Irene (Rene) was born on a farm in Fayette County, southeast of Schulenburg, Texas on February 27, 1929. She was the fourth of five children born to Thomas H. McBride and Erna Elizabeth (Nordhausen) McBride. She had two sisters, Grace (McBride) Rohan and Bonnylin (McBride) Allmon, and two brothers, Leroy H. McBride and Johnnie Bruce McBride who died when he was only 2 weeks old.
Rene attended Schulenburg High School grades 1-11 and graduated in 1946. She had to walk to school with her brother and sisters every day because there were no buses at the time, and on those days when the roads were very wet and muddy they walked on the railroad tracks to school because it was the shortest and easiest under those conditions.
She always would tell us that she did not have a chance to do any extracurricular activities like volleyball or basketball because she had to go home and work on the farm. The McBride family farm did a little of everything to make ends meet she would say. They planted corn, cotton and grain crops plus had a garden with tomatoes, cantaloupes, and watermelons that they sold. Rene said one year on April 9, they had planted a whole acre of tomatoes and they all froze! She had to hoe corn, cut corn tops, tie corn tops, and pick corn by hand. Rene also said she had to pick cotton by hand with a long pick sack. One thing she liked doing on the farm was plowing the middle of the rows with one horse and a single plow. The family home had a wood heater and she had to carry in wood. She had chickens on the farm, so she had to help pick the eggs and milk the cows they had morning and night.
After she graduated high school in 1946, she left the farm and started working at the bus station when it was on North Main Street in Schulenburg, owned by Mr. & Mrs. Herman Kloesel. She also worked at Jack Klesel’s Grocery Store which was sold to Ed Watzlavick and became Watzlavick’s Grocery Store. In 1950 Rene started working at the Q&P Grocery Store on Upton Street. While working there, she met Ben J. Sustr and they got married on May 20, 1951 in the Methodist Church in Schulenburg. Their first apartment was one of the Myrna Loy Apartments on West Avenue. In 1952, Ben went into the Air Force, starting at Lackland AFB and later was sent to Denver, Colorado and Rene went with him. They had a hard time finding a place to live and ended up in the back of a house with two rooms and a bathroom they shared with the owner’s daughter. Then they were sent to Sioux City, Iowa and when they arrived only to find their orders changed to Kansas City, Missouri and after two months were sent back to Colorado Springs, Colorado. In Colorado Springs, they lived with a lady on one side of her house and played canasta a lot with her! At the end of 1952, Rene was pregnant with her first child, so she moved back to Schulenburg. Connie Sue was born on June 6,1953. Rene talked about how Ben was not there for the birth but flew in by Marine plane to Houston and hitched a ride to Schulenburg as soon as he could. In August 1953, Ben was honorably discharged from the Air Force but remained on active Reserves. They rented a house from Erna Mensik (Rene’s mother) and then moved to Hondo, Texas where Ben was a schoolteacher for one year. In the fall of 1954, they moved back to Schulenburg and Ben accepted a teaching job there. In 1955, a daughter, Nancy Kay, was born on March 19 and then in 1956, a son Roger Ben was born on December 15. The couple built a new home in 1960.
In 1964, Rene started working at Oakridge Smokehouse Plant, parttime, then as a full-time bookkeeper and secretary for Roy Bucek for his Dairy Mart and Mr. Hamburger stores and at Christmas helped with typing orders for their holiday shipping business. In April 1972, Rene decided to work only three days per week for Frank Bohlmann of Bohlmann Incorporated until she retired.
Rene was active with her children during their school years working with the Parent Teacher Organization and being room mother while they were in elementary school. She was an officer in the Booster Club for SHS and the Schulenburg Festival for many years. Rene was on the board of the First United Methodist Church serving as secretary and at Church conference meetings. She was a member of the United Methodist Women serving at different times as president and secretary. Rene was a co-chairperson with Ben of the Swiss Alp Dance Club since July 1986 and helped with secretarial work for the Colorado Valley Shrine Club.
Rene was an excellent seamstress. She made a lot of her own clothes as well as dresses, uniforms, and costumes for both of her daughters. She made Connie’s wedding dress in 1973 and it was a beautiful replica of a dress that Connie had picked out in a magazine! She liked to cook and did a lot of freezing and canning of vegetables in the summer. She even made homemade jelly from wild Muscadine grapes. Rene had a very strong work ethic and was a “worker bee” always willing to help with any project that she could. She loved to dance especially the “jitter bug,” polkas and waltzes with Ben. They belonged to a group called the Polka Lovers Klub of America (Po.L.K. of A.) and would go to perform different dances with a few other couples at church picnics, nursing homes, and parades. Rene and Ben served as King & Queen of the Polka Klub in 2005. She really loved that! Rene also liked traveling with Ben on bus tours that he coordinated mainly to Branson, Missouri but also other places in the U.S. and Canada. She also loved going to the Thursday night supper parties at the KC Hall in Schulenburg.
Rene was a caring, loving, wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother to her family and expressed her love the most while doing things for them like cooking, patching clothing, making costumes, attending ball games and dance recitals!
She is survived by her daughter, Connie Kocurek of Schulenburg; son, Roger Sustr and his wife Sheri of Schulenburg; five grandchildren, Jared Kocurek and his wife Emily of Little Rock, Arkansas, Ariel Faith and her husband Kris of Schulenburg, Rachel Carns and her husband Lee of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, Ben Sustr and his wife Brooke of Schulenburg, and Luke Sustr of Houston; 10 great-grandchildren, Judah Kocurek, Colton & Olivia Faith, Timothy, Wyatt & Georgia Carns, Madison, Benjamin & Samuel Sustr, and Elijah Sustr; two step-great-grandchildren, Alyssa & Teagen Faith; and one sister-in-law, Elizabeth Sustr of Moulton.
Rene was preceded in death by her parents, two sisters and three brothers-in-law, two brothers and one sister-in-law, husband Ben J. Sustr, daughter Nancy Sustr, and great-granddaughter, Milania Sustr. She passed away on Sunday, July 12 at age 91.
The funeral was held on Friday, July 17 at 10 a.m. at First United Methodist Church, followed by interment in the Schulenburg City Cemetery. Serving as minister was Kari Ginn. Pallbearers were Kris Faith, Jared Kocurek, Ben Sustr, Luke Sustr, Scott Sustr and Stanley Sustr. Named as honorary pallbearers were Lee Carns, Dr. Donald Kocurek, Ronnie Masek, Donnie McBride, Gary McBride, Ronnie McBride, Shannon McBride, Leroy Rohan and Leslie Rohan.
Schwenke-Baumgarten Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.