Two weeks ago, this column focused on two women relatively new to the German Village Society and its preservation activities: Cheryl Hacker, the new chair of the German Village Society Historic Preservation Committee, and Lisa Atkins Case, the new German Village commissioner.

Two weeks ago, this column focused on two women relatively new to the German Village Society and its preservation activities: Cheryl Hacker, the new chair of the German Village Society Historic Preservation Committee, and Lisa Atkins Case, the new German Village commissioner.

This week, two other women are particularly noteworthy -- not for their current efforts, but for the work they did decades ago on the society's behalf. They are Shirley Kientz and Dorothy Fischer.

German Village lost a kindred spirit with the recent passing of Shirley Kientz, a nearly lifelong resident. Shirley and her husband, Phil, were institutions not just on their block of Fifth Street, but in the neighborhood as a whole. They brought talents, willingness to work and compassion to the village and we are better for it.

While most people seemed to know more about Mr. Kientz, Shirley was without question the woman behind the man. He made his reliance upon and devotion to her clear when we sat down for a chat before he passed several years ago. Shirley was the family matriarch in one of German Village's oldest families and she wanted nothing but the best for her family. That desire came through in her efforts to revitalize a neighborhood that she loved and that was seeing new light in the 1950s and 60s.

Shirley helped organize early society tours (though she questioned the decision to sell tickets for $1 because she asked "who would pay?"), opened her doors to hastily assembled neighborhood meetings and even worked at the Meeting Haus to keep the volunteer-run office organized. There were many cooks in the kitchen in those days and Shirley worked to keep everything easy to find.

Shirley and Phil's presence served as a reminder of what our neighborhood had been and what it could be. Their residency on Fifth Street reminded our elected board of trustees of the tremendous uncertainty the earliest society members faced when deciding to improve the neighborhood. Their presence reminded residents of our roots and how important it is that we share them.

Shirley lives on through her children and her vision for the neighborhood lives on though the German Village Society. After 50 years, the GVS is still committed to the earliest ideals that Shirley and others mapped out for the South End neighborhood.

Dorothy Fischer, who passed away several years ago, was a contemporary of Shirley's. Like the Kientz family, the Fischers were longtime residents of the German Village, though they lived a little farther north and a few blocks west.

Dorothy was an early society board officer, group tour leader and volunteer extraordinaire. She and her husband, Ralph, were responsible for the "Fischer Archives," which grew from a collection of photographs Ralph took in the early days of the village's revitalization.

Reviewing Ralph's photos and slides can be excruciating. They feature shot after shot of people lined up in front of Haus und Garten Tour homes. Needless to say, they can be a little taxing to examine.

However, they are an incredible resource. The photos show what houses looked like before and after they were restored. They show when homes were on the tour and what the streetscape looked like that year. I have dated more than a handful by checking the year on license plates shown in the photos.

Most of all, Ralph's photos reveal the incredible pride that he and Dorothy took in the neighborhood. For what other reason would they have taken all of these photos, and why would people like John Clark -- the GVS volunteer who photographs street scenes and events -- work so hard to keep that up today? The answer: Pride in their homes, pride in their friendships and pride in the accomplishments of their neighbors and the civic association to which they felt so akin.

I did a lot of strolling while I worked at the Meeting Haus and I always associated homes with their owners rather than with their physical address. In my mind, Fifth and Kossuth will always belong to the Kientz family and the little cottage just south of Katzinger's will always belong to the Fischers. Talk about leaving a legacy behind.

Without people like Shirley Kientz and Dorothy Fischer, German Village would simply be just another neighborhood. They didn't do what they did to be remembered or revered in the future, but to ensure the neighborhood they loved remained true to its roots and honored its history. Thanks to them, we're doing just that.

Jody Graichen is director of historical reservation programs for the German Village Society.

Jody

Graichen