“Reuniting the Dancing Couple,” Ensign, June 2006, 68–69
For 25 years I worked in downtown Wiener Neustadt, Austria. On a mild day in May, I strolled through the pedestrian zone during my lunch break and came upon a bookstore. Near the door were two large crates full of discounted books. I was curious to know what kind of literature was selling at such a low price, and I picked up the top book in one of the crates. With no particular interest in buying it, I opened it and noticed the depiction of a dancing couple. To my great surprise, I also found the name Gretl Stättner. Instantly I recalled that this was the name of my father’s second wife. I had not thought about her for years.
My father was a customs official, but he was also an enthusiastic dancer and operated his own dance school. A few years after my parents’ divorce, my father met Gretl at the dance school. Their relationship was short, however, because my father died from a ruptured appendix when he was only 35 years old. As he lay dying he must have hoped that Gretl would take me on, knowing that my mother did not look after me. For this reason, my father married Gretl just three hours before he died. Gretl, however, was extremely young and still under her parents’ influence. There was no way she could look after me, so I grew up in foster homes.
As I stood there holding the book, seeing not only the name Stättner but the dancing couple as well, I suddenly realized that this was my father’s legal wife. She had a right to be sealed to him.
My investigation disclosed that Gretl had never remarried, that she had lived in Vienna and had operated a foot care salon there. I remembered her maiden name as well as the place her family, the Weißenbergs, had lived. My wife and I looked them up, but we were disappointed to learn that no members of the family were still living. We visited the cemetery but made no further progress at first, because the stone at the family plot contained only a list of surnames. After it occurred to us that someone, after all, had to pay for the grave and its maintenance, we asked the authorities for information about the grave’s owner. We received a name leading us to Vienna and to a woman who turned out to be Gretl’s niece. She provided us not only with all the required dates to perform Gretl’s temple work, but also with information about all the family members who had passed away: parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
It also turned out that when my wife and Gretl’s niece were young, they had entered the same high school at the same time, and both had graduated on the same day. How small the world can be.
My wife and I submitted all the family names to the temple and were then able to personally carry out the work in the Frankfurt Germany Temple. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity and am firmly convinced that my finding my stepmother’s book was no mere coincidence. Our conversation with Gretl’s niece disclosed that Gretl had owned many books, and her niece had given some away, kept some, and sold some. Only a single book made its way to Wiener Neustadt, and I was the one who stumbled across it.