A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Pauline Brehmer

A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Pauline Brehmer

Pauline Brehmer is a remarkable woman who has lived for 100 years, witnessing significant historical events and changes throughout her life. She experienced World War II firsthand, and her life story showcases how to face adversity.

At the age of 17, Brehmer married Bernard Zimnawoda amid the war. Brehmer and her husband built a life together and were blessed with six children and multiple grandchildren. Among them are Kristine Pilewski, the oldest granddaughter; Thomas Zimnawoda, her son; and Gloria Zimnawoda, her daughter-in-law.

The war and the challenges she faced throughout her life molded her into the remarkable person and mother she is today.

“To think of the strength she must have had to go back and get her high school diploma, work a job, and keep her children keep her family heads above water,” said Pilewski. “We have her as a role model of strength and faith. She believes in the golden rule, ‘Treat people the way you want to be treated.’”      

Discipline and faith were significant values in her life, as Brehmer ensured she and her children attended church regularly.

“She's a very faithful person as her church was fundamental to her,” said Pilewski. “We lived right across the street from our church, and that distance was important, as religion and faith in God have been shared by all of us—grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and her children as well.”

Brehmer understood that regular church attendance would help them receive community support that would sustain them through life's challenges.

“All six children were raised in the Catholic Church, ensuring they attended church every Sunday,” said Zimnawoda. “She would always ensure they had freshly ironed white shirts to wear before heading off to church on Sundays. All the kids would gather with excitement, dressed appropriately, ready to share laughter and joy as they attended the service.”

Brehmer instilled the values of hard work and discipline as equally she did to her faith. She did not accept shortcuts or excuses; instead, she remained steadfast, putting her head down and working hard for her successes.

“She ensured that her sons and daughters received training after high school so that they could secure jobs capable of providing for themselves and their families,” said Pilewski. “This investment has had a lasting impact as myself, my cousins, and our children, have been able to lead fulfilling lives. It provided them with the choice to pursue higher education or enter the skilled trades, enabling them to find careers that not only sustain their families but also align with their personal passions. She worked tirelessly, not accepting any handouts and relying on her own efforts to provide for herself.”

Brehmer loves spending time with her children and grandchildren as they bring her immense joy and are among her most treasured experiences. Recently she saw all of them when celebrating her 100th birthday at the Lincoln Community Center in Highland. 

“I would say from my perspective, she was excited to have all of her children, her grandchildren, great-grandchildren there from all across the country,” said Pilewski “She was very excited as about 81 people were there to help celebrate with her.” 

The bond that Brehmer shares with her family is unparalleled. They hold cherished memories with her that they will never forget.

“She always emphasized holidays, especially Christmas as it was always a grand celebration at her house,” said Zimnawoda “Everybody came on Christmas Eve, and she never missed calling us on our birthdays. She never missed sending a birthday card and you could count on receiving a birthday call from her first thing in the morning. Family meant so much to her that she saved every note and cherished every little moment.”

As of now, Brehmer is managing quite well. Her strength is an inspiration to her family, and it continues to inspire them every day.