Charlotte Gower, 94

Charlotte Gower

Charlotte Gower

SACO — Charlotte Hildegard Hartel Gower, 94, passed away on Tuesday, April 7, 2015.

She was born in Breslau, Schlesia, now called Wroclaw, Poland, on July 24, 1920, to her parents, Artur Richard Heinrich Haertel and Anna Pauline Emma Stiller-Haertel.

As a young girl, she remembers seeing a type of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Circus when those shows continued to tour Europe in the first part of the 1900s — never dreaming at that time she would one day become an American citizen. That was only part of the beginning of a remarkable and historical life.

Before the onset of World War II, her dream was to become a fashion designer. Setting dreams aside she worked, sewing only the best uniforms for the war effort. She also worked at a hospital during the war and met a young amputee, who had come back from the Russian front. He told her about a town they should flee to should the Russians take over the city of Breslau. The Russians did take over the city, but not until the infamous “Siege of Breslau” was over. Over 30,000 German civilians froze or starved to death and over 70,000 German soldiers died in a three-month-long battle. During the coldest winters in a century, Charlotte and her mother and sister, Inge, escaped Breslau and fled to Dresden, the “Fluechtlings Stadt” or “City of the Refugees.” Leaving just before the city was bombed, Feb. 13-15, 1945, with over 7,000 pounds of phosphorous bombs, as refugees they traveled for sometimes days with only a single potato to eat; seeing horrors she could only hint of in much later years.

Arriving in Gunzburg, in the German state of Bavaria, Charlotte and her mother and sister finally settled and made a home for themselves on the beautiful Markplatz. Near the end of the war when American troops took over the town, the soldiers jumped from their tanks right into the windows of their home. Their father had been taken as a prisoner of war in the British zone and their brother had been a prisoner of war in Russia for over two years. All were reunited in Gunzburg.

Charlotte had two young sons and was working for the Americans in Leipheim when she and Donald James Gower met. She fell in love with the tall, dark and handsome American soldier, and he with the beautiful German girl. They were married Aug. 30, 1955, beginning a faithful, loving and incredible marriage that lasted over 60 years.

Charlotte was a beautiful lady and a wonderful homemaker. Taking great pride in her many homes (over 20 at our best count) while traveling with her military husband and family of five children. Their daughter, Helen, was born in Leipheim, and twin daughters, Donna and Ronna, in Fort Carson, Colo., back to Crailsheim, Germany, for a few years and then Fort Benning, Ga., where their oldest son, Gunter, joined the military and was sent to Vietnam as a Marine. He was wounded, earning the first Purple Heart and still completing his 365-day tour. Military orders sent them back to Schweinfurt, Germany, where she was the Tours Historian for the NCO Wives, taking so many other women to historical sites across Germany and translating for them. Schweinfurt is also where their next son, Albert, enlisted in the Army. He was sent to Vietnam and earned the second Purple Heart when he stepped on a mine and also completed his 365-day tour.

While still stationed in Schweinfurt, Sgt. Donald Gower was given orders for Vietnam. He moved the very distraught Charlotte and girls back to Gorham to be near his family should he not return home from Vietnam, even shipping their pet guinea pig, Sammy, stateside, one of many pets she dearly loved and took great care of.

She endured 10 more months of worrying and wondering if the odds would no longer be in the family’s favor. The full extent and extreme danger her husband was in flying “loaches” and, having already earned a Purple Heart for being shot in the shoulder, came to an end for Charlotte when Don was shot down for the fourth time, earning the men in her family a total of four Purple Hearts.

When Don retired from the military, he brought the family “home” to Old Orchard Beach. Oh how she loved the “B-E-A-C-H.” Not being able to say the word “beach” in front of her beloved black Labrador Cindy, we all began spelling the words B-E-A-C-H and W-A-L-K…only to find we simply taught the dog how to spell!

Charlotte loved reading mysteries and history and enjoyed a wide range of music with German music always being her favorite. She was a German Club member for many years and was greatly loved by her friends there. She so loved flowers and her gardens with the smiling gnomes. She fed the birds and squirrels. She often told stories about times on her Onkle Alfred and Tante Berta’s farm that was behind the Iron Curtain, all the long walks they took and animals they raised, helping to keep the rest of the family fed during the war years.

Being out in nature was one of her favorite places. Don and Charlotte often went camping over the years with many family and friends, even going to Prentis when she was 92 years old and staying in their camper, complete with all the comforts of a home. Her husband, Don, always took care of her every need, even remodeling the bathroom four times for her and building another wonderful porch onto their home in Saco, when she so missed “her porch” from Old Orchard.

Charlotte loved sewing and produced many beautiful articles of embroidery and clothing, especially for the holidays. If it weren't for the onset of World War II her life dream to be a fashion designer could have been realized. She loved family and friends and, like a very good German, she loved to feed people! We were all happy recipients of her fantastic German meals.

She will be so very, very missed by so many people. Her wonderful neighbors, thank you for your many kindnesses, she loved you all.

She is survived by her children, Gunter Gower of Cape Elizabeth, Albert Gower of Buxton, Helen Herron of Lake Worth, Fla., Donna Bahr of Sebago, Ronna Gower of Bonita Springs, Fla. and Frank Kantor of Casco; her nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

A Celebration of Life will take place at Dennett, Craig and Pate Funeral Home, 365 Main Street, Saco, at a later date to be announced. Friends and family are all invited.

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