Christoph Blumrich of Greenlawn talks about how rockets and chamber music led him to marry Susanne.
I was 19 years old in 1959 when I arrived in Huntsville, Alabama, from Vienna with my parents and two brothers. My father had accepted a job with the Marshall Space Flight Center, where he was one of the engineers who developed the Saturn 5 rocket. We were a music-centric family, and my father wrote to the mayor of Huntsville asking about local music activities.
With the mayor’s referral, my father and I joined the Huntsville Chamber Music Guild, where I played the viola and my father played the violin. Heinz Hilten, an architect, was a violinist in the group. While I was waiting outside a grocery store one day while my parents shopped, Heinz came along. We exchanged a few words then he said, “Here comes my daughter Susanne.” I looked at her, and something powerful and magnetic made it hard for me to look away. When our eyes met, something stung my mind and filled my entire being with a totally new and welcomed sense of happiness. Susanne, who was then attending Mary Washington College (now known as University of Mary Washington) in Virginia, later told me she had felt the same way.
My family invited the Hiltens back to our house for coffee. Sitting at a small table with my two brothers, Susanne talked only with my older brother, barely looking at me. I was puzzled and aggravated. Only later did she tell me, had she looked, she would have given her feelings away because of the powerful attraction.
We started dating right away. We had similar tastes, and music connected us. Susanne loved to sing and had a passion for nature, biology, science and animals. She, a real daredevil, was a spelunker on weekends. I was fascinated by her stories. Because I’m an artist, a blank canvas was much more challenging to me than outdoor adventures.
In one of my many letters to Susanne in college, I finally floated the idea of marriage, causing her heart to flutter, she says.
We were married Dec. 29, 1959, and moved to New York City near Central Park. We lived there for six months before moving to Jackson Heights, Queens, where our two daughters were born. We became homesick for nature. We saw only buildings — no parks — and wanted to see chickens, goats and cows, and, of course, Susanne wanted to see some spiders. I wrote my father about job opportunities in Huntsville. Surprise! He sent a job application. We moved back to Huntsville, where I worked for an aeronautics contractor. We lived there from 1964 to 1969, and our two sons were born.
In July 1969, when Huntsville aeronautic jobs were waning, I got a job in New York City and we moved to Greenlawn. I was an infographics specialist at Newsweek magazine, commuting daily to Manhattan.
Susanne was a homemaker until our kids were in school. She graduated from Stony Brook University with a master’s degree in psychology. She held a variety of positions in the mental health field, including at the Northport VA Medical Center.
I retired in 2002 and pursued my love of painting. I had my own studio and painted the fields and beaches of the North Shore before my work turned more abstract. Susanne retired in 2004 and discovered a poetic talent. She wrote many, often scientific, poems and short stories.
We celebrated knowing each other 60 years in May. We will celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary in December with a nice dinner at home with family members.
— With Ann Donahue-Smukler
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