Gertrude Maria Mueller
Seamstress, optimist, life of the party, avid swimmer, outdoor enthusiast. Born April 24, 1916, in Cologne, Germany, died Jan. 24, 2012, in Lachute, Que., of ovarian cancer, aged 95.Trude loved a party and celebrated life right up to her last days.
Born in Cologne, Germany, she was the only child of Rudolf and Maria Mueller. She never knew her father, who was killed in action at the end of the First World War.
Her mother, Maria, went to work as a clerk in an accounting firm, where she met her second husband, Siegfried Meier. The marriage enabled a happy childhood, and brought Trude a brother, Herbert, in 1922.
At a young age, Trude discovered a passion for sewing. With beautiful fabrics supplied by one of her stepfather’s clients, Trude created a fabulous new dress for every party in her busy social schedule. She eventually earned a certificate in dressmaking.
In 1938, Trude’s life turned upside down. Her beloved stepfather was arrested by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp, as he was Jewish. Herbert, then 17, escaped to England. Trude was removed from her employment with a famous German clothes designer and put into a work camp, as the Nazis were “going to make a good German out of her.” Trude’s mother went into hiding.
True to her nature of trying to enjoy life to its fullest, Trude made the most of a difficult time. By day she laboured on a farm. By night she sewed for the female Nazi sergeants in exchange for cigarettes, alcohol and sausages, which she shared with others at the work camp, and had parties.
In 1939, aged 23, Trude was released, found her mother and worked toward the opening of her own sewing studio in 1941. She met Friedrich (Fritz) Potthast at a tea dance in Rinteln and fell madly in love. They married in 1944, and daughter Gisela was born in 1945.
With the end of the war came both happiness and uncertainty. All of Trude’s family had survived and was reunited, with the exception of Herbert, who remained in England. The family moved around Germany for the next 10 years, then settled in Rinteln in 1955.
In 1981, Trude visited her daughter near Montreal, just in time for the birth of Gisela’s fourth child. Sadly, Fritz died just one day after receiving the joyous news by phone.
Trude immigrated to Quebec and lived in her own house on the hobby farm owned by Gisela and her husband, Peter. She loved the outdoors, helping with the gardening, animal care and maple syrup production.
Every morning at 6, she swam in her outdoor pool for exactly 10 minutes, as long as it wasn’t frozen solid. Floating ice particles didn’t bother her. Visits to her house typically involved a competitive card game and a shot of brandy. On her 95th birthday she was still dancing and singing to a crowd.