She was independent and hard-working. She was smart and she was funny.
And she lived to be 100.
But sadly, our beloved "flower lady," Frieda Foertsch, passed away yesterday.
From 1954 until 2009, Frieda graced us with her formidable presence. Whether working the front gate, helping in the kitchen, sewing a new red suit for Santa Claus, or tending to the park’s flowers, she’s offered a work ethic and kind humor that has inspired generations of young workers.
We gathered in 2009 to honor Frieda, whose retirement was due to a stroke. Until then, she’d proudly stated she had no plans to retire, because "no rocking chair can hold me."
Here’s Will Koch, sharing some memories:
Frieda’s response to all the fuss? I’d like to thank the Kochs for putting up with me all these years.
Over the years, she’s appeared as a calendar girl, won a state-wide honor, been featured in a pictorial history book, and even got 15 seconds of fame on "60 Minutes."
In the year 2000, she was named Indiana’s Outstanding Older Worker.
Here she is with Will, Bill and Pat Koch. She was truly one of the family:
As part of her award, she spent a week in Washington, D.C., and had a meeting with our state’s members of Congress.
She brought along a list of topics to discuss.
Looking back a full century, even as a baby, Frieda had an inquisitive look:
She grew up in Evansville.
Here she is as a young girl. She told me once she rode a roller coaster at Mesker Park as a child and vowed never to ride another. And she kept that promise.
A reporter asked me this afternoon what Frieda thought about all the changes she witnessed at the park as it grew from Santa Claus Land to Holiday World.
That really made me think. How many of us would fall into the category of "resistant to change"? Not Frieda. She was so proud and happy to hear about each new water slide and roller coaster. She just thought it was great.
After years helping out in our Foods and Admissions Departments, Frieda became our "flower lady." (I loved the pun in calling her our "plant manager," but it never stuck.)
Even in this position, Frieda constantly looked for ways to grow prettier and more robust flowers.
And she was proud of her work.
Although Frieda retired from Holiday World in 2009, she stayed sharp and kept learning. She surrounded herself with friends and books. Although she called herself a "lady of leisure," she kept busy.
Frieda had a ball at her 100th birthday party last fall. Here’s Mrs. Koch, celebrating with her:
When I sent a note to our full-time staff that Frieda had passed away, I ended it with "rest in peace, Frieda."
On second thought, Frieda "resting" just seems absurd to those of us who knew and loved her. We picture her instead having a serious discussion with Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates about the general appearance of heaven’s "admissions" area. She’s probably on her knees, trusty trowel in hand, spading up the dirt in preparation for a new batch of colorful flowers.
Frieda’s legacy here at the park, though, is so much more than flowers. It is her devotion to doing whatever it took to make the park the very best it could be. It is her fun sense of humor and friendly spirit.
Indeed, in her 55 years at Santa Claus Land and Holiday World, she planted so much more than flowers here…
(A memorial service for Frieda will be held Wednesday, June 8, at 2pm CDT at Alexander North Funeral Home on Stringtown Road in Evansville.)