Marleen Geyen
3 min readJul 28, 2021

Three women who shaped the person I am today

I read a true story about a single woman who rode her horse from Maine to California in the 1950s. One woman, 2 horses, and a dog traversed roads unknown to see the Pacific Ocean. It is an unforgettable story that steered me in wanting to learn more about the women in my life who came before me.

The first complication I discovered is that women do not talk about themselves all that much, at least not in my lineage. I probed my Mother with questions about her early life, marriage, and daily thoughts. Her one continued response was: we don’t talk about that, or it’s over, and there is no need to bring it up. WHAT! Ok, now it was time for me to go off-script and dig. I discovered more about these beautiful women through photos and writings, and I was not above prying questions.

My maternal grandmother, Bertha Loch Peitz, married, had a family, raised chickens, sold eggs, worked at grading tobacco leaves. In today’s language, we would use these labels representing her adult life: A partner in Peitz Farm, a Poultry Vendor, and a Controller at Tobacco Plant.

Grandma Peitz was a woman with a significant presence, always dressed with a flowered apron; she loved playing cards. Steady, tenacious, and with a ready smile and willingness to enter into any conversation. My Mom earnestly reminds me that Grandma Peitz had a tough life; I am thankful she stuck with it and showed up and was the Mother my Mom admired.

My paternal grandmother was my step-grandmother; Ida Grotz Broll married my grandfather when his first wife passed, leaving him with two children. Ida brought a daughter into the marriage, and they had a daughter together. A real yours, mine and our family. The mystery of Ida’s daughter remained just that a secret; this was one of the times where my Mom told me, “we don’t talk about it.” I was close to my Grandma Ida Broll; we spent a lot of time together in her later years. She was a tiny woman, barely 4'4". Her business was Gardener and Garden Stand Vendor in that she planted, weeded, and managed a garden and sold pints of raspberries and bags of vegetables every summer. This woman had a brutal introduction to adulthood, unmarried with a daughter, then married and inherited two stepchildren (who were profoundly mourning their Mother’s passing) and then giving birth to another child. Managing all of that, kids, housework, gardening, vendors, it had to be tough. One thought to remember is that this was in the 1920s. The Code of Silence for women was alive and active in our country.

And lastly, I want to highlight my Mom in just a few sentences. Dolores Peitz Broll married young, had 11 children, Partner, and Administrator in Broll Farm, Saleswoman, Poultry, Egg Vendor, Board Member, Non-Profit Organizer.

When Mom tells stories of her growing up years, she always comments on the weather and the work. I believe that is because she was raised on a farm and spent a large share of her adult life managing a farm. It’s in her blood. Weather and Work.

There is so much I could say about my Mom’s life. But, the thread that runs through my memories is steady and tenacious, keeping on by keeping on, just like her Mom! I would also add encourager and cheerleader. No matter what crazy idea I come up with or business plan or travel destination, my Mom is on board and seeing the benefit in the doing.

So there you go, my two grandmothers and my Mom were huge influences as I was growing up, and in a nutshell, I wrote about them here. There are certainly more questions that are calling for an answer.

Grandma Peitz, why did she choose employment in a tobacco plant? Grandma Broll, how did she speak up in her marriage? Mom, why couldn’t we have pets in the house when we were little kids?

Gratitude fills me as I write the real stories of the women in my family who didn’t give up, give in or give away their strength and loyalty to family. Today, I am thankful.


Marleen with Gray Hair



Marleen Geyen

The best part of me shows up in my writing about business ownership, leadership, family, personal relationships, travel and what I learn from human interaction.