The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

My niece Anna Marie Obermaier born Johnson

                                    E U L O G Y

    My niece Anna Marie Obermaier born Johnson was born on April 26th, 1967. On April 26th, 2011 on her 44th birthday she was struck down by a massive heart attack at her home in Germany. After every effort to save her, she was pronounced dead the following day.

 Anna Marie’s birth preceded a family tragedy of such a magnitude that even today 44 years later it could still grab major headline news in a much bigger country. These devastating events could have left a permanent mark for the worst on her outlook on life. But still somehow she went through life with a naturally positive view on life. She wasn’t too much for letting obstacles wear her down and could systematically and quite stubbornly remove these from her path. This was very much in contrast to her very soft spoken and quiet way that she had about her. Behind that sweet voice and soft mannerism Anna Marie also had much strength of character.

    I believe that from really early on she must have been aware that something devastating beyond words had taken place in her father Eric and her mother Wilda’s lives and from very small she was always trying to compensate for their loss by being very responsible, trying never to disappoint or do something that could cause them to worry. As she got older, this attitude influenced her academically and in all other aspects of life.

    When Anna Marie left Saba at the age of 12 she first lived in Aruba and attended the VWO. At that time there were a good many students from Saba attending school in Aruba. My niece Carolyn who contributed a great deal to this eulogy remembers that she and Anna Marie lived with the same family on Aruba together with Gary Dean and Mark and my niece Anastacia Solagnier born Van Delden, daughter of my deceased sister Sadie, as well as with Diana van Delden. They lived next to the ambulance station in Oranjestad and across from the old hospital. Many nights they would be woken up at least twice or so when the ambulance lights reflected in their rooms and the sirens would start as they left on emergency calls. Carolyn remembers that the house was a good size but it was filled to the brim with people as their caretaker had three daughters and two sons of her own living there, a few little nephews and occasional family visitors from Venezuela. They later took in a student from Bonaire who did not last very long as the situation was too overwhelming for her.

    It was not always easy for Anna Marie, being the youngest of the students from Saba. She and Carolyn moved twice more with the same caretaker to overcrowded homes in various parts of Aruba before they finally left. Anna Marie moved to St.Maarten where she lived once more with students from Saba until she left for the United States to attend Hofstra University. Anna Marie really enjoyed her College Years at Hofstra and met a collection of new friends from all over the world. She studied Business Administration and graduated in 1989.

   It was here that Anna Marie would meet her future husband and father of her three children. Ernie visited Saba for the first time in 1990. He was an only child from such a different country. What kind of impression would Saba make on him; too much family living on too small and island? As it turned out Ernie was the type of person who was open to all kinds of unfamiliar people and experiences. Decades after that first visit he was still returning to Saba with Anna Marie, now his wife. I remember one night in the lobby of the Mariott Hotel on Curacao I was surrounded by a group of people. One of them was the agent for the BMW. He said he was waiting on the big man from the company in Germany. When Ernie approached us I said to myself “I know this man from somewhere”. Then he said;”Uncle Will, surprised to see you here.”  They all thought it quite cool that I was the uncle of a big shot from the BMW Company. The next night we travelled together to St. Maarten. He said he wanted me to carry a suitcase to Wilda. While waiting on him in the lobby, Mr. David Vlaun said to me that he was waiting on the big man from the BMW Company. I did not say anything to him. When Ernie came with the suitcase greeting me as “Uncle Will” I thought Vlaun would have fainted.

   Upon returning from College, Anna Marie lived on St. Maarten and worked for the Windward Islands Bank. Carolyn, Gary, Mark, Anastacia and Eva were already living and working there and her brother Dan with whom she lived when he was attending school there. She later decided together with Ernie that they would move to Germany. After moving there she not only got to travel quite a bit but she also lived in different places giving her a rich and full life experience for her age. She loved the time they lived in Mexico and they both had a passion for Mexican food. Years after leaving Mexico they still enjoyed cooking Mexican food for friends and family both in Germany and on their visits to Saba. On December 6th, 1996 Anna Marie and Ernie had a quiet wedding in Germany. Her cousins remember that he had proposed to her on a previous visit to Saba on the Well’s Bay.

    When their first child Alexander was born in 2000 Anna Marie set about motherhood with the same seriousness and dedication that was her custom. Ernie and Anna Marie vacationed in New York City to take part in the famed millennium celebrations that were held and televised around the world, and they called Alexander their millennium baby. Not to be outdone by the significance of Alexander’s birth year, Laura and Sarah took everyone by complete surprise when they announced themselves as not one but two babies and were born in 2003.

    Even though Anna Marie made her life so far away from Saba she was devoutly proud of her Saban heritage and tried to instill this in her children. Their family vacations on Saba were always filled with hiking and stories about Saba and Saban heritage.

    Anna Marie has been a very energetic and devoted mother. Always very conscious of the health of herself and her family she was uncompromising in that she tried to only serve her family with the freshest and healthiest of foods. She made sure that her children’s life experiences have been full and meaningful, trying always to give them balance in school and play. Throughout the years she has carefully chronicled their lives in pictures. Their home in Windach is a sanctuary full of testimony that the children were the focus of Anna Marie and Ernie’s lives. The very day before she died, On Easter Monday, they spent time making many family photos. Hopefully these along with the many other photo’s and wonderful memories will be of some small consolation to Ernie and the children in the difficult days and years ahead, helping them to always cherish great memories of a most wonderful wife and mother.

    Anna Marie was a very professional woman in her own right. She was fluent in seven languages and worked for several international companies. She even studied Mandarin Chinese at one time. If I remember correctly one of the companies she worked for was the Michelin Tire Company. She lived besides Mexico and Germany, also In Italy when she worked for the tire company. She was well known in the town of Windach where she lived for doing so much for the children there and the community in general.

   This latest tragedy in the family of my recently deceased brother Eric and his wife Wilda, is one which shocked the community and one which we cannot easily comprehend. Life it seems doles out to some people much harsher blows than others.

    When I hear the rendition of a beautiful hymn I like to find out who wrote the hymn and under which circumstances. The same day when Anna Marie was struck down I came across the history of the hymn:”It is well with my soul;” The Chicago lawyer Horatio G. Spafford invested heavily in the real estate business along the shores of Lake Michigan. In the Chicago fire of 1871 he lost nearly all of his fortune. Later on his only son died. Then in 1873 he arranged for his family to go to Europe. At the last minute due to his legal activities he could not go along and promised to follow in a couple of weeks. On November 22nd, 1873 the “Ville du Havre” the ship on which his family was travelling was struck by an English iron hulled ship the “Lockhearn”. Within a short time she sunk and of the 273 people on board only 47 survived. His four daughters were lost. Later his wife was found clinging to some wreckage. When she reached the shore she sent him a telegram: “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Grief stricken he rushed to Europe. On the way there the Captain of the ship pointed out to him the spot where his daughters had been lost. He rushed to his cabin and wrote a note to himself: “It is well, the will of God be done.” He later composed the hymn: It is well with my soul” based on the note he had written. This hymn has brought much consolation to those who believe in God and in an afterlife. Despite their tragedies he and his wife went to live in Jerusalem and helped both Muslims and Jews while they lived there.

   I only tell this story as a consolation message, that sometimes tragedies like these instead of bringing us down elevate us to a higher plain in life. No matter how hard life is we must always strive to rise above these tragedies and to carry on for those who are still around and depend on us for support and guidance. The hymn “It is well with my soul” came about under similar circumstances as those which have been experienced by my brother Eric, his wife Wilda, and their children.

   Today we remember the life of Anna Marie who despite many obstacles was able to always move forward, never looking backward, and in doing so she will be remembered with love and gratitude foremost by her husband and children and by her extended family.

    Anna Marie on this sad occasion we commend your soul to God Almighty and I am certain that you have already reached that special place in paradise which through your life and dedication to your family has been reserved for you.

     May you rest in peace.

Thomas Eric Johnson here with his daughter Anna Marie Obermaier born Johnson

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