AMY C. DeFRIES, The license plate on her car read OUTATIME. Now, she is out of time. Amy C. DeFries, teacher, wife, mother, and grandmother, died of multiple myeloma on February 2, 2008 in Valparaiso. She was born Amy Caroline Hamann in Kouts, Indiana, on February 3, 1927, the third of four children of William Hamann and Caroline Hamann (Klemz), and had an older sister Ardella from William’s previous marriage.
The stories that Amy told on Christmas of 2001 highlight what life was like during the Great Depression and World War II, which may have been the origin of her later interest in business and finance.
After her father died in 1928, Amy and her siblings were raised by their mother alone. To keep them going, Caroline was very enterprising. She worked as the night telephone operator from their house at 203 S. Main St., where the Kouts telephone switchboard was located. The early exposure got Amy, as well as her sisters, into similar phone work. Among Caroline’s other ventures were providing a taxi service to Valparaiso, selling schoolbooks for the Kouts school system in the fall, and measuring milk butterfat for local farmers – all from home.
In 1934, when Amy was in second grade, her family moved to a bigger house in Kouts. “There was this big house [607 S. Main St.] at the other end of town. We called it the Big House because it was so much bigger than ours. Mr. Loring at the bank [221 S. Main St.] knew my mother and said to her, ‘Caroline, why don’t you rent this house here? The people lost the house, it’s empty, and I don’t like to leave it empty.’ ‘Well, I really don’t have much money to afford to rent that house.’ ‘We’ll rent it to you for $4 [about $100 in 2023] a month.’ So, we moved to the Big House, and my mother rented out some of the rooms” to pay utilities and rent.

“We [kids] always wanted to earn some money in the summertime although there really weren’t many ways. I mowed the neighbor lady’s lawn for ten cents. I was just a scrawny girl, and I mowed every blade with an old-fashioned push lawn mower, no motor. Before the lady paid me she would come out and look over the lawn. And she would take the mower and push it here and push it there – as if I had missed some. I didn’t miss a blade, believe me. So, then I would get a dime.”
Amy did other work to make some money. In the summer after the fifth grade, she and her brother earned money by growing pickles. “Somehow my mother rented an acre of ground in Kouts. It was a garden behind somebody’s house, and my mother knew that it was available. She had it plowed and then we got pickle seed and planted them. It was a huge pickle patch. When the plants came up, we had to hoe them every day and pull the weeds. There were so many weeds. We didn’t know anything about weeds and didn’t have any weed killer. Then, when the pickles finally came on the vines, they never stopped. You had to pick those pickles. We picked half of the patch every day. So, every other day everything was picked. If we let it go beyond that, the pickles were too big. If we missed a pickle, by the time we got back to it, it was already a big yellow cucumber. They weren’t any good. Every morning before the sun came up we had to get up and go out there and pick those pickles. Every day we had these big gunnysacks full of pickles. We would load them on my mother’s car between the hood and the fenders, and we would take them to the pickle factory. The pickle factory in Kouts was right adjacent to the railroad tracks. We did that all summer long, and we got quite a lot of pickles. At the end of the summer, after we paid for all of the expenses, the pickle seed, the plowing, and maybe some bug dust, my brother and I each got $42 [about $900 in 2023]. I thought that was pretty good money for that day and age, but it was a lot of work. That was our big work experience until we got regular jobs.”

Amy attended Kouts schools for junior high and the first two years of high school, where she played flute and piccolo in the band. In about 1942, Amy’s family moved from Kouts to Valparaiso. Amy finished her high school education at Valparaiso High School, graduating in 1945. “I guess it was my sister Joan and I who really wanted to move to Valpo. We had gone up there for the summer and we stayed with my cousin Lois on Campbell St. just north of the Catholic church. We got jobs in some of the restaurants. We thought it was big time stuff. All of the soldiers were stationed out at the [Dodge] Radio School [later the Valparaiso Technical Institute] on the west side of town. The restaurants fed them three meals a day for the army. They marched in formation right past my aunt’s house, and we thought that was big fun. The guys would yell at us when they walked by. So, after we were there for the summer, we talked our mother into moving from Kouts to Valpo.”
To contribute to World War II efforts, Amy planned to join the nurse corps the summer after graduating from high school. “It was war fever. [My cousin Lois and I] filled out all the papers. We got accepted to go to nurse’s training at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago. But in the meantime, while we were waiting for that to start, we began working at the White Cap factory in Chicago where they made the metal tops for ketchup bottles and Gerber baby food jars. We worked on a conveyor belt where we fed the rubber gaskets that the punch press stamped the metal around. We made such good money that when it came time to go to nurse’s training, we didn’t go.”

Amy married Horst H. DeFries in June 1946, at the age of 19. Sons Timothy and David were born in 1947 and 1955.
Amy helped Horst with the bookwork for his plumbing and heating business. She also worked intermittently as a telephone operator and later clerk in the General Telephone Company’s Valparaiso office. “It was too boring. You had to sit there ‘chained’ all day to the board and had to keep saying, ‘Number, please.’ I moved from the operator job to the clerical job because I knew how to add and subtract and a lot of people didn’t. It was just amazing how you could take a hundred girls at that age and there wasn’t one in five that could do subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages, and typing. Then, in about 1959 when the dial came in, they didn’t need people to say, ’Number, please’ anymore. So, I got laid off.”
“So, then I decided about that time that I wanted to go to college. I always thought I wanted to be a teacher because I always liked school. When I got laid off at the phone company, I decided I’d take the workman’s comp [sic] and pay my tuition. I signed up for courses at Valparaiso University. I was off work about three weeks, had collected one workman’s comp check, and they called me back to work. I either had to go back to work or lose my workman’s comp. I was already enrolled in college and I was interested in that then. I didn’t go back to work.”
Amy attended Valparaiso University full time beginning in 1959 at the age of 32, receiving her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1963. She later earned a Master’s degree. Amy taught early elementary school grades (she liked second grade best) at Liberty Elementary School in Hobart, Indiana from 1965 to about 1980. She inspired her husband to go to college and become a grade school teacher as well. Amy valued education and self-improvement, later encouraging her grandchildren to enter college.

Amy’s general interest in financial topics continued throughout her life. She worked on her investments most mornings. In about 1997 she helped her son David start Excel Machine Technologies. Amy also enjoyed golf, ballroom dance, and board games – she was an unforgiving Monopoly and Scrabble player. In later years Amy gave up her evening nap to volunteer at Porter Memorial Hospital, welcoming visitors at the front desk. There were times when Amy acted goofy. For example, once she didn’t feel well, so she took her dead dog Mugsy’s old seizure medicine. “You did what?!” She never threw away medicine; she didn’t want to waste anything!
Amy is preceded in death by her parents, brother Roland “Ding” Hamann of Louisville, Kentucky, and sister Joan Hambrock of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Since her death, sister Ardella Haman of Osawatomie, Kansas, sister Wilma Edwards of Center Point, Indiana, and daughter-in-law Kathleen DeFries of Valparaiso, Indiana, have also died. Amy is survived by two sons. One son and his family live in Valparaiso: David L. DeFries and grandsons, Ryan and Daniel. The other son and his family live in Austin, Texas: Dr. Timothy H. DeFries, Larayne Dallas, and grandchildren, Christa, Nat, and Anna.
Amy’s memorial stone is at the St. Paul Lutheran cemetery outside of Kouts.


My mom (Joan Kosanke) was best friends with Amy growing up in Kouts. She always told me that she was an avid reader and very smart. In later years my mom was a doll collector. Amy gave her a little bear that was hers as a child. My mom wrote a note with the bear explaining that it was Amy’s. I display that little bear every Christmas and treasure my mom’s handwritten note . -Sue Prochno

Mrs. DeFries was my 3rd grade teacher at Liberty Elementary School in Hobart, IN for the 1964-65 school year. Evidently, that was her first year of teaching! I have only fond memories of her and of third grade. After reading her obituary, I am in total awe of her. What a truly amazing woman, and what an intriguing life she led. Sounds like her mother was pretty amazing, too! God bless Mrs. DeFries. I also was fortunate to have Mr. Horst H. DeFries for my 6th grade teacher! -Cynthia Brooks Beckett 

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