Who is the oldest person you have known personally?
Elisabeth Steubesand, Cologne's oldest citizen, celebrated her 105th birthday on Wednesday. Because of the corona pandemic, Mayor Henriette Reker was unable to personally congratulate. The city sent a bouquet of flowers by messenger. Elisabeth Steubesand, who has lived in Cologne since 1955, was born in Brühl in 1916 as the second of four children.
After attending elementary school, at the age of 14, she began an apprenticeship in the administration of the Landauer Jewish department store on the corner of Breite Strasse and Richmodstrasse. Every day she went to work on the “Feuriger Elias” train from Brühl to Barbarossaplatz. From there we walked past the old opera house on Rudolfplatz and on to Neumarkt. After her boss, whom she loved very much, had to leave Germany, she changed employers a few times.
"I was the richest woman in Germany"
In 1936 she saw the funeral procession of Willi Ostermann. During the war years she worked continuously for the AOK in Hürth until the birth of her daughter Gisela in 1944, who she gave birth in the protective cellar of a hospital in Bonn while the bombs were falling. After the war she was employed by the Brühl city administration and in 1948 was involved in bringing the new currency to the people. At that time she was "the richest woman in Germany", she likes to say.
When the “Miracle of Bern” - Germany's victory in the soccer world championship - happened in 1954, Elisabeth Steubesand sat with her family and neighbors in front of the television just as spellbound as in 1969 when the moon landed for the first time. Two years earlier she had been standing by the cathedral when the coffin with Konrad Adenauer was carried to a ship on the banks of the Rhine on his last trip. “Everything is much bigger than with the Ostermann,” she recalls.
Elevators and escalators were always avoided
Since the 1960s she and her husband Georg have been active in the Cologne Carnival Society. She helped design the session booklet, wrote songs and one or the other morality. She and her husband took part in many Rose Monday parades. In other ways, too, socializing was important to her. In the 1970s, she and 25 women founded a regulars' table called the Pearl Circle, which often went on excursions. Elisabeth Steubesand and her husband always vacationed in the Allgäu, where the two hiked around Fischen and Oberstdorf.
Elisabeth Steubesand also traveled a lot on foot. She never used elevators or escalators, says her grandson Georg Husemann. “With quick steps, often in a red coat” - that's how they would have known the people around Sülzburgstrasse, where she had lived since 1958. In 2019 she moved to a barrier-free apartment near the town hall because climbing the stairs had become too difficult. The Corona period follows them with interest and without fear. She worries about the business people and hopes "this will soon pass". Because soon she wants to go back to the “Eigel” café, just like she used to with the women of the Pearl Circle.
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