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Carl von Riesenfelder

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BURLINGTON -- Carl von Riesenfelder of Manchester, much beloved husband, father and grandfather, died peacefully on June 16, 2004 at the Fletcher Allen Health Center in Burlington. He had open heart surgery on June 4, and his heart, already much weakened by a severe heart attack in early March, never recovered.

His early years mirror the vicissitudes and dislocation brought to Central Europe by the Second World War and post-war events. Carl was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Austria to titled nobility. In 1944 his family fled from then-Yugoslavia, formerly Austria-Hungary, leaving all properties behind to escape Communism. After boarding school in Stuttgart, Germany, he completed his studies in 1950 at the Law and Political Science Faculty of the University of Graz, Austria. In October 1951 he immigrated to the United States due to limited opportunities in an Austria still under four-power occupation and in economic turmoil. After briefly working in New York City, he was drafted during the Korean War to serve in the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps, utilizing his language skills for two years near Frankfurt, Germany.

After active duty he was transferred to the Army Reserve and completed his eight years of military service with honorable discharge in 1960.

In 1956 he received his M.B.A. degree from the New York University Graduate School of Business Administration, followed by executive programs at Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York City.

Always ready to explore new horizons, he chose an employment opportunity as chief accountant with the Chile Exploration Company in Chuquicamata, Chile, a subsidiary of Anaconda, a copper mining concern. In 1961 he returned to the United States to join Avon Products Inc. where he held several positions prior to becoming vice president and assistant treasurer of the company. He moved to the credit card industry from cosmetics to serve as vice president and head of the international division of Diners Club Inc. from 1978 to 1981.

From 1982 until 1988 he worked with MasterCard International Inc. in New York City. In 1988 he was transferred to the company’s international headquarters in Paris, France as senior vice president and general manager for Africa and the Middle East. After retirement in 1993 he returned to the United States and continued his activities in the financial services industry as president and founder of global card services, an international business consulting firm.

His career and personal interests took him to 132 countries, and he had a circle of friends in all five continents. Carl had perfect command of four languages and conversational level skills in several more.

He married Elizabeth Endrey on Jan. 18, 1964 in New York City, where they mostly resided. Their daughter, Christina, was born in 1971 and was the pride and joy of her father. In 1967 the couple purchased a farm in Camden Valley, near the Battenkill and Shushan, N.Y. Carl called the area “God’s country.” After retirement it became their permanent home, and in 1997 they moved to Manchester Village. The Green Mountains always reminded him of Austria.

Carl was an avid traveler truly interested in the peoples of the world. But he also found time for an amazing array of other activities: cross country and downhill skiing, tennis, paddle and working on his farm. He loved classical music, opera and theater, and supported many cultural institutions. In the 1980s he served as treasurer of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and was a chief organizer of the Viennese Opera Ball in New York City. An excellent ballroom dancer, congenial host and bon vivant, his smiling face was popular in the New York City social scene. Since 1977 he was an active member of the Dorset Field Club, and after his move to Manchester he served on the zoning board of the village, the board of the Equinox-on-the Battenkill Condominium Association, and was a popular and enthusiastic volunteer for Friends of Hildene.

All his life he was a modest, unassuming and unpretentious man who believed that true nobility lies in the heart. Everyone who knew Carl respected his honesty and good character, and admired his limitless energy. His untimely death leaves us all in stunned silence and disbelief.

Grieving for him are his wife of 40 years, Elizabeth von Riesenfelder, daughter Christina and son-in-law Kevin M. Roe, and little granddaughter, Alexandra, of Dorset, his sister Charlotte and brother-in-law Dr. Oswald Judar of Austria and their son, Peter of Los Angeles, Calif.

Carl will also be sorely missed by many cousins and their children and grandchildren, countless close friends and associates.

A memorial service will be held at the Congregational Church in Manchester on Sunday, June 27 at 2 p.m., officiated by the Rev. Steven E. Berry.

Carl’s ashes will be laid to final rest in Austria at a later date in August.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to The Carl von Riesenfelder Memorial Fund, Manchester Music Festival, P.O. Box 33, Manchester, VT 05254.
Published in Bennington Banner on June 22, 2004
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