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Chance encounter in Germany led Christa Frey to the U.S. and to 'Buzz,' the love of her life

September 02, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Christa Frey, who died Aug. 20 at the age of 68. Her obituary appeared in the Aug. 22 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

It was a bold move for a young girl - just 18 years old, with only enough belongings she could fit in one suitcase - to travel alone at night as she made her way to Berlin and hopes of freedom.

She found that freedom, a job and an unexpected bonus - a chance encounter with the man who would become her husband for nearly a half-century.

James Richard "Dick" Frey recalled that he and a buddy from the U.S. Army's 62nd Military Police were on patrol one night in 1957 when they entered a hotel in the small town of Lichtenfels near the border of East and West Germany.

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"We came through the front door just as Christa was coming out of the kitchen carrying a tray of food and drinks," Dick said. "She saw our uniforms and thought we were East Germans."

Christa dropped the tray and ran into the kitchen, but the hotel owner brought her back, assuring her the men were Americans, not East Germans.

Dick remembers looking into Christa's beautiful eyes, but never realizing the path of his life had changed and never would be the same.

And it wasn't - for the next 48 years.

Christa Kaczmerec was born in the small town of Halverstadt in 1938 when pre-war Germany still was one country. She lived there and worked on the family farm until World War II and its aftermath, which led her to leave home.

"When she reached Berlin, Christa rode the streetcars around East Berlin," Dick said. The wall later separating the two parts of the city had not yet been built.

Afraid to speak to anyone, Christa kept riding until she came to a stop where the streetcar operator wouldn't take her money. It turned out that she had taken that streetcar into West Berlin, which was why her East German money was no good.

Once Christa met Dick and they began seeing each other, her life began to look up even more. When Dick was transferred to Bamberg, he found her a place to live and a job in a factory there.

"We were married there in 1959, twice in one day," Dick said. In the morning, they were married in a German ceremony, then in the afternoon came the military ceremony.

Christa journeyed to the United States that year and Dick followed in 1960. Christa and their first son, Jim, lived with Dick's parents until he returned home.

Their second son, Mitch, was born about three years later.

"Christa spoke no English when she came to America," Dick said, noting she picked up the language from watching television commercials and game shows such as "Password."

By the time Dick got home, Christa was speaking English well enough to get along. Over the years, Christa's love of America and command of the language both grew.

In the meantime, Dick graduated from the Maryland State Police Academy in 1963 and worked at a number of barracks, including the one in Hagerstown. There, he was known as "Buzz."

After a short stay in Mount Airy, Md., the Frey family moved to Wolfsville in 1968.

Christa had jobs ranging from meat cutter to clothing factory worker to assistant manager of a Hickory Farms store.

Then in 1984, Christa and Dick bought an interest in the Beaver Creek Antique Market on Dual Highway. Christa enjoyed working there and came to appreciate antiques over the years, Dick said.

About a year ago, Christa's health began to deteriorate.

"I live in Wyoming with my family," Jim said, sitting in his parents' kitchen. They had been talking about a visit, so Jim and his family came back home recently - their first visit in about 2 1/2 years.

As it turned out, they got here just in time. Both Jim and Mitch were with their mother when she died Aug. 20 at the age of 68.

"You could always hear her in the stands," said younger son Mitch, who noted that his mother never missed one of his ballgames. "I tried to concentrate on the game, but it wasn't easy."

Contacted by telephone, Mitch said he always will remember how proud his mother was of both him and his older brother.

Jim said his memories of his mother were of her extreme pride of being an American citizen - a goal she achieved in the mid-1970s in a ceremony in Baltimore with her whole family in attendance.

Still, Christa never forgot her roots, and in 1994, she and Dick went back to Germany and visited her hometown of Halverstadt.

"Her town had been bombed extensively in the war and still showed evidence of that," Dick said.

But Christa's childhood home still was standing, and Dick was glad she was able to make that trip.

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