Meeting Gene For The First Time

Mom wrote their story in 2014 in order to share their history with family and family to come.

I’m excited to now share their story with YOU!

In The Ziemke Story you will learn of their Christian Heritage, their early years, ministry, trying times, family, where they’ve been, and how they ended up where they are today!

We will endeavor to share a little bit of  The Ziemke Story each week as Mom wrote it to her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and beyond.

Meeting Gene For The First Time

Meeting Gene for the First Time

One of the days before school started, as I was going down front, I heard a girl running through the halls saying ‘My Gene’s here, my Gene’s here’.  I learned later she was from Wisconsin, and since Gene was also from Wisconsin, I guess she sort of claimed him. I took it to mean he was her boyfriend.  That was my first memory of this guy named Gene.  He had huge sunglasses on and had driven here for his second year of school in his 1955 Chevy Bel Air, silver-gray and peach.  He sort of reminded me of my cousin, Duane Tiller.

Because of my ‘aloneness’ at home with few Christian friends in high school, life at Bible College was the next best thing to heaven.  I learned so much from living with young people from all parts of the country with varied family backgrounds.  I enjoyed school and was there to further my education and find God’s will for my life.  However, during the first of three semesters, I found myself wasting time standing in the halls talking to people (mostly guys) or playing ping pong in the lounge.  Classes were in the mornings, freeing up time for students to work in the afternoons or evenings.  I hadn’t yet found work.

I was fortunate to have Lavonne and Joe nearby.  I could stay with them on Christmas break and see them at church.  Through my previous summer work, I had paid for the first tri-semester of college and needed a job in order to pay for the next.  I looked and looked, but it took a while to find a job.  I didn’t know how I would pay for the next semester.  Brother Moyer talked with me and encouraged me to call my parents to see if they would be willing to help.  I called and they paid the bill.  Eventually, I found a job and was able to help with the payments.

The second semester I refocused my goal.  In a storage wing of the college, I found a place to pray by an old piano and recommitted myself to God.  I promised to concentrate on studies and finding His will for my life, and avoid wasting time talking to boys.  I was given quite a few responsibilities around the school; taking evangelistic trips, leading the song services from time to time in chapel and, on our trips, singing in duets, trios, and sextets. I was also appointed to the Missions committee.

In Children’s church on Sundays, I often gave the object lesson or taught. I mentioned to Brother Judd that I hadn’t been involved much the first term and, all of the sudden, I was really busy with everything.  He said, “well, sometimes it just takes a while for the quiet ones to be discovered”.   Then he laughed and said, “in more ways than one”.  I wasn’t sure what he meant.

During that semester, Gene started to pay attention to me.  I avoided him because of my promise to God.  There were two guys who were thought of as the most spiritual and, perhaps, the greatest “catches”.  He was one of them.  I had heard that he’d had several girlfriends the previous year and broken up with each one.  He had just broken up with another. Plus, I still thought the girl who yelled, “my Gene’s here” was waiting in the wings for him.  I think he could have gotten almost any girl there to go with him.   I persisted in ignoring and avoiding him just about all second semester.

One day, Gene cornered me in the little study room with windows into the library.  He wanted to know why I was avoiding him.  I told him I wasn’t interested in being another statistic (another girlfriend to break up with).  That was that.

As time went on, Gene and I were thrown together in situations.  He was a friend of Joe Sargent and came over to Lavonne and Joe’s one evening during winter break while I was there.  I think Lavonne was giving me a perm.  I didn’t look impressive at all.

Later, from the gas station next to Lavonne’s house (because she didn’t have a phone yet), I called the school pay phone to talk to Sheri Sullivan, and Gene answered.  He said there was no one else around, so he guessed I’d have to talk to him.  We talked for about half an hour.

Students were sometimes asked to take part in the local church services.  Gene, Troy, and I were asked to sing in a trio on a Sunday night and, again, at Chapel Monday morning. That meant practice time and singing “Hand in Hand with Jesus”.  We began to be teased. There were several other incidents.

I thought of Mary, the mother of Jesus, when the angel of the Lord spoke to her.  Like her, I kept all these things and pondered them in my heart.  I wasn’t making too much of it.  I did like Gene but was still holding on to my promise to God.

One day, Lavonne asked me if there was anyone at the school I was interested in.  I said, “Why do you ask?”  She said she’d had a dream the night before that I was in the ladies restroom at church with several girls gathered around looking at my engagement ring.  When she asked who it was from, I said, “Gene Ziemke”.  There were a few more incidents that got me thinking, so I prayed, “If this is You, God, I won’t fight it any longer”.

The third and last semester of the year, Gene and I sometimes sat together at meal time and began talking and leaving notes for one another in our mailboxes.  There wasn’t much need or time for dating.  A relationship could be built within the walls of the school.  It was hard to “go with” someone in Bible School.  I wished more than once that I had my sweet little Mom to counsel with but it was all part of growing up.

Quick Quotes from my letter to Mom March 1, 1961:

A car load of us students went on an evangelistic trip to McCleary, WA, March 1. The specials I sang in were: three trios with Troy and Ilene, a duet with Ilene, “Not My Will but Thine”, and a duet with Gene, “It’s Not an Easy Road”.  Our last service was Sunday night.  Gene really preached a good sermon on being ready for the coming of God.  The altar was lined with young people – several of whom were just new there.  We didn’t leave the church until after 11:00 p.m. and went to the Pastor’s home (Pastor Christmas) for toasted tuna sandwiches and hot chocolate before leaving for Portland at midnight. Gene tried to keep everyone awake to keep him awake driving but we girls went to sleep and left the guys to stay awake.  I woke up a couple hours later and everyone was asleep and Gene was sticking his fingers out the window to get cold and then rubbing the back of his neck to stay awake.  So, I stayed awake and talked to him.  Gene is the absolute best for a humble, consecrated, level headed, hardworking Christian.  We got home about a quarter till three and had to go to classes that day.


In March, Sherri and I went to the public Library not far from college and, as we left the library, coincidently, Paul and Gene came driving by.  They picked us up and we went to the Bible Book Store and then car and trailer hunting for the guys who would be traveling for the school in summer.  About 8 p.m., we met Bonnie and Joe, went for Pizza at Shakey’s, and took it to Hilltop, overlooking Portland, to eat it.  I had to finish preparing my object lesson for children’s church when we got back.

Gene and I had our first real date Saturday, May 27.  We had secured permission to double date with Jack and Ilene. Rod and Marilyn (a married couple) came along as chaperones.  I had never seen the Pacific Ocean.  We went to the beach at Seaside and had a wonderful, wonderful time.  I raved about the farms and the cows we saw along the way and had everybody laughing.  When we got there, they had me keep my eyes closed until they got in just the right place to see the view of the ocean.  I thought it was amazing and beautiful.  We went on bumper cars and to the aquarium before heading back.

That evening, still with our chaperones, we went out to eat at Waddles.  Gene paid with a $100 bill – pretty impressive.  Back home, he walked me around to the outside door of the dorm and kissed me.  We knew we were in love.  Gene had told me before and I told him that night.  I was in the clouds but still needed confirmation from God.

One night, the girls in my dorm were all away at one of the three churches we had the option to attend and I was home alone.  I took the opportunity to go into the dorm storage room and kneel down among the empty luggage to pray.  I prayed a really fervent prayer for a length of time and felt impressed to open my Bible and read.  As I read, I knew God impressed a specific scripture to me.  I read it again and again, trying to figure out what He was trying to tell me through it.  Finally, I went to bed.  The next day, I told Gene that God had impressed a certain scripture on me but I couldn’t figure out what it meant.  He said that was the scripture he had preached on at the Oregon City church youth service the night before.  Okay, God that was pretty convincing!

Quick Quotes from my letter home May 4, 1961:

Gene’s birthday is May 18 (he’ll be 21) and I’d like to give him a picture.  He only has little ones and snapshots of me. He wrote me a note one night which said, “I put that picture of you in a little frame and set it on my dresser.  Then I said to myself, ‘Myself, that sure cheers me up’, and myself answered, ‘Yep Gene, you’re right’.”  Ha. He likes my 16 year old picture best. So I’d like to give him a big one.


Now that we were officially a couple, Gene started giving me his shirts to iron, as was the case with most girls who had boyfriends.  It was sort of a test to begin with.  One of the first was a light blue satin dress shirt.  I’d iron one part and another part would get wrinkled but finally it was perfect.  I passed by doing a good job and he approved.

During that 1960-61 school year, I received a letter from my cousin, Joyce O’Hara.  In it she mentioned that our moms were again keeping up with each other.  What did that mean, I wondered.  Then it dawned on me, Mom must be expecting another baby.  I called Mom and found out it was true.  Terry Ross Mincer was born on July 4, 1961, just after I came home for the summer.  He was a big little boy my dad called “The Caboose”.  I was able to help Mom for a couple of months before the next school year.

That summer, Gene travelled with several guys from the college in an Octet.  They sang and ministered at churches, promoting the Bible College.  At the end of the trip, Gene came to see me.  When he knocked on the door and my mom went to answer it, the thought that came to his mind was: “Rainie didn’t tell me she had another older sister”.  Then, he realized it was my young looking mom.  He spent a few days with us.  It was haying time, so he offered to help my Dad and tried to make a good impression.  However, he had hay fever, which pretty much caused him to sneeze each time he threw a bale.

One evening, as we sat on the grass in the front yard near the gravel road, fireflies in the air around us, he said: “If I were to ask you to marry me someday, what would your answer be?”  (Boy, was that a safe way to ask.)  I said it would be yes.  It was kind of an engagement to be engaged at some point. Ha-ha.

1961-62 School Year

We went back to school for my second year, Gene’s third, and last, knowing we were meant for each other.  The Saturday night before school started, we went on a date out to the airport to watch the planes coming and going.  The airport was huge and beautiful.

I got a job just prior to school starting that second year at Penney’s Regional Credit Office.  Because I was working on Saturday, when most of the students were moving into the dorm, Gene cleaned my dorm room for me, even scraping paint off the floor and then scrubbing and waxing it.

My regular work schedule was 5 – 9 p.m. weekdays.  Sometimes Gene and Jack came to pick me up after work.  One afternoon, they made shelves for my room.  Later, in September, Gene got a job at Gill’s.  It was a seven-story Book Store.  He was assigned to the ‘Inspirational’ Department.  We were both enjoying our jobs and thankful for them.

After the first of three semesters, we decided it would be best for me to quit school and work full time so that we could afford to get married.  We needed to be free of bills and be ready to go to the place God would call us to. I moved in with Lavonne and Joe and rode the bus each day to work. Penney’s Regional Credit office, near the Lloyd Center, agreed to give me full time work beginning January fifth. I researched and changed addresses for people who had moved, verified store and account codes, etc. I saved my money and planned our wedding.  I was making $1.25 an hour.

On Valentine’s Day, Gene gave me a little book called: “Love is a Special Way of Feeling”.  He was and is a “romantic” and has always had a way with words when writing on cards through the years.

Due to school rules, we could not announce our engagement until the last term of Gene’s senior year.  By that time, everyone had guessed.  On March 29, 1962, Gene presented me with a beautiful diamond ring.  He had done the “picking-it-out”.  I saw it for the first time that night.  Of course, the news spread rapidly and folks all swarmed around to see “the ring” that made our engagement official.

On April 21, 1962, we got a car.  We had both been using the bus.  Gene asked a friend, Ron Calder, to give us a ride to check out a car he’d seen advertised.  That one didn’t pan out, but Ron remembered another one he’d seen as he drove truck for work that day and took us to see it.   We bought it, a 1960 Blue Chevy Biscayne for $1350.  The seller was willing to wait until we could get financing.  That was difficult seeing we were both quitting jobs and moving soon.  Gene called his mom for ideas.  An insurance man she knew happened to be in her office at the time and overheard the discussion. He volunteered to loan us the money at 5% interest.  Our first trip in it was to drive to Montesano, WA, where Gene preached Easter Service for Pastor Russell Morrow.

Toward the end of his Senior year, Gene was called in to the college office to discuss his future ministry.  A request had come in from Pastor Burns, a home missions pastor in Hawkins, Wisconsin, looking for a student to take over the small church there.  Gene answered the call and a plan was made.

I was given two bridal showers.  One was a surprise personal shower given by college friends, Kris Vose and Lyndia Myers.  The second was given by friends at Penney’s.  It was a double shower for myself and Sara (who was also leaving work to get married).

11 comments… add one
  • Gene Apr 10, 2017, 2:47 pm

    Wow! These words sure stir memories and emotions–tears too! ?

  • Karen Carr Apr 10, 2017, 6:35 pm

    Loved reading your love story! Karen

  • Esther Johnson Apr 10, 2017, 8:19 pm

    This is so interesting, as I, too, met my soon-to-be husband in that same time frame…at Bible School. Many similarities in our stories. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Judy Sargent Apr 10, 2017, 9:35 pm

    Enjoyed your story. You have always made a Awesome couple??

  • Sue Bray Apr 10, 2017, 9:47 pm

    Love reading your story. You two mean so much to John and I.

  • Peggy Jones Apr 10, 2017, 10:21 pm

    Loved reading about how you two met. God certainly had your lives planned out. You two sure have impacted my life and my family.

  • Lorraine Apr 12, 2017, 8:39 am

    Thanks Esther. It would be fun to hear your story.

  • Lorraine Apr 12, 2017, 8:40 am

    Thanks Sue!

  • Lorraine Apr 12, 2017, 8:41 am

    Love you Peggy. Thanks for your comment.

  • Lorraine Apr 12, 2017, 8:43 am

    Thank you Sue. We have fond memories of you both.

  • Lorraine Apr 12, 2017, 8:44 am


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