GERONIMO — A Texas icon and the last of seven sisters who made Guadalupe County part of the fabric of mid-20th Century America passed quietly in her home Saturday.
Wanda Timmermann, 102, died in the family homestead on Timmermann Road near Geronimo, joining sisters Meta, Tekla, Hulda, Stella, Melitta and Willie Mae, all of whom predeceased her to prepare the way for their next enterprise and adventure together.
The Timmermanns were the seven daughters born to William and Meta Eweling Timmermann who lived out their lives together and became famous first in this region and then around the country and the world for their catering, holiday decorating, homemaking ideas and recipes.
Today, the Timmermanns would have likely ended up with reality television or Internet homemaking or home improvement websites — and probably would have been “viral” social networkers featured on one of the food or homemaking channels.
In the mid-1900s, the Timmermann sisters, no strangers to the kind of hard work that brings success to rural or frontier families, were seen in the media of the days before television in family features and photos that were distributed by wire services and in newspapers and magazines every Christmas holiday season — as they built and showcased their family business.
They were among many country columnists featured in the Seguin Gazette over the decades, reporting on the comings and goings in Geronimo and on local social events.
Many locals recall visiting the Timmermanns and enjoying the Christmas cookies always served in their home around the holidays.
They became famous for their annual celebration with a live “cedar” or ashe juniper, cut in the nearby Hill Country, and would set elaborate scenes under the tree to commemorate a German Christmas at the New Braunfels orphanage founded by their great-grandfather.
Later, the Timmermann sisters would transition into TV, going to New York City to take part in game shows and being featured on Good Morning America, among others.
At the same time, generations of Geronimo and Seguin high school athletes grew up to know the Timmermanns as some of their strongest sideline supporters. Each year for decades the Timmermanns threw after-season banquets for Matador ballplayers.
“They had seats on the 50-yard line, they supported track as well as football and their support was unbeatable,” said Seguin author and historian John Gesick.
In the Seguin Independent School District, an award was named for the Timmermanns, who were also inducted into the Matador hall of fame.
Gesick became close to the Timmermanns — particularly Wanda — as he has worked in recent years on a manuscript that details the life and times of the Timmermanns. With her advanced years and failing health, Gesick wasn’t surprised to learn Saturday of the passing of the last surviving Timmermann sister.
“I’m sorry — I’m so sorry,” Gesick said. “I know I’ll always treasure my memories of all the Timmermann sisters, but particularly with Wanda, who shared so much.”
In the course of hours and hours of interviews over the years, Gesick learned more than he ever dreamed he would in writing about Geronimo’s best-known family.
“The beauty of my relationship with Wanda was her openness and frankness — her ability to present an argument, but then to listen to other arguments,” Gesick said.
The Timmermann family tree goes back to the 19th Century German immigrants who settled the Seguin and New Braunfels area.
Louis Cachand Ervendberg was their maternal great-grandfather. He was the first pastor of the German settlement of New Braunfels in the 1850s. He and his wife, Louise Muench, adopted 19 orphans of settlers who had died on the journey to this country. Ervendberg built a home along the Guadalupe River northeast of New Braunfels.
Paternal grandfather Heinrich Timmermann came to Texas and settled in the Hortontown area of New Braunfels. He made his living moving freight and became known as “The Gold King.” His wife was Friedericka Wahnschaffe Timmermann.
William Timmermann was first president of Seguin State Bank and Trust Co.
Wanda Timmermann was born in 1909 and like all of her sisters, was educated in Seguin or Geronimo schools.
Faith has always been important to the Timmermanns, who were involved at the beginning of Friedens Church and later on as members of Good Shepherd Evangelical Church located adjacent to their home on Timmermann Road.
In a story written for her 100th birthday in 2009, Wanda told the Seguin Gazette that the greatest joy in her life was being raised in the Christian faith.
“The first several years of your life is when a child learns, and that’s all we lived,” she said. “Christianity is a lot of fun.”
The second-greatest joy was the education she got at Mary B. Erskine School in Seguin, she said.
In the late 1800s and the first part of the 1900s, this region was very much the frontier, and like other frontier children, the Timmermanns were no strangers to hard work under difficult conditions.
“They lived through the terrible droughts of the early and mid-20th Century,” Gesick said. “The relationship of the sisters in growing up was as much a spiritual bond as it was a physical bonding,” Gesick said. “They all had nicknames for one another, they all had their jobs and they all worked together. They worked in the house. They worked and herded the family cattle, they ran the hen house, collected all the eggs and grew their own garden.”
Their teamwork, commitment to a task and to one another as well as their organizational skills translated well into the business world.
They became accomplished — especially in their floral business, Gesick said, learning a lot about flower arranging and related services in the big city of San Antonio — and bringing it all back home.
“They were widely known for their pastries, their floral arrangements and taking care of everybody,” Gesick said. “It’s amazing, and it was all teamwork — the concept of hard work was not lost on any of them. Little by little, they came to be widely known.”
The youngest of the Timmermann sisters, Meta, passed in 2010 at age 97.
The seven Timmermann sisters were a community treasure, Gesick said — a part of Guadalupe County’s past that cannot be replaced, and that’s no less so for Wanda Timmermann.
“She’ll be missed, and I think the thing I’ll miss most is the twinkle in her eyes,” Gesick said. “They just always twinkled. It’s an indeliable and long-lasting relationship. Wanda was blessed in so many ways.”