Jacqueline Kennedy, early 1970’s, Forest Hills Queens tennis matches.
Photo of the day: REMEMBERING THE DAY – JOHN F. KENNEDY – On November 22, 1963 we did not own a television, mother thought it was a bad influence on me. I was six years old. My great aunt “Anny” from Germany was visiting with us for the holidays. Anny came racing home in a frenzy asking us if we had heard the news. This was not such a media savvy time. We hadn’t had the radio on – we were playing records. It was an exceptionally cold day, so we stayed inside. Anny cried as she breathlessly told us the news of Kennedy’s death.
Anny was in the lower level of the Lexington Avenue ‘E/F’ train subway station, when a screaming woman came racing down the mint green staircase declaring Kennedy was shot. My aunt witnessed a moment of American history as the entire platform rushed to this woman to hear her tell the news. No radio, no IPhone, no cell phone, just one distraught woman. Anny remembers an eerie silence falling over the platform, just the sound of crying could be heard and men removing their hats. People did no bother to get on their trains, they just stood there. As more people came down the stairs crying out the news, the gruesome story became a reality. Anny raced home to tell her American family the news. I will never forget the moment. I remember the houndstooth coat, black felt hat, suede shoes she was wearing. I remember her perfume as she held my hand to explain what had happened, and I remember the look in her eyes.
Kennedy New York Daily News
November 23, 1963
I briefly once met Jacqueline Kennedy at the Forest Hills Tennis matches in the early 1970’s. We had box seats diagonally behind her. I never watched the games, I was mesmerized by her grace and elegance. She turned around and shook the hand of everyone behind her, whispering hello. We got the handshake because we were in these fancy seats. This was the days before the assassination of John Lennon, today she would have been surrounded by security guards in a private roped off area. I was in respectful awe how she remained cool, calm and polite as the crowds surged towards her as she freely walked around the grounds which is incomprehensible today.
She was/is the personification of grace and elegance.
A soldiers hospital in Germany, 1917, World War I
Mondays on Memory Lane: 1917, MY GREAT AUNT SINGS FOR THE SOLDIERS OF WORLD WAR I – On this Veterans Day, it is important to remember the soldiers of all nations. I have discovered this photo of my great aunt, Anny Cornelius, in a German hospital in 1917 during World War I. She was only 17 at the time and already a gifted singer, she went on to sing lead roles in the Berlin opera.
From what I gather, she took her fellow class mates and volunteered to sing for the wounded soldiers. Whatever country is fighting, music is always used to try to heal the soldiers spirits. When you look at the faces of the wounded soldiers, you can see – there are really no winners in any war, the only winner is the human spirit.
Photo of the day: THREE FIERCELY INDEPENDENT WOMEN: My three ‘moms’. Each woman went against the society of her times and lived her life as she saw fit, not as society dictated. I am these three women. If you love me – you love them.
Anny Cornelius: My theatricality, musicality, passion, humor and style. Against all dictates of the day, she refused marriage offers from royalty and fine suitors and ‘married’ her opera career to wind up singing Carmen at The Berlin Opera.
Amahlie (Jaehne) Von Rittern: Divorced her husband to raise her child as she saw fit. Later gave up her concert pianist career and country to come to America (not knowing the language) to help raise me. My appreciation of music, love, compassion and sense of art and balance come from her.
Ursula Von Rittern: Divorced her husband to raise me on her own. Refused alimony in the 1950’s and did it all by herself. She went from selling vacuum cleaners to California residents in the early morning on the telephone to finally breaking through the sexist glass ceiling of the 1970’s and 80’s and wound up in a corner office, assistant to the CEO of Manufacturer’s Hanover Bank. My liberal views, determination and hard work ethic come from her.
I am these three women.
In the works is a family history of four generations of independent women who all raised their children on their own against all odds, through two World Wars, traveled around the globe, sacrificed, fought sexism and society’s morals. Mom is 87 and currently writing the book. Stay tuned . . .
A GRANDE DAME – ANNY CORNELIUS, MY AUNT: 10-18-1898 to 6-8-1987. Opera singer. Sister to my mother’s mother. My grandmother was Amahlie Jeahne who was a concert pianist and also a soprano opera singer who sang Queen of the Night under the direction of iconic German conductor Herbert Von Karajan. Anny was the feisty one. She gave up her whole life for her opera career with the Berlin State Opera. She lived and breathed music. To Karajan’s astonishment she had perfect pitch. She could hit the note just like that! Karajan would always say: “Get the little dark one to hit the note, she can do it!” That…somewhat annoyed yet impressed opera diva Maria Callas. Callas would not associate with the rest of any cast much, but she always remembered my great aunt. Despite being German, Anny had somewhat of a olive complexion and thick, beautiful dark brown long hair and big brown saucer eyes. This intrigued both Karajan and Callas. So hence – Callas and Karajan dubbed her “the little dark one”. Both called her that for the rest of their lives. When in Venice, Callas would write Anny letters saying ‘my little dark one, the party won’t be the same without you, please come.’ Anny sang some of the top roles such as The Rosenkavalier and Carmen, her career was about to break so she would receive top billing continuously, but World War II ended what many believe, would have been an astounding career. As with 9/11, inhaling all that debris when running from the bombings and the gases, never brought her voice to quite what it was. The fate for so many singers at the time. So…she taught. Her classes in her 5 floor walk up apartment were much sought after.
Royalty had proposed marriage to Anny. She could have any suitor she wanted. Her sister Amahlie married, Anny…was married to the passion of her music – her career. She had music in her soul! She sang for the soldiers during the bombing attacks in Berlin. He presence lit up a room. Her laugh was a rolling waterfall of notes. The life of every party, which is why Callas would always invite her.
The letters from Callas are all gone. Anny was one of the first people to recognizably die of Alzheimer’s disease. Although at first it was assumed it was old age senility. She retired in a home for opera singers paid for by the German state. My mother, her sister and I lived in New York. We couldn’t be by her side all the time in her last months. Mom supported the family, ‘oma/grandma’ took care of me. Her neighbors knew of the Callas treasures and talked her out of them. When we arrived in her last days, most everything was gone. All we have are a few distant remnants of her glorious past. She is hard to find on the internet although some opera buffs have found recordings of her we have yet to find ourselves. We only own one record and her publicity photos. Here she is at the height of her career. Anny was my Auntie Mame to the fullest. Grande dame, dramatic, ultra chic and worldly – she taught me how to “live”. Anny Cornelius – today is her birthday.
Roles sung: The Count – The Rosenkavalier
One of the Rhine Maidens – The Ring at Bayreuth under Karajan
Carmen – Bizet’s Carmen
Role unknown – Verdi’s Troubador
Erda – Wagner’s Götterdämmerung