A rich life lived for Aspen’s Trudy Ostermaier
September 2, 2013
Gertrude "Trudy" Ostermaier might not have been born in Aspen, but when she passed away Wednesday at age 102, she left this earth a true Aspenite.
Ostermaier spent the last 42 years of her life in classic Aspen form, celebrating a sound mind and body while embracing the mountain lifestyle with her countless acquaintances and loving family.
Her friends remember her smile, the thick German accent that she couldn't get rid of, her keen interest in people and their families and her love of the outdoors.
Ostermaier was proud of being an American and often spoke of the difficulties immigrating in the 1930s. She took great pride in learning to speak English.
She skied until age 85 and continued to hike until age 95.
Born in Germany in 1911, one of her earliest memories was hiding under a bed at her home as bombs went off outside near the end of World War I.
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She moved to Paris as a young woman and met her future husband there.
Trudy and Herman Ostermaier were married in Megeve, France, in 1935. They came to America in 1939, lived in New Hampshire until they moved to Aspen in 1971 and built a home on Silver King Drive. The couple loved the outdoors and found true happiness in the Rocky Mountains. After Herman passed away in 1996, Trudy moved into Whitcomb Terrace and lived there for 14 years.
Health issues made her move to the Heritage Nursing Home in Carbondale for the last year and a half of her life. She was so well-liked that groups of residents from Whitcomb would travel to Carbondale just to visit her.
Ostermaier is survived by her son, Dennis, who lived in Aspen for a time but now resides in New Hampshire, as well as her grandson, Dennis, his wife, Leah, and their son, Aiden, who all live in New York.
Dennis, her son, is now 68 and has the Ostermaier gift of looking younger than his age would lead you to believe. His admiration for his parents is obvious as he speaks of how they survived two world wars and went through a long immigration process to become Americans.
"Once they got past all that, they had a lot of fun together," Dennis said. "My parents did everything together for so long. From running a business to enjoying the outdoors, they were always together. When I think of my mother, I see a colorful woman who loved people and loved life."
Grandson Dennis, also called Dennis II by his family, said there aren't enough kind words to describe his grandmother.
"She was a very complex and extraordinary woman," he said. "She was funny, bawdy, eccentric, extremely opinionated, brutally honest and completely fearless. She was also very understanding and compassionate because she was a woman who went through everything. She had a childlike curiosity but was smart enough to beat you in Scrabble in three different languages. She was also kind enough to share her love of life with everyone."
Maggie Gerardi has been the director at Whitcomb Terrace for 12 years. Her friendship with Ostermaier was quick to develop and sincere at every level.
"She would often ask what ski runs I took that day or where we went out," Gerardi said. "She would also share some of her fun stories about living in Aspen in the 1970s, having dinner at the Red Onion and dancing. It's funny because we were literally doing a lot of the same things, only at different times. Her memory was so sharp."
Gerardi said when her kids would come visit her at work, they insisted on going to Ostermaier's room because she would always give the kids candy.
"She remembered everything about my kids," Gerardi said. "She was so sharp and was genuinely interested in their lives, like a true friend would be."
Ostermaier also was an accomplished cook who was willing to share her recipes, especially with the cooks at Whitcomb Terrace. She often would tell them a particular dish she used to make at The Oxen Yoke, the ski lodge the Ostermaiers owned in New Hampshire.
At Christmas, Ostermaier actually would get back into the kitchen and make her stollen, a traditional German fruitcake dessert, and share it with everyone. She continued to make the stollen every holiday season until she was 98.
Mary Gardner, 80, met Ostermaier at Whitcomb Terrace and recalls sitting next to her at a celebration of her 101st birthday.
"I couldn't believe the spark she still had," Gardner said. "She was extremely gregarious, and she stayed current on what was happening in the world. She had an open mind on just about everything. She learned to paint in her 90s and was quite good."
At some point, those who new Ostermaier all seem to say the same thing: that their lives were made better in some way by knowing her.
"Trudy was always very appreciative of any help we would give her," said Lisa Sarver, the assistant director at Whitcomb Terrace. "But really, we should have been thanking her. We learned so much from a person like Trudy. She enriched our lives."