WASHINGTON, May 7 -
Sunday is Motherís Day where we honor our Nationís mothers. My mom is still alive. I got to know my grandmothers, both of them, until they died in their nineties, and my three daughters all have children.
But I want to talk about a mother that most Americans probably have never heard of. Her name was Mattie Ripkowski. Let me tell you a little bit about her and her family.
She was a first-generation, American born Polish immigrant. Back in the 1800s, the Polish community came into Texas through the Port of Galveston. They settled there while Texas was an independent country. In fact, some Poles fought at the Battle of San Jacinto where Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836.
Mattie Olbrich was born in 1896 in Texas. At the age of 17, she married Stash Ripkowski ñ both newlyweds ñ another small-town guy from New Waverly, Texas. They started raising a family, Mattie and Stash. And after several years, this was their family. Yes, Mattie Ripkowski had 16 children ñ 4 daughters and 12 sons. They were all born by natural childbirth with a midwife, except one. This whole family lived in southeast Texas on a small, 200-acre farm near Dayton, Texas.
Mattie ñ the mother, the wife ñ made sure that during the Depression all the kids never went hungry. She taught them the basics of life: true grit, a work ethic, a belief in the Almighty. They worked hard, everything from picking cotton to tending to animals to hauling corn. And every child was expected to do their work on the farm, which was self-sufficient.
When two of the Ripkowski boys got to be in high school, they were excellent football players. And you know, Mr. Speaker, Texas is known for its football teams all the way back to the 1800s. Two of them were so good that the local high school football coach, who knew that they had to work on the farm, had the school hire two farmers to take the sons place and work the farm. Then the two high school football stars could play for Dayton High School. Dayton is a small Texas town that loves football. The 5,500 people there that go to Friday night football, the stadium seats more than the entire population.
But anyway, back to the Ripkowskis. They never missed a meal. In fact, Mattie was so adamant about family that they all ate together three times a day. Now, can you imagine preparing a table three times a day for 18 people ñ 16 of them kids and 12 of them sons?
As the Depression ended, World War II came. And as World War II came, Mattie, having taught her kids service to America, all 12 of her sons joined the United States military. They served in all branches of the military. They served in either World War II or Korea, or both.