Retta Lou Weber, lived on Galveston island for most of her long life, that spanned 92 years from September 18, 1923 to June 20, 2016. A member of one of Galveston’s early pioneer families, she was a fifth-generation descendant of ancestors who arrived on the sailing ship “Orient” on December 31, 1846 from Bremen, Germany.
On August 6, 1941, Retta Lou Stavenhagen married Lee R Weber, Jr., who predeceased her on December 31, 2008. She is survived by her five children: Gayle Strange, Debbie Gustafson (Ralph), Lee R. Weber, III (Tammy), Jean Cook (Carl), and John Weber (Virginia); 14 grandchildren, and 15 + 1 soon expected great-grandchildren and brother Lee Stavenhagen of Salem, Oregon. Granddaughter, Caitlin Weber, and brother, Ernest Stavenhagen, predeceased her.
A life of service devoted to others is an apt description of this small but steadfast lady. Retta Lou invested herself in the life of her family and her church. She was a life member of First Presbyterian Church, the first woman to be ordained to the office of Ruling Elder at First Presbyterian Church, and a faithful member of the church choir for more than 80 years. She taught Sunday School to all ages of children from the youngest toddlers to pseudo-sophisticated high school students. She believed in the value of learning and Bible study, and was a committed Bible scholar. In 1993, she and daughter, Gayle, published Lively Stones, an extensive and comprehensive history of the 150th Anniversary of First Presbyterian Church, founded January 1, 1840.
Her large family shares myriad stories and memories and tales of “Granny’s” life. She was an avid gardener, producing fruits and vegetables in her yard that sloped to English Bayou, despite the fact that her county agent told her it was impossible to grow vegetables so close to salt water. She harvested summer tomatoes in the wheelbarrow, Myers lemons at Christmas, as well as carrots, onions, corn, asparagus, black berries, potatoes, green beans, peas, herbs. She shared this bounty with neighbors on her rickety bicycle and carried baskets of tomatoes to church.
We all remember trying to get her to turn off the chain saw and get off the roof and stop trimming tree branches. John still has her ladder used in the dangerous escapades. She and grandchildren even climbed onto the roof to play games and watch the pelicans landing on the Bayou. Grandchildren learned to crab off the pier and to clean and cook all manner of fish, crabs, oysters and shrimp. Her big family often gathered around her dining table to enjoy the blessings from her gardens, fruit trees and crab traps. Debbie says that she inherited her love of cooking from Granny, a skill passed down now to grandchildren.
Outdoors was Granny’s favorite domain, and her yard was inhabited by birds and Mallard ducks that raised their ducklings near or in her gardens. When the baby ducklings headed for the water, as ducks are wont to do, Granny enlisted Jean’s help in capturing them with crab nets or sheets, placing them in enclosures until they were big enough to be released, safe from lurking alligator gars. The ducks frequently returned and pecked noisily on her back screen door, seeking their morning food.
Granny was an artist, a seamstress, a painter, a very creative knitter and quilter. Granny’s needlework graces our homes, and several granddaughters own unique handmade quilts, one of which won Best of Show at the State Fair of Texas.
Lee III worked for a time in the family real estate business, and his experiences of building and renovating properties in Galveston encouraged him to make his home and to thrive in the booming Austin economy of banking and property development.
After retirement from the real estate business, our parents shared their love of Galveston stories and history in their tour business, All About Town. Every week, a new crop of visitors arrived on the island, ready to be enchanted or shocked with tales of the wonderful, diverse history of their beloved island. Grampa knew who had lived in nearly every home on the island, and he could tell tales that Granny often tried to censor.
Retta Lou, Mother, Granny---names cherished by her large, extended family and many friends will live on in our stories and in our hearts. A Memorial Service will be held Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 4:00pm at her beloved church. In lieu of flowers and in celebration of her rich life of service, please consider a donation in her memory to the Music Ministry of First Presbyterian Church, 1901 Church Street, Galveston, 77550.