The Wall Street Crash of October 29, 1929 started a massive economic downturn now called The Great Depression. To make things worse, the drought of the century hit the Midwestern section of the United States in the midst of the 1930’s, blasting the farm economy in the nation’s mid-section to near collapse. Many businesses were unable to make it through the 1930’s, yet with the help of God and the perseverance of one determined man, both Waldo’s family and Boller Furniture survived the storms.
Read more about Waldo and his work with Boller Furniture Company here.
As it can be in many father-son business relationships, it was very difficult for Waldo’s father, D.J., founder of Boller Furniture (1896), to truly delegate and relinquish control over to his son. During the darkest days of the Depression, this added family tension took its toll on Waldo. Between the internal pressure he felt to keep the business going, plus the strain of working under the watchful and sometimes unyielding eye of his father, the pressures caused Waldo to be very susceptible to hopelessness and despair. Like many others during the worst of moments, Waldo turned to alcohol to ease his stress and pain.
During this time, Waldo not only kept his business afloat, he also served his community as secretary of the Wayland schools, secretary, board member and chairman of the Community Club, plus he held various leadership positions in the Mennonite Church of Wayland. In truth, while Waldo battled his own demons of depression and alcohol, he was also an active member of his church choir and other civic quartets in which he sang baritone. In other words, he sang his way through his troubles!
This glowing tribute was given to Waldo in 1941…
“(Waldo’s) unselfishness and devotion in cooperating and assuming leadership for many of the improvements in Wayland and surrounding community makes all citizens here, in anyway connected with these various civic betterments and improvements, bow in honor as well as in sorrow to the memory of a man who played so important a part in the inception of these progressive institutions.
Sadly, under the veil of poor health and with his nerves brittle-thin, Waldo E. Boller succumbed to a premature death at age 57 on November 22, 1941.
The Wayland News printed a glowing obituary for Waldo in November, 1941, just a handful of days prior to Pearl Harbor which brought the United States into WWII.
My father George, who loved his dad very much, wrote these kind words about his father in a letter to his mother, Olive, written on March 10, 1945 – just one week before George’s marriage to Dixie Boyer…
Let me interject, if I may, some personal insight at this time. I did not have the great honor of meeting my grandfather, Waldo Emerson Boller. His premature death preceded my birth by ten years. Unfortunately, my father, George, never talked much to our family about his father, Waldo and his relationship with him. Obviously, my dad was hurt for the way his father had to suffer during his life. Many times in our pain, we look for a person or a place to shoulder the responsibility for that pain and obviously my father blamed his grandfather for most of his dad’s struggles. Being a father of four children myself, I know it can be very difficult at times for a father to completely bless and release his children, letting them “make it or break it” on their own. Apparently, for father, Daniel, and son, Waldo, there were on-going family tensions that, I would guess, made life very difficult for both of them at times. Add in the immense outside pressures of the Great Depression and the Midwestern Dust-Bowl and we have a formula for failure and pain.
The words my father used when he wrote about his late father to his mother are full of life and passion. I found myself in tears when I first read them. You see, I don’t ever remember a time when my father was ever able to clearly communicate to us the strong emotions found in his written words. I regret that he was unable to talk about his pain and shame concerning his father, but what’s even more disappointing is that he was equally unable to share with us his even greater love and support for his father that I see written in his letter.
I simply cannot close these writings on Waldo and Olive, without mentioning a few thoughts about an equally strong woman of God – Olive Alice (Hulme) Boller.
Click here to read more about the Hulme family.
My grandmother lived nearly thirty more years after Waldo passed in 1941, and most of those years were in Wayland, leaving there only when ill-health took her from her long-time home (1968). I have many sweet memories of spending time with my grandmother Olive. She was a very strong follower of Christ and I thank God for her willingness to tell me about the Bible and her personal encounters with Jesus of Nazareth. I’m so thankful this Methodist farm gal married into my long-time Mennonite family!
Here’s Olive (above left) with her father Hiram H. Hulme (circa 1940’s) who lived with Olive during his final years. (Above right) The Hulme children lined-up at the 1963 family reunion in Mt. Pleasant – Olive, Max, Harold, Sam.
I’m so appreciative of Olive Boller’s willingness to stay close to Jesus during her dark hours, allowing her to finish strong to the end of her days. After a few months of living with our family in Iowa City, she transitioned into a nursing home where she passed quietly at age 82 on December 20, 1969.
Along with The Wayland News obituary (above left), here’s Waldo and Olive’s home as it appears today on East Main Street in Wayland. Dang, I wish they’d left the front porch as it was originally built. Lots of great memories swinging with family on Grandma’s porch swing!
As future Boller generations read Our Boller Story, I encourage you strongly to never be so ashamed of your failures or disappointments that you are unable to talk those feelings out with your family. Our Boller Story is like any other family story. We have great victories to talk about but we also need to discuss our failings and times of defeat as well. It’s my hope that you will learn from Our Boller Story and never be ashamed or fearful of opening up your feelings about your life experiences to each other. As I understand it, that’s one of the reasons God brought family together, so we can both celebrate our joys and walk out our pain hand-in-hand, trusting that God will bring us through it all.
Waldo and Olive are buried in the Boller section of North Hill Cemetery on the northern outskirts of Wayland, Iowa. Their two children, Kathyrn Anna, and my father, George, are buried there as well. Here’s a tip of the old hat and a big Thank You to Waldo & Olive Boller. Great job in living and loving. Godspeed!
Waldo E. Boller (1884-1941), Olive Alice (Hulme) Boller (1887-1969)
Kathyrn Anna Boller (1916-1916), George E. Boller (1921-1994)
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.
Waldo Boller obituary, Mt. Pleasant News, November 24, 1941, p 4
Waldo Boller obituary, Quad Cities Times, November 26, 1941, p 13
Waldo Emerson Boller, Find-A-Grave
Olive Boller – Delta Alpha Class, Wayland Mennonite Church – Diamond Jubilee – 1900-1975
Mrs. Olive Boller 82 Died at Iowa City, Wayland News, December 25, 1969, p 1
Card of Thanks, Wayland News, January 1, 1970, p 6
Olive Alice Hulme Boller, Find-A-Grave
Kathryn Anna Boller, Find-A-Grave
Click here to go on to Boller Generation Five.