from there back to Germany and on to London. Several years later Bobbi wanted to travel with a psychology group to China. I on the other hand was content to stay home and spend my time refinishing the kitchen cabinets or biking in the park. Several years later we did begin to take a number of trips. These included over 20 trips abroad. Our favorites were China, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, Macchu Pichu in Peru, and Egypt. I’ve always found travel a bit of a stretch, but once on the road I generally enjoy myself. We also traveled quite a bit in the U.S. Actually one of our favorite get-a-ways continues to be Glenwood Springs. This is a location my parents and we boys enjoyed for many years.

PSYCHOTHERAPY


Meanwhile I continued with my work at Euclid, Bobbi tried her hand at managing the Counseling Center at The University of Denver. In 1989 we both made big career changes. While continuing to teach part time at D.U. Bobbi changed jobs and directed the Counseling Center at Metro State College. After 29 years in education, I decided to take an early retirement. This is something the district was encouraging at the time and they offered an excellent bonus. At this time I applied for and was accepted into the Family Therapy Training Center at DU. This was a two year program in which I learned a great deal of information and related skills and supervised practice for working with both adults and children with psychological issues. I was fascinated with and still am, with the variety of treatment strategies. Both Bobbi and I attended therapy training workshops throughout the country and even one in Hamburg Germany.
One area of using hypnosis and hypnotherapy was originally promoted by Dr. Milton
Erickson. This strategy provided me with an additional technique for working with a variety of problems. I worked diligently learning and practicing this strategy. After completing the program I took the exams for a Licensed Professional Counselor and also for Licensed Family therapist. I then applied for and was accepted as a therapist working at Arapahoe Mental Health Center. Some of the clients were very difficult and it was very helpful to have a team with whom to consult. We had weekly meetings to discuss a variety of issues. The teamwork and trust was a contrast to public education. I worked at the Broadway Center for several years and was then asked to open a Center in Castle Rock and Parker Colorado. In 1998 I decided to fully retire.


RETIREMENT

At this time I find myself busy with a variety of pursuits. One of my first loves is skiing which I began in my late 20’s. Biking, hiking, and skiing continue to be favorites. Both Bobbi and I belong to the Colorado Mountain Club and often do hikes with them. For me just being in the mountains and looking at the peaks makes all problems melt away. In order to keep my memory sharp, I continued my pursuit of both Chess and German. I enjoy and kept up with these on an ongoing basis.
In 2002, we moved to a patio-home which provides an area for me to garden at my leisure. I also simply love to work or to play outdoors. I have also spent a bit of time with volunteer work at Samaritan House, St. Elizabeth’s, and serving on the board of our Home Owners Association. I recently was able to get back into photography. I had always enjoyed photography and had relied on my personal eye to take quality photos rather than technical know-how. Now that digital photography is available, perfection can be obtained by using Photo Shop. Bobbi and I have both taken photography and Photo Shop classes but we are far from expert.

EXTENDED FAMILY

Bill and Don are my two brothers. My older brother Bill has been a Catholic priest his entire life. He served in a variety of parishes and also was active in youth education. My younger brother Don had an outstanding dental practice until a few years ago. He and his wife Mary Lou are currently managing directors of distributors for Oxyfresh. Both brothers are my lifetime friends and support team. Don and Mary Lou’s children are Donna, married to Doug Little with children Andrew and Amanda (husband Tyler-baby Triston); Kevin married to Brigid O’Connor with daughter Brigid Maeve; and Shauna, married to Yale King with sons Sebastian and Remington (and Montgomery) and step sons Yale and Blake.

Bobbi’s family all moved to Berkeley California from Bobbi’s home of origin in New York City. Her younger brother Rich is a (retired) physics professor at Berkeley and his wife, Rosie is an architect; and her sister Virginia taught elementary school and her husband Alan “Tinker” Shinn is an inventor/consultant. Rich and Rosie’s daughters are Elizabeth (husband Rahal- children Layla and Asim) and Melinda (fiancé Marcus), and Virginia and Tinker’s daughter is Christina (boyfriend Adam).

Our families offer a delightful quality to our lives


Herb Vollmer, April 2008




Bobbi’s Update
Here’s an update to December 2017 and some of my fondest memories. Herb was a very special person to many.
• The best counselor
When Herb retired from being a counselor at Euclid Middle School in Littleton, six of the students he had helped twenty years earlier came to his retirement party! They presented him with a poster and a lovely book that told their story. The story opened with “Mr. Vollmer, you must have been quite upset when the assistant principal told you that you had to work with us.” It concluded with updates about each, their families and careers-very sweet.
• Enjoyment of the outdoors
Herb loved being outdoors and was passionate about exercise and preparing healthy meals. He often encouraged others to stay in shape and eat well. He skied regularly until he was 82, a year ago. After that, he continued to hike, walk, and/or to go to the Y almost every day. He also loved gardening and tending to his beautiful roses. He was a member of Biscayne’s landscape committee and had served on the board.
• Photographic talents
At Herb’s request, a few years ago we attended a week-long National Geographic photo workshop in Santa Fe. I found it quite intimidating as most attendees were professional photographers. At the end of the workshop, our teacher, Joel Sartore, (featured in the January issue of National Geographic) said, “There’s one person here whose photos knocks my socks off” He was referring to Herb’s pictures of people. Of course, Herb thought Joel was just trying to be nice.
• Volunteer activities
Herb received the volunteer of the year award in 2015 from A Little Help (aka Washington Park Cares), a nonprofit to help seniors remain in their home. Herb diligently read the book reviews and read most of the books that members suggested so that we could select the best books. And this meant that he read a lot.
• Travel
We continued to travel each year; some destinations were on Herb’s wish list: Vietnam, Alaska’s inner passage, the Galapagos, seeing the fall colors on a cruise from New York to Montreal. This past October we went a cruise that visited several Central American counties. As usual, Herb told me enjoyed the trip and was appreciative that I had planned it.
• Remembrances
Many remember Herb as a person who was kind, friendly, interested in other people, always wanting to be helpful, and supportive. He also was seen as someone who knew what he wanted, and who was modest and hard working. I especially loved his enjoyment of life, his intellectual curiosity about a lot of things, and that he liked to laugh and have fun. He was the love of my life. Our 50th anniversary was this month.

My thanks to family and friends for your kindness and for sharing your memories.

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