Babe and Matze: A Monroe County love story - Republic-Times | News

Babe and Matze: A Monroe County love story

By on May 13, 2015 at 2:01 pm
Matze and Babe Matzenbacher have called the house and cluster of farm buildings on a hill south of Waterloo home for more than half a century. The giant hackberry tree behind them has been a recreation centerpiece for their four children and eight grandchildren, as well as a symbol of the family’s love of the land that surrounds them. (Alan Dooley photo)

As residents and visitors motor up and down the beautiful roads and highways of Monroe County, they pass home after home. Some sit on hills.  Others are in valleys or nestled in trees.  But each has a story to tell – or the family that lives in it does.

One such home sits on a hill on the west side of Route 3 south of Waterloo. It is the longtime residence of one of the county’s numerous Matzenbacher families – Eugene and Babe Matzenbacher.

If the name Eugene doesn’t click, try “Matze.” That’s how everyone has known him most of his life.  And his wife of 56-plus years, “Babe.” She steadfastly refuses to tell her given name.

“Nobody’d know me by my real name,” she said at least twice.

The two are lifelong residents of the area – Matze from Waterloo and Babe from Maeystown.

“Matze hauled wheat for relatives in Maeystown,” Babe told the Republic-Times. “He saw me sitting on the side of the road one day and I guess he thought I looked pretty good,” she said, laughing.

“And we got married on New Year’s Eve in 1958,” Matze said.  “That gave me another $250 deduction at income tax time,” he said with a grin.

Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and upon completing training was ordered to duty in Germany.

“I was sent to the border between East and West Germany,” Matze said. “There was growing tension with Russia in those days, and we stared back and forth at each other across the dividing line. But after a few weeks, I was informed that my orders had been wrong and I was told I was being sent to New Ulm, Germany.  I was able to call Babe and get her headed there soon.”

Babe explained that while she and Matze were dating, as it began to look serious, she informed him that if they did get married she wanted four daughters. It was in Germany that they welcomed their first, Cindy. The Matzenbachers would be blessed with three more daughters: Sheri, Lori and Jody, in that order.

From left, daughters Jody and Lori, parents Babe and Eugene Matzenbacher, and daughters Sheri and Cindy, pose in front of one of Matze’s old farm trucks prior to a March auction on the family farm. (Alan Dooley photo)

When they returned stateside, they settled in the county and Matze went to work for the now-defunct Conrad Liquor Company in St. Louis, rising to general manager there.

In 1963, they rented the home on the hill where they have been ever since. That brought Matze back into farming, which he had done  as a young man.

“I milked the cows every morning before heading off to school,” he reminisced.

Eventually, the Matzenbachers  would own and farm some 1,000 acres around their home and near Maeystown. They grew the standard crops of the area — corn, wheat and soybeans.

“We raised a few cattle for food as well,” he said, adding that they still do.

He continued to farm and work for Conrad until he went full-time to farming in 1978.
If that wasn’t enough, Matze played a lot of softball until he was in his 50s. He has also been a longtime fixture in the Kloepper community, serving as the “commissioner” of a local tournament  every winter that helps keep the old German card game alive across the generations.

He is also an avid hunter and fisherman who now has time to participate in those activities.

Babe said she never farmed.

“I was a stay-at-home mom.  Raising four girls was my fulltime job,” she said.

Babe insisted that her daughters grow up with music.

“One of our first purchases was a piano,” she said.

All of the girls are musically inclined and even today are involved with music. The four girls have now presented half a dozen editions of the increasingly popular Hometown Harmony Concert at Hope Christian Church, which they repeat twice a year on Sundays in May and November.

“And we ensured that each one got a college education,” Babe added.

Full-time farming came to an end last fall, and in March, the Matzenbachers hosted a huge day-long auction that drew hundreds of people to sell off their life-long accumulation of meticulously maintained farm equipment – from combines and tractors, to hand tools.

“It was time,” Matze confirmed.

They have also pared down their land holdings to the current 400 acres around and west of their home, which family members continue to farm.

In addition to sustaining Kloepper participation, Matze continues on the board of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Wartburg, where they were married.

Babe, who at least twice glanced at Matze and said “I’m five and-a-half years younger than he is,” said it is their eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild that keeps her going.  She seems to glow as she talks about each one of them.

Matze and Babe are no longer farming and on many days, the boisterous sounds of children are absent. But as one walks across the family front yard, they cannot help but be awed by the giant hackberry tree that towers over the other trees and buildings, dominating the view from Route 3.

It glows in the afternoon sunlight. It offers a huge swath of cooling shade under its branches.  Several swings hang from one branch, including one that Matze says is on his “to do” list to repair.

It symbolizes both their love for the land and for their vibrant family. The Matzenbachers are just plain good people.

Alan Dooley

Alan is a photojournalist -- he both shoots pictures and writes for the R-T. A 31-year Navy vet, he has lived worldwide, but with his wife Sherry, calls a rambling house south of Waterloo home. Alan counts astronomy as a hobby and is fascinated by just about everything scientific.