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Gisela A. ("Gee") Sweetman left us on the evening of December 26, 2018.
She led a remarkable life. The third of four children of Dr. and Mrs. Hans Tetzel,
she was born in Teuchern, Saxe-Anhalt, Germany, on August 4, 1936. Her godfather
was HRH Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Her husband nicknamed her "Gee"
(rhymes with "see"), by which she was called ever thereafter. A German proverb holds
that in Saxony pretty girls grow on trees. Gee, with her wonderful hazel eyes,
marvelous cheekbones, fresh complexion and exquisite figure, exemplified the adage.
Gee grew up during World War Two and retained vivid memories of the conflict.
Teuchern was never bombed, but the Tetzels spent some anxious nights in their shelter
and Gee remembered seeing the "Christmas tree" pyramids of flares used to mark
targets floating down over cities nearby. She also recalled taking refuge in a ditch when
a fighter strafed the road on which she was walking.
At war's end Teuchern was incorporated in the Soviet occupation zone. In the Cold
War that ensued, it lay behind the Iron Curtain, in the Communist dictatorship that
became East Germany. A natural athlete, in school Gee was a swimmer and long-distance
runner, but her father refused to let her attend meets in West Germany, fearing that once
out of East Germany she would never come back.
Given her love of children, it was natural that Gee would become a pediatrics nurse,
training at the Prof.-Dr. Josef Ibrahim Klinik in Dresden. Gee enjoyed nursing, but not
the regimented grey monotony of life in East Germany, and with her best friend, also a
nurse, planned to escape. Their cover story was that they were going to visit a mutual
friend who had just had a baby. To get to her, they would have to take a train through
Berlin. Although Berlin was deep inside East Germany, the Western powers occupied
part of the city. Escapees who reached the Western zone were safe. In Berlin the two
girls disregarded their official itinerary and slipped aboard a subway to West Berlin.
They had a serious scare when the East German police spot-checked the papers of the
passengers in the cars ahead of theirs. Their minds were finally set at ease when the
shrewd old lady who shared their compartment said, "You girls can relax now. We're in
Free at last, Gee chose to work in London in order to improve her English. After
two years she grew homesick and returned to Germany. On learning that the U.S. Army
5th General Hospital at Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt was hiring German nurses she joined its
staff, mainly to be able to exercise her English. Her future husband, Jack Sweetman,
was a lieutenant stationed at the same installation. They met in the officers' club and
their fates were sealed. They were married in the post chapel.
Gee accompanied Jack when he returned to Orlando in 1965. She quickly adapted
to American life and became a proud citizen at the earliest opportunity. She raised no
objection when Jack left business to enter graduate school and loyally followed the
peripatetic course of his academic career to Annapolis, MD, where he taught naval and
military history at the US Naval Academy for twenty years. Although her tastes were
anything other than secretarial, she dutifully typed and retyped the drafts of his books.
A gentle, caring person, Gee was a model wife and mother. Much as she loved
keeping an attractive and hospitable home, however, she loved yard work even more.
And "work" is the word. Her activities far exceeded the limits of mere "gardening" to
climbing oaks and palms to cut off offending branches, which she rigged with lines to
fall exactly where she wanted. She also enjoyed running, cycling, salt-water fishing,
playing with dogs and driving her sportscar, a 1962 MGA 1600 Mk II. Her boundless
energy probably accounts for the ease with which she kept her girlish figure her life
In 2000 Gee and Jack returned to Orlando, settling in Rio Pinar. Gee's health, but
never her sweet smile, failed in recent years. She was predeceased by her older sisters
Carola and Renate and young brother Hans. In addition to her loving husband, she is
survived by a daughter Jeanne Jacqueline Rengstorf of Bonaire, GA. In accordance with Gee's
wishes, there will be no service. Her cremation was conducted by the Carey Hand Colonial Funeral
Home, 2811 Curry Ford Road, Orlando, FL 32806 407-898-2561
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