Maria SCHALER (nee Leseman) was born in Germany to Dutch parents on the 20 November 1926. Her father owned a tree nursery in Germany for 13 years. She was one of seven children, two of whom were born in her home town, Nijmegm – close to the German border – after they returned to Holland because her father lost the nursery business during Hitler’s uprising.
The family contracted Tuberculosis and two of the children died within six months. Maria spent 2 years recuperating. Her first years of education were conducted by a private tutor at home. She was 10 years old before she attended school.
After completing her education she trained as a nurse. Her city was bombed and occupied by the German forces during World War II. Maria came to Australia, and landed in Fremantle on 31 December 1956. She travelled to her sister’s home in Jarrahwood. This was a big cultural shock to Maria after Holland.
Maria nursed in Nannup where she met and married a Dutch Indonesian man, Walter Schaler, on 22 April 1957. Walter worked in the Jarrahwood Mill. They had four children who were all born at Busselton Hospital. After 17 years of living in Jarrahwood they moved into Busselton to live. Maria was much happier there and able to go out to work as a nurse.
After initially feeling very homesick and isolated and missing the close family contacts with her parents and brothers and sisters in Holland, Maria settled happily to life in Australia. She has many interests that help to keep her occupied. She likes learning languages such as Italian and German and English which she found very difficult to learn at first.