I recently learned that Hanne Steinmeyer had passed on.
I met Hanne through the Estey Organ Museum. Her husband Georg was an active member, and she would often assist at events, helping with food, drink, decorations or crowd control. I would often run into her at some point during an event to sit, talk, and sip some wine. Hanne was funny and smart, and retained her German accent.
Lise and I once went with Hanne and Georg to Mass MOCA. On the drive we got to learn a bit about her early years.
Hanne was very proud of a medal she won in school for track and field. If I recall correctly it was for running. It was a high honor, one most would be proud to talk about, but Hanne kept it close. The award came from the German government, and consequently wasn’t something that was easy to discuss widely once she moved to America. Still, it was an accomplishment she really treasured.
This was during the Bush years and comparisons were being made between Bush and Hitler. We asked her if Bush was like Hitler. She told us he was similar, “but more arrogant.”
They came to Brattleboro in September 1955 so Georg could work at the Estey Organ Company, but the company went out of business just a few years after their arrival. They struggled to raise their small family.
One story Hanne told was one that must have nagged at her for years. Once, she said, when money was tight, she walked into the Grand Union downtown and stole a chicken for her family. She had a mischievous smile on her face when she told this to me. Proud of being resourceful and getting away with it, but also obviously a tad guilty many decades later.
One of Hanne and Georg’s daughters was killed in a car accident as a teen. Losing a child is perhaps the hardest thing any parent can go through, and the Steinmeyers had to regain footing after the tragedy. It’s a painful event that is never forgotten.
In recent years, Hanne’s mobility became an issue. To be able to walk better, she went through a series of medical procedures that seemed to keep making things worse. Knee replacements developed infections and had to be redone, and so on. It all seemed a bit cruel to have doctors implying improvements to someone proud of getting around, only to have mobility further reduced.
Georg was her angel in all this, helping her get to doctors, doing errands, and taking care of meals as long as he could. But he, too, was showing signs of wear and tear. Assisted living was the next step for these very active people.
I’m hoping that Hanne has now returned to running at great speed and jumping to great heights, that she is catching up with her daughter after many decades, and that medals are being pinned on her as I type. I’ll miss her smile, and conversation.