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German American of the Year 2017

Sterling Heights - The German-American Cultural Center celebrated its 30th Anniversary German - American Day on Saturday, October 7th 2017. This prestigious event was conducted by chairman Sigfried Charow and his committee.

Sigfried thanked the committee who made this evening so successful and then asked Father Jim to give a blessing before dinner was served. Everyone enjoyed dinner and the Gemütlichkeit.

The program began with MC’s Sigfried Charow, Ingrid H. Stein, and Blondine Klimach GACC President Ingrid H. Stein and the current GACC Board of Directors were introduced, and thanked for their many voluntary hours of service. Ingrid proceeded to introduce visiting affiliated Club presidents and representatives, and other dignitaries. President Stein also introduced honoree Karin Schwalbe’s family, Joe Toepfner, husband Rob Schwalbe, son Paul Schwalbe, Betty and Bob Hammer and Susi Brandelik, and remembered Elisabeth Toepfner, who was surely looking down upon the happenings. Blondine Klimach, President of the Michigan Sänger Bezirk, then asked members of the Bezirk to come forward and lead all present in the singing of the National Anthems of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and The United States of America.

Front row left to right Franz Pelvay, 1996; Hans and Marianne Rauer, 2016; Karin Schwalbe, this years German-American; Frank Sinz, 2005; Marlina Voigt, 2013; Helen Gassel, 2010; Joseph Gassel,1998; Back row Ingrid H. Stein, 2014; Blondine Klimach, 1992; Erwin Aufdemberge, 2006; Edith Kuplent, 2003; Sigfried Charow, 2015; Curt Kitter, 2007; Joseph Groele, 2008 and Eberhard Wasserbaech, 1984.Foto: Barbara Weidendorf

Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frederick Hoffman was then introduced, and asked to come forward and offer a few remarks. In his speech he mentioned there are many Americans who have German backgrounds and who have contributed much to the betterment and development of America. As he listed the names of many Americans of German background, many in the audience were beyond surprised by the names he mentioned.

The GACC, for some 64 years, has been giving a financial support to the Junior Year in Munich program of Wayne State University. This year Mrs. Gina H. Horwitz, of the WSU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences scholarship program, accepted this donation and thanked the GACC for their many years of gift-giving to this wonderful program. She also reflected on the many years the Kurt Keydel family has continued to support this program, helping to ensure students get the opportunity to travel abroad and study in Munich.

In accordance with long standing tradition and continuous efforts to keep the German heritage, alive the GACC, the German American Cultural Center recognizes a person for outstanding contributions to the German culture across the State of Michigan once every year. The recipient of this award is determined by majority vote among the election committee members of the GACC, preceded by a formal nomination process.

The German American of the Year 2017 merit award plaque was read by Ingrid H. Stein and presented, along with a bouquet of flowers, to Mrs. Karin Schwalbe, recipient of this year’s award. After Karin’s acceptance speech, all previous recipients of this award were announced and asked to come forward to be recognized. Pictures were taken and then Blondine asked the assembled members of the Sänger Bezirk, Carpathia Choir, GBU Saxonia-Rheingold Choir and The Schwäbische Männerchor, to come forward to sing the “Rennsteig Lied”, “Heimat” and then a special Song, “An die Freude.”

Sigfried Charow closed out the program with the presentation, with thanks, of a bouquet of flowers for her continued work on behalf of the GACC.

The Rheinlander Band then, with a waltz and a polka, filled the dance floor. Guests were able to sing along, or dance to their favorite tunes. During the band-breaks the dancers of the GTEV Edelweiss, Carpathia Jugend, Schuhplattler and Kulturgruppen performed. Karen Venten, of the Carpathia Club, introduced a special surprise for Karin Schwalbe. Many of her former students in the dance groups she has taught through the years came forward, and they performed several dances, ending with a dance in which Karin was asked to participate. It was great watching some older and the young adults doing these dances they still remember.

The Brothers Grimm; Paul Schwalbe, Erwin Rauschendorfer and Rob Schwalbe, then played music for the enjoyment of all, closing out the evening’s festivities.

The song “So ein Tag, so wunderschön wie Heute” truly speaks to this event.

We thank all who attended and hope to see you at the many different events that are coming up to keep our German heritage alive.

Guten Abend meine Damen und Herren!

Es ist für mich eine grosse, grosse Ehre ‘German-American of the Year’ zu sein. Ich bin sehr stolz darauf und es freut mich auch! Vielen Dank für die Nominierungen von Freunde und Familie - das hat mich wirklich überrascht.

Die Sitten und Bräuche meiner Ahnen sind mir sehr wichtig und ich bin dankbar das ich sie weiterführen kann.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

I am very honored to be named German American of the Year.

Thank you for the nominations from friends and family, especially my Mom. This was important to her and I wish she were here now, but I know she is with us in spirit.

I thank you all for being here today.

There was never a time I didn’t consider myself German American. I was raised in a German Danubeswabian household, with all the customs and traditions that go with that. Yes… I was that little girl that went to school in a Dirndl and counted one, two, tree. Yet, I’m also a natural born American citizen and am very proud of that as well. My parents instilled that pride and respect, for both nationalities.

Although it wasn’t by my action that I was enrolled in Carpathia German school, everything I have done since then was by my choice and my pleasure.

Over the years I have met many wonderful people. I have enjoyed participating in the various events upholding and promoting our traditions, working with our youth -- and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. It is an added bonus to be awarded for something you love doing anyway.

Thanks to the many people who have influenced my life… Too many.

A quote I found some years ago, that I thought is very true, reads: “Nur der ist seine Ahnen wert, der ihre Sitten treu verehrt” translated: Only he is worthy of his ancestors, who faithfully honors their customs.

I hope I have honored my ancestors as you all have honored me today.

Thank you very much for this honor.

Have a wonderful evening.

Karin Schwalbe

Inscription of Karin Schwalbes Plaque

Karin Schwalbe is a first generation German American. Her parents, Joseph and Elisabeth Toepfner, brought to her first Carpathia picnic when she was only three months old. She subsequently attended the Carpathia Deutsche Schule from age seven to 16 years and also sang in the Deutscher Kinderchor.

At the age of 17, her fluency in German offered the opportunity to substitute teach for the Carpathia Schule and Kindergarten. Throughout the years she has performed with many dance groups including the Carpathia Schuhplattlergruppe, Jugendgruppe, Austrian Society Straussball and Rheingold-Saxonia Funkengarde. In 1978 she was chosen as Jugendkoenigin and at the request of Adam Medel, she restarted the Carpathia Kinderschuplattler with her future husband Rob Schwalbe that same year. She played accordion for the group for seven years until she and Rob began having children of their own.

She continued to act as a role model for her family as she resumed teaching Deutsche Schule for another seven years while her three boys, Eric, Alex and Paul became involved in the club through school and dance groups. Her dedication to encourage the youth to carry on German tradition for future generations has not gone unnoticed. In 2009, she was named an Honorary Member of the Carpathia Club while simultaneously assisting her husband with his role of Jugendleiter. She later held the title of Jugendleiterin herself from 2011 to 2015. Karin’s passion for leadership began when she was elected to the Board of Directors as Treasurer, a position she held for 11 years. As time has gone by her involvement has only grown. She became part of the Frauengruppe, and along with being a proud member of the GTEV Edelweiss and the GACC, in 2014 she was elected President of Carpathia Club.

Karin is involved in the German community on a national level, becoming the Treasurer of the Danube Swabian Association of the USA in 2002 and a director to the Danube Swabian Foundation. She has even received the Landesverdienstnadel - national merit award in recognition of her dedication to her heritage.

Karin holds her German-Danubeswabian heritage very dear to her heart.

Her favorite quote: “Nur der ist seine Ahnen wert, der ihre Sitten treu verehrt.”

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