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Manfred A. Schippert

Manfred A. Schippert

March 21st, 2020

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Obituary

Obituary for Manfred A. Schippert

Manfred Schippert
January 19, 1934 - March 21, 2020

It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of our beloved father, Manfred Adolf Schippert. He lived his life with passion, drive and joy. He lived fearlessly and with great confidence. He brought light and fun to all of those who knew him. And he was a great storyteller, sharing more tales than can possibly be recounted here. This is his remarkable story…

Born in 1934 in Waiblingen, a small town outside of Stuttgart in southern Germany, he was the third child and oldest son of six children. His parents, Ottilie and Adolf Schippert, raised their children during hard times and with few means. Stories of nights spent in the potato cellar hiding from bombs during the war, food shortages, malnutrition and general fear were offset by a love of work and nature and the camaraderie of his siblings and other kids in his neighborhood outside the old city walls. Manfred recalled walking for miles to deliver vegetables that his father Adolf, a gardener by trade, would send to relatives in distant villages to exchange for goods his family needed.

He was enamored by the American GI’s who liberated the region, recalling with fondness the healthy and friendly American soldiers who rolled into town on tanks - throwing candy and chewing gum to the German kids when they arrived. He and the other kids embraced American music and other cultural imports that came with living in an American occupation zone. His family was too poor to pay for high school, one of his only regrets in life. He had a deep passion for learning. Instead, Manfred began work in a factory at age 14, bringing home much needed income to feed all the hungry mouths. He was fortunate to be part of an apprenticeship program for AEG, Germany’s General Electric Company. Even under these trying circumstances, Manfred loved sports and physical activity, spending time down at the local track and field club, excelling in the decathlon, hurdles and long jump.

Over the years, he and his friends dreamed of moving to America, and Manfred was one of the ones who actually made this life-altering decision, leaving Germany in 1955,. He arrived by steam ship at age 21 and settled in a German enclave in Brooklyn, New York. There, Manfred worked in a factory at Leviton manufacturing light switches and sending money back to his family in Germany. Although his English was remedial, he and a few of his friends managed to spend nights out dancing on East 86th Street, known as “German Broadway”. He also traveled with his sponsors Karl and Klara Geiger to their country retreat in Pennsylvania. Within a few years, he was drafted into the US Army and sent to Fort Hood,Texas for basic training. Manfred relished this time of his life. He made friends from all over the country, improved his English and began to fully assimilate into American culture. In a twist of fate, he was sent to Germany with the US Army and was stationed about an hour from his hometown, Waiblingen. He was promoted to tank commander, and he was skilled at operating telescopes with a specialty in optics. He was often asked to translate English to German for the higher ranking American officers. This exposed him to a variety of personalities and interesting situations. He was a quick learner who always stood out because of his innate curiosity, abilities and grit. During this time in Germany he visited his hometown regularly on leave and reconnected with his beloved track and field club.

It is during this time that he and his future wife, Sigrid Vögele, both competitive athletes from neighboring villages, fell in love. Sigrid was a beautiful and smart young woman, highly resourceful, and a champion in the track & field event of shot put. Sigrid was drawn to Manfred's charismatic personality, his intelligence and romantic nature. Manfred was drawn to Sigrid's warmth and high character, and he admired her for her competence and independent thinking. They fell in love and a team was formed. They were engaged while in Germany, and took their first trip as a couple to Lake Garda in Italy. Sigrid flew to New York in 1959 (her first time on an airplane) shortly after her 21st birthday. The couple married in the company of a handful of American friends. Manfred was 25 years old.

Manfred’s experience in the US Army helped him secure a job at Cornell Medical Center operating the microscopes in a medical lab. In 1960, when the lab’s lead doctor offered Manfred a job at in his lab at his new position at Harvard Medical School, Manfred and Sigrid gladly accepted and packed up for Boston.

For the next five years, they worked hard to build a life. Eventually, Manfred began working at Mitre in Burlington, Massachusetts, and Sigrid began working as a book keeper for small businesses. Manfred benefitted from the US Army GI bill. He attended Northeastern University during evenings and weekends for nine years - earning a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. Manfred & Sigrid purchased a small home in Burlington and started a family. Norman, Corinne and Thomas arrived in quick succession, and they were a lively brood. Sigrid committed her time to raising the children and managing the household. Manfred and Sigrid were a formidable team, and while they worked hard and played hard, they also enjoyed close friendships with a few other German families. For years, they had raucous family gatherings on countless weekends. Sigrid and Manfred took up tennis and joined the Middlesex Swim and Tennis Club in nearby Lexington. The kids were thrown in the pool while the parents played tennis with their new friends. Professionally, Manfred was enjoying success in this new job at Amray in Burlington where he eventually rose to serve as Vice President of Research and Development. Manfred loved the group of engineers he led, and he was enthusiastic about the scanning electron microscopes they developed for medical and industrial applications. He also travelled to Germany to represent the company at conferences and in their partnership with Leica/ Lycos, GMbH, presenting the company's latest machines, and he often hosted international clients in the United States.

Throughout the years the family would return to Germany to visit relatives. Sigrid and the children would go for the occasional summer trips with Manfred joining them. German relatives also visited the family in Massachusetts for weeks at a time. These were joyous extended family times, and Sigrid hosted with true hospitality and never complained. Finally bursting at the seams in the small Burlington home, the family moved to a larger home in the growing suburb of Chelmsford in 1973 to begin a long, vibrant phase of life. Much of this period centered around new friends and the many families that comprised the community of the Chelmsford Swim and Tennis Club (CS&TC). The kids had been swimming competitively for years by then, but “the Club" provided a real focal point and a place to spend most summer days swimming and hanging out with friends. During winter the family spent their time at swim meets all over New England as all three kids were competitive swimmers with the Lowell Boys Club Swim Team. Many of the same families’ kids from the CS&TC also swam for the Lowell Boys Club swim team. All of the parents were supportive, and lots of fun was had amidst the tediousness of endless swim meets. Manfred played tennis with his friends and loved the clay courts at CS&TC. Manfred and Sigrid played many mixed doubles matches together, and he played doubles on weekend mornings year-round into his late 60’s! As the years passed family friendships grew deeper. Many holidays were shared - and for what was typical of most summer days, you would often find Sigrid and Manfred at the "Club" socializing in the shade of their favorite tree at the far-end of the swimming pool, enjoying drinks and BBQ's with their core group of friends and members. They called themselves “The Old Timers” and enjoyed many years of friendship. Manfred would joke around with the kids, rough-housing in the pool and swimming vigorously back and forth during adult swim periods. He was strong physically and mentally, and poured his energy into everything he did - from maintaining his house and yard to hustling around in the daily course of activity.

Manfred also had a great love of nature and the mountains, and would rally his children to New Hampshire or Vermont to climb a mountain or to go skiing. During the summer Manfred would initiate trips to the beach, and in the fall he would make trips to pick apples. His energy level rivaled the most active child, and with his warm and playful nature, Manfred connected deeply with children. He shared his love of adventure, often loading the kids and their friends into his little VW bug for a “Get Lost Ride." They would stop for an ice cream cone, driving beyond familiar turf and making the kids lead the way home. He had a rebellious streak (and the kids loved him for it) often bucking up against "mother’s orders"! Manfred was also famous for the steaks he grilled in his backyard or at the club, as well for his famous German beef stew. Manfred enjoyed red wine and martinis in plenty, sometimes becoming “bigger than life"!

Manfred and Sigrid were deeply committed to the family and were devoted to one another through thick and thin. Life was not without its challenges - but at the heart of it all there was true love and commitment. They led their lives by example: the example of hard work, sports and recreation, and their love of life. Manfred was a proud papa and would embarrass his children with his not-so-humble bragging - which was borne of his raw enthusiasm and always delivered with a grin. “You know….” and so it would begin. One of his proudest moments, and one that he and Sigrid shared, was when Norman competed at the 1984 Olympic Trials. This was the culmination of years of dedication to the sport of swimming. But undoubtedly, Manfred's greatest source of pride by far was his family. He showed immense pride as his children matured and earned a college degree. Norman left for college to attend the University of Miami. Corinne attended Tufts University, and Thomas attended the University of Denver.

Over the years Manfred and Sigrid always had an open home and heart, and they welcomed many travelers and friends. Sigrid’s nephew Oliver come from Germany to live with them for a year to attend Chelmsford High School, and Manfred’s nephew Ralf came to live with them for a year and work with Manfred as a student-engineer at Amray. They also enjoyed wonderful vacations and visiting their family in Germany and staying in touch through the years. Manfred particularly enjoyed returning to his hometown and walking the cobblestone streets of the old city, offering a lively tour and guiding all of those who wished to listen to history and tales of the old-days. Manfred had a deep affection for his siblings, Ilse, Lore, Fritz, Dölle and Walter and their families; and also for Sigrid’s parents, her brother Fritz and his family. Manfred never lost his ability to recite German poetry and sing German songs. His local dialect, Schwäbish, was as pronounced most recently as it was on the day he left Germany in 1955.

Norman soon started a family and his two daughters, Nicolette and Savannah, spent many summers in Chelmsford from the early 1990’s, much to the joy of Manfred & Sigrid (referred from then on as Opa and Oma, German for grandfather and grandmother). Norman remarried in 1999, and Shelley’s son Zack joined along on visits from Kentucky as well. Shortly after Manfred retired in 2000, Sigrid was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. For five years, Manfred was by her side attending every doctor and clinic appointment and was fully involved in Sigrid's care. Family visits continued through these years bringing great joy. More good news was born with the addition of Norman and Shelley’s son Dylan in 2000. Corinne returned to Boston in 1995 after years in New York City. Soon thereafter, she met Winslow and they were married. Their son Eliot who was born in 2002, and Oma & Opa now had a local grandson in nearby Arlington to dote on. In July 2005, Thomas and his beloved Cindy were married in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with the entire family and many friends in attendance. It was a sweet time for everyone. Sadly, Sigrid lost the battle to ovarian cancer in December 2005 - marking the end of an era for the Schippert family.

After Sigrid died, Manfred toured to visit family and friends. He went to Germany to attend his nephew Marc-Oliver’s wedding, bought a tuxedo and truly enjoyed himself. He slowly began healing from one of life’s greatest blows, the loss of a spouse. Manfred chose to live life, and began to thrive after carrying such a heavy burden.

Soon, Manfred was fortunate to begin a new chapter in his life with a new friend, Gisela Gray, another German immigrant whom Manfred met through a mutual friend. They got along famously. Manfred decided to settle in Colts Neck, New Jersey, in 2007 to be with Gisela. The two enjoyed walks, music, singing, dancing, traveling, a great sense of humor, and taking care of each other. Manfred integrated well into her life, made new friends and was very enthusiastic about the natural beauty of central New Jersey. He enjoyed the warmer water of the beaches in New Jersey, and Gisela shared many of Manfred’s values. She welcomed everyone, including Manfred, his children and their families, into her home.

By his 80th birthday, Manfred was struggling with dementia. But Gisela and Manfred lived in unison - with Gisela filling in the gaps and Manfred offering praise and warmth. As time passed additional support was needed. Manfred & Gisela moved into Applewood, a senior home in Freehold, New Jersey, where each received the care they needed. They visited with friends and enjoyed one another’s company. Family members visited and much love was shared.

Last summer, Manfred took a turn for the worse, and the family and Gisela decided it was time to move him closer to family in Massachusetts. Manfred spent the last five months of his life at Sunrise of Arlington, a stone’s throw from Corinne and her family's home. This January, Opa celebrated his 86th birthday with a special visit from Norman and Thomas. It was a memorable visit for all.

Manfred died peacefully on Saturday, March 21st, the first day of Spring, with Corinne and Winslow by his side. Norman and Thomas and their families were there in love and spirit.

Manfred cut a wide swath and he will be greatly missed and fondly remembered. Thank you to all of the caretakers who worked tirelessly with huge hearts to provide dignity and a loving home for our father. Thank you to all of the friends who have enriched our father’s life, and our lives; to you fellow travelers who hold him in your heart - it’s been a great ride! To our extended family far and wide, who share the same crazy passion for life and to the young ones who will carry the torch into the next generation - thank you. Thank you to Gisela for being a soul mate to our father. We carry a deep well of gratitude for our mother Sigrid who carried most of the weight of our father and our family on her shoulders, she who was selfless and giving and made our father a better man and us better people. And at this time, a heartfelt thank you to our father, Manfred, Dad and Opa, for a shared life and a beautiful life. We cherish you and wish you well on your journey.

Manfred will be buried in Chelmsford with his wife and our mother Sigrid. Plans for a Celebration of Life are in the works, but are being delayed until the current health crisis has subsided.

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Tara Dolan

Dear Manfred family
I am sorry for your precious loss.
A few years back your dad and Gisela were my inspiration in writing a paper on world war 2 for college.
I appreciated his kindness and generosity and hilarious sense of humor. It was a privilege to know him for a brief moment in time I won’t ever forget.
Truly sorry for loss
With sympathy
Tara Dolan
Comment | Posted at 04:41pm via Condolence
M

Mark

Norm, Corrine, and Thomas,
Your dad was one of the great characters that I have encountered in my life. I have very fond memories from your house on Smokerise Drive. He did tell some incredible tales, some of which I have retold to those that could appreciate a guy like him. Take care.
Mark Paschal
Comment | Posted at 12:16am via Condolence
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