Bernhard Theodore Strasen was a Lutheran pastor’s son, born November 3, 1898, in Janesville, Minnesota, a community in south central Minnesota, where his father Henry served Trinity Lutheran Church. He was the middle child of five, the only boy. As he wanted to be a pastor, following in the steps of his father and grandfather, his father tutored him in Latin so that he could enter Concordia High School and Junior College in St. Paul, Minnesota, in his second year of high school. In those days ministerial training followed a rigid curriculum that was inherited from Germany and lasted six years. It concluded with two years of junior college. Bernhard is pictured here in his graduation year. The Board of Missions of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod was expanding its staff in India and he accepted the assignment to go there, commissioned to be a missionary.
Henriette Ida Julia nee Ziegfeld was born at home in Columbus, Ohio, on January 11, 1894, delivered by a midwife by the name of Betzinger. Their house, still at 703 Mohawk Street in German Village, is constructed of red brick, and at that time did not have an indoor toilet. For some years, it sheltered the parents and their nine living children (their first child, a girl, had died in her first months of life). German Village today is a preserved heritage area in Columbus. The red bricks of the street and sidewalk are most likely the same ones on which she played as a child. When Henriette was 23, the family moved to a larger house on Forsythe Avenue that rented for $36 a month, instead of the $15 at Mohawk.
Henriette, who was 27 at the time, applied for international service with the Missouri Synod Board of Missions and was accepted. In 1921, she was sent to India as an educational worker. At a get-to-know-you gathering of recently graduated seminarians and other Lutherans who were due to board a ship the following day for India, she first met Bernhard.
Bernhard was attracted to Henriette, but she not as much to him, maybe because she was four years older than he and, more probably, getting married and having a family was not her quest when she went to India.
The marriage picture, taken on the day of their wedding, June 27, 1923, in Nagercoil, portrays Bernhard seated, with Henriette standing by his chair, in a white dress enhanced by a thrown-back veil. She was about 5 feet, 3 inches tall, a plain-faced woman. She was never one to do much with her thin hair, a family genetic trait. She carried many extra pounds during her pregnancies, though in her later years was quite thin. She, like Bernhard, was very intelligent.
Bernhard and Henriette had these pictures taken after their return from India, probably in the late 1950’s. Bernhard decided to retire from the active ministry in 1964 and resigned his pastorate in Wisconsin. They moved to Indianapolis, purchasing a house near St. John’s Lutheran Church at Five Points, on the southeastern side of the city.