Sophie Hartmann boarded a ship to America from Bavaria on January 15, 1931. The liberal democracy of Germany was collapsing under the weight of extremist propaganda and she, like her sister Therese, wanted nothing to do with Hitler. Therese, and her Swabian husband, Max Luibrand, sponsored Sophie’s immigration to Detroit.
Sophie remained a spinster all her life, but lived the American dream. She had an independent life, paying her own rent on her own one-bedroom apartment by working as a domestic servant. She was able to purchase her own set of silverware, china, and pearls. She spent her Sundays visiting Therese and Max’s family, and doting on their five children, one of which was my mother.
Visits “back East” were never complete without a special day with Tante Sophie. She took us to Bob-Lo Island many times. The thing my brothers and I liked best about Tante was when we were hot or tired or thirsty or arguing with each other, and she’d open her purse and pull out a piece of Krystall Eis candy. These clear hard peppermints from Germany, wrapped in squeaky cellophane (that always went back in her purse) had a unique flavor that calmed and refreshed us at the same time.
Whenever there was a family gathering, there was always a “Kaffe und Küchen” ritual, where coffee was brewed in a percolator on the stove, and a tart, cake, or pie was sliced into. When Tante was served a slice, it was always “too big,” no matter what size it was. Over the years we all learned to ask for a “Tante Sophie-Sized Piece,” which meant half of what you thought was the smallest portion possible.
Tante Sophie’s legacy reminds me sweetness is about quality, not quantity.
—from Kristen Caven