The story began on a family farm in Ohio in the mid-1950s . . . but I didn’t know that yet. For me, it started with an e-mail received out of the blue.
From: Melinda Bell
Subject: Letter from 1956
Hello, my family received a cow named Daisy in Germany from your 7th & 8th grade department in 1956. We would like to know if there is anyone in your church from the Hodson family still and would like to known if you have members that remember sending Daisy to my grandparents. We would love to share our story with the generosity of those children. My grandfather was Ferdinand Böhm and my mom is Edith Böhm. My brother has the original letters from your church. I look forward to hearing from you.
When I was a student at Bethany Seminary many years ago, Michael Hodson was one of my supervisors for a chaplaincy internship at the Brethren Home Community in Greenville, Ohio. I wondered if Mike would know anything about a heifer named Daisy.
Subject: FW: Letter from 1956
Hello Mike, greetings! I hope this finds you doing well! I am writing to send a copy of the following e-mail that I received from a woman whose grandparents received a heifer in Germany in 1956 from a 7th and 8th grade class with help from the Hodson family. She is looking for members of that family to connect with, and share their story. Do you know if your branch of the Hodson family is the same branch that would have been involved in the gift of the cow Daisy to the Ferdinand and Elfriede Böhm family in Germany in 1956?
It wasn’t long before I got a reply.
From: Michael Hodson
Subject: Re: Letter from 1956
If my memory is accurate, Daisy was a heifer from our farm in Southern Ohio. If so, she was donated by my dad and raised on our farm until starting for Germany. She was selected from the heifer calves born to one of our 12 to 18 Holstein dairy cows while we were living on Little Richmond Road, Trotwood, Ohio. My parents did have correspondence from the family, but I do not remember any copy of the correspondence when we cleared their home after dad died in February, 2010. I will look through photographs and papers from my parents’ home. At one time we had a photograph of the heifer and the family in Germany. I will share more if/ when I find anything. Greater certainty could be established if Melinda has any first names from the Hodson family. I am glad to communicate with Melinda. You may share my email address. What a surprise, I am touched by your email.
The only Hodson I knew was indeed part of the family who raised Daisy! Mike and his wife, Barbara, began researching family records. He shared with me how exciting it was that his parents had a part in providing a heifer to this German family.
From: Michael Hodson
Subject: Re: Letter from 1956 # 2
After research available in our home—I have better information. First the heifer (Daisy) was brought to our farm to be raised until time to ship her. This heifer was one of several heifers sponsored and sent by the Trotwood Church of the Brethren over a period of years. My parents were early and ongoing supporters of Heifer Project with cattle and financial support. Some Heifer Project material collected by Barbara is located at the Brethren Heritage Center, Brookville, Ohio. I will go to Brookville and see if there is more information, etc. regarding Daisy.
It was time to let Melinda know that I had found the Hodsons who raised Daisy so many years ago. Mike and Melinda kept me in their e-mail loop, and I received copies of some of their notes back and forth. I almost felt in the way, like a stranger at a family reunion.
From: Michael Hodson
Subject: Re: Letter from 1956 #3
Members of the family who received the heifer, Daisy, and I are communicating by email. The most recent email is from Edith Böhm Sartain, a daughter of the family receiving Daisy. Her story is an amazing description of her family being forced from their home by the Czech Government with 50 pounds of essentials and then the very special gift of Daisy to her father whose cows and horses were taken from him by the Czech Government. It is a touching story. “Thank you” seems too small to convey how deeply I am affected by this discovery and sharing.
For some months, I lost track of the story. Then, early this summer, I had a chance to meet with Mike and talk in person.
He told me about his parents, Harold and Alberta Hodson, who for many decades were dedicated supporters of Heifer Project when it was a Church of the Brethren program, and continued supporting it as Heifer International, and encouraged their congregations’ support as well.
The Hodsons raised many heifers in addition to Daisy. They started raising and sharing cows for Heifer Project in the late 1940s. Mike was the oldest of their five children, and remembers helping to feed and care for the animals. Their first Heifer gifts were Shorthorns that went to Bolivia. After World War II they raised animals for Europe.
From 1985 to 1991 they worked with Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Kettering, Ohio, where Mike was pastor, to raise two Maine Anjou beef heifers each year for a poverty-stricken area of Kentucky. In the mid-1990s they continued to raise animals for families in Kentucky, working with the children of Eversole Church of the Brethren in New Lebanon, Ohio. In earlier years the family also raised a heifer for Messiah Church of the Brethren, a church plant started by Trotwood (Ohio) Church of the Brethren. After retiring and selling the last of their cattle, they continued to donate money to Heifer International.
Daisy was eight weeks old when she came to the Hodson farm in June 1953. She was born April 1 that year—an April Fool’s baby. At the time, Mike’s parents were leaders of the Heifer Project Committee of the Trotwood congregation. Church members helped provide heifers for Europe, and the committee received donations of six heifers. Two were purchased by Sunday school classes. John Shellbarger taught the class that sponsored Daisy. Mike gave me documents related to Daisy’s story, including a copy of a letter his father wrote to the Böhm family in January 1956.
Dear Mr. Ferdinand Böhm and Family:
We were very glad to receive the Christmas greeting from your family. I am sorry that we did not receive the English letter.
I want to explain to you about Daisy. The intermediate boys and girls of the Trotwood Church of the Brethren gave enough money to buy Daisy when she was 8 weeks old. The intermediate boys and girls are children that are in the 7th, 8th, and 9th grades in school. They gave $75.00 with which I bought Daisy. Our family raised her until she was ready to send to you. She will be three years old the 1st of April. How much milk did she give a day as a heifer? What was the calf a heifer, or a bull? She looked like she was going to be a large cow. Our children were very fond of her they used to put a rope on her and lead her around from the time we bought her until we sent her.
We have four boys Michael 16, Ronald 14, Lynn 9, and Dennis 6 and a little girl Karen 2 years old. We live on a farm of 200 acres. We have nineteen milk cows mostly Holsteins, some Ayrshires. Our herd give from 10,000 pounds to 18,000 pounds per cow a year. Our biggest problem is to get heifer calves. We only get two or three heifers a years that is the reason we bought Daisy. . . .
May God bless you and your family. We pray that Daisy will produce many heifers and an abundance of milk for you.
Harold Hodson and family
As a teenager on a farm where Daisy was just one more heifer to care for, Mike had no idea of the meaning of the gift given by his family, and his church. It is only now, he told me, that he understands the significance of a heifer for the Böhms.
“We were doing something that’s everyday,” he said of his family’s end of this story. “You never know, on the other end, what a gift will mean.
“It was a healing thing.”
From: Edith Sartain
Subject: Daisy, a gift to my family in Germany 1956
Let me introduce myself first of all, I am Edith Böhm Sartain the mother of Melinda who recently was put in touch with you in regards to the Heifer Project administered by the Church of the Brethren, the year was 1956. Through the Generosity and the love of helping someone in need by the members of the Church and its Sunday School children my father Ferdinand Böhm was chosen to receive the Heifer named Daisy.
I am somewhat at a loss just how this event transpired and what the qualifications were to be chosen as I was a mere 14 years old, but what I can tell you certainly is how grateful my parents were for this extraordinary gift from so far away by a people that cared.
Our family had lived in what was known as the Sudetenland up until the Expulsion of all German Nationals by the Czech Government in an ethnic cleansing as it was called at the end of WWII. It did not matter that the 100,000 plus German Population had lived there for many Generations and built the Region into a thriving industrial Area. The Sudetenland became part of what is now known as the Czech Republic (formerly known as Czechoslovakia).
As our Family was forced to leave the only home they ever knew all of their possessions were confiscated by the Czechs and they could only take with them a mere 50 lbs. of essentials for the family
My father passed away in 1973 at the age of 64. [In a follow up e-mail Edith shared that her mother passed away in 2015, at age 97.] My mother used to tell us (I have 3 sisters) that the only time she ever saw our father cry was when some Czechs came and took his cows and horses away it broke his heart.
Receiving Daisy from the Church of the Brethren Members was very special to my father and I want you to know he pampered her always. I recall that Daisy produced an unequaled amount of milk and my parents were able to have a daily milk pickup done early in the morning by a Dairy for processing this provided much needed additional income for the family.
I also carry a vivid image of my father leading Daisy across the Highway to a Farm with a bull when it was time for her to breed and how thrilled he would be each time when a new calf was born.
This act of kindness by the American People endeared them to me at this early stage in my life, I fell in love with anything American. So it was no surprise that I would also meet and marry an American. That took place in 1960. I came here in 1961 and was sworn in as a brand new US Citizen Sept. 27, 1963 in Los Angeles, Calif. . . .
So you see Daisy was responsible for many things in our lives. The gift of her to our family by the Church of the Brethren members involved in the Heifer Project helped our family to rebuild their shattered lives and she awakened in me a love for this Nation and its people which I can now proudly call my people and my Country.
Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren, and associate editor for Messenger. She also is an ordained minister and a graduate of Bethany Seminary and the University of La Verne, Calif.