On June 28, 2012, friends and family gathered at the Adult Community Center to celebrate Stella Peterson's 100th birthday. Many, many people were there from Marshall and the area. And, of course, Stella and Kenneth's three children, Jan, Lynn and Phillip, along with some of their families, were there to greet and meet. I enjoyed seeing Stella's children whom I had known from when they grew up in Marshall.
Back in 1999, when Lynn was visiting her mother, I asked if I could interview her about the von Trapp family that she had married into. She is married to Georg and Maria's youngest son Johannes. And of course, we are all familiar with the movie, "The Sound of Music," which featured the life of this family. Lynn's response was, "Why do you want to interview me? Everyone always wants to interview my husband." My reply was - "Well, he did not grow up in Marshall."
I had never met Johannes until Stella's birthday - and I had such a good visit with him and Lynn, their son Sam and daughter Kristina - as well as with Phillip and Jan. When I returned home that night, I thought that I should really share with the Marshall area the interview that I conducted with Lynn to show the connection that "The Sound of Music" has with Marshall.
The following series is just that, which was first published in The Lyon Tale in 2000. My sources were the interview with Lynn von Trapp, and "The World of the Trapp Family" by William Anderson, 1998.
"Lynne von Trapp, daughter of Dr. Kenneth and Stella Peterson, born and raised in Marshall, knew Maria von Trapp well; Maria was her mother-in-law.
The famous Maria (played by Mary Martin on Broadway and by Julie Andrews in the movie version) was living in a convent in Austria when her Mother Superior suggested that she leave the convent long enough to assist Captain Georg Ritter von Trapp as a nanny for his seven children. As the movie portrays, Maria stayed, and finally she and the Captain married.
When Austria was invaded by Hitler and his Nazi army in 1938 the von Trapps made the decision to leave their beautiful villa, everything they owned, and move to America. After many difficulties, they settled in Philadelphia where they turned their legendary musical hobby abilities into a profession. For 20 years they performed as the Trapp Family Singers in 30 countries. In the early 1940s they bought a farm in Stowe, Vt., where the family lived when not on tour. They farmed in the summers, and over time built a large Austrian style farm house. No one is sure exactly when they began taking paying guests, but the home gradually turned into a guest lodge.
The family was very comfortable in America and were very grateful for the opportunities for them here. Maria continued to make contacts with school chums in Austria and after she opened the lodge she would return regularly to Austria to buy items for the gift shop. When they first came to the United States they dropped the "von" from their name and were known as the Trapp Family, but eventually they took the title back.
How did a small town girl from Marshall, Minnesota end up marrying into this famous family, and, with her husband Johannes, end up running The Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont? It all started in the spring of her junior year at St. Olaf College in Northfield, when Lynne learned through a cousin that Maria von Trapp was interested in having musically trained students serve as waiters and waitresses at the Lodge during the summer, with the idea that these students would give a concert following the evening meal.
To back up a bit, Lynne's uncle Orville Sather (oldest brother of Stella Sather Peterson) was working as the head engineer at WOR Radio in New York City, and he had interviewed Maria for WOR, and they had become friends. Orville's daughter Karen, after graduating from Oberlin College in Ohio with a master's degree in music, approached Maria about setting up a music program as described above. Karen then wrote to another cousin, Lee Sather, who was a senior at St. Olaf College asking if the quartet he belonged to would be interested in this program. Since Sather's quartet was already booked for the summer, he handed Lynne the letter and said, "Listen Lynne, is this something you would like to do?" Lynne quickly got some friends together who were very good singers and formed a quartet, responded to the request, and the quartet was hired.
(Continued next week)