Otto Heinrich Scholand – Part Two
Updated: Aug 12
While he was confined in the prisoner of war camp at Camp White in Oregon, Otto Scholand befriended one of the guards, Lewis Marshall, who hailed from Goodview, Virginia. They even corresponded for a brief time after the war. Lewis had an older sister, Sybil, who was an American History teacher in Vinton, Virginia, just east of Roanoke. One day, he asked Sybil if she’d like to write to his friend Otto in Germany. She said yes, and eventually, Sybil and Otto became pen pals. (Pen pals: two people who write letters to one another with some regularity; they are often people of differing nationalities or backgrounds.)
Sybil encouraged Otto to pursue his educational dreams. And, she rejoiced with him when he met and married his beloved Christel. After their wedding in 1954, the newlyweds decided they wanted to immigrate to the United States. But it wasn’t as simple as hopping on a ship and sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. They needed a sponsor, someone who would be responsible for them, and Sybil was the logical candidate. After Otto wrote to Sybil about their desire to move to America, she wrestled with many questions. Would her community in Vinton accept a German couple so soon after the war? Would Sybil be seen as a “Nazi sympathizer?” Would her family accept her decision? And what about her church family? And finally, what about Otto and Christel themselves? Were they “good people”—trustworthy—“high caliber?”
In the end, Sybil Marshall, affectionately known as Butterball to her family and close friends, said, “come.” Her brother Lewis took the train from Roanoke to New York City where he collected Otto and Christel and all their belongings after their ten-day sailing from Germany. It was August 8, 1954, exactly ten years after Otto’s capture by the Canadians in Normandy.
Otto and his bride lived with Butterball and her parents, who were in their late nineties, for a year after arriving in southwest Virginia. They learned “perfect English” from the Marshalls who were originally from South Carolina. (I can only imagine the resulting accent!) Otto found work, and Christel cared for the elderly folks. Eventually, the Scholands found their own home and raised three beautiful daughters. Several years after settling in Virginia, they became proud citizens of the United States of America.
Otto and Christel Scholand strived to live a “perfect life” because they wanted to reassure their families in Germany that they’d made the right decision to move to America. Otto opened a wood-working shop in Stewartsville, Virginia, and eventually turned to education, serving as an instructor of architectural drafting at Arnold R. Burton Vocational-Technical School in the Roanoke County School System.
The Scholand family remained close to Butterball who never married and never regretted her decision to sponsor them. They became family. Butterball (in the photo to the left with Christel and Otto) was the honored guest at the Scholand Thanksgiving table every year. She was always invited to birthday parties and piano recitals, and the girls even brought their boyfriends to her house for approval (“passing the Butterball test,” they privately called it).
Otto Scholand devoted his life to his family, his church, and his community, and was eventually awarded the coveted Americanism Medal by the Daughters of the American Revolution. He passed away on July 22, 2006 at the age of 80. In his obituary, I discovered his favorite saying in life: “A man’s true wealth is the good he does in this world.” As I wrote in My Mother's Friend about my German POW, Sergeant Horst Ebinger, I kept what I learned about Otto Scholand in the back of my mind. I even thought Horst might resemble him in some respects. During our conversation in 2016, Stefanie suggested, “If you need a character to follow for Horst, you have one in my dad.” I most certainly did.
Many thanks to Stefanie and Annamarie for giving me their blessings to write about their dad. I truly wish I could have met him.
Sally Jameson Bond is retired and lives in Southwest Virginia with her husband and two dogs. My Mother’s Friend is her first novel. You can find her web site here: www.sallyjamesonbond.com.