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Remembering Maria von Trapp, Last Member of the Sound of Music Family

Maria-franziska-vontrappMaria Franziska von Trapp, the last surviving member of the von Trapp family immortalized in The Sound of Music, died this weekend at her home in Vermont. She was 99.

Maria was the second oldest daughter of Georg von Trapp and his first wife, Agatha. Her character was renamed Louisa in the stage and then movie musical of The Sound of Music.

Von Trapp died at an old age of natural causes, but this news still made me sad. I’ve unfortunately never seen the stage version of The Sound of Music, but it is my favorite movie, and I grew up watching it with my whole family in the days before VCRs, even, when it was rebroadcast on TV every year. When I realized that the family in the movie was based on an actual family that escaped Austria and the Nazis, I was even more transfixed by their story. Visiting Salzburg for the popular The Sound of Music tour has long been on my life list. Just reading the list of destinations — Nonnberg Abbey, the church where Maria and the Captain were married (in real life and on film), the gardens where “Do Re Mi” was filmed, and the list goes on — makes me a little giddy. I also wouldn’t mind a visit to the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont, where the family settled after a tour of the United States in the 1940s.

It turns out that Maria had a pivotal role in her father meeting and then marrying her stepmother, Maria, famously played in the movie by Julie Andrews. Family friend Marianne Dorfer, who runs Salzburg’s von Trapp Villa Hotel, told the Austrian Times that Maria outliving her siblings was a surprise, and that without her health issues, the story of the relationship that launched the family to fame would not have been.

“It was a surprise that she was the one in the family to live the longest because ever since she was a child she suffered from a weak heart. It was the fact that she suffered from this that her father decided to hire Maria von Trapp to teach her and her brothers and sisters. That of course then led to one of the most remarkable musical partnerships of the last century.”

The von Trapp family’s website confirms this, saying that Maria had scarlet fever, and her soon-to-be stepmother came to tutor her. The movie depicts Louisa at 13, looking as healthy as the other children, marching around Salzburg, singing and dancing and wearing clothes governess Maria made out of curtains. The good news is that Maria was able to overcome her early health issues to be a part of her family’s escape from Austria and to live out her life.

Maria and Georg von Trapp had three children together after their marriage, who are all still living. Maria is the last of the original seven siblings, and with her passing, all of the von Trapps as we knew them in The Sound of Music have passed away. They gave families like mine a wonderful gift — the inspiration for a play and then a movie that we can now watch anytime, and songs that generations can sing together. It’s good to live a long, productive life, and even better to be a part of a legacy like Maria von Trapp’s.

Image credit: Wikipedia

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