Remembering Irma... One Tough Cookie Leaves Her Sweet Mark
Irma Ida Schneider (nee Fritsch), wife/mother; daughter/sister, quietly left this world on Monday, April 12, 2021 —two weeks shy of her 93rd birthday. A long life that was, at times... Extraordinary.
At age eleven, during World War II, Irma and her family were forced to flee their home in Poland; crossing the border into Germany —on foot. Life, on the move... was tough; surviving on next to nothing (e.g., boiled onions). It also meant that for young Irma (the oldest), formal education ended at grade school level. But she never stopped learning or… moving on.
In 1951, at age 23, Irma Ida made the tough decision to leave financially-ravaged, post-war Germany (and her family), in hopes of finding steady employment. She bravely sailed the Atlantic for America ...alone ...in steerage; becoming ill along the way (possibly scurvy). But a shipman came to cute Irma’s rescue, bringing her oranges to eat; she rebounded. Fortunate, because once she arrived in the New York area for immigration processing, Irma needed her tenacious strength to fight to keep her one, not-so-meager possession: a golden coffee pot. She’d first spied the exquisite piece of porcelain, seemingly fit for royalty, in a German shop window. And Irma being Irma, determined she would somehow buy it (despite being a struggling seamstress), to bring with her to America. So, she scrimped and saved; found a way. It became a life-long treasure and a lesson that seemed to serve her well for decades to come, through raising a family and beyond.
Irma began her new U.S. life, speaking virtually -no- English. But, that didn’t stop her. Once through immigration, she hailed a taxi to an area train station and set off for the Midwest, to meet the Wisconsin uncle who’d sponsored her voyage. Not one to sit idle, Irma soon found employment, first as a housekeeper in Madison and then, as a seamstress at a high-end men’s footwear firm in Milwaukee. She worked hard; saved (renting a small room in a women-only boarding house) and occasionally... socialized with fellow, German immigrants. Which, is how Irma... Met her Man.
She’d say Adolf ‘Ady’ Schneider appealed to her (over other fellows), because he was neat and well-dressed, nicely complimenting her own well-put-together self. It led their friends to refer to them as ’the Zwillinge’ (the Twins)! The good looking, dapper pair married in October of 1955 and not long after, began raising a family.
Their three children: Monica, Bertram and Karen, became the center of Irma’s daily life, at their home in suburban Wauwatosa. Meanwhile, Adolf made... the dough; literally, as head pastry chef for the exclusive, Milwaukee Athletic Club. (Irma, years later, also made some dough, working at a neighborhood bakery). ‘Determined Irma’ was also the glue, that kept the family together. A devout church-goer, she also saved and budgeted well; made mouth-watering meals on a dime, baked killer, peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies; sewed designer-level outfits for her two daughters, their dolls and herself; helped her son deliver early-morning newspapers during snowstorms; kept a spotless home; often, also did much of the yard work and even became proficient at furniture refinishing! All, self-taught (a super-woman, indeed!).
Over the years, Irma’s determination also saw her proudly become a U.S. citizen. And along with her toughness, got her through a quadruple heart bypass in 2004, at age 75, and in her early eighties, steeled her to personally care for Ady, after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She refused to put him in a nursing facility; keeping him with her in their Wauwatosa home, until his 2011 death.
‘Tosa’ was also where Irma made many, many wonderful friends. Friendships, that continued even after she eventually moved on... yet again.
At age 89, she tried out apartment living along the shores of beautiful Lac La Belle in Oconomowoc, WI, surrounded by wonderful neighbors and great views!
And then… one more move. In June of 2020, following a hip fracture, Irma went to live with her daughter, Monica, in Hinsdale, IL. Now 92, she was facing her final (health) challenges. But Irma, as always, ... didn’t give up. She tried hard each day (with great pride), while finding happiness... in the moment. She reveled in the simple things: hugs, smiles, time at the park and... music (from Mozart, Polka and Cha Cha Cha to... ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’).
Irma Ida Schneider had become... an Inspiration.
So, perhaps fittingly, before embarking on her… Ultimate Move, Irma simply… Smiled. Toughness, Determination and… Sweetness... to the very end.
The Lord gave us Life and said, be happy
Sing a song to the Lord, and thank him and be happy
The Sky is blue, the birds are singing
Live your Life, Like the Birds
Sing a Song and be happy
Be happy as long as you are healthy
Thank God for every hour of the Day
Irma Ida Schneider (nee Fritsch) is survived by her three children: Monica, Bertram and Karen (Andy) Rhodes, as well as four siblings: Helga, Friedhelm, Waldemar and Berthold. Those who predeceased her, include her husband, Ady; siblings, Lilli, Olga and Adolf; parents, Wanda and Gottlieb; beloved grandmother (‘Oma’), Justine and dear aunt and friend, Maria.
On Saturday, April 24, 2021, Irma’s funeral mass will take place at 11am, at Notre Dame Catholic Church in Clarendon Hills, IL (face masks required). Livestream link: https://vimeo.com/539462285
On Sunday, April 25, 2021, ‘pink’ balloons, one of Irma’s favorite colors, will be released at 2pm CST, in honor of the 93rd anniversary of her birth. (The family invites anyone so inclined, wherever they may be, to also release a pink balloon in Irma’s honor.)
In lieu of flowers, please simply make a donation to a worthy charity of your choice. Or (on the donation tab above), help fund a memorial tree or bench at Hinsdale’s Katherine Legge Memorial Park (a joyful place for Irma).
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