Iva Maurine (Rothenberger) Wirth – 2004 Inductee

Iva Maurine (Rothenberger) Wirth was born in Osborne, Osborne County, Kansas on July 16, 1925.  She was the eighth of eleven children born to Franklin LaVerne “Verne” and Iva (Claytor) Rothenberger.   While attending the University of Kansas during World War II she set two school records in track and field and was a successful pitcher in exhibition games for the men’s university baseball team in 1943, finishing with a record of 9-1.  (Because of World War II, the men’s team could not field enough players, so they let Iva and her sister Lucile play with them.  Lucile was the team’s catcher.)  Iva declined a chance to study music in Europe to instead become a teacher in Kansas.  She married Emory Wirth on May 29, 1949 and taught at schools in Osborne, Waldo, Luray, Alton, Hill City, Stockton, Colorado Springs, Denver, and Liberal in a teaching career that spanned 45 years.  In between Iva found time to be a concert vocalist in Denver, appearing at Red Rocks Ampitheatre  and other regional venues.  Iva passed away in Osborne on January 27, 2000 and was laid to rest in the Osborne Cemetery.   She joins her grandfather Franklin Antone Rothenberger as a member of the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

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Iva (Rothenberger) Wirth

2004 Osborne County Hall of Fame Induction Speech

 – Speech written and presented by Lucile (Rothenberger) Romine, sister – 

Our sister, Iva, was the solid one in our family. She had such a strong sense of right and wrong backed by her spiritual conviction that I never remember of her being in trouble. She never lost her youthful innocence. She was a deep thinker.

At the age of three, when one of the family asked her to do something, she would say, “Dat fut me goin’ to do.” That was her pattern all through life. However, one did not have to ask. She was always there.

At the age of 10, Iva got to attend Church Camp located near Downs, Kansas. The camper’s last assignment was to go out and find something that represented a Bible story. They were then to come back and each present their story to the group. Iva made the headlines. She went to the creek, caught a minnow and told the story of Jonah and the Whale.

I must tell you this story.  We were all in country school.  Iva was a 2nd grader.  Grace Minear was the teacher.  She was great!  One day four o’clock came.  Time to go home.  She told us all to put away our books but didn’t dismiss us.  She looked us all in the eye and said the bell was missing. Whoever took it to please get it and return it to her desk where it belonged.  She set down and began to grade papers. Everybody sat and all eyes searched the room for the bell. Periodically she’d reminded us that we wouldn’t be dismissed until the bell was replaced.  No one moved.  Finally at five o’clock she dismissed all the girls and kept the boys. Just before six o’clock Darrell Paschal spied the bell, so got it and put it on her desk. Everybody knew Darrell was the culprit.  Yet, he swore up and down he did not do it.  Many years later, the burden got too heavy. Iva said she was having so much fun at recess she thought if she’d hide the bell the teacher couldn’t call us in.

Iva had varied interests and was a master of many. She was an excellent athlete. Our softball career started when she was in the 8th grade. By the time she was a sophomore, she became our pitcher. She could throw a curve under-handed. Osborne girls had a winning team. On game nights we had almost the whole town up as spectators. When Pop [Iva and Lucile’s father Verne] got off work, he would come and sit just off 3rd base and watch us. One night a traveling salesman came up from the hotel and sat down beside Pop. Pop was yelling at us. Pretty soon the salesman said, “You must know these girls pretty well.”  Pop replied, “Well I should. Five of them are mine.”

The salesman jumped up and went around to the bleachers. He sidled up to one of the spectators and asked, “Do you know that old codger sitting over there?”

“Verne Rothenberger? Sure!” 

“Well, he says he has five girls playing on this team.” 

“He does – the pitcher, the catcher, the 3rd  baseman, the center fielder, and the right fielder.”

At the University of Kansas [KU] different halls got up teams and played intramurals. Tournament time came, and Miller Hall was to play for the Soft Ball Championship against the Physical Education Department All Stars. The day of the game, one of our girls couldn’t play. We either had to forfeit or find another player. We enlisted little Jo Easter. She came about to my shoulder and had never played. She was terrified and didn’t want to bat. We told her to just bend over and hold her bat on her shoulder and she’d get to walk. Iva and I coached her around the bases. Miller Hall was holding our own. Miss Hoover, head of the university’s Physical Ed Department and coach of the All Stars, was also the umpire. Iva stepped up to bat. The pitcher threw a side arm. “Strike One!” Iva looked at Miss Hoover – but quietly stepped up to bat again. Another side arm pitch. “Strike Two!” yelled Miss Hoover. Iva quietly stepped back and said, “You know she’s throwing a side arm.”  Miss Hoover got red and yelled, “Batter up!” Iva planted her feet and hit the ball square. It went straight out and hit the pitcher on her pitching hand. A big goose egg swelled up. It put the pitcher out of the game. Miller Hall won the trophy.

Iva earned a letterman’s jacket in track also while at KU.  She held the university record in the shot put for many years.

Iva was never idle. When getting her degree at KU, she worked all night at the Sunflower Ordinance Plant, 15 miles east of Lawrence, to stay in school. After graduation, she taught school in Luray, Kansas. There, her life was fulfilled when she met and married Emory Wirth. The happiest time of her life was living on their farm in the Waldo community. Tragedy struck a year and a half after their marriage. Emory died very suddenly of spinal meningitis. She went back to Lawrence to work and to help her two sisters, Jo and Rae, through their first years of college. She then went to Denver, Colorado to the Lamont School of Music and got her Masters Degree in Voice from the world’s foremost teacher, Mrs. Florence Hindman.

When Iva was up for her Masters Recital she said she wanted her sister to accompany her.  Mrs. Hindman said, “Who’s your sister?  What does she do?  Where does she live?”

Iva replied, “She’s Lucile Romine, a farmer’s wife and lives in Palco, Kansas.”

Mrs. Hindman then said, “No, you have to have the accompanist from this school.”

Iva wouldn’t budge.  Finally, Mrs. Hindman said, “Okay, but she has to come out a month before on trial.”

I walked into this huge studio with a baby in my arms, no less. I propped my babe up in the big overstuffed chair and sat down to the largest and most beautiful Steinway Grand piano I had ever seen. I ran a scale. It had a perfect touch. Mrs. Hindman said, “Le Plea” which is “the rain” in French. Iva winked at me. The introduction represented light rain on a window sill. Mrs. Hindman was enchanted. She stopped me after the intro. A complete change of atmosphere occurred. Iva had a wonderful lesson. I was accepted and during that hour and a half my babe hadn’t made a sound.

Iva won a full scholarship to go to Europe to continue her studies to become a Concert Artist.  Love for her family was instrumental in her decision to decline and continue her career in the teaching field.

Besides vocal, Iva was also an accomplished pianist and a cellist. She played cello in the Osborne High School Orchestra and also in the KU Orchestra.

My unique sister had a wit that would turn everyone inside out. One example was when we all were first married. One time Iva and Emory, our brother Pete and his wife Gladys, and my husband Richard and I all went pheasant hunting. It was the girls’ job to be the dogs and scare up the pheasants. So, off we went into this thicket patch. It was so thick, tall, and tangled we could hardly move. All of a sudden, Iva stopped in her tracks and remarked, “Huh!  I’ve graduated!  I’m not a dog anymore.  I’m a BULLDOZER!”

Many summers she helped us on the farm – working cattle, fixing fence, gathering bales, driving tractors, and stacking hay. Once my husband Richard Romine got the alfalfa bales about six inches longer which made them heavy as lead. Iva devised a plan. We’d stack six bales and then we would have the Seventh Day of Rest.

Every summer Iva worked in the office of the “House of Prayer for All People” in Denver, Colorado.  She studied under an internationally known evangelist, Mr. William L. Blessing. Iva was a devoted student of Theology. She read the Bible through five times – once aloud, and was on her sixth time at the time of her death.

Iva was soloist at many of the large churches in Denver.  However, she would never accept pay.  There was no way she would accept money to use the talent God gave her in His place of worship.

Even at the age of 45, Iva’s ball playing career was not over.  The towns of Palco and Damar in Kansas had a women’s team.  Tournament time came.  They heard that Iva and I had once been a battery so asked us to play with them.  Iva and I went to a practice.  They put us in.  Iva lobbed several practice pitches in and then, “Batter Up!”  The manager of the team got up to bat.  She was a cute little vixen.  She stepped up to the plate, waved her bat in the air and wiggled her bottom as she took her stance. Iva fired one in and it hit my glove before she saw it. She dropped her bat and yelled, “NOW, NONE OF THAT!”  The spectators roared . . . .  We went to the Tournament in Hill City, Kansas the next night. They wouldn’t put us in. The score was 15-2. At the bottom of the 3rd inning, their husbands made them put us in. The crowd came alive. 3 up, 3 down. Iva held them. Our team ran in 11 scores but lost 13-15. We hung up our gloves.

Throughout her forty-five year teaching career, Iva taught both instrumental and vocal music in grades first through twelfth in Osborne, Luray, Waldo, Alton, Hill City, and Stockton, Kansas. In Waldo, she also taught English and Commerce. She then moved back to the state of Colorado where she taught junior high vocal music in the Broadmoor District in Colorado Springs, Colorado for four years. She returned to Kansas, teaching grades kindergarten through sixth her last twenty-nine years at McDermott and South Lawn schools in Liberal, Kansas, where she retired from teaching education. She was a life member of Delta Kappa Gamma Teachers Fraternity and held multiple offices.

During Iva’s forty-five years of teaching she only used her accumulated sick leave once. She was operated on for cancer and had cobalt treatments in Wichita. Although she was gone four months, her students never forgot her. She received letters every week from whole classes and many individuals. She only had three months sick leave accumulated. The faculty went together and each donated part of their sick leave to Iva to cover the fourth month. She was never docked a penny on her salary for this absence.

Iva kept our family together by her faithful correspondence to each and every one of us. We all looked forward to her weekly letters. Many times there was a check of love included that came at the most opportune times. She had such a Big Heart. Her gifts of love included nieces and nephews and even extended to their families. It didn’t make any difference as to what was needed – her time, her car, or a helping hand – she was always there.

Iva’s happiness was the giving of herself, whether it was concerting at Red Rocks in Colorado, soloing in various churches for the Glory of God, singing in our family choir or in the trio with her sisters, playing cello in the high school and college orchestras, playing piano, participating in sports, baby sitting, teaching, playing dominoes with her grandfather or talking with an elderly friend, spending prime time with her nephews, going fishing with her father or just doing things with and for both her Mom and Dad.  She was the solid, quiet one – unique in every way.

It gives me great honor to officially induct Iva Wirth into the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

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Iva pitching while at the University of Kansas.
Iva Wirth in later years.
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