Worthington 150: Theodora Cashel founded partnership of peace

The founder of this unique partnership visited Crailsheim in 1958, when she was decorated with the “Bundersverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse.”

Martha Cashel
Martha Cashel (with letter) initially sought to help her Finnish pen pal by gathering shoes to send to Finland. Her idea prompted her parents to provide aid to war-ravaged Europe on a grander scale, and that's what led to the sister city partnership with Crailsheim, Germany.
Nobles County Historical Society
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Editor’s note: This was originally written as a tribute to Theodora Cashel, who died in 1922. It has been updated to reflect the ongoing partnership.

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WORTHINGTON — In 1946, Theodora Cashel was stimulated through the sponsorship of her 11-year-old daughter, Martha “Marnie”, for a Finnish girl who really wanted shoes

Looking beyond that incident, Theodora wanted to develop a sponsorship of a German city, similar in size and structure to Worthington.

Following up on a suggestion from the U.S./military/government, she looked for a city in the U.S. zone.

The 70% destroyed city of Crailsheim was chosen for the sponsorship. In those days, Crailsheim had a population of 8,700. In spite of some opposition in this country — and in this area — the plan of a first American-German city partnership was carried through.


The sponsorship was to bring material help, but also to bring human relations between both cities. The first of this aid — six tons of clothing and other donations — arrived on Jan. 6, 1948.

From this help and other aid, personal letters and pen friendships passed back and forth between Worthington and Crailsheim. A street in Crailsheim, the Kronprizenstrasse, was renamed Worthingtonstrasse.

A student exchange program was initiated in 1956 with two students from Worthington going to Crailsheim in 1956-57. In the following school year, two students from Crailsheim came to Worthington.

An organization, eventually named Worthington-Crailsheim International, Inc., was started with much support from Theodora and a group of people in Worthington who were eager as she was to try to develop better relationships with other nations in the world, but especially with Germany because of the fairly large concentration of German ethnics in this area.

In April 1958, Worthington received the first World Brotherhood Award for its promotion of international understanding and friendship. With the award came financial awards that Worthington shared with her partner, Crailsheim.

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The founder of this unique partnership visited Crailsheim in 1958, when she was decorated with the “Bundersverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse.”

In 1972, after 25 years of this friendship, a special exhibition in the Ratsaal recalled the history of this partnership. Four Franconian costumes were given as a present to Worthington, where they were worn in the Turkey Day Parade. The Costumes are now on display in a special exhibit in the Nobles County Historical Museum.

Never forgotten and remembered fondly is Theodora Cashel’s counterpart in Crailsheim. Isolde Matthes, who, from the very beginning and for 38 years until her death in 1985, cared in a very intensive and special way for the connection between Crailsheim and Worthington.


Her friends in Worthington presented a plaque to her at the first Worthington Choir exchange. At the 40th anniversary of the partnership, the plaque found a significant resting place in the Rathaus in Crailsheim. A copy was given to the Nobles County Historical Museum in Worthington.

Theodora Cashel visited Crailsheim in September 1967. Many still remembered the well-dressed woman with a strong personality, but also a mature woman whose feelings for people were reflected in her light blue eyes.

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In September 1987, Crailsheim celebrated the 40th anniversary of this unique friendship, not only the first of its kind, but also a lasting one that will always be remembered. Theodora Cashel was present at the 40th anniversary festivities to receive an honorary citizen award that has only been granted six times in the history of Crailsheim.

Crailsheim also renamed a street in honor of the partnership founder: Theodora Cashel Strasse. Since then, long-time Worthington Mayor Bob Demuth was also honored with a street, Demuth Allee, in Crailsheim.

The city of Crailsheim hosted a group from Worthington in 2017 — including the “Amazing” Worthington City Band — to celebrate the sister city partnership.

Earlier this summer, the cities of Worthington and Crailsheim celebrated 75 years of partnership with a celebration in Worthington. More than 70 individuals from Crailsheim traveled to Worthington, including the Crailsheim Stadtkapelle and Crailsheim Oberbürgermeister Dr. Christoph Grimmer.

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