American Valentine

Rudolf Scheffrahn knew an order when he heard one - he'd served in the army, after all.  So whenever his wife, Lia, reminded him that they were to stop at Collin Street Bakery on their way fom Boerne to Mineola or Tyler to visit family and friends, he knew she meant business.

And remind him she did, for twenty-five years.  "It was a consistent cookie stop in Corsicana," as Rudolf describes it, "three or four times a year."

Occasionally Rudolf would suggest they skip the cookies.  "It did not work," he reports with a laugh.  "She insisted, and that was an order.  If ever there were a totally devoted Collin Street Bakery customer, it was she," adds Rudolf, who celebrated his ninetieth birthday on May 20, 2008.

And if ever there were a totally devoted husband, it was he.

Rudolf and Lia's story is a love story of a special generation, a story of devotion to one another and to one's country - not because you were born an American, but because you wanted to be an American.

They were post-war immigrants, among the 1,350 German immigrants who sailed past the Statue of Liberty along with their first-born son on June 10, 1952, aboard the U.S. troop transport General C.C. Ballow.  Lia was 27, her husband 33.  They were leaving Germany to escape the hunger and other harsh conditions of the time.  But they were coming to America for something more.

"We came to America with hope for a better life," says Rudolf.

He was a master watch- and clockmaker, practicing his craft in Indiana and California before retiring in Texas.  Lia was a homemaker, raising their children and planning their future.  "It was always my dear wife who said the education of our sons was most important," recalls Rudolf.  "She was saving every penny for a college education for her two boys."

He credit's his wife's frugality for why both sons graduated from college with no student loans to pay.  The older one is now a dentist, the younger one a university professor.

Lia and Rudolf had come to America for a better life and had found it.  As soon as the law allowed, they and their German born son pledged their allegiance to their new country.  On February 14, 1958 - Valentine's Day - the Scheffrahns became proud American citizens.

Reflecting on that day a half century later, Rudolf says: "It's the most wonderful experience a person can have.  You are so grateful having a new homeland, America!

Lia and Rudolf voted in every election since 1958 - "never missed it," as he says.  For Lia, that last election came in 2006.  She passed away on February 27, 2007.

But not in spirit.

Two months later, the Texas House of Representatives passed a resolution of Lia's "courage, resourcefulness, and love," and flew the Texas flag over the State Capital in her honor.

Valentine's Day 2008 would have marked Lia's golden anniversary as a U.S. citizen.  And so Rudolf, together with his older son and his wife, celebrated the occasion at a restaurant in Tyler, a photograph of Lia at the table.

There is another way Lia lives on: Rudolf continues to make his Corsicana cookie stop.  He knows that's an order.

And he knows something else, too.

Says Rudolf, "After coming to America, our life was wonderful."