News Local

98-year-old Gimli senior knitts afghans for the third world

 by Twyla Siple, Interlake Spectator

Lisa Huppertz was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1920. She will be 98 years old as of June 13. After losing her husband over 30 years ago and more recently, her hearing, she still has her stepchildren and her knitting to keep her company. 

Huppertz knits approximately 20 afghans a year to donate to third-world countries through her local church and says she was made for this type of work. 

An afghan is a woollen blanket or shawl, usually knitted or crocheted. It is sometimes also called a “throw” of indeterminate size. Afghans are often used as bedspreads, or as a decoration on the back of couches or chairs, according to wikipedia. 

“I always had to have something (going) I was born with it. It was what I was born to do,” Huppertz told The Interlake Spectator on April 25.

 

In her own words

Huppertz tried living in Austria for a few years, but went back to Hamburg in 1945 where she lived in small quarters with her parents. She and her father both worked, while her mother stayed at home.

Her father passed away in 1947, just after the great war. She and her mother were then invited by her uncle to go  lived in Canada. Her uncle had lived in the new world since 1914, and had found his sister and niece through the Blue Cross.

“And he suggested 'Why don’t you come over to Canada?'” Huppertz explained.

“He was just a worker. He was not married. He didn’t have much, but more than we had - and after discussing it quite a bit, my mother and I decided to go to Canada. My uncle was (very) happy.” Being a single older man, he was able to pay for their trip overseas and supported them when they arrived, she said.

Huppertz and her mother landed in Winnipeg in 1951 and for the first six weeks, they lived on a farm as guests, while her uncle looked for accommodations and she looked for work.

They found a one-bedroom apartment to share between the three of them, and after a few weeks Huppertz landed a job at Eatons, which she said was lucky, because she had learned to be a dressmaker, and had a good handle on her English.

“In December (of 1951) I think, my uncle said, 'You know - we are looking for a house' - and we found one. For the right price, $8,000,” she said, laughing

They moved into a two-story, three-bedroom house in the spring of 1952.

“That was my uncle’s place, and we had a bathroom and a fridge and all the furniture we needed. And, we lived,” Huppertz reminisced. Shortly after, her brother also came from Germany to join the small family with his wife and son.

“He came and shared the house until he found accommodations of his own,” Huppertz explained. 

In 1958, while attending evening school to improve her english, she met someone.

 

The love of her life

They met on a streetcar, she said.

Along with her good friend, who already knew one of the two men they had run into, she spent the evening with someone she knew would be special to her. His name was Albert Huppertz.

Unfortunately, they got off on the wrong foot.

“I thought oh my gosh, I had run into a married man - he had two children and a wife in Germany - and this is funny now - you know (because) we talked about quite a few things, but then I saw around 11-o-clock or so, I thought ‘I don’t want to hang out with a married man’ - I was well brought up, you see,” Huppertz said, laughing. 

So she left, having dashed away while he used the mens’ room.

When he came back, she had heard he had asked about her.

“‘Where’s Lisa?’ he said,” Huppertz recalled.

“‘Oh, she took the bus to go back home,’ (someone must have told him).” Huppertz explained, laughing through the memory.

“‘Oh?’ (he must have said). And you know, it really is funny, today.” Huppertz laughed as she recalled his devastation at having discovered she had gone. 

“A few days later, (I was) sitting down for supper (with my family) and the door bell (rang), my mother opened the door, looked at him...” Huppertz continued.

“‘Oh,’ he said ‘You don’t know me, but is this where Lisa (lives?’ he asked).’”

“‘Oh.. oh.. are you?’ (my mother asked).”

“I had talked about him as well,” Huppertz explained. 

“‘Oh, then you just come in. We are having supper right now, come have supper with us,’ (my mother said).”

That was the beginning. They were married a year later.

As it had turned out, Arnold’s wife had left him and taken their children back to Germany with her, leaving him estranged from them and alone, in Canada. 
 
Soon after, he divorced his first wife to marry Huppertz, in 1959.
 
“I can say, it was my luck that I had met him,” Huppertz said. 
 
After wanting to get out of the dressmaking industry, the Huppertz’s moved to Gimli in 1964 after purchasing a restaurant that is now known as Europa, according to Huppertz. Her mother eventually went to live in a nursing home.
 
“We worked, and we had a good time,” she said. “We closed for 3 or 4 weeks (at a time), instead of having an employee look after it. We went down south to Acapulco,” Huppertz explained.
 
“You know, in time, places like that, you get tired of it. The biggest problem was the employment, so we put (the restaurant) up for sale.” 
 
At that time, there was a new trailer park in the area, she said. 
 
“The sign said it was open - and so we had a trailer and had that for 10 years,” Huppertz explained. 
 
“By that time Arnold was close to retirement,  and I had just two years to go, so we just worked a little bit here a little bit there and made sure to have a trip every so often.”
 
She said they went from the east coast to west coast and unfortunately he passed away when he was only 67. Huppertz was 65. They had less than 30 years together.
 
“Maybe I was too hard on him, I don’t know,” Huppertz said, trying to lighten the mood with another chuckle. 
 
As Albert had two children in Germany, they had gone several times to visit and Huppertz got to know them. After their mother died at quite a young age as well, the children asked if they could call her mother and still do. Even their children call her grandma.
 
She said they were world travellers, and she continued to travel after Albert passed away.
 
Overseas, they would fly. Through the states, they would drive their station wagon as far south as Mexico. But after her husband passed, Huppertz started cruising.
 
“Oh I love cruises” she said of the approximately 10 cruises that she has been on. “I wish I could still do that.” 
 
Her favourite travel destinations included Australia, New Zealand and lots in Europe, she said.
 
Knitting Afghans
Huppertz first starting knitting afghans about 15 years ago. From childhood she practised crochet, needle point and knitting.
 
She spends her days visiting with friends and knitting, donating them to the Lutheran Church in Gimli. From there they send the afghans off to third-world countries. When people ask her what she charges, and she says, “Nothing, I just give them away.”
 
She knits approximately 20 afghans per year, as she counted them for The Interlake Spectator.
 
“20? No, it must be more,” she said laughing. “Around there, anyway,” she teased.
 
This year’s batch will be picked up by the end of May, she said.
 
What’s her secret to living a  long life?
 
“As far as I know, nobody in Germany has ever come up with somebody older than I am,” she said, honestly. 
 
“Maybe for good behaviour, I don’t know,” she finished her life story, laughing.
 

 



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