Marie H. “Babe” Johannpeter

     Marie H. “Babe” Johannpeter was born in St. Louis, Missouri on June 17, 1903.  “Babe” was the second child and first daughter born to my second great-uncle Julius “Uncle Jules” Johannpeter and his wife Bertha Johannpeter nee Horst.  My grandfather Gilbert Ellis spent a lot of his time with Uncle Jules family, while he was growing up.

     Grandpa Ellis’ father died when Grandpa was only two years old.  Uncle Jules was Great Grandma Ellis’ older brother.  Uncle Jules was a surrogate father to Grandpa, so Uncle Jules children were surrogate brothers and sisters for Grandpa.  While “Babe” was 12 years older than Grandpa, he still spoke well of her and continued to see her until she passed away in 1994.


Johannpeter Family

     I still remember a trip we took up to “Babe’s” house in the mid-1980s.  “Babe” still lived in the same house she and her husband Elmer bought between 1927 and 1931.  The house was in the 5000 block of Emerson Avenue, five blocks from her parent’s house at 5039 Thrush Avenue.  The house was located in the Walnut Park East neighborhood, which was becoming one of St. Louis’ highest crime neighborhoods.

     I remember it pretty well because it is one of the few times I saw Grandpa carrying his revolver.  Grandpa was 6’02” and weighed 250 pounds.  Even in his late 60s, he still was an imposing figure and not a good target for criminal activities.  The criminals in the neighborhood must have agreed because neither us or Grandpa’s 1977 red Ford Thunderbird were bothered.

     “Babe” was in her eighties at the time.  I remember her as being a little on the frail side but very welcoming.  I also remember an antique high back chair next to a window in her dining room.  The house felt “old” to me in that most of the furnishings seemed to be from an earlier time.  “Babe” also seemed to miss her husband Elmer Kimker, who passed away in January 1980.


Babe’s Old House in the 5000 block of Emerson Avenue – Courtesy of Google Earth

     A few years after we visited, a cowardly burglar broke into “Babe’s” house, knocked her to the ground and took a few items of little street value but great sentimental value.  “Babe” was already suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.  Due to some head injuries, “Babe” had to move out of the house she lived in for 60 years to a long-term care facility.

     “Babe” and Elmer experienced tragedy in the home prior to the burglary, which forced “Babe” out of her home.  On January 22, 1930, Elmer and “Babe” welcomed a son, Robert G. Kimker.  A few days before his first birthday, Robert began having trouble breathing.  The doctor’s diagnosed emphysema in Robert’s left lung.

     Elmer and “Babe” took Robert home but he did not recover.  A month later on February 20, 1931, Robert passed away due to a collapsed lung.  He was only 1 year, 28 days old.  Elmer and Babe never had any more children.

     Grandpa and my mother would continue to visit “Babe” in the care facility but Mom said the visits were often sad.  Sometimes “Babe” remembered Grandpa but she remembered him as he was when he lived with them as a kid.  Sometimes, she did not remember Grandpa.

     On May 20, 1994, “Babe” passed away a month before her 91st birthday.  Marie H. Kimker was laid to rest with her husband Elmer, her son Robert, father Julius, mother Bertha and brother Eugene at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Normandy, St. Louis County, Missouri.

     Unfortunately, I only knew “Babe”, when she was in her eighties after her husband passed away.  I don’t have any of the stories about what a fun loving person she could be or how she took care of my Grandpa.  Those stories would more balance out what seems to be a tragic figure.  “Babe” could tell us a lot from her 90 years but we don’t have a way to find those outside the official records.  It is one of the challenges of genealogy.

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