Mechanic 05

Artur Lemke

December 28, 1935 ~ June 20, 2022 (age 86)


Artur was born in Karolinowka, Poland as the first and only child of August and Erna Lemke. His father died of Tuberculosis when he was only 3 years old. In fact, all of his father’s family members died of TB before the age of 27, and Art’s mother warned him not to get married until that age - so as not to leave a widow behind. Erna then married August Kolewe and they had 3 sons. The youngest son, Armwin, died at the age of three. They later had a daughter together as well. As a result of WWII, at the age of 9, Artur was enslaved into forced child labor on a farm - separated from his family. He lived in a barn with farm animals and never knew if or how much he would be given to eat. He often recalled his first night in the barn, when a horrible thunderstorm rolled in. The barn was old, with wide gaps between many of the boards, and lightning could be seen very clearly, and the wind whipped right through. Art slept in the hay and found warmth next to the cows. Early on, his mother managed to visit him somehow- it was in the middle of winter - and he was barefoot. This was the beginning of a very difficult season in his life that lasted five years. The first farmer was the most unkind of them all. There were several workers at this farm, women, that decided they would try to escape in the night, and Art would go with them. They got caught though, and the farmer, who was often drunk, wanted to teach him a lesson. He planned to shoot Art in the foot! Another farmer got word of this and convinced the angry man to “trade him for a bottle of whisky”. In fact, Art would jokingly say, “So my life was actually worth less than a bottle of whisky, because they shared that bottle!” He also made the comment that by the end of those five years, he had nearly forgotten his name - as no one ever used it. His mother had written him letters over those years, but he would never receive them. In 1949, Artur was reunited with his mother and family in Germany with help from The Red Cross. In 1952, they immigrated to the United States, to Texas. There he worked with other migrant workers in the fields. Eventually, someone offered to help his father get a job in Belvidere, IL and his family moved and settled there. Through all of Artur’s life journey, he had a total of three years of education, but he was an intelligent man all the same. At different points in Art’s life, he spoke fluent Polish, German and English, as well as some Russian and Spanish! He could hold a conversation with just about anyone and was never impressed by money or titles. He was frugal and wise with his finances and became a talented carpenter! In fact, he designed, built, and sold his first house by age 21, and with his own money! He met Waltraud, AKA Trudy, through a family friend, and they were married on September 5, 1964. Art and Trudy had three children: Edgar, Klaus, and Karin, and through lots of hard work they provided for their family with what many would call The American Dream. Art built every home his wife and family ever lived in, which was quite a few, and even made much of their furniture! He was a member of Carpenter Local Union 792 and worked in his trade until 1997. Art liked the outdoors, nature, and animals. He liked to fish, with ice fishing eventually becoming his favorite. In his retirement he enjoyed checking in with his fishing buddies and walks at Rock Cut State Park. He would often walk around the entire lake! Right before his heart trouble was diagnosed, he commented, “I think that lake is getting bigger!” He also enjoyed being with his family and friends, with weekend get togethers of Yahtzee or Dominoes, a beer and some German folk music in the background being one of his favorites. He and Trudy traveled quite a bit too! Despite Artur’s hard childhood, Art was a content, jovial and lighthearted man who rarely complained. He did, however, struggle to express his deepest thoughts and feelings, and would often transition from quiet moments with, “So…so…” or “Take a beer?” “Take a short one?” He held his deepest emotions close to his chest but had a tender heart indeed. He was a proud, hardworking man, who then melted beautifully into a humble, grateful, and fairly quiet man. He was loved deeply by his family, and he will be greatly missed. Artur is survived by his wife, Waltraud Lemke; children, Edgar Lemke, Klaus (Heidi) Lemke, Karin (Phil) Young; grandchildren, Hayden, Nathan (Emily), Shannon (Devin), Trevor; bonus grandchildren, Connor and Alexis; great granddaughter, Charolette; siblings, Ortwin (Patti) Kolewe, Diethard (Nancy) Kolewe, Gudrun (Bernhard) Steinke; Visitation for Art will be held at 9:30am at Belvidere Immanuel Lutheran Church on Saturday June 25, 2022 with a funeral service to follow at 10:30. A graveside service will then be held at the Belvidere Cemetery.


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