Nancy Burkenroad was one of the ten children of Fanny Schwabacher and Henry Burkenroad. Born in Goodman, Mississippi, when Nan was 12 years old, her mother died of a ruptured appendix. Her father, an immigrant from Wehrda in Hessen, Germany, was a soldier in the Mexican War, an itinerant peddler in Texas, Mississippi, Canada. and Louisiana, placed Nancy, Willie, and Stella in St. Joseph’s Convent in Marshall, Texas. The nuns were kind to Nan. Since she and her sister and brother were Jewish children, the nuns respected their father’s request — they didn’t have to attend mass. After she graduated, from the convent, Nancy moved to New Orleans. There her older sister Sadie taught Nan to type so that she could get a job.
When Nan was 23, she chose among three suitors Lewis Scherck to be her husband. He admired her sensible attitude, her trim figure, her thick wavy brown hair that she brushed a hundred times each morning — he loved her. Nan thought that Lewis had a good future. He had graduated from Tulane University and hoped to become a lawyer. His mother, Esther Marks was born in Charleston, South Carolina to a family going back to the American Revolution. Lewis’s father, Isaac Scherck, born in Posen, Prussia, was a veteran of The American Civil War. When Lewis Scherck and Nancy Burkenroad were married in October,1896, the bride carried a bouquet of golden rod.
When his father died, Lewis had to give up his dream of being a lawyer. He became an assistant manager of a broom factory, and then later became a sugar tester for J. Aron Coffee Company, his wife’s family’s business. Whatever he had, however, Lewis always thought was the best: his job, his wife, his own recipe for making molasses candy or his recipe for preparing oatmeal. They lived in a yellow frame house with gingerbread trim next door to Nan’s brother Willy.
On a cold December morning in 1898, their daughter was born. That morning, Nan awakened her husband. “You’d better get the doctor; my pains are close.” Lewis ran to the St. Charles Avenue street car, a horse drawn trolley When Lewis returned with Dr. Magruder, they could her Nan cry out. Dr. Magruder raced up the stairs where Nan was delivering the baby. “Oh, my,” he said “You’re torn, but you have a healthy baby girl ” There she was, a perfect squalling baby, brown as a pecan. “No more babies for you,” Dr. Magruder said, but you do have a lovely baby girl. They named her Fanny Vera, after Nan’s mother and after Lewis’s cousin Vera in Germany because they liked the name.
Nan made for the baby a pink French flannel saque crocheted around the edge. The baby’s dresses and bonnet had tiny tucks and were trimmed with ribbons and lace. Vera looked up at her mama with large brown eyes, and soon she smiled at her papa. Her great grandfather in Charleston wrote her a letter:
My Darling Vera
Although I have three boys here, I love you the same as ever, and would give one thousand dollars for a sweet kiss and nice hug from you.
Never mind I will soon meet you in N.O. , and I expect to have a jolly good time with you.
God bless and protect you, your dear mama and dear papa.
Your loving great grandpa,
Jos, H. Marks
Dave March, Lewis’s friend, sent Fanny Vera a ten dollar gold piece.
Vera grew tall, her dark hair thick and long. Soon her mother would brush her hair into curls, and later Vera wore a braid down her back. She would climb onto her daddy’s lap. “I love you, Daddy, “she’d say.” Can I see your watch?” He’d take his gold watch from his vest pocket, place it next to Vera’s ear so she could her its gentle tick, tick. Or, when he opened the back cover, she was fascinated with the the bright red jewels inside and the tiny wheels that turned.