Remembering Agatha Ulrich

Good evening, everyone

For those who don’t know me, I’m Rebecca Ferguson, Agatha Ulrich’s granddaughter

Her very first grandchild

And I’m here to talk tonight about how she made the world a better place

In some ways, I think being up here feels like it would if she won an academy award for the movie of her life — and I just need to try hard not to botch the acceptance speech!

Her life indeed could be a movie.

She came from humble beginnings,

she was bright,

fun loving,


and had style for days!

In school, all the girls and boys liked her… which was no surprise to any of us!

My grandfather would talk about how he had to work very hard to win her heart.

Writing her love letters from France during the war, in every one, making sure “Aggie” knew she was his one and only forever girl.

And everyone who knew Dave knows, when he set his mind to something, he didn’t quit until he made it happen!

You know what else?

He also knew how to pick winners.

And he was betting on his Gypsy Girl.

He saw in Aggie – what we all saw.

And we all fell in love with how she made us feel.

…They say people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel

My grandmother, cornered the market on delivering the feels.

You always felt heard,

You always felt understood,

You always felt special,

And you ALWAYS felt loved.

Her advice was never too little and never too much – one might even say, the sweet spot of advice.

Speaking of sweet spots… she also made us feel very, well fed!

She was a culinary whiz. Her cooking and baking were literally award winning!

She knew food brought people together

and she used her craft wisely!

I can’t even imagine a family holiday without the aroma of her cooking wafting through the air

That distinctive scent of her blend of spices on the roasts was arguably as essential as the very gifts under the tree.

And she was proud of that.

She taught us how to cook too. Including how to scale a still flopping fish!

And many other things that helped us get through the world.

By her example, we learned how to be kind and generous.

We learned about faith.

She loved attending mass and almost never missed a Sunday or a chance to sing her favorite hymns

She was so very generous – not only with monetary gifts but even more importantly with her time and joyful spirit!

Surprising the Catholic sisters with groceries for the holidays, baking for them, and hosting dinners at her home were things she said brought HER so much happiness!

We all saw how effortless she made it look to prioritize everyone she cared about.

We learned about the strong bonds of family and how we could always count on one another.




She taught us other life essentials too,


how ace a tennis serve,

how to swim the breaststroke,

and how you always need to clean the wheels on your suitcase after coming home from the airport!

One thing she never did quite teach us was how to beat her at scrabble. :)

It made her so happy when she found just the right spot – for just the right word – and got a quadruple everything score!

You know what though, life itself made her so happy!

Her optimism and enthusiasm were contagious!

She always brought laughs (and her trusty notebook) to the bank board meetings.

She also served as chairwoman of the NDC board for over 20 years!

It was so special to see how proud she was to be involved even in the later years.

She had hard times, some very hard, but she never complained.

Not even about being in a wheelchair for 30 years. Not once. I think that’s remarkable.

She never thought of herself as a victim and she was incredibly resilient, and brave

You’d always find her looking in one direction, toward the future with hope!

She’d surprise everyone with ways to do what “couldn’t be done”

And watching her learn to swim and play tennis after her stroke —- just completely awe-inspiring to everyone!

My grandmother really did spark happiness and bring out people’s smiles wherever she went.

It’s easy to see why Dave had to have her!

The real testament to her inner beauty though, I think, is how deeply he loved her each and every day for nearly 5 decades.

Those love letters he wrote during the war didn’t stop.

He was even sending beautifully handwritten pages to her when she and the kids were at the cabin in Eagle river.

He spent weekends with them, returning home to work during the week – and still penning love letters to his sweetheart

She was his inspiration!

He attributed their success in life and business as something only possible because of her dedication and support.

I’ll always remember, one of her favorite songs was Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings”

We would listen to it on repeat in her car :)

My grandfather told her the song was written about her.

I believe he was right.

And so, I think we should listen to a short clip

It might have appeared to go unnoticed
But I’ve got it all here in my heart
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it
I would be nothing without you

Did you ever know that you’re my hero?
You’re everything I wish I could be
I could fly higher than an eagle
For you are the wind beneath my wings

Dave was also always supportive of Agatha.

When she had a stroke in 1993, he wanted to be the one to personally care for her every need, including designating himself as her official wheelchair pusher!

He happily and swiftly came up with plans to make their homes accessible, complete with elevators.

And at a time when it might feel natural to feel like a burden, he made sure she never did.

In so many countless ways over the years,

in both their business and personal lives,

they showed everyone watching that “where there’s a will, there’s a way” isn’t just a cliche.

In the end, I believe they left a legacy of love and prosperity even beyond their wildest dreams.

And I think I speak for everyone in our family when I say,

I am so proud to be a part of their story.

Before I end here tonight, I want to talk a little about regrets.

I’m sure some of us, have things we wish we would have said to Agatha

In fact, if I asked for a show of hands, I’m guessing it would be almost ALL of us.

Those things we didn’t say or do weigh heavy on our hearts.

I found something that might help,

It’s a Yiddish proverb that I found in this book,

“If I could choose one person in the whole world to be my mom… It would be you”

And it says:

A mother understands what a child does not say

I believe, this applies to everyone.

Not just mothers but friends, relatives, caregivers

men, women, children

In short, humans.

We know. We know what people think.

We know it’s sometimes hard to voice our emotions.

We know things go unsaid.

And yet, we almost always know

how people feel.

Our actions over the years showed her we loved her.

Just as her actions showed us she loved us.

She knows we loved her.

She knows.

The wind beneath my wings ~ Fly, fly, so high against the sky
So high I almost touch the sky
Thank you, thank you
Thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings

Grandma, Aggie, Gypsy Girl,

from all of your family,

your friends,

all of the employees at the family businesses,

and everyone you touched,

over your many, many years

We love you and we thank GOD for you,

The wind beneath OUR wings.