Hastings Highlands Public Library Heritage
Gertrud Sorensen
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Karen Richardson
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Date of Publication
2004
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Gertrud Sorensen
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English
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Full Text

Gertrude Sorensen

Innkeeper, Artist, Photographer & World Traveler

Introduction

Gertrude Sorensen is a tall, strong, vital woman of 75. She was playing a dramatic Chopin composition on her Baby Grand when I rang the bell to interview her at the luxurious Bear Trail Couples Resort, in the small town of Whitney, on the edge of the Algonquin Park wilderness. She is a smart, talented, down to earth woman with a sense of humour and faith in her life. Her interest in nature, music, art, travel and people are the legacy she leaves to her grandchildren. She told me her life story in a lilting Austrian accent while we took tea in her spacious, light-filled living room, with vaulted cedar ceilings and walls filled with books and paintings, overlooking Galeairy Lake.

The Lord’s Prayer

Gertrude’s favourite prayer is “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Innsbruck, Austria

I was born October 30, 1929 in Innsbruck, Austria ~second last of 7 children. There were so many of us, my parents didn’t have much time for each of us and the little ones were not listened to. Well, you know, I had the independent spirit from my father. That’s why I took off for Canada later. Innsbruck was a very artsy and sports-minded city in Tryol, in the north, close to Switzerland, Germany, and Italy, very international. All this influenced my interests in life.

Amstetten Farm Life

My mother was Maria Zeilinger. Her family came from Amstetten, low land farm country, in eastern Austria near Vienna. They had to get up at 3 am to be out in the field for 4 am. She was a delicate person and it was hard work. (I thought I had it hard!) She wanted to marry a man from the city, so she wouldn’t have to work on the farm. Mom was a gentle person, very gentle. She did everything for the family, too nice. Mom stayed home to look after the children, but she had help, at times.

A Gentle Father

My father was Rudolph Haller, who was very gentle with his 5 daughters. We all liked him. His family was from the Alps, very frugal farm country. They moved to Innsbruck when he was young. His father died when he was 14 and as the eldest child, he had to take care of the family and his mother. He was quite a guy, my father, conscientious. He built apartment buildings, had a cheese factory and a lumber mill, so he wasn’t home much, you know? But in those days, that was accepted. I don’t remember my grandparents. I was took small at the time.

The Seven of Us

My siblings were Rudolph (who almost got a job as Consul General for Canada, but in those days, you were disqualified if divorced) who became the provincial Minister of Trade in Tyrol: Maria (who had a fashion salon), Richard (a movie actor); Hildegard Evelyn (a homemaker and book keeper); Irmengard (a homemaker who wrote poetry); myself and Evelyn (a homemaker, who trained in social work) in that order. I have two family trees on record, so I won’t go into more here. I was closest with my sister Irmengard. Evelyn was 7 years younger. We weren’t so close with the older ones.

Candles on the Tree

As a child, my favourite holiday was Christmas eve, with real candles on the tree. We still do this. We said prayers at 8 pm., then went to the Christmas tree to open the presents. Everything I got was wonderful. After was a nice little buffet with punch and then Midnight Mass. The next day you had the big dinner, weiner schnitzel.

Two Idealistic Girls

My best friend as a child was Iris Kirchmair. We went to school together. Her mother was English. I was stubborn and I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. But as teens, we adored theatre, especially Shakespeare. I was a big opera fan and took up piano at 13. I also loved poetry. We had the time and money and we could do these things. In that generation, girls from ‘well to do’ families were protected, believe me! We were very much sheltered. This came to my attention, when I grew up and came to Canada. I thought, “Boy, I wish I had more experience, dealing with people.” Iris had to take over her father’s business when he died, the Witting Sports Centre in Innsbruck. She still comes to visit me here in Canada.

Disappearing Chickens!

Before I was born, my family lived in a house but when I was very small, we moved from the villa to an apartment or maybe it was before I was born. I don’t remember why. WW2 entered my life when I was 7. We were happy when the Americans arrived, as Innsbruck had been bombed heavily by then. My father’s sawmill was destroyed by 74 U.S. bombs. Since his other businesses were intact, he considered himself fortunate and loved to converse with the Americans. But one evening, when food was scare, all our backyard chickens disappeared! They were all eaten by the Americans! Somehow we were all disappointed.

An Encounter with the S.S.

My brother Richard intentionally broke his leg to avoid going into service, so he could work in the ‘underground’. Oh I tell you! My father used to say there are two sides to everything. You have to choose one and stick with it. It was scary. Everything was top secret. The German S.S. were looking for arms. They thought my father was hiding some, but didn’t any, so they let him go free. He was over 60 by then.

Why the Danes are Cool

After my husband died 3 years ago, my son Mark wanted to know why the Danes are so cool, why they don’t show emotion or hug you? Mark’s very affectionate, you see. His father, Fritz was in the underground in Denmark. This is where he learned to zip his lips and not show emotion and if he talked in the war, he could be soon dead. This follows you in life.

The War Made Us Religious

The war made us very religious. We all had to pull together to survive. My parents weren’t strict. We had a wonderful priest to lead the youth group, so that’s how I’m still with the Church. I still remember the day the war ended ~May 5, 1945. We paraded the Americans. But not all Austrians felt the same. And for several years after that, we had very hard times.

Mountain Climbing

By the time the war ended, I was a young teenager. Every year since I was little, we always spent summer holidays at our chalet in the Alps at Brenner Pass. I loved to go mountain climbing when I was young. My sister liked ice climbing. I sometimes went on student group climbing tours. Lots of times I was scared, but you learn to use your head and develop stamina. My brother Richard was also a mountain climber. He and Herman Buhl, the most famous Austrian mountain climber at the time, climbed many peaks together. Buhl ascended Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas, the first to do so, without oxygen! That was 1956.

Home Economics, Bookkeeping & Music

After the war, I finished high school, which included 2 years of home economics and 2 years of business. In certain things I was an excellent student. It all depended on the teacher (laughs). My favourite subject was German and English, but I was also awfully good in bookkeeping. The next year I had a woman teacher who was awful and my marks fell. At 19, I went to a music academy to study piano and voice.

A Prize Youth Choir

There I joined a youth choir with sister Irmengard. A young conductor and composter wanted to start one. There was 5 of us in all at the first session and it grew into a well-known Austrian Choir. Most of us were students and even went mountain climbing together. We won first price, a gold medal in Vienna in 1948. After that the choir travelled round singing in Italy, England, Morocco and Japan and was quite famous but I had left by then. I have a book about it. I also joined 3 other choirs.

An Au Pair in England

Well, to do any kind of work in Austria, you needed several languages and I wanted to learn English. When I was 21, I found work as an ‘au pair’ girl at a bed and breakfast in England. This was near Sandringham, in Norfolk. I did miss my family, but England wasn’t very far away. The owner was Count Hoyos, a Spaniard of Austrian descent, connected to the Hapsburgs.

Learning English

His wife, the Countess, was Irish! In summer she went off to holidays in Austria and I took over everything. I even had two Austrian girls under my command. I was surprised to find I had the talent, but I wasn’t making much money. At least I got to talk to people from all over the world, even from India! My God, it intrigued me so. Well, Countess Hoyos taught me English well. Finally, I passed the Cambridge English exam, thank goodness!

North America

By this time, our family had moved back to the Villa and I returned home to Innsbruck for a year, but found it too small and wanted to see the world. So I applied to the Royal Court of Athens to teach children English, but they said my letter wasn’t mature enough for them. I was young and anxious to get on with my adventure and it took too long to get into the United States, but Canada was open and you could get in quickly.

A Governess in Quebec

My bother Rudy knew someone in St. Adelle, Quebec who needed a governess. His name was Frank Schofield ~a ski instructor. He said he would pay my fare over, if I looked after his child. Mother wasn’t too happy about it, but father was all for it. He wanted himself to be over here! I came over on an Italian luxury liner, the S.S. Homeric.

Bright Open Spaces

When I saw Quebec City, I thought how fantastic! It was just wonderful. So bright and so much light, unbelievable, such open space compared to the Austrian mountains. Sadly, father died 6 months after I arrived. He was 77, but it was a terrible shock… I loved him so. Well, I paid back the fare to Mr. Schofield and came to Toronto where I had a distant cousin, Joseph Haller, a civil engineer, who built the extension to St. Joseph’s Hospital. But unfortunately, we were not close ~ so I went on my own way.

I Should Have Been A Doctor

Working as a Dictaphone operator at the Banting Institute (where they invented insulin for diabetics) at the University of Toronto, was my favourite job. I had a wonderful time there. Even then, I was interested in natural healing and medicine as my father had died of cancer. I was an autopsy recorder, transcribing medical reports about the deceased’s cells. If I had been a man you know, I would have loved to go into medicine, but my parents thought the guys should go to university and the women should have more traditional occupations.

Nanny to the Newmans

While working at the Banting Institute, I babysat some evenings for the Morawetz family. They were Czech. I took care of their 3 children sometimes. Their brother in law was Peter Newman (the author) who lived with them, so I also looked after their son Kevin Newman (now the famous TV newsman). It was a big gorgeous house.

My Slide Shows

I didn’t have to pay room and board and saved like crazy for a trip to Europe. I was always good with money. On my holidays, I went alone or in groups and took lots of slides and photographs. When I got back, I did two slide shows and talks at the Banting Institute. People didn’t travel so much back then and they seemed really impressed!

Love on the Tennis Court

Then I joined the International Club for new Canadians in Toronto where I met some German girls. We had good times going on group outings on weekends. Fritz Sorensen was my tennis instructor. He was from Copenhagen, Denmark and worked as a shipper for Shell Canada. I was 25 and he was 33. He talked about the ‘underground’, so I knew I could trust him. We both liked nature and he liked my rendition on the piano. After 9 months, we decided to get married. I don’t remember how he proposed.

A Plain Wedding

But I went back to Austria first alone on the S.S. United States just to make sure I wanted to get married. I came back to Canada on the S.S. Liberte, a French ship. It was only 4 nights and 5 days. Fritz picked me up in New York City. The wedding was 7 April, 1956. It was very plain, although I had a nice white dress. We were married in a small church and had a meal for a dozen people afterwards, in Fritz’s friend’s home because neither of us had any family here.

Starting a Family

We were newlyweds about a year before we had enough money put by for a little house on Birchmount Avenue in Scarborough. I was doing Dictaphone for the Children’s Aid Society at the time. I had my first child, Evelyn (1957), followed by Mark (1959), John (1964) and Paul (1966). All 3 sons were delivered at Scarborough Hospital, and Evelyn was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Then we bought a house on Painted Post Road, in Cedarbrae.

A Better Life in Austria?

Eventually, my sister Irmengard came to visit me, but Mother never did. She was ill and I came too late to say goodbye. That’s life sometimes. She died in 1965. Fritz was a foreman in a pen factory and I had to give up my job because little Mark had asthma so bad. He was very sensitive. We needed more money to support he family. So Irmengard thought I would have had a better life, if I had stayed in Austria and I did think about going back at that time.

To the Edge of Wilderness

The financial pressure was on and we wanted to get out of the city and run our own business. In 1967, we found a small lodge in the little town of Whitney, population 1200 on the edge of the wilderness of Algonquin Park, 4 hours north of Toronto. Whitney was a little bigger then, before MNR laid off a lot of workers who moved away. Whitney actually looks more prosperous now. I didn’t really want to move that far and isolated with 4 children. It was very traumatic for me but we had to do something! A tourist director in Ottawa invited me to be a translator there, but what would Fritz do?

Long Lake Lodge

Long Lake Lodge was a reasonable price and near the school. We sold the house in Scarborough for the down payment. It was a small place so we could get into it slowly and the area was not developed. There were 7 log cabins accommodating 35 guests. At first we had mostly fishermen, quite a few Americans. Back then you could make more profit than today.

The Bear Trail Inn

One day our cook came in from the staff cabin (now the Ski Hut) and told us a bear had visited! We were amazed to find that bears dared to come that close to humans! The following night, I had a dream that a bear came round the house and took off into the bush. So we renamed our place “The Bear Trail Inn”.

The Little Sorensens

Little Mark was pretty sickly at the time, but he got a little better with the good air, although he never got entirely well. John was 3 and Paul was 9 months. Evelyn was 10 by then and my big helper, a second mother. She did the cleaning to make some money to buy her own things. I had the children follow certain rules, but they had to find their own way. I always said having children is the hardest thing in life. Doing business, if you put your mind to it, can be done, but children! You think you are parenting right, but you may not be. We paid Evelyn $1.25 an hour to help out. Later we paid the boys too. They were al excellent workers.

Canada’s Centennial

That first summer was Canada’s 100th birthday. So there were quite a few visitors from Montreal, going through the park to Toronto and vice versa. Sometimes we had to close up, just to get a day of rest, ok? In the fall, there was a steady flow of older folks when it was too cool to camp. We did have some trouble in the early days with the chore boys. We were European and used to doing things a certain way. They didn’t like that and did things to scare us, but we learned not to take them so seriously after a while.

I’m Not Really a Cook

Apparently our guests liked my cooking. I know how to make it look and taste good and make a profit from it, mostly Continental, English and introduced weiner schnitzel. I liked being home with the children, but I wasn’t all that happy doing all that cooking. I would rather have been working in an office. Still, we had just enough business that summer to make it through the winter financially.

A Typical Marriage

The first 10 years at the inn were hard too. Fritz did the maintenance and I did all the bookkeeping and inside organization. It was a typical marriage in those days -the man was the boss. When I was growing up in Austria, women deferred to men. I always felt we didn’t have enough chances in life. So I was glad in a small village to create some jobs for the women and less fortunate.

A Sporty Family

Fritz was very good the boys, taking them out kayaking, skiing, canoeing, fishing. It was really good for the boys that their father could do that. I wanted to go too. I was very sporty ~swam every day in summer. I had to, just to get rid of the stress. I did a lot of hiking in the park too. The boys went fishing and swimming and played in the woods and we all went on cross-country skiing excursions. But it was not so great for Evelyn. The children had a hard time being accepted at school. We were the first European family there in town of loggers and were considered outsiders. Each of my children could tell a big story about that.

Happy Days Sailing

When Fritz and I went on camping trips in nature, those were the nicest times. We were both into sports. I was so glad that he liked what I liked. We had these little sailboats for our guests and decided to give them a try ourselves. Mind you, every time he took me out sailing (he loved to so) he dumped the boat in the water, so I gave it up. (Laughs) But I wasn’t scared because I was a good swimmer. Fritz was also very much interested in politics. He was Reeve here in Whitney briefly in the early 1970s, by acclamation, but he didn’t have the backing, so after a year he stepped down.

The Ski Trails

In our second year, we decided to stay open for winter for cross-country skiers. We had guests as far away as Virginia. This awake our spirit of entrepreneurship. Fritz cut 5 kilometers of ski trail, across the lake at the Kuiaks farm, which my sister Ermengard bought later. After advertising for the first time in the Globe and Mail in Toronto and being the only ski trail in the are and the only resort open in the winter locally, we drew business from ski clubs all over Southern Ontario! Later, Fritz cut more trails further into Algonquin Park. Then the Ministry of Natural Resources took over the trail system and extended them.

The Perfectionist

Oh my God, I worked like a horse, did everything, painting, making curtains, the dining room had to be set up properly as we served 3 meals a day, the first few years. I was such a perfectionist, especially hated clutter. Everything had to be nice to look at. We had birthday parties for the children, but we were so busy with work that it was hard to develop friendships. If I hadn’t learned during the war that life can be tough, I would have given up, but you learn to live with hardship.

Skiers, Hunters & Fishermen

The second year, we stayed open over winter for the cross-country skiers. It was really that winter business that kept us going because there was no other place in the area open in winter. Every year we winterized another cabin. That lasted 10 years and it was hard work. We still had 5 employees in the summer and maybe one in the fall. We had deer, bear and moose hunters and American fishermen.

Rainbow Lodge

By 1978, we started expanding in stages, firs the 7 Inn rooms that could take 20. Then we bought the neighbour’s place called Rainbow Lodge (housekeeping cabins) which could accommodate up to 40 people in 1981. We served mostly breakfast and dinner (the modified American plan). I didn’t want to expand until the youngest was at least 12, as I had too much to do when they were little. I did want international visitors and booked tours through some of my connections. We took 2 busloads, 100 people at a time!

Fritz’ Miraculous Recovery

Not long after, the expansion of the resort took a toll on Fritz’ health. He developed a rare case of skin cancer, over 90% of his body. He spent 2 months in hospital in Toronto and miraculously recovered. That was 1980. All my children were old enough to help then, especially Mark.

An Artist’s Colony

About 1982, I began to organize art workshops in the off season. Artists just loved painting here at the resort so much, I even though about opening and artist colony, because I sold lots of their paintings, but realized artists don’t have too much money. Anyways, I always knew I had to have something interesting to do in my old age. I thought, why don’t I give it a try. You never stop learning with art. I’ve had many happy days, but when I started painting, those were nice times.

My First Painting

See that’s my first painting on the wall. How dark it seems now! I painted lighter and lighter over the years and more colourful. (Laughs) I really get joy from it, more than ever now. I studied with Thrane, Lampman, Leonar, Fraser and Mattews. We sometimes bought paintings from them. I’ve love to learn more about portraiture. Now I have my own studio and gallery. I do mostly oil landscape paintings, in bright colours and bold strokes, mountains, sunsets, quaint winter scenes.

Workshops and Studio Tours

For 10 years, between 1992 and 2002, I organized the annual October shows at the Algonquin Park Visitor Centre which was always very successful. I did my third show this year at the Bancroft Art Gallery. It was sponsored by local lawyer Robert Henderson and opened with sings by a local guitarist. My daughter and two grand children attended and many friends and was also quite a success. I’d like my grand children to know me as an artist, not just a businesswoman. It was quite successful. I was President of the Eastern Central Ontario Art Association (ECOAA) a few years back and organized artist studio tour and show for them.

Juried Shows & Exhibits

I’ve been in juried shows and group exhibits in Buckhorn, Peterborough, Belleville and Bancroft. My works are hanging in Whitney Library and art galleries in Belleville, Wilno, Madawaska, Whitney, Barry’s Bay and private collections in Toronto, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Pennsylvania, Ohio, England, Denmark and Germany, Austria and Switzerland and of course, here at the resort. I still pain outdoors when I can, spring to fall.

A Nervous Organist

Of course, I attended the Catholic Church in Whitney when I was older. They needed an organist, so I played on Sundays. I always felt a little small next to my older siblings, so I had a fear of failure. When I played organ, I could feel my heart pounding so, but I had to do it, just had to. Eventually, I learned to perform with ease.

South America

In 1985, I went with Mark on our South American trip. We saw Lima, Buenos Aires (where Is aw Hailey’s Comet), Pizarros’ grave, Machu Pichu, Bolivia, Lake Titicaca, Argentina, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo. Seeing those Inca mummies in the museum, I thought it’s better to die by freezing in the cold. Isn’t that what the Inuit do too? And the funny thing is, those peasants are so poor, but when you look at their faces, they seem happier than we are. Sad thing though, the young ones beg for money from the passengers on the train. The boys just push the girls away…

The Whole World is Beautiful

Every year, we closed the resort in November, December and April when things were quiet. We all needed a holiday, so I went travelling then. By then Fritz preferred time along, so I took a different child each year. They all grew up half in Europe! John went to Asia with me around 1987 ~Hong Kong, Bangkok and Pataya Beach and Singapore. I’d love to go back to Alaska and Argentina was my favourite, an intriguing place. But the whole world is beautiful. I pained in Austria, Newfoundland (2002) and with groups in Venice and Sienna (2000). Now every year I go back to Austria to see my two sisters and spend some time as the spa in Budapest. This year (2004) I had to come back early for the art show in Algonquin Park. All my children like travelling to see the world.

100 Photo Albums

Well, now I have an atlas and all these souvenirs and 100 photo albums of my travels! Too many. (Laughs) I wrote up all the details of my trips to go along with the albums. When they were younger, we took the children to Europe and the United States. I’m not interested in Africa and Australia is too much like Canada. I’d rather see more of Canada. My favourite place is the Rockies. I don’t look at the albums much anymore.

No Fences in Algonquin

Some of my German guests ask why there isn’t a fence around Algonquin Park? In their country, the parks are closed in and the forests are groomed. Europeans love our open space and that we still have wildlife. But they ask how come there are so many dead trees? Because its wild! (Laughs) they think its fantastic to go out on the lakes in a motorboat in your own.

An Unwelcome Guest

We had a European guest once who didn’t like our prices. He wanted to blare it out in the dining room to everyone. Fritz tried to get him out into the lobby and said if he had known someone could be that miserable, he wouldn’t have saved so many in the “underground” in the war and we wouldn’t take his money. O, did that guy ever go white! So he actually left a cheque for us with the police, who insisted…

Adventure Lodge

Eventually, as we replaced each cottage with villas or chateaux, the old cabins (9 were too nice to destroy) were moved to our property on the Madawaska River, where it was built into Adventure Lodge with the MAP plan and it opened in June 2003. The stables, which were situated on that property ~were moved to near McRae Mils across the bay from the Bear Trail.

The President

Fritz was always the centre of attention, the big entertainer with our guests, and I wanted a little independence, so in 1985 I became a Board Member of the Algonquin Arts Council in 1988 and President of the Bancroft Chamber of Commerce for one year, but since the business and family needed me more, I had to step down.

The Couples Resort

In 1988 there was a recession, but we did well. I was almost 60, by then and wanted to sell, but the family was against it. That year, John had just finished his university degree in corporate economics. Mark was great at design and renovations, so they both turned it into a couple’s resort which has been very popular. Over time, I gradually gave up more and more of the work at the resort. John and Evelyn work here and Paul too (part-time), but Mark is in Vancouver now. Eventually, we’d like to have a little museum here about the Bear Trail’s history.

Philosophy, Psychology & Cayce

So what do I do now? I spend a lot of time reading, real literature, like the Forsythe Saga and Tolstoy, Schiller, and Edgar Cayce and philosophy. Gosh, what you imagine when you are reading. I love self-improvement books too, like Wayne Dwyer on ‘intent’. I also enjoy history books and biographies, but they must be written well. There has to be a good story in it. I love the old movies, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Lee, deep and sensitive. Do you know that one, the Age of Innocence? Romantic, old fashioned.

Comedy, Good Food and Laughs

I actually enjoy comedy TV too, the Golden Girls and Seinfeld! Would you believe it? (Laughs) I need to laugh a lot. I love any kind of food that tastes good. My favourite colour is bluegreen and orange and when I was young I loved water lilies. When you get older, everything is beautiful. Would you like some more tea?

Remember When You Get Older…

I love to paint and play piano and be with the family. I have now my sixth grandchild. We have birthday parties. They go water skiing at my son’s, or we have a barbeque It’s not enough togetherness, but a little. I often said to myself, remember when you get older do not hang on to your children! Have your own friends. Develop your own pleasures, you know, because they won’t always have time for you. So, enjoy your grandchildren more. Aside from family, the most important things in life to me now are my music, art, friends, and travel.

People I’d Like to Meet

I remember the day President Kennedy was shot. I saw it on TV, quite tragic. I heard about the death of Princess Diana on radio. When I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, I listen to international radio, especially Austrian. It’s interesting to hear news from all over the world. Oh, and I like to meet outstanding people, see what makes them tick There are so many people I’d like to meet, mostly composers, young musicians, any artist and singers

What Makes Me Tick

What’s makes me tick? I’m still very curious about everything. I tell you there’s so much in this world to know, unbelievable! If I lived close to a university, I’d take social sciences, courses on psychology. You know, we changes as we get older, thank goodness! I’m so glad some of us open up more! I found my freedom later in life, as many women do…

Things Spiritual

You gotta have faith, I’m telling you. That’s my strongest point. If I hadn’t had faith in God and life, I wouldn’t have been successful. We are now Ontario’s second most popular resort, but don’t forget, I was never paid till the last 15 years. It all went into the business. Every spring, we didn’t know how we would do it. (I have it a lot easier now!) I came from the war years. I learned it’s the will of God and I’m here for a purpose. I haven’t had a lot of dreams of spiritual experiences, not like some other people. I often wondered why, you know? I was too down to earth I guess. But I always believed in God, had faith that things could come together.

A Viking Memorial

I kept working a little at the resort till I was 70 in 1999. Fritz lived to see the Chateaux finished in 2002, then passed away 3 years later in August at 77. He used to say “Why should I go anywhere else? I have everything I need right here.” His memorial is on a granite Viking table we erected at the shore of my home. My family and faith in God sustained me. I took care of him in his last days at home, not at hospital. That was good. We all had time to say proper goodbyes. It was hard at first when Fritz passed away. But I’ve reached the stage where everything is a learning process. You just have to go through it.

Tequila

I’m not a dog lover. I inherited Tequila (a little poodle) from my husband. But since she’s such a nice dog, I came to like her. Till 1pm she’s quiet. That’s ok with me. She’s 15 years old now and still has her energy, but feels the weather when it gets cooler, just like me.

Couldn’t Ask for More

Now is the happiest time in my life. Isn’t it great? Once I hit 50 and menopause was over, I just got lighter and lighter till I was 65. People say to me, “Wow! You’ve got so much energy. Where did you get it?” I drive myself. When I was 70, I developed rheumatoid arthritis, the worst kind. But I still say how wonderful life is. In my 50s, maybe I had some regrets. But it’s all experience. I’m not sure what I sill want to do in life. I’m winding down. At least, I’m still growing at my age. Why not? I couldn’t ask for more.

Edited and Transcribed by Karen Richardson

For www.memoriestomemoirs.net

613-338-2153 or k.rich5@live.com

August 2004

Endorsement:

“It was good searching back over many years. Karen was easy to connect with and fun to work with. She was conscientious in helping me tell my story to others” Gertrude Sorensen

Post Script. “Underground” means the political “Resistance.”

Gertrude Sorensen

Innkeeper, Artist, Photographer & World Traveler

Introduction

Gertrude Sorensen is a tall, strong, vital woman of 75. She was playing a dramatic Chopin composition on her Baby Grand when I rang the bell to interview her at the luxurious Bear Trail Couples Resort, in the small town of Whitney, on the edge of the Algonquin Park wilderness. She is a smart, talented, down to earth woman with a sense of humour and faith in her life. Her interest in nature, music, art, travel and people are the legacy she leaves to her grandchildren. She told me her life story in a lilting Austrian accent while we took tea in her spacious, light-filled living room, with vaulted cedar ceilings and walls filled with books and paintings, overlooking Galeairy Lake.

The Lord’s Prayer

Gertrude’s favourite prayer is “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Innsbruck, Austria

I was born October 30, 1929 in Innsbruck, Austria ~second last of 7 children. There were so many of us, my parents didn’t have much time for each of us and the little ones were not listened to. Well, you know, I had the independent spirit from my father. That’s why I took off for Canada later. Innsbruck was a very artsy and sports-minded city in Tryol, in the north, close to Switzerland, Germany, and Italy, very international. All this influenced my interests in life.

Amstetten Farm Life

My mother was Maria Zeilinger. Her family came from Amstetten, low land farm country, in eastern Austria near Vienna. They had to get up at 3 am to be out in the field for 4 am. She was a delicate person and it was hard work. (I thought I had it hard!) She wanted to marry a man from the city, so she wouldn’t have to work on the farm. Mom was a gentle person, very gentle. She did everything for the family, too nice. Mom stayed home to look after the children, but she had help, at times.

A Gentle Father

My father was Rudolph Haller, who was very gentle with his 5 daughters. We all liked him. His family was from the Alps, very frugal farm country. They moved to Innsbruck when he was young. His father died when he was 14 and as the eldest child, he had to take care of the family and his mother. He was quite a guy, my father, conscientious. He built apartment buildings, had a cheese factory and a lumber mill, so he wasn’t home much, you know? But in those days, that was accepted. I don’t remember my grandparents. I was took small at the time.

The Seven of Us

My siblings were Rudolph (who almost got a job as Consul General for Canada, but in those days, you were disqualified if divorced) who became the provincial Minister of Trade in Tyrol: Maria (who had a fashion salon), Richard (a movie actor); Hildegard Evelyn (a homemaker and book keeper); Irmengard (a homemaker who wrote poetry); myself and Evelyn (a homemaker, who trained in social work) in that order. I have two family trees on record, so I won’t go into more here. I was closest with my sister Irmengard. Evelyn was 7 years younger. We weren’t so close with the older ones.

Candles on the Tree

As a child, my favourite holiday was Christmas eve, with real candles on the tree. We still do this. We said prayers at 8 pm., then went to the Christmas tree to open the presents. Everything I got was wonderful. After was a nice little buffet with punch and then Midnight Mass. The next day you had the big dinner, weiner schnitzel.

Two Idealistic Girls

My best friend as a child was Iris Kirchmair. We went to school together. Her mother was English. I was stubborn and I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. But as teens, we adored theatre, especially Shakespeare. I was a big opera fan and took up piano at 13. I also loved poetry. We had the time and money and we could do these things. In that generation, girls from ‘well to do’ families were protected, believe me! We were very much sheltered. This came to my attention, when I grew up and came to Canada. I thought, “Boy, I wish I had more experience, dealing with people.” Iris had to take over her father’s business when he died, the Witting Sports Centre in Innsbruck. She still comes to visit me here in Canada.

Disappearing Chickens!

Before I was born, my family lived in a house but when I was very small, we moved from the villa to an apartment or maybe it was before I was born. I don’t remember why. WW2 entered my life when I was 7. We were happy when the Americans arrived, as Innsbruck had been bombed heavily by then. My father’s sawmill was destroyed by 74 U.S. bombs. Since his other businesses were intact, he considered himself fortunate and loved to converse with the Americans. But one evening, when food was scare, all our backyard chickens disappeared! They were all eaten by the Americans! Somehow we were all disappointed.

An Encounter with the S.S.

My brother Richard intentionally broke his leg to avoid going into service, so he could work in the ‘underground’. Oh I tell you! My father used to say there are two sides to everything. You have to choose one and stick with it. It was scary. Everything was top secret. The German S.S. were looking for arms. They thought my father was hiding some, but didn’t any, so they let him go free. He was over 60 by then.

Why the Danes are Cool

After my husband died 3 years ago, my son Mark wanted to know why the Danes are so cool, why they don’t show emotion or hug you? Mark’s very affectionate, you see. His father, Fritz was in the underground in Denmark. This is where he learned to zip his lips and not show emotion and if he talked in the war, he could be soon dead. This follows you in life.

The War Made Us Religious

The war made us very religious. We all had to pull together to survive. My parents weren’t strict. We had a wonderful priest to lead the youth group, so that’s how I’m still with the Church. I still remember the day the war ended ~May 5, 1945. We paraded the Americans. But not all Austrians felt the same. And for several years after that, we had very hard times.

Mountain Climbing

By the time the war ended, I was a young teenager. Every year since I was little, we always spent summer holidays at our chalet in the Alps at Brenner Pass. I loved to go mountain climbing when I was young. My sister liked ice climbing. I sometimes went on student group climbing tours. Lots of times I was scared, but you learn to use your head and develop stamina. My brother Richard was also a mountain climber. He and Herman Buhl, the most famous Austrian mountain climber at the time, climbed many peaks together. Buhl ascended Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas, the first to do so, without oxygen! That was 1956.

Home Economics, Bookkeeping & Music

After the war, I finished high school, which included 2 years of home economics and 2 years of business. In certain things I was an excellent student. It all depended on the teacher (laughs). My favourite subject was German and English, but I was also awfully good in bookkeeping. The next year I had a woman teacher who was awful and my marks fell. At 19, I went to a music academy to study piano and voice.

A Prize Youth Choir

There I joined a youth choir with sister Irmengard. A young conductor and composter wanted to start one. There was 5 of us in all at the first session and it grew into a well-known Austrian Choir. Most of us were students and even went mountain climbing together. We won first price, a gold medal in Vienna in 1948. After that the choir travelled round singing in Italy, England, Morocco and Japan and was quite famous but I had left by then. I have a book about it. I also joined 3 other choirs.

An Au Pair in England

Well, to do any kind of work in Austria, you needed several languages and I wanted to learn English. When I was 21, I found work as an ‘au pair’ girl at a bed and breakfast in England. This was near Sandringham, in Norfolk. I did miss my family, but England wasn’t very far away. The owner was Count Hoyos, a Spaniard of Austrian descent, connected to the Hapsburgs.

Learning English

His wife, the Countess, was Irish! In summer she went off to holidays in Austria and I took over everything. I even had two Austrian girls under my command. I was surprised to find I had the talent, but I wasn’t making much money. At least I got to talk to people from all over the world, even from India! My God, it intrigued me so. Well, Countess Hoyos taught me English well. Finally, I passed the Cambridge English exam, thank goodness!

North America

By this time, our family had moved back to the Villa and I returned home to Innsbruck for a year, but found it too small and wanted to see the world. So I applied to the Royal Court of Athens to teach children English, but they said my letter wasn’t mature enough for them. I was young and anxious to get on with my adventure and it took too long to get into the United States, but Canada was open and you could get in quickly.

A Governess in Quebec

My bother Rudy knew someone in St. Adelle, Quebec who needed a governess. His name was Frank Schofield ~a ski instructor. He said he would pay my fare over, if I looked after his child. Mother wasn’t too happy about it, but father was all for it. He wanted himself to be over here! I came over on an Italian luxury liner, the S.S. Homeric.

Bright Open Spaces

When I saw Quebec City, I thought how fantastic! It was just wonderful. So bright and so much light, unbelievable, such open space compared to the Austrian mountains. Sadly, father died 6 months after I arrived. He was 77, but it was a terrible shock… I loved him so. Well, I paid back the fare to Mr. Schofield and came to Toronto where I had a distant cousin, Joseph Haller, a civil engineer, who built the extension to St. Joseph’s Hospital. But unfortunately, we were not close ~ so I went on my own way.

I Should Have Been A Doctor

Working as a Dictaphone operator at the Banting Institute (where they invented insulin for diabetics) at the University of Toronto, was my favourite job. I had a wonderful time there. Even then, I was interested in natural healing and medicine as my father had died of cancer. I was an autopsy recorder, transcribing medical reports about the deceased’s cells. If I had been a man you know, I would have loved to go into medicine, but my parents thought the guys should go to university and the women should have more traditional occupations.

Nanny to the Newmans

While working at the Banting Institute, I babysat some evenings for the Morawetz family. They were Czech. I took care of their 3 children sometimes. Their brother in law was Peter Newman (the author) who lived with them, so I also looked after their son Kevin Newman (now the famous TV newsman). It was a big gorgeous house.

My Slide Shows

I didn’t have to pay room and board and saved like crazy for a trip to Europe. I was always good with money. On my holidays, I went alone or in groups and took lots of slides and photographs. When I got back, I did two slide shows and talks at the Banting Institute. People didn’t travel so much back then and they seemed really impressed!

Love on the Tennis Court

Then I joined the International Club for new Canadians in Toronto where I met some German girls. We had good times going on group outings on weekends. Fritz Sorensen was my tennis instructor. He was from Copenhagen, Denmark and worked as a shipper for Shell Canada. I was 25 and he was 33. He talked about the ‘underground’, so I knew I could trust him. We both liked nature and he liked my rendition on the piano. After 9 months, we decided to get married. I don’t remember how he proposed.

A Plain Wedding

But I went back to Austria first alone on the S.S. United States just to make sure I wanted to get married. I came back to Canada on the S.S. Liberte, a French ship. It was only 4 nights and 5 days. Fritz picked me up in New York City. The wedding was 7 April, 1956. It was very plain, although I had a nice white dress. We were married in a small church and had a meal for a dozen people afterwards, in Fritz’s friend’s home because neither of us had any family here.

Starting a Family

We were newlyweds about a year before we had enough money put by for a little house on Birchmount Avenue in Scarborough. I was doing Dictaphone for the Children’s Aid Society at the time. I had my first child, Evelyn (1957), followed by Mark (1959), John (1964) and Paul (1966). All 3 sons were delivered at Scarborough Hospital, and Evelyn was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Then we bought a house on Painted Post Road, in Cedarbrae.

A Better Life in Austria?

Eventually, my sister Irmengard came to visit me, but Mother never did. She was ill and I came too late to say goodbye. That’s life sometimes. She died in 1965. Fritz was a foreman in a pen factory and I had to give up my job because little Mark had asthma so bad. He was very sensitive. We needed more money to support he family. So Irmengard thought I would have had a better life, if I had stayed in Austria and I did think about going back at that time.

To the Edge of Wilderness

The financial pressure was on and we wanted to get out of the city and run our own business. In 1967, we found a small lodge in the little town of Whitney, population 1200 on the edge of the wilderness of Algonquin Park, 4 hours north of Toronto. Whitney was a little bigger then, before MNR laid off a lot of workers who moved away. Whitney actually looks more prosperous now. I didn’t really want to move that far and isolated with 4 children. It was very traumatic for me but we had to do something! A tourist director in Ottawa invited me to be a translator there, but what would Fritz do?

Long Lake Lodge

Long Lake Lodge was a reasonable price and near the school. We sold the house in Scarborough for the down payment. It was a small place so we could get into it slowly and the area was not developed. There were 7 log cabins accommodating 35 guests. At first we had mostly fishermen, quite a few Americans. Back then you could make more profit than today.

The Bear Trail Inn

One day our cook came in from the staff cabin (now the Ski Hut) and told us a bear had visited! We were amazed to find that bears dared to come that close to humans! The following night, I had a dream that a bear came round the house and took off into the bush. So we renamed our place “The Bear Trail Inn”.

The Little Sorensens

Little Mark was pretty sickly at the time, but he got a little better with the good air, although he never got entirely well. John was 3 and Paul was 9 months. Evelyn was 10 by then and my big helper, a second mother. She did the cleaning to make some money to buy her own things. I had the children follow certain rules, but they had to find their own way. I always said having children is the hardest thing in life. Doing business, if you put your mind to it, can be done, but children! You think you are parenting right, but you may not be. We paid Evelyn $1.25 an hour to help out. Later we paid the boys too. They were al excellent workers.

Canada’s Centennial

That first summer was Canada’s 100th birthday. So there were quite a few visitors from Montreal, going through the park to Toronto and vice versa. Sometimes we had to close up, just to get a day of rest, ok? In the fall, there was a steady flow of older folks when it was too cool to camp. We did have some trouble in the early days with the chore boys. We were European and used to doing things a certain way. They didn’t like that and did things to scare us, but we learned not to take them so seriously after a while.

I’m Not Really a Cook

Apparently our guests liked my cooking. I know how to make it look and taste good and make a profit from it, mostly Continental, English and introduced weiner schnitzel. I liked being home with the children, but I wasn’t all that happy doing all that cooking. I would rather have been working in an office. Still, we had just enough business that summer to make it through the winter financially.

A Typical Marriage

The first 10 years at the inn were hard too. Fritz did the maintenance and I did all the bookkeeping and inside organization. It was a typical marriage in those days -the man was the boss. When I was growing up in Austria, women deferred to men. I always felt we didn’t have enough chances in life. So I was glad in a small village to create some jobs for the women and less fortunate.

A Sporty Family

Fritz was very good the boys, taking them out kayaking, skiing, canoeing, fishing. It was really good for the boys that their father could do that. I wanted to go too. I was very sporty ~swam every day in summer. I had to, just to get rid of the stress. I did a lot of hiking in the park too. The boys went fishing and swimming and played in the woods and we all went on cross-country skiing excursions. But it was not so great for Evelyn. The children had a hard time being accepted at school. We were the first European family there in town of loggers and were considered outsiders. Each of my children could tell a big story about that.

Happy Days Sailing

When Fritz and I went on camping trips in nature, those were the nicest times. We were both into sports. I was so glad that he liked what I liked. We had these little sailboats for our guests and decided to give them a try ourselves. Mind you, every time he took me out sailing (he loved to so) he dumped the boat in the water, so I gave it up. (Laughs) But I wasn’t scared because I was a good swimmer. Fritz was also very much interested in politics. He was Reeve here in Whitney briefly in the early 1970s, by acclamation, but he didn’t have the backing, so after a year he stepped down.

The Ski Trails

In our second year, we decided to stay open for winter for cross-country skiers. We had guests as far away as Virginia. This awake our spirit of entrepreneurship. Fritz cut 5 kilometers of ski trail, across the lake at the Kuiaks farm, which my sister Ermengard bought later. After advertising for the first time in the Globe and Mail in Toronto and being the only ski trail in the are and the only resort open in the winter locally, we drew business from ski clubs all over Southern Ontario! Later, Fritz cut more trails further into Algonquin Park. Then the Ministry of Natural Resources took over the trail system and extended them.

The Perfectionist

Oh my God, I worked like a horse, did everything, painting, making curtains, the dining room had to be set up properly as we served 3 meals a day, the first few years. I was such a perfectionist, especially hated clutter. Everything had to be nice to look at. We had birthday parties for the children, but we were so busy with work that it was hard to develop friendships. If I hadn’t learned during the war that life can be tough, I would have given up, but you learn to live with hardship.

Skiers, Hunters & Fishermen

The second year, we stayed open over winter for the cross-country skiers. It was really that winter business that kept us going because there was no other place in the area open in winter. Every year we winterized another cabin. That lasted 10 years and it was hard work. We still had 5 employees in the summer and maybe one in the fall. We had deer, bear and moose hunters and American fishermen.

Rainbow Lodge

By 1978, we started expanding in stages, firs the 7 Inn rooms that could take 20. Then we bought the neighbour’s place called Rainbow Lodge (housekeeping cabins) which could accommodate up to 40 people in 1981. We served mostly breakfast and dinner (the modified American plan). I didn’t want to expand until the youngest was at least 12, as I had too much to do when they were little. I did want international visitors and booked tours through some of my connections. We took 2 busloads, 100 people at a time!

Fritz’ Miraculous Recovery

Not long after, the expansion of the resort took a toll on Fritz’ health. He developed a rare case of skin cancer, over 90% of his body. He spent 2 months in hospital in Toronto and miraculously recovered. That was 1980. All my children were old enough to help then, especially Mark.

An Artist’s Colony

About 1982, I began to organize art workshops in the off season. Artists just loved painting here at the resort so much, I even though about opening and artist colony, because I sold lots of their paintings, but realized artists don’t have too much money. Anyways, I always knew I had to have something interesting to do in my old age. I thought, why don’t I give it a try. You never stop learning with art. I’ve had many happy days, but when I started painting, those were nice times.

My First Painting

See that’s my first painting on the wall. How dark it seems now! I painted lighter and lighter over the years and more colourful. (Laughs) I really get joy from it, more than ever now. I studied with Thrane, Lampman, Leonar, Fraser and Mattews. We sometimes bought paintings from them. I’ve love to learn more about portraiture. Now I have my own studio and gallery. I do mostly oil landscape paintings, in bright colours and bold strokes, mountains, sunsets, quaint winter scenes.

Workshops and Studio Tours

For 10 years, between 1992 and 2002, I organized the annual October shows at the Algonquin Park Visitor Centre which was always very successful. I did my third show this year at the Bancroft Art Gallery. It was sponsored by local lawyer Robert Henderson and opened with sings by a local guitarist. My daughter and two grand children attended and many friends and was also quite a success. I’d like my grand children to know me as an artist, not just a businesswoman. It was quite successful. I was President of the Eastern Central Ontario Art Association (ECOAA) a few years back and organized artist studio tour and show for them.

Juried Shows & Exhibits

I’ve been in juried shows and group exhibits in Buckhorn, Peterborough, Belleville and Bancroft. My works are hanging in Whitney Library and art galleries in Belleville, Wilno, Madawaska, Whitney, Barry’s Bay and private collections in Toronto, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Pennsylvania, Ohio, England, Denmark and Germany, Austria and Switzerland and of course, here at the resort. I still pain outdoors when I can, spring to fall.

A Nervous Organist

Of course, I attended the Catholic Church in Whitney when I was older. They needed an organist, so I played on Sundays. I always felt a little small next to my older siblings, so I had a fear of failure. When I played organ, I could feel my heart pounding so, but I had to do it, just had to. Eventually, I learned to perform with ease.

South America

In 1985, I went with Mark on our South American trip. We saw Lima, Buenos Aires (where Is aw Hailey’s Comet), Pizarros’ grave, Machu Pichu, Bolivia, Lake Titicaca, Argentina, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo. Seeing those Inca mummies in the museum, I thought it’s better to die by freezing in the cold. Isn’t that what the Inuit do too? And the funny thing is, those peasants are so poor, but when you look at their faces, they seem happier than we are. Sad thing though, the young ones beg for money from the passengers on the train. The boys just push the girls away…

The Whole World is Beautiful

Every year, we closed the resort in November, December and April when things were quiet. We all needed a holiday, so I went travelling then. By then Fritz preferred time along, so I took a different child each year. They all grew up half in Europe! John went to Asia with me around 1987 ~Hong Kong, Bangkok and Pataya Beach and Singapore. I’d love to go back to Alaska and Argentina was my favourite, an intriguing place. But the whole world is beautiful. I pained in Austria, Newfoundland (2002) and with groups in Venice and Sienna (2000). Now every year I go back to Austria to see my two sisters and spend some time as the spa in Budapest. This year (2004) I had to come back early for the art show in Algonquin Park. All my children like travelling to see the world.

100 Photo Albums

Well, now I have an atlas and all these souvenirs and 100 photo albums of my travels! Too many. (Laughs) I wrote up all the details of my trips to go along with the albums. When they were younger, we took the children to Europe and the United States. I’m not interested in Africa and Australia is too much like Canada. I’d rather see more of Canada. My favourite place is the Rockies. I don’t look at the albums much anymore.

No Fences in Algonquin

Some of my German guests ask why there isn’t a fence around Algonquin Park? In their country, the parks are closed in and the forests are groomed. Europeans love our open space and that we still have wildlife. But they ask how come there are so many dead trees? Because its wild! (Laughs) they think its fantastic to go out on the lakes in a motorboat in your own.

An Unwelcome Guest

We had a European guest once who didn’t like our prices. He wanted to blare it out in the dining room to everyone. Fritz tried to get him out into the lobby and said if he had known someone could be that miserable, he wouldn’t have saved so many in the “underground” in the war and we wouldn’t take his money. O, did that guy ever go white! So he actually left a cheque for us with the police, who insisted…

Adventure Lodge

Eventually, as we replaced each cottage with villas or chateaux, the old cabins (9 were too nice to destroy) were moved to our property on the Madawaska River, where it was built into Adventure Lodge with the MAP plan and it opened in June 2003. The stables, which were situated on that property ~were moved to near McRae Mils across the bay from the Bear Trail.

The President

Fritz was always the centre of attention, the big entertainer with our guests, and I wanted a little independence, so in 1985 I became a Board Member of the Algonquin Arts Council in 1988 and President of the Bancroft Chamber of Commerce for one year, but since the business and family needed me more, I had to step down.

The Couples Resort

In 1988 there was a recession, but we did well. I was almost 60, by then and wanted to sell, but the family was against it. That year, John had just finished his university degree in corporate economics. Mark was great at design and renovations, so they both turned it into a couple’s resort which has been very popular. Over time, I gradually gave up more and more of the work at the resort. John and Evelyn work here and Paul too (part-time), but Mark is in Vancouver now. Eventually, we’d like to have a little museum here about the Bear Trail’s history.

Philosophy, Psychology & Cayce

So what do I do now? I spend a lot of time reading, real literature, like the Forsythe Saga and Tolstoy, Schiller, and Edgar Cayce and philosophy. Gosh, what you imagine when you are reading. I love self-improvement books too, like Wayne Dwyer on ‘intent’. I also enjoy history books and biographies, but they must be written well. There has to be a good story in it. I love the old movies, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Lee, deep and sensitive. Do you know that one, the Age of Innocence? Romantic, old fashioned.

Comedy, Good Food and Laughs

I actually enjoy comedy TV too, the Golden Girls and Seinfeld! Would you believe it? (Laughs) I need to laugh a lot. I love any kind of food that tastes good. My favourite colour is bluegreen and orange and when I was young I loved water lilies. When you get older, everything is beautiful. Would you like some more tea?

Remember When You Get Older…

I love to paint and play piano and be with the family. I have now my sixth grandchild. We have birthday parties. They go water skiing at my son’s, or we have a barbeque It’s not enough togetherness, but a little. I often said to myself, remember when you get older do not hang on to your children! Have your own friends. Develop your own pleasures, you know, because they won’t always have time for you. So, enjoy your grandchildren more. Aside from family, the most important things in life to me now are my music, art, friends, and travel.

People I’d Like to Meet

I remember the day President Kennedy was shot. I saw it on TV, quite tragic. I heard about the death of Princess Diana on radio. When I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, I listen to international radio, especially Austrian. It’s interesting to hear news from all over the world. Oh, and I like to meet outstanding people, see what makes them tick There are so many people I’d like to meet, mostly composers, young musicians, any artist and singers

What Makes Me Tick

What’s makes me tick? I’m still very curious about everything. I tell you there’s so much in this world to know, unbelievable! If I lived close to a university, I’d take social sciences, courses on psychology. You know, we changes as we get older, thank goodness! I’m so glad some of us open up more! I found my freedom later in life, as many women do…

Things Spiritual

You gotta have faith, I’m telling you. That’s my strongest point. If I hadn’t had faith in God and life, I wouldn’t have been successful. We are now Ontario’s second most popular resort, but don’t forget, I was never paid till the last 15 years. It all went into the business. Every spring, we didn’t know how we would do it. (I have it a lot easier now!) I came from the war years. I learned it’s the will of God and I’m here for a purpose. I haven’t had a lot of dreams of spiritual experiences, not like some other people. I often wondered why, you know? I was too down to earth I guess. But I always believed in God, had faith that things could come together.

A Viking Memorial

I kept working a little at the resort till I was 70 in 1999. Fritz lived to see the Chateaux finished in 2002, then passed away 3 years later in August at 77. He used to say “Why should I go anywhere else? I have everything I need right here.” His memorial is on a granite Viking table we erected at the shore of my home. My family and faith in God sustained me. I took care of him in his last days at home, not at hospital. That was good. We all had time to say proper goodbyes. It was hard at first when Fritz passed away. But I’ve reached the stage where everything is a learning process. You just have to go through it.

Tequila

I’m not a dog lover. I inherited Tequila (a little poodle) from my husband. But since she’s such a nice dog, I came to like her. Till 1pm she’s quiet. That’s ok with me. She’s 15 years old now and still has her energy, but feels the weather when it gets cooler, just like me.

Couldn’t Ask for More

Now is the happiest time in my life. Isn’t it great? Once I hit 50 and menopause was over, I just got lighter and lighter till I was 65. People say to me, “Wow! You’ve got so much energy. Where did you get it?” I drive myself. When I was 70, I developed rheumatoid arthritis, the worst kind. But I still say how wonderful life is. In my 50s, maybe I had some regrets. But it’s all experience. I’m not sure what I sill want to do in life. I’m winding down. At least, I’m still growing at my age. Why not? I couldn’t ask for more.

Edited and Transcribed by Karen Richardson

For www.memoriestomemoirs.net

613-338-2153 or k.rich5@live.com

August 2004

Endorsement:

“It was good searching back over many years. Karen was easy to connect with and fun to work with. She was conscientious in helping me tell my story to others” Gertrude Sorensen

Post Script. “Underground” means the political “Resistance.”

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Gertrud Sorensen