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Hannele  Mueller

Hannele died on Saturday, September 20, 2014 at her residence.

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Hannelore Grassy was born in Hamburg, Germany on March 11, 1927 to cloth merchant Karl Grassy and his wife, Henny (nee Lemcke). Our mom was known to all as Hannele, an abbreviation of her formal name. This was a very difficult time for Germany, as it was in the throes of a great depression after its defeat in the war to end all wars. It would take a wheelbarrow full of money to purchase just a loaf of bread. These were extreme times. When Hannele was just six years old, Adolf Hitler assumed power, promising the German people economic salvation and to restore Germanys military might. When she was 12, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. In response to the German bombing of London, the allies developed a strategy of carpet bombing of major German cities; one of the most important was the large harbor city of Hamburg. Up to 200,000 civilians a night lost their lives in this fiery hell which leveled the town. Because the able bodied men we all on the front, it was up to school children to find the victims of these massive firestorms. The horrors she experienced she would rarely mention unless we pressed her. She spent many days in an underground bunker listening and feeling the massive bombs explode all around her. She was among the fortunate, because her mom and dad, and her two brothers, Dieter, who was a year younger, and Rdiger, who was 12 years younger, and Ingelore (always known as Inki), who 14 years younger, all survived. Because she lived on one of the great rivers of Germany, the Elbe, she became an accomplished sailboat sailor, trying to maintain a normal life as possible in the midst of this insanity. She told us stories of sailing on the Elbe, and when the air-raid sirens wailed, they would head for the shore to hide from the impending fighter bombers, who would frequently strafe innocent civilians in the madness of war. With the war over, Hannele was only 18, and began attending preparatory schools to learn the finer arts of life, especially cooking something that stuck with her for the rest of her life. One of the greatest things in my life was returning to my Tripp home and having her prepare all of her specialties just for me. She continued that tradition when she lived in Mexico and when she spent the winters with Marianne and I in Oceanside, California. But in 1947 her 49 year old father was dying of cancer, and as was the tradition at that time, Hannele was sent to an island off the northwest coast of Germany with all her siblings, so they would not be faced with seeing the final days of their father. At that same time, a 24 year-old medical student was taking a much needed vacation on that same island after having spent a year as a French prisoner of war after the collapse of Germany. It was love at first sight. But her father passed away. The night he did, she awoke with a strange chill, and when she received the phone call of his passing, she realized that what she experienced was something supernatural. On May 27, 1949 Eric Hans Mueller, a medical student, married my mother, a photographer and part time model. Sixteen months later, I, Rainer, came along. My father was so broke that when he called the cab to take them to the hospital, for he had no car, he had to ask the cabbie if it would be alright if he could pay him in a day or so after he borrowed some money. Things were still very tough in postwar Germany. Four years later in 1954, my sister, Susanne, better known as Susi, was born. By this time my father was a doctor and had a Volkswagen beetle to bring mom to the hospital. And just a year later our entire family packed what we could into large overseas suitcases and lockers, including the Volkswagen and immigrated to Long Island, New York via an aging Greek freighter where my father would be working for the Helena Rubenstein cosmetics company. In fact, Ms. Rubenstein was our sponsor! The voyage took 11 days and included a rough time going through a hurricane that injured many of the crew and passengers. My father was called into action to provide medical care for the sick and injured. We arrived in New York not speaking a word of English, but my mom was the familys interpreter because she had taken English in high school. Within a month we had a house, a Desoto, and a black and white television set which would act as our mentor for the American language and customs, and began living the American dream. While at Helena Rubenstein my father perfected the first anti-wrinkle cream for women. It was an immediate success and allowed Rubenstein to expand their lines from inexpensive lipsticks, rouges, and nail polishes, to these high end, expensive lotions and potions. After just two years in New York, in the fall of 1957, my parents longed to move back to Germany, where dad was a licensed doctor and not just a laboratory scientist in a large cosmetics firm. So we once crossed the Atlantic, but this time in style, the fastest ship in the world, the S.S. United States, and rather than a Volkswagen we brought the Desoto and an airplane back! But after just six months, we once again returned to New York, because the reality of Germany no longer coincided with the dreams my parents had. And my father decided that he would become a physician in this country, which would require him to learn everything hed learn in German in English and once again do a yearlong internship. But the family needed money, so my father found a job with Schieffelin & Co. where he developed Hemocult, an early test for cancer which is still in use today. While doing this internship in 1958 in White Plains, New York, my father worked with a nurse from North Dakota who told him that he should take advantage of his German heritage and check out the Dakotas, as there were entire communities that were German, and his language skills would be an asset. On a whim, my dad contacted the South Dakota Medical Association and by return mail he received two airline tickets to visit a town called Tripp in the southeastern part of the state which had been without a doctor for 30 years. The towns Commercial Club had been very aggressively contacted the association to get a physician. Mom and dad took that flight, were picked up at the airport and given the royal tour of Tripp by the businessman of that era. They told my parents that if theyd come to Tripp, they would renovate a building on Main St. for a clinic. A deal was made. But first my dad had to work for another year in New York, since his savings were depleted working as a lowly intern with a family of four in a low rent apartment just north of New York City. But the experience he received at this busy metropolitan hospital proved to be invaluable. So, on July 1, 1960 our family of four, plus our dog, Bingo, and two goldfish in a bucket, arrived in Tripp driving a new Desoto and a new era started for not only our family but the community as well. Looking to find housing for our family, they discovered the old Lutheran parsonage that was slated to be demolished, but my parents saw its potential and purchased it, and almost immediately with the assistance of contractor Pete Hattendorf and his crew, converted the condemned, creaky, leaky, drafty old house into one of the finer homes in Tripp. My mom was the interior designer, the people of Tripp had never seen anything like it. And the hottest ticket in town was to get to be invited to our home to not only see it, but to experience the entertainment and epicurean delights provided by my parents. Susi started her entire schooling experience entering the first grade, while I started the fifth grade. Ill never forgive my mom for making me wear a suit and tie on that very first day. I was horrified when I showed up at school the only kid dressed that way, and ran all the way home over the lunch hour to put on something like all the other kids. In 1961 our family became citizens of this great country. One of the proudest moments in our lives. But at her request, mom dropped her formal name and would from now on only be known as Hannele. Mom and dad prospered in Tripp, dad took up flying again, and mom became noted for her flowers and garden. Dad even branched out into optometry making his clinic a full-service facility. It was a glorious time to live in Tripp. We had dogs, cats, fish, horses, and even cattle when dad purchased some land west of town. To this day, Tripp remains our hometown, even though we were all born in Germany and lived five years within the shadow of New York City. I graduated from THS in 1968 and headed for the University of South Dakota, where within two years I was politely asked to leave because of my failing grades and hippy-like mentality. To get back on the right track I enlisted in the Navy, and served four years, most of it in the San Diego area, I also married the love of my life in 1972, Marianne Till, with whom I had two children Eric and Nikki. When mom and dad were getting older, they decided to purchase a motorhome and travel the United States. They came to visit my wife Marianne and I in Oceanside, where we purchased them a AAA map of the Mexican Baja Peninsula. They even crossed the Gulf of California via a rickety Mexican ferry to get to the mainland, where they eventually discovered the little fishing village of Bucerias overlooking the Bay of Banderas and just north of Puerto Vallarta. They started out living in their camper in a campground for the winter, and then returned the next year with an Airstream trailer after spending the warmer months in Tripp where mom was dedicated to her flowers and her garden. Within a year they bought a piece of property overlooking the campground and the bay, and started parking their Airstream on this property. Dad used his considerable ingenuity to begin a building process that would ultimately become a beautiful small home with garage, storage building, swimming pool, patio, and beautiful lush tropical plants that thrived with my mothers proverbial green thumb. We would spend many holiday seasons in Bucerias, where mom would continue her German customs and somehow prepare those wonderful German meals. It was their Shangri-La. But after 20 years, it was getting harder and harder for them to travel the thousands of miles to their Mexican winter home, so they decided to sell it. Within a couple of years my father passed away a few of days after Christmas in 2006. And from then on mom would spend her winters with us in Oceanside, still cooking those wonderful meals and giving Marianne decorating ideas. I think mom loved her time in San Diego, we loved having her. This past winter after a routine examination she complained that she was continually tired, which was unusual for a woman that was continually go go go. It was then that she discovered that her aorta was bulging and immediate surgery would be required. In December 2013 she had successful open heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and spent the rest of the winter recuperating at my sisters home, deep in the woods of northern Wisconsin. And it turned out to be one of those winters with record amounts of snowfall, so she ended up being housebound for more than she really preferred she said she was suffering from house-a-tosis. Her saving grace was the fact that our daughter, Nikki, was getting married on May 4, 2014 in San Clemente, California, and that there would be no way that she would miss this event. She looked absolutely marvelous when she was conned into becoming the flower girl! And what a wonderful job she did, she was in rare form, in all of her glory. And earlier this month, we all returned to Tripp to celebrate my sisters 60th birthday as well as see the wagon train come through town. And once again see prepared all the great meals we loved, and even admitted she hadnt felt that good in a long time. She looked great and was happy when we were all around. We spent a wonderful two weeks with her, traveling across South Dakota and enjoying our family time. It came as a complete shock to all of us when we got the news on September 20th that she had unexpectedly passed away. Yet if I could script an end of life story for her, I could not have done a better job. She, along with my father, became icons in Tripp. Heck our friends would continue to visit our home long after my sister and I had moved elsewhere. Everyone loved Hannele, no one could say anything negative about her. She always seemed to be happy and looking for the positive things in life, never dwelling on the negative. She was my rock when our son Eric died in 1993 at the age of 13. Yes, she will be missed by all who knew her or met her. What a wonderful legacy.

her son, Rainer Nov 19 2014 8:08 AM

While I did not know your mother I know she was a nice lady. My Aunt Esther Hieb cleaned for your family for several years, not sure if you kids were still at home then. Aunt Esther always thought your parents were very good people. May God comfort you in your loss.

Julie Schneider Oct 7 2014 9:02 AM

Dear Reiner, Susi, and families, I wanted to let you know, that your Mother (and you Father) were very special people to me. One doesn't forget the help and concern that was shown, when you grow up with health problems. Tripp was exceptionally lucky to welcome your family, when you came. My thoughts and prayers are with you at this time of loss.

Mary Weber Born Sep 26 2014 1:51 PM

Your Mother was a wonderful lady so full of life and a great sense of humor. She did love action sales bless her heart. Our condolences. Elmer & Carol Bietz

Elmer & Carol Bietz Sep 24 2014 2:18 PM