THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Born in 1929 near Salzburg, she was the last surviving daughter of the Von Trapp family who became famous with the 1965 film ‘The Sound of Music’
Her father Georg Ritter Von Trapp was born in Croatia in 1880, whilst it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was the son of a navy captain and he himself joined the navy, training at the Royal Navy Academy in Fiume (nowadays Rijeka).
Aged 20 he met Agathe Whitehead and they got married. They were to have seven children. Georg served throughout the First World War.
In 1924, Agathe died during a scarlet fever epidemic, leaving Georg to bring up his seven children alone.
Meanwhile, Maria Kutschera had been born in 1905. Her parents lived in a small Tyrol village and her mother was being taken to a maternity hospital in Vienna when Maria was born, during the journey.
Both her parents were dead by the time she was 10 and she was brought up by an aggressive and abusive uncle.
Eventually she fled from him and by 1926 was working as a teacher at an abbey in Salzburg. She planned to become a nun.
But before she took her vows she was persuaded to become a governess to the 7 children of Georg Von Trapp. She was to be responsible for their education.
Maria and Georg fell in love and were married. They were to have three children, of which Rosmarie was the eldest. The others were Eleonore and Johannes.
The family fled Austria in 1938, settling in Vermont in the USA. They were forced to abandon everything, and Georg lost his fortune. His estate was seized shortly afterwards by Heinrich Himmler, Head of the SS.
In America, desperately short of money, Maria ‘persuaded’ her children and stepchildren to start a musical act, the ‘Von Trapp Singers’. They were immensely popular, touring Europe and the USA, and soon replenished the family’s fortunes.
But Georg died in 1947.
By 1950, Maria had enough money to buy their own home, the Trapp Family Lodge, in Vermont, which became a ski lodge / hotel.
In 1951, Rosmarie became a naturalised American, and she dropped the ‘Von’ from her name.
In 1965, Hollywood came calling and the film ‘The Sound of Music’ was made about the family. It was directed by Robert Wise and was an enormous worldwide hit. Johannes said, “The Sound of Music just opened us up to the world.”
But the film played fast and loose with the truth. It changed some of the children’s names and even their sex. There had been no dramatic escape from the Nazis and the three children born to Georg and Maria never appeared. More significantly, all of the stepchildren (and her own), absolutely hated Maria. Rosmarie called her mother, “difficult and bossy”, and they had a very strained relationship.
One of the siblings questioned the film’s authenticity. “It is far from being a documentary.” . The children objected to their father being portrayed as so strict, calling him kind and loving.
Maria had tried to be an advisor to the film, but Robert Wise threw her off the set – “She was bossy. I didn’t like that about her.”
Maria died in 1987.
Rosmarie never married. She briefly continued her career as a singer before acting as host at the family’s ski lodge.
A devout Christian she spent five years as a missionary in Papua New Guinea, along with her sister Maria.
When she returned to Vermont she opened a thrift shop, taught singing and let the local knitting society.
She walked or cycled everywhere, often carrying many things in a cart or trailer behind her.
She wrote regular letters to the local newspaper, the ‘Stowe Reporter’ – so much so that they gave her a weekly column, ‘Rosmarie’s Corner’.
Locally she was a much loved lady. She died, aged 93, in Stowe, Vermont. A family statement said, “Her kindness, generosity and colourful spirit were legendary and she had a positive impact on countless lives.”
And what became of the other Von Trapp children?
Rupert – In the film he was changed to a girl, Lisl. He became a medic and fought in the Second World War. He died in 1992.
Agathe – She ran a kindergarten in Baltimore and died in 2010, aged 92.
Maria – As a child she had a weak heart and was not expected to live long. She died in 2014, aged 99, the last survivor of the original seven.
Werner – Named ‘Kurt’ in the film. He owned a hotel in Portland, Oregon. He loved Austrian yodelling songs which he taught to his own granddaughters. They have now formed a new Von Trapp Singers group. Werner died in 2007, aged 91.
Hedwig – She was a singing and craft teacher in Hawaii, but died in 1972 aged just 55.
Johanna – She became an artist and moved back to Vienna after the war, marrying an Art Director.
Martina – She died in childbirth in 1951, aged 30.
Eleonore –Always known as ‘Lorli’,she died in Vermont in 2021 aged 90.
Johannes – He was born in the USA and still lives, aged 83 (ten years younger than Rosmarie). He opened Von Trapp Brewing Company and made his money in beer (and Rosmarie enjoyed her brother’s products).
Rosmarie hated singing in her mother’s group. “I was not happy on stage. I was made to do it. We never went running in a field singing songs like that. We had a hard life. It was a struggle.”
And yet, she was thrilled that Werner’s grandchildren had resurrected the group.
Johannes said, “I can’t remember a time when my family wasn’t well known or famous.”
RIP – Rosmarie Isn’t (in) Picture