Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Spotlight: Sabine Heller

Sabine around 1941
As Opa was seeking placement in a school, there were many other refugee students that Charlotte Salmon at the American Friends Service Committee was working to place. Sabine Heller was a name that pops up on both April 21, 1939 and May 9, 1939. Sabine was in the country at that point, but was seeking a scholarship. In the two letters we have, Charlotte was pushing for Sabine as an option to consider.

Sabine was one of the cases where I was able to find a relative and they were so gracious to share a bit about Sabine for you to know what became of her after these files. Much thanks to Michael Casten and below is the spotlight he gave for his mom, Sabine. 

Sabine in 1944 from her yearbook
Sabine A. Heller was born in Heidelberg, Germany on June 8, 1922. She was born into a family of 5 with her mother and father, sister (Ruth) and brother (Peter). Her ancestry included Jewish heritage from one side of her parents. 

Sabine's mother was a historian/university professor and her father was a pediatrician. Living in Germany in the 1930's became dangerous for the Jewish people and her parents feared for their children. 

To ensure their children's safety, Sabine's parents sent her to England to a boarding school to finish her High School education. 

In about 1940, after she finished High School in England she became associated with the Brethren and Manchester College in Indiana. John and Margaret Metzler took her in as they volunteered for her to live with them during the summers and college holidays. Sabine graduated from this college in 1944 with a B.A. degree. 

Sabine furthered her education by pursuing a graduate degree at Purdue, completing all the coursework but never completing her thesis for reasons unknown. 

Living in Chicago at the YWCA on Oak Street, Sabine became a chemistry professor at the University of Illinois, Navy Pier Campus. This is where she met her future husband, Chris Casten. 

They were married and lived in the Austin neighborhood where they had their first child, Julia Casten (1960-2008). Four years later they had their first son, Andrew Casten (born 1964). Chris went to medical school and became a doctor. The Casten family moved to Oak Park living on Highland Avenue where they had their last child, Michael Casten (born 1967). 

The Casten family then moved to Forest Avenue in Oak Park in 1971. Moving once again to Steven’s Point, WI in 1975. They only spent one year in Steven’s Point when they moved back to the Chicago area (River Forest) in 1976 (Keystone Avenue then Monroe Avenue). This was to be the final address for Sabine. 

While Chris worked as a doctor, Sabine tutored students in chemistry. Both Chris and Sabine had a passion for antiques and Sabine eventually had her own business dealing in antiques (The Lace Collection). 

Sabine lived a long full life, never wavered from her convictions, and held her head high in pride in the midst of much adversity over her lifetime. She died from a glial blastoma (Brain tumor) with dignity and surrounded by her children on June 25, 2008 at the age of 86.

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