In the 1950s, if you bought your mother a bouquet at Lund’s Flower Shop at 521 Main St., where Full Circle Supply is now, you may have seen this portrait of Barbara Mohn Guentner in the window. Mathilda Guentner Lund hung the photo every year to honor her own mother, as well as all the mothers of La Crosse.
Barbara Guentner had a history similar to many of La Crosse’s early-twentieth-century women. Born Babet Mohn in Munderkingon, Germany, she immigrated to the United States as a teenager in 1880 or 1881 after the death of her parents. A few years later, she married Wendelin (“Wenzel”) Guentner, also a German immigrant, and the two new Americans set down roots in La Crosse. Wenzel worked for the railroad and Barbara took care of their growing family, becoming active members of the large German-American community here. They had nine children between 1886 and 1910, and lived in La Crosse for the rest of their lives.
This photo, taken by her son-in-law on the occasion of her 90th birthday in 1951, was intended to capture Guentner’s maternal spirit. Her granddaughter, Anita Froegel, described her as “lovely lady who loved knitting socks, mittens, and hats for all of us. She talked with a mixture of German words and was very charming to everyone.” Whatever hardships Guentner faced in her life – and as an immigrant in a strange land, she must have faced a few – Guentner was a steadfast presence for her family until her death in 1955 at age 94.
The La Crosse County Historical Society wishes a Happy Mother’s Day to Barbara Mohn Guentner, and to all the ladies of La Crosse who work hard for their families every day.
This article was originally featured in the La Crosse Tribune.