She was the "Mama" Fraunfelder
behind the "Papa Fraunfelder"
The public Swiss Family Fraunfelder could not have functioned without the private family. And the private family flourished because of Frieda Fraunfelder, the wife of Papa and the mother of Rheiny, Betty, Ruthie, Hansi, Helen, and Fritz.
Mama was viewed by many as the most remarkable member of the Swiss Family Fraunfelder. Her life spanned more than 100 years (all of the last 67 years in the United States.) Her legacy endures today. She had a profound impact -- not only her children -- but more than 21 grandchildren,16 great grandchildren who knew her, and many friends of the family.
The 70-year marriage of Papa and Frieda started on strange circumstances in Switzerland. Son Fritz recently wrote, “My father was to marry her younger sister who died of tuberculosis. On her death bed she made my father promise to marry ...the older sister. “
Frieda, whose maiden name was Fehlmann, came from a wealthy banker's family. She received a significant inheritance.
But her younger brother who was a investor, lost it all in the stock market crash of the Great Depression. Fritz’s recent comments sum up the observations of many friends and family members:
“She was a perfect mother....she lived her whole life for her children,” he said. “She was an exceptionally generous person who gave away
tons of vegetables from the family garden and knitted a mile a minute ....socks, sweaters, scraps, etc. which she also gave away." Each family in the extended Fraunfelder clan posessed handmadeafghans, blankets, sweaters, socks and other intricately made gifts from Mama. She knitted more than 150 afghans during her later years.She had really few moments only to herself and long periods alone with the three younger children at home while the three older children and Dad went on concert tours. Birewegge and other delights
She was an exceptional hostess and Betty Ganders often said that it is a shame her mother never had the opportunity to open her own tea room, pastry shop, or konditorei, as it would have been a great success. Even impromptu visits at the Fraunfelder home by family or friends were met with a tray of homemade treats by "Mama" and a glass of loganberry juice, lemonade, or tea.
One of her specialities was homemade braetzli, a wafer-thin almond-vanilla cookie heated and pressed between metal plates with a special Swiss iron. Another was "springerle" cookie, a hard block cookie flavored with anise seed that is aged for months that was dipped into hot chocolate, tea, or coffee.
Another Swiss specialty was a pastry with a black dried pear filling called, "birewegge." Above is a photo.
Breakfast featured a Swiss dish called "fotzel schnnitte," a french toast covered with sugar and cinnamin, topped with an apple compote. At the age of 95, she still cooked such complete meals and treats for relatives and friends in her Woodburn, Ore. home. And they still tasted very good.
“She was a very devoted Christian who seldom went to church but listened to the Lutheran Hour every Sunday morning on the radio,” Fritz said.
While she lived in the United States for 67 years - never returning to Switzerland - she continued to speak with a distinct Swiss German accent and often would converse with Papa and the children fluently in the Swiss German dialect (Schwyzerdutsch.)
“Dad would not let her get American citizenship nor a drivers license for reasons I do not know,” Fritz said.
Mama would almost always greet grandchildren with the Swiss expression that they are "harzig" or cute. This is an example of sometimes substantial differences between the many Swiss German dialects and the language spoken in Germany. The German word for cute is "niedlich." Instead of "guten tag," the Swiss say, "gruezi."
Many words in the dialect can not be accurately written. Like many Swiss Germans, she laughed at the language's word for "kitchen cupboard." The word is "chuchichaschtli." When pronounced correctly, the word sounds like a cat coughing up a hairball.
Bedtime for grandchildren was often preceded by servings of hot water and honey (heise honig wasser.) Frieda would sing a version of a traditional Swiss lullaby to her children and granchildren in Schyzerdutsch. The song title is "I ghore es Gloggli." It was a song that told of the ringing of bells and ended with "Amen" three times. Many of her great grandchildren still sing the song as it has been passed down for generations. Unfortunately, they do not posess the English translation.
Swiss Family Fraunfelder