Maria Therese Weidinger
October 6, 1913 - August 12, 2007
As I mentioned in a previous post my grandmother or “Oma” as my family called her was nearing the end of her life, she passed away this past Sunday afternoon. They say you can’t pick your family but if I could I would have most definitely picked her. She was one of those groovy older women that you see in NYC at concerts and events. She took me on many adventures throughout my childhood and beyond and it was not an odd thing for a friend to tell me, “oh I was at that concert in Central Park and saw Oma” everybody called her “Oma”, related or not!
She arrived here alone at the age of 16 speaking no English, her first home was on Carroll St. in Park Slope at a school to train girls to become nannies (I think it might have been the Berkeley Carroll School) and then lived in every borough of NYC except Staten Island. She spent the last 55 years of her life in Flushing, Queens in her own apartment. More than a grandmother she was a friend to me and I will miss calling her up and talking about the news of the day both politically and culturally. She loved New York City and kept her subscription to "New York" magazine and her german accent until the end!
This is something my mother, Erna Cunningham has written about her. Oma was "Mama" to her.
My mother, Maria, was born in a hospital in Munich during turbulent times. War was brewing as European nations were building vast armies and setting up allies. The young couple settled in the nearby village of Planegg where two subsequent children were born at home but died in infancy. The loss saddened her since she would have enjoyed having a brother and sister.
The deprivation of the war years on 1914-1918 made a lasting impact on young Maria. As a 5 year old, Maria remembers walking 8 miles from Munich where her mother and she were visiting her aunt, where a political crisis caused the trains to stop running. When inflation being rampant, she remembers her father bringing home his pay in a shoebox. The Quakers from America supplied them with lunches of turnips and oatmeal when there was little food.
Nevertheless, Maria developed a cheerful nature, a deep faith in God plus an energetic personality, which gave her confidence to be capable of anything. She grabbed the opportunity to come to America when a cousin of my grandmother’s offered the sponsorship.
My mother was aboard ship, crossing the Atlantic on October 29, 1929 when the stock market crashed. She arrived at a time when jobs became scarce and immigrants were definitely not wanted. Undaunted, she conquered numerous obstacles and reached her goal of becoming a nurse, then helping my father in their chocolate business and eventually retired from a 30 year career from Chase Manhattan Bank at 1 Chase Plaza in Wall Street.
During that time she greatly enriched my life by taking advantage of the many wonderful places of New York City: parks, museums, historical sites plus attending plays and concerts. During the summer while I was a preteen, Maria worked as a nanny to suburban families while the parents took a vacation. She was able to get me out of the city in this way. Dedication to the USA was demonstrated as we rarely missed a New York City Parade – The grandest parades being a WAR Bond Drive with numerous celebrities participating and the Welcome to General Eisenhower at the end of WW II.
Pope John was a favorite of hers – she saw him coming to the 1965 World’s Fair. Our family shook hands with David Rockefeller when Chase had a 10th Anniversary Party at 1 Chase Plaza.
Since my father was a pastry chef working weekends and odd hours and we had no other relatives, my mother and I became a very close team. “Where there is a will, there is a way”, was her favorite dictum”. Maria’s social contacts developed into lifelong friends and she still corresponds with schoolmates in Germany and now even their children. She reveled in the progress of her 4 grandchildren, 6 great grandchildren, in-laws and extended family.
They all no doubt have their favorite story to tell about Maria or Oma.
In closing, I’m sure Maria would like to say “thank you” to each of you for the special pleasures you have given her. Her sharp interest in life never waned.
This is my Oma in my apartment on Bond Street this past Thanksgiving, yup at age 94 she climbed that long steep flight of stairs!