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Elisabeth Panzarella

Born: Wed., Aug. 23, 1922
Died: Sun., Jun. 7, 2020


Funeral Service

Fri., Jun. 19, 2020
Location: Celentano Funeral Home


Visitation

4:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Fri., Jun. 19, 2020
Location: Celentano Funeral Home


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Elisabeth Theresa Bielmeier Panzarella was born in Straubing, Germany on August 23, 1922 and died on June 7, 2020 in hospice care in Branford, Connecticut.  She was predeceased by her husband SSGT Anthony Panzarella USAF who died on active duty in 1965.  She left behind two sons, Richard living in Portugal with his wife Helena and daughter Rafaella, and Frank and his wife Paula residing in New Haven, where she spent her final 6 years gradually declining with advanced Alzheimer’s Disease.  She was also predeceased by Paula’s mother Ruth Friedland who, for four years, became her constant companion and who guarded her fiercely.  
Her sometimes difficult life spanned the stresses of poverty in the Great Depression, the work of helping her mother raise her two younger sisters Charlotte and Maria after her father left her family and yet she remained strong and determined. She even forgave her father and the hard life it imposed on her family.  She still found joy in her fathers’ fame as the band leader of the Loewenbrau Restaurant and in their Oktoberfest tent.
Even more difficult, she was ten years old when the Nazis came to power in Germany and grew up under the pressures of the ever-more destructive policies of the fascist regime.  Like most Germans, she was fed on the hopes of jobs and better conditions encouraged by Hitler, only to see her entire country turned into rubble in the horrible war brought on by the misguided nationalistic fervor of a people told to make Germany great again.
As a telephone operator she was brought into the war at twenty years old.  She served in the German air force in Rome for a short time and returned to a bombed-out apartment in Munich.  Three times she was bombed out of her home, the last when the entire house collapsed on her family trapping them in the basement for 18 hours.
In 1945 she felt both frightened and relieved by the end of the war but finally liberated from the terror of those war years.  Her younger sisters even more-so as they grew up with the swing kids, young Germans who loved American jazz and the big band music of the 40s.
In the late 40s she met Anthony Panzarella and they married, moving to Queens, NY in the United States, living in the same brownstone apartment with her in-laws.  She was well-loved and embraced by the whole Panzarella family.
She never felt sorry for herself and always understood that Germany and Germans were responsible for their own tragedy.
She turned to life and family, became a US citizen and raised her two boys as a military wife moving constantly from New York to Japan and Illinois, New Jersey and lastly Dover Air Force Base, Delaware where they were stationed at the time of her husband’s death near Wake Island.
She returned to Germany after his death working again as a telephone receptionist until she retired many years later.  From 1969-71 she moved for a short interim to Hempstead, Long Island to see her sons in college at Hofstra University where she also worked for Ma Bell Telephone Co.
When she went back to Munich she had many years of joy working and sharing a life with her sister and other relatives. Though she never remarried, she was happy with her quiet and independent life.
The events of the 1960s made her stronger in her disdain for racism, the Vietnam war, all war and the resurgence of neo-fascist groups in America and in Germany.
She even attended candlelight vigils in Munich to protest the racist violence against Turkish immigrants.
She spent her last six years with Paula and Frank in New Haven, coping with Alzheimer’s, yet she still found friendship and family love from so many in New Haven, from the Friedland family, many friends and her caregivers who became part of our family.
We are indebted to the love, care and companionship she received from Judith Santiago, LouAnn Villani-Heller, Eneida Gonzalez, Margo Purple and JoAnn Moran.
She will be buried with her husband in Arlington National Cemetery.  There will be a service for her in New Haven on Friday June 19, 4-7 pm at Celentano Funeral Home, 424 Elm St. Memorial contributions can be given in her name to:
Doctors Without Borders USA
P.O. Box 5030
Hagerstown, MD 21741-5030

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