In Loving Memory of Harald Gierke
By: Karen Zanetti-Gierke
I met a man in Juneau, AK and fell in love with him when he spoke. I had never heard a person express themselves like he expressed himself; the voice of a gentle, intelligent and interesting person. We ended up getting married and living in Kansas, right outside of Kansas City, MO.
We each carried some baggage from our pasts, but it never seemed to get in the way of our lives. We were on a mission. A creative and cultural mission and together we cultivated a garden of music, learning, travel and love of all cultures and people, and made a difference in the place where we lived.
Radio shows and wine tastings, a cultural center, and opera outreach for children throughout the Kansas City area. The American Royal was a special treat each year - welcoming young people from all over the Nation to celebrate agriculture and dining on gourmet food in the stables with the horses. Welcoming dignitaries from Europe and interviewing celebrity chefs and the accordion - oh, how I loved to hear him play the accordion. He played at the finest Italian restaurant on the beautiful Country Club Plaza and had many devoted fans.
We traveled extensively to Europe, visiting Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and France. Drinking in the culture and celebrating life. We had a great time in Paris during the World Cup and feasted on croissants and brioche. Our lives were exciting, but the best was yet to come. Harald taught French and German in the Kansas City, MO School District, but we were both frustrated with the level of education the children were receiving, so, when the time was right, we cofounded a cultural arts charter school and welcomed high-risk children to enjoy “an island of serenity in a sea of chaos”. Home cooked meals, piano lessons, art, foreign languages, and teachers who understood our philosophy and dedicated themselves to enriching the children’s lives. It was the best of times.
Unfortunately, sometimes real life gets in the way and changes need to be made. My father was very ill and we talked about it and decided that I should go to New Jersey to help him. It was not an easy decision, but family is family and it was important that he be cared for. Harald decided not to make the trip to New Jersey. He would go to our cabin in the mountains and we would reunite when things in New Jersey settled down. Wonderful letters, photos, and telephone calls kept us close and updated on our daily lives. My father passed away, peacefully on his birthday and it was time for Harald and I to discuss ‘what was next?’
I moved to Pennsylvania and we talked about where we should settle. We never got to live that part of our dream. Harald was gone from earthly things, but would always be in my heart and mind.
The outpouring of love and caring from the people of Chelan County was welcoming.