A portrait of Maria von Trapp: Alan Ross

Those who read Mary Mennis’s interesting article on Maria Von Trapp might like to view a closer photograph of Maria.

During the 1960s my wife Helen struck up a warm relationship with Maria. Maria visited our home in Boroko, Port Moresby, several times for afternoon tea or lunch. At the time Maria was running a home for orphaned children in Hohola, a suburb of Port Moresby. It was her final vocation as a lay missionary before she returned to the Von Trapp residence in the American State of Vermont. Prior to her sojourn in Port Moresby, Maria spent some time in Milne Bay Province working at several catholic mission stations. She was accompanied by one of her half-sisters and a half-brother. Maria informed us that, during her Milne Bay days, her step-mother Baroness Von Trapp (played by Julie Andrews in the film The Sound of Music) paid them a visit.

The Sound of Music that was produced in 1965 is without question the most popular Hollywood movie of all time. Naturally Helen and I discussed the film with Maria. It is based on real-life of the Von Trapp family, however sections of the movie depart from reality, as was pointed out by Mary Mennis.

As an illustration, the father (the Baron) did not line up his children like soldiers for inspection; he was by far a gentle man. If anyone tended to be somewhat strict, it was the Baroness. Never the less she sang Do Re Mi with the children, and sang magnificently from the mountain tops, which brought the hills alive with music. Truly, a magnificent musical.

The films ending, with the Von Trapp family fleeing southwards on foot to safety as the Nazis arrive at their residence in Salzburg, made for a dramatic finale, but is a far cry from what actually took place.

Maria told us that the beginning of World War 2 found her family on a ship in either Stockholm or Oslo; they were returning from a concert tour of the USA. The Baron, who was no friend of the Nazis, sat out the war outside of Germany. In any case, a long trek south from Austria would have had the Von Trapps arriving in either Italy or Yugoslavia which were hardly safe havens at the time.

Despite the fame (and one would think fortune too, from film royalties) which came her way, Maria remained a humble and unspoiled person dedicated to assisting others less privileged than she. It was a delight to have known her.

Maria Von Trapp (R) with Helen in our Boroko Garden


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