Former ECH Staff Member and Resident Become Donors, Reunite After Almost 60 Years

Rita (Pollman) Masters, Allen Boemer, and Cheryl Boemer, one of the two Boemer children that Rita babysat.

What began as an appreciation luncheon by an Every Child’s Hope staff member for some of ECH’s out-of-state donors at the historic Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Marlborough, Mass., turned into a reunion of two families that had not seen each other in nearly 60 years.

While planning the gathering, Every Child’s Hope’s (ECH) Chief Development Officer Sherry Gerke was stunned when she unintentionally discovered the connection between the two families. Gerke was preparing to meet with the Allen Boemer Family, who live in Massachusetts. Since she would already be traveling to Massachusetts, she reached out to Rita Masters, another donor who also lives in the area. This led Gerke to invite the Masters family to join her and the Boemer family for lunch.

The history of the two families is one of remarkable ECH connections. In the late 1800s, when ECH — based in St. Louis — was an orphanage, Allen Boemer’s grandfather, Charles Schaeffer, and his great aunt, Margaret Schaeffer, lived at the St. Charles Rock Road ECH campus. Years later, as newlyweds, Allen and his young wife, Lois, made contact with ECH while they were looking for jobs.

From 1956 to 1962, Allen and Lois Boemer served as house parents to the boys of ECH cottage #6. While Allen worked on completing his college education at Washington University, Lois served as the primary house parent. Lois later became the agency’s first public relations staff member, which became a lifelong career field for her. (Lois passed away in 2020.)

ECH’s Sherry Gerke, Cheryl Boemer, Rita (Pollman) Masters, Bob Masters, and Allen Boemer.

The couple welcomed their first two daughters, Susan and Cheryl, while living on the ECH campus. With full work schedules, school, and raising two young children, they turned to teenager Rita (Pollman) Masters, an ECH resident, to babysit their girls from time to time.

Rita and her sisters lived at ECH for 10 years in the ’50s and ’60s. She said that some of her fondest memories while living at ECH include the Boemers and their children. Rita also had a close relationship with the daughter of Victor Hauck, who served as ECH superintendent for more than 30 years.

Neither Allen nor Rita knew the other lived in such close proximity to one another. Who would have thought that the life journeys of these two families would lead them 30 miles from each other in a state more than 1,000 miles from St. Louis?

The luncheon was a wonderful opportunity for the two to learn about progress on the Youth Development Center construction project and current ECH highlights. However, the most powerful part of the experience was the reunion of a former client and former house parent for the first time in decades.

This article originally appeared in ECH’s Everyday Hope newsletter, Fall 2022 issue. Reprinted with permission.

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