January 1, 1944 – August 8, 2020
With a single phrase, everyone who knew Lydia could readily identify her most dominant character trait: pure sweetness. A sweetness radiated toward all she knew, all she had known from years past, and whomever she might thereafter meet. The soft smile and sincere sparkle in her eye said everything, and disarmed even the most standoffish.
Born January 1, 1944 in the village of Oberwesel, which lay in the shadow of the Schoenburg Castle on the banks of Germany’s Rhine river, Lydia initially fulfilled an apprenticeship as a watchmaker before switching careers to become an Xray technician, a skill handily transferable to Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento where she worked sixteen years. Lydia was preceded in death by her parents Karl and Paula Kass, and survived by brother Horst.
In 1980 she met Ulrich “Ulli” Luenemann in Munich Germany and they married three years later. Ulli, a fighter pilot with the NATO-affiliated German Luftwaffe, was soon thereafter assigned to teach at the Canadian Forces Military College in Toronto Canada where the newlywed couple soon moved. While her language skills were challenged upon moving to Canada, she was equal to the task. With determination common to her independence, she took to the task by attending English classes, and watching TV. She quickly found a convenient and rapid way of learning the new language by simply watching Sesame Street. The combination of seeing written words coupled with compatible scenery was extraordinarily helpful. After all, Big Bird and Kermit the Frog spoke English very well.
Following Ulli’s retirement from the German Air Force in 1987, the couple moved to Sacramento and by such time she had developed in English and could be conversant with nearly everyone. Soon afterwards both Ulli and Lydia became American citizens. Seeking always to expand her circle of friends, Lydia also became a member of Lodge Eleven of the Order of Hermann Sons within the Sacramento Turn Verein.
Being a productive soul, the moment she arrived she sought work and soon found her way to Sutter General Hospital, seeking to ply her well-honed skills in the Xray department. Quite naturally she was concerned about the potential language barrier she might encounter in the highly technical field, right to the moment she was shown the Xray machine she would be expected to operate. Her concerns were misplaced, as she immediately learned it was of German manufacture, and the same kind she had operated regularly in Germany.
A consummate cook, Lydia became a favorite the minute she cooked Wiener Schnitzel, which reminded guests of childhood meals created by their own mothers in years past. It was savory comfort food of the ultimate degree. Among the great variety of interests in life she particularly loved animals and devoted kind thoughts and caring attention to all creatures, great and small.
Her presence permeated an aura of effortless graciousness and abiding kindness that is still with those of us who knew her. That gentleness was readily conspicuous when entertaining those guests fortunate enough to share in Luenemann hospitality. Lydia and Ulli often hosted get-togethers at their second homes at Alpine Meadows and later in Truckee; the area up here recalled to them their German homeland which they advantaged by skiing, hiking and other outdoor pursuits. The Luenemann gatherings were notable for cuisine par excellence, stimulating conversation on all levels, domestic and international within an atmosphere of general humor and camaraderie.
Through it all, Lydia’s scintillating presence prevailed, and those special evenings went seamlessly and remain treasured by all who attended.
Alongside Ulli, the two became avid travelers, managing to notch visits to over 100 countries on five continents. The perfectly matched companions never tired of traveling. Later in life the two took to cruising, logging more than 30 cruises to ports-of-call most of us have only learned about on TV travel channels.
The sheer totality of her disappearance has stunned us all. Neither in our surroundings nor in our memory has there ever been enough of Lydia, and her passing feels like a chasm instead of a space where her life had been. We shall each, and particularly Ulli, miss the nearness of her, most dearly.
A Celebration of Life will be announced at a future date. In lieu of flowers a contribution to the Sacramento Branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is suggested.
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