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Gertrude Fuchs, 99, lived through two world wars

WHEN GERTRUDE Fuchs was trapped in Germany during World War II, she would have made no secret of her contempt for Nazism.

WHEN GERTRUDE Fuchs was trapped in Germany during World War II, she would have made no secret of her contempt for Nazism.

It was not like Trude, as her friends called her, to hide her feelings or put on some kind of phony front. But the SS probably heard about her outspokenness and questioned her.

Knowing that she had received her nurse's training in England, one of her interrogators asked if she would defend her hospital if the British attacked.

"What would I defend it with, a broom?" she asked.

That was Trude. She had a wicked sense of humor and wasn't all that concerned about what people thought of her - not even the SS. Besides, the Germans needed nurses.

Gertrude Fuchs, a native of Germany who came to the Philadelphia area in the early '50s, delivered hundreds of babies as a midwife in the U.S. and Germany over the years and became a member of the Religious Society of Friends, died May 29. She was 99.

A longtime friend, Phillip Jones, told of finding a photo of Trude taken after the war when she was working for the Allies. There she was, all 5 feet 2 inches of her, driving a Jeep with a Camel cigarette stuck in her mouth.

"She was little, but she was as tough as could be," Phil said.

She mellowed over the years - at least somewhat, but she never lost her acerbic wit or the love of friends who cherished her unique personality.

Phil Jones once asked her how many babies she had delivered. "Was I supposed to be counting?" she asked.

In Philadelphia, Trude worked as a midwife for the Department of Health, was an award-winning gardener, a beekeeper, and a docent for the University of Pennsylvania Museum. She would take instructional museum exhibits to schools, an activity she really enjoyed. She retired from the city in 1976.

Trude had the distinction of living in Germany during two world wars. She was born in Germany in 1911 and was a child there during World War I.

It was in Germany after the war that she first encountered the Quakers. Quakers from England and America had set up relief programs for the survivors of the carnage and devastation of the war.

Between the wars, she went to England for nurses' training. With World War II on the horizon, she went back to Germany to deliver the child of a friend, as she had promised to do.

After the baby's birth, she was forbidden by the Nazi government to return to England and was trapped in Germany throughout the war.

She recalled having to stand in line to get a bowl of soup. She lived and worked in Potsdam at first but spent most of her time in Cologne, where she was head nurse in a women's hospital.

After the war, Trude once again encountered the Quakers and helped with their relief efforts for the German people.

When she came to the U.S., she needed a sponsor and a Quaker couple agreed to do so.

She lived in Wilmington as a private-duty nurse and commuted to Philadelphia by bicycle, tooling up and down busy Route 1.

Trude eventually moved to Philadelphia and took up residence on the third floor of a house on the grounds of the Awbury Arboretum in Germantown, where she planted gardens and kept bees.

She also enjoyed baking pastry with the berries she grew, especially raspberries.

She was also active with Philadelphia Green, helping to plant gardens in depressed neighborhoods.

"Trude was totally honest, even if it meant saying something you did not want to hear," said Jon Landau, longtime friend and fellow member of the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting. "But she'd say it with a twinkle in her eye that made it somehow forgivable."

Living at the arboretum, Trude had to trudge up 38 steps to get to her living quarters. In cold weather, she often had a load of wood on her back because she always heated with wood.

Trude returned about once a year to Germany, taking a large suitcase filled with gifts for friends. Then she returned with gifts from Germany for her American friends.

Trude cherished her independence and hated to give it up, but after being hospitalized with congestive heart failure about two years ago, she had to move to Wesley Enhanced Living at Stapeley in Germantown.

She drove a silver Volkswagen beetle until five years ago, but eventually no longer drove at night.

Phil Jones told about her 99th birthday celebration on Nov. 8.

"She was very much there," he said. "She sat there, holding court. She was sharp as a tack."

Services: Memorial service 2 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, 100 E. Mermaid Lane.