Maria von Trapp, aka Louisa in the The Sound of Music, passed away this week at her home in Vermont at the age of 99. She was the second daughter of Agatha von Trapp and Baron Georg von Trapp. The Trapp Family Singers were immortalized in the Broadway play and movie musical, The Sound of Music. Since it would have been confusing for the audience if there were two Marias, for purposes of the story, the younger Maria was called Louisa.
Baron von Trapp was an Austrian naval hero. He lived with his first wife, Agatha, and their older children in the town of Pula on the Croatian coast. But Austria lost its seaports during World War I, and Maria wrote that she was born as they crossed the Alps into Austria to escape the fighting.
Her half-brother Johannes spoke fondly of his late sister, calling her lovely, and exclaiming that she did not have a single unpleasant bone in her body.
In the movie version of the family history, Maria’s father, Baron von Trapp, and her stepmother are married just before the Nazi takeover of Austria. The reality was a bit different.
Maria’s stepmother was an orphan from Vienna, and had indeed joined the Benedictine Abbey of Nonnberg in Salzburg, Austria as a novice after graduating from college. However, she did not leave to attend the von Trapp children in 1938 as a governess. Rather, she was sent to them in 1926 as a tutor for Maria, who was at that time recovering from a bout with scarlet fever. Maria von Trapp, aka the character Louisa, was portrayed by Canadian actress Heather Menzies-Urich, in The Sound of Music, and passed away this week at the age of 99. The seven von Trapp children lost their mother to the disease four years earlier.
Maria and Baron von Trapp were married the next year. The family left Austria in 1938, but they did not sneak out and hike over the mountains into Switzerland. In the real, though slightly less exciting version of the story, after refusing a naval command and an invitation to be a musical guest for Hitler’s birthday, the Baron and his family informed their friends it was time to blow Dodge, and took the train out-of-town.
Maria was the last living member of the original seven family singers. The movie and stage version of The Sound of Music were loosely based on a book written by her stepmother, Maria, which was published in 1949.
After their departure from Austria, the Trapp Family Singers performed all over Europe and America. They settled down in Vermont and opened a ski lodge, which still exists, in the town of Stowe.
Maria von Trapp was an accordion player. She and her sister Rosmarie were beloved for the music and Austrian folk dances they shared with friends and guests of the ski lodge. Contrary to how he was portrayed on celluloid, her father was not stern and cold-hearted, but rather a very warm-hearted man, who dearly loved making music with his children. He was proficient on the violin, mandolin and accordion. Her stepmother played violin and piano. She even expressed fond memories of her grandmother entertaining the family on piano. Maria von Trapp, aka Louisa, passed away after a long and happy life at the fine age of 99.
By Melissa Roddy