Obituary of Elfriede Martin
Elfriede (Ellie) Kreutzer Martin, 87, of Columbia, South Carolina, passed away on November 16, 2023. She was born on April 14, 1936, in the village of Dachau, Germany to Josef and Franziska Kreutzer.
Ellie’s father died when she was five years old, leaving her mother solely responsibility for raising five children in a nation already at war. Ellie had a square jaw, a quantity of freckles, and two perpetual skinny braids. Along with her siblings, she grew up milking goats, making butter and cheese, tending the vegetable garden, and scrubbing and boiling clothes for a busy family of six. When chores were done, Ellie, along with her sisters and brothers and their school friends roamed the village unmonitored, pilfering apples from neighbors’ trees, swimming without benefit of instruction in the nearby river, jumping snow-filled ditches on wooden sleds, and pursuing other harrowing adventures. Stepping early into an adult life of responsibility and limits, she later reflected wistfully on the wild and free days of her early youth.
Ellie was nine years old when American forces liberated the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945. She later told stories of the Nazi SS riding their white horses through the streets of Dachau, and of her mother attracting their ire by giving water to concentration camp prisoners working near their home. Ellie spoke in detail with her children about the Nazi holocaust, and took several of them to view the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. She fully embraced Germany’s “never again” mantra and was horrified by the rise of neo-Nazism in contemporary Germany.
Ellie’s brother Bep (Josef) met an American soldier named Bill Martin in the post exchange on the American army base, liked him, and brought him home. Bill and Ellie married, eventually having five children. In 1965, Bill was transferred to Fort Hood and Ellie flew alone from Germany to Texas, a young Army wife with some English, five young children, and one large German Shepard in cargo. She embraced everything about the military and her new home, and set about becoming, as her children irreverently styled it, a “professional American.” She aced her citizenship exam, thus gaining more knowledge of American history and government than many of her native-born peers, and maintained her interest in government and politics throughout her life.
Ellie was the quintessential military wife and, as was always the case then, was instrumental in supporting her husband’s rise through the ranks of enlisted men to eventually become Command Sergeant Major. She participated actively in post affairs, becoming the president of what was then the Fort Jackson’s Wives Club and later being named to the Fort Jackson Volunteer Hall of Fame. Like her mother before her, she raised five children virtually alone through much of her marriage, as did many military wives.
Bill and Ellie navigated military life together and made lifelong friends from post to post. In the later years of their marriage they enjoyed weekend travel to the beach and mountains, did complex home improvement projects together in relative harmony, spent quality time on their screened porch, and battled for CD-player dominance between country music (Bill) and opera (Ellie). There were always much-loved dogs and cats in the house, and their love for animals was transferred to all of their children. They fed the squirrels (who did not need this encouragement) and migrating hummingbirds, eventually playing host to as many of thirty of the bright tiny travelers in a single season.
Ellie ran her large household like a drill sergeant. Her children rose on Saturday mornings to find lying on the kitchen table individual index cards with their chores for the day listed; daughters were disproportionately assigned to kitchen patrol, but were not excused from yardwork. She was an accomplished seamstress and made beautiful clothes for herself and her children, including exquisitely tailored coats and suits and really good Halloween costumes. She created home fashions such as window treatments, slipcovers and pillows; reupholstered furniture; was a proficient paint-by-numbers artist (yes, we know that’s funny but you should see her work); did needlework, knitted, and crocheted; and was a great cook. She worked from sunup to beyond sundown every day, at which point she’d settle in with some needlework and accept a single mint julep or Cinzano on the rock – depending on the season – from her loving husband, who knew a good thing when he saw it.
Ellie was highly intelligent, adaptable, creative, organized and prolific. She possessed a strong moral code and sense of duty, a profound work ethic, and a lively sense of humor. She strived. She suffered greatly with loss, and she endured.
Ellie was preceded in death by Bill, her husband of 56 years; by two sons, George and Roger; and three brothers, Hubert, Adolf, and Josef. She is survived by her sister, Anni; son, Peter (Heidi) and three daughters, Sylvia (Wade), Frani, and Jacki (Stephen); grandchildren Michael, Angel, Will, Shawn, David, Cody, and Christie; and great-grandchildren Cassandra, Evelyn, Tyler, Claire, Emma, George, Gage and Lillian.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, November 26 at 3 p.m. at Thompson Funeral Home at 845 Leesburg Road in Columbia, with a reception to follow there. Ellie’s remains will join Bill’s at the Fort Jackson National Cemetery the following day in a private family service. If desired, in lieu of flowers, friends may support The Women’s Shelter in Columbia or their local veteran’s organization or animal shelter.