(Pietje Abes van der Weit)

by Linda Mabie

Nellie Vander Weit Schwier, the fifth child of Abe and Jeltje (Offringa) Vander Weit, was born in Friesland, The Netherlands on October 27, 1883.

She had a very hard life as a child because they were poor and were a family of  ten. She was never permitted to sit idle and therefore learned sewing, mending, knitting, crocheting at a very early age. An example of this is an incident she told me about how they enjoyed going ice skating, but so that they would not be idle, they had to do their knitting while they ice skated, or they were not allowed to go. She only went to the sixth grade in school and used her Bible to guide her through the rest of her years. As a young girl she taught knitting and crocheting at school one afternoon a week.

Since Nellie could not afford a wedding dress, she remodeled one of her mother’s old dresses to get married in. On May 8, 1907, Theodore Phillip Schwier became her husband and they came to America on their honeymoon. They lived on 24th Street in Paterson. Her husband’s first job was in a dye house. Nellie had a difficult time adjusting to this strange land with a strange language.

Theodore and Nellie then moved into their home which was built by her cousin, Mr. Richard Zuidema, (a relative of many) on North 14th Street in Prospect Park. Their family consisted of nine children: Phillip, Elsie, John R., Martha, Anna (Mrs. Jack Faber), Abe, Agnes (Mrs. C.J. Higby), Richard and Jeanette (Mrs. William Faber).

Many trials came in their life. Their oldest son contacted tuberculosis in his early teens and their oldest daughter, Elsie, who many people came to know and admire, was born with a rare bone disease called Ostea genesis imperfecta.

In 1926, at the doctor’s advice, the oldest son and their seven year old daughter who had bronchitis, were sent to Colorado for their health. Money was hard to come by and expenses mounted. Nellie had a very strong but quiet faith and always maintained that the Lord would provide. She returned in 1927 to bring their daughter back but their son had to remain in Bethesda. In 1928, a telegram was received stating that their son was failing fast. Her husband, who had just begun to work after being unemployed for several months, could not accompany her, so she returned to Colorado alone. A strong desire to see his family and die at home was granted after doctors’consultation. However, while enroute through Nebraska, he passed away. Arrangements were made for her to get off the train with the body in Omaha. Once again she was in a strange place not knowing anyone, but her faith never failed her as she knew in her heart that God was right there to lead the way, and guide in her hour of need. The people were very kind and helped her with the necessary arrangements. Back on the train they went for the long trip to New Jersey.

Nellie was a devoted wife and mother, never one to give up and always encouraging her children to look ahead. If she needed help, she would pull a certain shade down in their house on North 14th Street and her mother could see that from her home on North 9th Street and would come over since they didn’t have a telephone.

Nellie spent many untiring hours caring for her invalid daughter, yet a smile was always on her face and she appreciated everything. Two of their sons were willing to serve their country in the armed forces. One received a Citation Bronze Star Medal. A daughter became a Cadet nurse.

Nellie was one of the original members at the first meeting on March 7, 1933 to form the North Fourth Street Christian School Ladies’ Aid. She was a very willing and conscientious worker in spite of her busy family. She also became an active member of the Eastern Christian Ladies’ Society, another hard working school society. She was a charter member of both societies when she died last year. The cause of Christian Education was always what she was working and praying for. She was grateful to see some of her children, grandchildren and now even her great-grandchildren attend Eastern Christian Schools. The family were members of the Second Holland Reformed Church now the Second Christian Reformed Church.

Soon after the death of her daughter, Elsie, she took up residence in the Holland Home. She was thankful to be part of this home and the fellowship of people sharing her same background. She still visited with her family regularly and attended church services as much as possible. She enjoyed her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and they all enjoyed being with her.

At the time of her death, Nellie had twenty-seven grandchildren and thirty-two great-grandchildren. Incidently, I had the honor of being her first great-grandchild.

She went home to be with her Savior on December 11, 1975 at the age of ninety-two. She was truly a Christian to all who knew her and loved her as well as those who came in contact with her. A great-grandmother with the love of God in her heart – an example of faith to the end.

Prepared by Linda Mabie with the help of her family.