Maria von Trapp was found dead on Tuesday in her home in Vermont at the age of 99. Maria, not to be mistaken with her stepmother Maria Augusta Kutschera, was the last surviving member of the well-known Family von Trapp singers who were all made famous in the 1965 film The Sound of Music.
Maria was the second eldest daughter and third child of Austrian Georg von Trapp and first wife, Agathe Whitehead von Trapp. The family had then gone on to perform concert tours throughout Europe and even did a 3 month tour in America.
Agathe had died from scarlet fever which she had contracted from her children. Maria, due to the scarlet fever, was very sickly and unable to walk the three miles to school everyday and therefore had to remain at home. It is then when Maria (played by Julie Andrews in the film version) arrived on the scene.
The Sound of Music was roughly based on the 1949 book by Georg’s second wife, Maria Augusta, who died in 1987. Younger Maria was portrayed as Louisa in both the Broadway musical and film version of their lives. The film ended up winning Best Picture at the Oscar’s in 1966. The film garnished four other wins in the categories of Best Director (Robert Wise), Best sound (James Corcoran and Fred Hynes), Best Film Editing ( William Reynolds) and, of course, Best Music (Irwin Kostel). Julie Andrews, who played Maria Augusta, was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role though she did not win the award that year.
It is in Stowe, Vermont, where the family had finally settled in the 1940’s and opened up a ski lodge. Georg and Maria had three of their own children named Rosmarie, Johannes and Eleonore using the last name of von Trapp Campbell. It was there where Johannes played accordion and he and his sister, Rosmarie taught Austrian dance together.
Maria’s stepbrother Johannes says, “She was a lovely woman who was one of the truly good people. There wasn’t a mean or miserable bone in her body. I think everyone who knew her would agree on that.” It is he who reported that Maria von Trapp was found dead in her home, in Vermont, at the old age of 99.
The step-siblings were amazed that Maria survived as long as she did considering that she was the one who was left the weakest after the scarlet fever epidemic which had killed her mother.
If you visit the Trapp Family website under The Story of my Family, you can read Maria’s words of her life story and how they loved to sing but they never thought of singing for the public. Her sisters Agathe and Johanna were the first soprano voices, Maria and Martina were second sopranos, Hedwig sang alto and Wernor sang tenor, leaving Rupert singing bass. After their step-siblings were born they could not join the choir until the age of 12, except for Johannes who sang in the choir at 8 years old.
It is a truly amazing life the von Trapp family had lived. Escaping Nazi occupied Austria and going on to be, probably the most famous singing family in history. Maria von Trapp, found dead in her home in Vermont at the age of 99 had definitely lived a full and glorious life. Rest in peace Maria as you sing with the angels now.
Editorial by Derik L. Bradshaw