I was very pleased to read The Great Bend Tribune article: “Coming Back Home: St. Ann’s all-school reunion a chance to remember the past” (Sept 21 issue). Although I didn’t attend the school myself, my late mother Gloria (Riedl) Marples and her Riedl siblings and Hampel, Kober, and Bahr cousins did attend the St. Ann’s School, back in its heyday in the 1920’s. Recently, I was talking to my mom’s first-cousin, Sister Philomena Bahr, who is now age 87. Her sister Alice (Bahr) Tholen and my mom’s youngest sister Geraldine (Riedl) Lewis were “in the same grade” at that school. I have only heard the stories, however I imagine that big limestone building has seen many, many more stories. The Tribune article noted that many of the early settlers, including my own ancestors, came from Austria. To be more specific, it was then the kingdom of Austria-Hungary. The pioneers named Olmitz in honor of Olmutz, Austria (two dots over the U in Olmutz), which is now a city within the modern Czech Republic. On a modern Czech map it is spelled Olomouc, Czech Republic. My own ancestors came from neighboring villages, Riedl family from Sumvald, Austria; Hampel family from Langendorf; and Kober family from Brevenec. That province in Austria is called Moravia, and it has seen its share of battles, including an invasion of Swedish troops centuries ago. I even have Svoboda ancestors. That is part of the mystique of St. Ann’s Church and School on the Kansas plains. The pioneers wanted a new home in which they could cherish the “old world” while cultivating the land of Kansas and enjoying freedom, liberty, and education in “the new world”. I commend the pastor of St. Ann’s Church, Fr. Ultan Murphy, on the fine work he does and I salute everyone who made the “all-school reunion” a success. It helps keep the town of Olmitz on the Kansas map.
James A. Marples