Biography Martha Luyken
Remembering Aunt Martha Luyken
(by Liselotte Hetzer, née Luyken)
Aunt Martha was the youngest sister of my grandfather Otto Luyken.
She had made the housekeeping for her parents and had looked after them. But she always was prone to be a little sick.
This prompted her brother to remark once: "Martha is going to grow old. Once she will throw down the apples from the
trees with our bones!".
Sometimes she had to go to a nursing home where she was coddled up. Maybe this explains her special features.
She had now become old and poor and lived in Wesel. Occupation was imminent after the war. In the family it was
considered how she could be helped. My father Ewald Luyken was willing to
accomodate her at our big house. Tante Martha could move into two rooms. Some of her nephews forwarded
a monthly contribution to support her. She was fetched under adventurous conditions - occupation was
already under way. Her furniture came later.
Because of her ailments - she was almost blind because of glaucoma and almost deaf - she needed
some help. It is said that Luykens become hard of hearing when old. In spite of her afflictions Aunt Martha
helped as much as she could. She carried away her washing water in the morning herself and wiped the dishes after
washing. At her wall enormous books were stored, they were parts of the Bible in Braille writing which she could
read. Somebody had adviced her to learn it as long as she still had some vision.
Aunt Martha soon became comfortable at our home. She expressed amazement about the "balsamic air", frequently
confirmed how well she felt and was interested in us, growing-up grandnephew and grandnieces. My
mother cooked well but one day Aunt Martha asked her for permission for also
cooking herself. My tolerant mother immediately consented and thereafter lots of small pots and panes
appeared on our hearth. There was cocoa with bacon, little oil lumps (those were bread fried in oil)... all of
that she ate with ravenous appetite. Of course soon there was a weight increase. A dressmaker frequently had to
sew new dresses. Aunt Martha always dressed in black as was the fashion. She conserved herself well.
Before every promenade she asked: "Am I proper, don't I have any blotches on my clothes?" Then she went out
with folding chair and braille book to the alley where she sat in the sun with contentment and read. The umbrella
she used for feeling her way along the pavement gully.
One day she had lost the orientation on the alley and a tall, very courteous man helped her. That could only
have been the uncle of Prince Volkmar. We chaffed Aunt Martha with her princely admirer. She fooled with us and
We, brother and sisters, presented her with several hours on her birthday, that means she could express a wish for us
reading, writing or doing something for her. We adolescents loved another habit. Aunt Martha could skillfully belch.
She repeatedly swallowed air which then suddenly came out. Once I counted 123 times in a quarter of an hour. But that
she only did when she thought she was alone and unobserved. But we crept into her room - she only could see us
as a silhouette against the window. She wouldn't hear us if we were silent. If we were lucky she even would speak
Retrospectively I have the greatest admiration for her, how she managed her ailments. She never spoke about her
deafness though it bothered her more than her blindness. With us too she always was open and interested. She lived
with the whole family by way of a huge amount of correspondence. When she clemently died quickly after her diabetes
many nephews hurriedly came. I think I can remember Daniel Thilo,
Dr. Rudolf Luyken and Otto Luyken. They told
us about their parents. It was an atmosphere as though she was there. It was said that our elated gathering was
wholly in her spirit. She rests at the quiet Waldfriedhof Cemetery in Stolberg.