Since Mother’s Day, 1929 many mothers have worked at Zehnder’s to support their families in addition to countless mothers who have celebrated milestone events with us. Two mothers important to Zehnder’s are Emilie Bickel Zehnder and Marion Leidel Zehnder. I would like to tell you about them.
My Grandmother, Emilie Bickel was born on a farm northwest of Frankenmuth on September 22, 1883. She married William Zehnder, Sr. on Sunday, November 29, 1907. She had eight children: Linda, Ermia, Fred, Albert, Herman, William Jr., Edwin and Leonard.
In 1938, her husband William Sr. purchased the old Exchange Hotel. So at the age of 45 with eight children in tow, Emilie took her skill of cooking and turned the old hotel into a fine restaurant serving family style chicken dinners and all the complimentary sides. Opening day was Mothers’ Day, 1929. This year marks the 85th anniversary of our opening.
As the business flourished, Emilie’s health declined. Her children pitched in and took over the operations of the business. She died on December 30, 1941 at the young age of 58. I was not born until 1952 but I feel as though I know her from the many fond memories and stories told about her by her children who loved her dearly and whose spirit lives on at Zehnder’s in the many recipes we still use today.
My own mother, Marion Leidel was born on a farm north of Frankenmuth in Gera on February 10, 1933. She married my father Edwin Zehnder on April 25, 1952. She had four children: Linda, Albert, Catherine and Martha.
Marion, also with four children in tow, worked in the family business beside her husband Eddie. Her strong work ethic was put to use developing many baked goods sold in the bakery, but on Saturdays and Sundays Marion was out front managing the dining rooms. She assisted Eddie with the many expansions and growth Zehnder’s realized in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Although she never went to college, she was proud to have assisted many young men and women realize their dreams with jobs that paid for their college expenses. I love to hear the stories so many former employees have about the impact she made in their lives.
Marion died suddenly on June 26, 1999 at the young age of 66. She is missed dearly by her children and grandchildren.
Both women had a strong faith in their Lord, a deep love of family and an understanding that kindness and generosity were gifts to share. Zehnder’s would not be what it is today without their contributions.
Happy Mothers’ Day and God bless all mothers!
Susan Zehnder, V.P. of Human Resources at Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth