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Memorial marker dedicated 123 years after woman's death

Family estimates 5,000 or more descendants

Adelgunda Penner Suderman Dueck finally has a memorial stone at her grave more than 123 years after her death in 1888, and 39 years after she was re-buried from a pasture to a cemetery.

A dedication for her memorial was Sunday at Gnadenau Cemetery on Indigo Road, two miles south of Hillsboro.

The 3-foot stone includes Adelgunda’s full name, birth date, and death date, the names of her two husbands and marriage dates, and the names of seven of her children: Heinrich Suderman, Johann Suderman, Adelgunda Jost, Maria Unruh, Helena Dyck, Jacob Suderman, and Katarina Dueck Funk. It is positioned between the tombstones of two of her daughters and husbands: Adelgunda and Peter Jost and Maria and John H. Unruh.

Adelgunda Penner was born July 18, 1805, in Muntau, Molotschna Colony, South Russia — now Ukraine — to Jacob and Adelgunda (Conrad) Penner. The village and colony were established 13 months before her birth, and it is likely her parents were still living in a crude earthen and straw hut.

In 1825, Adelgunda married Heinrich Daniel Suderman.

In addition to the seven children identified on the memorial, Adelgunda and Heinrich had at least one other child, Helena, who was born about 1833 and died two to four years later.

After the death of Heinrich in 1842, Adelgunda married Klaas Dueck, possibly before the end of that year. They had a daughter, Katarina.

After her second husband died Aug. 16, 1869, Adelgunda lived with daughter Katarina and Peter H. Funk, immigrating with them to the Brudertal area east of Hillsboro in 1877, and settling on a farm near what is now Marion Reservoir. Coming with the family was Adelgunda’s orphan grandson Peter F. Suderman.

Adelgunda moved to the farm home of her eldest daughter Adelgunda (Mrs. Peter Jost) in the Alexanderfeld community about one mile west of Hillsboro in late 1885 or early 1886. Here she lived until her death April 15, 1888, at the age of 82. She was buried in the pasture, where her son-in-law Peter Jost and daughter Adelgunda also were buried after their deaths April 19, 1891, and Feb. 29, 1896.

A death announcement letter from Jacob Suderman, dated June 20, 1888, was printed in the Mennonitische Rundschau, a publication printed in the U.S. and distributed both here and in Russia. Jacob wrote, “Our beloved mother ... in 1881 ... was baptized on the confession of her faith, which was a big comfort to her in her last trying days. ... Her last year she spent most of the time in bed. She suffered from lung disease and old age.”

A new owner of the Jost farm in 1971 prepared to plow the pasture, and Jost family descendants removed the three graves June 10, 1972, with re-burial in Gnadenau Cemetery. Examination of the remains indicated that the mother Adelgunda was of shorter than average height, perhaps of stocky build, and had a bump in the bone structure of the skull that would have appeared as a large wart on her forehead, which fit the description of Adelgunda.

Descendants of Adelgunda Penner Suderman Dueck first expressed interest in erecting a memorial stone when great-great granddaughter, Carolyn Zeisset, included the story of Adelgunda and her family in a book A Mennonite Heritage, printed in 1975. The story showed that Adelgunda’s five younger children all immigrated in the 1870s and 1880s to the Hillsboro area. The memorial was again discussed at a Jacob Suderman family reunion in 2005, and a fund was started.

Adelgunda’s son Johann died before the family immigrated, and all of his children stayed in Russia, except for his 4-year-old orphan son, Peter F. Suderman, who came with Adelgunda and the Funk family. Johann’s grandchildren lost most of their land and several their lives during the Bolshevik Revolution. Any who retained land lost it during the Stalin era, and more died as a result of deportation to Siberia or in Stalin’s Gulag camps. Some of Johann’s grandchildren immigrated to Canada in the 1920s, a few to Paraguay in the mid-to-late 1940s, and others from Siberia to Germany in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Canadian Sudermans, descendants of Johann Suderman, gathered in Hillsboro and Newton in June to learn more of the Kansas stories of Adelgunda’s family. The gathering renewed interest in installing the grave marker that was dedicated Sunday.

Last modified Oct. 12, 2011

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