Catherine Burghart, 105, passed away October 3, 2017 at Lexington Park Assisted Living. She remained active in her own home until April 2017. She was born in Hiltman, Sartow, Russia, on March 13, 1912, the daughter of John and Barbara (Beier) Geist.
Catherine’s ancestors from Germany settled along the Volga River under land grants from Catherine the Great. They had their own schools, churches, villages and local officials. But that all changed when the Bolshevik Government took over after the czar was deposed.
In the fall of 1921 the government took all their crops, leaving them only what was hidden. It was not enough. One December morning Catherine, her brother Joe, and sister Ann with their father, grandmother and 13 other families (her mother was dead) were gone when the sun came up. They traveled to Minsk near the Polish border where they were denied entrance to Poland. One cold night, leaving everything behind they entered a forest and walked all night and found their way into Poland only to be picked up by the Polish Border Patrol. They were told they were to be returned to Russia. After pleading with the Polish Government to stay and that they would be shot if they returned they were told they must leave Poland and there would be no aid. So they set out to walk to Germany. The only food they had was what people gave them along the way. A young priest who had lived near them as a boy was on duty in Germany and learned of their plight. He helped settle them in a former World War I prisoner of war camp at Frankfort-on-Odor and helped arrange with the Beier family in Topeka for them to come to the United States arriving at Ellis Island on November 19, 1922.
Catherine was a member of Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church where she was a member of the Ladies Altar Society and a Charter Member of Ladies of Columbus. Following the death of her husband she volunteered serving funeral dinners where she made many lasting friends. She had worked at Morrell’s and Coca Cola Bottling Company.
She married Paul Burghart on June 25, 1936. He preceded her in death on March 12, 1981. Survivors include her daughter, Doris and son-in-law, Mark Mohan, two grandchildren, Steve (Kim) and Janine Mohan, six great-grandchildren, Michael, Kaitlyn and Matthew Mohan, Danielle, Zachary (Hannah) and Ashley Smith along with two nephews, Joe (Tom Yancey) Geist, Bob Geist, two nieces, Dorothy Burghart and Barbara Burghart. She was also preceded in death by a granddaughter Julie Mohan, a sister Ann Boggs, a brother Joe Geist, and a stepbrother Phil Rolsing.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 1:00 p.m. Friday at Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church. The family will greet friends from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. prior to the service where a Parish Rosary will be prayed at 12:30 p.m. Burial will follow in Mount Calvary Cemetery.
Memorial contributions are suggested to Ministry to Aging at Most Pure Heart of Mary or to the St. Joseph Catholic Church renovation fund, sent in care of Brennan-Mathena Funeral Home, 800 SW 6th Avenue, Topeka, KS 66603.
Fond memories and condolences may be left at www.brennanmathenafh.com.