Mathilde Mayer Morgan
It took a split second for Mathilde Mayer to fall in love with Jimmy Morgan. It took 29 years for him to kill that love.
by James B. Meadow, staff writer for Rocky Mountain News, Sept. 2001
His German was halting and dependent on the little dictionary he carried with him, but the “dashing” American soldier who rode up on a white stallion onw warm September day in 1945, could have “charmed the devil out of hell.”
What chance did an 18 year-old girl from the small Bavarian village of Taching have of resisting him? He was a cowboy from Wyoming, overseeing the defeated German cavalry’s hers. She did not know where Wyoming was, and she had no idea what a cowboy did, other than “he must have been brave.”
Her parents warned her not to fall for this stranger. Think of the cultural differences, the language barrier, they said. The people in her village shunned her; she was consorting with the enemy.
But she was in love and listened to no voice other than that of her heart. They couldn’t marry because the law forbade it. But that didn’t stop her from bearing his child. And nothing could stop her from following him to America in July 1947.
She, her 9-months-old daughter, one suitcase and 78 cents arrived in hot and dusty and bleak Ashcreek, Wyo., about 30 miles from Sheridan. They were married before a Justice of the Peace in a hasty ceremony so she wouldn’t be deported. No photos, no wedding dress. Just a marriage license.
Almost right away, she felt herself squeezed by the cold grip of a terrible mistake. Jim Morgan’s family was friendly enough, but “I felt so isolated.” The “honeymoon suite” on the ranchland the Morgans homesteaded was a one-room shack with a bed, a stove and no indoor plumbing. There wasn’t even a well; just a spring.
“I came from modern times, but I became a pioneer women,” recalls the 74-year old, her Teutonic accent still shaping her English.
When Jim Morgan wasn’t helping the family tend to the ranching, when he wasn’t breaking horses for $100, he worked in the nearby coal mine. This allowed him, his wife and their growing family to moved to a three-room house rented out by the mining company. It didn’t have indoor pluming, either.
“I was very lonely and so very homesick,” she recalls. No one spoke German, and although she learned English quickly enough, there weren’t that many people around to talk to. She felt isolated.
“My parents wanted me to send them photos of where I lived, but I couldn’t let them see I lived in a shack,” she says. “I lied and said my camera was broken.”
Her family multiplied – two boys, another girl – but so did her unhappiness. The dashing man she had fallen in love with would fly into black rages. Sometimes he would hit her. Then he would beg forgiveness. It wasn’t until much later that she learned schizpophrenia ran in his family.
She tried to leave four times. Finally, in 1972 she thought she had made it. With her youngest daughter, then in high school, she escaped to Denver.
“I thought it was far enough away that he wouldn’t find me. He had told me he would kill me if I tried to leave him.”
He found her three months later and begged her to come back. She did. Nothing changed.
In 1975 he erupted in another dark rage and began choking her. Their youngest son, 22 yelled at his father to stop. When Jim Morgan wouldn’t, his son shot him. When his schizophrenia was confirmed, he was placed in a mental hospital.
Mathilde moved to Denver for good in 1976, found work, bought a small house and settled in. But she was only 48 and lonely. Soon, she met a “nice looking, bouncing” widower named Harold Morris.
“He was everything I had hoped for. A kind, educated gentleman,” she said, smiling. Maybe he hadn’t ridden up on a white horse, but “He was the light of my life; I had a second chance.”
They lived together for 12½ years, happy middle-aged lovers, whose love always seem to escape the dark cloud of Harold Morris’ cardiac problems. They didn’t marry, says Maddy Morris, because his adult children didn’t like her.
Then, in 1988, “Harold looked at and said,
'Maddy, I’m going to make an honest women of you.'”
They were married two days later, on Dec. 7.
On Dec. 8, Harold Morris died during his fourth heart attack.
I went through hell after Harold died,” says Maddy Morris. “I cried for six months; I was inconsolable.”
She blames her depressed state for the cancer diagnosed in 1990. She beat it, then wrote and self-published a book about her life, Dreams and Nightmares of a German War Bride.
Today she lives quietly and comfortably in the house she and Harold had shared. Her vision is very poor – the result of a tumor that affected her optic nerve – and she can only drive short distances. A citizen since 1951, she calls herself a “very patriotic American; this is my home.”
Occasionally, she visits Germany; ironically, her firstborn, Charlotte, married a German and lives there. She has seven grandchildren now.
I have to accept my life. When you’re so in love for the first time, it makes you blind. But …it all turned out the opposite of what I thought.”
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