Today, we attended the funeral services of a very special lady, Mr. Bear’s aunt’s mother-in-law (sounds complicated but what it all comes down to was that she was family). Frieda “Fritzi” Schnitzer was taken from us by cancer. It is hard to believe that she is no longer here with us. We had just seen her at Thanksgiving and she was her vibrant, spunky self. However, just after the holidays she was diagnosed with lung cancer and it had spread to the brain (an all too familiar scenario for our family). Within weeks she was gone, she passed away on Sunday, Feb 23, 2008, and she was 83 years old. She was a truly special woman, one of a kind. Everyone who knew her loved her! She experienced so much more in life than most people experience in a lifetime. She was a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. She was also a Holocaust survivor who shared her story through lectures, interviews, and in a book.
I had the opportunity to read her story and was just amazed at what she went through. Her entire teenage years were spent just trying to survive. Her mother sent her away from Germany at early age since it was her only means of survival and never saw her mother or her father ever again. She was fortunate to find a family who loved her and cared for her. She had to hide her true identity and bought papers with a new name and non-Jewish identity, she even learned to shoot a gun. All this from the age of 14 to 20! Through the grace of God, she survived that awful time in history with what means she could. At 20, she met a handsome American soldier who she fell in love with and married. At 20, her life truly began. If you asked what her how old she was, she would say she was 63 because her life began at 20.
Fritzi and her husband attended our wedding last May and we had a marriage dance and were able to honor them as the longest married couple. They had been married 63 years! I am so glad that we were able to do that small thing for them. I can only hope that Mr. Bear and I are married as long and have as true a love as they had.
Although I only knew her for a short amount of time, what a privilege it was to know her and listen to her stories, not just of the Holocaust, but of her life. She was definitely one to live her life to the fullest and to get what she wanted. She cherished every moment, she cherished her family. If there is anything that I have learned from her is that you have to live life.
One of the last stories she told me was the story about the Cadillac. When she first came to the US, she did not have a driver’s license and did not know how to drive. She had depended on her husband and others to drive her around. She wanted a car but needed a driver’s license first. Well, while her husband was out of town on business, she called up a driving school, took a driving lesson, and then she asked the instructor to take her to the DMV to get her license. She took the test and on the same day received her driver’s license. Her husband came home and she showed him her license. He said he’d get her a car when she got a license and she wanted a Cadillac and that was what she got! When we saw her at Thanksgiving, she was still driving, this time one of those BMW roadsters.
She always found a way to get what she wanted! She is possibly the most amazing woman I have ever had the privilege to know. There is no one else like her. I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to know her. Fritzi you will be missed, but never forgotten!
Photos by Amy Squires Photography