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Gretsch Family Celebrates Sylvia Gretsch’s 100th Birthday

Gretsch Family Celebrates Sylvia Gretsch’s 100th Birthday

Sylvia at 15 in 1933.

As 5th generation members of the Gretsch family, we grew up in a home with pictures of an elegant woman, Maxine Lois Elsner, whom we never met. Our grandmother long fascinated us as she looked through the photographs, seemingly into our own eyes, wearing ball gowns or furs, and always with a playful and happy smile. We never met her, but her spirit and her legacy have always been a part of us and who we are today.

She was born in 1917, 100 years ago, in Joplin, Missouri. She attended school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where our mother raised her own three children. While attending college she met Bill Gretsch, who was running the Chicago office of the Gretsch company at the time. They fell in love and in 1942 were married. The couple had four children together: Charlotte, Katie, Fred and Gretchen. They were married for only five and a half brief years when Bill passed away from cancer.

Maxine, who by then was called Sylvia (as Bill told her when they first met, that her name must be Sylvia, as he had always thought he would marry a woman by that name), had moved her four young children to New York to be closer to Bill’s family who would be instrumental in helping to raise their children. Although Sylvia lost her own brave battle to cancer in her mid-40s, her legacy lives on and continues to be celebrated.

Five Generations of the Gretsch Family

To commemorate her 100th birthday, the Gretsch family recently gathered on Long Island to enjoy a day in the sun and some fun in the pool. Jim and Mary Kahrs, also 5th generation, opened their home and were wonderful hosts providing food, beverages, and the swimming pool! Highlights of the party included some phenomenal diving performances by Jimmy, Keith, and Sarah Kahrs, and P.J. Wade, as well as a birthday cake and song for Uncle Fred, who had a birthday on the following day. The gathering spanned over 5 generations and was a wonderful way to connect and celebrate Sylvia’s birthday. As the evening progressed, the family gathered to launch 51 Chinese sky lanterns, one for each of her 51 descendants.

An unforgettable reunion, to say the least, filled with love and laughter, and one she was very much a part of in our hearts.

— Margaret Wade & Richard O’Connor