Efriede Gwillim, nee Heinrich, was born on September 28, 1920 in Marburg, Germany on her parent’s nursery plantation, greenhouses, and orchards. Raised along with her two sisters, Hilde and Irmgard, Elfriede left the parental home when she married George Fritz. Together they had two daughters, Christiana (Christine) and Heidemarie (Heidi). The couple divorced at the end of World War II. In the early 1950’s she was courted by and later married Master Sargent John Gwillim (U.S. Army). In 1954, they move the family to Fort Devens, Mass., and later to Ohio. After years in the military, they finally settled in the Kansas City metro area to rejoin her beloved sisters and their husbands, Don Brandenburg and Fred Will; both of whom had moved to the metro area years before.
Elfriede quickly learned her adoptive country’s language and customs. She eagerly embraced this country’s capitalism becoming a life-long entrepreneur. She joined the workforce in the 1960’s. By the 1970’s she became the first woman to hold the position of Plant Superintendent for Taylor Cable in Kansas City. After her retirement, she established her own cleaning service working into her 70’s. Elfriede had a broad independent streak that often moved her past the tradition of the day – at work and in fashion.
Elfriede was a marvelous cook. At times, she was asked to lend those talents to German restaurants cooking for admiring patrons. Never one to allow moss to grow beneath her feet, even during her limited down time, she made herself busy knitting beautiful knit wear and blankets in often very intricate patterns for family and friends. Late in life, she rediscovered talent for painting. A mallard she painted while in grade school in Marburg was on display for decades. She won accolades for her works.
Elfriede always called Excelsior Springs “home” even after moving away for a few years to Omaha, Neb., in the 90’s. She returned to Excelsior Springs, her favorite place. Elfriede moved to Denver, Colo., in 2015 to be close to part of her family and her newest great-granddaughter, Gloria.
Elfriede celebrated on her 97th birthday in September. Family from across the country gathered in Denver to celebrate her. Her health declined rapidly in the weeks after. She entered God’s Grace on November 3, 2017.
Sister Irmgard Christiana Brandenburg preceded her in meeting the Lord. Her sister, Hildegarde Sophia Will, died a day after Elfriede, on November 4.
She is survived by her daughters Irmgard Christiana Fritz Furr and Heidemarie Angelica Fritz McGinness-Secor. Chrisine’s husband Bill, Grandaughter Vicki Kanaan and husband Ramzi, Great-granddaughters Spohia and Chloe, Grandson Scott Furr and wife Helen, Great-grandchildren Dorian, Livia, Hannalea. Heidi’s sons Brian McGinness and husband J. Kent Barnhart, Richard Secor and wife Sharon and great-grandsons Nicolas and Spencer and grandson Christopher McGinness and husband Curtis Crawford and great-granddaughter Gloria. Nieces Ann Brandenburg and family Dorothy Will and Husband John and family, Nephew Jorg Will and wife Maria and family. Cousins Ellen Bienhaus and husband Horst of Harzfeld, Germany. And a large circle of friends and family in heaven and on Earth.
Memorial services will be held at Bross and Spidle Funeral Home, 217 West Broadway, Excelsior Springs, Mo., Saturday, November 11, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. A Committal Service will be held after at Old New Garden South Cemetery.