Ursula Dembski was born December 21, 1931, to Albert Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Armbruster and Hildegard Armbruster. She passed away Sunday, July 15, 2018, at Comfort House, in Pella, Iowa. She was 86. Her husband, William J. Dembski, preceded her in death by nine months.
Ursula’s parents were German. In 1924, after WWI and after the German hyperinflation of 1923, they emigrated to Shanghai, China, where Ursula was born. They resided in a German community and lived very well there. The British, French, and Germans all had communities in Shanghai. Ursula and her brother attended the Kaiser Wilhelm Schule in Shanghai.
In Shanghai, Ursula’s family watched the rise of Nazi Germany largely from a distance. They visited Germany for several months in 1936 (taking an ocean liner over the Indian Ocean and through the Suez Canal), with her parents attending the Berlin Olympics. Ursula remembered being in Tokyo in 1939 at a restaurant where guests were eagerly discussing the outbreak of WWII, which began when Germany invaded Poland, and then France and Britain declared war on Germany.
Mistakenly thinking that Germany would win WWII, Ursula’s parents decided to move back to Germany in 1941, with their children taking what was perhaps the last Trans-Siberian Railway that June. Upon arriving in Germany on that train, Hitler invaded Russia.
Her parents lost all their possessions in WWI and again in WWII. But they didn’t lose their lives, despite facing tremendous dangers. Ursula remembered one night when the Allies bombed Stuttgart and she and her mother could not get to the bunker in time. All the houses around them were razed but theirs was left standing.
Ursula and her family moved to Erlangen (a town near Nuremberg) in the early 1950s. Upon completing high school, Ursula studied to be a seamstress, becoming a master of that trade.
In 1957, Ursula met William Dembski, a Fulbright Scholar in Erlangen. They were married on July 19, 1958, in Erlangen, Germany. William A. was born in 1960, in Chicago.
In 1970, a friend and colleague of William’s from Germany encouraged Ursula to sell some artwork for him in America (drawings, prints, woodcuts by European artists). Soon enough, however, she realized that she could sell paintings by European artists found in America back in Europe. She focused on 19th and early 20th century oil paintings by German, Dutch, French, and British artists. The business did well and allowed William to retire from teaching in 1981 at age 58 (though over the coming years he helped Ursula in the business). This business prospered through the 1970s and 1980s and into the 1990s.
Becoming a Christian in 1979, Ursula prayed for and witnessed to her family. God using her efforts, they also became Christians that year.
In 1992 Ursula and William moved to Green Valley, Arizona, a retirement community about 25 miles south of Tucson. They were one of several couples from Chicago, who were all friends, that moved there. Arizona marked more of a real retirement for them. They liked the winters there, but summers were a bit hot for their taste. As a consequence, they would spend summers in Germany, usually four months at a time.
The pull to visit Germany was a consistent theme for Ursula and William. Ursula was from there and William had a lot of friends and good memories from his student days there. They would often spend summers there. This pattern continued in one form or another until the very end of their lives, when finally they were no longer able to visit Germany and Europe for health reasons.
With William’s death on October 17, 2017, it still seemed that Ursula could have some good years living in Pella. She loved Pella and so looked forward to enjoying the people and town. But the cancer, even before it was diagnosed, sapped her of energy.
Those left to cherish her memory are her son Bill, his wife Jana and their children: Chloe, John and Will, all of Pella.
In addition to her husband, Ursula was preceded in death by her parents, and her brother Albert Carl Armbruster.
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