Pictured: Audrey Marcus, Deb Bowen and Elaine Spanier
On my last morning in Denver, I stopped by a retirement center to meet with two wonderful ladies. Coffee with Audrey Marcus and Elaine Spanier was nothing less than inspirational.
Audrey's husband survived the Holocaust by going to Shanghai with other Jewish refugees. She wrote his story in a book entitled Survival in Shanghai: The Journals of Fred Marcus. www.survivalinshanghai.com
Elaine's husband was also a Holocaust survivor. He immigrated to Chicago where he moved in across the street from her.
The ladies are widows and both agreed they would love to have a young author tell their husband's stories.
During this short visit, there were times with tears brimming in my eyes and times we were laughing out loud. I began to show off the few words I know in Yiddish. They decided to teach me a new word in Yiddish. "Beshert" which means inevitable or preordained. It can apply to any happening which appears to bear the fingerprints of divine providence.
Thanks to my dear friend Judy Winnick for hosting me and taking me to meet the ladies. Later I received something in the mail from Judy. It was a piece Elaine wrote about her life with Red Spanier. I think it's beautiful and I shared it with you below.
Certainly it was beshert that my path crossed theirs while in Denver. I hope two young authors come forward to meet the ladies and tell their husband's important stories for the series.
The Story of Red & Elaine Spanier = BESHERT
November 1937, At the young age of eight, Red Spanier and his Jewish family were forced to leave Bunde in Westphalia Germany. They thought they could get lost in a bigger city. So they moved to Berlin for one year but could not dodge the Gestapo. They spent six months in Amsterdam and a year in England. BESHERT.
In 1939 they moved to Chicago, across the street from Elaine. Red's teacher advised him to call her older brother who was a boy scout. The scout troop met in their basement. BESHERT
Red always stood out because he was a jokester. He had a fun personality and bright red hair. Elaine was the kid sister who loved to tease the big guys. BESHERT
He would tell her about his girlfriends and she would tell him about her boyfriends. They gave each other lots of advise because "we knew it all". BESHERT
In 1951 Red was drafted in the army and wrote to my brother how much he hated it. Elaine was a camp counselor and wrote him about her wonderful daily activities. BESHERT.
Red & Elaine were good friends. Four years difference in age didn't seem to be an issue. One a weekend pass from Fort Knox Kentucky, Red invited her to a movie. BESHERT
When they met a friend of his at the movie, Elaine was introduced as "a friend's kid sister". BOY was she angry. She loved Red but told him "if you do not like me, give my name to someone else". It took that statement to open his eyes. BESHERT
Red was stationed in Munich Germany for one year. He and Elaine felt it would be a good place to honeymoon so they married in June of 1952. BESHERT
They were blessed with two wonderful children who married great people with outstanding morals and values. They gave them six fabulous grandchildren. BESHERT
In 1998 their nephew Grahahm Spanier, President of Penn State, visited Bielefeld, a university in the next town from Bunde, Germany. BESHERT
Professor Norbert Sahrhage at the university wrote a book WHAT HAPPENED TO THE JEWS OF BUNDE and named a prominent family named Spanier. Yes it was Red's family! BESHERT
Norbert and Graham tried to enter the house where Graham's dad was born but the new owner would not let them in. BESHERT
Norbert gave Red's name and address to a teacher named Christina Whitelaw who was teaching the Holocaust to twenty students in Bunde Germany. BESHERT
In 1999 their grandson, Dan, was in Europe studying International Business and his fiance called asking if Red & Elaine would meet him and visit where Red was born. Dan did not know about Graham's experiences the year before. BESHERT
Christina, the teacher, wrote a letter introducing herself and letting Red know what he class was learning. She asked if they could ask him some personal questions. Red replied that he would be glad to answer their questions in person because he had plans to visit Bunde in a couple months. BESHERT
The reception in Bunde was overwhelming. After three very short and full days they were ready to leave. Then they invited the students to come to Denver and meet more Holocaust survivors. Plus, it would be a great way to practice their English. BESHERT
In 2001 the invitation was accepted and ten students plus two teachers arrived for three weeks full of programming. All stayed in the home of Red and Elaine Spanier. BESHERT.
In 2004 an invitation was extended to Rabbi Zwerin to go to Bunde with students from Denver. Fourteen students and three adults accepted this invitation and went to Germany. BESHERT
At the last minute, there was room on the airplane for Elaine. Thankfully she decided to go and they were all treated royally. They visited Bunde, Bielefeld, Hamlin and Berlin. They met with many organizations and the German Government. BESHERT