Gisela Gallmeister Strand, of Holland, passed away on November 6, 2013.
Gisela was born at the beginning of the 2nd World War II in Hannover, Germany. With her mother Clara and her older brother Horst she was evacuated to rural Bavaria to escape the horrors of war. But when her youngest brother Klaus was born in 1944, Clara needed some rest and Gisela was sent for a few weeks to her grandparents in Hannover. Here she was right in the center of daily bombings and was unable to return to her mother. When her grandparents apartment was destroyed she could not stay with them any longer and was sent to her aunts for safety. This short term solution lasted for three years, when her father was finally released from POW camp and wanted his family together again. Gisela would have preferred to stay with her aunt, but a child of eight was not asked.
The trauma of the almost daily bombings during the end of the war and the following three years of near starvation were very difficult to shake off but eventually she realized that she was extremely blessed to have survived and that God must have had a reason and a plan for her. Her mother saw to it that she could attend the best girl's school in town so that all the possibilities of life would be open to her. Gisela's interest in languages, history, and opera lead her to the University of Freiburg, the University of Vienna, the University of Chicago, and to Vanderbilt University
where she got her advanced degrees, and finally to Hope College in Holland.
And here she found the meaning of her life: a happy marriage, two wonderful and gifted children, Mimi and Alexi, a most amazing career involving the exchange of ideas with her students, for some of whom she had a life changing influence.
When her children started their own careers and families she focused on helping others in the community. She was trained as a Stephen's Minister to accompany members of her parish through difficult periods of their lives. She also became a counselor at the Center for Women in Transition and volunteered at the local Soup Kitchen until her illness forced her to stay away from bigger crowds.
Her artistic endeavors took her to writing poetry, painting, experimenting with wood carving, developing her shade garden into a living sculpture, and finding solace, inspiration, and joy by interacting with nature, family, and friends.
Extended travels took her all over the world both to urban centers in Japan and China and to beautiful natural paradises: Hawaii, Eastern, Northern, and Southern Europe, the Grand Canyon, and the great expanse of the West.
But the greatest joys of her life were being with her grandchildren, Sonia, Rye and Gabriel; her children, Mimi and Alexi; her soul mate, Jochen; her family in Germany, especially her brothers, and her friends both here and in Germany. Klaus, her youngest brother, already showed her the way into the next life and she had hoped that they, Klaus and Gisela, her parents, grandparents, aunts, and friends would all be with each other again. "Friends are the flowers in the garden of life." What a blessed life!
The memorial service will be at Grace Episcopalian Church in Holland on Saturday, November 23, at 2 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, please contribute to the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. The Strand Family is being served by Yntema Funeral Home, Zeeland. www.yntemafh.com