ANDERSON, Leila
(nee Flemmer)
Died 1969
ANDERSON, Leila (nee Flemmer): 
 
This first story in our "Flemmer and Descendants Who's Who" is not that of one of the South African Flemmers. It is the story of one of the great-granddaughter's of Hans Christian Flemmer. Hans Christian's one son was our Stamvader Christian August Flemmer: another son was Carl Adrian. It was Carl Adrian's son, Christian Frederick who emigrated to America and who was the father of Leila Anderson (Flemmer). It is written by Leila's granddaughter, Joan Merritt.


My name is Joan Merritt and I live in Thompson Falls MT. This is my Flemmer line:

Paul Anderson (my dad), Leila Flemmer (his mom), Christian Frederick Flemmer, Carl Adrian Flemmer, Hans Christian Flemmer, Johannes Flemmer, Friedric Flemmer, and an Anders Flemmer (1647-1715.) After Leila died in 1969, we found a wonderful collection of typed and hand-written notes on the family history which consequently sparked my interest in geneology. With the help of a Danish dictionary and hooking up with Steve via the internet, I was able to piece together an accurate picture of my Flemmers - except for Anders and we haven't been able to verify him!

Leila was born in Copenhagen and lived in Odense until leaving Denmark in 1910 to marry Andrew Anderson of Aarhus who had emigrated earlier, worked the gold fields of Alaska, and established himself in business in San Francisco. During the depression of 1929, Andrew bought an orange grove in the San Joaquin Valley in California and moved his family from the city to a dusty little farm town where Leila was to spend the rest of her life. The move was difficult for her. She was a very proud woman and maintained her cosmopolitan habits always dressing in hat, gloves, and high heeled shoes whenever she went to town - in an environment where most women dressed in pants and helped their husbands run the farm!

Seven babies came along in rapid succession. My dad was number 5 and she endured a difficult delivery complicated by a placenta previa. I remember hearing the story that a young nurse went into her room after the birth and explained to her that she should not have any more babies and proceeded to enlighten Leila with the nuances of contraception. She became outraged, threw a bedpan at the poor nurse, and told her to mind her own business! Years later she would confess to my mother than when she first suspected another pregnancy, she would wash heavy blankets in the stationary wash tubs, lifting them and squeezing them, hoping to encourage a miscarriage. 

Leila was a handsome woman, 5'7", brown hair and blue/green eyes. She always maintained a slender figure. She was healthy all of her life - dying in her 80's of polycythemia, a blood disorder. Along with being proud, she was strong-willed, fun-loving, somewhat controlling, somewhat spoiled by her husband, and she had a delightful sense of humor. She was very religious; her father was a priest in the Catholic Apostolic Church; the family became Anglican after moving to the valley as the other church did not exist outside of San Francisco. 

My Dad remembers, not too fondly!, that Leila insisted upon attending the Catholic Apostolic Church for Christmas midnight services, an endeavour that involved driving for 7 hours at night in often foggy weather conditions on a winding 2 lane highway from the valley where they lived to San Francisco - the same drive today on the interstate system would take 4 hours! Leila would have all seven children, washed, starched white shirts and ties, hair curled, frilly dresses, sitting quietly in the car for this 14 hour round trip!

The children grew up into attractive young adults preserved in their youth forever on 8 mm movie film taken during the 1940's. Five were in uniform serving during World War II. These happy images hid, however, what would become mental illness in 2 of the children: one became catatonic and died in a mental hospital, the other a manic depressive who never really had a life of her own.

I enjoyed hearing my aunts and uncles talk about their mother. Whenever her "head strong" personality would emerge, they would say that she was being "ganelli" - a word I think they coined! They frequently made disparaging remarks about the "Flemmer nose" debating whether or not it was aristocratic or simply too prominent! Leila never spoke Danish again even though I begged her to teach me some words. She would, however, call people names - tosk and lort - which Dad said were Danish slang for something "not very nice". (She would never tell me!) (And I couldn't locate them in the Danish dictionary!)

In the 1920's she asked Andrew if she could go to Odense to visit, and when he saw the reality of dealing with 7 little children by himself, he offered her a Steinway grand piano OR the trip. She chose the piano and sadly, never saw her parents again. She did enjoy music and was talented in voice and the piano as were the children: they all sang and played an instrument. Leila's oldest son, Ralph, sang for a brief period of time with the San Francisco Opera Co. Singing around the piano was a common evening's entertainment. I remember as a teenager walking into her living room one day and finding her in a chair she had placed in the middle of the room with "Messiah" going full-blast on a new stereo she had purchased. She told me to hush; "We don't talk when GOOD music is playing"!

My grandmother rarely spent a summer in the hot valley where she lived. Grandfather packed her and the children up every June and took them to the coast returning again in September to get everyone home for school. She did quite a bit of travelling as she got older but oddly, she never went to Denmark. As an example of her headstrong and stubborn ways, my Dad asked her one summer what her plans were and that she really shouldn't be considering any trips because she was getting "too old" for that. I can just see her eyes squinting up and her jaw set tight as she went straight to the travel agent and booked a round-the-world cruise! I believe she spent most of that trip in her stateroom although we do have some photos around of Leila on an elephant in Saigon and riding a camel in Alexandria! (This at 80 years old!)

Leila was widowed in 1949 and lived alone in the large two storey farm house where she had raised her family until she died. I spent a lot of time with her in those days. She introduced me to Hans Christian Andersen and we would stay up late at night, her reading to me these very scary stories and drinking hot cocoa. She did beautiful crochet work and several of her table cloths and bedspreads exist today. My most prized possessions are a few Bing and Grondahl Christmas plates that belonged to her and some raggedy leather- bound books of fairy tales. She made kleiners for Christmas and her tree abounded with red and white woven paper hearts and we always danced around the tree singing a traditional Danish song! (I wish I could remember it now!) Dad recalls Christmas correspondences with the South African relatives, but unfortunately, those letters are not with us.

Most important of all are the memories of this rather remarkable woman who, in spite of sadness with 2 of her children, remained positive and energetic. I learned from her not to complain about life, to gather inner strength from deep spirituality, and to enjoy the gifts that God gives to us!

 

 

 

 

Contact

Steve Herbert arcadia@49er.co.za

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